The wall was taller than three metres, and it looked never ending long. So men crossed the fields just to discover that the wall circled the city. There was a traffic jam from both sides of the barrier, between the ones that wanted to leave and the ones that wanted to enter.
-Something you could see on winter, after a blizzard or an incredible storm, we see it here, in mid of summer. The causes of this gigantic mound that stops the crossing are as mysterious as the causes of this phenomenon- A journalist from the capital city, that had come to town the week before to cover the new, was almost yelling –It is thought that is work for two days, three in case there is any complication in the process, but it’s estimated that everything will come back to normal-
The TV jammed every fifteen minutes, the old model looked like a big black box to which someone glued some wire on the top, but survived to the era of anorexic electronics. Only the man behind the counter, who made the cocktails and daiquiris in an almost mechanical way, and the man that had spurred on the flock of sheep to the wall were looking at the blurry images on the screen.
The place was full like it had never been before; it was a little wood stand into the open sky, a sky clear, full of stars and snow. It’s incredibly romantic, just magical, said a voice over the loudspeaker and the people went wild.
-The good thing it that you only have to shovel a one way tunnel- Said one of the two friends to the other.
The sheep owner finished his work early and he drove to the city. He had showered, but not even the most romantic of the nights was going to get him a date, and he wasn’t really interested anyway. He even had forgotten to rub that part behind the knees and under the ears.
-I say, the wall was much taller for me. And I was on Blackie- Blackie was his horse, ironically, of silver fur.
-Three metres is not that tall- Added a third man. The three guys got closer in that corner of the counter, three old men in a sea of young people –Anyway, I swear by my wife, even if I don’t have one, it burned. My hands burn and I have blisters everywhere. It’s impossible to shovel-
-Tomorrow I’ll lend you my snow shovels. I’m sure that if we carry everything on a cart, Blackie will help us to clear the snow- Agreed the second man, with a little bit of hope. It already was arranged for a group of workers to do the job, but the old men decided to take part of the job.
The bartender made another mojito and gave a distrustful look to the sky. It was completely clear, a clear darkness without a stain of clouds, or at least it looked like, because the snow still appeared in mid-air.
The barrier, now clearly taller than three metres, stood up sarcastically.
The men stabbed the shovels, frustrated, while they hear the drown sound of a crane working on the other side. The barrier not only had grown, it also had become even thicker. They had already shovelled that part, but something happens at night that made all the progress lost. Every morning it raised a white and thick fog, like cotton; the beaming and still wall devoured the landscape with insatiable hunger.
The first corpse was of a young man of twenty five years old. The body rested over his belly on the street, covered by a white blanket that only left his coloured hair to be seen. He was naked from the waistline up, and he had lost a boot. He looked like he was like sleeping in a corner, with the eyes closed and the arms opened, almost like he was dreaming. The layer that covered him had drown him with its weight, in a hug that wouldn’t let him breath while it burned his skin, slowly.
A small crowd, like a nervous audience, squeeze around the young man while it was covered with a blanket and they carried his lifeless body into the back part of an ambulance. Matthew stood up from the public, like a big black shape that was swallowing his words because he knew that anything was excessive in that situation. The looked to the papers and the bibles in his arms and when the paramedics finally left with the corpse that was still burning and whose skin had turned black as coal, the priest turned back and left.
The terrible discovering fled over the city, mouth to mouth, even before the media covered the new in a calmly way, informing that the cause of death didn’t have anything to do with the snow but with drugs and alcohol. They assured that tourists could still enjoy the innocent weather.
The shop owners joined the movement, blaming the dead man every time his name was said in nearby.
-That boy died from overdose. I saw him, well, actually my cousin saw him; and he told me that he still had the needle in his arm. I can offer you this token, a perfect memento for your family and friends, two for the price of one. I don’t have any more snow toys, but I’m going to have more next week. For the moment, you can but this little bottle of magic snow, it gives good health and luck to the house-
The restaurants had signs outside:
-Frozen drinks with warm snow. Here only!-
It was like they didn’t want to admit their fear, a seed in the very deep of their chest, which slowly was laying roots. Everyone was up to distraction, even those whose stay was forcefully extended, as they turned to more frenetic amusements.
