The Man who is Lost in the Snow

By: James Pressdee

He sat quietly, as he always did, in the living room, upon his large grey sofa, his mug resting on the large grey table, and all of the furniture in that large grey room rested peacefully atop a large grey carpet that absorbed the gradual ageing of his living there. When he looked to his left he saw grey walls, of a darker, more subtle color designed specifically to have no color at all. Within their bounds, the muted, neutral floor spread out into a second living room that existed for when he grew tired of the first. Along the walls there hung occasionally a painting, images lacking entirely in substance and sentiment, images created only to disrupt the monotony of the lifeless, grey walls. Two more sofas guarded their coffee table with dignity, gazing stonily towards the front door. They were, of course, grey.

The kitchen was bare, and there was no evidence of a meal ever having been prepared there. The fridge hummed silently to itself in mechanical meter, but only at night when the room was abandoned. The pantry shelves were empty but for a fine spread of dust, because the man who was lost in the snow had no need to eat, while he constantly battled the fierce blizzard that enveloped him.

The snow in which he was lost could neither be seen nor felt by anyone else but him. The storm occupied his mind ceaselessly, obstructing all other thoughts or notions of peace. It oscillated in strength depending on the man’s mood, on his desperation to return to the past. He could not remember when he had stopped working, when he stopped leaving the house, when he last spoke. He did not know for whom he had worked, why he left, nor to whom he would have spoken. He could hear faint footsteps that battled with the noise of the torrent, the sound of love coming back to him, returning from a sojourn in nostalgia and into his present misery, but never arriving.

 All faded away into the gentle blizzard that existed inside his head, in pure silence, in the way it existed when he was a child and he watched it all afternoon and into the evening behind the small window that was cold to the touch, and was the only thing he remembered. What need he may have had for reality and the present succumbed to the looming shadow of old age, and the separate lives of his younger selves that began to live once more within his mind.

Getting up slowly, he turned and methodically drifted towards the insipid kitchen and, stopping at the cupboard along the way, procured a glass from that ancient cabinet. He filled it with water that had a flavor like old age. He began turning his head, and in a minute had succeeded in directing his gaze to his right, where a large window peered outdoors. Moving in a dream, he trudged towards it, suddenly remembering its existence, and he joined the plane of glass in peering outdoors. He saw only trees, with brittle spines and bare branches, shivering in the grey winter noon.

A magnetism generated by habit drew him, next, towards the opposite end of the house, to the pensive study filled with thousands of unread pages and thousands more waiting to be written upon. At one end there was a window; the other walls were cluttered with neglected bookcases and shelves of antiques. The desk, however, was clear, its only inhabitants being his typewriter and the stack of paper next to it. The blank page was in the same ready-position as it had been yesterday, and as many days before as could be counted before time grew weary of itself. Today, just as he had done every other day, he sat at the desk, mind open in contemplation, ready to finally begin what he had spent his whole life working towards.

The keys beckoned silently to him with pressing eyes, begging to be used. The man lost in the snow then lost himself in a childlike fantasy about talking keyboards before quickly dragging himself back to his earnest reflection. After about an hour, he would resolve to finally begin, without caring for flair or clarity or any other facet of his writing that so infuriated him and simply begin; a poem, story, or song for the child inside of him, longing to play. But then, with his bony, tree-root fingers hovering in anticipation over the first letter, he would lose his fleeting resolve, and slump back in his chair with a heavy sigh, too afraid to act.

The rest of his time in the study would pass in that manner- defeated, crushed under the weight of the dreams he still kindled in the back of his mind, slowly fading from life like the ink in his journal. At 3 o’clock, the pinnacle of boredom and lethargy, he would make his way, even more slowly than his other ritual movements across the tundra, to the second sitting room, which he reserved for his daily repose. Although there were two sofas at contrasting angles, he always chose the same one, and lay down in the same position where, in the summer, the sun would spend the morning hours chatting amicably with the furniture unfamiliar with such warmth, so that by the time it left and made way for the owner of the house, there remained a pleasant patch of golden warmth for him to lie upon amidst the rooms so stubbornly devoid of joy. But on this day the surface greeted him with stiff cordiality, and even with the blanket over him, he never felt warmed.

Nevertheless, he awoke groggy and hot, his heart racing from the sudden reintroduction to the conscious world. He tore off the suffocating blanket and thrust himself upright, becoming familiar once again with the void. Darkness had settled in while he slept, the temperature had dropped farther, and the house prepared itself for another lonely night.

There lingered a faint sensation of his childhood, one in which he would wake up in a manner similar to today’s and find that the house had sizzled to life in the evening splendor, a gentle glow splattered on the walls as dinner sprung up in an animated affair, and the shadows that were his parents and his brother danced around the kitchen while their music boomed in harmony with the oven fan and the rhythmic opening and closing of the patio door.

That same door had not been opened since. Now, at 5 o’clock, the house seemed ready for an eternal rest, and without bothering to turn on the lights, he walked past the door to the basement, locked for some years and without a key, and up the stairs. The upper floor had a narrow landing. There were two bedrooms, each with their own closet, and a larger suite, which he kept for himself. His own quarters were grandiose for a man of such little consequence. The room was overtly spacious, but still managed to instill a claustrophobic sensation. Draped on the bed’s pillars were curtains of some distant color that had faded from visibility long ago.

