“Making Angels” by Ben O’Hara

When it’s winter in my village, it snows. Every time it snows, there’s a murder. Every time there’s a murder, a snow angel will appear in my garden.
My home is out of the way, an old ruin I inherited from my parents that sits atop the hill overlooking the village. The floorboards groan with every step, the wind whispers down its cavernous hallways and the chill in the air creeps over my skin like the ghost of a hand.
I like it. I’m not a gregarious person and the solitude suits me.
When it snows I like to sit outside and enjoy the silence. It’s as though, when it blankets itself in white, the world is taking a pause between breaths.
These days of snow are purgatorial. Everybody in the village dwells on their sins and wonders if they’ll be punished. When they see the first snowflake fall outside the window they know that somebody will die. They despairingly try to avert all attention from this, especially for the sake of their children. They drape their houses in flashing lights, wrap presents in brightly coloured paper and adopt a desperate sense of merriment. They drink and lark and sing but in the back of their minds the grim reaper looms with his sharpened blade.
The police have been chasing the culprit for years. Their pitiful lack of success has earned them the wrath of the villagers. The season to be jolly is instead a season of terror. With a faceless killer their blame has naturally centred on those fruitlessly trying to protect them. The smell of fear lingers on the winter air like the scent of a dead corpse and it can only be ignored with carols and glasses of eggnog for so long.
You must know something! They say.
We can’t live like this forever! They say.
Do you even know what it is? They say.
It. They’re so petrified that the murderer now has an aura of the supernatural about them. They can’t just be human. How else could they be so elusive, how else could they take a life every winter snowfall without anybody witnessing them?
I won’t tell them about the snow angels. It would energise their fears and it would also draw attention to me. I don’t like that kind of attention. I just want to be left alone; I’m not one of them.
They’ve tried to ask me for my help before, to patrol the streets at night and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Their boots crunched in the snow as they walked up to my house and their pleading knocking echoed round the halls.
I can’t help you. I said, thinking about the snow angels.
They learned to leave me alone. They know I’m a recluse, that I’m not a part of their community. I don’t suffer as they do.
I don’t just sit outside to watch the snow. For the rest of the year, I watch the villagers. I watch the mothers kiss their children before they hop on the school bus. I watch the husbands and wives peck each other on the cheek before they head to work, shirts crisp and starched, trousers and skirts creaseless. I watch them all as they arrive home, at the same time each day, and I watch through their windows from afar as they cook dinner and watch TV. Then the lights go out and the village sleeps. It is the same nearly every day.
They don’t realise it, but their lives are trapped in a prison of perpetual monotony, they are hamsters in wheels. They’ve reduced this reality to a regime and have condemned spontaneity to death. They sustain themselves on abstracts such as love and faith, but these constitute about as much as the breeze. They’re just fanciful ideas never truly rendered. I’ve seen enough of those men stop at their lover’s house five minutes after kissing their wives goodbye. I’ve seen enough of those people sombrely file out of church, only to pointedly ignore the beggar round the corner. When winter comes and the snows falls, their festivities are yet more fakery. They’re not just covering up their fear.
I watch them and I know I share a contradiction just like the ones they live by everyday. I loath them and yet I pity them.
I wonder what they would feel, if they were me? If they could see the invisible bars that surround the village, if they could just look outside of their lives for a moment and appreciate the beauty of the world around them?
When it snows, do you ever pause for breath, just as the world does, and just try to look? I do, maybe that’s why I fervently believe in the role I have taken. Every Christmas, when it snows, the parents, in whispers, implore their children to behave, else Santa Claus’s sleigh won’t be stopping by.
Those hypocrites. The best thing that can be done is to save them. One every winter snowfall.
The best present I can give them is death.
This year I again deliver my reckoning. Again one lucky soul is cleansed. There are no mishaps, I’m well-practiced after all, and the man’s death was quick. The steel bit into his throat like the winter air bites my skin as I return to my home at the top of the hill. Uplifted, I walk across the fresh snowfall to the bottom of my garden. I lie down and I move my arms up and down, my legs out and in. My breath is suspended as a mist in mid-air and I imagine it’s like the man’s soul before it begins its ascent to heaven, the judgement cast by it loyal servant. It’s a life that was wasted, but now has the opportunity to begin again.
Tonight, I made another angel.

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