Yes, I came up with this during lockdown last winter. Duh.
The heater kicking on more often clued her in that winter was arriving, finally, and the temperature of the cold water in the pipes let her know when the frost started to sink in. Still, she waited. She’d told herself she’d wait for the snow. Everything would be clean and new once it snowed. Safe. Pretty, even. She just had to be patient.
Looking outside was out, of course. The curtains had been closed for so long that dust had sewn them together with spiderweb stitches. Luckily she still had electricity, in spite of not having paid a bill in what seemed like forever. The last bill they’d sent was no doubt sitting in her mailbox right now, with all the other mail she hadn’t gone out to pick up. Her internet hadn’t fared as well, going dark months ago and taking the silent news with it.
She had no idea what might be happening outside with the virus. In the town, the state, the world. And weirdly, that state of ignorance had become comfortable. Freeing? Maybe. She didn’t have anything to worry about except for herself and the cats.
She doled out the cat food carefully every evening, just a spoonful for each of her dozen babies – the food had to last. It was mostly just a treat for them now anyway, since they all hunted. And her forethought in over-stocking up on cat food instead of toilet paper had paid off, as they often brought their prey home to share, or even to gift. She still had food too, of course, but it was running thinner than the cat food so a little bit of fresh meat now and then was welcome. It made her miss the grocery store less, or sometimes more depending on what the day’s catch happened to be.
She’d go out again right after the first snow of winter, or maybe the second. She’d promised herself she would. The snow would make everything pristine and new and clean again, and then she would go out. She’d go to the store, fill a cart with cat food and crackers and strawberry jam and whatever else took her fancy, and she’d just enjoy being outside. Outside and safe, something that she hadn’t experienced in what seemed like forever.
When the cats came back one day dusted with powdery ice crystals, she knew it was time to risk using a window. Her little makeshift periscope saw nothing but white, so she cautiously, fearfully peeked out through the barest sliver of a gap between the dust-heavy curtains. White. Blue-tinged by moonlight, the snow was a thick, lumpy blanket as far as she could see. Nothing was moving. Still, though, caution was warranted. The next night more snow was falling, so she checked the following morning. Inches and inches of snow, carpeting the ground and everything on it. All white. Not even any cat tracks to mar it, because it was too deep and wet and cold for them to want to go out.
That night she packed, choosing clothes and readying cat carriers. No way were her precious babies staying behind. She slept restlessly and rose early with anticipation, like a child before a field trip. It had been so long since she’d been out!
After one last meager breakfast, she packed everything she’d gotten ready into the car, loaded the carriers with their alternately indifferent or snoozing or complaining occupants into the back, and then got behind the wheel and started it up. The electric motor buzzed to life after only a few seconds of hesitation, and then the garage door was creaking up on its rollers and cold winter light spilled in. She hastily put on her sunglasses—eyes that hadn’t seen daylight for so long weren’t ready for sunlight on snow. The car eased out, crunching over a few frozen bumps—which made the cats complain—and then she was out of her driveway and carefully heading down the unplowed, snow-filled street.
She did her best not to look at her neighbors’ houses, still and silent, many of them with splintered doors and broken windows. Some had lumps under their snow-blankets, some didn’t. That made her sad, but she told herself that it didn’t matter. They could have thought it through, like she had. They could have done their homework, when the first reports had started trickling out across the news networks. If they had, they’d have known that all they had to do was stay dark and quiet and inside, out of sight and scent and hearing until winter came.
Because dead bodies freeze fast, even faster than live ones. Maybe she’d take the cats farther north, someplace where winter came faster and lasted longer. Just in case the spring thaw forced them all back inside again.