The Warmth

Ice and darkness. This is all they know. They can’t remember how long they’ve been like this. They don’t even know how to try to remember. There is nothing but cold and longing.

The constant cold never wavers for an instant, never hints at reprieve. Can it even be called cold? How can it when there is nothing to compare it to, when they can’t recall the sensation of heat? And the longing is just as inexplicable. Indistinct and unarticulated, the cause is an enigma beyond their comprehension.

And yet, every so often, they draw together. Fanned over great distances, they drag themselves, converging on one singular point which enraptures them the way nothing else can.

It is pure. No broken heart or ruined dreams. No failures, disappointments or regrets. No guilty conscience or buried resentments. Overwhelming potential courses through its tiny form. Its heat pours forth, washing over them.

Must have more.

What could it be? What does it mean? As the warmth strikes against their nothingness, the oddest sensation is produced. It is something altogether different than their frozen solitude. It tingles, burns and is most pleasing.

Must feel more.

They struggle to absorb it, to make it permeate their beings. Little by little, bit by bit, they feel themselves. After so many years, numb and empty, they can feel!

They arch and stretch, but their enjoyment soon passes. The further their ecstatic movements place them from the warmth, the sooner they weaken. So they crowd closer.

They know each other now, the way an animal knows a rival. As they grasp at the warmth with their invisible claws, they snarl, jealous and hungry for every ounce of life it breathes out.

Mine!

But how glorious that they can experience gluttony and envy. How wonderful that there is now an awareness of self.

I remember walking through my father’s fields…

…smell the bacon frying. My wife was making breakfast…

…out hunting. I checked the trap lines…

…my baby was sleeping and I finally could…

…stuck in traffic again! So I picked up my cell to call…

Memories rip through them like lightening and they shed ether tears at each revelation. But the pleasure brings panic. This is temporary. This is one blast of arctic air away from emptiness again. They need the heat. They crave it. Despite its cries, they press forward. The fear they incite only intensifies the energy they desire.

…at sea, seven days from port, and I was on night duty…

…couldn’t remember ever seeing that man before, but…

…horn blaring…

…knelt down to read the tracks, but they were too…

The warmth gasps and gurgles. It sprays spit. They are too close, filling its mouth and nose. The gurgling becomes choking. It cries for relief, but they do not relent. Their warmth is all that matters. They are happy. The fog which had surrounded them lifts. They gather themselves together.

…my name is Susan…

…Jamal…

…David, but everyone calls me…

…Lien Hua…

…Etienne. I remember…

I remember!

The warmth shudders. It fades. It slips away, as does the great realization that only a moment before seemed so obvious. They howl. Now that they’ve had a taste, they refuse to give it up. As they push and shove to get closer to the withering warmth, they fail to notice that it has stopped crying.

A chill floods the room. The warmth is gone. They struggle to hold on to it; the precious knowledge, the understanding. But it is in vain. They begin to numb and to forget the brief impression of life. They move away from the crib, directionless once more, desperate and yearning. They blanket the house with their sorrow.

They know that they have lost something special, but they cannot grasp what it was. Soon the source of their mourning is borne away and they drift aimlessly, consumed by a crushing sadness that they cannot remember or explain.

Time will pass. Maybe days, maybe years. But eventually, it will come again. They will spot it, no matter how faint, no matter how far. They will find it.

That beautiful warmth.

Ω

Sarah-Jane Lehoux  Sarah-Jane Lehoux's website x has always had a passion for storytelling. From grade school tales of cannibalistic ghosts, to teenaged conversations with God, to her latest fantasy adventures, she's attempted to share her love of the quirky and unconventional with her readers. Sarah-Jane currently resides in Ontario with her husband and horde of cats. With a degree in anthropology and a diploma in animal care, she is employed as a veterinary technician. In between wrestling with rottweilers and fending off fractious cats, she has continued to craft stories that will entertain and provoke.