Below Freezing

The Living, the Dead, and the Path Between

Linora Kingsley is a nine-year-old child; she has light brown hair that reaches down to her waist, hazel eyes, and fair skin; she is curious, dreamy, adventurous, but was born weak, and had to visit the hospital many times when she was younger. Her parents dote on her, and care for her, but all she wants is to be healthy, so she can explore the world. She can rarely go to school during the winter, and she gets extremely ill in the middle of October, so she has to miss a lot of school. She feels left out, and she isn’t as ‘smart’ as people her own age, but she manages to get by, since she learns at home. But, her parents work and they can’t have so much time for her, so she is almost always left with her aunt, who almost doesn’t care of her Niece's existence.

On the Christmas eve, Linora slowly walked up the stairs to her room, past the room that auntie was sleeping in, and through the creaky door. Moonlight streamed into her room, and the stars appeared to be out. 

“Christmas Eve.” she mumbled, walking up to the windowsill, and staring up at the sky. “Another Christmas goes by, and I can’t do anything, or go anywhere exciting but stay in this room.” 

She saw a flash in the sky, and a shooting star was going past. She jolted, and decided to make a wish, placed her hands together, and interlocked her finger. “I wish that I could be a healthy grown-up, and I could explore the world, and mum and dad could come home for Christmas,” After Linora made the wish, and looked back up at the clear sky, and the crescent moon towering above the world. “Wishes don’t come true, why do I even believe in wishes anymore?” she sighed, and crawled into bed.

The sheets are cold and hard, with mum not there to read her a story, and dad to come in and crack a bad joke before she goes to sleep, then they both think she’s asleep and step out of the room silently, closing the door with utmost care. Those memories felt so nostalgic, and she opened her eyes to the place where her mum used to sit, with her book on her lap, but of course, she wasn’t there. Just a slightly dusty chair basked in the moonlight. “I wish…, they could come home…” Linora mumbled, looking at the small kitten-shaped digital clock by her bed, which flashed “20:26”. They’re always on business trips, or told to work late, to fill in shifts or complete some work, so they never come back, and auntie doesn’t care in the slightest about her. Linora closed her eyes tight, with the moon watching over her, and tears slowly fell onto her pillow, and she eventually fell asleep.

Linora awoke in a small nightmare, one where she was falling into a black tar-like pool. Slowly fluttering her eyes open, and looked around.

‘The hospital...? Maybe something happened while I was sleeping.’ She thought to herself. Rubbing her eyes, she noticed her hands. They were much bigger than she last knew, and seemed to have aged.

‘What’s going on?’ She looked around, and pressed the button for the nurse to come.

The lady came in rather quickly, thinking something urgent might’ve happened. “You’re awake!” She exclaimed, excited and happy but also bearing the weight of having to explain what had happened.

“Did something happen last night?” Linora asked the nurse, obviously confused.

“I… must get the doctor to explain what happened. Just wait here, and try to keep calm.” The nurse said, giving her a small smile before exiting the room to retrieve the doctor.

Linora slowly regained all her senses, however her joints felt like they were killing her. she decided to stretch a bit, and carefully climbed out of the bed.

“When did I get this tall?”  her questions went on. Standing, it felt like she was trying to balance on two straws as she fell back onto the hospital bed.

“What...?” Linora said to herself, barely being able to stand. Then “click!” she heard the door open and turned her head, and saw a man walking in the room followed by the nurse, obviously, he is the doctor.

“Ah, Linora Kingsley, am I right? Welcome back to the living.” The doctor joked and stood next to the bed.

“What happened?” Linora asked the doctor, wanting to bombard him with her questions.

“I’ll be blunt with this. You have been in a coma for 10 years, and we’ve been taking care of you here.” He said, a stern, serious look on his face.

“Ten… years...?” Linora asked, not believing what she had heard. “Is that even possible...?”

“I understand you have questions, but let’s just be thankful you have waken.” The doctor gave her a warm smile. “I’m sure your parents would’ve been happy you lived, you have my condolences.” His expression turned a bit sad, not for himself, but for Linora.

“Would’ve...?” Linora asked, and quickly made sense in her head. “You mean…they’re…?”

“Dead. I’m afraid so.” The doctor finished her question with a professional tone.

Linora felt her heart sink, and a stinging pain in her chest. Her eyes became blurred as tears immediately began to take hold.

“I know it’s hard, but you still have your nanny.” The nurse tried to comfort her, but remained oblivious to her how nanny was.

“Great…” Linora whispered under her breath, as her eyes became puffy.

“Just be thankful you’re alright. it’s a Christmas miracle.” The nurse said.

“Yes... I am happy for that.” Linora said, and her breathing slowly became more steady, as her eyes became dry.

The doctor and nurse exited the room. After some time, the nurse came back with a wheelchair, and helped to place Linora in it and moved her from the ICU to an outpatient room. The nurse helped Linora settle down comfortably in her new bed, and gave her medication. Then she looked at Linora and asked, “Your nanny stays in Kirklees Nursing Home, would you like me to contact her for you?”

“How long has she been there?” Linora asked, wondering if she could come.

“For about three years, and I heard she’s been doing well there.” The nurse said.

“I think I am alright here.” Linora said after a while, “I might visit her after being discharged. By the way, where is my parents’ resting place?”

“In Almondbury Cemetery, you may easily find their tombstones.” The nurse said.

