Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
They wore white.
Actually, they were white. White skin. White hair. White eyes. Nothing about their appearance had color. They looked like an empty outline in a coloring book.
I started noticing their presence slowly, over time. I remember the first time I saw one. I was driving home from school, and the ground was freshly covered in a blanket of snow. I was rounding a corner, when I glanced up at my rear-view mirror. I saw it walking, almost prancing, in slow motion past my car. I damn near ran off the road. Luckily, there were no other cars around, so I composed myself and kept driving. I had convinced myself that I was seeing things, and went on with my day like normal. It was three days before I saw another one. Let me be clear, I still don’t know what they are, or why they’re here. I don’t even know what to call them, so I will just refer to them as White Ones from here on out.
As I was saying, it was three days before I saw another. I was sitting in my bedroom, doing homework and listening to music, when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I glanced up. Everything looked normal. Still, something felt off, so I got up and walked over to my window. Standing in my yard, barely distinguishable against the snow, was a white woman. She stood in a white gown that fluttered in the breeze. Every single part of her, every indent and crevice, was completely white. She stared blankly up at me. My heart immediately started to race and I lunged for my phone, prepared to dial the police. When I turned back, however, she was gone. I slept with the light on that night, and every night since.
I told my mother about it, but she wouldn’t have it. She insisted that it was all in my head. Again, I somehow managed to convince myself that it was my imagination, and fell back into my usual routine. Everything was normal for about a week.
The following weekend, my parents decided to take a day trip out of town, leaving me home by myself. I just watched TV, ate a lot of junk food, and took a nap. At about three in the afternoon, I decided to go get the mail. I put on my jacket and boots and stepped outside, where the freezing air instantly rushed over me, sending shivers down my spine. As I made my way to the mailbox, I noticed that it was oddly silent. No breeze, no traffic, no birds, no nothing. I walked slowly back up my driveway, mail in hand, listening for any source of noise. That’s when I saw it.
The same figure that I spotted outside my window a week ago was standing not six feet from me. I froze. She stared at me with her white eyes, standing completely still. It felt like a millennium before I stopped holding my breath. Finally, I opened my mouth.
“What do you want?” I whispered, my voice shaking. She did nothing, remaining as still as a statue. I repeated myself, louder this time. “Who are you, and what do you want?”
She stood so motionless that I started to wonder if she was even real. I slowly reached out my hand to touch her arm, when her hand latched around my wrist. Her grip was impossibly strong, and I felt my bones cracking. Her eyes appeared apologetic. I open my mouth to beg her to let go, but before I could say anything, a gentle breeze brushed by. White flakes started to break away from her until she completely disintegrated into dust that was quickly carried away by the wind. I felt sick to my stomach, unsure of what I’d just witnessed. I bolted back inside, clutching the mail and my wrist to my chest.
Inside, I locked every window and door and turned on every light. It wasn’t until a minute or so later that I realized that I was trembling. My wrist throbbed in pain, so I wrapped it in an ice pack. When my parents returned home a few hours later, I didn’t say anything. They wouldn’t have believed me. To be honest, I wouldn’t blame them. It feels crazy just writing it out.
I spent the next few days very cautiously. I laid low and spent most of my time at home, and I tried to avoid being completely alone. I wore long-sleeve shirts to conceal the bruises on my arm. They began to fade, and I slowly unwound, getting more sleep and growing less tense, until I completely let my guard down.
About two weeks after the last sighting was the next one. Now, this is where it gets weird. It was a Saturday morning and I was walking out to my car when I felt a cool draft on the back of my neck. Since it’s the winter, this normally wouldn’t be odd, but the air around me was completely still. I turned around to find myself face to face with a White One. When I say “face to face,” I mean actually face to face. It was practically standing on my toes. I let out a scream and stumbled backwards, but it reached out and grabbed my wrist. Just like the other one, its hand clamped around my wrist and a sharp pain started shooting through me. It was right then that I saw my hand begin to turn blue. My peripheral vision grew fuzzy and I could feel myself falling. The last thing I remember before I blacked out was the sound of a loud bang.
