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Thread: * A Snowflake's Chance In Hell *

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    Registered User Aearnur's Avatar
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    * A Snowflake's Chance In Hell *

    * I *

    It had been bitterly cold for the last few weeks before it all began. Then it had snowed and snowed and snowed, day after day, until the sidewalks were piled high with the purest, shiniest, crystalline snow anyone had ever seen. Both traffic and pedestrians picked their way through the streets with the greatest of care.

    Carrie loved it. She was a sentimental little soul. Something quite rare in these bleak, modern days of minimalist emotion. Her heart warmed to see the snow fall outside the window, fluffy and gentle as it touched down on the already overburdened sill.

    There was something cocooning about the snow, almost like being cradled in cotton wool. What made it feel extra nice was that this was one of those few experiences which were still common to humankind since a world of individual choice had opened up.

    These were Harry’s thoughts. More cynical than Carrie, Harry bemoaned the passing of another, kinder world, the world of his youth. He felt it dissolving like a tiny, vulnerable snowflake lying in the middle of his palm. “I wouldn’t be surprised if soon we were able to buy ourselves individual weather”, he thought with a mental grimace and resigned shake of his head.

    He settled down to watch the nightly news. It seemed to Harry almost as if snow was falling over the whole world tonight...


    * II *


    Joe put aside his book. He’d only been catching every second word these past ten minutes and his eyes were smarting like hell. He blew his bedside candle out and lay on his bed in the moonlight.

    He loved these special moments of silence. Across the room his bedroom window was a rich dark royal blue colour suffused with the silver glow of the unseen moon. The snowflakes fell silently, vertically and hugely down the length of his window and increased by miniscule amounts, the pile rapidly obscuring the holly bushes in his garden.

    In that church-like silence he heard the distant call of an owl before his eyes wearily closed over and he fell deep asleep.


    ~


    Joy wondered how she was going to manage the next day. Tommy and Rebecca wouldn’t be able to sit still to breakfast with all this snow about.

    They’d insist on building a snowman and having snowball fights. She’d have the devil’s own job keeping them dry and getting them fed in time to get off to school.

    Her bones were weary from her day. It had been non-stop from start to finish. Still, she’d never have it any other way. Motherhood was a long hard slog and single motherhood seemed purgatory itself at times. Not that she’d change a thing however. Not a single thing. Except maybe this snow which seemed to want to fall forever…


    * III *


    Amanda and Cecil had been married twelve long years. They had been very careful and there had been no little accidents along the way. Both working so hard, and with the mortgage on their town house so high, having children would have spelt disaster.

    They were drinking the last few drops of their cocktails, sitting at their smart table by the French doors when they realised it simultaneously. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all. It hardly surprised them however. Each year the edges of the experience had seemed to fray away bit by bit. All the little nooks and crannies of warmth had seemed to fizzle out like so many defective fairy lights until only one or two areas of nostalgia were capable of being fanned alive.

    And now, at once, they both realised the last trace of Christmases past, had gone.

    Neither spoke. Both continued to stare out of the large windows of the doors, through the delicate lace hangings, at the curtain of snow falling silently in the night.

    In the dying light they could make still out the soft flat expanses of lawn and smooth curves of bushes beneath the carpet of white.

    Unknown to each other they simultaneously felt something akin to a tiny icicle enter each of their hearts…


    ~


    Frank had a good heart. It pulsed warmth into the room like some huge baker’s oven. His vibrant life force always and ever gave out the same wonderful, life-enhancing heat. So much so that anyone around him immediately perked up and, if they’d had any doubts about it, quickly began to feel life was indeed worthwhile and people were not so bad after all.

    The place was even fuller than usual tonight as they’d used every possible space to lay down extra mattresses so they didn’t have to turn anyone away.

    The constantly falling snow seemed to soothe them Frank thought happily. Usually the place would be a hubbub of noise including at least two or three arguments, either over whose bed or blanket it was or who had stolen someone’s soup or slab of bread. But tonight, even with the overcrowding, everyone seemed in a soporific, almost serene, mood.

