A Story by JB Murray

A wintry tale...



By: JB Murray © Dec 2011-12-15


            He knew the roads were icy before they had even left the lodge.  Weatherman said a storm was rising, blowing in from Canada, crashing into another front coming from the west, and was surely to blanket the northeast in a centuries new record snowfall.  The day had been warm though, very pleasant.  But as the clouds rolled in, they brought with them the slightest rain.  Then the temperatures dropped.  Then the snow started.  But it had been a great holiday get away from the rest of the never stopping world he and Samantha were accustomed to.

It was a light, soft fluffy blanket at first; the flakes being whisked away from the tires of Jarrod’s SUV.  Jarrod had both hands on the wheel.  The traction control on his vehicle managed the occasional slippage here and there as they winded through the endless roads in this back country, a canopy of trees lining either side of them.  His wife sat quietly in the passenger’s seat, a book opened on her lap, her glasses hanging just on the tip of her nose as she often did when she read, as if she weren’t really looking through them at all, but rather over them.  It was an endearing trait that he always found amusing.  Somehow, it was the simple things like that, that always felt like home, even though their home was relatively new.  They had dated only a year, marrying the year after, and now on their third.  But nothing felt quite like home to him, as his Samantha.

A slight smiled appeared on her face, her cheeks crawling upward as she turned her head and glanced at him over her glasses.  Like always, she had know he had been watching her.  He smiled back, and winked.  Samantha giggled that one of a kind giggle, where she shook her head in the slightest from side to side, and covered her mouth with her fingers.  It was an almost child-like gesture, almost purely innocent.  She mouthed the words I love you through that smile of hers.  He took one hand from the wheel and reached over, grabbing hers. He pulled it to him, kissed the top of her hand, and held it to his cheek, closing his eyes for just a moment, breathing in the smell of her skin, and the warmth of her caress.

His hand on the steering wheel slipped violently to the left as the wheels caught a long patch of ice.  Everything that happened next was slowed down more than just a fraction.  It was like living a lifetime in a matter of seconds.

He let go her hand and reached for the wheel, his unconscious mind preparing to take over and steer them to safety.  He glanced over as Samantha’s glasses fell from her face and she gripped the dashboard with one hand, the passenger’s side door with the other.  Her smile had contorted into a mask of fear; eyes bulging wide, mouth perched to scream.  The SUV skid sideways for a moment, and next he knew they were backwards and he was looking out the windshield at the road they had just traversed.  The force of the skid kept him pinned against the armrest.  He was then looking at the tree-lined roadway, the forest, sparse at first, but growing denser the deeper you looked, the whitest blanket of covering on the forest floor.  The road again.  And as the vehicle swung around once more he caught only a glimpse of it.  But the glimpse was all he needed.  The outcropping of boulders by the roadside, peaking out from under the snow, maybe just a bit higher than the tires on his SUV.  How fast were they spinning?  30?  40?  50? Faster?  He had been going at least 40 before the wheels tore out from under him just moments before.  The truck was sideways again.  He craned his neck, working against the force of the spin, the cords on his neck standing out, in an attempt to look at Samantha.  She, herself was pinned to the passenger’s side door.  Jarrod closed his eyes.  He knew it was coming.  And then suddenly it was as if someone had turned off the volume to the world.  The screams, the whooshing of the wind, the SUV engine, all fell silent for just a second.  Then there was a CRACK!  Metal bent.  And the force of the spin changed in that instant as they were both pulled upward against their seatbelts.  Jarrod watched the world turn upside down as the SUV struck the boulders and flipped.  The forest whirled by, a kaleidoscope of pine greens, bare brown branches and flutters of snow.  The SUV flipped into the woods, and he knew they were now at the mercy of fate, and fate alone.  In all that forest, the SUV found a lesser dense part, and flipped into the woods, down a gradual descent.  The roof concaved and windows exploded; the hood bounced open like a trapdoor and ripped off as the front axle snapped and a tire went rolling ahead.  The truck turned over and over and Jarrod could swear, looking to his right that he could see the immense pine coming toward them at breakneck speed.  Then the SUV smashed into the tree, just beyond the front tire of the passenger’s side.  There, the truck lurched, and fell back into place, stopping abruptly.

It took a moment for the haze to lift.  Jarrod shook his head and looked up, the cobwebs falling from his vision, not quickly enough.  There was a ringing in his ears, and he was freezing.  His window had been smashed, and snow was blowing in through it.  Frantically he looked to his right.  Samantha was not there in the passenger’s seat.  He coughed, swallowed back something coppery and sweet.  He reached for the door handle and tugged at it.  Amazingly enough, the door was free and swung open.  Jarrod didn’t as much as step out of the truck as much as he fell out, landing on his hands and knees.  The snow was considerably deeper now.  He wrenched his neck up.  Even in the dense wood, he could see it was coming down much faster now.  Stumbling, he got to his feet, and, using the truck as a crutch, he walked around to the passenger’s side and pried open the door.  His senses were starting to come back to him now, adrenalin rushing through him, warming him slightly making his thoughts that more coherent.  The passenger’s seat was empty.  He stood, looked around him and the wreckage.  There in the snow, just past the tree with which the SUV had collided, sat her book.  The one she was reading on the trip back.  He stammered forward and picked it from the ground.  There were specs of crimson on the cover.  That’s when he saw it; a trail.  Droplets of red were spattered here and there on the snowy white linen of the forest flow, leading deeper into the woods.  Had she gotten out by herself and walked off in that direction?  But there were no footprints.

