United States

18 | she/they | hypothetical astronaut | ekphrastic poet | haunted house

Message to Readers

here's the final version, less than 1,000 words

Too Dark, Too Cold

November 19, 2019

    For most of its life, the weather station had been a house, a home. It was built for a team of five or so people, and it was expected that they would live there. The people who designed it were perhaps old fashioned, weary of all the modern applications—including but not limited to a distaste for hairdryers and pop-up toasters.
    The beds were comfortably set into walls, the stairs: well worn and prone to the pops and cracks of all old things used for a very long time. It had been home to a number of teams. The old ones left to be replaced by people who brought hair dryers and pop-up toasters. 
    In short, it housed a job, but a job that had to be done with the whole body, and often created a sense of belonging to the cold and the house and the dark. About five years in they painted the walls yellow, green, and blue. It was too dark, too cold not to.

    Shauna wakes up early with a headache and an itching suspicion that someone futzed around with the climate control on the Saturday she was supposed to be having off. She groans and rolls over, her breath fogging in the air as she fishes around for her glasses before realizing that she doesn’t have to get up. And well, that’s definitely some one’s fault.
    “Mel?” she grumbles, her voice still scratchy from sleep, but there’s no sign of her roommate. 
    She hears a grunt from the hallway, and rolls over to see Mel, standing in a towel with her coffee, peeking into Shauna’s room. That’s Mel: coffee right after a shower, not even bothering with clothes yet. 
    “Please tell me Jake didn’t mess with the temperature controls again.”
    Mel pauses for a moment then says, “Oh, Jesus, that makes sense, I’ve been cold all morning,” She clutches her mug and starts marching down the hallway, leaving slightly damp footsteps down the already warped wooden floors.
    “Jake! Jake! Wake up you bastard you’ve done it again!”
    Shauna groans and presses her face back into the pillow. 
    “Shauna where are the reports from yesterday?” Tiff yells from who-knows-where.
    “They’re under my computer!” she yells back, grimacing, her own voice too loud. “And can someone please get Jake to fix the temperature? I’m turning 30, for God’s sake!” 
    “Happy birthday, Shauna!” Jake yells sleepily. 
    “Sorry for forgetting, babe, I’ll make it up to you I promise!” That’s Tiff.
    The sound of heavy boots on the stairs down from the observatory deck silences everyone’s somewhat guilty congratulations “You can make it up to her right now by stopping all this racket on her day off!” The old man bellows and Shauna closes her eyes gratefully as everyone quiets with a few murmured apologies.
    Then she sleeps for a long time.
    When she wakes up and stumbles into the kitchen it’s already noon, the sun high and bright in the watery white sky. Tiff is re-heating last night’s lasagna as Shauna starts to make tea. 
    “Sorry for this morning,” Tiff says, bumping Shauna’s shoulder with her forehead. Shauna places a practiced kiss on the top of her head, silently accepting the apology. 
    “Did everyone eat?”
    “Jake says he’s not hungry but he’ll be in here soon I’m sure.” Tiff drops her voice into a dramatic whisper, “He’s trying to make up for the climate control mistake by doing more work, and also fasting, apparently.”
    Shauna snorts. Like that was any punishment for Jake. She doesn’t know anyone who loves their job more, and he wouldn’t know a healthy eating schedule if one punched him in the face.
    “He said he was gonna make you a cake too,” Tiff says, leaning against the counter, mouth full.
    Shauna whips around to stare at her. “He will not! Bea is bringing up a pie for me when she gets back, and I won’t have him ruin that for her.”
    “Oh right!” Tiff says, suddenly excited. “Bea’s supposed to be back soon, I totally forgot!”
    “She was at the checkpoint yesterday, so hopefully she’ll be here in two or three days.”
    “Late for your birthday.”

    Two hours later, Shauna finds herself looking at the face of her friend and mentor, Bea, half frozen in the doorway to their home. It is not two or three days later, Bea looks panicked, and Shauna can feel the floor tilt slightly beneath her feet. 
    Bea’s eyes widen. She mutters an expletive as she drags herself, Shauna, and a half a foot of snow into their front room. 
    “Is everyone here? We need a family meeting,” she bellows, then gently sits Shauna down on the couch, and takes her face between her hands. “Shaun. Look at me. I’m okay. You’re okay. It’s going to be alright.” Shauna nods, but the look in Bea’s eyes: like her world had been changed, rocks her. 
    Shauna swallows. “Okay. What is it.”
    Bea looks away towards Tiff and the old man, who are standing, mouths open in the doorway, questions not quite out of their mouths. 
    Shauna shakes Bea’s sleeve urgently as Mel and Jake join them. “I need you to stop treating me like I’m going to break because of something that happened three years ago,” she says, and she can feel Tiff’s eyes on her. 
    Bea looks around the room one more time. 
    “Half of Russia is gone. Parts of Texas, and most of the Pacific Islands. This happened a week ago, it’s still happening, and nobody knows why.” 
    There is a long a stunned silence. 
    “What.” Shuana turns to see Jake standing against the wall still holding a sandwich, mouth agape. And then the room is a flurry of shocked questions and nervous uncontrollable laughter, and all Shauna can think, as she sits, incredulous on the couch, still reeling from memories brought on by seeing Bea so haggard and cold is: this is a pretty shitty thing to happen on my birthday.

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1 Comment
  • jaii

    i quite enjoy this. the beginning made me laugh and the ending made me gasp. i would suggest proofreading for punctuation mistake, as there are multiple times you use a comma instead of a semi colon and a period instead of a question mark.
    do you plan on continuing this??? because i’d love to read more :)

    about 2 years ago