“Alive in the Super-Unknown” by Danny Brophy

Alive in the Superunknown-001

The snowman blinked. That’s what it was called, wasn’t it? Blinking.

Thoughts.

Thinking. All of it flooding through him. Him? He’s a him? A her? Could he be a her?

The snowman decided on ‘it.’ For now. All the snowman knew was that he knew.

It tried moving. Its middle wobbled. He…huh. Maybe he was a he. He flexed and wriggled about. Felt three sections of his body. Three spheres. The bottom being the largest. He flexed parts of himself and didn’t know what were flexing. He willed himself to move an inch forward. He played around with how his lower sphere worked: OK, try turning it and he could…yes.

The snowman moved forward a foot. He did what he just did again. He moved another inch. Another inch.

A foot.

It blinked again. How can its coal-eyes do that? How could it even see? What…No. That would distract the snowman. Where was he, that was what was important.

The snowman looked around.

Forest surrounded him. Snow covered everything. The trees, still. A crack in the distance from snow falling from a branch. Everywhere she looked, by turning his head sphere completely around, she found nothing but trees and emptiness. The sky above glowed a dull gray.

The more the snowman acclimated to…whatever this was all around him or her, the more comfortable he or her became with being a her. With referring to herself as a her as she thought and pondered and opined on just what had brought her into whatever this was.

Existence. That was the word that fell into her head. She was existing right now.

She rolled in one direction. The snowman…wait. Would it have to be snowwoman? She laughed and coughed and fell silent and became scared. She could laugh? No. This was confusing enough. She decided that yes, she was a snowman. So then, she was a a he. He had to be.

He moved along, whether he was a he or she didn’t matter, and found his lower sphere collecting snow, adding to the sphere’s girth. So much that moving increased in its difficulty, just when the snowman could move with relative ease. He had to stop and rest and brush off snow from the sphere.

The snowman noticed his limbs. The left, a branch jutting out from his middle sphere, ending in four mangled twigs. A dead leaf clung to one twig. His right limb was short, with a sawed off stump at the end, rendering it almost useless.

“Wait.”

He nearly tumbled over. Had he said that? He could talk? This…this wasn’t anything, was it? What was happening to him? The snowman didn’t know which way to go next. He said, aloud to the empty forest, “Hello?”

“Wait.”

He hadn’t said that. Nor had he a moment earlier. He turned all around, his three spheres rotating every which way.

The voice, tremulous and calming, said, “You’re probably a little scared right now. Don’t worry.”

The snowman spotted the source of the voice. A thin man, a very thin man, jumped from a branch just above the snowman and landed in a perfect crouch. The man was naked, and held a rifle. “You just awaken, too?”

The snowman nodded, or, at least, he did what he thought was a nod. The snowman also thought that saying yes to this naked man, with the rifle, the gaunt stature, the pale skin, the hollowed out eyes, was the right thing to do.

The naked man returned the nod. “Thought so.” He cocked the rifle and pointed it at the sky. He yelled. “COME ON OUT, YOU FUCKERS!” He let loose several shots, the reports hurting the snowman’s ears (which were made of pine cones), and then tossed the rifle aside. He screamed at the sky. Screamed until his lungs gave out. Then toppled over himself. Was on his back.

A light snow began to fall.

The snowman did his best to bend himself to check the naked man. He used his right stump-arm to give the naked man a brief poke.

The naked man didn’t respond.

Behind the snowman, he heard a howl. It was brief. More of a bark.

The brief howl-bark received a response. A cry far in front of where the snowman faced. A cry for murder, it sounded to the snowman.

The snowman shuffled about, undecided what to do, where to go. What was going on? Perhaps if he tried waking the naked man–

Something crashed into the back of the snowman. He fell on top of the naked man, felt the majority of his back flung in all different directions. It hurt, to lose that much snow from his body. He quickly rolled himself back onto the snow-covered ground, replacing the lost body mass.

He looked to where the naked man was. What the snowman saw made him want to throw up. What he would throw up, he didn’t know, but the feeling he got was the only way to describe it.

A wolf, or, some semblance of a wolf, was eating the naked man’s face. The snowman kept looking from the wolf’s body, which stretched much more than a wolf should, to what the wolf was doing to the naked man’s face.

The naked man put up no defense.

The snowman let go, of thoughts and feelings and confusion, and grabbed the dropped rifle with his left arm. He couldn’t point the rifle correctly. Wasn’t sure how to even fire the thing. He managed what he hoped was the sturdiest twig-finger against the trigger and pulled.

