by Erica Ruppert
Stars above shatter and rain down as glittering dust.
Sima peers from her window at the shining dark sky to watch the snow sprinkle down. The tip of her nose grows cold where it presses the glass. Frost forms where she breathes. She scratches a star into the ice with her finger nail.
Every snowflake is different, her mother told her once.
The house breathes quiet. In the basement the furnace rumbles like a purring cat.
Snowfall changes the quality of the night, catching any scrap of light and throwing it back against the sky. Sima moves softly through the bright darkness, out of her room and into the hallway. She hears her mother rouse and sigh and fall back into sleep. Dim light falls through the window in bands across the stairs. Sima creeps her way down them into the shadows of the parlor.
She smells the dusty tang of the closed house, sees the dull shapes of the furniture. She is too old to believe in ghosts, anymore, but she thinks they would fit here. Her mother still pretends they are as they had been. Sima has given up on convincing her otherwise.
Sima eases open the front door and steps onto the porch. The yard is spangled white, like salt scattered over the dry grass. She steps down, scuffing the crisp white frost with her slippers. The snow falls harder, blurring the world.
The snow stings where it hits her. At first Sima thinks it is only the cutting cold, but her fingers bleed where she wipes it away. More snow hits her eye, sharp as a wasp. She blinks. She feels it burrowing in, filling her eye and digging along the nerves. A faint trill echoes in her skull. Now she can see what falls with the snow. Her mother was wrong. These snowflakes are all of a kind. A million glittering shards hide there, identical, pulsing the same starburst signal.
She wonders who else can see it. Then the bright snow fills her, and she knows.
Erica Ruppert writes speculative fiction and poetry from her home in northern New Jersey. Her work has appeared in Nonbinary Review, Eternal Haunted Summer, Weirdbook, and Robot Cowgirl Press’s Alien Abduction anthology. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter and at Nerdgoblin.com.