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Spring Break Whiteout

Doug peered at his brother through the dim light. The clock on the dash of their Jeep Wrangler announced noon, but the storm made it a lie. It couldn’t be more than dawn. Fat goose down clumps of snow hit the windshield. Frost etched the passenger windows, and he wished they’d put the hard top back on before they left dad’s house.

“Can we get any more heat out of this piece of junk?”

“No, don’t ask again, the answer will be the same.”

Mike was hunched over the steering wheel fighting unseen bumps. They’d been up the trail to the cabin dozens of times over the last years, but somehow nothing seemed familiar.

“Are we going to use magick this time out?” Doug desperately wanted to cast a glow, and maybe a thermal cloak. His toes were freezing.

“I was going to say no, but this storm wasn’t in the forecast, and we don’t have cell service anymore. At least you told Killa and Maura we were headed up here.”

Mike’s hands clenched the shiny steering wheel, slippery from endless miles on the road. The Jeep was their first car, and in remarkably good shape. They’d pooled their savings when Doug got his full driver’s license and found the twelve year old vehicle through Auto Trader. The owner had been killed in action and his mother had promised to sell it to a kid. Her son’s instructions had been clear.

Doug swore his ghost was along for every adventure.

“If they remember to tell anyone. They’re only nine and more interested in learning to cast fire than what we’re doing.” Their identical twin sisters were already showing signs of blossoming talent.

Doug grabbed the overhead hand hold as they tilted wildly over another rock. Silently he chanted the words to his spell and warmth crept through the soles of his boots. Perfect.

“Do you want me to do your feet too?”

“Please, I’ve got all the heat on the windshield.”

Mike fiddled with the climate controls again, trying to get some warm air blowing on the front side windows. Doug knew he needed to see how close he was to the soaring cliff on the driver’s side. When it diminished, he knew he had to turn left, or they would go over into the valley. The cabin was only a few hundred yards past that if he turned an exact ninety degree corner.

Doug caught a glimpse of the red shale scree slope through the tiny section of glass his brother succeeded in clearing.

“Slow down, we’re almost to the top,” he warned Mike.

“I know, I have eyes.”

They turned the corner and plowed straight into a drift, snow spraying off their tires as they spun trying to gain purchase on ice covered grass. They were stuck. Mike slammed the shifter into reverse rolling a few feet backward. Throttling up hard, he popped back into low and the Jeep inched forward through snow piled up right to the middle of their doors. He made it to the edge of the clearing before another mound of white appeared.

Between wind blown sheets of white, they could see the cabin. Shelter. All they had to do was make it through the door. There was enough wood piled under the overhanging roof to keep them warm for days, and water wouldn’t be a problem as the storm deposited its bounty all around them.

Mike shut the engine down, and they twisted to collect their backpacks.

“Face it, we’ve got to get out in this mess.” Doug reached for his door handle and pushed out, sinking to his knees. Icy damp crept up his legs as he opened the back to reach for their supplies. This was supposed to be a relaxing fishing trip with a couple of hikes to the top of the next big hills. Pulling his pack with poles attached out, he slung it over his shoulders and grabbed the small cooler.

Mike did the same and shouted over the wind.

“Have we got everything?”

“I think so. I’ll grab the camera bag if you get the rest of the food.”

He watched his burly brother wrestle the blue Coleman out, dropping it into white sticky snow when he lost his grip.

“You okay?” Doug threw the glowing yellow ball of plasma he conjured over the roof and it dropped in front of Mike, illuminating the white out.

“Yeah, thanks, I’m ready to make the trek.”

They slammed the doors shut on the Jeep leaving the keys in the ignition. The Gods knew there would be no one else on the mountain in this weather.

Moving through the pale landscape, Doug wondered if the spring wildflowers would survive. He knew crocus bulbs were bursting, snow drops, primroses and forget-me-not buds usually poked their petals through the fresh green of the meadow now hidden in a pristine blanket of frigid snowflakes. His camera would be recording a very different landscape this year.

Stumbling as he caught the edge of the flagstone doorstep, Mike wobbled in front of him and he dropped his burden to brace him before he fell. At least there was a round well of clear ground to stop in as they pulled the latch on the sturdy wooden door. The window beside it was iced over and a cornice hung over the eaves waiting to break.

