“It is the fate of every myth to creep by degrees into the narrow limits of some historical reality, and to be treated by some later generations as a unique fact with historical claims.”
Snow falling on the Seine.
It was half-past-two and it was quiet as it gets with the heavy falling snow and Hector was just starting to cross the Pont Neuf, heading home after a long night of writing. He was alone and cold and slightly drunk.
Icy fog crawled across the river. The lights of the bridge glowed strangely in the fog, not illuminating anything, but instead casting hazy, solitary cones of weak light that receded off into the cold mist.
From the other end of the bridge, much farther than Hector could see, he heard a scream, then the sound of the rubbery, thin ice breaking below…water splashing.
Hector called, “Hey there!” and began running, his leather soles slipping and sliding on the slick bricks. Hector thought he heard other feet hitting the pavers.
He crossed the bridge, knowing he’d passed the halfway point when the grade changed. Hector ran to the spot where he thought he’d heard the splash and leaned out over the stone rail, peering into the fog. Squinting, Hector could see a black patch below — standing out against the thin veil of snow covering the iced-over surface of the river. Wisps of steam from the warmer water trapped beneath the ice drifted from the black spot, curling into the mists of the fog. Hector watched a few moments, waiting to see if there was any sign of motion from the hole, but he saw nothing like that.
A suicide, probably…there was never any shortage of those.
He looked at the steps leading down to the river’s edge. The bridge’s lights glowed meanly across the slick steps. And if he got down there without falling, Hector knew he’d still be faced with just that hole in the ice. The current would likely have already swept whatever — whoever — had gone through dozens of yards from the steaming hole.
Reluctantly, Hector backed away from the railing. He decided going to the authorities would do little good. And doing that might just make Hector a fleeting suspect if they fished a body from the river later, after the thaw.
There were fresh footprints in the thin crust of snow…spaced far apart, like the person who left them was running. The weight of the impact on the hard snow made the size and the shape of the footprints indistinct…impossible to tell if they were those of a man or a woman.
He looked around again; saw nothing; heard nothing. He thought about trying to follow the footprints in the snow, then decided against it.
Hector shook loose a cigarette and struck a match with his thumbnail. He pulled his collar up higher and tighter around his face and jammed his hands deeper into the pockets of his overcoat, continuing his solitary way home.
By morning he’d nearly forgotten about all of it.