Snow covered the ground up to her knees. All the rain which used to hit the summer city had turned to ice and snow. Alice pulled her toboggan over the tips of her ears as she trudged carefully through the snow. A trail had been left behind her, following to where she was, and leading to where she came from. Her nose was red from the cold. Last she had looked it was below -10 degrees. The scarf around her throat seemed to do more damage than good. It felt like it was soaked in water before she put it on and walked outside, but it was better than not having one. Alice was lucky that her parents went to some mountain up north, she couldn’t even remember the name, which was always covered in a thick layer of snow, and had been the cause of her purchase in a marshmallow coat.
Miami, Florida used to be covered in sand and sun, now it was like a snow globe. Many routes coming to and from this place had been block or damaged, so nobody could come or go. Supplies were dwindling down and people even jumped in the water trying to escape the ice; however, even the ocean on was beginning to freeze over. It had warmed again, enough for Alice to trek through the snow to see if her best friend Leah was okay a few times, but when people boarded their boats they found damage too awful to leave. Nobody could leave this place now. The weather seemed to intentionally keep people from going.
Leah only lived a couple blocks away, but the snow was deep everywhere. When it first began the town shut down, not being prepared for any sort of snow, and then it became chaos. People who had no means of warm clothes froze first. The next ones were the ones who plowed through their food so fast, thinking the snow would melt, and it became their demise. Shops were raided, people were killed over food, and belonging began to be bartered. After two weeks, the numbers in the Florida state had dwindled from 20.6 million to 10 million. After a month, the was a mass burning of people. 5 million. During the second month, people had quieted down due to an enforcement by the government, and feared for their safety. People buried themselves in their homes, ice fishing became a thing, and people began to depend on nature itself for survival. It wasn’t long after that when the toll declined again. It had been six months and the 20.6 million population in Florida alone had declined down to a mere two-hundred thousand.
Alice had come across many frozen bodies. She never expected Leah to be among them. The ground was too hard to bury them. Alice burned them. The whole house. Neighbors had come out to enjoy a bit of the heat. A crumpled paper in Alice’s hand as she watched the two-story home burn. A bag over her shoulder, full of whatever she could grab. Someone had gotten there before Alice, scavenging a much as they could, but the letter Leah had left for Alice had remained exactly where Leah had once told her it was. “Take whatever you need. Burn our bodies. I love you,” Was the only thing written on the tear soaked page that was hiding in a vent in Leah’s room.
No matter how much the government in America tried to look for some cause for the snow, they weren’t letting on what they knew. Cables had already broken over the cities. Any supplies that could be flown was, but stopped when too many raids broke out. In Alice’s neighborhood of twenty homes, only three were left. The oldest houses probably in the city other than government buildings. They were lucky they had fire places and plenty of trees. Even if the trees were poisonous, the cold was a longer process.
Heat burned her nose as she walked through her front door. Snow melted off her and onto the hardwood floors. The fire in the fireplace lit up the living room, where her mother was cooking dinner of top of it, and warmed them to the core. Alice pulled off her thick clothes, all the way down to her thick long-sleeve and jeans, and left them on a hanger by the door. Dripping melted snow into a bucket they had made. Electricity was no longer on but Alice could still see the boarded door at the top of the stairs.
“How was Leah, sweetheart?” Alice’s mother asked as she stirred the beans cooking over the fire. When Alice didn’t answer, just sat down on the couch and handed her mother the large black knapsack, her mother knew. She took the bag and began to rummage through its contents. A case of canned goods, some planks of wood from the home, bottles of water, and some batteries. “How did they still have these?” Alice handed her mother the crumpled letter.
They knew that they had nowhere else to go other than to Alice’s house. Their families were great friends, but the Bull family thought it best to not be a burden to the Magus family. They stored what little they had left, they had already burned their clothes, left letters, and then they poisoned themselves with antifreeze. They had so much of it their bodies shut down quickly. Although it was not painless it was quicker than freezing. They left everything they had left, only a few days worth of belongings, to Alice’s family.
“Did you burn them?” Alice’s father appeared in the dimly lit doorway from the kitchen. He was serious. Alice nodded. “How much did the snow melt?”
“It didn’t,” Alice murmured.
Alice’s father, Ethan, had the obsessive idea that the snow was not natural at all. It seemed to think it was as of magic, or the government, had caused it. It was doing numerous studies throughout the town trying to melt the snow. Sometimes it did, other it did not, as if the snow itself was making the decision to melt or not. Alice thought he was crazy, but today for the snow not to melt with deep smoke pouring into the sky like that managed to make even Alice curious.