“It isn’t that cold out there, but man the snow is wet.”

Mike stomped his feet, shaking it off his arms and shoulders.

“Let’s get the fire going. We can leave those coolers in the snowbank.”

Doug nodded, and shoved them halfway into the drift to the right of the door. He left the middle section of his fly fishing rod propped against the door frame, so they could find them if they disappeared into the rapidly growing snowbank. He brought several logs in with him, and found his brother kneeling at the stone hearth crumpling newspaper. Kindling was in a steel bucket beside him and he built a careful tepee over the crinkled balls of grey.

“Where are the matches?”

“Up here,” Doug said, grabbing the box and handing it to his brother. He agreed with Mike, not to use their magick if normal ways were possible. His feet were finally warm, and he hoped he could call it the last spell of the week.

The flare of a tiny flame lit Mike’s scruffy face. He hated shaving, and never used a blade, buzzing his facial hair off occasionally with the same clippers he used to keep his hair in a short crew cut. Smoke billowed off the hearth, and Doug reached up to pull the flue lever. Dozens of pinecones dropped, smothering the newborn fire, and Mike struck another match, holding it under another ball of newspaper.

“The squirrels must have broken through the chicken wire. They aren’t going to be happy.”

“Serves them right,” Mike grumbled.

“What’s with you anyway?” Doug was tired of his miserable sniping.

“I’ve had enough of winter.”

Doug shook his head and said, “Try again. You’ve been snarky for weeks.”

“I’ll tell you when I’m ready.” Mike shrugged his shoulders, “Throw more wood on this when its burning better.”

“You can’t avoid it for the whole week,” Doug knew if he kept poking Mike would get annoyed enough to punch him, and then spill.

“Shut up,” Mike started unrolling his sleeping bag on the upper bunk. “Find the lantern, and maybe some candles too.”

“Quit being such a bear.”

Doug went over to the corner cabinet. They kept dishes, pots, and other supplies in it. Dropping to his knees he felt around the bottom shelf and came up with two fat candles and the plates they used for candle holders. They rattled as he plopped them onto the high shelf beside the bunk bed and lit them. The flickering glow cast competing shadows across the room revealing a couple of chairs and a table under the iced up window.

“Whatever’s bugging you, it would be better if you talked about it,” he tossed over his shoulder as he snagged the wooden handle of the kettle. “I’m going to get some water boiling.”

“Fucking leave me alone,” Mike climbed up to lay staring at the ceiling.

Doug busied himself at the hearth, putting a sturdy iron grate over glowing embers to give them a solid place for pots and pans. The kettle settled on it immediately, and he turned to the cabinet to retrieve two over sized mugs. Hot chocolate mix followed, and he pulled one of the chairs over so he could prop his feet on the granite as he waited for the water to boil.

Using the poker, he pushed the logs further into the fireplace niche, and piled a couple more logs in. He could rake more coals forward for cooking when he needed them. The design was unique, with a raised wall of small rocks making a spot to rest the rusty grate in front of the huge chimney which dominated the wall. Thinking about what might be bugging Mike, he went out to get bacon and eggs out of the cooler. Who cared about what they ate when?

Mike watched his brother as he went through the emergency dry goods in the corner cabinet. Flour and sugar sealed in ancient tin cans with tight fitting lids. He heard the rattle of dried beans and the slightly quieter swish as he tilted the container with the rice. Doug could take the cooking duty; he was as good as their departed great grandmother Gaia. His heart squeezed harder when he thought of Harry. His first teacher. The man who encouraged his talent to bloom.

He could still hear his mother’s anguished scream when she found them wrapped in each other’s arms, Harry’s head tucked under Gaia’s chin, peaceful smiles etched on stone cold faces. Their bodies already rigid. He’d talked to Grandda Harry the night before, they’d made plans to try two new spells he’d put together, and he was gone. He’d promised to be there. He could still hear him promising his eleven year old self he be there as long as he needed him.

Well he needed him. Why didn’t he stay? Who was he going to talk shop with? Dad was a mind reader, barely able to do minor spells. Mom had learned the basics in the years after she first shifted. Her animals, the mountain lion who had saved them from the insane attack of their biological father, the eagle who flew free whenever she wanted to escape, and the incredible Arabian mare she’d discovered was the third animal inside her, by accident when her car broke down in the middle of Death Valley.

