She Swirled the Tea Slowly

Submitted into Contest #129 in response to: Set your story in a snowed-in chalet.... view prompt


Suspense Thriller Speculative

She swirled the tea slowly.

Marian leaned back into her couch, sinking into the cushions and preparing for a long night in. She twisted and turned to bundle her way in under the handmade quilt, her hands cupping the tea cup in every attempt to stay warm. Though a fire blazed, it was still confined to the small space of her wood stove. But even had it been a giant roaring fireplace, nothing could’ve stopped a chill creeping into her bones. The storm outside was simply too cold. A constant thud was heard as the windows held strong against the storms winds. The sole barrier between her and the storm. But she knew in time that this constant thud and constant threat would become nothing more than a monotonous background. It always had, year after year. 

She swirled the tea slowly.

January was always a tough month. Up here in the mountains, nothing could stop the feet of snow that fell. Her closest neighbors, though farther down the mountain, worked hard to keep the roads clear, but each year the community was always trapped at least once. Marian had it even worse being at the top of the mountain. She had learned to stock up so she knew there was enough to last at least a week of blockage. Even with that knowledge she still feared the storm. She was in a chalet, not a fortress, so the notion her home may collapse if the winds decided always stayed in the back of her mind. But still the fear was worth it. Anything was worth it to stay away from the world.

She swirled the tea slowly.

But still it was not all bad. Though her home was small it was comfortable. It was her own. The wood stove worked well enough and she was always happy about her running water. But not just that, the rug at her feet was always soft and the patterns of her quilt always comforting. She could feel the scenes beneath her fingers, a swing on a tree, and swan in a lake. So even when she was snowed in, when the fear of the storm creeped on her, these little things were always there. And most important of all was the tea. Her hike was filled with large boxes of tea bags and cans of tea leaves. Delicate tea cups lined her shelves with chips and cracks from their overuse. The perfect drink for her cottage of isolation.

She swirled the tea.

She looked down into her tea. The milk blossomed and moved as though freshly poured. It’s cold nature invading the warmth of the water. She could only view this delicate process in awe. Once the milk subsided her attention turned to the small purple flowers painted on the porcelain. Flowers she could almost feel. Their soft petals under her fingertips fluttering with any increase in pressure. Sweetness spread throughout her tastebuds as she sipped it, in the way she always preferred. She knew to leave tea bitter, was to leave it unfinished. A shell of what it may become, of what it could be. However, despite this sweetness something was off, something not properly together. The small spoon hit the edges of the cup as she swirled again and again hoping to fix it with a, clink clink clink cli-

She swirled the.

She did not know if the winds were picking up or slowing down. The wind had swirled to pace where neither shape nor movement could be decided. But she did know the time. Above this obscure mass was the inklings of a sunset. Soft pinks and yellows flittering their way through the clouds. The grey obscuring the vibrant colors, but allowing just enough to see a more beautiful sunset. A softer one, a one in which the sky itself seemed tired. Marian stared endlessly into this sunset, the perfect distraction from the imperfect tea. Soon the pinks and yellows were exchanged for purples and blues as the sun seemingly sunk lower into the sky. The snow flickered here and there into Marians view, but it only added to the gentleness of the sunset. But then she sipped her tea.

She swirled.

The sun was gone. All left now was the never ending storm. The moon was not strong enough to break through its ferocity so Marian was left in the dark. The wood stove provided light, but yet it seemed even the fire could do nothing against this darkness.  The constant thud reappeared from the background reminding her of its power. A storm is not meant for the background. Fear so familiar yet none less terrible returned, as the storm threatened to invade her home. And nothing seemed to be of comfort anymore. Not the surety of fire, or water, or supplies. Not the softness of a cushion or the delicacy of a quilt. Not even tea. Especially not this tea. For the tea was wrong. The tea was wrong. The tea was wrong. The tea.


The tea was not itself. Marian was not herself. In the hand that rested on the quilt there were no longer scenes, no longer trees nor swans, not even fabric, simply something as cold a snow. The biting sensation of ice touched her fingers as she lingered for a moment before pulling away. Then came the burning. A most intense burning sensation that only comes after the most intense cold. Her hands throbbed with red hot heat as her eyes prickled with tears. She waited and waited but the pain subsided only a little as Marian prayed for it to end. The fire was no longer flickering either. It was simply a dull wave of greyish red, that hid behind the glass of her wood stove. The pain intensified again and she struggled not to drop the tea. But why should she save it. The tea was wrong. The cup was gone, and the porcelain was shattered against the front window. 


The storm had come. Hundreds of miles of winds deafened Marions ears as snow clouded her vision. She screamed but no voice could be heard over the storm as she felt her body thrown across the room. Over and over again she felt the winds thrash across her back for what felt like hours. But then she saw the fire. It still flickered as it had hours prior, and tea cups still sat in a pretty line no more damaged than before.

 I feel not myself, the tea changed and so had I. A sense of other has taken me over and I’m not sure when I will return. But for now the storm shall rage, and for now I shall bask in it. 

The tea swirled her slowly.

January 19, 2022 06:55

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