It was the good kind of snow. The kind that creaked and crunched underfoot. The kind that glittered when it caught the winter sun. The kind that made everything look bright and clean. Familiar objects were transformed into gift-wrapped lumps, dotted around the landscape like children hiding under blankets.
George pulled the back door closed behind him and went to get the shovel from the shed. It was only when he was fastening the padlock on the hasp that he realised something was not quite right. There were his footsteps leading from the house and down the central path to the shed; he’d kept in a straight line and would have done so had he been blindfolded, knowing the garden so well. But there were other footprints, other marks he hadn’t noticed. They followed the ones he’d made but with less regularity. They were smaller and lighter, spilling out on either side of the path to where the lawns lay shrouded.
Most odd, thought George. They’re too heavy for bird tracks and completely the wrong shape. The strange tracks appeared to have been made by feet with four toes but apart from this deficiency in digits, they could belong to humans – children perhaps or midgets (or whatever was the ‘correct’ term these days. George couldn’t keep up; ‘persons of shortness’ or something equally fatuous, he wouldn’t be surprised.)
The footprints seemed to have joined his when he’d reached the path and come with him all the way to the shed and, like his, did not lead away again. George gasped. His eyes darted around.
“Hello?” he said and instantly felt foolish.
He checked the padlock once more to be sure and shuffled back up the path, obliterating the footsteps as he went and muttering about how ridiculous it all was.
He went around to the front of the house to clear the drive so he could get the car out. He wasn’t looking forward to driving in this weather but the main roads were probably all right. As soon as he got off the estate, he’d be fine. Sweating from the job done, he put the shovel in the boot of his car and cautiously drove to work, forgetting about the mysterious footprints altogether.
In the shed, the entities George had unwittingly locked inside, hugged each other for comfort. Cut off from the snow, they would not last long. They could feel themselves beginning to fade already. Oh, if only they didn’t find humans so fascinating! Or if they’d learn not to get too close! They could have watched him from a distance and they’d still be free right now.
They sobbed as they felt each other’s embrace growing weaker.
“Not long now, my love,” said one.
“Goodbye, my love,” said the other.
Oh, if only humans took better care!