    Above their heads, on the little shelf nailed on a corner of the hall, almost unnoticed, the television screen showed the snow falling, country by country, all over the world…


    * IV *


    N!xau awoke at dawn and soon after strode outside to judge the portents for hunting that day. No sooner had he swept aside the hide which covered the doorway when he stopped in his tracks. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The sky was raining cotton... But a very strange kind of cotton. One that felt bitterly cold to the touch and dissolved in your fist when you squeezed it. He was terrified.

    This was not all. Strangely, the cold of the Kalahari night seemed to have continued on into this day. And the chill winter rains had come in midsummer, transforming the clear blue arc of the sky to a stormy, roiling grey.

    He roused his family from sleep and they soon stood with him in a line, staring wide-eyed in both fear and wonder at the terrible sky, and the icy powder which fell from it.


    * V *


    Sir Harold Humphrey wasn’t a man who frightened easily but as he looked down Whitehall now he felt himself shiver from head to toe and it wasn’t simply due to the cold. In the distance he could plainly see Big Ben brightly arrayed in its mantle of white. The snowploughs had done all they could and could do no more. Across the city they lay stranded and motionless, half-covered by the endlessly falling snow.

    Sir Harold’s task had been to co-ordinate, as far as was possible, the snow clearance effort in London and he had failed miserably. He consoled himself with the fact that no one, no matter how innovative, could have succeeded any better in the circumstances. The snow had fallen constantly across the country for almost two weeks now. And, from those small snatches of time when he returned exhausted from his efforts and when his mobile stopped ringing, he caught a newscast, it was clearly occurring in every country across the planet.

    In the media they always had to have a name for these things, he thought sardonically. They were calling this ‘Global Winter’. Without a glimmer of a smile Sir Harold thought about how ironic it was that everyone had all been expecting a ‘Global Warming’ rather than a cooling. For him it made clear once and for all just how unpredictable and complex both nature and this universe was and how comparatively myopic and ignorant was Mankind.

    His bag was packed along with those of every remaining soul in London. The last of the obstinate, brave, foolish or lame were now leaving the city as best they could. The government had of course been long since ensconced in a rapidly refurbished Cold War bunker on the holiday island of Jersey. Now it was the turn of what remained of the general population to depart.

    A stark warning to leave the cities had been given across all still-existing media outlets. This even though the futility of it was well known in governmental circles. Still, there it was. Anyone who stayed in the cities was doomed to a slow death. Nothing could reach them. Every major transport artery was blocked by tens of thousands of abandoned cars and hundreds of pillaged, jack-knifed goods lorries. Nothing was leaving the ports. Almost all major transport infrastructure and networks had now completely broken down.

    In the countryside were the only sustainable stocks of food, apart from the very few isolated warehouses around major cities which had not already been emptied of everything edible inside them. Of course the stocks of food which existed in the countryside would soon run out too. Especially once the hordes of city-dwellers descended upon them.

    “But what else could we do?” thought Sir Harold grimly. “Simply say nothing? Ignore what we knew as stone cold fact, that anyone remaining in the cities stood no chance of survival?” This had become clear when the temperature had dropped consistently to a point where almost every water pipe had burst and essential maintenance of the myriad technological aids to our modern lives was no longer possible.

    The only remaining hope was that the earlier, land-based forms of existence might provide the basis of life once again. Sir Harold knew just how vain a hope that was however. The inevitable result would of course merely be that those in the countryside would die all the sooner as the urban locusts swept over them, eating everything they could find, breaking into every home in their search for food in a fight to the death for survival. Even then, most of those who were leaving London and every urban ghetto at that moment would only prolong their lives by a week or two at most.

    Sir Harold shook his head sadly as he picked up his bag and gazed for one last time across Whitehall toward Big Ben. Tears fell from his lined old face as he did so. But, even before it hit the floor, this tiny trickle of warm water, the same water which sustained all of human life, had turned to solid ice.


    * VI *


    Don Shepherd and Roni Straker knew well that no words could describe what they were seeing. From here on LunarDome the Earth was transformed. There was no longer any trace of the blues or browns of old, or of those iridescent colours which had ever cheered and amazed them, and with which they had been so familiar. Their home was now purest white.

