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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction: Melt

The wind is quiet, but I can hear the branches scratching against the window screens. We wait, silently, hoping that they'll think no one is in here. That's the advantage of human brains over brains made of snow – they're not that bright.

"Snowpocalypse!" the news media deemed the snow and ice that blanketed the city. With a ratio of about one snowplow to every million people, that's pretty much how it ended up. That first day, with the snow soft and only starting to get its hard layer of ice, the kids got out and engaged in that ritual that they'd only heard of from their Northern cousins: making snowmen. Some went all-out authentic with coal eyes and carrot noses, and others got more creative. One odd commonality: Mardi Gras beads. Whether it was a snow drag queen (that was in Midtown, I'm sure) or a snow bunny in Decatur, they wore beads.

"What did they show to get those?" my husband asked after we'd passed our third festive snow creature on a careful walk around the neighborhood.

"I don't know," I replied and righted myself after an almost-fall. "It sure puts a different meaning to the old phrase, 'colder than a witch's tits.'"

"Most witches I know are pretty hot," he said with a wink.

After the third day of no school and minimal openings except for bars and lightly staffed restaurants, the natives got restless, and not just the parents with small children. The weather would "warm up" to around freezing or a little higher, then hard freeze again at night. The snowmen and creatures mimicked the appearance of Hollywood starlets on crash diets, thinning out in odd places, and then getting their hard shells at night. A traditional snowman on Ponce de Leon Avenue took on an insectoid look as its head, thorax, and abdomen melted and flattened. The snow bunny's ears drooped, and its eyes grew big and skeletal.

It was that fourth night that we heard the noise the first time, a "scratch scratch scraaaaape!" on the neighbor's window. We peered out our dining room and saw it, the snow insect, its branch legs barely able to hold it up. Its beads swayed and sparkled in the light from the streetlamp.

"There must have been some magic," I started to sing under my breath, but my husband grabbed my wrist. The ice bug ambled toward our house, and we ducked into the kitchen, barely breathing as it repeated its scratching query on the screen.

The telephone rang, and the noise outside stopped. We let the machine take the call, and it was our neighbor from down the street:

"I just saw a zombie snow bunny with Mardi Gras beads!"

The next day, of course, hordes took to the streets to find and destroy the creatures, but they were nowhere to be found. I suspected that they were hiding in the woods, and my suspicions were confirmed that night when we saw them again, this time with sturdier branch legs.

By the fifth day, the ice had mostly melted off the sidewalks, although the roads were still bad, and the usual contingent of joggers and health nuts who consider five miles to be an "easy run" had taken to the streets again. We saw one of our neighbors, Michael Magee, on his usual route. He'd usually run up and down the streets of the neighborhood five times. After the third time, he disappeared.

"Honey?" I asked. "Did you see Michael go by recently?"

"Nope." We called our neighbor down the street, and she bundled up and joined us in front of our house. We retraced his route and found a thickly wooded empty lot where the snow and ice had been disturbed in a path running from the sidewalk to the trees. Blood stained the snow and dripped down the edges of jagged pieces of ice that had been torn up during the scuffle.

"Oh, gods!" my neighbor said with one mitten over her mouth. "We have to call 911!"

"Or the Ghostbusters," my husband added.

The police, of course, were not much help and warned us to stay inside. We went back home, cranked the heat up as far as it would go, and armed ourselves with a hair dryer and crème brulée torch. Not that they would do much good against a creature that could take down a healthy, full-grown man.

So here we sit, sweating and silent, as the creatures scratch at the windows. I feel it's only a matter of time before they figure out how to take down the power supply to the house, and food supplies are getting low, so we hope that the predictions of the imminent Great Thaw are true. Although I don't call myself a witch, I can feel the wild energy swirling outside, driving the clink of beads and scraping of branches. They say Mardi Gras brings out the wild side of people. Snowmen and ice creatures must feel the same.

There must have been some magic…

Yes, that was a snow bunny we saw on Sycamore when we could finally walk to downtown Decatur that Wednesday. Pretty much all of this story up to the creatures coming to life is true. If someone can explain why people decided to put beads on their snowmen, please do so – it was a very strange trend. The idea of them coming to life was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend about what the snowmen turned into as they melted and refroze. They did look pretty freaky.

Oh, since this is my first foray back into #fridayflash in a few months, here's a bunch of goodies from the case of temptation at Alon's bakery:


  1. I love the story, but I especially love the closing lyric from Frosty the Snowman. Great!

  2. Wonderful whimsical story. I've often thought that if "Frosty" really came to life, kids and grownups would be freaked!

    Also love flash fiction, but all my stories tend to run on.

  3. Excellent story! Whimsy and creepy death all in one makes for a fun time. At least for us readers! Love the idea of fighting the snow zombies with hair dryers and creme brulee torches.

  4. Tony, I've had Frosty stuck in my head on and off for a week since I wrote this. :)

    R.S., I agree. Kids' tales are usually way better in abstract. For example, I don't think I'd want to know what my cats would say if they could talk.

    Eric, I laughed when I wrote the hair dryer and creme brulee torch line, so I'm glad you enjoyed it as well.

    Thanks, y'all, for your comments!


  5. I did think the snow bunny was a little creepy... I can imagine it scary as hell after a melt and refreezing. O.o