All was ghostly white: the settlement had been overwhelmed by heavy snowfall. The ground, having once been fertile with grass and blooming plant-life, was now shrouded by a thick, death-pale blanket. Within the walls skirting the circumference of the settlement, there was no visible movement and no sound to be heard other than the insidious whisperings of the icy wind. The buildings of the settlement stood silently in the soft light, bearing pristine snow on rooftops and suspending icicles, hiding away shivering families or stores of food gathered over recent months. These were the beginnings of a savage winter; savage and cold. Throughout the settlement, each window was shuttered or curtained to reserve warmth for the fast approaching night. All windows but one, behind which the Mayor’s small eyes watched over the stillness and the silence.
The Mayor gazed out of the window of his office in quiet contemplation, running his eyes over the frozen graveyard of motionless buildings. They soon rested upon one in particular – a small, slanted structure isolated from the crowded buildings, hugging the edge of the settlement where the wall stood. His staring eyes fell upon the decrepit house and, running his finger through the cool sheet of water which had condensed on the window, marked an ‘x’ on the glass over the distant shape. He wiped his damp fingertip on his trouser leg and smiled to himself before being interrupted by three solid knocks on the office door behind him.
‘Come in,’ he said, keeping his back to the visitor stepping cautiously into the room.
Something outside caught the Mayor’s attention. He looked up out of the glass to see a lone flake of snow beginning to timidly descend from the bleak and consistent sky, as if a fleck of ash from some distant fire. His eyes patiently followed its journey toward the ground with detached interest.
‘We need to talk,’ said the visitor.
‘Indeed we do,’ retorted the Mayor, turning to greet his guest. ‘Indeed we do. Please, do sit down.’
Original image by Lizzie Wood