It was a middle-aged chalet, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains; we were a superannuated couple, her and I, set in our ways; and the unusually harsh northern wind was set on excoriating anyone who planned to have a good time outside. We often stayed in… but today was different. Very different.
I held a steamy mug of coffee prisoner between my palms and let my gaze run free outside of the frosted windowpanes. There was no reason to expect anyone to show up today; the roads were choked with fluffy dry snow. A layer of ice played the supporting role beneath. No one without chains, 4-wheel drive, and a mild death wish would dare make the steep trek I looked down upon.
Moments later, she showed up on skis.
My head tilted on its axis as I pondered the meaning of this blonde creature standing at my chalet door today. No one had booked today; I wouldn’t have been there if they had, of course.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
She tossed her eyebrows at me with a vaguely familiar smirk.
“I doubt it,” she answered, brushing past me into the living room.
She didn’t answer, and I was forced to close the door. The north wind was unkindly exfoliating my face. I was now a prisoner with my mug, but a prisoner to whom?
“Who are you?”
The woman threw ski goggles, a fluffy hat, gloves, and a nice coat onto the sofa. Then, she took off her white boots and it was only after this that she faced me.
“Really, Georgina? We’re going to go through this again?”
The mug almost escaped as my face blanched and my skin went cold.
“How do you know my name?”
She crossed her arms and smiled, and I thought she was lovely – if I had to say. Tall with long blonde hair, she wore a pale pink cashmere sweater with white pants and rosy, thick socks. She reminded me of someone; that made me feel a little better. Still, I couldn’t place her.
“You still don’t recognize me?”
She shrugged and walked into the kitchen.
“Where’s the food?” she asked, opening the gray cupboards. “You know, you could feed me more. Do you know how often you forget to let me eat?”
She stared at me now, expecting an answer.
“I don’t know who you are!” I burst. “I think I should call the cops.”
I set my mug down on the counter opposite where she stood and reached for the cell in my back pocket. No signal, of course, but I pretended anyway.
She ignored me and pulled a box of Ritz crackers off the countertop. She opened a sleeve and ate five crackers at once. I watched as her eyes lit.
“These are fantastic!” she spurted between the remaining crumbs.
She took the rest of the sleeve with her back to the sofa and sat down. I put my phone back in my pocket. What was the use? She didn’t appear to be a killer anyway. I reheated my coffee in the microwave and sat down in the chair adjacent to the mysterious character.
“So, what do you want?”
She held me up with just one finger as she finished off another five crackers, then said, “I want to know what you’re going to do with the next scene.”
She deadpanned me. “The one with Steven and the nymphs.”
“You’re talking about my book?”
No one knew about my book. I worked on it in secret on days like today, but I had never shown a soul.
“What else would I talk about? Feels like we’ve been married forever – and don’t think I don’t know you’re about to knock me off – I know!”
I checked the clock on the wall: It wasn’t even noon. I hadn’t touched a drop.
“Married?” I echoed, trying to catch up.
She laughed. “Well, you know. How long have you been working on me anyway? – Most would have given up by now. I’ll give you that.”
I could call my therapist tomorrow, even if I couldn’t get down the mountain for another week. She liked me; she’d take the call.
The blonde shook her head, finishing off the sleeve of crackers. “You still can’t figure it out, can you. Oh, well, fine...”
She stood and said, “Attire.”
The woman reassembled within a funnel of black smoke, like a goddess from a distant unnamed land, wearing that black gown trimmed in white – the very one I had always imagined! The room warmed by ten degrees and that telling twinkle at the tips of her crown gave her away –
I gasped and sat up.
“Delta?” I scratched out in strained chords.
“Good,” she replied, acting more like herself now. “We can move onto that scene now.”
“It’s not possible,” I muttered, shaking my head.
“Cedarshakes, girl! What do I have to do to make you believe your own creation?”
I could feel the heat of her anger – just as I had always described it. My cheeks flushed.
“It’s really you?”
She smiled –
I recognized that! I was shaking while little glee bubbles were simultaneously rising to my head; I felt drunk and warm.
“Are you going to turn me into a louse?”
She laughed. I laughed. A between-the-covers joke.
“Seriously though,” she sobered. “Steven. Nymphs. I don’t like where this is headed, Georgie, dear.”
I tried not to laugh. My character was talking back?
“I know.” I threw my hands up. “But it’s the logical climax.”
Her chin floated; I was drowning beneath her stature. I had made her powerful.
“His betrayal? My death? – This is logical?”
“How did you get here?” I really didn’t want to discuss the book with her. Anyone but her.
“You should know,” she smiled.
She shrugged. “It wasn’t difficult.”
Her eyes wandered around the place, and I let them. Anything to put her off. I had my brain on the rack trying to pull out a solution, but I had no idea how to get rid of her. She was weighing me down; she’d hung around for too long already.
“Do you think I have potential here?”
I startled. “Here?” My brain sabotaged a laugh; a few beat-up chords came out. “No; I don’t think you’d like it here.”
Was that even possible? Panic punched me.
She glared at me. “I don’t think I can trust you anymore, Georgina.”
“Don’t say such things, Delta – I made you! – You know I love you for your part.” And I mostly meant it.
“Yes… for ‘my part’ but not for the whole, right?”
Her eyes twinkled, but I knew there was no soul behind it. I had written in that twinkle, and I had made her soul like the blackest hole, unsearchable. It would be her or me before the end. That’s how I wrote it. That was the whole of her part. And there was only one way out.
I took a deep breath and nodded as if coming to a sudden revelation. “You want the whole part?”
Her countenance cheered as her head tilted. “Yes, Georgina. You will do that?”
“Okay,” I agreed, smiling.
She looked pleased and sat back down on the sofa.
“Now about that food. Would you like more?”
“Delightful. Now we are speaking the same language,” she nodded.
I got up and went to the kitchen. She began to prattle on about all of Steven’s flaws, of course; I would expect no less from her. My smile reflected in the handy kitchen tool – perfect for meeting strangers in a snowy prison.
Her back was to the kitchen. I plunged the knife deep between her blades mid-sentence. Then, I stuck it straight down the top of her skull and left it there. What else could I have done? I had only built one fatal flaw into my ancient and all-powerful companion: flattery.
I retrieved my laptop out of my suitcase, took it outside, and beat it with a shovel until it seemed reasonably useless; then, I poured the rest of my coffee on it just to be sure. God knows – the only way to trick a backstabber is with flattery, and the only way to kill one is with a knife to the back.
“Backstabbers breed backstabbers – Right, Delta?”
That was what she used to say… I missed her already. But, as usual, she’d left me another mess to clean up.