This story is by Sarah Kaminski and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
She slammed her alarm off. Another day, yet again. She rolled out of bed and trudged to the kitchen, switching on her coffee maker. There was no day without coffee to start it – not for her anyway.
She made her way to the bathroom, shuffling her feet as she went, barely glancing at her reflection in the mirror as she passed it. She wasn’t a huge fan of what was staring back at her.
Ughhhh – she groaned – grabbing her bar of soap to scrub away the grogginess of another weed hangover. She couldn’t sleep without it now, nighttime was filled with memories. Too many memories. She’d quiet them with a joint and a book or a comedy series. Anything to escape her reality one more night.
She rinsed the lavender suds from her face and grabbed for the hand towel. It had a dingy smell, probably should’ve been washed days ago, but she just couldn’t be bothered. Damp, used, and certainly not fresh, she patted her face dry. It emanated a less than pleasant smell as she did so.
Let’s try this again – she thought – as she lifted her eyes to meet her reflection in the mirror.
Well, it was what it was – the most optimistic conclusion about herself that she could muster today. She’d never been a great beauty and her appearance had always left her wanting more.
She made her way back to the kitchen, grabbing her favorite mug off her dusty shelves. It was unique, made by a friend from clay, just for her. It brought her back to a different time. It brought her back to a big love.
He was intense: passionately loving and kind, but then, angry and explosive. The home they’d built together had been filled with works collected from artists passing through. She’d loved that part of it – of them.
Sipping her coffee, she let her mind wander to that time and place. The flavor of the land where the clay of the mug had come from seeped through, adding an earthy twist to her bitter drink. The feeling of that time engulfed her, bringing her back to years before, to those moments that had her feeling so full, and then so broken.
She allowed herself to indulge in the sweet moments of the past this morning, closing her eyes with a faint smile, hands cupping her mug as she imagined the feeling of being held by someone she’d loved, being brought coffee in the morning with a song played on his guitar.
As the warm, light feeling of it took over, a harsh wind blew through. Coldness. Darkness. Bitterness. It swept through her kitchen and seeped into her body, clinging to her core. Her treasured mug crashed to the floor with the shock of it.
The feeling of love that had surrounded her was now gone. It had been taken with that frigid gust of cold air. Alone in her kitchen, staring at the black liquid and shattered clay on the floor, she’d been left frozen. Numb and empty. Desperately, she tried to feel what she had just seconds before, but she couldn’t. Those feelings were gone. There was no conjuring them back. And she felt nothing but cold.
Had it been true, then? Disbelief overwhelmed her. How could it be? She’d thought it was only a dream, a vivid one, yes, but not real. How could it have been real?
Eyes closed again, feet frozen in place, she let herself go back to the scene of the night before. That same cold that had just blown through her kitchen had overcome her. A crash, a light, and then coldness. A bloodcurdling cold. She shook with chills just recalling it.
Snow and ice covered as far as she could see. She’d been so uncomfortable, so scared, had contemplated if death had taken her in her sleep. Rationally, she thought the pain she felt couldn’t have been death. Peace is what they say you feel, when your body is finally taken, and that certainly was not what she felt.
Slowly, painfully she’d witnessed her body freeze over. Recalling it, she remembered the panic she’d felt as her eyes frantically checked each limb to see the same thing happen: flesh colored skin turning to frosty ice. Fragile and frozen is what she’d become. Her lips had been the last thing to seal over, turning half of her shrill into a measly squeak.
Helpless, her eyes had darted every which way – the only part of her body that was still able to move. Then a booming voice, bodiless. It sounded from nowhere yet reverberated everywhere, spoken with the familiarity of someone she’d known for years.
My dear, sweet child you’ve been broken and sad for far too long.
How had they known?! Shame had overwhelmed her as she recalled all the tears, the nights spent alone, longing for a love that quite possibly had never existed. Lamenting her solitude and desperately wishing to feel nothing.
I’ve heard your pleas. From the depths of your consciousness, when you thought that no one was listening, I heard your groveling. To feel no longer. To go cold. And so I’ve made it so. The part of you that once loved so intensely, has turned to ice.
The Earth had shaken and rumbled with those final somber words and as it did her limbs had begun to crack as her body fell to pieces. The bright light that had surrounded her turned to darkness and she’d awoken with a jolt, deeming it a dream.
Now back in the kitchen, nauseous and dizzy, she fell to the ground, indifferent to the broken clay and coffee that surrounded her. She gasped for air with the realization of what had happened. Calming herself from a panic attack, she breathed deep and tried to recall those feelings of love from years before.
Her mind reached back to her first love – the most intense and pure love she could remember, before she’d truly known the particular pain that the loss of it could bring. Just as she felt the inklings of that familiar feeling come over her, another cruel, cold wind swept through, leaving her shivering and frozen on the floor. Far from the light and warmth she’d been searching to recall, a cold emptiness was all she could feel.
She’d wished and wished for this, naively thinking it would alleviate all her problems. Numbly, she stood to her feet and went for the broom. With a robotic dutifulness she swept up the pieces of a past life she’d never find again.
Broken. She’d been broken for too long and unable to put herself back together. She collapsed to the floor again. A life without love – was that even a life worth living?