It was snowing heavily outside. The kind of snow where if you have the misfortune of being outside, you can’t see more than a couple of feet ahead of you, and that’s not even your biggest problem. The kind of snow that makes the world seem a bit darker, that makes mornings feel like evenings, that makes the sun shy. The kind of snow where every sound is amplified, where everyday noises are gross aberrations, where Silence seems to take shape, like a person who’s sitting in the room with you, sprawled on the armchair, watching you with patronizing indifference.
The fire had burned itself out through the night, and without that Warden of Warmth, the Cold had crept in, slowly at first, confidence increasing with each step. By the time Locke woke up, the Cold had settled itself into the house with the brazen countenance of an uninvited guest.
Locke was old. He was made of old bones which creaked and threatened to crumble. He was made of old muscles that had long forgotten the fire the youth. He was made around an old heart that plodded along.
Normally, Locke liked the cold. There was a Chill deep inside him, as though something in his innards had frozen solid. But in the cold, he would be numb, and that almost, almost helped him ignore the Chill.
But this Cold was too darn much. With a thousand mutterings and a convoluted string of curses (the politest of which was ‘dog’ and the worst of which was fairly unmentionable in genteel circles) he pushed himself out of bed, and hobbled over to the fireplace.
He scraped the ash to a side, and took his time in building the fire. There was plenty of firewood next to the hearth (thank God for the boy), which he arrayed neatly with the coal. In considerable time, the fire was burning cheerfully, and the Cold made its excuses and left.
Locke sat next to the fire, too tired to move. He stared into the fire, the brightness muted by his clouded eyes. His thoughts wandered to more temperate climes, to trees that sang with the wind, to warm caramel rolling down the side of cake, to the woman dancing with the intensity of…
He woke with a jerk. He’d nodded off. Blearily he looked around himself, and accepting that he was actually sitting on the floor, he resigned himself to having to push himself up. With a grumble or two (or twenty) he heaved himself upward, using the mantlepiece, his stick and a few choice profanities for support.
As he stood, the typewriter on the mantleshelf caught his eye. Despite the decades it’d been through, it still shone like a bright new penny, like an ornament. Which, Locke supposed, it had become.
He saw this typewriter every day. But today, somehow, he could not take his eyes off of it. Mayhaps it was the dreams that he had seen as he was dozing by the fireplace, mayhaps getting out of bed had energized him, but somehow, he could not look away from that typewriter.
Locke raised both his hands to the typewriter, his stick clattering away at his side. Gently, ever so gently, he lifted it off the shelf. He carried it to the desk, walking with the slow, measured steps of a pilgrim. He set it dead center of the writing space, equally spaced from each edge. He bent from the waist, and pulled out the drawer, which rolled ever so smoothly, to reveal a huge sheaf of blank sheets, yellowed with age. But there wasn’t a single bookworm, unexpected for a stacks of paper left alone for years (he really ought to pay the boy more). He pulled out one of the sheets and with a fervour almost religious, fit and rolled it into the typewriter.
He hobbled back to his bed and retrieved his glasses. Pulling them on, he settled into the chair. For a moment, he closed his eyes, thinking of the half-formed images that had seemed so real when he’d sat by the fire.
And then he started to type.
Every bone in his finger creaked, as though coated in rust. It was as though, like their master, they too were grumbling at having to move so much. From disuse, the keys of the typewriter were unyielding, much like a proud young lady resisting the advances of her lover after a long period of inattention.
But Locke persevered, and soon the fingers moved by his will, and the typewriter accommodated his wishes.
Locke didn’t notice, but in some hours, the Chill inside him started dissipating, and whatever was frozen inside of him started to thaw.
(Image Credits: The Diogenes Club on Tumblr. Many thanks.)