Fresh snow is all around me absorbing every instance of sound, lowering the ambient noise by trapping the air’s vibrations between the snowflakes. The only noise in this world is the slow procedural crunch of my boots into the snow and the soft cracked tone of my lungs as I exhale hot, imperfect clouds of carbon dioxide that slowly dissipate against below freezing temperatures. The skin on my hands is dry to the point some fingertips have split. I reach for my face; I have a beard thicker than I could have imagined. The air feels like it will turn my insides to ice. The repetitive crunching of snow under my boots.

I am a boy no older than six; I trudge through knee-deep mountains of white powder. When it gets to be too much, I fall forward, completely engulfed in a world of white. Two hands pull me back; my father holds me above himself, up towards the sun. He hands me to my mother; she wipes the slush from my warm skin. She holds me and I close my eyes. The sound of quiescent laughter, a mouth curved into a smile. I am safe here.

In the distance, a cabin lazily casts off smoke into the blue sky. I squint towards the sun. It gently drifts to its resting place in the west, heating my face for a small moment before I look back down to the snow crunching underfoot. Each step is harder than the last. My knees ache and the pain makes me question why it is I am out here in the first place. The cabin is a few hundred yards away, I have no idea what could be there, but I keep going. I’m not sure where I am now. I cannot be sure of the point of my journey. For all I know, there is no purpose at all. But I continue, save for the fact that even without a purpose, I must continue or die in the snow. The pain in my knees brings me to a halt, followed by a sharp pain in my chest.

I am alone in my bed with a beautiful young girl. A girl who cares for me far more than anyone should. And if only she could realize that she deserves better then she could be free of me. But instead, she weeps into the crumpled edge of her shirt sleeve and I tell her everything is going to be alright, knowing full well that it won’t be. And if only I could take a chance and reciprocate the sentiment then maybe I could be happy. But I am young and arrogant and her eagerness to accept forgiveness brings me nothing but annoyance. When I look at her smiling, I feel something I regard as hopeful and wonderous rise up inside of me, but unwillingly I force it back down. She can never know how I feel or wish to feel, because the gambit of risking my weakness is too much, and so to prevent myself from feeling something that may be overwhelming, I choose feeling nothing at all. As she holds my hand, a cold flows throughout my body and mind.

The freezing air assaults any area of my skin unprotected. I’m making worse time than I had predicted, and the sun has half-disappeared behind the cliff side. A fresh snowfall calmly begins its descent. Within these mountains, it is white as far as the eye can see. An unfeeling, uncaring mass of cold rock, immovable from its everlasting resting place. I now realize there is a rifle slung over my shoulder, and I believe I am an old man. But I am no closer to comprehending where I am headed, or who might be there. I arrive at the door of the cabin, and as I reach for it, every instinct of my being tells me to hold back. To stay here in this cold world of white. This bloodless landscape of ivory, this soundless expanse. Certainly, I came here for this. The unchallenged serenity of loneliness. But more powerful than that would be the warm feeling inside of me rising once again, now after so many years, a final last-ditch effort, a small focused idea of hope. My finger squeeze tight around the door handle, and a divine gust of wind pushes me forward. I will leave behind me this world of white.

Her dress drapes down from every curve, a beautiful gown made from silk and lace. A woman I remember in far too much detail stands before me. A woman I found to fill a hole, a hole I created with fear. She lacks the spark of the girl who came before her. The girl who I hid myself from, the girl who tried so hard to know me and accepted what little return of affection she could get back. The girl I left behind. The minister to my side reads the last of the vows. The spherical belly of the woman bends through her wedding dress. I look at all of those who have taken the time out of their day to come and enjoy this moment with us and I feel little more than boredom and irritation. I turn back to her and see the mound of white bursting from her abdomen. I think to myself that I should run, and after a moment’s notice, I do. I run out of the church and I run for as long as I can. I understand my mistakes and I understand I am making more, but I will go back to the start and right them from there. If she will only have me, then at long last I will dare to feel something.

I know now what I must be opening the door to, that same young girl, overflowing with exuberance, all grown up. Now, in the 11th hour, I will be able to give her exactly what she’s wanted, what subconsciously I have wanted as well, because I have waited long enough to know myself. Long enough that I no longer feel the need to fear fear itself. I can be honest. I can be open. I can care. The door swings agape and the hot swollen cabin warms my body head to toe. I open my eyes and before me I see nothing, an empty home, a single bed. A table set for one. Silently, the door slides shut behind me, the rifle slumps off my shoulder. I am alone in this world of white, this castle I built for myself.