I now have about eight different words/phrases for snow. And counting. The more of it I see, the more subtle variations I detect. They are as follows:
- Ludicrous piles of icy white bastardry.
- Um… Actually, the rest are unrepeatable, sorry.
It’s kind of unfair, in that snow has ruined snow for me. I always rather liked it. Pictures of it at least. It had a certain desolate charm, a magic all its own. I loved the way it gently covered everything over, rounding off shapes into a uniform, glittering smoothness. It had a mystery.
Now that I’ve punctured that mystery and spend some time in the stuff, well, I don’t mean to be a bitch about it, but this girl is not a fan.
I can’t feel all my toes for a start and the ones I can feel aren’t happy with me. My upper body and legs are fine, because my Tik Furs have fluffed up lovely, but my face, my eyebrows in particular, are in agony and anything below the knee? Forget about it.
I’ve lost Nom a few times. I look down and she’s gone. I call her name in a panic and her voice answers me from somewhere under the white ridiculousness. It really doesn’t bother her, and she happily ploughs into a snowbank if it’s in her path and thinks nothing of it.
I’d hold her hand, but my fingers would snap off.
In theory, I could just walk close to the hot stream where the snow is melted. In practice, it’s muddy and slippy and I think if I dunked a boot into the water that would be it. A wet foot in this climate, well, I would definitely lose that foot.
It’s tempting just to bite the bullet and walk in the hot stream. I have to force myself not to do it. Yes, my feet would be warm, but I have no idea how far away the next city is. It could be days.
And that’s another thing. With all my riches, I went and bought a crossbow I can’t use, a spear that’s a pain in the arse to carry and a short sword I’m more likely to end up sticking in myself than anyone or anything that attacks me, but did I think to buy a tent?
No, I ruddy did not.
Silly Shoo. Silly, silly, probably going to die out in the snowy wilderness because she’s silly Shoo. Go me. I am amazing.
Nom will be fine. At least I don’t have to feel guilty about that. She seems to be indomitable. And if I do tragically expire, she’ll probably just eat me like what happens with old ladies and cats.
And the wind! You don’t see it in the pictures. You think it’s cold, then the wind picks up and you realise that wasn’t cold at all. It was just pretending to be cold, practice cold, cold in training wheels. The wind blows the cold through you like the ghosts of every regret you’ve had, all at once.
No, I’m not a snow person.
It’s weird too. There’s all these lumps and bumps under the white that could be anything. I keep hearing that tinkling laugh, very faintly, whenever the wind picks up. There are trees, very dead trees, here and there. Then there are what I think are trees but turn out to be some alien squiggle of ice with snow on it. I see patterns in frost that look like they’re alive.
It’s creepy out here, frankly. It’s so blank and empty, and the snow is so strange. It feels like the place is alive, sort of, but an alien life. Some non-biological awareness coalesced from ice, harshness, and desolate beauty.
It’s almost like that spaceship that crashed didn’t bring the people, they were already here. It brought a foreign kind of a Winter. Like those cracked stone drives are powered by gates to another universe and they accidentally pulled something through. That’s what it feels like.
But my imagination is just playing tricks with me.
I am a city girl. I better just admit it now. Best to get to know your own foibles, right? I’m sure all this sub-zero oddness is perfectly normal. It’s just that anything that isn’t cobbles or bricks ruddy freaks me out.
Calm Shoo. Be calm. Whining and bitching helps no-one. One foot in front of the other, that’s all you’ve got to do. It’ll be fine.
The wind picks up again.
It intensifies the cold, firing imaginary needles of ice into every unprotected part of my face. I grit my teeth and attempt to heroically endure it. Like a frontier-woman, or an ice-warrior, or some other idiot-type who voluntarily puts themselves in these situations.
“Windy!” Nom says in childish delight.
“Yes! That’s right, Nom!” I say. “Wonderful, wonderful windy cold wind!”
Nom looks at me, eyes wide.
“Did… um… did I just say that like a crazy person?” I ask.
“Sorry, Nom I’m just a bit cold is all.”
The wind picks up even more. This time, it has snow in it and the imaginary needles of ice hitting me in the face become slightly less imagined. A snowflake hits me in the mouth and gets wedged between my front teeth.
“Ow!” I say and pull it out. It’s definitely a snowflake, a bit on the large side, but what it just did shouldn’t be possible, right? It should have melted by now, right? I hold it up to Nom. “Is that normal snowflake behaviour?” I ask her. I snap it half. “Is it?”
