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October 20, 2016

Published onOct 20, 2016
October 20, 2016

The persistent whistling. Like cold air rushing through a partially cracked car window at high speed. That’s what he noticed first.

It reminded him of those early morning drives to high school through the snow. There was hot brown coffee in his travel mug that spilled over into the cupholder as he drove along icy local roads onto the main boulevard on the way to school. The sky was blue, but not a bright, pleasant blue of summer. A graying blue of winter, laced with wisps of frozen clouds the color of iced over pavement.

He would turn the heat on, but it would fog up the windshield so that he could barely see, and so he would have to crack the window while the defroster started up. And the cold air would whistle in through the crack as he drove. The persistent whistling again.

He would wear his big grey winter coat in the morning, but leave it unzipped, even on the way down the front walk to the street where he parked. He’d put his coffee mug on the roof and slip off his glove to operate the keys. If it had just snowed, he’d have to wipe the snow off the lock with his bare hands, his chewed fingernails digging into the metal groove to clear it of debris.

Once the car started and the heat came on, it would swelter. That’s why he would leave his jacket unzipped. Swelter until the windshield fogged over and he had to open the window just to see where he was going. Then the frigid air would whistle in through the crack in the window and somehow go right to the gap in his unzipped jacket and burrow its way down past his sweater and past his undershirt, hitting what might as well have been bare skin.

The sound was unmistakable, but he wasn’t in high school, in his car, now. He opened his eyes. The sky was the same blue-grey of an early winter morning of his youth, but he wasn’t looking out at it through a windshield. He was looking straight up at the sky, the wisps of frozen cloud suspended in the air like exploded darts.

He strained to pick his head up off the ground, but his aspect wouldn’t change. He couldn’t turn. His eyes wouldn’t move. His gaze was static, the only movement the clouds drifting lazily with the high gusts of the troposphere.

Had he truly opened his eyes, or had his vision been switched on? He closed his eyes again. The scene went dark, but he didn’t feel his eyelids sliding over his retina, and the sound of whistling didn’t abate.

Instead of opening his eyes again, he merely requested vision. It — whatever it was — obliged. This time, he was looking down from the vantage point of one of the clouds, his periphery changing slowly as he drifted on the wind. He noticed a dark spot in the grey fields below, and focused on it. There he was, lying motionless in the wind.

By Gabriel Stein on October 21, 2016.

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Exported from Medium on October 22, 2020.

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