The gathered crowd huddled together, stealing warmth from their closeness, and hoping the reduced exposure to the elements would protect them from the harshly frigid conditions. They shivered as one. Their blankets and parkas rippled in the breeze despite their best efforts to keep them wrapped firmly in place. They all hoped for a miracle.
They willed Phil from his hiding place. They urged him on. They needed to know what his prediction would be. They needed it to be different from the curses the forecast had already hurled in their direction. They needed winter to be done.
The feeling of hope, the feeling of desperation, was so prevalent that the occasion was eerily quiet compared to prior years. The crowd stood on their toes. They held their breaths. They watched unblinking as the furry creature emerged from his burrow to definitively decide the fate of the seasons.
The quiet was shattered as one woman screamed and another fainted. There were groans and shouted curses among the men. Children began to cry. A low murmur of disapproval rose to a cacophony of chaos. Phil, wisely, turned and tried to return to the safety of his home, but it was too late.
A man named Phil, a cruel twist of fate, had already broken free of the mob, rushed forward, and was able to snag the hog by the scruff of its neck before it could descend out of reach. There was no collective cheer of triumph. No celebration. No outpouring of relief. There was just a constant murmur, a force of guiding pressure, that ushered the two Phils into a truck.
The mass watched as the vehicle sped away. They all knew where it was headed. They all knew the inevitable outcome. While some had begun to sober from the effects of disappointment and despair, it had gone too far to stop it. From the moment it saw its shadow, the ground hog never stood a chance.
They remained together in their solidarity, together in the righteous vengeance and horrible knowledge of the atrocity about to occur, until the explosion from the rock quarry reverberated back to them. Then, eyes askance, ashamed, saddened, confused, they dispersed to their separate homes, to prepare for the six additional weeks of winter they would have to suffer through. They would go to their beds that night fervently hoping that the day would repeat itself on the morrow, that they would be given another chance to do the right thing, that Phil would be given another chance to not cast a shadow.
But, February 3rd dawned under a fresh blanket of snow. It covered the town. It covered the quarry. It covered the burrow that would forever more be vacant. It could not cover the stains on their hearts.
While they used the cold as an excuse to avoid each other, everyone knew it was the truth in their eyes they couldn’t stand to see. Eventually they would pack up their lives and secrets and move away from each other, trying to run from what they had started and finished that long ago February 2nd. The ground hog would never cease to haunt their dreams, though.
Word Count: 532
This bit of silliness is obviously a twist on the movie Groundhog’s Day, if you didn’t catch that while reading it, and was inspired by this week’s Papi Prompt!:
What: 500-1000 word maximum flash fiction story
Use the following: The Ground Hog never stood a chance…
When: Due before next Monday to be included in the results.
How: Ping back [to the Papi Prompt post linked above].
I know the answer, but how many of you are ready for winter to be over?
Here, in California, I’m still waiting for winter to start. Want to trade places with me?