Pocket Stories: Sun, Snow, and Storm

“I should have gotten the damn AC fixed before the drive,” Shiro muttered.


Chimu sat wordless in the passenger seat, munching from a bag of corn snacks. “I have a paper fan if you want it. Might be hard to fan yourself while driving, though.”

Shiro shook his head and looked out the window at the blistering stone path along the road. He could see the distorting heat waves rising up from the hot rock. A bead of salty sweat trickled down the bridge of his nose and stung his tear duct.

“God damn it!” Shiro grunted and rubbed his eye. 

He rolled down the windows of his Toyota to try and supplement the pitiful breeze of his broken AC, but the air outside the car was even hotter, blowing in on both sides like massive hair dryers.

“AGH!” Shiro yelled. “I hate this fucking heat!”

“Look,” Chimu gestured to a sign up ahead — just two kilometers to the nearest convenience store.

“Oh, thank God,” Shiro replied. “I need a cold drink. This weather is ridiculous.”

“Global warming,” Chimu said, to no one in particular.

The duo’s car soon turned the bend and a tunnel came into view. The entrance was carved from stone, On the other side of the short, dark tube was another road sign, glimmering in the blinding white sunshine.

The car sped through the entrance to the tunnel.

Shiro jumped awake with a powerful beating in his heart. His skin was burning with a numb pain and his breath blew out of his mouth in cold, thick clouds.

“What the hell?” he gasped, looking around. He wiped the icey moisture off the inside of the window and looked out at a brilliant, white snowstorm. The Toyota was parked neatly on the side of the road. Its four-way lights blinked cheerfully as pillowy white snow fell in sheets around it.

Shiro looked beside him to find Chimu fast asleep with the bag of corn snacks still in his hand. Regular but weakened breaths escaped his blue-tinted lips. Shiro shook him violently.

“Chimu! Wake up! Chimu!”

Chimu did not stir, only mumbled. His eyes fluttered but as Shiro shook him, he only jostled in the passenger seat.

“What the hell is going on?” Shiro cried out. His numb and rigid fingers tried to start the car, but the key would not turn.

“Fuck!” Shiro yelled. “Where are we?” He looked back towards where they had come, but the same frozen moisture obscured his view. He pulled the door handle but the door didn’t budge. Throwing his weight against it, he heard the snap of cracking ice and then tumbled haphazardly out into a half-meter of snow.

Staring up, Shiro saw the shining bright sun behind the grey clouds above him, but felt not a trace of its heat.

He got to his feet, his t-shirt now soaked and the winter wind slashing his torso and legs like a gust of knives. He looked towards the tunnel. He could see the other side — green weeds poking up from stone just as he remembered not two minutes before.

Looking behind him, he saw through the open door Chimu still laying limp in his seat, his snacks spilled about his lap. Cursing under his breath, he climbed back in, and, pulling two picnic blankets from the backseat, spread one over his friend’s pale skin.

“I’m going for help!” he yelled at Chimu, slapping his friend’s frigid face.

“Mmm,” Chimu murmured, his eyes still closed.

Clutching the other like a cloak about himself, he crawled back out into the savage cold.

Slamming the door to the car, Shiro raced through the snowbanks, the bare skin of his legs burned by the snow that reached up to the bottom of his shorts. He moved quickly but clumsily, stumbling and tripping over himself towards the tunnel. Above the entrance was a stone shelf extending out half a meter, filled to the brim with even more hellish white powder.

“Please, don’t bury me alive,” he thought with panic as he headed under it, back through the tunnel.

As his shoes made contact with the bare asphalt of the covered passage, he tripped forward.

His hands flew out in front of him reflexively to break his fall.

Shiro felt the gritty texture of sand on his face as he lifted his head and gasped for breath. The sun shone brightly through his closed eyes, projecting geometric greens and purples across the inside of his eyelids. He sat up with a start. 

Looking around, Shiro found himself on a sun-soaked inlet, the gentle waves of the ocean lapping up foam onto sparkling sand. His hands, still numb, began to twitch and come back to life.

“I–” Shiro began to speak, but found himself without a word to say.

Rubbing eyes and struggling to stand up straight, he felt his flesh begin to soften and thaw. His joints popped, tensed, and untensed gratefully.

He looked to the tunnel once again. The stone facade stared back at him.

The carvings on both sides jutted out and receded with depictions of two serpentine figures flying in opposite directions. Their tails ran towards each other, touching at the very top of the tunnel opening, where a jizo statue sat unassuming. It carried a tiny staff in its child-like hand. The other hand was raised outward, it’s infantile fingers outstretched. Its face was a simple, flat slate of stone left uncarved. 

Shiro turned back towards the beach. Colorful umbrellas dotted the shore further down. A beachball floated aimlessly in the shallow waves. At his feet, the picnic blanket he had cloaked himself in was spread on the sand.

“Hello!?” he called out to the empty shore. “Is anyone here!?”