He slipped the paperback into his back pocket, and without thinking much now for his own safety, the matter of finding Samantha winning over, trudged out into the woods to find her.

He couldn’t tell how long he’d been walking.  But the silence in the woods made everything deafening.  Each time the wind picked up he could feel it to his core.  Clumps of snow falling from the branches almost seemed to echo in the infinity of the forest.  He walked at first, then his pace quickened and his heart raced.  Little by little he sped faster and faster into the unknown.  And then, without warning, the trail ceased.  He looked to his left, his right, ahead and behind.  The ground was untouched.  The trees around began to spin a little as a brief bout of panic set in.  He turned this way and that.  Where the hell was he?  He screamed.  Jarrod then fell to his knees and began to cry.  His tears were nearly freezing to his face, when moments later, he felt the oddest of things.  It was the warmest of breezes.  Almost like breath against his skin.  In it he could smell embers, cinnamon and pine.  Warm, like home.  He looked up, confused.  The breeze had halted.  But ahead in the woods stood a man?  Was it a man?  Tall, dark hair, with eyes of a crystal blue he’d swear.  He couldn’t quite make out his clothes.  Jarrod rubbed his eyes, once, then twice.  The man was still there.  He smiled at Jarrod.  Was he pointing?   Yes, yes he was.  He was directing Jarrod.  Hastily Jarrod jumped to his feet, stumbling over a bit.  When he stood the man was gone.  Had he imagined him?  No, certainly not.  His feet were moving before he could command them to.  He trotted off in the direction in which the man had pointed.

Jarrod ran now.  He ran hard and fast as the woods around grew denser and denser still.  He was running full as the trees closed in around him.  And then he bounced off of one with his shoulder.  They were surrounding him.  He was walking, as briskly as he could, skirting this was and that through the trees, each only a matter of a foot apart, their trunks stretching into the heavens, their branches now covered in snow, nearly strangling all the light of day.  He looked back and could not see behind him.  He was caught in this labyrinth.  But still he moved forward, something pulling him, almost beckoning.  And then, just as sudden as the SUV slamming against the boulder, he came to a clearing.  The space was huge, vacant, and he could see the trees circling around the outer creating a cul de sac of sorts.  And there, in the middle, something lay.  He need not see it up close, as he knew what it was.  He knew the light brown jacket and the feathery hood even from here.  He knew the long black hair fanned out against the snow.

Jarrod took off at an unbelievable pace.  Snow kicked up behind him off his boots.  His Samantha.  Yes.  He knew it without even knowing.  And then he was upon her.  He skidded to a halt and looked away, his breath caught in his throat, a sickening feeling clutching at his gut.  His eyes filled with tears.  He looked back slowly, and there she lay, sprawled out on the snow like a rag doll.  A crimson halo circled her body, her face contorted and frozen in a disgusting, vile grimace.  Jarrod sobbed as he knelt near her, and scooped her up in his arms.  The warmth had left her completely now, and she was stiff, heavy.  He screamed again and lowered his face to hers.  He cried an eternity’s worth of tears. 

A warm breeze flittered by.  Cinnamon.  Pine.  Embers.  Jarrod looked up from his wife’s corpse.  The man was standing over him.  Only he looked older this close up.  He was tall, yes.  His hair dark?  Yes.  But his face was sunken, shallow, almost cutting.   His eyes were vacant and hollow.  He smiled down at Jarrod.  Jarrod smiled back.  Was this a hallucination?  Was this man an angel, leading him to his Samantha?


“Are you,” Jarrod stuttered against the cold, breathing in the warmth that seemed to surround this man that stood before him.  “Are you… an angel?”


The man spoke back, though his lips never parted, nor his mouth moved.  The words flowed not from him exactly as they seemed to more or less come from the howling wind.  The smile never left the man’s face.


“Not exactly,” he returned as he reached behind him and pulled a black hood up over his head.

© 2011 JB Murray

Author's Note

JB Murray
Wrote this for a recent contest. Was fun to pick up the pen again for something other than songwriting or poetry... been a long time since I tried my hand at a narrative like this...

My Review

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I enjoyed the narrative and pacing of this story. The images and characterisations were very detailed and well thought out. I'm truly glad that you gave short story writing a go once again. If not for your decision to do so, such an entertaining story would never have seen the light of day. That would truly have been a shame. Fine work!

Posted 7 Years Ago

Good one! *votes*

Posted 7 Years Ago

I like it. The tight verse reminds me of Raymond Carver, like an actual person egnanging in casual conversation. I'd just break up some of the writing into much shorter paragraphs to keep the feeling going. It also would make the appearance of the man in woods more jolting if a paragraph started wth him.

Posted 7 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Added on December 15, 2011
Last Updated on December 15, 2011


JB Murray
JB Murray

Orange, MA

About me huh? Well... I am writer...go figure huh? Lol. I am writer in many ways. First and foremost, I am a singer/songwriter. But I also dabble in poety, essays, one liners, short stories, and .. more..