Something… in the snow

He held her in his arms, and the time froze. Snowflakes hovered in the air, motionless. A bulb in a street lamp stopped flickering, and finally produced a steady beam of warm yellow light. Irregular explosions in valves of car engines turned to a constant, loud hum. People wouldn’t move, somehow maintaining balance in awkward positions. There was no evidence of wind – no flying scarves, no unruly steam rising from cups of mulled wine, no barely open, teary eyes, except for the ones of the boy. He looked into her eyes, which reflected the yellow streetlight, and yet appeared grey and empty. He said nothing and the time remained frozen. What else is a six year old boy supposed to do when the life of his sister vanished, escaping, sneaking around him? Layers of clothing kept soaking up her blood, the only element moving in that particular moment. That, and a tear falling from the corner of her brother’s eye. So slow… steaming, evaporating, turning to ice before landing on her cheek, reddish from the chilly air. How many moments passed since the shooting? He couldn’t tell. Way deeper, under the layers of grief, he knew he would eventually have to let go of holding up the time, he would have to stand up and make a statement. That is what people want after someone’s death, a statement. Clarifying, comforting statement, though not overly long. He stood up. The time did not move. He walked up to a man smoking a cigarette, who had a bewildered, fearful look to his eyes. Staying on the tips of his toes, he took the man’s cigarette, still warm and glowing, and helped himself to two or five puffs. Then, he threw it away as he shuffled towards a metro station entrance, and it, the ashes on its tip bright with heat, landed in the snow mound, orange from a dogs’ pee. And he walked, and pondered what shall he say when the time resumes to move. At last, he reached the entrance to metro station and made his way down, first steps muffled by a thin layer of trampled snow, up until further down, where they echoed and reverberated off of the walls. Brisk looks to the right and to the left, there it was, the bar vending machine. The crunchy, chocolaty one with almonds, his favourite, landed with a thumb at the dispensing hole. He contemplated buying another piece, and then he did. Satisfied, at least with such a minor thing as was buying crunchy bars whilst facing a way bigger ordeal, he walked back to where his sister lay in the snow. Great number of people were in the street, he realized. And further away from his sister lay the large, fat man, clutching on his fedora hat. Three people stood at two-arm’s length from him, all wearing long coats of dark colours, all wearing a petrified expressions on their faces, one gasping and covering his mouth, another two reaching to their pockets. Petrified they were in vain, for the fat man, stumbling on ice, evaded all shots fired. He looked around and saw a chair, belonging to a seller of hot dogs at his stand, who just moments ago must have jumped to his feet. Without remorse, he snatched it and with heavy steps covered the last distance remaining between him and his older, and yet little, sister. There, he sat down on the chair with no backrest and opened one of the candies. Sighing in between crunching, he put the other hand into left pocket of his down jacket. He closed his eyes. Was he scared? You bet. He opened them up and the world began to move at once. People rushed towards the fat man, screaming, holding their heads, and helped him back up to his feet. Someone brushed snow off of his shoulders. People ran around them and wouldn’t even notice. They became a blur. And to this blur, he whispered:
“Hello? Is anybody out there?” and the blur would not answer back, remaining silent.
Someone snatched the chair from under him and he staggered, catching the fall at the last moment.
“Hey, I found a chair for the old man, excuse me, coming through!” exclaimed a blond lady clad in fine red coat matching a decent red hat, and a fur collar. She was in her late fifties, for the split-second rediscovering her life’s purpose, she waved the chair proudly over her head.
Sometimes I don’t even believe this is real, he thought and closed his eyes.

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About Petr Klíma