On the other side of the snow wall, of the side of those that couldn’t enter, the crane had disappeared that morning. Where before it stood, that morning it was only a white wall. On the inside, the shovels couldn’t even hurt the white monster. The workers from both tried to communicate in a call that interrupted, probably due to the poor state of the antennas.
Finally, the men outside the wall decided that, without the crane, it was impossible to continue the work, leaving the team inside the snow completely alone. They duplicated the efforts and they started to work in shifts, without stopping, for four days. By the start of the fifth day, the team managed to make a tunnel, so big that a car could enter without problems. The construction was hold by wooden pillars, and it was stable.
Blackie, the light coloured horse, turned around with difficulties while its owner tried to calm him down. Five men were shovelling the snow, with the hopes that it wasn’t much snow left to quit, with the hopes that each stab with the shovel was the last one. They tried to cheer the mood up with tired voices, while they put the snow in the old cart. The horse moved and neighed, making the old man to pet him in the neck and to convince it to stay quiet.
The rough hands of the old man were red due to the constant work with that warm material. He had another friend helping him with the sheep, but each night, the nights he could go back home, he could see the flock getting thinner and more nervous.
-They are not eating. The grass is too hot, I don’t know. But I walk them, and the only thing they do is bleat to the sky, shiver and not-eat- Said the old friend to the other man.
But this was about to end. Any time now the shovels would hammer the nothingness and the tunnel would finally reach the other side. For some reason, the idea of finishing the tunnel equalled the disappearance of all his problems. They would clang to that though with, maybe, too much strength.
The shovel made a strange noise and Blackie neighed again, so nervously that made the old man think that he was about to lose the control of the horse.
-What was that? – Said the old farmer with a sore throat, and the men started to shovel around it.
They cleaned it with the hands protected by the gloves, and the thick painted metal was so hot that the warm soaked through the cloth. The metal was burning.
-I don’t know. It looks like a car- Said one of them, even though he clearly knew it wasn’t a car. Outside the sun was rising over a multicolour fog that was laying over the place, and the man had his mind tired and confused.
It was another man of the group who understood what was happening, when he discovered the big yellow shovel. The crane looked like a corpse, like the archaeological remains of a hope long dead and forgotten. They continued working, rounding the machine, while the old man walked outside, with his body hurting. Blackie neighed again, while trying to move forward but the man ordered him.
-Calm down. I’m coming back in a minute, pal- To which the horse repeated the neighing, nervous and frustrated.
Another one of his coworkers was outside, cutting down the wood they used for the pillars and putting it on the back part of his truck. The old man called his attention with a whistle and shouted.
-Hey! Can you call any of the workers from outside? I need to talk to them-
-I’ll see what I can do- He said and giving him the back, he dialled the number. While he heard the call tone affected by some kind of static, he could heard the neighs of the horse, the screams of the old man and the voices of his coworkers.
The old man turned inside the tunnel, with tiredness, and decided to lay slightly on one pillar. It was at that moment that he realised that something was wrong, that the wood was burning slowly, like coal, and when he tried to give the alarm it was already too late.
The call was interrupted again and the wood maker turned around to tell them that the phone line was still down. In front of him there was a white wall. A wall that was round, soft, an uninterrupted white. It took him some moments until he could understand what was happening and when he did he started to scream, while burying his hands and his body in the snow. He was desperate, he had his throat burning, and it wasn’t until some minutes after that he realised two things.
The first one was that it was useless. All the team and the silver horse had died instantly, at the moment the silent avalanche fell upon them. The second one was that he had all his body skin red and that he felt a terrible warm. He didn’t burn himself, but he was about to do so, so he moved away. He needed snow, real snow, and cold snow.
He was found like that, with a fever in his body, cursing the miracle with the eyes lost in the sky.
Going to Part 3