The mornings after Ben stayed out late, but arrived before the sun rose, he found Kristy still in bed asleep, or at least she pretended to be. She never slept so quiet, and after he awoke, there would only be enough coffee in the pot for her—never for him. That didn’t stop him from returning late and he never missed an opportunity to kiss her upon his arrival and again in the late morning.
Ben arrived before four am. The sun wouldn’t rise until eleven thirty when the icy tundra would sparkle beneath the full yellow sun. Plenty of time to get some rest before chores. Darkness swallowed their austere home and shedding his clothes he slid into bed beside her. He kissed his wife softly on the cheek who in return pressed her warm naked body against his, despite her taciturn behavior towards him the previous night.
“I love you, snoflower,” Ben told her. In the darkness his face was black like a withered apple, and almost destroyed from the unforgiving winters; his sloping forehead was dark, sun damaged from the long summers when the sun never set and the snowy mountains focused the beams like a magnifying glass across the blustery lands. His sickle-curved posture made him appear decades older than his natural age, and a thick scraggly beard protected his neck from exposure; a secretive, hairy, hunchbacked lecher. She smiled, still half asleep and said, “I love you too.”
At ten thirty in the morning, when the skies were dark and hinted the first flush of deep blue dawn, Ben ate breakfast at the table, a dish of salmon and potatoes with leftover bitter coffee warmed on the stove. After breakfast, Kristy stoked the fire, adding fresh wood that Ben had stockpiled and chopped during their brief Nunavut summer, while Ben gathered warm furs for the long evenings to come. Then, once settled, he retrieved a book from the shelf and settled into his rocking chair beside the warming comforts of the fireplace.
She leaned against his rocking chair after coffee and when she sat down beside him her eyes fluttered and he felt her body heat radiating off her body. She was a spirited-looking woman with hollow dimples on the corners of her lips that grew cavernous on the rare occasion she smiled. She had a short stubby noise and big fleshy cheeks, pinpoint, fig-shaped eyes with skin colored to match, but unlike her husband, Kristy’s was creamy like the fluid from a springtime milk thistle.
She watched him and the dancing flames until the hot water was ready once again and she hoisted herself up to fill their mugs and refill the kettle. As she moved about the room she left a rosy scent behind her with sage and pine with a tinge of salt and lemon from the fish she had prepared earlier. And again, after she retired for the evening and pretended to be fast asleep, Ben would depart until the earliest hours of the next day, and like usual she would empty the coffee pot until there was serving left for only one. Not just as a punishment, but to show him that she knew.
The following day while Ben was hunting for caribou, Kristy went outside to gather wood for their stove, several hauls that would last them through another bitter night. The sun had been down since just after lunch, for which she served a rare polar bear dish they had received from visitors who lived in a small village north, with a side of fireweed and more leftover potatoes. She wanted to surprise Ben with sage tea as soon as he arrived, but upon hearing a strange noise beneath the porch floorboards she dropped the wood onto the permafrost ground.
Beneath the porch, a dugout had been made behind their normal storage of usual meats and frozen grasses, large enough that Kristy could comfortably stand, but not for long as the air was dry and carried a deep Canadian chill. The ambient glow of the northern lights reflecting off the early snow allowed Kristy to see the round young face of the missing girl from a nearby village. Kristy didn’t remember her name, but the young woman had been missing for weeks, approximately nineteen years old and very beautiful though her eyes were ripe with fear. How she had survived the weather, Kristy didn’t know. She could only imagine that Ben had kept her alive—fed her just enough to keep her weak and away from death. There was a small heater in the corner, but not large enough to keep out the chill. The girl was alive now, Kristy could see the shallow rise and fall of her exposed breasts, blue from the cold. She muttered a plea to which Kristy replied, “I’m sorry, I just can’t.”
