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The Cold (a short story)

"Whilst apartment-searching, Kat notices something strange about her new landlady..."
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The cold seeped through the seams of her flimsy jacket and Kat shivered violently. The icy finger of a zephyr curled its way around her neck like a scarf and raised goosebumps over her back.

Impatiently, she pressed the doorbell for a third time.

The snow had arrived a month earlier and had not left, lying in a thick blanket that seemed to hold in the freezing temperatures. Unable to cope, public transport had ground to a halt and schools and offices had shut. Families had boarded themselves in for the winter, only leaving their houses to stock up on food or coal.

Kat hit the bell yet again, and this time she heard the pat of a footstep. The door creaked open and a pair of blue eyes appeared at about waist height.

She bent down to speak to them. "Hello. I've come about the room."

The eyes blinked once.

"Is your mummy or daddy there?"

Again the eyes blinked.

"Taylor?" A voice echoed within, and the blue eyes vanished. A moment later, door swung back to reveal a heavily pregnant woman and a small boy dressed in dungarees.

Kat smiled. "Hello. I've come about the room."

Brushing her hair from her eyes, the woman nodded. "Yes. Sorry. I was upstairs, and didn't hear the door... anyway. Sorry. Taylor, don't do that!"

She untangled Taylor from Kat's knees and pushed him towards one of the doors. "Go on, go and play," she said, distractedly. "Sorry. Um, what's your name again?"

"Kat Mason," replied Kat, giving Taylor a wink when his mother turned away. "I'm interested in the room you have to let?"

"Yeah. Do come in, shut the door and all that. Yeah, the last tenant just left a note saying he didn't want the room any more, and left. Can you believe it? Sheesh, some people..." She sighed, running a hand through her already untidy fair hair.

Kat nodded and smiled, letting the lady's chatter wash over her as she made cups of tea. I don't even know your name, she thought, but she was too shy to interrupt. Instead she sipped at her tea, making non-committal noises whenever she was obliged to.

Gradually, she became aware of a silence which stretched between the two of them. She looked up fro her cup. "Hmm?"

"I asked if you'd like to see your room now," repeated the blonde, smiling.

"Oh - yes, thank you." Kat hurriedly gulped the last of her tea and stood up.

"No rush. It's at the top of the stairs, first right. Bathroom's opposite. Would you mind going up there yourself? Only it's hard for me to get up the stairs..." She indicated her swollen belly with a small laugh.

"No problem." Kat was glad to be alone for a bit. She took her bag and headed up the stairs, Taylor's round eyes following her from the hall. She tried to smile at him, but to tell the truth his solemn gaze unnerved her, and she was relieved to shut the door on him.

The room was small and dark, but a small heater radiating warmth. Kat stood beside it for a moment, shivering as her frozen fingers thawed.

As she began to relax, rolling her neck and shoulders to force the last of the cold from her body, she suddenly had the urge to turn around. Her head twisted on her neck to take in the room behind her.

She froze.

A hand was resting on the pillow of her bed.

A human hand.

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