WINTER BLUE • by Oonah V Joslin

It was winter and a blue snow fell again covering the plains of this insignificant planet in a fine cobalt dusting of fresh, deep powder. Janey liked to kick it around exposing the light blue layer beneath the darker surface; jumping, leaving little tracks and sky-skids all over the place. Our igloo stood out pink this time of year, glowing warm within, half way up the Mont. Our closest neighbour was miles away down in the valley where it never snowed and his igloo shone yellow on ubiquitous grey. Farther away I could see the comforting white and green of the hydro-polydomes.

“Where’s Janey?” I asked.

“Outside playing,” said Joel.

I stepped out too. “Janey! Not too far, now. Don’t wander too far!”

“Let her alone, Miriam. She’s okay. There’s no harm going to come to her out there and Dog is with her.”

Dog was the robot friend she’d got last Christmas. They were inseparable and it was a great comfort to me. Botdogs are so reliable. Looking at the orange of the sky I knew it wouldn’t be long until the next precipitation. More blue dust. It would fall until midwinter and then purple flowers with turquoise leaves would bloom in its rich dirt. I looked forward to spring.

Janey came running back all breathless. “It’s beautiful, Mummy, isn’t it?” she squealed. “Tell me again about the snow in Montana.”
“Well, it’s a great deal colder than this snow, and very deep and white; so bright it could blind you,” I said. “And tremendous dark trees grow out of it, and when you roll it, it sticks together into a ball and—”

“—makes a snowman!” Janey had seen pictures of snowmen but you couldn’t build a snowman with this chilly dust. She lay down and flapped her little arms leaving a light blue imprint on all that inkiness. She reminded me so much of my little brother — same excitable nature, same sweet face. An angel. Someday I would tell her about Jamie. Whenever she was ready. Whenever she asked.

I imagine him sometimes, still perfect in the snow where he was lost. I see my father and our friends searching; calling. I see my mother weeping. I feel the cold fear that gripped my heart. I see again the spring blossoming sad. Why did I turn my back? Why did I build that snowman? Why?

I was five. And all that was on a different planet and so very very long ago but some lessons are never forgotten though one’s tracks are soon covered.

Oonah V Joslin lives in North East England and writes mostly poetry and flash fiction. She was Managing Editor of Every Day Poets from 2008 to 2014, and is currently Poetry Editor of The Linnet’s Wings.

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 average 3.8 stars • 32 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Very colorful. It seems mom picked a planet where no kids could become lost. Neat.

  • I like that we don’t have to know about what planet, how they got there, or why the precipitate is blue so that the story about these mirror children, Janey and Jamie, and a blameless but unrecoverable incident takes precedence.

  • Lisa Walpole Finch

    Lovely, vivid and wistful. I can imagine the mother telling the stories of her childhood winters again and again.

    • Oonah V Joslin

      Maybe on some other planet with pink rain 🙂

  • Vicki Doronina

    A SF story full of heart – a rarity.

    Nice details: literally blue snow, “it wouldn’t be long until the next precipitation”.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Different and enjoyable (until the downbeat ending). I’m not a great fan of ‘It was…’ openings and felt three names beginning with a ‘J’ seemed a bit much, but I liked the lyrical feel to this writing very much.

    • Oonah V Joslin

      Paul thank you. It literally was flash fiction, this.

    • Comment tangent: I have literally set down shiny novels because they began with It was. I’m excited to find someone with that particular critical sensibility.

      • Melissa Reynolds

        Me too! One of my biggest pet peeves. Some smut story I read had an ‘it was’ start to every other sentence throughout the whole narritive. I had to keep reading for a friend. Now, I twitch whenever I see it.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I actually have a perverse fondness for that reviled Bulwer-Lytton opening paragraph. There’s a sort of glory of overkill…

      • S Conroy

        Ha! I was skulking in the corner wondering if there was something wrong with me for liking it. “It was …” whets my appetite for a juicy – maybe 19th century type – story in front of an open fireplace.

        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

          I’m sitting there with you, toasting marshmallows…

          I thought the opening of Oonah’s story was lovely. And I think every rule and guideline hammered into students of writing is made to be spectacularly broken by the writer confident of his or her own voice.

          • Paul A. Freeman

            It was while I was working as an English teacher in Zimbabwe that I grew to dislike ‘It was…’ beginnings. It was the first class composition I ever gave in Africa, and each of the 30 compositions began ‘It was…’. It was how the previous English teacher told the students a safe opening should be. The culprit was a book called ‘The Student’s Companion’, used in primary schools, urging students amongst other things to use long words instead of short words (the first composition I marked began ‘It was while I was perambulating lackadaisically down the tarmac….’) and similes such as ‘as magnanimous as Agamemnon’, all in a country where English was largely a second language. Anyhow, bottom line is since then I’ve had an aversion to ‘It was’ openings. (Glad I’ve got that off my chest)

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            You ought to have gotten rights to every one of those papers, and published them as a collection–something in the vein of “1066 and All That”…

  • I regret that this short flash didn’t deliver much flash for me. Heavy on description. Light on action. All meandering to a wistful ending.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    As a mood piece it creates effective and lingering images. As a reader I can admire the Bradbury-esque feel but I don’t find this sort of poet-prose hybrid satisfying. No vote.