Kristy stood watching the girl, rigid with early signs of frostbite in her fingers. Her wiry, brittle hair covered her face and the dirt floors beside her. Even close to death, she appeared enchanting and fresh with pure skin like new-fallen snow and white with the natural illumination of the pale moon and northern lights.
As Kristy looked around the makeshift cell, other frozen bodies came to view. Four other girls, dead and frozen, each perfectly shaped youthful creatures preserved like bluish ice sculptures in the freezing temperatures. Some had perished with their eyes open, their irises frozen over and glassy, as if to be content with watching the shimmering starlight through the open cellar door. Ben loved them, Kristy knew. He spent more nights with them than he ever did with her. They were his collection and he chose to be with them. Did he touch them the way he refused to touch her? Did he make love to them, even after they froze? How could he choose them, how could he stray from her tenderness for an ice sculpture that would never touch him back, never love him the way she did.
“Please,” the girl croaked. If dirt had a voice.
Kristy said nothing and returned to retrieve the firewood she that had spilled to the ground. She’d burn them in her kitchen stove to warm the kettle that would make Ben’s favorite sage tea. Ben arrived home several hours later. Coffee for one again. The tea would be late tonight. She thought of the young woman frigid below and Kristy wondered if her footfalls could be heard below the floorboards as she moved about the kitchen and into the living room to greet her husband with a kiss. Was the taste of the dead women still on his lips? Would she smell her between his legs if he allowed her close enough?
Kristy served him leftovers from breakfast with fresh potatoes and bittercress. She spent the meal in silence watching Ben as he raised the spoon to his mouth and licked the thick meaty drippings from his lips. His tongue slipped back into his mouth and she watched the muscles in his hirsute neck swallow, his adam’s apple swell, rise in his throat, then fall. He took a sip of his tea and when he caught her staring, he said: “I love you, snoflower,” and she blew out the lantern for the night.
He kissed her, but only on the cheek. She longed for more, to have him kiss her where her where her skin was sensitive, his rough hands in places where her body ached, places he only touched the missing girl, yet the only affection she had received was from the pet name he had given her that continued to echo in her ear long after he went out for the night.
In the veil of darkness she listened to Ben’s snores. She imagined packing her only suitcase with the few clothes she owned, and trudging through the snow to the nearest village, ten kilometers east. Donning the warmest caribou and seal skin coats, she could only voyage so far before submitting to a winter’s icy death touch. Beyond the snow-swept tundra, she still could not survive on her own. Even as the guilty thoughts drifted through her head like the lights that moved through the starry night skies she felt her betraying body pressing against his, his breath on her neck, the warmth of his bare skin against hers, his fingers which brushed against her thigh, and she knew she could not leave him. She missed him. She missed him like the winter snowflowers miss the springtime sun.
The following morning, Ben found the coffee pot still warm, its contents enough for one; for her, never for him. There never was. The sky was still black and would remain that way until spring. Ben looked forward to the cold season; it preserved the bodies and kept them firm.
Kristy leaned against his chair, handed him the mug of coffee, a nice change, but what was the occasion? It wasn’t until he drank the last of it and placed it in the wash basin and then stepped outside when he noticed the footsteps—his wife’s footsteps—leading under the porch and into storage. Through the kitchen window, he glanced at her, studied her care-free expression as she prepared the last remaining bits of polar bear for their evening stew. Below he saw his latest girl dead from hypothermia. She would still provide release for him all winter, but he was never truly satisfied. Not with them. The intimacy that he wanted was unobtainable and he suffered from a lust that could not be filled by any but one. What he wanted, what he truly wanted, was to love his wife in the most intimate way he knew.
“I love you, snoflower,” Ben said, though she could not hear him from the window. He disappeared from her sight, following the bank of snow under the porch. In the kitchen she heard the storage door creak open on rusted, frozen hinges. He was gone no more than a minute this time instead of all night, long enough to see the frost over her dead eyes. Again she heard the storage door groan and he emerged from outside. He stood in the doorway.
“How old is she?” Kristy finally asked.
