Red Snow

Hobson Wadsworth

Ripped, Breanne Sparta

Red snow. School was out for red snow. We were just asleep last night, and out of nowhere, like a late Christmas present, the red snow was everywhere. Me and Dad looked outside at the few people who’d been willing to step out of the comfort and safe normality of their homes. They looked like deer in headlights, eyes darting back and forth, fearing a monster to appear like the snow. Except, if they were ripped to shreds, no one would be the wiser because the snow was already red. Red like the purest and darkest of blood you see in car accidents when metal stabs through you.


I looked up to my father. He was chewing a cigarette, as he always did in the mornings as if it were his solid nicotine-flavored coffee. His gaze stared through the foggy window, like an owl scouting for foxes or other predators. “Yes sir?”

He chewed more, his face scrunching as if in disgust or pain, like poison was on his lips. “Don’t go out today. Or tomorrow.”

I didn’t question why. There was no point in annoying my dad with an obvious question, and it was too early for games like that.

Dad made some toast and bacon for breakfast. I watched him cook, looking past his baggy overalls. He cursed a little when the oil popped on his hands. He put the toast and bacon on a plate, keeping them separated with the paper towel dam he had placed in between. The butter and jam were set in the center of the table. I had set the knives and forks on the chairs. All three of them.

“Pass the jam, Phillip.”

“Yes sir.”

He said nothing about the third chair. It was as if there was an invisible guest, preventing any gossip from the adult in the room. But I caught a glimpse of his eyes, and he caught one of mine. His were stern, like they were during my football practice, demanding I give one hundred percent, one hundred percent of the time. But there was something different in his eyes this time. Something I had only seen a couple of times before. A softness, as if he understood me and everything about me, but couldn’t speak a word out of fear of breaking the connection.

I wondered what he could see in my eyes. Did he only look in my eyes? Did he see the worry on my fingernails? Did he see the sadness in my dark hair? Did he see the confusion on my forehead? Did he see my heart? Could he see my pain? Could I see his?


I feared what he would say. His once stern voice, now melting into the red syrup that the snow would. My heart beat heavy in my chest, the pain throbbing through my entire being. My soul’s wounds were reopened with every strike of the muscle.

“Yes sir?”

The jam had not been put on the bread, but rather moved to the side. Dad’s hand came close to mine, but he stopped mere moments from direct contact like my skin was acid. But it lay there. Next to my hand.

“Phillip. Son…”

His voice cracked. I had never heard it do that in my life. Never. It felt like I had just heard the trumpets of the angels sound off for war. It was beyond abnormal. My eyes studied him even further. This couldn’t be real. It just couldn’t be.

His head had been shaved after the therapy. It was so white and round, almost as if it were a smooth golf ball left by a giant. His arms were thin, like sticks that had been shed by the mightiest of trees after the weakest of winds. His nails were yellow, but well-cut. His fingers were thin like wires. His body was gaunt, yet he never slouched. Mom said his head was too big for his body, even before everything.

“Phillip… I…”

He cleared his throat and sighed. His hazel eyes stared at me, looking for my own.

“We need to talk.”

“About what, sir?”

He frowned, but I saw his eyes did not waver. He would continue.

“…You need to prepare for…moving.”

“Why would I do that?”

His frown deepened.

“…My diagnosis came in yesterday.”

I grabbed and ate the toast, not tasting it. I chewed with my mouth open, something Dad despised. But he continued.

“It’s malignant and it’s grown too deep.”

The words came out so easily for him, but they hit me like a truck filled with cinder blocks. Tears flowed down my face and onto the table, unimpeded by the slim hope that once banished them.

“…I’m sorry, but you need to prepare to move. Aunt Jane will be your–”


Dad stopped and stared at me in concern.



I stood up, smashing my knee against the table, but I ignored the pain.

“I’m not moving. This is my home. This is where I live.”

Dad stared at me with the worst look yet. Not anger. Not hatred. It was something else. Like pity or sadness. Acceptance. Defeat. I had never seen him beaten. He was never beaten. Never! But now he stared at me like he was. Why?

“Phillip. You need–”

“No! I’m not going.”

“Phillip. Please.”

I couldn’t look at him anymore. I couldn’t. He was supposed to be big and strong. He was supposed to never fall. He was supposed to beat this.

I ran. I didn’t even think where, but somehow, I knew where I’d end up.

The darkness was all around, so much that I couldn’t see in front of me. My mind was foggy like there was something keeping me from thinking. But I wasn’t afraid of the dark, so I did what my father told me when things got bad: kept calm and carried on. A saying made by the British during WWII. It helped me get whatever task I needed done for school, or life in general.

As I walked, I felt something building in my chest, like there was a water balloon being filled inside my lungs, keeping me from breathing deeply. My teeth were chattering, but I didn’t feel any cold. My head continued to wander in the fog as I wandered in the darkness, my chest growing tighter with each step.

I wanted to stop, but I found myself continuing to walk despite my best efforts. I couldn’t stop myself as my legs marched me forward into a now crimson abyss. I saw my breath in the air as if I were in the Arctic. Icicles dangled from the sudden ceiling, looking more like spears of war than works of nature. My breath was becoming even more rapid as my body was forced forward into the hellish cave.

That’s when I heard her.

“Phillip. Phillip? Where are you?”

