hidden in white
While on a delivery job, a man’s strange new colleague appears to be casting black magic spells on him, when they stumble upon something hidden under snow.
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Most of what happened that day is all a haze in memory, and in those moments in and of itself, I was miles away. Here’s my best attempt at picking up the fragments:
Everything started off strange. Firstly, there was this new guy, an oddball, had one lazy eye always staring off at nothing in the distance while the other was constantly peeled wide open and staring right at you. His lips and jaw seemed to mirror the position of his eyes, one side tensed while the other’s relaxed. The image of this guy’s face is burned quite deep into my memory because he was that weird.
More than that, when I say oddball, I mean, this guy is the most abnormal guy you’ll ever meet. He opens up the most random, disconnected sentences and you’ll never have the words to respond even if you wanted to. For that reason, I was mostly silent for the duration of our delivery job. How and when did I meet this guy and what were we delivering? Like I said, the day was a gigantic blur—I do not remember most of it.
As far as memory serves, it began on the job, hands on the steering wheel, bleary eyes on the snowy road. ‘Oddball’s’ on the passenger seat beside me and I can tell you this: that guy had his one unblinking eye stuck on my face and never looked away for the entire drive.
There were times I put extra effort into being aware of my surroundings and situation, so I picked up on a few details: stacks of cardboard boxes behind us; rows of tall, thin, frosted trees flanking the road; and the sun was a blindingly white ball set almost exactly in the middle of the view through the windshield.
Everytime Oddball spoke, though, I’d question what’s real and what’s not. I’d see shadows, silhouettes peeking out at me from behind the trees, or a pile of snow turning into needles—things like that. And it’s a lot to do with how he spoke: a lot of what he talks about would appear to be humdrum mumbles in my ears, and then an unexpected string of words would just unfold, kind of like cues that’ll prompt me to see, feel or hear something weird—kind of like I’m under an evil spell. It goes like this:
Mumble, mumble, blah, blah, and then he randomly says, “… pumped into the- the forearm vein…,” and I’d see a shadowy hand grip my forearm and it’d disappear as soon as I looked there.
Mumbles and then he says, “… an ugly puffy face, yellow puke dripping down the corner of the lips…,” and I’d see it as he’d described it, a blurry reflection in the corner of my windshield.
It’s all cues, black magic words. This shifty guy’s up to something. He’s mumbling and then he says, “… fighting, fighting, fighting… SHOUTING…!” and I’ll hear a loud roar in the distance somewhere in the woods, and I’ll see a shadowy flock of birds flying away from there, and they’ll all disappear in the sky.
All the while, I’m starting to freak out more and more over time, and I’m wondering, why in the hell would my boss hire and partner me up with this guy? For a really long time, Oddball kept going on with his witchcraft, and this is only some of what I remember of it. He’s mumbling and then, “… knife to your throat, a bony, pale thing… a menacing frown…” I see this thing, a skinny, blurry figure standing in the snow at the roadside, frowning at me, pointing its knife in my direction.
Why didn’t I retaliate? Why didn’t I try to stop Oddball? Like I said, I was pretty out of it; my mind was shattered and I was putting all of what’s left of my focus on the road. If I’m not mistaken, though, I did let out a weak whimper along the lines of, “The hell are you talking about, mate?” or something like, “What are you doing to me?” but it was such a puny whine that it was blended right in with Oddball’s continuous mumbling.
This road I was driving on never seemed to end and it all looked the same. The same trees passed me by over and over. The sun never got closer to the horizon. The clouds were frozen in place. However, when Oddball shut up for a moment, I saw something at the left side of the road, something camouflaged within but protruding from a mass of snow. All of a sudden, it’s as if Oddball’s spell was momentarily lifted off of me, the blinds pulled from my eyes, and I’m aware and I’m focused.
So, I slow down to get a closer look at this thing hiding inside the snow. And Thank God Oddball has stopped mumbling and throwing black magic words at me, because this is when I need to be most attentive.
As we get closer and closer, I drive slower, and I start picking out details that contrast the white mound at the roadside.
Slower. Closer… and then I see small red boots, a tiny hand, a blue winter jacket—everything covered in snow. Finally, Oddball peels his disturbing stare away from my face and looks in the direction of the snowy lump. “The hell is that?” he says.
A shiver runs up my spine when I figure out what it is, and I say, “It’s a… a kid.”
So, I stop the car right there, where the kid lies almost completely camouflaged inside the snow, unmoving. I get out, rush towards the child, and my heart’s beating so hard I can hear it in my ears. My voice is now shaking and I’m whispering to myself, “Please be alive. Why… out here all alone? My God, please…”
Hunkering down, I see the child’s face and immediately feel a sense of connection—a click. Any other bloke wouldn’t be able to tell if this kid’s a boy or a girl, but from the get go, when I see this face, I know it’s a boy. Have I met him before?
