My Countdown to a Horror Holiday
Let’s play a game of word association, shall we?
What winter would be complete without snow? I know, a lot of the country is blanketed in the stuff right now, which makes today’s post in the countdown all the more relevant. Building snowmen was one of my favorite winter pastimes as a child. Still is. Do it every chance I get. Something about a snowman that typifies the season, with his top hat and his button nose and his…well, you know the rest. He’s jolly and round and fun…but he can also be terrifying. Those dead eyes. That gravely smile. His frozen expression. When I was a wee lad and saw Frosty the Snowman for the first time, it scared me a little. The thought of this huge, inanimate being coming to life and talking to children. It’s eerie when you think about it, and it left a little scar on my sensibilities.
I guess it was that scar that inspired the snowman scene in my thriller novel, BITTER COLD. The story is about a shapeless creature that inhabits the snow and turns it black as night. As the creature destroys a small town, eating people and houses and everything in its path, the black snow comes upon a child’s play area, which is inhabited by a familiar fellow. Here’s the excerpt…
A glass door slid open in one of the apartments across the street. A man in his forties, wearing underwear, rumbled out to his back patio. Kicking aside a cheap plastic lawn chair, he leaned against the railing and peered toward the commotion.
Jeff ran to the curb, slipping to a stop.
“Man! Get out of there! Now! Everybody in the apartments! Get out!” he cupped his mouth and turned to the houses ascending the hill. “Everybody! Wake up! Wake up! Get OUT!”
April, Logan, and Evan joined Jeff, coaxing the man in his boxers to leave. More people came out to their porches with sleepy eyes and unkempt hair, wearing bathrobes, pajamas, underclothes. They stared at the crazy people in the Jackpot parking lot. Some laughed. Most looked annoyed, especially the first guy, his wife-beater stained with grease, his balding hair cropped short. Not until they saw another burst of sparks from a nearby power pole did they shut up and take notice of the danger.
Jeff felt like the breath had been punched out of him when he saw a crest of black snow rise over the concrete wall that separated an empty Chinese restaurant parking lot from the three-level apartment complex. He ran without thinking toward the devastation. Logan yelled at him to come back. April took him by the hand, turned him around, and forced him away. He couldn’t help watching over his shoulder.
In a small patch of grass behind the apartments was a snowman with a crooked head, an icy red scarf, and a humorous, pebbly smile. Blackness engorged Frosty from bottom to top, transforming the jolly character into a charred demon. It lurched forward, waddled a few quick, awkward paces, then toppled over a children’s playset before finally breaking apart, crumbling into chunks while the dark creature charged toward the building.
Underwear Man took one look at the stained snow and bounded into his apartment, slamming the door closed. The other apartment dwellers copied him, dashing into their units, squawking obscenities about their escape. It didn’t matter. The monster had already found a way to their patios, windows, doors.
The ground rumbled. The apartment building shook. Jeff had to stare, marveling at the monster’s strength as it cracked the structure like an egg—roof caving in, glass shattering, pipes bursting—it drowned out everything except the screaming, the distinct sound of a child in distress. Jeff’s blood boiled even more. He needed to help, but knew it would have been suicide.
Then an explosion made everybody at the gas station duck for cover. The three-level complex had been reduced to one. Screams of agony spilled from the shattered, steaming pile of lumber and insulation, broken glass, wires and plumbing. A woman crawled through a split in the roof, stood, and cried out loud. Her ankles began to smolder. She looked down and went quiet. Her expression told the story. Excruciating pain. She reached for her feet and her hands dipped in blackness. She looked like she couldn’t stand back up. Struggling, wincing, shaking, she finally managed to shout as the dark snow pulled her in, swallowing her with one gulp.
Jeff stepped back, spurred on by April’s shaky yet strong-willed lead. She seemed determined for all of them to live. It renewed his own resolve, even when all seemed lost. He sensed Logan behind him and reached out.
“I’m here, Dad!”
I’m thinking you might not look at snow or snowmen the same way again after reading BITTER COLD. Thanks for stopping by. Please come back tomorrow as my countdown to a horror holiday continues.