On a Cold Winter Night

Bang! Sarah slammed the screen door and stomped into the snow covered backyard.

“Stupid new house! Why did we have to move anyway? I finally had friends, but now I’m all alone again.” Sarah walked beside a semi-frozen pond and muttered foul words under her breath. A cold winter breeze blew her brown hair into her green eyes, causing her to shiver. She reached into her sweater pocket and pulled out a pair of wrinkled gloves.

Suddenly, Sarah stopped and raised her voice to a fake falsetto.

“Sarah, honey! Put on your hat. Put on your gloves. Wear a sweater, you wouldn’t want to catch cold!” The impression of her mother was almost perfect. Not paying attention, she walked deeper and deeper into the woods behind her house, still grumbling complaints.

Becoming aware of the darkening sky and dropping temperature, Sarah looked around. To her horror in every direction were trees. Trees and snow. Sarah was lost. Her breath gasping and her heart beating out of her chest, Sarah began to run.

It was snowing harder now. The wind was lashing at the trees, howling through their branches, and snow drifts were forming very quickly. The sound was deafening, blocking out all other noise. Including the river.

Sarah slipped down the bank of the river and into the raging rapids. Water was burning down her throat and up her nose. She could feel the icy water ripping at her hair and clothes, desperately trying to grab onto her to pull her down deeper so she would never resurface. Sarah’s vision started to dim and go blurry at the edges. She closed her eyes as the last of the oxygen was depleted from her lungs and went limp.

Just then, a hand reached into the frigid water and grabbed ahold of Sarah’s arm. The stranger heaved her out of the water and onto the shore. Shocked at the change in her surroundings, Sarah’s waterlogged mind halted any possible theories as to what had happened. With a great gasp her body finally filled with air again and she could see her savior.

“My name is Tyler, and this is my dog Kip.” A boy about her age looked down at her with a pity written on his face. His hair fell in wisps across his forehead, the colour almost blending in with the falling snow. His fluffy black dog instantly preoccupied himself with licking Sarah’s face as she tried, and failed, to get to her feet. Shivering intensely, she attempted to unzip her already ice flaked sweater with numb fingers.

“You look cold. How can I help you?” Inquired Tyler worriedly. Sarah shrugged and shakily stood up to follow Tyler and Kip to a tall oak tree. Looking up at the tree, Sarah was filled with doubt. How was she going to climb the tree, especially in her current state? Sarah looked over to the blonde boy and opened her mouth to speak but was instantly cut off. “I don’t know how to climb trees.” He replied. Kip let out a bark as if to speed Sarah along. With a heavy sigh, she moved her freezing limbs and started to climb.

Shaking from the cold and fear, Sarah hoisted herself on to a branch. A flash of color, barely noticeable resting on top of the highest branch. She wasn’t tall enough. If Sarah had been thinking straight, she wouldn’t have stood up. If she had been paying attention, she would have heard the branch start to crack. If Sarah had any sense at all, she wouldn’t have touched the item on the branch. It’s a shame to say that Sarah grabbed on to the item before dropping it, revolted at the sight.

She let out a bloodcurdling scream. A clump of hair, almost as white as snow floated towards the ground in an almost peaceful manner. Snap! Crack! The branch Sarah was standing on fell to the ground with a great thump, and Sarah plunged toward the frozen earth.

Nothing moved. The wind stopped blowing and the trees stopped shaking. Even the very snow froze midair to view Sarah’s last moment. She wasn’t cold or shivering. She was warm. As she lay on the ground, soft like a pillow, she wondered why no one was helping her. Kip and Tyler had disappeared.

“Maybe if I close my eyes for a minute…..”

The search party circled the woods for weeks before they found Sarah’s body. She had frozen to death. She looked as though she was sleeping. The hair on her head fanned out on the snow and her eyes closed. Sarah even had a hint of a smile on her face as though she was having a pleasant dream. She wasn’t alone, though. A boy around her age with hair like freshly fallen snow was seemingly asleep with his big black dog. He had gone missing months before after running away from home.

Some people say Sarah never was alone on that night. The rumors say she travelled with a boy and his fluffy black dog, although no one knows for sure. Sometimes, on cold winter nights, when the wind blows fiercely whilst the snow softly falls you can hear the distant bark of a dog. Only after this, under a big oak tree can you hear the laughter of two children, because Sarah isn’t alone anymore.

6 thoughts on “On a Cold Winter Night

  1. James Hudyma Post author

    All of the technical elements are strong in this story. In the end everything comes together but during the climax I felt the story lost cohesion. I wasn’t sure if she died in the river or from falling from the tree. Your character development for the girl was excellent and your pace and use of suspense kept me hooked on the central plot.

  2. tacolover

    I really like the detail it helps me understand your really good story! I love it!

  3. Tim Horton

    i really like all the detail in this story it helps make a good visual in my mind

  4. Connie Flanagan

    I love legends! Clearly you read a great deal, because you have an excellent sense of how to tell a story. There is some good foreshadowing, such as when you mention that the sound of the river is blocked out. It gave me a sense of foreboding that she would fall into the freezing river!

    Describing the boy’s hair when Sarah meets him, then white hair falling from the object she grasps, makes it clear he is already a ghost. He says he can’t climb trees, and yet his body is in the tree, so it seems he must have died stuck in the tree.

    Although Sarah’s death is tragic, the hint of a smile on her face and the enduring legend of the children’s laughter makes this a story of friendship that endures beyond death. Tyler, like Sarah, was undoubtedly lonely, so that they are together and clearly friends who can make each other laugh makes this more of a bittersweet story than a sad one.

    Keep reading and writing!

  5. Donna Bodenmiller

    You have chosen to write a sad story. Which does not take away from the value of technique or intrigue of your writing. Many write stories that are seen as legends, supernatural events as it could only have happened that way.
    I can empathize with your character, having just made friends and now having moved …. Facing starting out again alone in a new school trying to fit in and making new friends. You show some reality of school at your age with the utterance of foul words although unbecoming as that might be.
    Great descriptive ability in emotions..surroundings and changing emotions as she becomes lost and cold and one wonders if she is dead or alive or dying again.
    One also wonders if her savior is also dead while helping or alive and only confirmed at the end if his earlier demise.
    I was left at the end wishing it could have been different for her. Which shows me that your writing made me relate deeply with to have emotion for your character..
    Continue writing. Hopefully experience other emotions in your work as well.

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