Short Stories

Snow Fun

Burn Him! Burn Him! Konstantin gave Dieter the finger, He’s a Witch! Burn Him! Lieselot could not stop laughing, Bernard pulled out his lighter and flicked it into Konstantin’s face, he’d jacked it earlier and a 4 inch flame sparked up for an instant, before vanishing into Konstantin’s nostrils. He screamed and leapt back screaming, dropping the joint which died with an audible spptt in the snow.

Prick! Are you ok Connie? Prick! Connie let me look! That fucking asshole always goes too far, he’s too desperate to impress Liese! Konstantin rubbed his face. He knew he was perfectly ok, but the sudden shock had got to him. Leoni took a-hold of his face and looked up his nose, placating. Oh a little well done but I think you’ll live. YeaYea, I can smell his bogies cooking from here. Dieter picked up the joint and relit it. Bernard looked a little shaken, the same look as before when he had had too much to drink last night. I’m sorry man, it was stupid. No, its ok, I still have my eyebrow’s at least. Anna who had kept schtum during this moment, which was only the latest episode in a recent spate of what she considered moronic behaviour, decided to move things on. Fucking Christ people, its as cold as the dead out here, can we get a move on?

They, Konstantin, Lieselot, Dieter, Leoni, Bernard and Anna, had decided that they needed some music to accompany the grunt and growl of their rented snow mobiles. Dieter had purchased a cheapish portable stereo for about 1500 kronor and duct taped it to the back of the Skidoo. Bernard had purchased the beer and schnapps. Konstantin, the poorest, now had to put up with their teasing, Dieter was his friend, Bernard was Dieter’s friend, who was going out with Lieselot, his sister’s best friend, which pissed of his sister Anna, more then she wanted to let on. Leoni was Dieter’s girlfriend of last weekend, in more ways than anyone had really conceived of, this trip was really Dieter’s vanity project; all attention led to him eventually.

The night was clear, and slightly too breezy to be comfortable, the snow shone muted in the starlight and though the quarter moon could be seen, it didn’t sit high in the night sky. They had come to Lulea, in the North of Sweden too late for the Aurora Borealis, but it didn’t stop them from hoping. They all avoided looking up at the cold glittering emptiness above them, not because they didn’t find it beautiful but because it made them feel the vacuum of the space above more than the -10 C through their thermals and expensive ski-wear.

The snowmobile’s engines caught on the second and third turn of the key, Bernard took this to mean that his rented Husqvarna was slightly better then the two other Skidoo’s, and turned smiling to Leoni, before revving the engine and dropping down the steep bank onto the sea-ice. The others followed, Dieter pausing to ask Lieselot to push play on his ghetto blaster. Even with the volume turned up full, the burnt CD of Black Strobe and Kitsune Midnight was barely audible over the engines.

The ice was special. You had no idea how thick it was until you had to drill through it, sometimes two metres, sometimes only 40 centimetres. The locals drove trucks on it with impunity, fashioning roads and ice-skating circuits that lasted from mid December to mid April. A road ten metres wide, with a cracked surface, opaque and translucent depending on where you stood and how you looked into it, the debris of trees, picnics, fishing nets, yachting buoys, and constant human activity were locked in, on display until the late spring thaw or the return of the massive 3 Icebreakers, which were each as large and imposing as 10 storey modernist tower blocks, they spent the winter out at sea, keeping the shipping lanes clear for the container vessels and oil tankers.

After 2 kilometres the snowmobiles stopped at an island, a hump of land and dark fir trees rising out of the ice, for brief refreshment consisting of Schnapps and cookies. The boys tried to build a fire but their success was hampered by inebriation and a sense that this was not where the night’s end lay. The girl’s rolled another joint and sipped a beer each, talking amongst themselves, Anna intended to drive the Husqvarna before the night was out and challenged Liese, then Dieter, to a race in quick succession.

While the bottle of Schnapps was shared she took her chance and roared out, revving the engine and leaning her body off the powerful snowmobile into figure eight turns, which fast became noisy over revved skids. The others grinned, only Dieter complained that she was wasting fuel and energy, making enough noise and heat to melt the surface of the ice. At this thought, Konstantin proposed that they seek out the edge. Where the thick, frozen shelves became thinner cracking floes, eventually turning into circular platelets, that would freeze together as night drew in , released by the melting of currents and the heat of daylight combined. It would look like a soup he firmly predicted, a whole sea of the stuff. And before he realised it, the bottle was empty and they were on their way.

The flag stood still in the dark, head lights hundreds of feet away played over it briefly, casting a flickering shadow over the fractured, tessellated surface that it had been screwed into. Bernard, Liese Konstantin, Anna, Dieter and Leoni, wouldn’t have noticed its colour, pattern and warning.

They barely noticed the sudden opening up of the ice beneath them, certainly none of them screamed, the breathe they drew was sudden, shocking, and full of freezing, thick water that filled their lungs. Only Konstantin was aware. The deep black of the cold ocean enveloped them in an instant but he reflexively kicked up and off the back of the Skidoo as it sunk.

The current had already carried the machine and Anna twenty feet along beneath the ice, which he struck with first his head, then his fists and as he realised that he was bumping along the underside of it in what was quite definitely the wrong direction from the hole they had broken through. He stopped struggling, and looked at his watch, it took 1 minute and 17 seconds for him to lose his awareness another 20 seconds to actually die, trapped uselessly underneath the ice pack, frantically treading water to avoid the deep blackness below, swept along in the gentle but firm current.