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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Escape (01/02/06)

TITLE: The Snowflake
By Maxx .
01/08/06


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The sky was mottled and heavy, sagging with bitter clouds that gouged the jagged horizon. Night fell, deepening the shadows of the forest. The howl of a wolf echoed in the distance, followed by another that was near … too near. The hair on Trevor’s neck bristled. He stumbled forward, feet catching on snow drifts, breath freezing onto brittle whiskers.

The Montana winter blew through the ravines like a freight train tumbling down the Rockies; out of control, thunderous, unstoppable. By rights he should have been dead, frozen until the spring thaw released the mountains from their glacial prison. He’d left his coat and gloves by the mantle, on the hearth, near his expressionless wife.

His hopes lay there too, in tatters on the parlor floor.

Pine branches glowered with serrated icicle teeth. They chomped as the winds screamed past; winter dragons gnashing and fierce. He was tormented. Old wounds torn anew had suppurated and putrefied.

From behind, footsteps.

Wraithlike shadows circled in the darkness. Wolves. They growled from the edges of his failing vision. “Leave me alone!” He swung his hand. “Go away!”

Heart pounding, he fled deeper into the gloom.

Sadie had folded her arms, chin lowered, eyes staring toward the fireplace as if watching hidden dreams smolder to nothing.

He knelt and placed a tender hand on her stooped shoulders. “Please, dear. What’s wrong? Let me help.” His voice rasped hoarse and salty. An isolated prayer echoed through his jumbled mind but the words were blunted by so many that had previously gone unanswered.

Her skin appeared waxy. She sat distant, self destructive, and loathing.

She didn’t respond.

He tripped over a small drift where a few months prior he’d picked bouquets of purple bitterroot flowers. They were gone, dead, lost. He clawed stiff fingers into the icy remains and wept, his frozen tears spilling about the snow like shattered diamonds.

“God! You‘ve taken everything!” He choked on a sob. God didn’t do this to you. She did. Piece by precious piece. From love to neglect to … he considered the progression … abandonment. “Please, Father, is there no hope?”

The only response, the snapping of fangs from behind the tree line.

He’d been patient. For too long waiting for her touch to return to him, praying for her smile to reappear. But her kisses were ash on his lips, her fingertips like dust. “Sadie, look at me! Just a glance. Can’t you give me that much?”

Her eyes seemed to scrape the lowest circle of despair. Spittle clung to the corners of her bowed mouth. “I don’t have anything left to give you.”

He fell backward onto the woven rug. His vision blurred through flowing eyes. “That’s not possible.” He placed his hands on the floor and crawled. “Y-you love me …” his voice trailed away. Unthinkable words gagged him. “Are you … going to leave me?”

What emotions she had were drawn in the rolling of her pupils upward into their sockets. She snorted, guttural and hopeless. “Sure. Where would I go? What would I do?” Her stare drifted away.

The bridge wasn’t high but it spanned an inky depth that in the frigid twilight seemed to have no end. Trevor stumbled to the center and grasped the rail. An icy splinter tore his palm. But no pain could mask the suffering he lived as hope bled slowly from his soul.

The wolves came, hounding him, threatening. There was no escape from them anymore.

He spun about. “What am I supposed to do, God?” He shook his fist at the clouds and the wind. “I promised ‘til death do us part.’ Death! Not this! I can’t reach her anymore.”

He climbed the railing and balanced on the slick edges of the frozen timbers.

“Nothing’s left.” He wrenched the ring from his left hand. The one she’d given him ten years, a lifetime, before. He laid it on the balustrade.

From the roadway a wolf lunged, teeth bared.

Trevor slipped from his perch. Desperate, he grabbed, flailing.

A single snowflake fell. Drifting, spinning, swirling as Trevor clutched the crossbeam with uncertain fingers. It turned about, crystalline, fragile, unique. Past distressed eyes it flipped, revealing one side and then the other. Each surface disappeared from view, but was still there none-the-less ... waiting. Two distinct faces on one creation. It faded into the recesses of the gorge and vanished.

Trevor shuddered, hope restored.

He pulled himself to safety and retraced his footprints home.


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This article has been read 1212 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 01/11/06
Your way with words is undeniable; your descriptions vivid without adjective overuse, Trevor's and his wife's emotions palpable.

