Running Water


Running Water



There was a time I hated winter. It wasn't the cold, I could handle that. It was the dark I couldn't deal with. Dark by 3:30 pm? No, thank you. Summer used to be my season. Barbeques. The long days. Those late summer evenings. Bonfires. 

My wife couldn't handle the summer heat. Winter was her time. At least, that was before The Wandering… I now have no idea where she is. 

Now I hate the summer. You can't stay indoors. Since no air conditioning unit functions anymore, there's no reprieve. The heat is stifling. But you can't go outside either. It reeks. It always reeks. Difficult to breathe. A constant putrid stench. There's no escaping it. Carrion. Like spectral tendrils, the stench would weave and reach up. You'd think a breeze would clear them away; that a strong wind would cleanse the dog days of summer. But you'd be wrong. It only brought a different miasma from a different place.

And then there's the real danger. The Wanderers. But I don't want to dwell on them. That problem's past now, just like that first summer. 

As summer ended a different kind of death and decay gripped and crawled and clawed across the land and the city - but this time a more blessed and natural kind. Autumn.

I had originally dreaded the advent of winter. Alone and isolated, I thought I would be fearful of the coming darkness. And I was. I still didn't like the short days or early sunsets. I still hated those long cold winter nights. But I was surprised how much I enjoyed the days. I could easily and safely go outside. The Wanderers ceased to be a threat. A few difficult and challenging days and things became tolerable. 

The first was a walk to an abandoned store for proper winter clothing, boots and a coat. The next, a trip to Home Depot; A trailer and gas generator. At first the trips were anxiety filled, the snow-clogged sidewalks and boulevards and streets and avenues were littered with what appeared as mannequins, hauntingly posed and frozen in various states of shambling gaits and stumbling walks. Some fallen over, broken on the ground, their exposed parts blessedly hidden beneath snowdrifts.

The air was brisk and fresh. No more stench of carrion. You could afford a deep breath. The kind that fills your lungs and belly. Clean. 

It's the second week of an early February deep freeze. I'm enjoying a mug of hot coffee in my early morning as I gaze out my house's front window, surveying my most recent acquisition parked in my driveway: a City of Ottawa's snowplow. Today would be my first long range excursion. I could plow through previously inaccessible roads and streets. I would check my kid's elementary school. That's where they were last June when the plague hit. I know, I know. It's been seven months. I don't hold very much hope. But I have to know.

Next, a supply run that should stock up my reserves for the entire winter.

I also want to drive and check out the city's downtown core. I don't know what I expect to find. People maybe? Other survivors?

I finish my coffee and zip up my winter coat. Staring absentmindedly at the truck keys in my hand as I contemplate exiting my house. It's the part I hate the most. That ever so short walk from my front door to the truck. All of ten feet. That initial shock and fear never gets old. 

As I open the front door, the frigid cold stings my exposed face. I keep my eyes on the icy front step, hoping to avoid what I know is standing there waiting for me. My eyes follow the icy step to the downspout fastened to my home's brick wall. It's frozen solid. Filled will ice, backed up to the upper roof's eavestroughs. I draw a deep breath through my nostrils. It's clean and brisk. No stench. I tap my knuckles on the downspout. Rock hard and solid. Just as I thought, it is filled with ice.

Hesitantly, I slowly raise my eyes. The sky is clear blue, the sunshine bright and reflecting off the white snow, its miniature crystalline substructure glistening. And there, standing, frozen in mid-stride is Mr. Grinde. 

Mr. Grinde was my mailman. He's standing on my driveway, halfway between my front door and the truck. The black of his Canada Post jacket is speckled with patches of frost and ice, broken by Canada Post insignias and badges. 

His touque is missing, exposing his thinning hair. A patch of flesh slightly above his left temple has been torn or peeled off, his bare skull bleached white by the sun. I need to pass within two feet of him to get to the vehicle. It's unnerving to be this close to one of them.

Looking almost like a walking mummy, completely inanimate and frozen solid, a slight breeze rustles his hair, briefly startling me. The skin on his face is dessicated, dried and taunt. His lips, peeled back, gives the illusion of protruding and gnashing teeth. His chin, neck, throat and collar of his shirt are stained brown from old dried blood. However, it's Mr. Grinde's eyes that are the worst. They are clouded over cataracts, lifeless and void, their gaze permanently fixed upon my home's front door. 

I continued past Mr. Grinde, not wanting to ponder too deeply upon his intentions when the bitter cold caught him unawares. Climbing up into the truck, I insert the keys and turn the ignition. The diesel engine sputters and rumbles into life, its overhead exhaust pipes coughing black plumes of smoke. My children's school is only a ten minute drive away.


I suppose I hoped for some sense of closure from my trip to the school. The elementary school was a squat single-floored building. On a bright sunny day you could see through one class window and out the other. 

There were no lights on. The school had no power, no electricity, no generators. Through the smeared, grimy windows only shadows were visible. I cannot know with certainty why they were grimy or what they were smeared with. I don't want to know.