And why the fuck hadn’t his brother batted an eyelid. Not a single tear. He placidly continued like nothing was wrong, like this hole in their lives was paved over with smooth tarmac on the runway of life.

“Hey, Mike, get down here and have some hot chocolate. It’s good for what ails you.”

He swung of the bunk in one fluid motion, and charged his brother, knocking the table and mugs flying, steaming streamers of hot chocolate exploding like fireworks. The hot liquid hit the icy window and it shattered, shards flying as two fully irate men wrestled each other to the floor.

“You don’t fucking care, about Harry, or Gaia,” Mike punctuated his words with jabs to his brother’s ribs. A long arm snaked under his guard jarring his head back almost snapping his neck.

“You don’t even know; you didn’t go to the funeral.” His brother’s enraged shout followed two more hits to his kidneys and a right jab to his ear.

“I couldn’t, I just couldn’t!” Mike’s body sagged as his shoulders shook, his brother’s arms wrapped around him, holding him as he sobbed. Mike felt the answering quaking as his best friend in the world dropped his indifferent calm.

“I miss them,” Doug’s wrecked croak spoke volumes.

“Why did he have to go and die? I need him Dougie. I don’t know who to talk to about my magick. Uncle James is never around when I need him.” Mike stood up and reached down for his sibling’s hand. Pulling him up they retreated to the bottom bunk.

“He’s closer than you think, he’s hurting himself. Harry was his teacher too.” Doug stood up to pinch his nose and blow it into the fire.

“Gross man, there’s tissues up there,” Mike pointed to the top of the pine triangle cabinet.

“What’re we going to do about the window? And talk to James, he’ll help, he’s so good at energy manipulation. He knows all the tricks and some whopping good spells too.”

Snow was rapidly piling up on the floor, the wind whipped through the empty frame and fanned the flames in the fireplace.

“Shit come over here, let’s get the repair done.”


“Yup, no other way. The wind’s getting colder.”

“You start,” Doug said, falling into their familiar pattern.

“We aren’t bards but mend the shards.”

“Make whole the glass, to save our ass.”

They pointed their fingers at the offending hole in the wall.

“Lift the mess as we confess.”

“Our will is our power, and as we will, so mote it be.”

They said the last line together as the four squares of glass making up the window settled back into the frame sealing them in once more.

“We’re back,” Doug breathed.

“I missed you,” Mike said at the same moment.

Grins split their faces, until Mike winced, and touched his lip.

“You’re bleeding, Mike.”

“You always had a sneaky right hook.”

“The first aid kit is in the Jeep. Do we dare go out to get it?” Doug said as a huge gust of wind whistled through the trees behind the cabin.

“Not happening. Do we have a pot so we can clean these cuts? You’ve got a nice shiner too,” Mike picked up the kettle.

“The Dutch oven is outside, I filled it with snow while you were ignoring the world.”

“Did we bring a flashlight?” The weak winter light was waning.

“No, but the lantern is ready to light. I filled it with fuel earlier. Dad left all the supplies topped up last time he and mom were up here.”

“You get that going, I’ll get the pot.” He flicked a careless wrist at the fireplace and two more logs landed in the glowing coals.

He lit the lantern, putting the dark green metal light with its glowing wick on the mantel. Mike came in with the pot, its lid upside down over a mound of snow. Two steaks sat on top.

“Dinner. Tomorrow we go ice fishing. The beavers won’t be too upset if we snag a few trout.”

“Do you remember the first time Dad took us up here, and Harry cleared all the dead fall out of the forest?”

They took turns with their favorite recollections, as they waited for the water to heat, and carefully tended each other’s wounds. Each fight over the years adding another fine scar to their faces, speaking of hurts and triumphs.

Doug went out, retrieved a couple of cans of beer, bringing them in. Cracking the pop tops as he went, he handed one to his brother. Raising his arm, he made a toast.

“To Grammie and Grandda. You’ll live forever in our hearts and always in our minds.”

“Hear hear!”

The brothers turned toward the door, as Harry shimmered into view. His green eyes sparkling mischief as he solidified.

“Did you really think I wouldn’t be here if you really needed me?”

Reedsy Contest #77

Prompt: Set your story in a remote winter cabin with no electricity, internet, or phone service.

Find more prompts like this at Reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts

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