Don’t fall behind. Don’t stop.
The snow is everywhere, in piles around our feet, stinging our faces in the wind, and seeping through clothes, through skin, through bone. The cold is the only thing we are certain of now, infinite in time and place; we have no memory of not being cold and no sense that there is anywhere it does not reach. Walking in that snow, in that impenetrable cold, is the hardest thing any of us have ever done. Don’t fall behind. Don’t stop.
The rules are simple. Walk and live. Fall behind and die. They pursue. So we don’t stop. Even if our living has become mechanical, functional – left foot, right foot, left foot – it is all we have and so it is all we do. We are not sure if we still feel, soaked in frost and numb to our core, but we maintain the trudge through some unconscious autonomic impulse. The impulse to live. Don’t fall behind. Don’t stop.
The longer we walk the thicker the snow drifts and the more numb we become, the fire in our heart that kept the chill at bay dying to embers. Our steps slow until movement is almost imperceptible; the weight of snow on our boots too heavy to lift. It would be easier to stop, to lay back in the freezing embrace of the white blankets that surround us, close our eyes, and be swallowed. But there is some heat yet in the ashes. Some flicker that we once remembered as hope. Don’t fall behind. Don’t stop.
We are lost now. Our eyes blinking against driving, whirling flurries of sleet and powder, tears long frozen clinging to our cheeks. There is nothing to see beyond white oblivion: we don’t know where we are. We don’t know how we got here or how we might reach somewhere that’s not here, just that we must put one foot down in front of the other and walk. We walk not to find our way out: we walk because to stop signals defeat. They pursue. Don’t fall behind. Don’t stop.
We walk to escape. We don’t stop because they are relentless. The faceless stalk us.
The faceless do not weep for they lack eyes with which to cry. The faceless do not speak for they lack mouths with which to talk. The faceless do not hear for they lack ears with which to listen.
No tears. No voice. No sound. But they know. They know, they mourn, and they pursue. And their mourning will only know peace through their vengeance on us. Us that see and shed tears. Us that shout and laugh. Us that hear so much. So much and yet not enough.
The faceless tread soft, as silent in their coming as the over night frost, as the snow ‘neath our feet. We do not hear them; as they do not hear us. But they do not rely on such things. They know. They mourn. They pursue. And their vengeance will be without mercy.
This is the eleventh story in my series of 42 shorts that I’m writing to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity. This one is a slightly abstract attempt to express how depression feels to me. Please share it if you liked it (or even if you didn’t…). If you’re interested in donating to a great cause then please visit my fundraising page. https://www.justgiving.com/42shorts/