She shrugs, looking more scared of me than the tiny wind-borne throwing star.
Gods, imagine if that had got me in the eye.
I put my hand up in front of my face, “Nom, watch your eyes.”
The little worm girl copies me, but I think more out of nervousness of me. I press forward. I feel little jabs and stings in my hand. I put the other one up to look at it. There are snowflakes the size of oat flakes stinking out of my palm. One of them has drawn blood.
“Nom, we need to find shelter,” I say.
Obligingly, she looks around, bless her. She’s not going to find anything though. We’re in a ruddy desolate ruddy snowy ruddy wilder-
“Over there!” Nom says.
I squint where she’s pointing. It looks like a signpost.
I hurry over to it. The writing is some local script I don’t understand.
“What’s that?” I ask Nom.
“Oh, I know this,” she says, pleased to be helpful. “That’s writing.”
“Thank you, sweetheart, but what does it say?”
She shrugs, “Can’t read.” I’m about to start swearing when she adds: “It’s probably to do with that house there.”
There is indeed a house, about thirty feet away from the stream. I say house, but it’s really more of an igloo. It looks like a log cabin, but the logs are made of ice. There is wood involved. There’s an entire wall made of wood, but just one, and it’s jutting on its own at an angle away from the ice walls. One half of the roof is also wood, as is the door. It looks like a house conjured up by someone who doesn’t really understand what a house is.
“That sign is obviously a warning,” I tell Nom.
“Okay,” she says.
“And that house is definitely a trap of some kind,” I add. “Built by, like, a big, um, snow spider or something.”
“Okay,” she says, looking at it with wide eyes.
“So, we’re going to press on,” I say.
“Okay,” she says.
Bless her heart. Nom may be a bit kill-simple on times, but she’s thankfully quite easy-going when it comes to following instructions.
Next to my face, the wood of the sign is suddenly split. A gleaming shard of ice as long as my hand juts through. I scream a little. Nom does too.
“Gods! What is that?”
Something goes: shunk!
I look around, until I can see another long shard of ice, basically an ice dagger, sticking out of the ground two feet away.
“That’s funny, icy death-daggers weren’t forecast for today,” I quip, to hide my nerves.
“What?” Nom, who would have no idea what a weather forecast is, says.
Another bunch of ice daggers have embedded themselves in the ground nearby. I look up at the sky. There’s a kind of inky-blue cloud up there.
That’s not a cloud.
“Nom! Run!” I grab her hand and wade through the snow towards the strange igloo. Behind us, dozens of daggers start ploughing into the snow.
“I thought you said it was a trap!” Nom protests, actually resisting now of all times.
I pick her up and carry her under one arm.
“Ice,” I shriek by way of explanation. “Daggers!”
A lot more shunks happen behind us but get increasingly closer as I try to get through all the icy white bastardry between us and the igloo trap.
I don’t think we’re going to make it.
I think I’m going to hear a meatier shunk than the other shunks, along with an impact on top of my head and everything’s going to go black.
Or, even worse, I’ll get a shunk through the leg, go down and then get repeatedly shunked over and over like a scene from a messed-up horror film.
We’re not going to make it!
I think I hear that tinkling laughter again.
We hit the door.
It swings open.
We fall through.
Oh, thank the gods!
Inside is as icy and bare as the exterior. There’s a wooden table but it’s imbedded in the wall, and a wooden cot but the mattress is ice. The floor is a mix of wooden and bare ice floorboards. It’s not right in here, not right at all. But I’m just happy not to be pin-cushioned.
Through the door I can see the rain of ice daggers continuing outside. I’m no snow expert, but that is definitely not normal weather. One of them hits a tree. The tree explodes. Shards of freeze-dried wood shoot everywhere. If we were anywhere near that we would be shredded. I yawn.
“Okay, Nom,” I say. “This igloo may be a trap, but it’s a less certain death than out there.”
“I agree, Shoo,” she says. She yawns.
“Don’t yawn,” I say, yawning, “You’ll make me yawn.”
She yawns and giggles. “You made me yawn,” she says and yawns.
I yawn again.
I know I shouldn’t, because it’s a trap, but I really have to put my head down. Just for a moment. I’ll not fall asleep, cos of the trap thing. Just resting my eyes.
For a moment.
I’ll be straight up again.