    The reports from EarthBase, while they had continued, had been consistent for some time now, heavy and continuing snowfalls, everywhere around the globe.

    Steve Harper, their main contact down on EarthBase had stayed bravely at his position giving them updates much longer than they had any reason to expect. Finally, his desperate need to take his family out of harm’s way had overcome his sense of duty to the Lunites as Don and Roni had officially come to be known. (To the less reverent of course they were always referred to as ‘The Lunatics’)

    Every now and then Don would switch on the Tri-V. Though he knew very well the inevitable outcome, somehow it comforted him; it was the last link to home. He no longer shuddered at the terrible irony of the mass of swirling white dots on a grey background which, in the early days of television, they had named snow. He simply sat and stared at the screen in a numbness which in time became almost trance-like.

    Don and Roni knew without any shadow of a doubt that they were now doomed to die on the base. They had calculated everything in minute detail. The Dome had emergency supplies which would ensure their survival for around three years. These resources were of course finite. Nothing could be grown on the barren, pumice wilderness of the Moon.

    From their bleak grey stone hanging in space they now looked across to a polar world. A planet of purest white. In other circumstances it would have been highly romantic. After all it was Christmas Eve, and across those two hundred and forty thousand miles, hanging in the vast silent blackness of space, was the biggest snowball either of them would ever see.


    ~


    The three years which followed were the loneliest any humans had ever had to suffer through. They were wracked with torment for their families in those first few weeks wondering if they were okay and dreading the worst. In the end, as weeks turned into months they wondered if anyone had survived down on Earth, down where all their memories lay, their home, their place of dreams. But no communication ever came. There was only endless static over the airwaves. In the early days they had kept the speakers in the foremost lounge continually switched on, beaming them the ceaseless crackle and hiss in the desperate hope that survivors would contact them. But after eighteen months of the constant crackling backdrop they agreed to switch it off. For a while it was very hard to get used to the silence. They had an almost infinite variety of Tri-V programs to watch and at first they did. But they soon found that each and every image brought them immediately to tears, wracked with overwhelming and all-consuming loss. In the end they switched everything off except for essential life-support and lived as best they could in silence.

    The face of home however, could not be avoided. There it was, constantly tracing her slow, elegant path across the immense panorama window which swathed the entire length of the forward lounge.

    Don and Roni rarely spoke now, each deep within their own inner meditation. They sat in the soft cocoons of their body loungers and constantly gazed upward at the great white ball held in the deepest of black velvets above them.

    The critical days came at last. Outwardly the base was unchanged, held in pristine aspic, clean, white, perfect. Inside, little seemed changed also. The corridors, labs and storerooms were as they had been on the day of their construction. Only the forward lounge had become altogether changed. Instead of the clinical whites and creams of before there was instead a riot of colour where they had wildly splashed paint randomly over the entire area, each and every surface radiating warm blues, yellows, browns and greens and every other available colour.

    With the passing of time neither moved much from their lifepoint loungers, plugged into the now almost empty nutrient supply. Both were very weak, both in body and in mind. Slowly they were disappearing, element by element, as life force drained from them and the systems supporting them failed one by one, moving from living warmth ever closer to ice cold death.

    Don realised Roni had probably gone when she no longer responded to the once a day contact they made lounger to lounger. He tried several times with no response from her in return. He felt impossibly weak, nevertheless he managed the superhuman effort of rising and slowly shuffled across the room to her. When he got to her lounger he realised that she was indeed dead. With an indescribable depth of emotion containing equal measures of sadness and envy, his tears splashed upon her as he leant down gently to her poor, lined face and kissed her forehead. It was ice cold.


    ~


    The days passed, unchanging except for those alterations occurring within Don’s painfully thin frame.

    Finally it was time.

    He slowly opened his eyes and took one last look at home. Above, his eyes met the cold white orb of Earth, once his true and beloved home. He blinked back tears, they at least, seemed a never-ending resource… And, from the corner of his eye his other home, this riot of colour, this homage to what had once been and their protest at its passing.