Ben swallowed hard. “Eighteen.”
Kristy brought the spoon to her lips, her eyes blinking away the tears. The polar bear stew burned her tongue, yet she still felt frozen. “Is it because she’s prettier than me?”
His expression crumpled and his eyes filled with hurt, and the feeling that she had done or said something wrong made her feel heavy and ashamed in her chair. She let her eyes droop to the floor in hopes that he hadn’t seen her tears.
Ben crossed the room to her and dropped to his knees. His hands reached for hers as they rested in her lap. They felt like snowballs around her molten fists.
“No, honey, you are the prettiest one of all. Whenever I’m with you, I fall more in love. You are my soul mate. I love you more than anyone in the world, Snoflower.” He stared into her eyes, but that look of hurt remained.
“You don’t love them?” she asked.
“I love you and only you.” he replied.
Kristy stood up and moved to the coffee pot. She placed a mug next to it and faced Ben, her eyes pleading for affection, her mouth pleading for his. To be kissed passionately like how he kissed those girls. “There’s coffee for you in the morning,” she responded.
Ben kissed her, on the lips, but still just a peck.
“I love you, snoflower.” he said.
“I love you too,” she replied. Even after his confession, his reassurance, he still did not show her the affection she desired. She began to cry.
Ben raised the coffee mug over his head and smashed it into her skull.
The frozen air forced Kristy awake. Each breath filled her lungs with temperatures that crystalized in her throat, her breaths becoming shallower with every inhale. Drums and bone mallets like the ones she saw at the village equinox festival last year seemed resound within her skull and with each beat she saw explosive white and brown veil her sight. Thick coagulating blood spilled from her ears and dripped across her face, sealing the right one closed. She reached out, her fingers scraped against frozen dirt. Darkness surrounded her and above, her husband’s heavy footsteps shook the icy cavern. The hinges creaked as the door opened. Beyond his silhouette, the sky gleamed a curtain of emerald from the northern lights. The door shut and all became black again.
“I’ve always wanted to know you this way,” he said. Kristy clawed at the dirt, her arms weak, and her legs refused to move. “Even more than the others. I never thought I could have you this way. I’ve wanted it for so long.”
Ben smelled of pine chips and sour bear meat.
“Is this how you made love to them?” Kristy’s voice cracked, her throat felt like razor blades in the dehydrated freezing air. She was naked, caked with dirt and dotted with bruises over her bluish skin. The other girls stared wide-eyed and envious. Kristy could give Ben what they couldn’t.
“I wait a week. They are usually dead by then. The winter preserves their body in perfection and it helps with the smell. There’s almost no decay at all.” Ben stood wrapped in the warmth of his elk hide over her, blocking the hatch door. “You’re almost there. Another day, maybe two. You’ll die of dehydration if the temperature doesn’t kill you first. It will hurt, but only for a little while, and in a few days it’ll be over. Then I can have you just like I’ve always wanted. In the summers, we can travel to the permafrost territories of the north where you’ll stay preserved. Think of it as a vacation. Just the two of us. When winter comes, we’ll return.”
“Except I won’t be there for it.”
“Sure you will. You just wont experience it the way I will. I’ve never brought any of the others there, but now that I have you, I won’t need them ever again. We’ll be intimate just as I always wanted. Just like you’ve always wanted.”
Kristy’s body relaxed as she gave in to a new kind of warmth that overwhelmed her body. Her limbs fell still and her eyes stopped seeing. Just as she drew in her final breath, she heard her husband say with a final, heartfelt resolute, “I love you, snoflower.”
“I love you too,” she replied, and succumbed to the icy winter’s night.
Become a patron today and support the online magazine!
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature, lovecraftian literature, or erotica. The darker the tale the better. take Snoflower for example, a story of necrophilia and kidnapping entwined with love and infidelity. If you’re thinking where to submit horror short stories then consider Deadman’s Tome. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.