This piece was something I enjoyed writing, as it was part of a college writing assignment. The parameters were simple. Keep it short, around 1,000 words, and it was to be an original work. I thought for some time about what to write, as most writers do, and suddenly it came to me. Looking over some of the sample plots that were handed out, I took a flimsy connected idea and wrote the begining to this work and voila, it "A Cold Night" was born. Since it was to be short, I kept the characters simple, and the scene simpler. Liking the age old premise of only two characters being involved, I wondered what a typical couple would be doing in a cabin at night (sometimes we writers aren't that complicated). From there my imagination ran with that question.
A Cold Night
The hand on the clock ticked slowly. Each passing moment sounded like a hammer striking an anvil made of stone in the silence that filled the room. The nighttime air outside had turned brisk, and the open window allowed its touch to reach the home inside. It was a simple cottage, tucked away in the woods. As the season changed into late fall, scarce an animal was to be found at this time of night, save an owl, perched on a high branch. A late night meal had called on its appetite as her eyes scanned the ground for a fulfillment. Off in the distance, wind could be heard whistling through the trees, providing a background overture for the night.
Mrs. Rache sat in the large lounge chair, fire crackling, emitting heat in an attempt to warm the room, but to no avail with the open window. On such a nice night, who could bear to not feel its effects? Certainly it would do more good than bad. Hopefully Otto wouldn’t get upset. He enjoyed the warm fire and the quiet as any sort of neighbor was quite a distance away.
With a trim of natural wood, and a brick fireplace, the two story cottage was similar to a painting, with an attention to detail that proved to be a perfect for its environment. The overhanging easement added charm and a soft border to where the building ended and the trees around it began. Oft smoke could be found rising above the tree lines from lit fires, and this cottage was no different, with the one now burning. Mrs. Rache gazed into its flames, gathering solace from their intricate dances. Dashing this way and that, rising and dropping at a moment’s notice, the flames were offering onlookers a dizzying display of acrobatic skill. To her, they were almost entrancing, more so than the book she read, despite what the woman said in the bookstore about it being entrapping. Supposedly a mystery novel, she found it quite predictable. There was no point to it if she had already figured it out within the first hundred pages. Perhaps she would go again tomorrow to pick another, weather permitting. Snow had fallen and it wasn’t done.
Forcing herself away from the fire, she went back to her book when there was a faint snapping sound just out the window. Finishing the page, she glanced up to see what had made it.
Nothing seemed stirring. Just the wind.
Turning back to her book, Otto came in with a cup of coffee and a large novel of sorts, the title implied historical significance. Her cup of choice was tea, his was coffee. Despite their difference, they made it work, albeit ups and downs along the way. To some, they were at odds, but to them, it worked to justify the ends of an overall content marriage. Mother had told her that she married too opposite, to be careful but the heart wanted what it wanted, and who was she to debate it? She was no heart doctor.
As he sat in his green chair, she heard another snapping sound.
“Lots of creatures wander at night, right?” she asked offhandedly.
“Of course, but not many when the air gets colder. Why?” Otto said not looking up.
“I heard something outside.”
“Probably a deer.”
She heard it again. Twisting in her chair to get a better look, “But we haven’t seen a thing since we got here.” Only the shadows play outside.
Otto took a sip, “Doesn’t mean something isn’t awake.”
The clock ticked on. Silence prevailed until a slight rustling sounded just beyond the tree line. “Could you go see? Maybe a poor creature needing warmth.”
“They’re a wild animal, I’m sure…”
“Oh Otto, please?” she said, without turning around.
He snapped the book shut and sighed. “Then can I get back to relaxing? That was the point of all this I thought.”
“Otto please, it will make me happy. I can’t bear to have it out there. Not tonight.”
He got up, mumbling to himself all the while. The things he would do, do this, do that. Why couldn’t he get…
Putting on his gray jacket and boots, he opened the door, shouldered the cold and stepped outside. The door slammed shut behind him. Even the wind didn’t want him out here. He glanced around the reach of the cottage light, and failed to see anything. He walked left a-ways, then, the other direction. As he approached the open window, he pointed to the right, behind him. She nodded.
Mumbling all the way, he dug around and found nothing. “Of course. Dressed up for this…” He called behind him, “There is nothing out here. Can I come in now?”
He would take it as a yes. Now his coffee would be cold. He sighed again, heading back to the door. The light had gone out. He would fix it tomorrow. Tonight, all he wanted was to be warm.
He twisted the knob on the door to open it.
Stuck. He jimmied the door. The cold probably froze it. He lifted the small pot by the door; the spare key was gone. She forgot to put it back after the bookstore.
“The door is stuck,” he whispered loudly, hoping she could hear him. A few seconds passed. He tapped on the door.
Silence. Not wanting to wake the entire woods, he went to the window.
It was closed. Where had she gone?
“Mother was right.” That was the last thing he heard when struck.
Mrs. Rache locked the window, re-settled into her chair, picked up the book Otto was reading and took a few sips of coffee. She took moment to enjoy the quiet nighttime air mixing with the fire. Pulling the blanket tight around her, she delved into something that piqued her mind as the night moved along, scarce a creature to be found outside.