Winter, 2013
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!


Hearing a light thump outside, she walked to the front door and opened it slowly. Wind and snow swirled and the cold lashed her cheeks. By her feet she discovered a small pot with tiny white flowers. She recognized it as a Galanthus nivalis. Footprints in the snow led to and from the porch and a note tied to the slender stalk fluttered in the icy air...

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.


by Roelien Reinders, NZ, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Iceland can be very dangerous. That's because the weather is so treacherous. One moment it's perfectly sunny, and the next moment you're captured in a snowstorm so violent that it takes your breath away, and you cannot see one hand in front of you.
Luckily Icelandic women are very tough. They're used to coping with the elements in their most extreme forms. They can handle them! Yes, they can!!

That was what I was telling myself over and over again, driving on that slippery, icy road with steep edges down into the abyss. Our daily route home to our secluded village up north. Three kids in the back of the car. Gunnar clasped a pot of snowdrops in his little hands. The teacher had granted him the privilege of taking care of them for the weekend. Maybe I should have offered her a lift. She was going our direction. Well, she has her own car.

The snow was beating incessantly against the front window, and the flakes were whirling down in such a thick tapestry that you couldn't distinguish anymore if it was day or night. It was supposed to be dark, but everywhere around it was white, white and white.

Still 20 miles to go. How? I couldn't see the road anymore. I should stop. No, I couldn't. No use to call 112, because no one could come to our rescue. We'd have to stay in the car until the storm blew over. Would there be enough fuel to keep the motor running so we could stay warm? We could freeze to death in less than an hour!

But wait, there was a rescue cabin nearby. Not exactly a cabin, but a shelter carved in the rocks, right after the tunnel we were about to pass. You have a lot of those in secluded areas, where you can find yourself blankets, food, and a heater.

Our speed was about 10 miles/hour. The adrenaline rushed through my blood. Where's that tunnel? Please come quick!

"Mommy, I'm scared," Alfdis said with a tiny voice. "I can't see anything."

"We're going to die," Ragnar said decisively. Alfdis started to cry. Ragnar hit her, full of contempt.

With all my might I concentrated on the road ahead. No time for quarrels now. Finally I drove into the dark tunnel and stopped the car right at the end.

"Children, get out of the car and wait until I come. We'll stay in the shelter tonight."

"Mommy, I don't want to stay here. The draugar will come and get us!"

"Draugar don't exist," Ragnar said.

"Yes, they do," Alfdis cried out. "They're in the storm, chasing us. I can hear them clearly!"

I shivered. There were indeed a lot of strange noises in the storm. Whistling, shrieking, sighing. If the draugar get you, you're condemned to an afterlife of eternal haunt over the glaciers. Not that I believe in them. Just folk tales. The frost makes those sounds, and so does the wind.

"We have no choice. We cannot go further. And there are no draugar here." I tried to convince myself.

I pulled the kids along to the bright orange door, and pushed them inside. I locked the door, searched for matches in my handbag and lit the candles that were standing everywhere. In just minutes I managed to make the cave cosy and almost warm.

Then Gunnar started to cry. "I left my snowdrops in the tunnel. They're still standing next to the car."

"We're not going back outside, Gunnar!"

"My teacher will be angry!"

"No, she won't. She'll understand."

Gunnar sobbed. I was proud of him; such a responsible little man.

Though it was dry and warm inside, you could still hear the storm clearly. The wind beat aggressively against the rocks and the door. There was a high whistle in the air, and a crackling of ice all around.

After some effort I managed to inform the rescue forces of our whereabouts. They'd come as soon as possible.

Apart from Gunnar, the children were too agitated to sleep.

We listened to the sounds. It was indeed just like a hunt - a wild hunt. One could easily imagine spirits and demons riding through the air this night. I started to distinguish quite a clear voice now. It mingled with the wind in a disruptive, eerie way. The wind banged on the door with vehement fists.

Alfdis grabbed my hand. "The draugar are trying to get in, mommy!"

I could barely speak, my mouth was dry. "Ssst, let's pray. Let's ask that nothing bad will come to us."

Ragnar frowned, but he too kneeled with us on the sheepskins on the floor. After what seemed over an hour, the beating diminished and the voice died away. I fell asleep with the kids in my arms.

I awoke in peaceful silence. The storm had subsided. Then there were shouts.

"Rescue Troops. Please open!"

I hurried to open the door.

The officers were pale.

"What in heaven's name has happened here?"

I followed their glance down.

The stiff and frozen body of a young woman was lying in front of the big, orange door. Next to her was the pot of snowdrops, as if it had just fallen out off her hands.

What Roelien won:

$300 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

Contest guidelines are HERE.

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