They trudged on for hours, staring at the snowy ground in front of them. With every step Jimmy was afraid his slightly too large boots would slip off and be forever buried in the arctic. They could see no landmarks anymore. The labyrinth of snowmen seemed to be forever continuous, and, unless it was just Jimmy’s imagination, getting uncomfortably dense.
“I don’t like it” He murmured.
Miles didn’t listen. He was leading the way and far too preoccupied with trying to figure out where they were. They continued trudging, passing row after row of icy manikin and bitter wind starting to bite their ice faces. Jimmy started craving any sound; people, birds, anything but that of their feet scraping and pounding the snow.
After what must have been another hour, he tried again.
Nothing. Jimmy ducked his head back at the ground. Then, Miles came to a halt, and Jimmy almost walked straight into him.
“There weren’t this many snowmen.” Miles let out without turning around. He was tired. “I swear there weren’t”.
So did Jimmy. But he didn’t know how to respond, no words of conciliation to comfort his weary brother seemed possible. He watched as Miles got agitated.
“They weren’t here, Jim! Tell me there weren’t this many!
He watched Miles near his breaking point. Jimmy recognised this state; sometimes, when things became too much for his elder brother, he would snap. It had only started since their father died, but the last time –
“Why did you have to get me up, anyway?” He leered into Jimmy’s face. “I could be at home. I could be at home right now.”
Jimmy only watched. It’s all he could do. When things became too much for Miles, it was best to let him work it out himself – if you valued your safety. Slowly, Miles unlocked his staring eyes and turned around. His heavily breathing, solitary figure stooped in shame as he tried to get a grip.
It was then he struck. It happened in slow motion for Jimmy; with a roar of frustration he watched his brother swing with all the force possible to muster from a twelve year old boy. He struck the nearest snowman across the boulder of a head. Bang. The head erupted as though dynamite had detonated within its ice-bound skull. It’s snow features spattered the ice floor, and Jimmy knew his brother had done something terrible.
It fell with a thud. And it wasn’t snow. Miles hadn’t seen at first. He just stood, blissfully unaware. It was when he turned around to lock eyes with his brother’s terror-struck face that he too knew something was wrong. Very wrong.
Knocking off that snowman’s head had exposed something that would haunt both brothers every time they closed their eyes. It was ripped from the very fabric of their most horrific nightmares yet it lay in front of them now. For there, nestled at the base of the decapitated snowman’s neighbour, was a head.
It was a head, there was no doubting that. It was a human head. A man. It’s bulging, blood-spattered eyes punched from the sunken sockets in a piercing lop-sided stare. A shock of thinning hair nestled atop it’s head and thin grey flesh embodied a hanging jaw open as if about to scream with enough power to curdle the blood. Translucent ice glazed it’s frightful face. But he knew those eyes. He remembered when they too gleamed as much as the ice enveloping them. He was pierced through the heart in a beam of terrible anguish that forced him to his knees. It was his father’s face.
His face crumpled, and Jimmy slammed his eyes closed before clasping his face with gloved hands. As he heard the deafening scream, he let the blackness envelop him.