  • JAZZ

    A story that doesn’t fill in all the blanks can, invariably, be one worth reading.
    And this one didn’t disappoint. I’ll think about this lost boy now for awhile.
    Well done, Oonah….!!

  • Walter Giersbach

    Liked this because it rose above the “literalness” of a great deal of spec fic, and gave us poetry.

    • Oonah V Joslin

      Thanks Walter. Poetry is my ‘A’ game after all.

  • I enjoyed this, Oonah. “insignificant planet” in the first line created enough of a question to carry me through to the end and I loved the descriptions of a colorful winter.

    • Oonah V Joslin


  • Carl Steiger

    This story set my mind to work, but maybe not in the right way. The robot dog made me think of a robot chimp I thought remembered from Lost in Space, but a quick search showed that the chimp on Lost in Space was merely a chimp with prosthetic pointy ears. It was Battlestar Galactica (original cheesy version) that had a robot dog, which was actually a real chimp wearing a robot-dog-suit. In short, the botdog here comprehensively derailed my train of thought, so I ought to adjust my attitude, come back another time and try again.

    • JAZZ

      I think Oonah’s story deserves a more mature critique..

      • Carl Steiger

        I think you’re right, but I just have a prejudice against robot dogs, and that kept me from a serious reading, Which is too bad for me because, as others have noted, the language is beautiful, and I probably would have enjoyed it if I weren’t fixated on that dog. One reader’s reaction only.

        • MPmcgurty

          There is nothing wrong with your critique. If the insertion of a robot dog in an otherwise lyrical piece distracts you, it’s fair game. I’ve had similar things trip me up. And, yes, it was the original BG, and a chimp played Muffit the Daggit (dog). Trivia of the day: The lovely Anne Lockhart, who was in BG, is the daughter of the lovely June Lockhart, who was in LiS (and Lassie). 🙂

      • Camille Gooderham Campbell

        All points of view are welcome here. Disagreeing with another reader’s opinion is fair; labeling it as immature is not.

        • JAZZ

          You’re comment has really hurt me. It was never my intention to dismiss or degrade anyone here. Obviously the comment from Carl was not well thought out….he agreed with me almost immediately.
          My comments on this week’s stories have been true and fair..I really dont deserve this public reprimand.


          • Camille Gooderham Campbell

            I’m sorry to have hurt you. Perhaps I misunderstood your comment; were you not intending to call Carl’s comment immature?

            Your comments in general are thoughtful and enhance the discussion. I’m not disagreeing with that. And it wasn’t a reprimand — just a note that we do actually welcome all points of view, including a discussion of ingrained preferences for and against particular story elements.

          • JAZZ

            My phrase ‘more mature’ simply meant more complete.

          • Camille Gooderham Campbell

            Ah, okay. Thank you for clarifying. ‘More complete’ is in no way an insult and makes sense in the context of the other comments; I apologize for misreading what you intended.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      Carl: You open doors here both silly and serious.

      Technology so advanced as to have a well-established society on another planet ought to have mastered the hazards of winter back home. That tragedy couldn’t have been so very, very long ago if Miriam was young enough to have a young child of her own.

      My problems with this story–which felt so Bradbury-like to me, are problems I now have with Bradbury himself, especially after a recent ill-advised re-read of “The Martian Chronicles.” In both this and that, we have gorgeous language and haunting images, but too much that eventually doesn’t compute….

      • Oonah V Joslin

        I can live with that 🙂

    • As ironic as this is, I’ve recently been re-watching BSG (the original series) from 1978. I loved it when I was 10, so why not 35+ years later.

      The robot dog in the show is a “daggit” named Muffit. And this was the first thing I thought of when the robot dog was mentioned.

  • MPmcgurty

    I’m not a fan of flash pieces that end wistfully with memories; I personally find that type of story more suitable for essay collections. Oonah’s stories (several here at EDF), although they fit that pattern, enchant me. (I especially liked “Forever Berries”.)

    Often a critic of first sentences and first paragraphs, I especially enjoyed this one. It placed me right where I need to be visually. Whereas many authors want to dazzle the reader with the full force of their talent up front because they’ve been told they need to “hook the reader”, Oonah simply starts telling the story.

    Thanks, Oonah.

    • Oonah V Joslin

      Aw thanks. That is exactly what I do. I just start telling the story and then I enjoy the ride and hope the reader does too. And “Forever Berries”? Thank you for giving that a bit of love too x

  • Jerry Parks

    I like your adjectives. Good prose.

  • There is a certain sweet sorrow in this little tale Oonah, enjoyed it

  • I enjoyed the imagery and (someone else mentioned) the Bradbury-esque feel to the writing. It felt calming. Mellow. But with a sinister undertone of something we aren’t yet aware of. Some sort of impending danger.

    The “surprise” at the end, I believe, should have been brought out way sooner. I think the story could have grow around that instead of the blues and pinks and lightly colored snow. I got lost in the imagery and never really found the story. Thanks for sharing.

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