The wind whistles through the cracks in the window frame. It sounds sort of like hissing sometimes, and other times, it sounds like a soft moan of breath from a dying soul. The light from the street spills in, casting shadows on the walls: grey rectangles with snowflakes falling through them, and the claw-like fingers of the tree that shivers back and forth. And the snow taps at the window panes like tiny, scratching fingers. The room is cold.
So she gets up to try to shut the window better. She walks up slowly, feeling the icy air against her legs. Her nightgown does not cover enough.
The house is silent. Her footsteps don't make a sound, not even whispers across the floor. There is only the wind and the scratching of the cold dead snow against the glass. She can see her breath in the room.
She walks up to the window, feeling around the frame for any drafts whispering in. There are several. It's an old window. The house has shifted since they put it here, and the rectangles are nearly parallelograms. But the glass has not shattered.
She tugs upward on the window, hoping to open it all the way and give it a good firm slam down into place. It groans a bit and slides up half an inch. She tugs some more but now it's stuck. And now the winds and snow are blowing in.
And she sees a figure in the night, floating in the air in front of the tree. She thinks it is the tree at first, just shadows playing tricks on her, and she leans in to look harder. There's definitely a figure in the tree. She stares, almost hypnotized, trying to decide if she's imagining it. And then the figure, a man in grey, blinks. She has leapt into bed before his eyes have opened again. The covers are up to her chin. She is panting with fright. The frosty air catches her breath and turns it to tiny puffing clouds of icy wind.
But now the window is open a bit and the room is getting colder by the minute. She lies there in the dark, peering out at the window sill, watching the snowflakes billow in, making a little pile. She's waiting for cold dead fingers to wrap around the bottom of the window and heave it upward.
Nothing happens. There's only wind and snow. She tries to convince herself she'd only imagined it. It was only a shadow, a trick of light, a certain billowing of the snowfall outside that looked like a face in the night. Yes, that's all it was. She must close the window. It's now freezing in her room.
So she slides the blanket off of herself and swings her legs off the bed again. She takes one, two, three steps toward the window and stops. One more step and she'll be able to see the tree outside again, but she doesn't want to. She must close the window though.
She leans forward and peeks out. There he is again, still standing in mid air, still floating twenty feet above the ground. The tree's clawing branches wave back and forth through him, like a magician trying to prove there is no trick. He blinks again, not just a figment of her imagination, but something alive, something staring at her. And in a flash, she's back under the covers again, this time completely covered, eyes and all. Minutes pass. Maybe twenty before she can hide no longer. She's running out of air underneath there and she has to pull the cover away from her face to catch a quick snatch of breath.