Home » Flash fiction » Short story snippet: “From the winter mists”

Short story snippet: “From the winter mists”

Inspired by the wacky weather during my morning walk I wrote this, which is really an alternate take on a scene from my novel, from the pov of another character. It wont be used in the novel, it’s just a fun exercise on alternate viewpoints and such.

ImageThe frosty mist clung to her clothes and the hair that poked out from under her knit hat as she trudged through the woods in search of dropped branches and twigs she could use for kindling.

It was almost spooky how the mist concealed her usual pathways between the trees and landmarks, turning the familiar into something strange and haunting. And the mist itself did its job to set her senses on edge. Though it was not the first time she’d endured this kind of contrary weather, it never ceased to unsettle her. How odd wasn’t it, for such a phenomenon, normally associated with early summer mornings and chilly autumn days to appear in the dead of winter, when the temperature plunged below freezing. It really was like liquid ice, floating through the air.

Cassandra knew it was not wise to linger for long outside in this kind of weather, the raw chill would freeze her to the bone faster than a normal cold day would and honestly, she could already feel herself drawn back home, to her warm house with the hot cocoa to warm herself up faster still. She pulled another branch from a small mound of snow, a tearing sound as the branch resisted her efforts too loosed it from its resting place echoing through the haunting silence of a forest gone to bed early. Then she heard another sound.

There was a muted shuffling sound heading her way and she found herself slowly backing up in alarm. She crouched behind a large tree and watched a shape emerge from the swirling mists. 

It was a man, of that she was certain quite early on, but he moved in a rather haphazard way with a stagger that betrayed that this was no ordinary nature aficionado on a stroll through the woods. She poked her head out from behind the tree, but the man did not seem to notice her, but walked rather crookedly towards her left, nearly walking straight into a tree.
Another step closer and she felt her breath hitch in her throat. The man was pale, paler than anyone should be and his lips had a distinct blue tone to them. The word “hypothermia” flew through her head before she also noticed the red stains on his person, half frozen over and turned to bloody ice on his clothes. She knew that if she left this well alone the man would be dead before long. His torn and blood soaked clothes had probably not offered much protection against hypothermia, especially in this cold and queer weather. She approached him hesitantly and her breath hitched again as she saw that he appeared to be missing a whole arm and she wondered, not for the first time who this man was. Why was he wandering around here instead of…in a hospital direction.
Her brain offered her answers she did not much care for at this moment and made a split second decision that she hoped she would not come to regret. As much as she was loathe to get involved in someone else’s mess, she also knew she could not live with this man’s death on her conscience. The man was certainly halfway towards unconsciousness already, his brain muddled from the cold and he offered no resistance when she gently nudged him in the safe direction, towards her house. (Was that his left arm he was holding onto? Now that was beyond twisted.) For a while it went well, the man shuffling along, his queer eye lighting a path through the swirling mists. She was not certain if his hair was that strange color, or if the frost had clung to it, giving it that silvery white appearance. 

Finally she saw the lights from her house through the growing gloom and at that point the last of the man’s strength seemed to leave him and his knees buckled. She called out for Oy, pushing away the mental reminder that it is not entirely proper to rely on a small child, but there he was, huffing and puffing, wearing her large rubber boots. 

“Take these”, she said before the boy could comment on the man-heap on the group and gave the child the bundle of branches she’d been holding onto. Oy gave her a most serious look, which looked like it did not quite belong on the face of a four year old before he trudged back through the snow with his burden.

Cassandra pulled the man out of the snow he’d fallen into, his blood staining the snow on the ground a rosy color. That would make the wolves and the bears come, she suspected. But she did not worry about them much, she would not have to venture outside for a while, she hoped. She glanced at the man and hoped she would not have to dig a shallow grave anytime soon.

With a grunt, she draped the man over her shoulder and made her way inside, following in Oy’s footsteps. She left the man on the floor, just inside the door while she made a huge fire in the fireplace then she told the boy to make up the couch with as many blankets and spare sheets as he could find. Meanwhile she dug out her medical supplies and proceeded to strip the stranger where he lay.

The injuries did not appear worse than she felt she could handle even if he’d surely lost quite a bit of blood, but if they were far worse with internal injuries she could not detect, then there wasn’t much that could be done anyway. Her biggest surprise was the missing arm. She had expected a gruesome wound with bone pipes sticking out, but what she saw was a mixture of metal, wiring, tubes and some strange liquid she could not identify. There was blood to, to be sure, but those injuries were not that bad, merely lining the surrounding area around the artificially created shoulder joint.

With the wounds tended to she pulled him onto the couch, piled high with blankets and tucked him in, like she would sometimes tuck Oy in, when the boy asked for it with those eyes that would not be denied.
She fetched the hot water bottles, filling them up with hot water from the kettle and stuffed them underneath the blankets and then slowly watched the color return to the man’s face and the lips turn a more healthy rosy color. With the frost melted off, his wispy silver-white hair was revealed to be a more darker grey, not quite as angelic.

“Now, where did you come from”, she found herself asking to the unconscious man.

“Maybe he fell from the sky?” Oy offered and she let out a snort, ruffling the boy’s head affectionately.

She turned away to examine the spare limb the man had been carrying around. It certainly was something. Metal and wires, molded into an arm shape, though not entirely normal looking. The fingers narrowed into tips and when she poked and prodded at them she nearly cut herself from the razor edges that was hidden within the rubbery sheathes that lined the fingers.

“Regular Freddy Kreuger aren’t you?” she said and eyed the shape under the blankets, then decided it might be best to put the arm away in a safe place. Though there was something about the shape of it that enticed her…

“I’ll consider it part of your rent”, she added, then walked over and gave the man’s head a stern pat. “Just don’t linger too long, I’ll want to use that couch too.”

“Aw, Miss Cass, can’t we keep him?” Oy offered from his position on the floor next to the couch, where the boy studied the man’s more relaxed facial features. He reached up once to gently prod at the scar tissue stretching across the unconscious man’s face.

“Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere else to go?” the boy added and pouted slightly. “Like how I had not other place to go when you found me.”

Cassandra sighed and ran a finger through her hair.

“We’ll just see what he has to say when he wakes up, alright?” she said.

The boy beamed a smile at her, then shifted into his ocelot form and leaped up on top of the blanket pile to curl up on top of the man.

Well, this had certainly broken off the winter monotony, she thought to herself as she went to put the arm away among her stacks of paints, brushes and unused canvases. She’d felt like she was in a bit of a slump art-wise, but maybe…
Instead of putting the arm away she studied it closer, let the light reflect on its curves and angles. She had an idea.
Silently thanking the man for stumbling in her direction she pulled out a fresh canvas, paints and brushes. Perhaps this was just what she’d needed right now.

Then she started painting.

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