The first cases were detected on a Wednesday. A couple of guests developed symptoms; like good citizens, they reported the matter to management. Mr. Frederickson thanked them for their vigilance and promised them a discount on their rental. Even if you have to stay a little longer than you planned, he said through the door. Lingering for a moment as if he expected them to thank him. But maybe that was expecting too much.

He returned to his office and spent a moment thinking things over. His window looked down on the convergence of all three slopes, the central hub from which the chairlifts departed. There had been little snowfall that year—every year, it seemed, there was less and less—but it had finally gotten cold enough for the manmade snow to stick to the ground. The grass beyond the bounds of the snow machines was still green and healthy, the mud a rich black color. Guests in bright ski gear dotted the landscape, artificial neons and reds atop a background of artificial white.

His connections in the sheriff’s department had kept him open in the past; his competitors, over at Noble Mountain and Resorts, had not been so fortunate. But there was no telling how long his luck would hold out. There were larger forces at work, and the deputies could only help him so much. He leaned too close to the window, accidentally smudging it with the grease from his nose. He cleaned the surface with a tissue and stepped back to observe the grounds from a safer distance.


Some people didn’t notice until they had already started their cars and pulled out. But Erick saw it as soon as he stepped from the lodge: three plows lined up end-to-end at the mouth of the parking lot, a vehicle from the sheriff’s department parked behind them with its flashers on. A deputy with his gun holstered at his side was leaning into the windows of the cars, explaining the situation to each one in turn. When he saw Erick and Ashley watching him, he lifted a hand to silence them before they had a chance to say anything.

“There have already been notices posted,” he said. “Everyone here is now under a temporary quarantine.”

“For how long,” said Erick.

“Not any longer than usual. Three or four days at most. Just long enough to get things straightened out. You know the drill.”

Erick nodded. It had been this way for years, and this was not the first time he had had it explained to him, almost down to the same words. He knew the drill. He tried to read the expression on Ashley’s face, but she had turned away from him to stare at the dirty pavement.


A knock came at the door. Mr. Schwarz stepped aside and looked at his family as if silently asking them for help.

“Mr. Schwarz,” a voice said. “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

He looked once more at his family. He didn’t know why. They looked back at him. When the knock came again, he opened the door; behind it were two men wearing surgical masks.

“You’re free to go, Mr. Schwarz,” one of them said, looking down at a tablet computer. “You and Jason. Your wife and Tyler will have to remain here.”

“How long?” said Mr. Schwarz.

“Just a few more days.”

These men were not armed, not uniformed or credentialed; they were not dressed in suits, they were low-level employees without any but the most superficial authority. He could have easily overpowered both of them. Maybe he could have found a way around the barriers blocking off the parking lot. Or figured something else out. But he did nothing. It was already too late by the time he was done thinking through these hypotheticals. He picked up the suitcases for himself and Jason and kissed his wife and Tyler on the cheek. He stepped into the hall, and the two employees locked the door behind him.


The temperature had finally dropped. It was bad for infection rates but good for those who remained uninfected. The clouds parted, the air was clear, the sun sparkled off the snow without melting it. The healthy clientele—submitted, of course, to daily testing—mounted up into these heights and slid back down, frictionless, unencumbered, perfectly free.

Mr. Frederickson rarely skied. There were usually too many people on the trails. He was usually too busy. Locked in his office for ten hours a day, dealing with bills, promotions, breakdowns in the lift equipment, repairs in the condos, welcoming occasional VIP guests, calling police on the occasional recalcitrant tenant. But all that was taken care of now. It had taken care of itself somehow. There had been government subsidies to cover the drop in business. Loans, he supposed, but he was only the manager, not an owner, and it was not his job to pay them back. Everything was quiet, everything was peaceful. The trees were still; there was no wind as far as he could tell. The snow was shining like a gentle sea struck by the sun. Most importantly, the slopes were nearly empty. He took his skis from the wall and searched the back of his closet until he found his boots.

The fresh air flooded his lungs, scrubbing out his insides down to the smallest alveoli. The sun was so strong he was able to take off his hat and gloves after the first few runs. He was the only one on the lift; his legs dangled weightlessly beneath him as he looked down upon all he had created.

