Charred by the cold

Read this spooky story for a frightening surprise this Halloween!

Tim stuck his hand through a slit in the grate…” | Graphic by Eliza Liebo ’25

Almost like it was charred by the cold, the sleek black streets seemed to absorb all light but a glimmer off the ice. As the search party drew near, their flashlights reflected off the falling snow like millions of falling lightbulbs in the sky. Though they had only been out for nearly an hour that night, the effects of the cold were blatantly visible. Snot formed frosted peeks below their chins, and snow dyed their hair white. While their faces were concealed, the disappointment remained noticeable in their expressions. It had been three days since Tim Hasler went missing, and two days since the first snow of the blizzard. At this point, they were searching for a body. 

Tim Hasler was interrupted by the final bell of the school day. He and his friends were discussing plans to hang out that afternoon, before the snowstorm was expected to hit. He shoved his puffy winter jacket farther into his backpack and walked out of the building. Before he left for school that morning, Tim’s mom practically zipped the jacket on him herself. Of course he immediately removed it as he began to walk to school. But the sting of cool wind against his neck made him reconsider. As Tim walked, he texted his friends about a potential sleepover that night, stumbling over every curb that he failed to notice. When he turned the corner, a sudden gust of wind sent an eeri chill vibrating down his spine. Tim looked down and kept texting. After a few more minutes, he realized that he had made a wrong turn and spun around, accidentally walking right into a low hanging branch. The impact knocked him onto his back and left his face throbbing. After slowly rising and letting out a groan, Tim noticed that he had dropped his phone when he fell. He surveyed the sidewalk and the grass nearby before spotting a glint from inside a storm grate. His phone, barely 7 feet below, was practically within his reach. Tim placed his backpack behind the tree and crouched over the storm grate. Noticing the ladder inside, he optimistically attempted to lift up the grate. To his surprise, Tim was able to lift the grate just enough to rest it against its own hinges, leaning at a slightly precarious angle. Looking at the sky one last time, Tim saw that it had started to flurry. He slowly climbed down the ladder, the metal rungs clinging to his fingers due to the freezing temperature. Just as Tim stepped his foot onto the floor 7 feet below, an impressive gale of wind and snow whipped across the world above, causing the storm grate hinges to creak and slam shut with a mighty clang. Startled, he hurriedly dropped down onto his knees. The tight concrete walls made him claustrophobic. After scurrying around, Tim found and grabbed his phone which was half submerged in a thick grey substance. Upon flipping it over, he saw that his whole screen had shattered, and the phone wouldn’t turn on. When he began climbing the ladder, Tim noticed a substantial change in the temperature. The metal was now nearly unbearable to touch, and he saw nothing but white through the slits of the grate above. Tim tried to lift up the grate again, but he struggled much more than before. While holding onto the ladder with one hand, he shook and pounded against the grate with his other, urging it to release him. But the thin layer of snow above had frozen over, cementing the storm grate into the ground. Tim stuck his hand through a slit in the grate, waving it rapidly and screaming for help, begging for someone to come.

Snow has a special ability to conceal reality. One of the searchers looked around, but all she could see was a blur of white haze. All she could hear was the muffled crunching of her feet on the ice. She had been out for over three hours, and her gloves were nearly soaked through. It was time to go home. As she trekked back to her house, she knew her son, Tim, was lost forever. But the snow has a way of distorting direction, and she made a wrong turn. Before she realized her mistake, a loud snap below her foot made her stop. She slowly looked down and saw a dark finger in the snow, directly beside a gnarly hand sticking out of a storm grate. The hand was completely blackened by frostbite, almost like it was charred by the cold.