Whatever it is, at this moment, as I’m kneeling down and jolting the inanimate boy in my arms, I’m not thinking about where I’ve seen him before or what he’s doing here, I’m frantically trying to wake him up. I’m shouting, “Wake up, kid! Wake up!” and I’m whispering to myself, “He’s too young. Please. Please be alive.”
And then he sucks in a deep breath, a loud gasp and he starts shivering.
Oddball, who’s still in the car, hollers, “Get him in here! Quick! Get him here! Get him to the hospital! Pronto!”
I bring the boy into the van, sit him down between me and Oddball. I drop the handbrake and step on the gas.
“Hurry up! Hurry up!” Oddball’s shouting. “Pick it up! Pick up the speed!”
Annoyed as I am with Oddball’s gruff voiced commands, I zip my mouth and drive as fast as I can, but still, this road never seems to end. It seems like fifteen minutes driving at top-speed while playing deaf to his bossy yelling until, finally, there’s a bridge spanning across a deep blue river ahead of us.
If I could step on the gas any further, I’d be pressing my sole into the gravelly road. This is the highest speed. This is an emergency. When I’m driving along the bridge, though, and I lose control of the van, and I slam into the side wall, and the car overturns and is thrown into the air, I’m thinking I should’ve considered all of our safety first.
Moments like these are just like in the movies. Everything’s slow-motion. I’m seeing the boy’s eyes gaped open with shock and fixed onto mine; and I’m seeing Oddball behind the boy, bawling, his mouth widened to its full extent, arms pressed up against the ceiling.
And then we plunge into the river. It didn’t take long for the van to fill up with water because Oddball left his window open. So, as soon as he’s able to, he squeezes through the open window and then pulls the boy out, and then me. Then, we’re all holding our breaths and treading the water.
Just as I’m thinking that Oddball’s not that much of a bad guy, he suddenly lets go of the weakly boy in his hand and prevents me from trying to save him. While watching the boy sink deeper and further away from us, I’m struggling to get past Oddball. Let me tell you this: Oddball seems to have the strength of three men. I can’t push him aside, so I find myself just helplessly watching the boy drowning to death.
Then a voice—Oddball’s voice, but he’s not moving his lips. He tells me, “There’s no hiding it. Hiding it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Try as hard as you can but you will never forget it. All you can do is learn to live with it. Try turning back time and you’ll only be stuck in a standstill. All you can do is move on.”
Now I’m just frowning at him, confused, but a sense of enlightenment washes over me and I feel freed from something that’d been caging me for years. What magic is this?
I woke up in my car, not a van, parked at the snowy roadside. Oddball was actually beside me, in reality. He also seems to have just woken up from deep sleep. He looks at me and says, “Do you remember?”
Seeing that I’m in a daze, Oddball moves onto another question. “What happened to him?”
Memory finally kicks in. “A… drug… overdose.”
“How old was he when he passed?”
“Twenty-two.” I’m looking at the dashboard, my brain connecting dots. “That child was a… a version of my son when he was eight years old.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“Never told me your name but… you told me you could help me… an unconventional method of therapy.” I frown at him, all my bewilderment apparent on my face. “How… how’d you do it? Nothing helped me get past his death… not until now.”
“Guess you could say it’s magic.” He stops and thinks for a while and then says, “Gotta send me back home, and oh boy it’s a ways away from here. Want me to drive?”
“Yeah, you drive.”
We get out of the car and exchange seats. He drives while I sit silently in the passenger seat and process my thoughts.
That was the strangest day of my life. When Oddball got off at his place, we shook hands and departed in silence. Then I sat in the driver’s seat and just began sobbing. After my son died, I’d been diagnosed with severe emotional numbness for years and couldn’t even bring myself to let out a single tear of grief. But then, there I was, my forehead pressed against the steering wheel and a flood of tears falling onto my lap. Right there and then, I let it all out, and then…
I could finally move on.
Thanks for reading. This is a story I’d actually come up with ages ago; wrote it for a cousin who wanted a short story published on her school magazine or something, but it never did and it never really went anywhere. So, here I am, years later, adding more substance to the plot.
Originally, Oddball was not involved in the story, but his inclusion is now an essential connection to a novel of mine, (in the works if it isn’t already out) “Our Dying Dreams”.
If you’d like to receive some more free short stories like this one, sign up for our newsletter (form found below). Lastly, and once again, thanks for reading.
The key slides into the keyhole and unlocks the door when you twist it. Turns out, this key that you took from inside the box is to the unit directly beside your’s. First of all, knock on the door and wait for a reply… but there is none. Now, open the door slightly and peek inside. The first thing you see is a black handheld device on the floor. There seems to be nobody here, so enter and pick up the device. It takes a while for you to realize that it is a GPS receiver. Turn it on and it displays a route to a faraway location.
Look around. You find a snowglobe, a mini fountain, and a painting of a long tunnel. Inspect these items.
Pick up the snow-globe and look underneath it. There are some words engraved into the desk. What does it say?
7 letters, 1 apostrophe. Got it? It’s best you write it down.
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