My feet sank into the open holes two at a time and locked into place. I lifted the soft polyester past my knees and up to my waist, feeling each inch cling and squeeze until I couldn’t bend anymore. Suspenders fit over my young shoulders, assuring that I could roll around in the cold for hours and remain unscathed. After I fitted myself with the hat and gloves left on the heater from the day before, I escaped into the light.
I hated the kids who wore jeans in the snow. Sure, they wore a layer of long johns and another of regular sweats underneath and swore they would be fine, but they always quickly gave in to hot chocolate and video games. Just the day before, I spent an hour designing and building a snowboard ramp with a denim clad friend, only to jump it by myself for 15 minutes until boredom took over and I left. I couldn’t trust them, so today I decided to go it alone.
The blizzard from the night before generously blanketed the yard and roads with enough snow to stop the small town country busses long enough for the local news to catch wind and declare our freedom. Drifts pushed piles of only the best packing snow next to trees, stumps and hills, creating prime conditions for a snow fortress. Choosing the best foundation required meticulous attention to detail. Too steep and the hole could only be so wide, too shallow and the hole could only be so deep. After careful examination, a small hill appeared to have caught an impressively balanced mound. I speared my fingers into oblivion and started digging.
Proper fort building snow doesn’t pepper off like sand, but compacts into neat little heaps that serve to remove easily and gel around newly formed strongholds. Due to good fortune and impeccable planning, I disappeared—almost entirely—within the mound in a manner of minutes. Though a dim light from the clouded sky snuck in, when enveloped within the icy fort, the wind and the world ceased. At once, I noticed to myself that escaping into the cold is actually remarkably warm. I figured that, even if I had worn jeans, I could survive comfortably tucked away.
As I sat reclined with my back against a rounded wall and my legs fully extended, nothing moved. The air, though surprisingly warm, nearly froze. My breaths paused at my lips, retreated back into my lungs, and repeated consecutively. I stared at my feet, admiring the odd serenity of my formidable construction, just as I noticed a dull rumble outside. Unsure if it just began or always was, I reasoned my options and determined that digging deeper was indeed the safest plan of action.
At first, the snow moved like blocks of ice, with each chunk needing laborious attention, but there was no immediate rush. The rumble was soft and, despite the difficulty, the worked seemed curiously like play. Each foot I descended meant one more to brag about to the jean kids, but the rumbling continued, actually increasing in volume and vibration. To ignore the distraction, I carefully plugged the hole and packed it tight. The only light now seeped unwillingly through the fort’s thin crust roof.
By now, the snow moved much easier, but my makeshift sound buffer struggled to reduce the increasing violence outside. There would be no escape, I decided, and panic set in. I dug furiously downward thinking that I would reach ground and feel anchored once again, but the ground never came. Like the world outside, it disappeared or eluded me. In desperation, I vigilantly packed each new handful of snow at the top, hoping to drown out the noise and protect myself from whatever biblical catastrophe occurred outside. With the increasing darkness returned comfortable stillness and a sense of safe familiarity—an escape from imminent and uncertain obliteration.
There I sat content in a drift upon a mound; a slight, unnoticeable depression upon a disaster upon a world of which I ingeniously escaped. For now, though time stood still with my feet and my breath, I was secure from the rumbling above. My snow pants and snow ceiling kept my warm. I didn’t know if a mug of hot chocolate waited for me on the kitchen table or if the world I loved cosmically vanished, but I liked the unmovable stillness—I decided to stay.