We don't have winter anymore.
It was banned.
Human rights activists said it discriminated against the poor and homeless, who couldn't buy warm clothing. Environmentalists said that it was a dastardly attempt by the weather to deny the reality of global warming. Manufacturers of flip-flops and bikinis complained that it was bad for business.
Obviously such a depraved season could not be allowed to exist in a progressive country like ours. You can see the proof of our forward-thinking attitude everywhere you go. Look out the window of a rattletrap old bus (new vehicles are illegal; they were wasteful, and caused feelings of resentment in people who didn't have them) and the billboards by the side of the road are shouting. One bellows, “Intolerance will not be tolerated!” Its neighbor shrieks, “You may not criticize freedom of speech!” The billboards are good citizens. Once their declarations would have been called propaganda, but we don’t have that anymore. I only know about it at all because I sneak into the back rooms of libraries. Don’t tell. Please.
It’s not like many people would care what’s back here, really. It’s just old books, debarred from the bright, clean, and mostly empty public shelves with their colorful posters offering cheerfully useless advice, because they were offensive to someone or hurtful to someone else, or because they referenced a distasteful topic, or were just ambiguously irritating to the right people. Our world’s full of things that are prohibited for similar crimes. Or rather, it’s filled with the empty places where they used to be.
But I sneak back here anyway. It’s a time-honored tradition for people my age to go where we’re not supposed to go, see what we’re not supposed to see, and generally defy time-honored traditions. There’s a thrill back here like a covertly plucked violin, among the dust and dead bugs and dying stories. Every tiny thwack of a drifting cobweb making contact with the ceiling or the floor makes my heart start thundering out a drum roll, and it’s so easy to forget that your heart beats at all when it never panics and cries out, and when you realize that it does beat, you’re alive, it feels like the first gasp of breath after waking from a nightmare, or after swimming in deep water.
Maybe winter felt like that. Maybe winter made people remember that they’re alive and warm, and someday they would be very, very cold. It’s easier to function if you forget all that. You can’t bear to waste time if you can see the clock ticking and realize that the seconds will never come back to you, can’t be thoughtlessly, casually cruel if you realize that one day it will be too late to apologize.
I guess I’ll never know what winter was like, now that we’ve killed it and are left with just the vacant shelf where it used to live. Three months of cold, and darkness, and sometimes snow, but never winter.