Colmann’s Hill

Winter had arrived with a furious howl. The snow came with wind and ice, coating the ground in a sparkle and slippery sheen. Drifts of snow came blowing from the fields onto roads and sidewalks making it almost impossible to drive or walk without difficulty. School had just let out for the Christmas break and all of the children in the small town had gotten up on their first morning of vacation with the intense anticipation of a free day. The first day of winter vacation was traditionally sleigh-riding day for all of the kids in the neighborhood, and more than a few adults too. The bigger kids would sleigh ride and snow board down the hill that stood next to the local Agway, while the smaller kids would ride down Colmann’s Hill. The parents in the neighborhood would bundle their children up tight and warm, hoping that, for at least a few hours, the children would be out of the house and out of the way. This was fine with the children as well, for they had no desire to be stuck in the boredom of a day filled with chores and endless hours. So, directly after eggs and pancakes had been consumed, milk and juice drunk, the children of the village headed out for a day of snow packed fun.

Colmann’s Hill stood on the north side of town. The hill wasn’t particularly steep, but it had the reputation of being the training ground for all of the little children in the village to learn how to sleigh ride and snow board. Bordering the hill on either side were a dozen or so maple trees. Glancing up the hill you could see a road to the right and a large field to the left. The bottom of the hill emptied out onto a large expanse of grass several hundred yards in length. At the top of the hill were several more trees, directly behind which stood the Colmann house, occupied for the last several decades by old Ms. Colmann, who worked as the school nurse for over thirty years. She was a favorite of the village and enjoyed a special place among the hearts of the children who came to sleigh-ride down her hill. On this particular day a dozen or so grade school aged kids were sleigh riding down the hill and if you stood close by, or even a block away, you could here the laughter and screaming of children having fun and without a care in the world. Occasionally a wind gust would stir up, drowning out their laughter, but soon it would die away and the voices would come back. Up at the Colmann house old Ms. Colmann stood looking out her bedroom window, as still as a statue and as cold as a ghost.

Ms. Colmann was a tall, thin, greying old woman who had never taken a husband. It was said in town that she was too devoted to her work to give even a fraction of her attention to a husband. Although she had many suitors, she was never seen more than half a dozen times in the company of a gentleman. Besides, she was not alone; she had the students at Calvin Coolidge Elementary School to care for. In many ways, she thought of these students as her own children, her own family. For several minutes Ms. Colmann stood at her bedroom window staring at the children having fun in the snow, on her hill. As the sun began to set she turned away from the window and went over to a small table that stood a few feet from her bed. On that table was a book. The book was large, and had a leather cover containing etchings of some sort. In the fading light you had to look carefully to make out the etchings and the color of the leather. Ms. Colmann took a deep breath, laid her hand down on the table and opened the book. After several moments of silence she began to chant in a language unknown to the waking world. As the children outside continued to ride down Colmann’s hill in the gathering dark, a figure, small and nearly transparent appeared in the bedroom window of Ms. Ellen Colmann. The figure’s eyes glowed red.

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