Better Than Starbucks Fiction
He walks up to the shore of the lake. He crouches and stares carefully at the thick ice layer, a uniform white-blue covers the area up to the very end where the other side of town is located.
Mark stands up and sighs, kicking a bit of snow. He turns around and is stopped by an unusual sight. To the right of the lake, he sees a patch of green surrounded by white, underneath some trees in the distance. He walks towards it and as he does he notices more patches of green down a large group of trees in the woods right next to the lake. When he reaches the first patch of green he saw, he crouches and touches it. His eyes open wide. He is stunned by the sheer warmth he feels in his palm. He grabs a heap of it with his hand, but he cannot even turn his palm around to observe it before it immediately freezes and withers away.
His mind is blank. He stands up and moves forward, following the patches of grass through the winding woods.
As he continues, the light from the sun gets dimmer but the patches of grass get wider. The more he walks, the more the trees change color from the freezing dark brown to the warmer light wood and as he continues the air begins to get warmer.
He keeps on going, he must have walked half a mile but he is not tired. The warm air fills him with energy, and after a few more minutes he finds himself before a clearing, the sight of which leaves him in awe.
There is no snow anywhere in sight, green sprawling grass covers the ground and a small pond of clear blue water sits beside a two-story shed painted yellow. Large trees cover up the sun, but more than enough light manages to finds its way in. Mark cannot believe what he sees, he immediately opens his winter coat and lets himself feel the warm air.
After letting himself feel the atmosphere for a while, Mark is at a loss for words, what he is experiencing is inexplicable and what he is seeing is impossible. He has not gone outside the town. The lake and its woods are in the middle of a crater which is surrounded by the town. He knows where he is but at the same time it feels like another world. A world untouched by winter. A world where winter does not dare enter.
He steps forward into the shed and opens the door. Inside he finds some woodworking equipment in a workshop. As he continues his walk inside he sees the wood floor is covered in dirt, and a shovel rests upon the wall near the workshop.
He goes up the stairs, and into a small room. The room feels warmer than even the outside, he begins to sweat as he is forced to take off his winter clothes. Inside he just finds an old mattress laying on top of a wooden bed. It looks dirty but unused somehow. He takes a look at the room, he knows there is something wrong about it but the warmth draws him in. He looks at the floor, and notices pieces of torn clothing on the floor.
He picks one up with his gloved hands and notices it’s bloodstained. He looks down and notices all the torn pieces are different colors, but they all bear a crimson red.
“It looks like . . . the bottom part of a dress” he thinks to himself, and then he puts the clothing down.
His words echo in his mind as he gets up. His brain processes them, lets them sit.
And then he panics.
He takes various steps back. His mind is racing, his heart is pounding but the atmosphere is calming and seductive. He feels an atmosphere of both peace and distress occupying the room, and he makes a race for the doorway. He puts his winter clothes back on and quickly races through the path he came from, following the patches of snow among the green grass.
As Mark runs and the snow begins to overtake the grass, he notices another, very small clearing. He wants to continue running, but he cannot help but look.
The atmosphere is damp, the light is dim and everything seems gray. In the middle of the clearing he finds a big patch of dirt, contrasting with the snow and the grass. He walks and steps over it. He feels that it’s shallow. He sprints back hurriedly and continues running through the snow.
He finally reaches the lake again, and promptly stops to catch his breath. He tries to rationalize why he ran away so promptly. He knows nothing is chasing him, but a deep pressure in his chest caused him to blitz.
He stumbles between breaths, his exhaled air covering his view. He begins his tired hike home. He can’t go through the cliff again as it’s too steep on the way up, instead he takes a road that puts him a little bit farther the main street crossing.
He continues his walk home, his heart still not fully calm as he passes by the scarecrow, then notices something is off.
He turns to the scarecrow, and instead he sees a little girl, no older than nine. Her hair blond like a stream of gold, her face pale and white like the snow that covers her from the top. She is perched on the scarecrow stand, her arms outstretched in the shape of a “T”, with her frail body sheltered only by the thick snow, as deep crimson blood flows from her thighs.
Mark closes his eyes, lowers his head, and continues walking.
