The world was drowning in milk. That's what it looked like to June anyway, that morning when she got her first real glance of Novakosh. Like milk, everywhere.
Things would’ve been different if she’d arrived in the summer. That's what Glenda at Hair Force One two towns over liked to say. “Things would’ve been different if June’d come in July,” she’d say, shaking her head but keeping her hand steady. “A frozen landscape’s not inviting. All of that white, and all of it cold. It's easy to get lost in.”
June didn’t have much prior knowledge of white things. To June, white was fragile, like the pitcher in her grandmother's cabinet. White like bone, breaking through her brother’s skin when he taunted the neighbor’s dog. White like milk, expensive when spilt, impossible to hold in your hands.
“Towns like this are best in the summer. When the sky is bright and the woods are green and the lakes are dark and deep.” Glenda’s eyes grew wide and weary. “When you can see the lakes are lakes.”
June had come in January. She hadn’t planned on coming at all, and she certainly hadn’t planned on staying. Planning wasn’t June’s strong suit. Her trusty old jalopy had pulled into town as darkness settled. She’d driven it north all the way from Hammond, taking 55 about as far as she could, until it hooked a right towards Chicago and she still craved north. From there she’d wound around the city a bit, before finally settling on 43, and then 41, and then somewhere past Crivitz, when she lost count of the sunsets she’d watched in the rearview mirror, she’d realized what she’d done.
She’d seen signs for Iron Mountain and liked the sound of that. She’d seen signs for Spread Eagle, and it made her blush. She hadn’t seen any signs for Novakosh, though, and maybe that was the biggest sign of all. Once the car gave out, she gave up on continuing on, and settled in to sleep.
In the morning: milk. At first she thought she was dreaming. She imagined herself as some minuscule thing, deep in a bowl of milk, with Cheerio inner tubes and corn flake rafts to keep her afloat. In reality, she was stuck in her car in the middle of Lake Novak, covered in snow, two miles from shore, where a small crowd had gathered, watching.
The night’s snow had covered everything, and it took everything in June to force her car door open, splintering the fresh ice that had filled its grooves. Stepping out, snow crunched beneath her feet, and she saw how mere inches of splinter-free ice held her and her car’s carcass captive.
Someone was waving onshore, shouting.
“Help is on the way!”
June stumbled forward.
But June only heard cracking as the milky world gave way. In a moment, she was gone; and everything was white again, save a small, person-sized hole. And all of it was cold.
Elisabeth Giffin Speckman received her MFA in Fiction from Butler University, where she was a reader for Booth and now serves as an adjunct instructor and as Director of the Butler Bridge Program. She is a playwright and actor. Her plays have been workshopped and/or produced in Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Connecticut, and British Columbia. Her short play, “Brothers on a Hotel Bed,” is featured in Stage It! 2: Thirty 10-Minute Plays. Other work appears or is forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic and Flash Fiction Magazine.