Through some trick of the light, there were moments some things seemed to move, or shift, or shamble within the school. Like my heart and my hopes, there was an overwhelming sense of abandoned decay about the place. There was nothing living here.

Returning home and parking the snowplow, my anxiety once again climaxed at the sight of my front driveway's ditizen. Like some kind of grotesque nightmare fuelled giant lawn ornament, Mr. Grinde is still standing there frozen in mid-stride. With his back to me I am temporarily spared looking into his face. Winter's harsh breeze cascades its fingers through his wispy hair, flapping his pant legs against his icy flesh. Two elongated snow drifts extend from his petrified boots, lost and pointing to nowhere.

Walking to my front door, I have to pass within feet of him - of it.

I want to avert my eyes but I can't. Promising myself only the briefest glimpse, that fleeting moment turns into a demented study. No different than a child witnessing a bog mummy at the museum exhibit, a macabre curiosity checks and balances the terror.

His facial stubble seems as real as mine, the flesh of his throat, a gooseflesh-like texture. Most of the colour has withdrawn from his face, leaving a grey-brown tone, patchy and uneven. Tiny black spots are prevalent across the windward side of his head. I can only imagine the consequence of frostbite, possibly early gangrene before he froze solid.

As I enter my warm house, I shut, lock the door, and draw the deadbolt, checking the locks twice, thrice, the thoughts of frostbite and gangrene and thawed rotting meat and flesh churning through my mind, like some sort of demented meat grinder:

Could a Canadian winter be the end of the plague? Is it possible this nightmare was for a single season only? Frostbit flesh would turn black and slough off. If a carcass was frozen throughout, once spring returned, its thawing would leave little but collapsed effluent, tissue, and bones. 

I went to bed and as I fell into slumber my head was filled with thoughts of the end of the Wanderers. 


For the following few weeks I had fallen into a depressed reprieve, doing little but eating, sleeping, shitting and obsessing over useless worries I had no control over. I can't remember whether it was a week or two weeks. I've lost track of time. Was I now in March? 

I decided it was March 12th. Daylight Savings Time. I was done with the grey days of depression. Maybe Daylight Saving Time would brighten up my days, both figuratively and literally.

Today I will take my snowplow downtown. It will do me good. Give me a sense of purpose, like I'm a contributing member of society. Helping out. Doing good. Clearing the Queensway to downtown, opening up the downtown corridors. Somebody has to do it, right? Find other survivors. I mean, once Spring comes around and all the frozen Wanderers collapse into rotting piles of human effluence, once the plague is over, we will all have the task of rebuilding civilization, right?

I filled my thermos with hot coffee, donned my winter coat, and take my truck keys. As I opened the front door my positivity was curved and enthusiasm plummeted, falling to the ground along with my gaze. Again, I wasn't prepared for what awaited me. I didn't want to be prepared for Mr. Grinde. 

As a distraction my eyes followed the virgin snowcovered step to the downspout hanging off the upper roof's eavestroughs. With a pronounced lack of confidence I rapped my knuckles on the aluminum downspout. It was solid. No hollow sound. Backfilled with ice. Frozen to the upper eavestroughs.

I slowly, hesitantly raised my eyes. It was an overcast day. Homogeneous grey clouds covered everything. One monochrome blanket enveloped the world. The diffused phosphorescent sunlight lit up everything yet somehow cast no shadows. The harsh light left no detail unnoticed.

Slightly warmer today, it was a wet-snow that fell. Mr. Grinde stood there awaiting me. Cold. Solid. Inanimate. He glistened, a light sheen of ice coating him. Glazed like some fired ceramic monstrosity. His hair was matted and flat to his head, wettened and frozen by the rain-snow. A verglas statue.

His pant legs were solid today. Soaked with the freezing rain, then petrified by the winter cold.

Lips peeled back, pulled by the skin's desiccation, still his teeth looked like they were snapping, biting at something. His lower jaw had filled with water, draining out and overpouring, forming a slowly growing icicle down his chin. 

The ice coated snow broke and crackled like that first breaking of a crème brûlée as I gingerly passed the mailman and made my way to the truck. My high spirits had fallen. I'm not sure whether it was the gloomy day, Mr. Grinde, or my untenable position. 

The truck reverberated as it started, the quiet tiny sound of shattered ice cascading on the ground around it. The sound was haunting and surreal, only further emphasizing my sense of isolation in my silent suburban neighbourhood.


The temperature had dropped significantly during the day. The wet-snow turned into bitter ice-shards that the wind drove like tiny knives. 

I sat in the snowplow cab, parked in my driveway, replaying the events of the day over and over in my mind. The trip downtown was a depressing, hope crushing mistake. The downtown avenues acted like windtunnels;

windswept and clogged up with countless numbers of Wanderers. There were no survivors. There couldn't have been any survivors. Like an army of lifeless statues, the streets were choked with them. 