Two days later, Linora was discharged from the hospital. She declined offers such as psychological treatment or the help of social workers, before letting her out of the hospital to the open world. Linora already had in her mind where she would go first, the graves of her parents, who never got to see her from her long sleep.

The snow kept falling gently, and Linora’s hands were slightly red and her light brown hair drifted down over her shoulders and to her waist. She huffed and smoke could be seen coming out of her mouth, and she kept walking towards the forest, which would lead to the cemetery. She could see children’s snowmen around, slightly disfigured, some losing a carrot nose, and some even with scarves left on them. After a few minutes of walking, she came upon the forest, where the trees towered over her head. she slowly hopped over an uprooted tree, and entered the dark cluster of trees.

“It’s like a winter wonderland…”  Linora thought, holding onto a tree for balance while she stepped over a log. “It was as if this place was made just for me, that I could stay here forever, and that time had just… STOPPED.” Linora looked up, and the branches blocked her view of the sky, and the snow fell gracefully down. She could see robins hopping from tree to tree, projecting their beautiful voices once in a while, and they eventually disappeared. A piece of snow fell onto her eyelashes, and she quickly rubbed it off, and while she gently rubbed her eye, a deer came to greet her. It stood in the shadows, and it hid behind the tree cautiously before stepping out it’s long thin legs into the open, and approaching her.

Linora was startled at first, but felt an odd connection with this deer, as it came up to her and lowered its head. She stroked its forehead, and tickled behind it’s ears, and it shook its head playfully. She smiled warmly towards the frail deer, and they had just met, however it opened up rather quickly. she was sad it had to stay out in the cold, but it had always lived with it. They had that in common. Moments passed before they parted their ways. They turned and glanced at each other as they walked apart, this would be their first and last meet.

Continuing walking, Linora kept huffing in the air to make smoke. Although she was considered an ‘adult’ now, she had not changed from the moment she went asleep. The cold air brushed against her skin as she walked, as everything had turned white from the falling flurries. It was all so surreal, truly beautiful, and it touched her heart. It was truly mesmerizing, being able to experience and feel something she had only seen from a window.

Flowers somehow began to bloom around Linora, as if she was living in a dream. “Flowers don’t grow in snow, do they?” Linora questioned the flowers’ existence. They grew at such a rate, that would be impossible during the spring, the season which is known to melt away the snow, and bring the vegetation back to the land. They looked like small ice flowers, icicles even, which wavered at her touch. She bent down to pluck one from its snowy roots, and it bended easily to her will. It had beautiful white petals, with a pinkish tint, and the petals, when touched, had an opaque look to them, which added to the magnificence to the flower. The stem was soft, although constructed out of ice, and white-frosted leaves dangled from the stem. She gathered a few flowers for her parents, as an offering, and the different types of flowering plants amazed her. There were different coloured tints, and whole different types of flowers altogether, and it all fascinated her, something she would have never seen if she was stuck in the same room, the same house, and the same world. She could’ve never experienced this beautiful, winter wonderland.

However, in the distance she could see a dark fence, not changed at all by the snow. It was the cemetery. The cemetery was somehow out of place in the midst of all the falling snow, and soft layers of white stretching as far as the eye could see. A giant chapel could be seen appearing, as a bunch of grave stones had also taken shape. Feeling a wave of sadness overcome her, she opened the gate and walked in the place the dead sleep.

Linora looked at grave after grave, trying to find mother and father’s. Some gravestones were slightly tilted, from the soggy mud which was drenched in the somewhat wet snow, and all of the footprints, and marks of human action seemed to have been buried in the vast amount of snow which coated the whole town, but somehow didn’t affect the cemetery at all. It seemed to be out of place.

Linora gently ran her fingers across the grave headstones, reading the causes of all these deaths. “Died by freezing… Died in a car crash… Died in her slumber.”

“Wait a moment…” Linora whispered under her breath, and kneeled to the headstone. Gently dusting the snow off of the name, her eyes widened. “Linora Kingsley…” It read. Linora immediately fell back, the shock it caused was too big to bear.

“T… This has to be a mistake… Maybe they thought I was dead...” Linora said to herself, trying to think of a more rational solution.

“I’m not dead...!” Linora exclaimed with a hush tone, staring at the gravestone. Glancing to the right, and caught sight of their names: Mother and father… This is where they lie, asleep. She crawled over, and set the flowers gently down onto their burial ground. The flowers had been frosted over, but it made them sparkle, making them stand out from the grey stoned grave... she didn’t know she had already started, but her tears had already started falling as she hugged the stones.

“I miss you so much…” Linora said between hiccups, trying to keep a steady voice as she wept. The gravestones felt cold and hard, but she felt an unusual warmth within them.

It had felt like she mourned for hours, every part of her had felt numb. Although she grieved for her parents no longer existed, they had to be in a better place now. That was the smallest bit of comfort she had left. Memories of the times they had spent together flooded back into her head, just like when they would read her stories until she fell asleep. The memories were filled with warmth and happiness, it felt like they had been the only thing that kept she going. Though, she could feel her body growing more and more numb by the second. It didn’t scare her, in fact it felt relieving. Tears slowly stopped coming, as the world grew dark to her eyes. However, a bright light quickly swarmed out the dark. It was warm again. She realized she was back home with her mother and father, but she didn’t question a thing. If this was the living, the dead, or the path between, at least they could be together again.



Linora’s frozen body was never found.

By Brenda Sheng

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