Thus the Cold Comes
A record player hums softly in the background of the dark room, the whispered tones of Sinatra filling in the dusty corners. A solitary candle sits glowing on the table in the center of the room, the flickering light illuminating the wrinkled crevasses of the old woman’s face. Ms. Bockner sits in her wheelchair at the table reminiscing of times gone past. She was once a powerful woman, the CEO of a successful company. That was all gone now. Lost to the winter winds, the result of an ill-considered business deal. She now sits alone. She sits apart from humanity and blames it for her fate.
The house was left to her by her business partner and husband (another ill-considered deal). He was good enough, she supposed, satisfactory. As the candlelight begins to dim she retires to her bedroom. An uneaten loaf of bread left sitting on the table as the candle flickers out. Outside the cold winter winds drift along the walls of the house, scraping the leaves along the pavement.
Footsteps on the pavement break through the silent din of the night. First growing louder and then fading away again into the darkness. Humanity didn’t much care for her either. Her relatives either gone or far away, she took to every day the same. Following the same tracks in the floorboards, worn in by time and made permanent by monotony.
More footsteps, they approach, scratching along the pavement as they run. Then silence, a bang. The hinges and locks strain to withhold the door from opening but fail as the old door swings inward, knocking against the wall and jarring the paintings hung in the hallway entrance. Ms. Bockner rises as the doors along the hallway rattle with the wind, shaking the fragile house. Her bedroom door unlatches.
A young man of about 25 stumbles through.
“Who are you?” she says sternly.
“None of your business, lady,” he mumbles, clamoring for the lock on the door.
“You have no right to be here. I demand that you leave immediately.”
“I have just as much right to be here as anywhere else in this godforsaken land.”
He latches the door.
“Why are you here?” she demands.
“You wanna know why I’m here?” he points to the window, “That’s why. In my world you live on the whim of the breeze. There is no inside or outside, only the wind and its torture.”
He starts towards her but freezes mid-step. Her grey, weathered eyes are fixated squarely on his. He looks away, as if to protect his soul from her glare. He walks over to the window overlooking the street outside, watching the leaves with an intensity equal to hers watching him.
“I’m taking control. That’s all you need to know,” he says finally.
She sees something in him; he is cold, worn.
“What shall I call you?” she asks calmly and with a presence befitting her heritage.
“My name is Rodger. No more, no less,” he says as he backs out of the room, “Simply, Rodger.”
The next morning she awakes again to a banging sound. She fixates herself in her wheelchair and rides the worn-in grooves to the kitchen. Rodger is there, hammering nails haphazardly into the windows. Two hits on one, three on another, not finishing one before adding the next. There’s an urgency about him. An almost frantic calling moving him.
“Can’t let the wind in,” he mutters to himself.
“This is still my house. I shall let in any wind that I want. In fact, I rather like the wind, its chill reminds me that I’m not dead yet.” she retorts.
Taken aback by her insolence almost as much as by her ignorance, he turns around to confront her – her eyes.
“There’s a storm coming, the kind of storm that wicks from your soul and removes you.” he says, trying to ignore her deathly stare.
“I don’t imagine I have much soul left to remove. You will leave them open.”
“No!” he snaps, but then recovers, “No, you may have signed your death wish already but I’ve got life in me yet, and I intend to keep it that way.”
“You picked the wrong house to hide in then,” she says, noting each crack and hole in the walls.
The cold air permeates through every crevice in the house. The ever-present chill weakening its very fibers. He ignores her and continues on with his hammering, “Suit yourself, if you want to spend your life hammering down windows, be my guest,” she concedes. She situates herself at the table in the kitchen, the uneaten loaf of bread still sitting on the table in front of her, waiting for its day. Ms. Bockner studies the loaf, following its grooves and mounds like a palm reader judging its lifeline. Not much left.
The days are growing shorter. The leaves are gone now and an awkward silence falls over the street at night. The pavements are bare, and the wind now passes unheeded over the concrete sidewalk. The windows of the house are locked down, the number of nails in them almost out-numbering the amount of fibers in the wood and they creek with the pain of a life not lived.
Inside, Rodger sleeps on the floor of the guest room, a desolate room without any furniture, but also one without windows. Meanwhile Ms. Bockner sits still at the kitchen table. She likes to greet the night, it has become her blind companion. The solitary candle sits with her, still flickering in the pale white light of the crescent winter moon. While the loaf of bread grows hard, marking the passage of time gone unnoticed.
As the candle continues eating away at its source, growing dimmer, Ms. Bockner sits quiet with a serenity unmatched by even the night itself, absorbing the dulcet tones of the vinyl as they surround her in a futile attempt to fill the room.
The candle soon grows near its end, another victim of time, as the north wind, no longer hindered by the comforts of life, begins to permeate through the room. First through the kitchen, it enters through the wall, seeping in through the cracks, dominating the house. It seeps under the floorboards, filling in the grooves. It seeps through the doors and into each room as one by one it dims their core. It seeps through the windows, past the nails, and out again into the night. It freezes the time, the time seen to pass inside this house, and stops the future as it leaves. It is thus the cold comes.