The birds parted on either side, as if Lola were somehow unpalatable to them. They squawked and flapped but otherwise allowed her boots to crunch over the hard-packed snow of the frozen lake.

Lola did her best to remain nonchalant, hands in pockets. The bitter lake wind tore at her unbottoned jacket, but she dared not make the move to bundle up. The geese honked at her, outraged, but in a small miracle not one bit of down escaped from them to touch or even approach her.

The sullen, rotting tower of the Baikash refugees with its tattered banners and faded signs, slowly began to sink below the treeline. As Lola continued her trek, some of the geese keeping pace while others fell back to look for stragglers.

As Joyce had said, and as the occasional bleached bones on the ice attested, the birds’ feathers were highly toxic and being near enough to be nipped could impart a fatal dose of ionizing radiation in moments.

It was a long way, an awful long way, to the orange dot on the far shore.

Inspired by this.

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Lola’s boots crunched on the new snow despite her efforts to be quiet. She wasn’t even supposed to be awake yet, much less outside, much less with the keys to the aerosled. It was a dangerous enough machine when it was working properly, but the stiff winds that howled down the frigid plains risked upsetting the vehicle at every turn.

The thing Father failed to realize, though, was that the aerosled was also by far the most fun thing in the settlement during winter.

The storage shed creaked open, revealing the aeroled resting on its wooden skids, keeping the skis from direct contact with the frozen ground. Lola carefully replicated the steps she’d seen Father and Grandfather do a hundred times: putting in the winter oil, loading up the special starter, and then easing the aerosled off its skids and onto the fresh snow before cranking the propeller. The din would surely wake everyone in the house, but Lola didn’t care.

She was past that now.

As the propeller sputtered to life, Lola hopped in the cockpit and took the controls. She grinned, frigid air in her face and hair spread out in a halo around her, as she steered onto the frozen lake.

Inspired by the song ‘Vivid’ by Hiroki Kikuta, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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White white. Endless frigid, colorless expanses, its desolation sparkling in crystal. All the more pale, all the more cold, all the more colorless for the few shades that try to color it, snowy white wearing fresh-ground dirt. Endless in all directions, the doom of the ill-prepared.

What’s that? A blizzard? No, I was talking about the Oscars.

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A biting, bitter cold consumes me.

Colder than darkest space or the gaze of a forsaken love, it tears at my windbreaker and whistles through my hair. It is as if all the frigid indifferences and icy words of the world have coalesced into a crystal-clear diamond-hard point and rammed themselves deep into my chest. It’s hard to breath; the air steals every breath I take, scattering across the snow as a thin gray vapor. I can see others out here too, struggling through ankle-deep powder towards destinations long forgotten or unknown.

I smile as we pass, but the cold stiffness of my mouth makes more of a grimace, though my amicable wave still shows my intent. No reply; the other figures, stark against the snow, are either too frozen or too absorbed in their own worlds to touch another across the gaps that separate us all.

Perhaps, in their worlds, this is a better circumstance.

A place of business closed, with an entire sun cycle to waste. Or exposure to climes colder still, making the tundra I see no more than a powdered-sugar frost. I eventually get where I’m going, and so do they. The ice in the air will eventually coalesce into the pattering of April raindrops. But for now, frozen in time as well as being, we simply pass each other by and vanish into the mists from whence we came.

Dark winter nights, filled with drifts of snow and gusts of wind, are a fine time to spend behind an antique picture window with a blazing fire in the hearth.

They are not the best time to be on the road.

On this particular occasion, the prayers of thousands of schoolchildren had given the asphalt a sheath of ice and a sprinkling of snow. The moonless night had sheathed the hazard beneath a light crystalline dust.

Harry, preoccupied, didn’t even notice that his Buick had begun to spin out of control until the front tires had already skidded off the road. By the time he stood on the brake, the hydraulics were snarled in the foliage and snapped.

A cold sort of darkness closed in; Harry’s last conscious thoughts turned to the package on the seat beside him.