by Cody Daigle-Orians
The snow was coming. They were running out of time.
Rachel grabbed the last bag from the trunk and checked the sky. Still clear. Their motel room was small, but it would do. On her own, she could lift the mattresses to block the window, but Andy would have to help her move the dresser against the door. She hoped the motel didn’t go cheap on furniture. It needed to be sturdy. It needed to hold the night.
“Mom, let me check the car again.”
Andy stood in the doorway of their room, holding Peter.
“I told you to stay inside. Take care of your baby brother.”
“Let me check the car again. Please. We’re not even halfway to Grandma’s. Let me help.
“Inside. You’ve helped enough. Forget the car. This is where we’re gonna ride it out this year.”
Rachel hated how sharp she’d become with Andy. She wanted Michael. He knew how to handle these days. He stayed calm, confident. He took care of them. Even when no one understood what had gone wrong with the snow, Michael kept them safe.
Only one year without him, and she’d messed up everything. He wouldn’t have been dumb and tried driving south. Now the car was shot. They were in the middle of nowhere. Their motel room had a big fucking window and —
Andy looked up at the sky. In his arms, Peter grabbed at the air, laughing.
Rachel urged the boys inside and shut the door.
“Andy, put everything we need in the bathroom, okay? If things get bad –”
“You think things are gonna get bad? How bad?”
“I don’t know, Andy. But if they do…”
She couldn’t answer. The snow brought what it wanted. Each year, it got worse.
“Put Peter in his car-seat. Get him in the bathroom. I’ll need your help moving the dresser.”
They worked in silence to ready the room. She knew she should say something about Michael, about last year’s snow. But she’d end up crying, lashing out, and she’d upset Andy more. Just make the room look safe. Just make it feel safe.
“I don’t like the way the wind sounds, Mom.”
“It sounds like that every year, Andy.”
“No. It sounds different. Sounds worse.”
Rachel thought so, too. Louder. Powerful. The snow never moved this fast.
“This is not last year, Andy.”
“I know. Dad’s not here.”
“And who’s fault is that?”
Rachel regretted this as soon as she said it.
Last year was an accident. She reminded herself every day. The snow fell early, and Andy’s bike couldn’t handle the roads. They wouldn’t leave him out there, in the snow, with what it brought. Michael said it was just a few blocks. He promised they’d be safe.
Only Andy made it out of the snow.
Outside, something hit the ground so hard, they could feel it. They’ve never sounded that big before.
“We’re okay, Andy. As long as we’re inside. You know how this goes. If we’re inside, we’re safe.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“Honey. Look at me. It’s not your fault, either.”
The noises outside grew. Rachel pulled Andy into the bathroom. Whatever hit the ground hit it again and again. They felt each hit. The rhythm of footsteps.
“I’m sorry, Mom.”
Andy pulled his knees up, making himself as small as possible.
In the snow, the footsteps multiplied and echoed all around them. It sounded like hundreds. A herd. A stampede.
“We just have to get to tomorrow, Andy.”
Rachel prepared a bottle for Peter to quiet his crying.
Outside, whatever the snow brought wailed and hollered.
About the Author
Cody Daigle-Orians is a playwright and horror fiction writer living in Hartford, Connecticut. His work has appeared in Strange Stories, The Best American Short plays of 2015-2016 and the forthcoming Don’t Be a Hero: A Villain-thology.