Click.

He tried again.

Click.

The wolf ignored these clicks and moved from the naked man’s face to his torso. The wolf trembled as it sliced with one of its claws between the naked man’s nipples.

The snowman fumbled with the rifle until he could hold it like a club. Satisfied with the grip, the snowman rotated around and swung at the wolf.

The rifle flew from his hands and landed a good twenty feet behind the snowman.

The wolf halted its surgery on the naked man. Its claws retracted into its paws. Tilted its head upwards to meet the snowman’s look. Bent its head over the naked mans’s chest and licked the incision it had made.

And lunged. Right over the naked man.

At the snowman.

Teeth out and bared and dripping with saliva and naked man face gore and death and wanting and hunger.

The snowman swung his right arm. The stump connected with the wolf’s face, with the wolf’s awful teeth. The snowman felt a crunch. Not in his stump-hand-fist. But in the force he connected with the wolf’s teeth. He heard a loud whimper.

The wolf fell beside the snowman. Its forepaws holding back the blood swishing out its mouth.

The snowman ran. He ran, or rolled, really, in any direction. He didn’t care where he was going. He didn’t care about anything. All he knew was to rotate his lower sphere as fast as it would go, so he could move, to anywhere. Everywhere. He turned his head to make sure the wolf wasn’t following, and, seeing it wasn’t, turned his back just in time to see himself collide with the second wolf that had been howling to the first wolf.

This wolf was smaller than the other one. Its teeth not as threatening, or dripping with murderous gore. But was it pissed off.

The snowman looked about for anything to defend himself. Nothing. Just trees and snow. Maybe a rock somewhere, but there was no way he would find it and use it to prevent whatever this wolf had planned.

The wolf roared. Roared long. Roared loud.

The snowman felt parts of his lower sphere melting.

And something deep in the forest answered the wolf. The response not from a third wolf. From something…the snowman didn’t know. It sounded old. Sounded purposeful.

More dangerous and evil than a host of wolves could gather together.

The wolf ran off into the forest. Or out of the forest. The snowman didn’t know. He remained where he was, surprised his arms were raised in attack position, whatever that may be.

He waited, the snowman did. Waited for the return of that wolf. Waited for a sound that wasn’t a branch breaking from the snow. Wasn’t a gentle wind cascading through the forest. Anything that would threaten his existence.

Hearing nothing, the snowman looked about. He decided to return in the direction of where he left the naked man and the wolf he injured.

Upon arriving at the spot, he found the snow on the ground all tousled about. Spots of red blooming in the snow. Yet, no bodies. No naked man. No wolf. No rifle. The snowman rolled around the area for any tracks he could follow.

Enough of this. He rubbed his coal eyes. Blinked away the fear he had.

He bent over to get a good look at himself. Three more pieces of coal lined the middle of his body. Two on his middle sphere, one on the lower one. Like buttons for a suit. What’s a suit? Why does he know words and all these terms and things?

The snowman decided that he had to find someone that could provide answers. There was no way that he would blink into existence in the middle of this forest and have all this knowledge and not have a way of having answers to these question that, even in the back of his mind, plagued him. He had to know. Knowing would provide a context. Context would provide him with motivation to figure out then just what the fuck it was that he was supposed to do with himself. He was a snowman. Made of three balls of snow. Coal lining the supposed front of himself. Two pieces of coal for his eyes. Pine cones for ears. A carrot for a nose. A line of dark stones for his mouth, which were aligned into a gentle grimace right now as he pondered over the situation he found himself in.

So the snowman rolled along. He encountered no wolves. No naked men. Nothing living. The light about the forest remained the same: a gentle dull gray that gave enough illumination to see far enough to where you couldn’t see anything.

So the snowman rolled along.

He had to keep stopping to keep his lower sphere from growing too large. The light never changed. No sound. No hint of life. He kept moving. That was the easiest thing to do. Move. Move forward. Keep moving until he found something worth stopping for.

A cabin made the snowman stop his rolling.

It was poorly built, the cabin. The snowman saw several holes in the roof. The front door clung to shoddy hinges. The front porch had a single chair, one designed not for normal sitting.

The snowman said, “Hello?”

The cabin’s door flew from its hinges, and nearly collided with the snowman. He backed away as the door flopped in front of him. A splintered dent in the middle of the door, from whomever had punched it from its hinges.

