Do you feel that? The soft, needly brush of the winter chill on your cheek? Do you know what that is? That’s fate, bearing down on you with a hammer and a black-toothed grin. That sting you feel is an omen, telling you that every day for the next several months will be a punishing ordeal. Welcome to Winter.
The human species arose in equatorial Africa. You are a tropical creature, never meant to live this far away from the direct heat of the sun. Your existence here is a cruel mistake. In your hubris you think it your species’ birthright to infest every region of the planet, and you take some sort of spiteful pleasure in clinging to life in a place where the earth itself wages war to force you out. Every hour spent in this wasteland is an act of willful defiance, a snarl of hate directed at the natural order of the planet.
All life and light drains from the land. The springy, fertile earth turns to obdurate stone. Trees skeletonize. Grass withers. Every animal flees in terror or dies where it stands. All becomes death and silence. Only you and your human kin, the most insane of all the animals, remain here in this prison.
The cold!! You wrap yourself in layer and layer of cloth to forestall its assault in vain. More than the mere absence of heat, the cold is a force in itself; a black cloud that circles you, studies you, finds your every exposed swatch of skin and rushes in with zeal. It rides on the dry, clawing wind that scours your skin. It stings your eyes. It penetrates fiber and flesh and turns your bones to icy steel. The cold lives inside you now. You carry it around everywhere you go, a constant reminder of your sins.
You cannot meet the cold on equal terms. To survive, you seal yourself inside your house, burning bits of the Earth and pumping in heat to sustain yourself, heat which parches all the remaining moisture out of you until you feel like a dead husk ready to crumble into dust. You listlessly dither your days through while staring out the window at the dark tomb beyond your artificially-maintained cell. Your brain cries out for stimulation, your body for activity; you shout your body down, cheaply sate your brain on entire seasons of television shows you despise. When bedtime comes you curl into a fetal ball under fabric a foot thick, defeated, dreading the next day.
The snow! How oddly fitting it is that trillions upon trillions of elegant, symmetrical crystalline structures, some of the most beautiful things to be found in nature, should fall from the sky by the ton to spread misery. Merciless, the snow buries all. It will bury you if you let it. Trees and roofs groan under its weight. It grabs your feet and your legs with freezing fists as you walk through it. It falls on roads and rail lines and airport runways, spiting human ingenuity, laughing as every path of travel becomes dangerously obstructed and snarled with traffic. People scramble to remove the snow in the manner of ants rebuilding their wind-scattered colony, and to equal consequence. People drop dead from exhaustion and the snow swallows them up.
Where there is no snow there is ice. Ice glistening and smooth and unnatural that paints death’s own portrait on every surface. Ice that forms wicked points under your eaves like a monster’s fingers. Ice that happily snaps ankles, shatters craniums, and sends four-ton trucks careening through crowded storefronts. Every reliable foothold betrays you. You dump salt on the concrete to make the ice go away. Some of the salt brutally kills the dormant grass on the edges of the walkway. Other salt is tracked inside to stain the immaculate floor of your home with sickly white clouds. Another unwelcome harbinger of your unbeatable enemy.
Where there is no ice there is dark. Dark so deep you can fall into it and never find its bottom. Precious, life-giving sun pops out for but a few hours before it is cruelly snatched away again. Your light-starved body revolts. Your circadian rhythm breaks down. Seratonin drains away. Hormones wander around your body to no useful end. Your starved synapses shout at you inside your own head. As you shut down, hopeless and glum, you peer into the implacable night, willing it to take you. The moon, master of the dark and of everything unalive, glints off the snow, its ghostly light searing your eyes and mocking your being.
When the curse is finally lifted off the land, when the first light of spring kisses the soil, you will crawl out from your lair, pale and blinking; and you will wonder whether the moral victory of another winter endured was worth the horrible cost.