silent snow, secret
just why this thing should've happened at all.. or why it should have happened to him.. paul hassleman
could not of course possibly have said.. nor would it have even occurred to him to ask..
it was really nothing.. just an idea.. but why it should have become so wonderful.. so permanent to
him.. that was the mystery.. it was pleasant.. possibly foolish.. but above all this thing was a
secret.. and something to be preciously concealed..
it was as if in some delightful way his secret gave him a fortress.. a wall behind which he could
retreat in heavenly seclusion.. all he needed to do was to think of that morning.. the first morning..
and then of all the others.. it was only a moment or two after he had waked up, or perhaps at the
moment itself.. that the thing had happened.. for no good reason, suddenly he had thought of the
postman.. perhaps there was nothing so odd in that.. afterall he heard the steps of the postman almost
every morning of his life.. his heavy boots could be heard clomping around the corner of the little
street drawing progressively nearer.. progressively louder.. there was the double knock on each door..
the crossings and recrossings of the street.. until finally the clumsy steps came stumbling to his
door.. and the tremendous knock came which shook the very house itself. but on that particular
morning.. the first morning that this mystery had begun he had for some reason waited for the postman..
but while at last the steps were heard they were curiously different.. they were softer.. had some new
secrecy about them.. besides they'd not come around the corner at all.. they were already at the first
house when he heard them.. and he had understood the situation at once. of course that was why the
postman's first footsteps were inaudible.. and the later ones faint.. nothing could have been simpler..
there had been snow in the night.. such as all season he'd been hoping for.. how beautiful.. how
lovely.. even now it must be snowing.. the white ragged lines drifting and sifting.. whispering and
hushing.. seething and getting deeper and deeper.. silenter and silenter..
(upon looking out his window paul sees that there in fact is no snow..)
queer the effect this extraordinary surprise had upon him.. all the following morning he had kept with
him a sense as of snow falling about him.. a secret screen of new snow between himself and the world.
if he had not dreamed such a thing, and how could he have dreamed it while awake? how else was one to
explain it? he could not now remember whether it was on the first or second morning.. was it even the
third? that his mother had drawn attention to some oddness in his manner..?
mother: "paul, you don't seem to be listening.. what's come over you?"
was it on the second or third morning.. or even the fourth or fifth? he could not now remember just
when the delicious progress had become clear.. all he knew was that at some point or another the
presence of the snow was a little more insistent.. the sound of the postman's footsteps more
indistinct.. gradually the snow was becoming heavier.. the footsteps more and more muffled. when he
found each morning upon going to the window that the rooves and street were as bare as ever it
made no difference.. this was afterall only what he expected.. it was even what pleased him.. what
rewarded him. there outside were the bare streets.. and here inside was the snow.. snow growing heavier
each day.. muffling the world.. hiding the ugly.. and deadening increasingly the steps of the postman.
paul: "i'd like to go to the north pole.."
mother: " the north pole? why the north pole?"
how was one to explain? would it be safe to explain? or would it merely mean that he would get in some
obscure kind of trouble? and how could he explain his new world? it's beauty was beyond anything..
beyond speech.. beyond thought.. it was utterly incommunicable.. it was irresistable.. it was
mother: "paul.. if this goes on we have to see the doctor.."
at times he positively ached to tell everyone about it, only to be checked by the mysterious power of
mother: "we can't have our boy living in another world.. so far away.."
no, it must be kept secret.. that more and more became clear.. at whatever cost to himself, whatever
pain to others.
on the walk homeward, which was timeless.. it pleased him to see through the accompanyment on
counterpoint of snow the items of mere externality on his way. further on.. there was something further
on that was calling him now.. something that was assuming a sharper importance.. something that teased
at the corners of his eyes.. teasing also at the corners of his mind.. something unnameable.. something
deliciously terrifying.. he knew what he was going to look at next.. it was his own house.. his own
little street.. his silent.. his secret snow..
this morning.. could he be mistaken? it was just about the seventh house that he had first heard the
postman's footsteps.. the seventh house.. his house. the only knock he had heard that morning had been
the knock on his door. did that mean he might never hear the postman again? the realization gave him
abruptly and a little frighteningly a sense of hurry.. he was being hurried.. being rushed.. was it all
going to happen at the end? so suddenly? or indeed had it already ended?
after supper the inquisition began..
how silly this all was.. as if it had anything to do with his throat or his heart or eyes..
doctor: "we could have his eyes looked into.."
this was all such a nuisance.. it would serve them right if he were merely to bark or growl..
doctor: "i'm not a shrink.. i really don't know.. some things just happen."
even here.. even among these hostile presences the snow was waiting.. out of sight with a voice that
said 'wait, paul.. just wait till we're alone together.. i will tell you something new.. something
cold.. something sleepy.. something of cease and peace and the long bright curve of space.. banish
them, refuse to speak! go upstairs to your room.. i will be waiting for you.. i will tell you a story
better than the snowghost.. i will surround your bed and pile a deep drift against the door so that
none will ever again be able to enter..'
doctor: "is there any particular thing that might be worrying you, my boy?"
'speak to them'
paul: "no.. i dont' think so.."
father: "paul, you're making this very difficult for your mother, now what is this all about?"
paul: "i'm just thinking.."
doctor: "about what, my boy?"
paul: "about the snow.."
mother: "what snow?"
paul: "just snow.. i like to think about it.. you know what snow is.. can i please go to bed?"
father: "no! we're going into this now!"
'hurry paul, hurry.. these last few precious hours..'
(paul runs up to his room, closes the door and goes to his bed..)
'listen to us, paul.. listen.. we have come to tell you the story we told you about, remember? in this
white darkness.. we will take the place of everything.. '
mother: "paul.. paul, dear.. paul"
paul: "mother go away!"
mother: "paul, please!"
paul: "i hate you."
and with that final effort everything was solved.. the seamless hiss advanced once more..
'listen' it said..
'we'll tell you the last most beautiful and secret story.. a story that gets smaller and smaller..
that comes inward instead of opening like a flower.. it is a flower that becomes a seed..
a little cold seed..
do you hear?
we are leaning closer to you..
(an abridged version of the conrad aiken short story..)