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by Oonah V. Joslin

Paget and Silena stood by the flattened mounds on the hillside. It had been a year...

“A year since what?”

The voice startled her, and Angelica paused. “Did somebody speak?”

There was no answer. Angelica continued typing.

We weather most storms; take them in our stride. Every day has weather, after all; you come to expect it. This wasn’t like that. This was not the weather of the world. If only we’d had some warning.

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Who’s there?” Angelica spun round in her chair. She had goosebumps. Still there came no answer.

A blizzard just comes at you all at once and the only way to prepare is to always be prepared. But nobody ever is.

“What colour was the blizzard?”

The voice was real, strong and somehow dispassionate, but there was no one there. Angelica had a tendency to cut herself off from people when she was working on a new book, but she’d never imagined voices before. “I don’t know who you are, but will you stop interrupting my train of thought?” Her own voice was comforting.

“What colour was the blizzard?”

“Who’s there? And what kinda question is that? Snow’s snow!”

“A simple question, and you can’t answer!”

“I just did. Snow’s white.”

“So, you were talking about real weather, natural weather? Snow’s white, not like Snow White and the dwarves, like you’re making it up?”

“Of course I’m making it up. It’s a story.”

“Or going to be. I thought you were talking about a B L I Z Z A R D.”

There was an icy whoosh of air. Doors and windows rattled. Maybe she’d been overworking.

“Well, if you ask me, all that ‘snow’s snow’ stuff’s been done to death. Can’t you be at least a tiny bit original? What if it wasn’t white?”

“What do you want?”

“I was out there in the blizzard with the hunters, and the snow was red, and it smelled of warm blood, then after a while it cooled to brown and smelled like fresh venison with forest herbs roasting over a crackling fire?”

Angelica backed towards the door. She was having a conversation with nobody. On the positive side, there could be a story in it.

“What if you butt out, mind your own business and let me get on with my writing?” she said.

My own business, is it? Your writing? Who’s this story about?”

“Paget and Silena.”

“Well, I’m Paget. You could consult me from time to time. Give me something exciting to do. Put me into space or something.”

“I don’t do Sci-Fi.”

“‘I don’t do Sci-Fi,’” mimicked the voice. “What do you know about me? You don’t even know what I look like.”

“Well, show yourself...” Angelica was staring vaguely at the place she thought the voice emanated from, but it kept changing position as if someone was moving around her.

“How can I show myself when you don’t know what I look like?”

“But it’s my story.”

“Ego trip time, again.”

“No, it’s my story — fact! Now PISS OFF.”

“Ah, I’m to be blasted into oblivion by a blizzard of indifference, am I? Don’t suppose you know what colour indifference is either! Okay, I’ll go away. Silena and I quit! Don’t we, dear?”

“You’re the boss, Paget,” said a silky voice Angelica had only ever imagined.

“I gave you that line, Silena. How dare you use it to...”

“I just changed the context. Here, let’s see if we can’t improve on your plot.”

Angelica’s chapters, stacked neatly beside the computer, suddenly threw themselves into the air, swirled around the ceiling and came fluttering down, littering the floor. Stranger still, the type face fell off and splattered randomly onto the blank sheets like alphabet soup.

“What’ve you done you... you... bitch!”

“Ladies, play nice,” said Paget.

“Okay, I’ve had my say,” said Silena, and Angelica knew from the draught that ruffled the papers strewn on the floor that she’d gone.

“We wanted to be reasonable,” said Paget. “An author should always have respect for her characters. We know what you are about to do. You killed off others. How would you like it if we could decide your fate?”

“I do respect you. I do.”

“Really? What colour was the blizzard then?”

Angelica hesitated. “Red? No, blue.”

“Goodbye, Angelica.”

“But you said you wanted red...”

There was only silence.

“Paget? Silena?” Angelica looked at the chaos of paper and print littering her floor. She turned to the words on her computer screen. No problem. She had it saved.

Slowly, the text began to waver. “It can be any colour you say. Any colour,” she said aloud.

Words swam about, intermingled and began to disintegrate. The characters became a confetti of black that cascaded to the bottom of the screen like dusk starlings, then disappeared. The cursor was frozen. She switched everything off but still the display only glowed a ghastly white.

Angelica stared at the screen in horror. Her face reflected its pallor. She opened her mouth but no words came, no sound, not even a scream. She had no thoughts. Her words had been swept away. Devoid of language, she sat staring at the keyboard in confusion for a long time. Then she just sat staring. Finally she just sat.

Copyright © 2010 by Oonah V. Joslin

Proceed to Challenge 587...

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