At that bus stop we sat, sneakers dangling off the bench into the iced run-off below. Steam billowed from our mouths as we waited, counting the minutes until that familiar sputter came rushing towards us behind schedule. We never talked to each other, never tried, didn't want to. I(more) didn't even know his name, yet I knew that each day he stopped at the coffee shop and bought a pair of coffees for the two of us to sip on before the bus came. I said thank you once, but between us it soon became understood.
It was colder than usual one morning. He never showed. I went to work and back without it having registered in my frozen head. The next morning I stopped into the coffee shop and bought a pair of larges. Absent again. A gaping void took his place on the bench, a hulking mass of nothing that only served to make the winter somehow colder.
The bus arrives. I leave his coffee on the bench. In the evening it's gone.
I approach the bench again in the morning, my coffee in tow to find a new bench sitter. I smile, but don't let him see it. Coffee in hand he thanks me, enthused by the graciousness of a stranger in the cold. Our feet dangled into the puddles below. The biting cold never abated.
They were best friends- not that they would admit it, because that wasn't their thing. But everyone knew they were best friends.
It wasn't the usual polar opposite best friendship, nor was it the creepy twin friendship. This was a friendship that was there because the balance was, and(more) that was interesting. Both had their likes and dislikes. The disagreed on some, agreed on others- it was an almost perfect balance of agreement and disagreement.
One felt the cold and shivered at the busstop, huddling down in a winter jacket, the other stood in a t-shirt and shorts in below freezing weather and smirked.
Both excelled at math, showing off in class, to the amusement of the teacher and the relief of the other students, who could watch the clock tick away while the two argued about theorems and formulas.
One had five brothers sisters, the other was an only child.
Both enjoyed cats more than dogs, cooing over any stray they found and pulling out whatever food they had to feed the animal.
One went to England for college, the other stayed in Iowa.
Both called the other at least once every other day; to be sure that they talked every day.
One went into the science field, the other went into marketing.
Both went to the other's graduation, flying across the ocean to see the blue gown and hat.
One adopted two children, a boy and a girl, and the other adopted five cats, all girls.
Both visited the other throughout their lives, continuing to talk on the phone at least once every other day, despite how busy their lives were getting.
Later, one attend the other's funeral.
They didn't talk again for seven years. But after that, they talked for an eternity.
They were best friends.(less)
The weather reports said that it was going to snow. They called for a foot of snow, all of which would blow and drift across the fields and roads in winds that made the world feel like -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
(more) To say that it was cold was an understatement that matched calling hell a sort of uncomfortable place. The furnace could not keep up, so the heating in the house plummeted and even setting a fire in the woodstove didn't seem to help push the chill back.
But inside the walls, protected from the howling wind and the whirling snow, was warmer than outside. We were lucky. There were neighbors of ours that no longer had electricity. So we heated soup to warm us inside and created a nest of blankets to cuddle close under. We joked about body heat as we smiled and held each other close.
Yesterday was the coldest day so far. When you came down stairs you found me in front of the television. I was surrounded by blankets with only my face and hands visible as I clutched a bowl. I stared at the movie, spoon full of chocolate ice cream halfway between my mouth and the bowl.
"What are you watching?"
My attention shifted, only for a moment, from the screen to you. "Frozen," I replied.
I barely heard you as you snorted and muttered "You are insane." You disappeared. About the time I finished the ice cream, you returned to join the nest with a bowl of soup.
"I'm cold," I whimpered and rested my head against your shoulder.
"You brought it upon yourself. I will not be held responsible." Your words were cold, but you shared your soup. The warmth of the action kept my mood just above freezing. (less)
She walked barefoot through the town, and the town burned.
None of them knew it.
They would only realise later, when the first clumps of their hair began to fall out, when the redness on their skin turned to raised blisters that swelled with yellow and pinch(more)ed when they popped; when the babies began dying in their cribs. They all burned.
You wouldn't have thought they could. Their world was a cold world, locked in a perpetual winter brought on by tempers raised too high and buttons pressed too soon.
No one remembers when the first bomb dropped, only that afterwards it seemed as though they would never stop falling. An old woman sits in her hut and sifts through photographs to find the ones from her childhood, bright Polaroids spattered with sunshine and the dark gleam of leaves under the sky. Her grandchildren have never seen a tree, though it is their dearest wish.
The old stories and fairy tails burned along with the world. There is no more Cinderella, no Big Bad Wolf, only the grey ones that run skinny and starving across the ice late at night, when the wind dies and the frost creeps in at the windows. That, they say, is when She walks, the queen built of ice and snow, her atomic heart burning endless and cold.
They say she lives far beyond the ice fields in a city that died long ago, that at night if you look you can see the radiation glow arc bright and blue into the sky, a new aurora for a new age. They say she slept in a cryo-chamber for a hundred years, and when she woke the world was over and she was changed.
She is the Queen, they whisper. Where she walks, there is death.(less)
That's how I would describe her.
All smiles, concerned, giggles, carefully controlled facial contractions, even down to the crow's feet and the lower eyelid contractions.
(more) Precisely monitored to elicit the desired reaction from conversation partner.
She had the same eyes as everyone in the Fight Club generation.
Too much knowledge.
The death of wonder and innocence.
In war they call it the thousand yard stare.
Hidden behind a veil of feigned warmth and sanity.
But behind the veil were the same depraved, frozen, hopeless thoughts you and I and every one of our so-called cohort has.
Everything is recycled.
Nothing is new and wonderful.
Just waiting for the end with Amazon ordered shock-proof iphone cases and free pornography.(less)
James tapped the pipes again. The tinny echo bounced around the basement, making the copper tubes sound much larger than they were. Insulation was wrapped around them, keeping them warm and snug. James stepped away and checked over the furnace outtake again.
(more) Still no frost. That was good.
Weather reports had been flying in from all over the city - downed power lines, caked with ice - car crash after car crash, broken noses and whiplash - fights over clean water, people getting angry and upset. But that was in the city.
James was up in the mountains. Nestled between two ridges, in the cabin he'd built himself. Solar panels provided the power, and the water wheel powered anything else he needed.
Rather, it had powered everything. Until the river had frozen solid and the sun had been hiding for days. Now the power was almost gone, and the only place still warm was the subbasement.
James was down there now, blankets scattered all over the room. Opened food jars lined one wall. The last water jug sat on a chair, a companion.
Time slowly clicked back, and with every minute the cold inched deeper.
An office caught between two hells today;
boiling, with freezing on the way.
A broken thermostat caused office hot,
melted chocolates that Christmas brought.
And when poor souls leave tropic heat,
below freezing temperatures, they shall meet.
(more) Making roads both raw and icy;
and driving on them - crazy and dicey.
So slow down 'cause some drivers suck.
Spin outs, side swipes "What the ...?"(less)