A creature exited the cabin’s entrance. The snowman struggled to comprehend what this creature that inhabited the cabin was. So many legs. So much hair. A face…incomprehensible.

The creature said, “You look…familiar.”

The snowman said nothing.

The creature used one of its myriad limbs to beckon the snowman to enter the cabin. “You look like a good talk would do you some good.”

—–

“I have nothing for you. Nothing to tell you. Nothing that’ll make you feel better. If you are looking for answers…um, you have a name?”

The snowman shook its head.

The creature chuckled. “That looks funnier than you think. Anyway, my name’s Ander. At least, that’s the name I gave myself when I want to be called something besides, ‘Holy Fuck What the Fuck is That!’” The creature, Ander, waited for the snowman to laugh.

When he didn’t, Ander went on. “I can’t tell you anything, since I don’t know anything, either. The days never change. The world never changes. Just the same snowy shit day in, day out. Sometimes, the sky darkens. Sometimes, it doesn’t. I’ve seen strange things. Nothing to make one go nuts, since, well, look at me. But, it’s like anytime someone comes here, they immediately turn into murderous rage-balls, looking for answers in the gore of another.”

The snowman said, “What am I?”

“You’re a snowman. You’re a man, made of snow. Outside of the corn-cob pipe and the ten-gallon hat, you’d be a perfect Frosty.”

The snowman hung his head. Melted snow dripped from his coal eyes. “I…what is the purpose of all this? What is–”

Ander held up several hands. “Don’t. I did that shit when I came here. It won’t do you a fuck of good. Think about it. You got here. What happened?”

The snowman recounted to Ander the deal with the naked man and the wolves.

“See? You’ve already learned the most important part of existing here. You didn’t even know why you hit that wolf, but you did it. Survival. That’s how you live.”

“I’m scared,” the snowman said.

“There’s things here. They’re called ‘humans,’” Ander said. “They attack and kill those that aren’t like them.”

“What are they?”

“They’re like us, like any of the things that come into being. But, they think that they are the higher-ups. The ones that are in charge. Beware the humans.”

The snowman felt so tired. “Can I lie down somewhere?”

Ander brought the snowman to a back room, where a bed was. The snowman collapsed into it. The bed felt so comfortable. Blankets and a mattress. It was cold enough where the snowman knew he wouldn’t melt into it, ruin the sheets.

The snowman slept.

—–

Screams. Curses. Heat. And pain.

The snowman awoke to all of these.

A gaggle of beings, anthropomorphic like him, stood all around him. Each held a piece of wood with fire crackling at the end of them.

Humans.

They surrounded the bed. The snowman shifted off and stood before the crowd.

One human, clothed in ragged burlap, stepped forward. “Enough.” He threw his stick at the snowman. The fire tickled at his lower sphere. The snowman quickly backed away until the wall stopped him.

The group began yelling and lunged at the snowman. Pulling at his spheres. His stump arm was yanked from his body.

The snowman cried out. The pain of it all.

The humans continued tearing, flinging gobs of snow all about the bedroom. He tried covering himself with his remaining limb. Why? Why all this? He heard curses and shouts of abominations and no more and enough and damn creatures until one of the humans yelped, silencing the rest of them.

At the bedroom door, one of the humans hovered a few feet from the floor. Through the human’s chest was a blood-drenched claw. Behind him stood the creature who brought the snowman. Its face seething and its too many eyes darting all about. “Would someone else wish to join this one here,” he said, shaking the limb the human was attached to. The human, gurgling his life out, rattled about. The creature flung the human at the crowd.

They scattered. Some fought to get through the window. Others ran beside the creature, who let them pass. Torches dropped all around amid the din of fright. Several torches ignited the dry spots on the bed sheets. One fed itself to a night table.

The snowman couldn’t feel anything. Except heat. Expanding heat. The creature entered his blurred, wet vision. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I went out and…” The creature, Ander, the snowman remembered, held the sides of the snowman’s face. He saw a glow of red and orange and yellow around him.

Color. Not the gray and white he had seen since he became himself. It was beautiful.

“They did a lot of damage to, boy,” Ander said.

The snowman couldn’t bring himself to say anything.

“Come now. I’ll be careful.” And the snowman felt himself in the myriad arms of Ander. They backed out of the bedroom. Fire spreading. Eating at the wood. Melting away the remnants of the snowman’s body.

The snowman was just a head now.