    The last moments of the last man were imbued with a deep peace. Don’s gaze seemed fixed on the stars, almost as if there was still some tiny hope remaining out there, a hope born of the spirit of Man, for change, for preservation and for a continuation of his hopes and dreams.

    In that final moment, in that silence, when all seemed coldly static and fixed within an unchanging continuum of aeons, a spark of light suddenly flared up and shone brightly, reflected as it was in the cooling black orbs of the last man’s eyes.


    * Conclusion *


    She emerged from the womb of space with a cataclysmic roar and diamond-bright flash. Tendrils of scorching white plasma jiggled off like crazy flares in every direction as the ship appeared; sharp, smooth and brilliantly shining from all three adjacent light sources; the local G-Class Star, its moon and now its third partner 93,000 miles distant, the object of her mission.


    ~


    Their eyes were unicellular, trimmed with splashes of frosting so similar to that which had until recently snaked over the snow-filled valleys of the Himalayas as seen from space. Now on Earth all was a uniform white, even to the peak of Everest herself.

    They viewed the new planet with something approaching excitement, tempered somewhat by a background familiarity. They had seen so many worlds of the Mother, and of course what they saw reminded them of both their and her first home. The ugly world they had observed ten thousand years before when it was first perceived, that world so infected by colour and heat, had gone, replaced by the pristine wonder they now saw before them.

    Anticipation for dropdown to the simulacra was high among them. It had been a long time since the last evocation, and this world, which had been identified in its last ice-age, drew them as an irresistible magnet to be their home until the inevitable next jump.

    At the fore screen, bathed in the light of a billion stars including that of an attractively grey moon and her shining new host below, the restore sequence was initiated. Deep below in the myriad passages silvery grey lids began to perceptibly thaw. Frost retreated marginally from the edges of the great lids, indicating that the solid permafrost within was in flux. The process took two hours until all were successfully re-animate and mobile. The jump to here had been seven thousand years long though it seemed an eye blink to the consciousness of those who had been so completely asleep across the vastness of deep space.

    The foreship had already landed and a forebase established. Pictures from the surface showed a beautiful and endless whiteness, interrupted only and frequently by exquisite whorls of snow within each holy blizzard of the lifegiver.

    Soon, the carrier arrived, tagged with forebase and descended, a mile long streak of silvery-white metal, its surface swathed as ever in exquisite frost patterns as designed by the holy Mother herself.

    From crystalline structures laid in the snow the landbase was built. First in electronic form, ribbons tracing the sky and in due course with the supreme materials, god-given to this world, the pure elements of ice and snow.

    Soon it stood. The first base of millions upon millions of bases to be arrayed and interconnected like tiny crystals, tracer-like, across this snowball world. The first base would always and ever be the largest and most magnificent, the central holy axis and point of pilgrimage, arc-ing in an icy dome across the pitch black starlit sky. A beacon of stability and reassurance for all to come. Its great dome now shone across their new world, its arc mirroring the arc of the dark, cold sky itself.

    Never again would the Principals allow their people to be victims of the burning, to the intolerable heat of the traitor nova star. Since the initial blasphemy wreaked by The Destroyer, they had sought ever more worlds to redeem and to nourish, all with the white gift of the Mother. So it was now and so it would ever be.

    It was not life as it had been. It was not the world that had been. But it was life. Seeking ever to survive. Venturing deep into the dark to seek what sustained it. Eliminating that which threatened it or that which competed for the life space they needed. Life with no conscience toward any form except that which assisted life itself, their life.

    So, the next pattern had emerged and had shepherded those of their kind to the new land and a new life giver. Another shining beacon of the continuance of the life force, spanning conquered space and heralding yet another glorious, if ice-cold, dawn.



    THE END

  2. #2
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    I love it! Linear and non - linear at the same time. I read it with the same taste I'd read a book from Dickens.

  3. #3
    Registered User Aearnur's Avatar
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    Thank you very much indeed Leannain, it felt very nice indeed to read your comment expressing your positive reaction. To have even one person express a liking for your work is, in a way, enough to have made it all worthwhile.

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