She sits at her window, hands pressed against the glass, sucking in the cold from outside. Open… Close… Open… Close.
Her view alternates between leafless trees and the branching veins on the back of her hand. The window cleans.
The kettle whistles away and she wishes for a gun to hand to stop its incessant whine. She doesn’t want a drink anymore. She turns away from the world and faces her room. Everything is the same.
She keeps her eyes closed for longer each time, but nothing changes when she opens them again.
She has to go; he will be waiting.
The roads have become icy plains from the overnight freeze. Her coat isn’t warm enough and the sharp crystals in the air make invisible wounds upon her face and neck. Vehicles are deserted; people are indoors. Less noise; less distraction. She is the first person to create footsteps in the snowfall. People will follow the imprints she leaves behind, thinking it safer. Their hearts will be lighter, and their minds less tormented.
She descends into the underground station, carried by thoughts and an infinite escalator. The floor and walls are rose coloured. The edges of the archways are lined with metal, cascading into the distance. The arches are pierced with domes, and the domes are crowned by mosaics of kin and country. The train arrives. The hive is quiet.
He often comes here alone. If she lived nearer she would come here too. Usually there are mothers with their babies, young lovers, tourists and artists, but the snow has kept them all away. She enters the park and takes the long path to the west. Today the sculptures have taken on new forms.
In the distance a tall thin creature the height of a building stretches its hands to the sky.
She hurries past a forest of wooden men, their sinister, sinewy forms leaning in impossible directions, faces hardened and harassed.
Pitiful alone, united in sorrow.
Further afield is a large semicircular wall made up of oval stones. Each stone unique; each stone a face with a story to tell. And beyond the wall is a bench, upon which he waits.
She pauses to watch him. His slow breaths momentarily warm the air in front of his face before being enveloped again by the endless cold. In spite of his layers of clothing, his weak old frame is evident. As she moves to join him he leans forward, and plucks something from the snow at his feet, a slow motion that takes forever.
She had asked him what this place was. He had turned to face her, arm outstretched, a small bright flower in his open hand. There was a long silence before he finally asked whether she had been here before. When she turned away his offering he brushed the snow at their feet with his worn leather boots and revealed a sumptuous cluster of colour. The stems weren’t visible so the petals floated upon the snow like souls with no dwelling. This is where they bloomed, he had told her, but they left no footprints, and cast no shadows. They stored no seeds and only few could savour their scent. Maybe it was his age that allowed him such knowledge, but it was a knowledge he could not offer her. She asked him how this had happened and he told her that he didn’t know, that he could make up a story but it would be up to her to believe him. She retorted that stories didn’t matter to the young, that they listened and forgot. He reminded her that her youth would become the stories she would tell in the future, and she would regret what she had forgotten.
But for her, it had only ever been the ending that mattered.
She turns away his offering and through her coat pushes the unforgiving metal against him. There is no resistance, just resignation. After she pulls the trigger she leaves from the other end of the park, briefly pausing by a sculpture of three men. In front of them cowers a woman, and in between them a baby. She could never decide before, and could never be certain now.
Kashif S. Choudhry is a doctor and writer, working on his first novel. He has short fiction in 3:am, The Asian Writer, Spontaneity, and RIC Journal.