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Summer Snow

The man was awakened by the absence of habitual bird calls. Through his open bedroom window, he could hear nothing. He supposed that this was what had wakened him for he was a regular riser, beckoned from sleep in summer by the songs of his feathered friends. He forced himself from the bed and went to the window.
     The dawn sky was the colour of copper. As he looked to the east, he realized that the dawn was getting more sombre.
     And then, he heard it. It was an almost inaudible sound, a little like radio static at low volume. Something was falling from the sky through the leaves of the trees but it was not rain. He put his hand out the window and felt something like broken bits of egg shells alighting on his exposed skin. He pulled his arm back into the room. It was covered with warm, snow-like flakes. He brought one to his tongue. It was salty. The hissing sound was growing louder and he looked once more out the window at the falling summer snow. He decided to close the window...
     ...Some two weeks later as the first of many villagers began to file past his house on the outskirts of the town, the man began to feel an undeniable, inner urge to go outside. He was getting very thirsty. The water had become undrinkable some days ago and he had used up all the potable liquids in the house, including that of the toilet bowl. He stared at those of his kind as they queued by. They seemed intent on going west. None spoke. They just stared ahead and trudged along. The man noticed that there were no children and no one seemed to be much more than middle-aged. The others were already dead, he supposed...
     ...He thought back over the last couple of weeks.      
     The silent white summer storm had been quite a phenomenon. The media had gone wild with speculation as to its cause. However, this frenzy of conjecture had soon come to an end as electrical power had begun to wane and, at last, gone out completely. The man had stayed indoors, afraid to go out into the snow of salt.
     Now, as he watched his fellow humans file past, the urge inside became strong enough to overcome his fear of venturing outside. He thought of the sea, some 100 kilometres to the west and his heart began to quicken its beat. He suddenly felt that he had a goal! He had a destination!
     He opened the door and, almost fervently, took his place in the line of mortals seeking their way to the ocean.
     The first of the westward migrators began to stumble shortly before the sun set on that first day of the man's trek. It was not long before he had to avoid tripping over someone lying on the ground. He would have liked to have been of help, but what could he do?     
     The sea beckoned more strongly than ever. Someone had to make it, and then, everything would be made right again.
     Several hours later, after a night of walking, the man thought that he could hear the sound of waves. He couldn't be sure, however. The sun was now rising in a sky of surreal blue, almost too blue to be sky. For the first time he noticed the vultures.  They were circling above him.  Something was not right.  Should they not have died too?  He had seen no other form of life save for his own and the others like him.  There was no explanation and he was getting too tired to think.  He had become heedless of his thirst and aching muscles some time during the night. But fatigue had crept up on him, and as he fell into the synthetic snow, it was a relief. He was getting tired of walking over dead and dying humans. It was time for a rest....
     ..He lay on his back. He could hear the sea. Couldn't he? Of course, it was the sea. And it was just over the next rise. He would just rest for a few moments and then he would get up and he would...     
     ...He dozed and the dream came...
     ...He could see a bucket brigade of his fellows reaching all the way down to the sea. Someone had made it, perhaps it was he. The first would dip an empty ice cream pail into the sea, take a drink, and pass it back with the right hand. There would be an empty pail in his left hand ready to be filled and passed on back. It was beautiful, refreshing to see such cooperation, such purpose. And the line of hopefuls was endless. Perhaps it encircled the planet. The man could not be sure as the dream faded, but he smiled as the first circling shadow kissed his wrinkled, blistered face and the sound of the waves lulled him into sleep....
     ..He did not feel the tear of his flesh as the first vulture found purchase...
.By Regis (Reg) Auffray

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Upload Date: 31/12/1969

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