Stillness & Shadow
Lucia Pericolanti is sitting on the window seat in her bedroom watching the snowfall. Her mind is miles away and she is hugging her body less to stay warm than to feel protected despite a slight breeze that leaks through the old window frames. The snow has been falling for nearly an hour and it’s getting dark. Outside her second floor window is a view of the backyard that leads to several acres of woods that surround three sides of her house. A stonewall in need of repair marks a boundary line to the east; during the summer, rattle snakes have been known to hide inside its cracks and crevices.
Lucia thinks of the events surrounding the past several weeks in her life. She has now become much more unsure of herself than at any time she can remember. She goes to her bed, covered in a pink and light purple comforter and two matching pillow cases, and picks up Alice, her stuffed rabbit that her father took her to make at one of those shops that allow you to do such things when she was just two or three years old. Since that day, now beyond the reach of memory, Alice has been her constant companion. She walks back to the window seat and sits down, holding Alice quite close.
If she could, she would sleep, but sleep has become something of a luxury of late. She thinks of the man she saw inside Ms. Colmann’s house. “It must be Noah,” she tells herself. But again, she is unsure of anything she is thinking or feeling. She feels like she might be going crazy. She has tried to talk with her brother about this, but he always seems to be preoccupied with his own troubles, which also revolve around the events surrounding the Colmann house. Her thoughts have now turned toward Mrs. Wright and Ms. Colmann. One woman has disappeared and the other is in the hospital. “Poor Ms. Colmann, I hope she finally gets what she wants.” For Mrs. Wright, Lucia had no feelings at all.
Lucia stares outside and notices the condensation from the poor sealing of these old windows. Drops of water and ice run slowly down her window as she begins to trace a path with her finger. She is surprised at how cold the window feels, even though she should know that it would be cold in the middle of winter. A slight tingle runs from her fingertips, up her arm and neck, and outward across her face and nose. She stares at the lines of water and instantly her finger freezes. The water begins to glow with a bluish sheen, as if someone were shining a particular shade of light onto the window, or had dropped a fluorescent food-coloring tablet into the snow heavy clouds. The bluish glow then begins to change as she watches it more carefully.
She holds Alice up to the window and traces the rabbit’s furry paw down the lines of condensation. As she guides Alice’s paw down the rows of water they once again change color and become rust red. She pulls Alice away and notices that the color has come off on Alice’s paw, and is on the inside of the window. She reaches out and touches the window and immediately feels sticky warm blood. She lets out a scream and runs back to her bed.
“Please stop,” she sobs into her pillow, momentarily overcome with hysteria. She then remembers what she took from the Colmann house the night of the fire. She reaches under her mattress and pulls out a black book. Sitting up in bed she examines the book, but cannot make out the strange writing on its cover. She continues to look at the book, flipping through its pages, until she falls asleep.
When she wakes the sky outside her window is just about dark and she can hear a chorus of dogs barking, only the barking sounds slightly different than dogs. Her room is filled with shadows. She gets up and goes to the window.
Outside she sees a man standing near the stone wall to the east of her yard. He is wearing no coat and is dressed in clothes that are much too big for him. She knows that it is the same man she saw in Ms. Colmann’s kitchen: Noah. She watches him and notices that he is standing very still. In fact, the falling snow has produced an effect of almost complete stillness. Noah is looking back up at Lucia and the dogs are still barking.
Then, one by one, huge tan colored coyotes emerge from the woods beyond her house and gather around Noah. They pace back and forth with agitation. Soon, they begin howling in unison. Noah continues to stand there, still, observant, and patient.
Lucia moves back to her bed and slides silently in, covering her body with the pink and light purple comforter. She holds Alice up to her chest and settles into a fetal position.
Outside the coyotes are howling in the falling snow.