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Fiction Sad

The back of the old man’s neck was going numb from the snow as he watched another star go out. Another loss of the war raging in the celestial sky as unyielding darkness continued to spread towards the snow covered hills.

It won’t be too bad, he decided, witnessing the end of the world here in the Arctic. The snow banks surrounding him kept out most of the polar winds and he had only just stopped shivering. Here he would lie until the end of times.

“What are you doing over here, little frog?”

A warm hand took his own gloved fingers and, begrudgingly, he sat up. Snow fell from his hat along with the fuzzy pompom his wife had stitched to the top. It had been loose lately, but he had hoped it would hold on a bit longer.

“Come by the fire and sit with me.”

The old man let his younger sister lead him to the fire where he groaned at the pain in his joints as he sat beside her on the frosty ground. Heat from the low flames tickled his feet, slowly spreading throughout his limbs until even the tip of his nose felt thawed out. 

“I fell,” his words tore at his throat, “but the snow caught me and I slid a long way.”

His younger sister nodded with her sweet smile as she handed him his nearly empty water flask. “Drink. You’re too old to be hopping about in the snow, little frog.”

She still smells of flowers, he thought as he took slow painful sips and the icy water trickled over cracked and bleeding lips, flowers and summertime even here in the dead of winter.

Only three years apart, their summers had always been spent together running through the fields behind the farmhouse their parents had owned back in the states. He had always been an active boy, small for his age but stuffed with the energy to fuel at least two more of him. His sister had given him the nickname ‘little frog’ after a late summer incident involving the pond, some rocks, and a family of tadpoles he had decided would be fun to swim among after falling into the pond with a panicked splash.


“What are you gazing at?”

The old man’s eyes had been sweeping the stars once again when he felt his wife settle beside him. She linked her arm with his and he took his hat off to place it over her graying hair, covering her reddened ears. 

“The stars are going out, my dove.” His gruff voice was sad and hoarse. “It is a sign of the end.”

“The end indeed.” She agreed before staring up towards the heavens alongside him. “What do you suppose is causing it?”

He had no idea. 

It was confusing.

“The world is shrinking.”

His wife nodded at this and shivered a little beside him. He took his coat off and wrapped it around her. 

“Darling, you’ll freeze!”

“The fire helps,” his stiff smile attempted to chase away her protests, “I can barely feel the cold now thanks to its warmth. Stay beside me and we can be warm together.”

His wife had been the most beautiful girl in high school and he had chased her unrelentingly until she had agreed to date him. Their marriage only a few years after graduating had led to a lifetime of love and happiness complete with house, a son, and a dog. 

When he had reached his mid-life years he had decided it was time to take on the adventuring he had always dreamed of doing as a young boy. His wife had been nervous about his travels, but he always returned home to her and eventually she had grown used to his lengthy absences. 

Upon hearing of his desire to travel up north to some of the coldest reaches of the Earth, she had taken it upon herself to knit him a hat. This way he would be reminded of her always as she kept him warm even outside of her loving embrace. The pompom ball at the top of the hat had made him sigh at first, but her humor and care won him over and the hat quickly became his most prized possession. 

The pompom held on for twenty-two years until its final threads had lost their hold.


“Father?”

More stars were gone and the dark eating up the sky had grown enormous. The old man’s world was growing smaller and smaller and he wondered if it would hurt to be swallowed up by it’s inevitability. 

Pain and stiffness made the old man’s rise a slow endeavor. A small boy stood behind him by the snowbank with reddened hands covering his mouth to try and stifle his giggles. 

“Where are your gloves?” The old man scolded through a lump in his throat. 

“I forgot them.” The boy looked down bashfully before his small face turned upward to the dwindling stars. “It’s almost here, father.”

The old man nodded, no longer wishing to look at the sky. “We should go home.”

“Home is very far away.”

“It is.” He agreed. They would never make it in time. “Come, sit with me until the end.”

As the young boy ran over to him, a large brown and white fluffy dog came bounding through the snow and over to sit beside them. It whined anxiously until the old man patted its head. 

“It’s scary,” the boy’s voice was barely above a whisper, “and cold, so cold.”

“I’ll keep you safe.”

He had always tried to keep their son safe. 

As the darkness gobbled up every star in its path towards them, faster and faster, the old man hugged his son tight. 

It was almost there. The end. 

The boy had been fragile since birth, but as adventurous as his father. They had gone on short hikes together in the Ottawa National Forest many a time, with their day always ending with the boy riding back to the car on his father’s shoulders. 

Memories of their adventures together were held dear to the old man’s heart. 

“Do you think it will hurt you?” 

The old man closed his eyes at his son’s question. He focused on the wind and the slowing beat of his heart.

When he opened his eyes he was alone and it was very dark. 

The stars were gone. The snow was gone. The hills were gone.

“No,” the old man whispered, “I didn’t feel a thing.” 

January 07, 2024 17:29

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5 comments

Sarah Burke
01:22 Mar 02, 2024

I love when stories have a twist at the end like that - very well done!!

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A T
16:51 Mar 16, 2024

:3 thank you!! Im always a bit wary of writing twist endings, but felt comfortable with this one.

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Tammie Williams
03:08 Jan 18, 2024

Sweet story even though it was meant to be dark. I could clearly visualize the characters from the descriptions, But I visualized them as frogs who took on human actions. Not sure if that is how you mean them to be or not. I would be careful with the amount of the word (had) you used and a couple of times you changed tenses. Great job of showing and not telling.

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Alison Reed
18:56 Jan 16, 2024

Beautifully written. I love the sense of unreality that increases until what's happening is clear. Nicely revealed!

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A T
23:47 Jan 17, 2024

Thank you!! I'm always nervous hoping I can portray what is happening without outright saying it.

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