I draw it back, wrap my hands around the hot coffee in its mug and I watch a strobing scene of the city, flickering on and off as my breath mists, obscures the view and fades away again.
The first flakes start to fall.
The flakes stick together and come down like feathers. Some great white angel or feathered serpent has been shot down over the city and this snowfall marks its death.
It covers everything in a clean, crisp shroud of white. Cars and buildings, grass and trees frozen in place, buried under the blanket of impossibly white crystals.
Frost creeps its way across the window as I take a sip of the coffee. Jack’s fingerwork. An abstract pattern of ferns and thrusting crystals but where I breathe, the glass stays clear.
The snow stops. My dry lips crack and I take a sip of the bitter brew to wet them and as I do, something more.
The rain punches holes in the snow, but it does not melt it. Where it hits, it steams at first. The whole world beyond the window shrouded in a dense, rolling fog.
The fog slowly thins and the rain has become snow again, the steaming slowly stopping as the ice falls from the sky and covers the snow in a thicker, denser layer. A darker white – if such a thing is possible. Perhaps my eyes are playing tricks.
It’s dark now.
The street lights come on one by one. The lights in the buildings. In silhouette I see other people standing at their windows, covered in blankets. Looking out.
The snow stops again but there is a sense of anticipation and it is not long before another rain falls.
The snowfall is smeared together, but it does not melt. The crisp white of the first fall and the dirty white of the second pierced by lances from the sky. Then they too freeze and fall as flakes but they are clear, as clear as glass. The snowly landscape is wrapped in plastic, gleaming, shining, unreal and it piles up, metre upon metre, sealing the landscape under glass.
I live high in the tower, but if I opened the window I could step out and barely drop, down onto the surface of the frozen glass.
It is tempting.
My hand grips the handle of the window, but it will not move. I tear the skin from my fingertips when I try, leaving them on the handle of the window. My blood freezes before it can drop, scarlet spikes that dangle from my fingers then snap and drop to the stiff, frosted carpet.
The coffee is solid now. I cast it aside as the rain comes again.
The sky is completely black. The stars have never looked so clear. The thin rain falls, steams, then stops and again becomes snow. A pale blue curtain that hides the glass beneath it. A night-time sea a hundred metres deep from which the light-bearing towers of the city thrust, winking out one by one.
The snow has stopped now.
Something crunches in my veins as I tilt my head and I look up, vision fading as I watch the last few flakes fall from the deep black sky.
With a nod to Fritz Leiber