The Icy Channel

The chilled wind whipped about me, pulling at my hair and clawing at any exposed flesh. I pulled my jacket closer to myself to try and contain more heat, but with little success. The chill in the air wasn't natural and seemed to pierce anything and everything. I continued walking though, determined to not turn around and run to my shelter and other warm bodies. I wanted – no, needed to see the channel one last time before everything went completely to hell.

Ahead of me I could see my destination, the 30th Street Bridge. It was the connection between Herrs Island and the rest of Pittsburgh. It looked more like a ramp than a bridge for as small as it was. Nevertheless, it was where I wanted to be and so I put on a burst of speed.

Little puffs of white appeared in front of me from my breath and disappeared just as fast as I ran all out. It hurt to do so to the point where I wanted to collapse and scream. It seemed like the chill had made its way into my joints and was freezing even those. I pushed through the pain though, as I had to so many times before.

I finally stepped onto the bridge, running my gloved hand along the once light blue railing as I walked towards the middle of it. The thick encasing of ice on the railing was like cold fire against my skin, even through my gloves. Icicles hung twisted from the railing with points looking sharp enough to kill.

At long last I arrived at the middle of the bridge and leaned myself against the icy blue railing. I let my gaze sweep the channel for the last time, taking in what the chill had done to it and trying to remember what it had looked like before.

The trees and other plants that ran along the steep bank once used to be lush and green. It had been overgrown and wild, but there was a beauty to it. The trees were especially large and thick trunked. They would shadow channel in cool darkness even in the brightest of lights. When I would sit in the Lowe waiting for instructions from the cox or the coach I would think about how big the leaves were that floated in the water. They seemed to be the size of the largest dinner plates and I would think that maybe I could float on one if I so had the inclination.

I remember how the ducks would float along the edges of the river, near the banks or the little beaches of rocks. Sometimes one would stand on a jutting rock, looking like the king of the hill. They would watch the boat glide by, hardly bothered by it and I would watch them and their gleaming feathers.

Then there was the water; it was a disgusting dark brown, almost black colour. No doubt it was caused by the pollution and chemicals and waste that Pittsburgh had. Yet it had been beautiful in a way. It always seemed calm in the channel, even if the river was white capped and rough. It stayed smooth, like glass until the bow of the boat sliced through it to cause small wakes and our blades cut down into it to cause ripples.

Now, the trees were dead and twisted looking. They were bare and ice covered with large, dangerous icicles hanging down from them. There was no green to be seen on the large, sloping banks, as the smaller plants would never have been able to survive the chill. The banks themselves were frostbitten, all covered in white, the natural earth colouring gone.

From where I was standing I could make out the small shape of a frozen duck. I was upset by the sight, but knew that the duck had probably suffered little, falling asleep before death claimed his little soul. Though, it was sad to know that his chance of living was only slightly better than the little plants.

What struck me the most was that the water couldn't be seen at all, so heavily iced over as it was. If I hadn't known what the colour of the water was before I would have never guessed now. Despite the fact that it was covered in ice, it wasn't the smooth glass surface that it had been. Spires of ice stuck up, looking even more dangerous than the icicles. It was as if the channel had fought back, willing this one time to create waves, but the chill simply caught those waves and changed them to better serve the destruction.

Life used to thrive in the channel, but now there was only death and an icy wasteland. There were only the bleak, washed out colours of what once was and the new ones created by the ice: white and blue and grey; colours that might look pretty elsewhere, but was only ugly here in the channel.

I turned, heart wrenched, from the sight of the place where I used to feel most a peace. I began my slow trek back to my shelter. The others would worry about me if I wasn't back soon. But as I left behind that treasured place, I couldn't help but think of the poem by Robert Frost, Fire and Ice. The world was ending in ice and there was nothing great about it.