Outside the cabin, Ander placed the snowman’s head on the untrodden snow. The snowman heard the distancing shouts of the humans. “I’ll make you a new body,” Ander said, and went a few feet away and began working the snow into a sphere.

“I can barely see,” the snowman said.

“Then we shall find you a new eye,” Ander said.

“I…I do not understand this.”

“There is nothing to understand. Nothing at all. It’s pointless, really, to even try to understand why I am what I am. Why you are what you are.”

They shared a silence. The snowman couldn’t move his head around. Through the trees, he saw a shape. It slowly approached. It walked on four legs. Covered in fur. The face was adorable, the snowman thought. The four-legged creature began licking the side of the snowman’s face. It tickled. His laugh caught Ander’s attention. “That’s Bark,” Ander said. “He’s a dog. He thinks he’s my dog.”

Through giggling, the snowman said, “What does that make me?”

Ander stopped working on the sphere and came over to the snowman, to speak face-to-face. “A friend. Alive. And I’ll keep you that way until I don’t have to anymore.”

“Why?” The snowman managed to nudge off Bark, who then curled up beside his head. “What I’ve seen, what’s happened to me, why help me?”

“Because,” Ander said, and patted the snowman’s head, “everyone needs a hand in this.”

The snowman felt a good warmth in himself, what little of himself he had. “If you say there’s no point to all this, then why help me, why do anything?”

Ander stood back.

“It is good to be alive,” he said.

 

 

 


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Daniel Brophy has been writing for nearly ten years. He has finished less than that number of stories and books. He has had one short story published, but that was six years ago and the name of the now-defunct publication escapes him. Born with a thirst for words and stories, Daniel owns enough books to open a small library, or to re-enact the ending of the Twilight Zone episode where the bookworm breaks his glasses at the end (spoiler alert). Thankfully, Daniel has eyes like baseball legend Ted Williams, so broken glasses are not a problem. It should also be noted that his pop culture acumen borders on worrisome, due to a Tarentino-level of knowledge. Dream projects for Daniel include: writing a book set in the Alien universe; building a life-sized replica of the TARDIS and setting it into a wall to act as a door to a room, giving off a ‘bigger on the inside’ illusion; and making a low-budget horror movie about a graveyard. Daniel gallivants across this perilous journey through time and life with his wonderful girlfriend, a joyous woman light-years smarter than Daniel, and whom he hopes sticks around long enough so that he won’t have to edit this author bio ever.

photo credit: Snowy Sunday Morning (#3218) via photopin (license)

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2 Comments

  1. The thing I really like about this story is that you never get away from the fact that the protagonist is a snowman. Thinking about the prompt, I would have gone with the point of view character being anything other than a snowman. And that’s because it would be easier.

    The strength here is that as weird as the observer might find it to see a snowman come to life it is evidently no less weird for the snowman itself. It was a risk to put the reader in an unfamiliar head, but I think it works.

    Daniel also doesn’t let up with the oddness. I have no more idea what’s going on by the end of the story than I did at the beginning. Part of me wanted to know a lot more, but in the end I was satisfied with the story ending where it did.

    All in all, an interesting experience and a brave approach to the prompt that I think pays off.

  2. This falls easily into the category of story where I have NO idea what is going on, and yet that doesn’t matter because I’m enjoying it so much. Or, as I think I’ve said before, it doesn’t matter if I understand a story, just so long as SOMEone, the author or a character, someone along the way has a first grasp of things.
    So…yeah. I mean do I discuss the plot? What the hell was with the naked guy?
    Let’s not discuss the plot.
    I think, as DocOcc above said, that writing this inside the snowman’s head was a great idea (though at the start I wasn’t sold…the second time he questioned his gender it felt more like Mister Brophy was still clearing his throat before getting to his story…nothing wrong with that in a first draft. It happens all the time. But it seemed a bit much here). I actually found myself laughing out loud at time as the snowman fought things while tacking on his half-baked names for concepts and objects.
    I liked the spider thing, but I do have to say that looking back, I don’t really “see” him as a spider thing. He looks like a big lumberjack in my mind. He possibly needed to inhabit his form more while he was moving. I don’t mean that in a magical sense, I mean from a writer’s perspective. He kind of opened doors and stuff like a biped. There was a lot of room for scuttling and odd arm usages that I think would have cemented him better.
    I liked the ending, though if you’re going to end on a line like that it’s nice to give a few beats before and/or after to let it really sink in.
    All in all, I loved this…and I have no idea why. And that kind of makes me love it all the more.

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