I drove and plowed the streets, cleaning the accumulation of snow and ice from the derelict asphalt and cleansing away the standing frozen bodies. Like the ice and snow, so too did the frozen walking cadavers shatter and break.

Ultimately, I plowed a path from my suburban neighbourhood to the downtown core and back again. A glass-half-full kind of person would say I created a road for survivors to find me.

A glass-half-empty kind of person would say once the Wanderers thawed out…

The truck sputtered and shook as I turned off the ignition, my mind still churning over what I had done: But they wouldn't, would they? Thaw out, that is?

As I approached Mr. Grinde from the rear I could see his jacket and pants and head were coated with crystalized frost. Gone was the smooth, clear glaze coating of ice. Replaced with a semi-opaque rough layer of miniscule pointed daggers. Some water had slipped beneath the flesh of his open wound on his head - the one exposing the bone of his skull. Freezing, the water has expanded, opening the wound further, extending down to his cheek.

Covered and coated with rough ice, could a walking corpse's eyes look any more dead? Mr. Grinde's certainly did. They were soulless, his mouth and teeth freeze-framed in a gnashing bite only added to the illusion that he - it - was only biding its time - waiting.

No, no, no! I shook my head, not letting my fear and imagination get the better of me. Once the thaw came it would be over. The Wanderers would rot and fall apart. Drop to goo and pieces. Spring would be the end.

My fear and revulsion peaked as I passed within arm's length of Mr. Grinde. My instinct demanded that I recoil. My peace of mind demanded otherwise. Screwing my courage to the sticking point, I reached out a knuckle and struck Mr. Grinde's arm. I had expected his jacket sleeve to be cold but pliable. I was wrong. It must have been saturated with water, frozen as deeply and concretely as his body. I continued to the front door passing the frozen cadaver, my hand lightly touching the downspout. Solid. Drumming my fingers on its surface, there was no reverb through its aluminum. Just a dull dead sound.


I was lost to reprieve and withdrawal from reality for days…maybe weeks. I know not how long. Eating only because I had to, my appetite lost to depression. Sleeping only when the mindless exhaustion of inactivity captured me. Surviving but not living. The necessity of biological functions, my only drive. 

It had been more than a week. The days were becoming noticeably longer. It had to have been weeks. My mind toggled between the indifference of knowing what date it was, to the needful purpose of following a calendar. I had long since abandoned the days of the week. 

Listlessly I stood watching the coffee maker brew my black gold, the sound of its quiet percolation holding my attention. I intensely awaited and listened to its finale. When its glorious brewing was done, its symphony's coda, the final drip, drip, drip, it fell into silence. 

I had little other hopes or passions or vices or interests. I felt I should applaud it as silence once again reigned… but the silenced didn't… reign that is.

Another sound - evasive, elusive - caught my attention. I cocked my head to the left, listening intently. It was subtle. Alive and playing a game of hide-and-seek with me.

It was coming from the foyer. As I followed the indistinct sound, approaching the front door it grew ever so slightly in volume. Again I stood still, listening. Pressing my ear to the front door, its volume grew ever so slightly again. It was coming from outside the house. 

I cautiously drew the deadbolt, my hand drifting in a surreal slowness to the doorknob lock. Pinching and turning the switch between my thumb and finger, I unlocked the door. 

I was never truly prepared for what I knew awaited me outside, again my eyes fell to the front step. The sunlight cascaded across the concrete step. The shadowed side, darker and wet with water. The sunkissed side, dry and white. The sunshine was warm and invigorating on my face. The sound was coming from the downspout. I raised my hand to the aluminum tube, bringing my knuckle to the metal and rapping. It reverberated. Hollow, empty, water cascading through the downspout.

I raised my eyes to Mr. Grinde. He wasn't there. It wasn't there.

My gaze froze to the horrific sound of running water. 




Michel Weatherall



A native of Ottawa, Michel Weatherall grew up as an army-brat living in Europe and Germany and has since travelled extensively.


Having over 30 years experience in the print/publishing industry, the transition to self-publishing was a natural step with his publication company, Broken Keys Publishing.


Other work (the poems “Sun & Moon,” "Purgation," "This Burden I Bear," “Eleven's Silent Promise," "The Corridor," the sci-fi short story “Rupture” and the essays "The Doctrine of Fear" and "Ebook Revolution?") have all appeared in Ariel Chart's online journey.


The poem "Jacob's Darkness" has appeared in the Indian Periodical.

Weatherall's theological essay, “The Voice of Sophia” has been published in American theologian Thomas Jay Oord's "The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence" (2015)


  1. hard not to like but would have preferred more of a punch

  2. i do not agree with last comment. if story is generally weak, "a punch" will not help.

  3. enough already, this girl can write. i like the story very much.

  4. The whole water motif was fascinating. You did a good job with it.

  5. A zombie story without an actual zombie in it, yet still filled with dread and anxiety? That's pretty good..

  6. maybe next time we will get a vampire story without vampires. can't wait.

  7. wasnt this done with the movie Cloverfield. two hours of craziness and you never see the monster.

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