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News & Features » June 2018 » “Driven Snow” by Nancy M. Michael

“Driven Snow” by Nancy M. Michael

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, a romantic drive through the Rocky Mountains turns deadly when a blizzard hits.

Driven Snow
by Nancy M. Michael
Loveland Pass, Colorado

He fought the steering wheel as the old Pontiac struggled to keep its footing in the dense falling snow. The center meridian line was obscured by the blizzard; every landmark was lost in the whiteness. With little to guide his path, he held onto the wheel with both hands, peering intently through the windshield, anxiously keeping an eye on the guardrail; close enough to see it, not so close as to rub against it. He worried that the wall of white the blizzard placed just feet in front of the headlights could conceal an obstacle that would send the car careening over the edge of the road into the abyss. Far from being between a rock and a hard place, the road to Arapahoe Basin was between Rocky Mountain granite and the nothingness of the space that separated one mountain from the next. 

Taking I-70 to Loveland Pass and then turning west to take highway 6, he followed the romantic route with sweeping vistas and dramatic scenery. The winding way was curvaceous yet dangerous: the generous sweep of the road suddenly gave way to angular hips of mountainside, where the viscous effusion of an avalanche could suddenly cascade down a crevasse and sweep all away with nary a thought to the consequences.

The sleeping form in the seat next to him stirred. He glanced over to survey her pointy androgynous features and short cropped hair faintly illuminated in the failing light. Like skiing in deep fresh powder, her cool detachment was initially refreshing, cool and light. But she had not warmed, and he hoped a weekend on the slopes might change that. He sighed and pulled his eyes back onto the road.

It seemed an eternity, but the battle with the whiteout conditions lasted only about an hour before the curtain of white subsided to show headlight-illuminated sheets of driven snow, billowing and swirling like wind-blown hair against the darkness of the valley. He shifted in his seat, realized how stiff he had become, and relaxed his arms. Rolling his shoulders back and then loosening his white knuckled grip on the steering wheel, he wiggled the fingers first on his right hand, then his left.

It was then that he noticed that the radio was playing softly. “Nights in black satin, never reaching the end…” He pondered, Nights or knights? and his mind wandered back to when he had first heard the song. Wrapped in sheets damp with sweat, the air musky with love’s labors, tendrils of long blonde hair mingled with the dark curls on his chest. In his mind’s eye, he saw her green eyes and her warm smile. Like a cat. When she stretched, her arms reached over her head, fingers splayed and then rolled back into light fists as she pulled her elbows to her chest. She was a domestic housecat: warm, clingy, always twisting herself around his legs. His mind drifted. Just what the truth was, he couldn’t say anymore.

The woman next to him stirred and glanced at him sharply, saying, “Damn it! How can you let it get so hot in here? Couldn’t you have turned down the heat or cracked a window?” Twisting around to kneel on the seat, she reached behind herself and grasped her left sleeve with her right hand, tugging at the cuff. “Can you help me here?” she exclaimed.

As he reached to grasp the fabric, her fingers lost their grip and her left arm recoiled against the door with a slap. “Ow!” she exclaimed and pulled the hand towards her side, catching the cuff on the handle of the door. Before he could react, the door opened, and in horror he watched her tumble out. In the corner of his eye, he saw the rail squarely positioned in the right headlamp.  His distracted attention had caused him to veer toward the rail. Instinctively, he both put his foot on the brake and swung the wheel to avoid the cliff’s edge. With a sickening thud, he felt the rear tire hit her, and in the rearview mirror he saw her body slide under the rail and into the white abyss.

Fear engulfed him. What could he do? It was a thousand foot drop off that edge. He turned the car around and paused, pondering his options and feeling the cold darkness around him. Then, he eased off the brakes and drove on, singing with Al Jolson: “California here I come . . .”

***

When asked to write a 6 word biography, NANCY M. MICHAEL wrote, “Diverse background means little scares me.” But skiing does. And so does driving in the Rocky Mountains. A native of Illinois, Miss Michael grew up in Hinsdale. She currently resides in Chicago and enjoys bicycling to work. Although the job that pays the bills takes much of her time, she enjoys writing, gardening, and manual arts such as weaving, knitting, and painting.  One goal for this year: finish one of her novels.

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Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jun 29, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder, Original Fiction | Tags: , , , , , ,



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