There was probably some work he needed to do, though he couldn’t bring to mind any specific tasks when he tried. He had left his cell phone on his desk. Near the beginning of the crisis, he had anticipated a flood of complaints and threats and tearful confrontations, but the backlash had been remarkably light. Those who had been quarantined had acquiesced without a murmur, and those who had been allowed out of their rooms settled easily into their new lodgings. The accommodations were roomy and modern, situated in the deluxe complex, while the worst viral cases were moved to an outdated building at the edge of the property. The snow conditions were good, the employees were happy, everything was running smoothly; in fact, smoother than ever. It felt almost natural, like this was how it was always supposed to be. He was hungry, but he was beginning to enjoy the sensation of being hungry. Like he could taste the air now. He felt like he hadn’t been truly hungry for years.


Mr. Schwarz spent the first few days fighting it. He talked to the customer service reps, sat in waiting rooms, endured the quiet humiliation of being passed around to half a dozen different departments. No one could tell him anything, of course. No matter who he talked to, everyone was reading from the same script.

He reconnoitered the parking lot and decided that his truck could probably take down the temporary chain link fencing. Then he could just engage the 4X4 and take his chances in the mud until he hit the road. But first he would have to find a way to break Tyler and his wife out of the room.

His biggest problem was Jason. Trying to keep the boy warm, trying to keep his spirits up. The boy missed his mom and his brother. He didn’t want to ski anymore, and the new room and the pool in the basement no longer impressed him. Mr. Schwarz felt the same way. But he couldn’t scout out the condo complex with the boy in tow. So he sat in the lodge with Jason and sent him to play with the other boys at the daycare. If he managed to make some friends among the parents, he thought, he might be able to get them to babysit Jason for a night.

He heaved himself down into one of the plastic chairs lining the playroom. He was always sore, even on vacation. He had never figured out a way to relax. That was what Vera was always telling him. But he couldn’t relax around her, either.

Sometimes, he told himself it wasn’t so bad. Maybe he was overreacting. Even Vera had said as much. She and Tyler were doing fine for themselves, cooking and playing games together. He got to talk to them on the phone every day. And it would only be a few weeks longer. He had checked the bill on their online account the day before and started to panic. But the management assured him that this figure was only a placeholder, that they would be provided with a payment plan after the crisis had ended. They never got any more specific than that. Everything was uncertain. But it was just as uncertain in the world outside the resort. His job said he wasn’t needed back just yet. So why should he risk everything to leave?

He watched Jason play with the other boys. They shared from a pool of toy trucks and action figures; the girls played off on their own. People always worried about change. He had worried what it would be like to bring children into a world like this. But some things never changed. Some things never could. Life always found a way; life always went on.


They tried using video conference apps. It wasn’t the same, of course, but they did their best. She would strip naked first, and then he would follow. But Erick couldn’t stay focused. He noticed small differences in her room; had she moved condos again, he asked her. No, she said, just broadcasting from a different room in the suite. There was no thermostat in his room, but he could swear it was getting a little colder every day. He was always eager to get back into his clothes.

The resort offered its most comprehensive entertainment package for free. All the premium channels, the latest releases, movies that hadn’t even left the theaters yet. Pornography, too, though he already knew where to find that. The Internet connection was fast and reliable. He ordered a new laptop from his old one, and it showed up at his door the next day. He got restless sometimes, but he knew it wouldn’t be right for him to complain. Plenty of people in the world had it worse than he did, and it would only be a few more weeks.

He and Ashley stopped videoconferencing eventually. They called each other every day until it wasn’t every day anymore. Then it was even less. Then, someday, somehow, it stopped altogether. He was losing track of time, and he didn’t notice it happening until it was already too late.


Vera comforted herself with the thought that she had at least brought plenty of books. Books for her and books for Tyler. Books for Mr. Schwarz, too, which he had not even begun.

For the first few days, the first few weeks, she tried to savor the peace and quiet. But it was too quiet sometimes, especially for Tyler. He was older than Jason, and he needed boys of his own age to talk with. He went back to school online once winter break was over—she made sure he never missed a class—but he only talked to his teacher. It wasn’t the same. Nothing was the same.

Tyler was convinced that his father was going to come back. He said that he had heard him promise on the way out the door. But she couldn’t remember. It seemed like so long ago.

She did her best to cook with the ingredients and ready-made meals provided to her by the resort. She baked decorative cakes and posted them on social media. It seemed to her sometimes that the share of food allotted to her by the resort was diminishing, slowly, in quality and quantity. But that would have been crazy.