But I was confused by the switching of setting several times, from their home to the outside. Was the outside setting metaphorical? Or was he remembering previous conversations? (It's probably just me...)

Regardless, I'll give this one another reading or two; it really drew me in. Good job!
Amy Michelle Wiley 01/11/06
This was gripping. I agree that the switches from outside to the memories of inside are a little confusing. Perhaps change the flashbacks to past tense or put them in italics. Great story!
janet rubin01/12/06
You are a master of description! I love the glowering pines and their icicle teeth (just to mention one..)
I was a little confused though too. I'm thinking he wasn't ever really outside. It was the coldness of their home, the icy relationship? Am I right? The "bridge" was the uncrossable bridge between them? I love pieces that make me think. Great work.
Sally Hanan01/12/06
Great depth of everything :) Our spouses know this only too well - Two distinct faces on one creation, haha
Pat Guy 01/12/06
Reading this twice set the scene for me and I have only one question - How did Trevor see both sides of the snowflake if night had fallen? (am I being too literal maybe?) And it's not fair that this was submitted just before mine! Enjoyed the intensity and reality of this piece!
Linda Watson Owen01/13/06
Wow...what imagery!! Pure poetry!
T. F. Chezum01/13/06
Excellent imagery! Awesome story!
Karen Ward01/13/06
I didn't find the flashbacks confusing, it all worked for me as his own attention flitted in and out of his physical situation and the situation in his own mind. I guess that's how I think too when I'm absorbed by something.
Great to have you back.
:) Karen
Lynda Lee Schab 01/13/06
Wonderful, descriptive story-telling! I also stumbled in a couple of spots but this was a gripping read, regardless.
Blessings, Lynda
Shannon Redmon01/13/06
I love the way his physical condition mirrored his relationship with his wife. Good descriptive writing!
Marilyn Schnepp 01/13/06
To me, this reminds me of an abstract painting; lots of colorful lines and shapes - but you don't know what it is. You turn it sideways and upside down to try and figure out what it is...what it means? Yes, it's brilliant, colorful, and beautifully done...(and abstracts are my favorite paintings) but I don't understand them.
Very well done.
Sandra Petersen 01/14/06
Glad you're back! Missed your masterful descriptions!
I had questions about whether Sadie had gone insane (the catatonic staring into the dying fire and the spittle at the corners of her mouth) or had died (stooped shoulders, unresponsive, waxy-feeling skin). Death after neglect would be the ultimate hurtful abandonment.
Did Trevor return the ring from the ballustrade to his finger?
I had to reread a few times the reference to the snowflake, and finally I think I understand. What Sadie had become was not how she had to remain. There was hope because both sides of Sadie were in the one woman.
Very deep!
Anita Neuman01/14/06
Masterful writing, as always. It's so great to have you back!!!
Beth Muehlhausen01/15/06
I think this could be read repeatedly - and the reader would only keep peeling back layers! Thought-provoking and...magnetic.
Jessica Schmit05/30/06
I laughed out loud when someone referred to not being able to understand this piece. Comparing it to "abstract art." Um...ok (jess, be nice.) Maxx, one only has to read to understand this one. Perfect in every area. Oh, my heart felt for them. I tend to become an ice queen from time to time and I pictured myself in that story. Powerful stuff. I personally took the outside as metaphorical, not sure what your orginal intent was. This story reminded me of my latest problem. I've been studying throughout the summer (university courses). I was reading through a textbook today and shuttering. There were numerous spelling mistakes. It was difficult to understand what wa being said in many parts due to bad phrasing and inncorrect grammer. I had a horrible time trying to study. I say all this to tell you that it's your fault. I've been reading all of your excellent pieces that are of some of the highest calibre of writing in this present day and it makes the writers of my textbooks look like gr one spellers. So thanks Maxx, you've made my life a whole lot harder. I'm trying desperatly to tune out the mistakes and not care your fictional wonder pieces to science Anyway, a bif rabbit trail to tell you well done. There much to this piece, which is why it probably didn't place. People like things that come easily to them, and your stories have depth. it's a shame. Your a gem.
Jessica Schmit05/30/06
opps, i made numerous spelling mistakes in the above comment! One of them is to read "compare" not "care..."