I dream often of snow. I love the way it covers everything in a deep powder that seems so clean and fresh, covering up the horrors of the world in a fluffy white blanket. And the eerie calm… muting the anguished cries of a blighted world, suffocating it in peace and quiet. But inevitably the snow must melt and turn to slush, and become a muddy gray that gets tracked inside and soils your mom’s new carpet. A cold, wet mess. But not in snow globes. Snow globes are a perfect little world, shrouded in perpetual bliss, where agitation brings another comforting blizzard. There is no escape from a snow globe—a hermetically sealed, perpetually flooded little environment—but why would you want to? It’s the outside world that you want to escape, with danger and deception all around. You know where you stand in a snow globe, an ideal world, in miniature form. Tranquil and soothing. Making it a surprising place for a murder.
I collect snow globes, picking them up anywhere I can on my travels. Friends and family know of my interest and give them to me as gifts, as well. I’ve got the requisite ones, Aspen, New York City, the North Pole. My favorite is one of the Vegas Strip—improbably covered in white powder.
A light dusting of snow makes any place look calm and inviting. Maybe it suggests the holidays, or that warm sensation of sitting by the fire, drinking hot chocolate and thawing out from a snowball fight. In the real world, the season eventually changes, and the snow goes away. But in my perfect little globes, it’s winter every day of the year.
One of the more elaborate snow globes on my shelf has a ferry—the Chimera—on the waterfront, secured to a little dock. There are even little people on the boat, and others boarding, dressed in colorful coats and caps. A man in a blue uniform takes tickets on the quay. A couple of seagulls rest on the wheelhouse. It’s very idyllic, which is why what I discovered one morning scared the life out of me.
I woke up one morning and gave a few globes a shake, as I like to do ((otherwise, what’s the point?). But when I reached for the globe with the dock and ferry, I was startled. The first thing I noticed: all the people were gone. Like it was their day off, except this is a snow globe. They don’t get days off—or have lives, for that matter. But they were all gone. Except for one—
The one that lay dead, in a pool of his own blood, with a knife sticking out of his back.
The other surprising thing was that he had on shorts and a short-sleeve shirt—totally out of place in this little, encapsulated winter scene. For a moment, I wondered who he was, and where he came from—did he have family he left behind? And why would someone want to kill him? Did anyone call the police?
And then I remembered this was a SNOW GLOBE—there are no living people in a snow globe.
Was I out of my mind? Without thinking, purely out of habit, I did the only thing you can do with a snow globe. I shook it. And as the little white flakes swirled, I wondered, was I was tampering with the crime scene? What a ridiculous thought. But when the snow settled, the little dead man (was he a tourist? He looked like a tourist) was still there.
Are there any motives in a snow globe? I was fascinated by the possibilities.
I looked around, checking for any other impossible discoveries in one of the others snow globes. All of the other winter wonderlands looked fine/normal. All except for one: the Vegas Strip. I should have known!
Along the strip, there was something different, something I hadn’t seen before. A couple of uniformed cops with the LVPD were questioning a woman with a baby in her arms. Were they filing a missing persons report on the man? If only I could ask them. But I’d hate to have to deliver the bad news. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe it had always been like this, but I never noticed. Now I felt really bad for his possible family. It was going to be a sad Christmas at the John Doe house without pop, raising the child alone.
As it seemed maybe I was spending too much time with my little perpetual-winter landscapes, I took a beat and looked back at the ferry and dock scene, hoping it would be back to the way I remember it—without the murder scene and all.
Sure enough, the murder scene was gone, but it was definitely not back to the way it was. It was worse. The once charming little tableau was now grim and deserted, like it had endured years of neglect. The people were all gone, too, even the sea gulls. And the Chimera had fallen on hard times, now a decrepit, rusted hulk in disrepair.
As I looked closer, disheartened by the scene, I swear I saw movement onboard the ferry. A tiny, dark figure moving along the lower deck. It was hard to make out in shadow, but I recognized it from my dreams—the Ghouli! The creature with six spider-arms and fangs! As soon as I noticed it, it ducked out of sight, inside the boat. I took a moment.
Science has shown, or so I’m told on a regular basis, that life emerges in the most unlikely of places. There are things in the world that we’re probably not meant to see. I stay away from the snow globes now, sitting there on the shelf, collecting dust. Leaving them to their own little dramas. And I’m fine with that. I’ve got enough of my own.