Silence answered him.

His mind returned to the frozen Toyota he had fled.

“Chimu!” he gasped, and darted to the tunnel. He looked on the other side and saw the blizzard raging, and the hazard lights of his car blinking dimly in the distance on the other side.

“Chimu!” he yelled through the passage, his voice amplified by the rock and Earth.

A moment passed, when suddenly, he saw the door open, and a hunched figure begin to crawl out.


The broken silhouette jerked itself  halfway upright, and suddenly, a shrill, cracking yell floated through to him — “Shiro!”

“Chimu! Come here! Get out of there! You’re going to freeze to death!” Shiro screamed, his throat tight. But before Chimu could respond, he collapsed into the powder and disappeared beneath its surface.

Screaming, Shiro dashed towards the car, his arms and legs pumping like pistons. Before he could even reach full speed, he entered the tunnel and felt the ground evaporate from under his feet.

He landed on his back, and pulling his legs into his chest, tumbled violently through damp grass and mud. As he finally sprawled out to a halt in a bed of overgrown wild grass, he felt sprinkles of water dot across his face.

Opening his eyes, he looked up at an inkwell sky, not a star shining and the moon invisible. A mist of small raindrops plummeted down at him from above, streaking through his vision.

“Chimu!” Shiro screamed, scrambling to his feet. He looked up the embankment to see the tunnel once again, shrouded in darkness behind the curtain of rain. “Chimu!”

“Shiro!” a voice immediately responded, sharper now, and closer. “Shiro! I’m here!”

Shiro raced back up the ditch and climbed onto the road. “Where are you?” he shouted.

Chimu’s voice rang out with power, “I’m here! Up here! Help, I’m stuck!” Shiro heard the voice from the ledge atop the tunnel and sprinted towards it.

He stopped at the entrance, this time pulling himself from setting even a toe over the threshold. He looked up at the looming stone platform. “How did you get up there? What’s going on?”

Chimu shouted indiscernibly from the ledge above him, his voice now getting weaker and strained.

Shiro cursed, and backed up to try and see above, but couldn’t. Backing up further, he eyed the carvings on the right side of the tunnel. He took notice of the deepest grooves and began scanning for a foothold.

With a sprint, Shiro rushed at the tunnel’s side and planted his foot on the stone serpent’s protruding tail and hopped up to grab the carved claw. With a burst from his legs, he shot up vertically and grabbed the highest claw of the serpent carved into the rock.

“Shiro…” he could hear Chimu whisper, now only a meter above him.

Shiro shouted back, and lept again  but found hisintended  foothold gone. Desperate and off balance, he reached out and grabbed the edge of the stone platform. He hung only by his one hand. 

He kicked and flailed to get a grip with his left, but the cold rain ran into his eyes, and he shook his head in vain to see clear his vision.

Suddenly, he could see through the blurs Chimu’s face in the darkness above him, peering over the ledge. He was wearing the picnic blanket Shiro had left him wrapped over his head like a hood.

“Chimu!” Shiro yelled and blindly threw his hand for help as his other lost its grip and he fell. 

Shiro landed with a sickening thud on something lumpy and uneven. His mind electrified with pain as he rolled hollering onto his stomach . He coughed and felt a whirlwind of debris rattle in his chest.

Shiro could not move, the pain was so intense, and even the movement of his uninjured limbs irritated and stabbed at his ribs. Fumbling with his hands, he found what he had landed on. 

It was Chimu, crumpled into a heap, his trousers caked in mud and stains dotting his shirt.

“CHIMU!” Shiro yelled. Ignoring the seizing pain in his torso, he yanked his friend’s arm, pulling Chimu’s limp body over onto its back. “CHIMU! What happened!”

Chimu’s body rolled over.

Shiro stared at the place where the young man’s face once was. There were no cuts. There was no blood. Where his face had been was hollowed out, smoothly calcified black like someone had run a round scoop through a watermelon.

The air left Shiro’s body and all that could escape his lungs was the shrill whimper of a beaten dog.

A pitter patter scurried past him, the sound of small, bare feet running through the scattered puddles. Shiro lifted his head, his mind concussed and unfocused. He saw it — a hunched little creature draped in the picnic blanket. It’s tiny pale legs poked out from underneath, no bigger than a toddler. It stood shaking with its back to him.

The fleshy little thing pulled the blanket tighter around itself and shivered. It creeped quickly into the tunnel like a damp rat desperate to get out of the storm.

Just as it began to crawl into the darkness out of Shiro’s waning vision, it stopped one last time. Putting down a small stick it carried beneath its picnic cloak, it brought its ghoulish white hands to its covered face, fidgeting and pulling at the skin like an ill-fitting mask.

Frustrated, the thing picked up its stick and brought it back under its cloak. It turned and looked back. Under the brim of the blanket, Shiro could see Chimu’s eyes shining back at him.

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