There was another thing, too. It was hard to tell if it was just her imagination. Her cabin fever acting up, her female neurosis. She was as guilty of it as anyone else. But she took to wearing a sweater around the condo at all times. Then she had to wear two. She tried to complain to the management but they weren’t picking up her calls. She never saw anyone face to face who could answer it for her. She was pretty sure there was something wrong with the heating system.


The wind had picked up, and a cover of cloud rolled in. The snow was falling in earnest now: real snow, heavy, wet flakes, frosting over the pine trees and swallowing the mountainsides from one end to the other.

Mr. Frederickson had built a fire, but he had chosen to stand at the window and watch the snow fall over the hills. Evening was approaching, and the floodlights were blinking on one by one. The falling snow swirled and sparkled, and the unspotted snow beneath seemed to glow from within, as if by chemical reaction. The trails would still be open for another half-hour or so, but the skiers were already heading inside. Maybe they didn’t want to disrupt its perfect surface. Most of the newer luxury units had windows that faced the mountain, and their residents were content to watch the snow fall. Mr. Frederickson, with his hands tucked cozily in his pockets, turned his head to face the chairs arranged in front of the fireplace.

“Is everything alright?” he said.

Ashley sat gazing at the fire with her head propped up in one hand. She made no reply at first, and then she nodded.

“You enjoyed your meal?”

She nodded. “Yes,” she said.

“And those things I bought you. They fit all right?”


“And there’s nothing else that’s bothering you?”

She spent a moment looking into the fire.

“No,” she said.

“Good. That’s good. We can all get through this. Together.”

He walked over and began to massage her shoulders. She stiffened up beneath his touch, but he understood; she got into these moods sometimes. They all did. But he knew that one day, sooner rather than later, they would all be used to it.

He returned to the window and looked out the glass at the bright white snow emanating out from the black sky. Everything was quiet. Perfectly still and perfectly quiet. The last of the skiers had finally gone inside. And the snow came down upon a world made perfectly clean.


Erick stripped all the sheets and blankets from the bed and threw them over his shoulders. He was already wearing his heavy coat, his long underwear, all his sweaters and thermal gear, but it still wasn’t enough. The heat had been shut off completely now, and the power, too. The faucets belched forth one last spurt of brown water and then gurgled emptily. Food no longer appeared inside his door. He banged on it until he almost broke his hand. But it was funny: he didn’t want to shout. It felt somehow rude, somehow impolite. Almost as if life was proceeding as normal, as if nothing had changed, and his shouting would disrupt the peace of the other residents.

He could hear noises from the next room. A child and mother, from the sound of it, but he couldn’t pin down the age of the boy. He seemed to be regressing in age, from a toddler back to an infant, his voice growing more shrill and raw every time he started crying. The woman used to try to comfort him. But as time went on, her soothing words grew less frequent. One day, they vanished altogether. Occasionally, when he pressed his ear against the wall, he could still hear an occasional muffled whimper, but it was impossible now to say who it was coming from. He knocked gently on the wall, but got no response. Maybe it was too late. And knocking wasn’t going to do any good anyway.

He thought about trying to break the window. But it was an eight-story drop; even if he landed in snow, he would never make it. And a broken window would only make the room colder. Snow had been falling since the night before, and now floated in swirling, sugary clouds through the sunlit air.

He gazed out the window and tried to think through his options. Maybe there was an explanation for all this. Supplies were short, fuel was short, they were probably short on labor as well. Just another week or two, and everything would be back to normal. If he just survived for another week or two.

He heard it before he saw it. At first he thought it was the fire department, a rescue of some sort. But it looked more like a window-washing platform slowly lowering itself outside his window. It dropped down on its pulleys until it came level to the eighth floor. Erick waved both his arms over his head, but the man on the platform didn’t seem to see him. Instead of a squeegee, he carried a paint roller attached to a short handle.

The man reached his paint roller up to the window and applied a layer of thick black paint to the glass. Then he dipped the roller in the paint and applied a second. He worked slowly, methodically, like he would have undertaken any other task, for any other reason. Erick was too shocked to protest at first. He tried knocking at the window—gently, using only one knuckle, the way he used to knock at his neighbors’ wall—but the man still pretended not to see him. He continued at his work until the entire window was coated completely and impenetrably. No light could come through anymore. Erick could hear the squeak of the pulleys as the man descended to the next window.