During that time, he could smell it coming.
The air was different. Cleaner, clearer, more a texture than a smell. A prickle in his nose and throat that made him feel alert and slightly on edge.
He would stand outside and breathe it in, sensing its approach.
It made him feel like a child standing there waiting like that. Waiting for snow. His eagerness, his excitement building with each day.
“Like the coming of Christmas” he thought.
It was something he’d never experienced before, that anticipation, and as it rose within him he wondered where it came from, why it was that he was feeling like this.
Perhaps it was the loneliness he’d experienced lately. It had changed him.
He’d moved to the street a few weeks earlier, and had felt there was a strangeness to the place. An elusiveness about everything that left him lost and removed from his surroundings.
For a long time, the faces of the neighbours had remained mysterious. Nebulous things that he couldn’t grasp or retain. Faces that disappeared and disintegrated while he stared at them.
He would pass people some days and wonder if he had seen them before, wonder if they lived there.
He took to stopping and turning round, just to see if they walked up any of the pathways or opened any one of the doors. But they always walked on by.
At times it felt as if the only people around were these passing strangers, and he took to imagining that he was living in a street filled with shadows of people. People that moved around when he wasn’t watching.
So he took to watching.
For three long days, it was a sort of madness that took over him. Nothing mattered than to see the other people in the street. To see them come and go.
He had to see for himself that this emptiness, this idea that he was the only one there, was imagined. That this madness wasn’t something he had brought with him. That it wasn’t real.
And in those days while he sat watching, in those days when nothing happened, when no-one came or went, save for the shadows, save for the vague movement of people off at a distance somewhere. In those days, he smelled the snow coming and sensed the imagined beings taking shape inside of him.
As it fell he watched from the window. Watched as the street was smothered and muffled.
“This is the way this place is meant to be” he thought.
Cloaked and hidden. Dampened and hushed. This is the way it prefers to be. Colourless, soundless, lifeless.
He breathed it in, and found he liked it.
All day it snowed, and with each flake that fell he felt himself at peace, as though a certainty had overcome him.
So that when night fell and he stepped outside, he had a sense of purpose.
In each of the gardens he set to work, rolling and moulding the snow. Creating the faces of the people he could not see.
A smiling face for the house with the rose bushes. For the house with the pines, an old, long face, worn out by time. A frown for the house that was covered in ivy. Surprise and delight for the mimosa filled garden. For the house surrounded by tall dark hedges, suspicion and doubt. Laughter and happiness for the house with the swing.
Through the night he worked, shaping the faces, transforming the gardens, making sense of these houses and the shadowy people that lived there.
In the morning, when he woke, he sat in the window and looked at them all as they glistened in the sunlight.
Said goodmorning to each and every one of them, and watched as, slowly, they began to melt.