As the Winteryear carries on.
by Jose Norono
As Mark walks home from school, covered head to toe in winter garments while cold winds flow past and through him, trying to plow through the thick snow beneath his feet while trying to not get his bags blown off by the vicious wind, he can’t help but be reminded of the light snow of all the previous years. His memories of hatred and disgust toward those short winter seasons, were now of longing and nostalgia.
Because this is less of a snowing and more of a hailstorm, and the winter season has already lasted for more than thirteen months past when it should have ended.
He makes heavy and firm steps through the thick snow, with his head slightly lowered to avoid his face freezing too much. He walks past an old scarecrow that they never removed after the great old farm was remodeled into various houses, the scarecrow barely keeping itself up due to the ravaging snow and winds and covered completely from head to stick with white mass.
After a long walk through the snow and hail, he approaches his home and lets out a sigh of relief. He opens the door, and immediately throws his backpack and winter clothes to the ground.
A loud “thud” echoes through the house as the bag crashes against the wooden floor, the sound reverberates around all the rooms making it clearer to Mark that the house is empty.
Mark closes the door behind him, locking it. And then turns to his right, walking past his bag towards the dining room.
He steps through the arch that leads to the kitchen, and notices a yellow note left for him on the freezer.
“Will be back soon! Went to get supplies — Love, mom & dad”
Mark leaves the note on the door, he doesn’t feel like picking it up. It was there when he left in the morning.
He picks up a glass and walks over to the kitchen sink. He puts the glass below the faucet and turns the knob to let the water run.
He keeps turning and turning, but no water comes out. He lowers his head to see if it’s even making a sound, but all he hears is the crashing winds that chill against his house.
A stunning chill rises up his spine, shaking his body and making him grasp the faucet hard with his gloved hands. An anger rises through him, but he knows to let it go.
Thirsty and disappointed, Mark walks back to the entryway of his house. He picks up his bag, and walks slowly up the stairs towards his room.
When he enters his room, he flicks the light switch besides the bed. He doesn’t take his winter clothes off; it’s too cold. He throws his backpack to the ground and walks over to the window to turn on the radiator below it. It makes a whirling sound, and then a “bump”. Mark thinks he somehow made the room colder when he turned it on and gives up on it by throwing it a kick.
He rises from crouching, and he can’t help but notice the great Sylpheed Lake, directly in view from his room. He pulls his chair towards him and sits on it, looking at the lake still. And he can’t help but be reminded of how it used to look. Vibrant with deep blue water, and a ring of green surrounding it, all he sees now are different shades of white atop the frozen lake.
A ruckus outside the window alerts Mark, and he rolls the chair forward towards the window to see what’s going on.
“There has to be more Willy, this is barely enough for my kids!” says the voice of a middle-aged woman, but from the window it just looks like a sentient pile of insulating clothing.
“Every day it gets harder, Merma” the man inside the truck replies, with a gruff voice, like bearded men usually have.
“Barely any trucker dares to take the trip from the city over to here, our roads were already tricky enough, but the endless blizzard makes it almost impossible to see. We all just have to make do, and hope we can still get supplies by the end of the month.”
“Look at poor Sara, she deserves at least another pound of ham don’t you think?” the woman says, completely ignoring what he said, as she points at the empty space to her right, with her young son clutching to her left hip.
The man in the truck says nothing, and simply closes the truck shutter down.
“I’m sorry, Miss. I—,” he wants to say something, but the look on his face makes it clear that he’s not too sure what. “I have other houses to go to, you know. We all need food, hope you understand.”
Mark raises his head from the scene, and stares at the lake. He feels the urge to go there, he always went to the lake on his birthday. And today is his 16th, but everyone in town seems so disconnected from each other, no one has bothered.
He steps outside and immediately gets hit by the harsh wind. He passes the scarecrow once again, and he finds himself on top of the small cliff with the lakeside view.
A thick sheet of white covers it completely. Around it there are no green patches of grass, only a white blanket of snow that covers the whole area. The many clouds block out the sun, but the rays that pass through make patches of the snow blinding, causing Mark to cover his eyes slightly when looking around. He begins to descend the cliff towards the lake, being careful to not slip and fall with every step he takes.
Jose Norono is an aspiring writer from Venezuela, currently studying towards an MFA in Creative Writing. His favorite books are Hogfather and Don Quixote.
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