Cold had crept through the town over the past few days, combining with the dehydrated air to cover the ground in a dry frost that sent rumours of snow to Lucy’s ears. The rumours first appeared through the burble of Mum’s morning radio, cut off mid-sentence as Lucy raced out of the front door. These were followed by excited whispers in the school corridors, and Asif’s hand jutting up in the middle of class, as he shouted the words:
“Sir, are we getting a snow day tomorrow?”
Finally, the next morning, she woke to the beeping of her alarm, only for Mum to pop her head around the door and say, 'might as well spend another half-hour in bed, dear.' Ignoring the suggestion, she got up straight away, poked a gap in her curtains, and saw a thick layer of snow coating the garden and the roofs of the houses behind it.
She made her way downstairs for breakfast. As Lucy wolfed down her toast, scattering crumbs over the table, Mum knocked on the door and entered.
“You don’t have to knock, Mum, the dining room’s for everyone.”
Mum pulled up a chair, and sat down. “I know, it just feels polite. Not having that lie -in?”
Lucy finished her toast, and took the empty plate and knife to the sink, squeezing dish soap into the washing up bowl.
“Can’t. Got homework to catch up on.”
“You work too hard. Couldn’t you take the day off? Call a friend, enjoy the snow?”
Running the tap, Lucy watched as bubbles slowly formed in the warm water, almost-imperceptible rainbows just visible on some of the suds. “No.”
Sighing, Mum walked over, and kissed the top of her head. “Got to go in myself, shop’s still open. Have a good day, sweetheart. Don’t work too hard.”
After finishing the dishes, Lucy wrung out the sponge, feeling it press against her palm. She went upstairs to the bathroom and brushed her teeth, trying to ignore the pain from her bruised shoulder. A few minutes later, she sat at her desk. Pulling her English book out of her bag, she taped the torn cover back together, unable to get the separate halves of her form name to line up where she'd resealed the tear. Flipping to the next blank page, she wrote the title "GCSE revision", then stared at the blank paper. She stared some more. Her eyes flicked back to the previous page, to the words written in Jessica’s precise handwriting:
Her chest tightened, and she gripped the pen harder. Scribbling the words out, she turned back to the page. The room was too dark, too closed in. Opening the curtains fully, she winced at the scraping of the rail. The blinding white of the snow filled the window. Sitting down, she started to write.
The sun crept past its midday peak, light already dimming as it began its downward slope. A thin layer of snow coated the leaves on the trees, some of which dropped to the ground as a gust of wind shook the branches. Tapping at the table, Lucy watched the words on the paper in front of her blur into a meaningless series of squiggles and swirls. Squinting her eyes to write some more, she found her head dropping, the words from her pen sliding below the line she was supposed to be writing on. The shouting and jeering of the classroom echoed in her head.
She found she was standing, saw she’d thrown her pen and book across the room. As if her mind were on a delay, she realised she’d pulled on her boots, gloves, scarf, hat and coat. She felt the wool of her hat hugging her ears as she raced down the stairs and flung the door open.
Crouching down, she started to gather snow. She piled it up by the flower bed until it reached her waist, shaping the pile with the palms of her hands, melted snow soaking through her gloves. The sun dipped further, the sky starting to turn dark as she began work on the head. New snow was falling now, swirling around her as she hammered at the sphere on top of the body until she was satisfied that it was round enough. She didn’t have a carrot for the nose. She didn’t have a top hat, or a spare scarf. Instead, she used her forefinger, poking through the hole in her glove, to draw a face. She gave it angry eyes and a frown.
As Lucy stepped back, she could see, hear, and feel it all, dancing in the snowfall that surrounded her. Jessica tearing her book cover. Punching her in the shoulder, hard. Writing on her page.
Curling her hand into a fist, she hit the snowman. Then she hit it again.
With each punch, she heard the words again, sharp and insistent.
As the sky turned black and her knuckles burned, Lucy continued until the snow stopped falling.
You don't look at me, because you don't want to see me. Don't want to see me in the corner of your eye, rearranging your unwashed dishes. Don't want to acknowledge that I'm there, at the edge of the mirror as you brush your teeth with that splayed toothbrush.
But you know it’s me. You tell yourself it's just your imagination, but I'm very real. A metaphor can be a powerful thing, but this is no metaphorical haunting. Forces more powerful than your guilty conscience are keeping me tethered to reality.
And while I'm here, I'm ready to enact my revenge. Revenge that will be carried out through this letter.
By now, you may have taken a moment to try and destroy it, to tear it in two, or hurl it into the fire and watch it burn to little flecks of white, black and red. However, having made your attempt, you will have discovered that you cannot tear it, that you cannot even touch it. So read on, dear husband, and let me explain why.
The secret lies with her. The pretty young thing you invited over for an evening of wine, risotto, and extended readings of your excruciating poetry. I don't know exactly what made you think this was an appropriate course of action less than a month after you made yourself a widower. Perhaps you thought, having committed the worst crime a man can commit, any other misdeeds were now meaningless. So you instructed the bright young thing with the keen ideas about Chaucer to stay behind after your seminar, and asked her if she'd like to earn some extra credits.
What you don't know is that I was watching as you did this, and I made a plan. She will read this letter before you. I’ll call her this way when she goes to the bathroom to powder her nose, catching her attention by knocking the lamp to the floor. And when she finds this letter, carefully perched on the corner of the desk, she’ll follow my instruction to take a shovel out to the back garden. She’ll dig underneath the flowerbeds, and find my body. After a time, you’ll decide she’s been gone too long, and head out to the hallway to find the back door open.
And now you know why you can’t grab hold of the letter. Because you remember your own death. It took me time to interact with the physical world in the immediate aftermath of my murder. The same will be true for you. Racing outside to see my rotting corpse and her horrified face, you’ll have tried to smother the life from her as you did with me, but the shovel will have crushed your skull before you got the chance. I’ll have my peace, and you will wander these empty halls quite alone.
This is my revenge; condemning you to the cursed existence between life and death you put me through long before you killed me.
Andrew Davis is a writer based in Cardiff. He writes a mix of prose and poetry, which has been published in anthologies and online journals by independent publishers including Black Pear Press, Fictive Dream and Arcbeatle Press. Full publications listed