She loved the cold, but she hated winter. Her scarf muffled her breaths. The air was musty around her nose.

Her fingernails were slightly blue around the iced coffee she held. She shivered as she took a sip. She held her breath until her face was safely nestled within her scarf.

She checked her watch again. The bus was late, as usual. She curled her toes in her boots, but they did not warm.

“Cecilia, right? From Latin class?”

She glanced beside her.

“It’s Charles. We met a few times.”

She nodded and smiled but he probably did not see it. “I remember.”

He scratched his head. “It’s December,” he gestured towards her coffee.

She shrugged. “I like it iced.”


“I like the cold.”

“Ah. Well I suppose you do look quite cozy.”

She nodded. “I am.”


“I’m quite cozy.”

“Right, right.” His fingers tightened around his tumbler and she glanced away hurriedly with a shiver she could not restrain. He frowned. “You sure you’re not too cold?”


But already he was unscrewing the top of his mug. He held it in front of her face before she could shy away. “Here, have some. It’ll warm you right up.”

She shook her head, eyes wide as she took a step back. “No, no, I don’t want-“

The steam rose in grotesque shapes that darkened his shoulders, hollow eyes grinning as tendrils wrapped around his throat and lingered near his heart. Some of them reached out towards her, and she could smell the acrid stench of corruption.

Her coffee slipped from her hands as she stumbled backwards. It splashed across the ground, and Charles cursed as it leapt up the hem of his jeans. He frowned as he glanced up at her.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled as the darkness dissipated. She hunched her shoulders and edged away.

“It’s fine,” he ran a hand through his hair and fell silent, taking a few steps away.

She clutched the strap of her bag with white knuckles. She kept her face buried safely within her scarf, shivers wracking her frame.

23 thoughts on “Steam

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