Fear of Snow text image


a Tentacle Tales short story from beyond the world of The Rising Tentacle.

They say that every snowflake is different. As Dan Armstrong walked along Harbour Street two nights before Christmas with large flakes of snow swirling and flipping and floating all around, he pondered the statement, wondering just who they were. From the human’s eye view, in amongst the falling flakes of white, the soft cold touch and ensuing melt on warm skin, they all look the same. Uniform blobs of white, dancing before the eyes. But at the microscopic level, the flakes reveal their unique nature. They are a never-ending, changing pattern of some unfathomable design. Maybe it is this dual nature of unseen and seen, coupled with infinite design that hides what the patient saw, what so terrified him. The patient in question was brought into Mingsport Hospital the previous night, where Dan worked as an orderly. He was brought in, through the snowstorm that was raging throughout the dark night, screaming. The scream still rang in his head. It had burned into his subconscious, so hideous and wretched was its timbre. Eyes bulging, arms taught, hands gripping and that horrific scream. Dan had tried to calm him as soon as he had come through the main door of the hospital. The man’s scream, initially incomprehensible turned into the words that had come to dominate Dan’s thoughts; ‘the snow!’. ‘It’s only snow. Don’t worry, it can’t hurt you!’ Dan had replied and then quickly wished he hadn’t . The man gripped Dan by both shoulders and stared into his eyes and screamed ‘Can’t hurt? Can’t hurt? You don’t know! It knows. It sees. It going to kill me!’. He then pushed Dan aside where he tripped and fell into the wall of the corridor leading into the hospital. The man was near uncontrollable. He kept looking behind and upwards as he was cajoled into the receiving area. The doctor had immediately drawn up a sedative in preparation upon hearing the commotion of the transfer, from the ambulance and stood ready. The two ambulance men had hold of both of the patient’s arms, a nurse behind urged the man on, blocking any return to the exit and Dan walked in front pulling at the man’s arms and trying to calm him with words, falling on deaf ears. As they entered the area, the man fixed his eyes on the doctor. ‘You know! You know!’ he said. He then pulled away from the escort and was upon the doctor in a spit second. The doctor was overwhelmed and the syringe flicked from his right hand, fell to the floor and shattered, spilling across the clinically clean, hard flooring. He grabbed the doctor by the lapels of his long white coat, ripping the top button off. ‘Help, get him off! More sedative!’ shouted the doctor, clearly terrified by the situation. The patient screamed ‘The snow!, They’re living in there!’ his face only fractions of an inch from the doctors. He then must have caught sight of the snow falling against the windows behind the doctor’s back. His eyes widened, terror gripped his face and he shouted ‘The spaces in-between, between the lines. They’re there. Oh, God. They’re there!’ He pushed the doctor away with his right arm with an almost inhuman strength. The doctor fell to the floor, as though swatted like a fly. The man, insane beyond all reasoning scanned the tabletop surfaces until he found what he sought. The dull metal of the handle, counterpointed by the gleaming silver blade of a scalpel. He moved, grabbed and turned to face the onlooking group of staff who stood helpless, all was unfolding in an instant. ‘They can get you! They won’t get me. No! They won’t get me. I won’t let them’ he shouted at the hospital staff arrayed before him. ‘Put the scalpel down’ said the Superintendent in a commanding tone (she had joined the group just after they had arrived at the receiving area). The man was oblivious. ‘They’re in there!’. His scream turned to a cry. ‘Arrgghhgurgle’ the man’s cry turning to a gurgle as the sharp scalpel blade flashed across his throat, slitting flesh as easily as a knife through butter. The difference being the flow of red lifeblood that spilled, then spurted forth as the man crumpled to the his knees, then to the floor. ‘No!’ shouted Dan and the nurse who had escorted him in. It was too late, blood pumped and pooled underneath the fallen body, seeping in an irregular-shaped circle, outwards.

They had all tried to resuscitate the man but it was a hopeless task. By the time he had been placed on the table, pads pressed to staunch the flow of blood, the man was dead. First his mind fractured, then his body. But by what? Snow?

Chionophobia. Dan had looked the word up as soon as he had got home, not waiting to remove his tie as he customarily did. He thumbed through the medical dictionary he had on the shelf in his room, along with other more secular books. He studied the open page; Chionophobia: Fear of snow. That was all, just a simple entry. There were no accompanying adjectives by way of explanation. Just, fear of snow.

The large flakes of snow swirled and flipped and floated all around and Dan pulled the collar of his coat up about his neck, set his head forward and picked up the pace as he walked home. Was it just snow that the man had been afraid of? Just a rational Fear? The man had hinted at more. At something alive, something abominable living in the structure of the snow.

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