“Oh, stop it, Ethan,” Alice’s mother snapped. “You’ll scare her.”
“How is any of this not scary. We ourselves have only a couple months left of supplies-”
“Ethan!” Ethan threw his hands up and walked away.
Alice didn’t know why her mother was trying so hard to keep it a secret from her. About a month ago, her father told her to start sleeping in the living room. They moved all their remaining stuff down stairs that they could. They’ve dismantled a lot of the furniture, using the natural wood for the fire. One night, Alice could hear her father trying to silently pull the hardwood floors up from upstairs. They bartered wood for food. A whole can of beans was for supper plenty of times that had to feed all three of them. Alice would never forget that week. That same week she found a baby buried in the snow, a metal cross from a necklace above its frozen head.
Her mother handed her a small bowl of beans. It was all she was going to get to eat tonight. Her stomach was already used to it, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t hungry. When she left the house, she’d even munch on bark from trees as she looked for any sorts of animals. Occasionally she found a rabbit or a deer. It was quite difficult but the managed to kill a deer with a club. She had to wait until dark in order to drag it home and not be raided by neighbors. By now, the food is long gone.
“Fif…thou….ead…” The radio’s static intercepted the message, but they understood the message. Fifty thousand more people dead. So many homes burned throughout the state, each person’s corpse burned to ashes. Even if it was not their will, people who ransacked their homes burned them.
Alice put a spoonful of tasteless green beans in her mouth. How long would this winter last? Was it mother nature who decided to wipe out the state? No. That didn’t seem likely. Alice could only ponder as she stared into the fire. Her father laid down on the floor after he finished eating, curling up in the blankets with his wife cozying in beside him. They fought constantly, but they still loved each other.
“Alice it’s a little colder tonight, sleep between your father and I,” Her mother patted the small area between them. Alice hated when they said that. While she was in between their warmth she knew that their backs were freezing. They had sewn a couple more blankets together, making a larger thicker one, but it was never enough. Reluctantly, Alice wedged between them. The fire warmed the bottom of her two pair of socks at the end of the blanket. The floor was hard but the carpet they laid on was warm thanks to the fire.
About an hour passed when Alice realized she couldn’t sleep. She didn’t know if it was her grumbling stomach or that her parents kept whispering above her head. She buried her face in the center of the body pillow they had left and listened to them.
“It’s strange. The fire is never that warm. I’m telling you, it grows warmer as soon as Alice gets home,” Ethan whispered. His hand was on Alice’s back, rubbing as if to sooth her to sleep, or to warm her.
“You’re imagining things Ethan. She’s your little girl and everything revolves around her,” Her mother whispered back, snuggling closer to Alice, and Alice could feel the cold enter the blanket from her mother’s side. Her mother wasn’t under a lot of the blanket. Alice pretending to still be asleep and rolled over to face her mother. As if trying to get comfortable, she buried her face in her mother’s chest. It was cold. She could feel her mother smile and wrap her arms around her.
“I doubt it. There’s something going on around here. It is almost unrealistic.”
Alice didn’t remember anything else. The comfort of her mother’s arms put her to sleep and she woke up the next day in the same place. The fire was still lit but was beginning to die. Alice didn’t want to move from the cocoon of her parents. The knob to the front door rattled, startling her parents. They jumped up, her father grabbed a bat, her mother grabbed Alice off the floor, and for what seemed like an eternity her father opened the door.
“Ethan!” A neighbor exclaimed with relief. He checked on them every morning, but they never knew when he would turn on them. Mr. Murks never associated much with them before the winter. When it finally did hit, he began to check every house every morning. Every. Morning. However, so did other people. If other people came other than Mr. Murks, it would not be a good morning.
As Mr. Murks and her father talked, Alice put on as many clothes as possible, and rushed out the door. She hated being cooped up in that small space. She felt like she was suffocating with the smoke, but she knew it was always exiting the house. Alice trudged through the snow to the nearest park. It was where she saw the most animals. Even though she hasn’t seen an animal or a live person in a month or two.
How did she not see him? He was just standing there when she crashed into him. Staring up as if she sky had more to offer other than snow. His black hair was nearly smothered by a green hat. His greenish blue eyes turned to her as she fell back into the hard blanket on the ground. He didn’t move his from his spot. His jacket was black and fluffy, and he wore pants fit for an avalanche. In his gloved hands he held one delicious looking grey rabbit.