Her angelic voice beckoned me forward, causing me to go into an all-out sprint. I knew it couldn’t be her. There was no way it was her, but my body refused to listen to me.

“Phillip? We need to go pick up your father. Phillip?”

Her voice grew louder with each stride, and soon, I saw her outline in the red cave, the light reflections giving off a sinister color.

I tried to scream, but my mouth remained shut. Tears streamed down my face, and I saw her standing there. She was standing by her car, smiling, but darkness covered her eyes.

“There you are! Now let’s get to the clinic.”

I heard the engine before I saw it. My mother turned her head, and I saw her open her mouth. I screamed, just as the car sandwiched her between her own. The last thing I saw was a man with a bottle slumping out of the other car before everything went as red as the snow.

I woke up and rolled out of my bed onto the shaggy carpet, breathing in gasps after the memory of pain left me. My room was dark. My math sat beside my bed. I couldn’t think straight, so I just shoved it under. I had stopped crying a while ago. I wondered why. Maybe because I had cried so much in the past that there was nothing left. Maybe because I was just so tired. Maybe it was because…because I had accepted this. This nightmare is reality. It wasn’t fair.

I don’t know why, but I stood up and looked out my window, staring at the red snow. Why did it get to snow red? Why did that fantasy come true while mine was rejected? Why did the universe choose red snow instead of my dad? Why do something so inconsequential that would be ignored by everyone after a couple of days when I could’ve had a family? And why did they have to remind me of that night? That dark night of red and white. The night when Mom…

“It’s not fair.”

The words had come from my mouth so many times, it was like second nature. It was the first thing I said when I was born. It rolled off my tongue like sandpaper, yet I couldn’t stop saying it. Another few minutes of me staring at the cursed snow before I began putting on my boots and coat.

I looked under my door to see if my father was still there. He was. His brown boots shone against the fading light of the sun. I walked back to my window and opened it.

“Phillip. What are you doing?”

His voice was still stern, but I could never unhear the crack from this morning.

“Going outside.”

“I told you no.”

“You told me it would be okay!”

The rage came like an earthquake. Sudden and without warning.

“You said we would be a family. That everything would go back to normal. That we would have breakfast together again. That Mom would be okay. That you would be okay. But it was all a lie. A lie!”

I choked up, the tears coming again, letting the cold bite my cheeks as they fell. He didn’t speak for a minute, until I heard his cracked voice come again, crying that I had never heard before echoing from his mouth into my ears.

“I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry Phillip… I wanted it to be true… I wanted it to be true so much… but… it’s not… please come out… please talk to me… please…”

I looked back to the snow. Its color mocking me. Challenging me. Then my mind was invaded by his cries. His quiet yet potent sobs. I looked to the door, then back to the snow.

I thought what going into that bloodied snow would cost me. What else would I lose after everything? My own life? There was not much else to take at this point. But my father, did he deserve this? No. After everything that had happened to him, he deserved so much more than a disobedient son unwilling to listen.

I realized then how much I had matured over my short life. The universe had tried to break me over and over, again and again, but here I still stood. It was empowering in a way, to show the world I wouldn’t bow to its cruel will. To show I could still do the right thing after everything, to show I could still live.

I closed my window without another word, showing the snow, and the universe, that it would not take anything else away.

I talked with my father for a long time. It was a few more weeks before cancer finally took him. But we had so many conversations during those nights. About Mom, about Aunt Jane, about my future, and what I should do. The most important thing I remember him saying was that he was proud of me.  

The snow had been called a curse, a collective nightmare. But Dad had never said anything about a nightmare. I never asked him, nor did I regret not knowing. He had a right to his privacy. After a month, the cursed snow disappeared without explanation—not even melting away into a red puddle, just vanishing. I obeyed Dad’s last wishes and never touched it with my bare skin.

I moved into Aunt Jane’s, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, though the hole left by my father and mother remained. But Jane comforted me, cared for me like a real son. Always looking out for me like Mom and keeping on the straight-and-narrow like Dad.

I grew up. I became a mechanic like Dad, but I wore a gas mask like he had told me to long ago. But even after all those years, I still wondered about the snow. About the nightmares. I read some reports and even a book one of my teachers had written after the incident, but I never found anything substantive. Some conspiracy theorists said it had all been a government experiment, religious nuts said it was a sign from God, but most people couldn’t explain it, and no one else in the world had experienced it before or since. It seemed like everyone had just accepted that the weather had happened, and as long as it didn’t reappear, it was best to forget.

I couldn’t help but agree with them. The red snow had only caused pain to me and my town. I decided to let it go. I wouldn’t give the universe the satisfaction of keeping it in my head. Let it melt away, whatever hell it ended up in.

About the Author

Hobson Wadsworth · Christian Brothers University

Hobson Wadsworth is from Hernando, Mississippi. He attends Christian Brothers University as a creative writing major. His dream is to become an author of some renown, and spread his ideas abroad. This piece first appeared in Castings.

About the Artist

Breanne Sparta · Northeastern University

Breanne Sparta graduated with a degree in biochemistry and currently does cancer research at a biotech company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She hopes to begin a Ph.D. program soon. Breanne’s paintings, drawings, and photography draw inspiration from her studies; she uses her exploration of art to gain insights into biology. Her photograph first appeared in Northeastern’s journal, Spectrum.

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