I woke up on a strange couch in a house that I didn’t recognize. There were animal heads mounted on plaques covering the walls. They were all different sizes, scattered around the room. Deer, raccoon, squirrels, even a fox. The walls had an artificial wood appearance, like the inside of a log cabin. I sat up, my heart beginning to race.
“Oh, good. You’re awake.” I looked up to see a large man in a plaid shirt and suspenders enter the room. He held two mugs, and set one down on the table in front of me. He was a burly man with a beard and receding hairline. He looked familiar.
“Where am I?”
“You’re in my living room.”
“Who are you?”
He chuckled. “Samuel Robins. You live down the street from me.”
Something clicked inside my head. I had remembered going to his door while trick-or-treating as a kid. He always gave people a full size candy bar and a bag of trail mix to “even out the unhealthiness.” He was a nice guy.
“Oh, yeah…” I said, my head spinning slightly. “Um, why am I here?”
He frowned. “You don’t remember what happened, do you?” I shook my head and he gestured at my wrist. I looked down to see deep bruises in the shape of fingers, and I felt my stomach drop.
“What was that thing?” I whispered.
“I don’t know. But I caught you just in time.”
“I heard you scream, so I ran outside with my shotgun. That thing was gripping you tight, and from a distance I could see your hand turning blue.”
The bang. “You shot it?”
“…Yes,” he said, hesitantly. “With rock salt.”
“Was that your first time seeing one of them?” He asked, avoiding my question.
“No,” I said, shifting my position.
“I’ve seen a couple.”
He nodded, slowly. “Well, you’ve probably figured out by now that they’re not human.”
I paused for a moment before answering. “I…had a suspicion…”
“I’ve come across these things many times. It’s impossible, but it’s not. They’re made of ice.”
“So, the rock salt…”
“Salt melts ice,” he said, sitting back in his chair.
“How did you know it would work?”
“That wasn’t the first one I’d killed. I’ve been seeing these for months now.”
I felt an ache in my wrist, and something occurred to me. “When it grabbed me, my hand started turning blue.”
“Bright blue, almost crystalline. Unlike anything that could happen to a person.”
“Why did it?”
He looked down at his hands, his face falling. “It was turning you to ice. It was turning you into one of them.”
My heart skipped a beat. “How do you know?”
“Because I’ve seen it happen before.”
I felt sick to my stomach. “Does that mean that they were all human once?”
“I believe so.”
I sat back, closing my eyes. “Why?” I whispered, after a minute.
He shook his head, solemnly. “I wish I knew the answer to that, but I don’t. I just don’t think this is going to end any time soon.”
The sunlight peeked through the blinds and fell across me. I could feel the warmth on my hand.
“What about when spring comes? And summer?” I asked. “If they’re somehow made of ice, wouldn’t they melt?”
He sat up, his eyebrows furrowed. “Huh. Well I never thought of that. I guess it’s possible.”
For the first time since I woke up, I felt a wave a relief wash over me. It’ll be over soon.
“You have to remember,” he said, suddenly, snapping me out of my happy place. “It’s only January. If they do melt in the spring, that won’t be for two or three more months.” He leaned in, lowering his voice. “Don’t let your guard down. There’s still plenty of time for them to get you, and if they turn you, you’re gone.”
I gulped, nodding slightly. He offered to take me home, and I agreed. There was no way I was walking down the street alone.
It’s mid-February now, and I still don’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary, and I watch carefully out the window each time my parents go somewhere. Tucked underneath my bed is a shotgun with concentrated chunks of rock salt.
I’ve been waiting patiently for summer to come. The days have gone by agonizingly slowly, and I’ve grown to be somewhat of a recluse. I just can’t risk it.
There is one thing, however, that keeps me up at night:
What if they never melt come summer?
…Will I be stuck in here forever?
How long will it be before they get me?
How long will it be before they get us all?