In Deepest Winter/When Worst Cold Is Felt/Beware the Three Knocks/Beware Of The Melts
-Folk Rhyme, Origin Unknown
Seven Degrees. A measurement that I had previously associated with being connected to someone. In my new home in Colorado, it served as a reminder that outside was an inhospitable wasteland.
Inside wasn’t much more friendly. The primary thing regulating the temperature in the old home was a fireplace, one I had to manage myself because my aging grandmother could not by herself. The hostility inside extended to her as well.
You see, my grandma was near the end of her life, and a nursing home to her felt like a death sentence. As the youngest sibling with no obligations, no job prospects back home in Florida, and, according to judgmental relatives, no hope, I was the natural caretaker for her. Her growing dementia made it hard: she saw things, could hardly remember who I was, and acted hostile to anyone beyond me that came through the door.
As I entered the home that night, she was sitting in her chair, an ancient piece that wouldn’t be out of place in a Victorian novel. “Who are you!” She shouted, as her eyes turned to daggers shot right at my head. After taking off my layers, she settled down, realizing I was friend. Coming from the store, I started to cook the one meal she consistently ate: Oatmeal with banana, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
I put the bowl in front of her, and she started to eat, watching the door the entire time. The focus on the door was so intense at times that her focus on eating disappeared, as oatmeal missed her mouth and hit the floor. Wondering, I asked “Grandma, Why are you watching the door so intently?
“I’m waiting for a melt to show up.”
“What is a melt?” I inquired, not knowing the Pandora’s Box I had open.
Without relaying the conversation in full due to the ramblings beyond the scope of the question, a melt was the spirit of a person that died in the midst of winter.
“Melts, my boy, will wait until the coldest hour to begin their rituals”.
The ritual, she elaborated on, was simple: they would knock on the door of a house three times, ask to be let in, and proceed to murder everyone in the home.
“What do they look like?” I wondered aloud to her.
“A melt will be covered head to toe when they come to your door. Underneath the clothes, ice.”
Excitedly expanding on the legend, Grandma warned that the only way to kill a melt was to not let it in.
“Surviving a melt simply requires you to not gives into their lies. Keep the door closed, and you will see a puddle on your doorstep in the morning, a sign that the melt has not succeeded”.
Playing along with Grandma’s delusion, I started to ask how a melt becomes a melt, still curious as to what they got out of their home invasions. As her eyelids starting to droop, I realized that my questions would go unanswered. Finding a heavy blanket in the armoire next to the grandfather clock, I tucked her into her seat, adding one more log to the fireplace before heading to my room.
The inside of this house, much like the living room, felt like an exhibition more so than a living space. At night when grandma was asleep, it felt intimidating, with the walnut table and the mahogany chairs of the adjacent dining room whispering their secrets in the creaks that they made when used. The only hint at modernity in the home was the kitchen attached to the dining room, with a fridge and a cupboard replete with the staples of a poor household: Beans, Rice, Bulk Oatmeal, and spices.
I was cleaning the bowl of oatmeal out, putting it on the dry rack. Making myself a cup of tea, I sat at the dining room table, scrolling through my phone to check the news, check my email, and apply for the odd job or two. All of a sudden, I heard a knock at the door.
And then another one
And then a third.
To Be Continued