It was the second polar vortex in four years to hit Philadelphia this hard. Pounds of air stood packed around her so she felt boxed every step forward. It was hard to walk, like walking through molasses except it was just as hard as that plus there was freezing sleet hitting her cheeks with each trudge forward. She couldn’t see. She could only feel the snow fall all around her. She couldn’t see and she could only hope she wouldn’t be abandoned out here.

Her eyes were brimming with tears that wouldn’t leave the bottom of her lids. They would probably turn to icicle once they broke. Between the tiny wave that wouldn’t break trapped in her eye and the blanket of white that she had to use her forearms to cut through, she couldn’t tell if she had hallucinated the house. She was forced to look down, black hood concealing her from the sudden squall that hit every few seconds. It had been snowing for days on and off. Living here for years, Serena knew snow wreaked havoc on the concrete. When this thawed and dried out, there would be giant craters in every road and the pavement would crack in the shape of a golf course. It would be impossible to drive.That’s not even accounting for the militia and blockades headed this way; for the difficulty passing on foot or road, for the town arming themselves to the teeth; for the long awaited eruption by everyone trapped inside. Either way you sliced it, whether natural disaster or man-made war, Philadelphia was devolving first and settling in her resilience ready to burst from her squalor cocoon to grow into something else; something big with jaws and starving. Something dying to get out. These storms were the first test of her steadfastness. Serena was resolute and dying to get out too.

Her eyelashes were coated in tiny snowflakes and she could hardly make out the building in front of her. She had been drawn to a light in the window.  From the original distance, it looked abandoned. As Serena stepped closer, she could see there were candles, maybe a soft lamp, burning in the upstairs window. Everything else was dusky; an ashen gray, a midnight lake. There was no sense of welcome. There was no one else around. Let it be a party. Let it be jovial and light. Her steps were heavy, slow, her boots only blocked so much moisture from the ground. She was soaking wet and if she didn’t get warm, she would die.  She reached for her neck instinctively to hold the sapphire locket that contained him. She was almost frozen. The prick of the cold metal didn’t even bother her.  The heart-shaped amulet was her only comfort. Only about thirty feet from the door, Serena was suddenly struck with a sense of panic. The future was here and it was portentous. The present was an ending. The future was a terrible threat that had finally found her.  God, give me strength. She paused at the edge of the yard and allowed herself to breathe. What do I look like to them? She must have been blue; blue or ghost white. She was draped in all black but blue in her flesh. Blue like ice. Blue like river. Give me warmth.

Continuing to accept the dust of the frozen rain smacking her cheeks and her ankles twisting uncomfortably with each step, she allowed her body to be frozen in motion. She allowed the wind to carry her up the short driveway to the door. She allowed herself to stop for a moment before taking any more action. She became a shadow on the front step still clutching the blue heart around her neck. Her hand in a fist, she began to raise her arm to the top of the door. She thought she heard someone laugh inside.

I am breath. I am breath. I am breath.

She tightened her fist.

I am safe and protected in white light.

She exhaled.

God, give me grace.

She began knocking loudly.

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