He stepped into the closet; it was long and narrow and more like a hallway. The light at the end flickered to sleep and he could not even see the back wall. But he had lost all interest in whatever was back there, had given up all hope of finding a key into the past. He put on his robe and appeared in the bathroom without remembering moving there. He brushed his teeth and washed his face, occasionally glancing up at the mirror. It was shrouded in fog and, as with all things in the house, had not been tended to in decades. The immense dissatisfaction with the day spawned in him a sudden curiosity, however, and, taking a damp towel from the counter, he began to scrub the surface furiously. The bones in his elbow creaked and his wrist emitted a faint click with each motion, but his desire to see his own face for the first time in years spurred him forward. When the cloudy sky of the mirror finally cleared, his mouth suspended in horror.

The face he remembered vaguely was forgotten and tossed into the other catacombs of memory, and there existed only the haunted folds of skin and withered facial hair clinging to his powdery bones. It bore an expression of profound shock, and the cracked stone lips trembled in silent terror like the steps of an ancient palace under siege. His mouth was a cavern of missing teeth and decomposing gums.

The glass texture of his eyes reflected the image of himself, and he peered down this hall of mirrors into his skull. The reverberating hum inside his head grew louder as he stepped towards it, the static noise augmenting like two radios communicating inches apart, indecipherably.

The trance fell to pieces and he slumbered off to bed. The next day passed without a single diversion from its usual course. He continued to circulate about the house like the ocean’s currents. A cyclonic air with winds of that eternal spiritual pestilence shepherded him about his daily routine, fleeing one timeless entrapment and being pushed into another. In the evening, the sky faded grey with snow, his nostalgia especially hegemonizing. The basement door where his dormant memory lay in waiting communicated in waves. The power of the past pursuing him to the grave, the decades of paralyzing apathy, the steady decay of his mind, the misplacement of his memories- all the forces of death that had been conspiring within him were quelled by the sighting of the year’s first snowfall through the window in the living room.

The key had been lost for so long that he did not look for it, but rather summoned the last of his strength and put his foot through the basement door. The brown carpet was infested with bugs bent on chewing through the last trace of his existence. The wide, open room was cluttered with books, records, dusty photographs and forgotten musical instruments.

He rescued the first book he saw from the teeming chaos and observed the frantic life his memories had maintained in his absence. It was a delicate old script, transcribed onto the thin pages that were like leaves by a tidy hand who existed in another epoch of memory. The sturdy leather cover bound by time. It began abruptly. The language was colloquial, and the narrator mentioned a war, a brother and their parents, friends so full of life they made him tired, but nothing more concrete.

He submerged further into the story, discovering that this someone’s world was so wonderfully real, seasoned with magic and extraterrestrial chaos, all occurring in earthly sober existence. He read of music dancing frantically around his head, of the ethereal new sounds that poured from every open window on the busy campus in which he spent his days.

Here the man paused and looked once more at the jumbled contents of his life. None of the items strewn around him interested him like the anthology in his hand. He turned it over, looking for a title, but found none. No author had taken credit for the creation, for the words that were cinema in the reader’s mind.

It was the first time that he had withdrawn from the impression of the snow, for he had entered the world of “I,” “me,” and “mine;” this first-person escort commanded his full attention. That evening he slept with an otherworldly tinge of excitement. The dreams that were his refuge from solitude led him away from that valley of despair and into a new world of unimagined joy and a sky that never had to endure the night.

The man lost in the snow awoke and dove into the stories once more, deciphering their undertones. The characters became his friends, the protagonist’s family were his own. The dreamy dusk of the story surpassed the gloomy sky outside his window. He preferred the flavors of that never-ending, infinitely-coursed meal far more than the stores of emptiness in his home. And so the story flowed, indefinitely. The narrator lived the wild and precious life that had always been out of reach for the man lost in the snow. His chronicles would meet no end; climax after climax occurred, and-

There was a sudden end to the euphoria. The writing lost its sunlit hue, its flair of touch. The central character turned to stone, his ideas bleak and without their usual animation. A seismic loss had been suffered- that he was sure of- but it was never specified, never addressed. The wound cut deep, and the sorrow expressed in the unwritten feelings of the narrator transcended the words on the pages and reached out to him with a caress of familiarity, of a forgotten pain that the two shared.

And then it ended. One page remained, bare as the trees visible from the study window. His aching fingers stumbled as he turned the book over, looking for more, pleading with the past to extend his stay. He found the back cover and there he learned the name of the author and let out a sob when he realized it was his own, the identity he had forgotten in the mire of his solitude. The pang of his nostalgia pierced him once more, and the snowfall outside his window finally found a companion in his memory, joined by the days of endless afternoon and lazy sound wafting from the stereo.

The expression upon the ancient face was equal parts disgust and joy. He stood up slowly, the sound of his chair cracking the silence, the occasional beat of his heart echoing off the monotone walls. Pulling his robe tight around his bones, he pushed open the door and made acquaintance with the world once more.

What greeted him first was the bite of the air, the howl of the midnight wind, contrasting with the sleepy hue of the winter moon. The air in front of him was pitch, illuminated only by the bright snowflakes that danced around him as he stumbled through the darkness. The noise of that torrent was rich and full to those ears so accustomed to silence. As the snow piled higher, he staggered and collapsed, feeling the full force of the icy surface as his body was printed upon the ground, and gravity chained him there. Never had there been a more beautiful moment in his life as the light of the moon was cut from view, and he could no longer move his limbs, and the howl of the wind was muffled by that blizzard, his memories submerged and covered over with the fresh blanket of fallen snow.