Daniel always liked to get away by himself. Many evenings he would walk halfway home from work, missing dinner with his wife and sister-in-law and kids, only eating re-heated dried-out chicken two or three hours later, just so he would have some time alone without anyone except the crowds on the street telling him what to do or where to go. Especially in that winter when virtually no one was walking through the waterfront parks alongside Lake Michigan.
It did not snow very much that year, so he had a lot of walking time, after leaving the office tower downtown. He went straight east to the edge of the towers, and met his first landmark: the dead fountain. Along paved sidewalks he passed between the sleeping trees, their barren branches reminding him of his hunger for solitude. No leaves obscured his view of the Chicago skyscrapers on his left, as he slowly made his way north through Jackson park toward the river.
He would have to go back to the streets, then, and take the Michigan Avenue bridge, and follow the big street north through the Gold Coast, until he finally reached the lake shore again, and could cross into the narrow strip of parkland beside the cold, almost frozen water of the great lake. By the big sea shining water or something. Except no salt in this one.
Seventeen degrees by the electric sign on top of the playboy tower and he was alone, bundled in five or six layers, the heavy down coat on top, three pairs of socks and hiking boots, long underwear and wool pants, with the hood over his head and scarf wrapped around his face, leaving only a narrow slit where his eyes peered out into the crystaline, frozen world.
For obvious reasons, he preferred a day when the wind was not strong. The vapor plumes rose up from the crowded buildings, and faintly, slowly, leaned toward the west. A Canadian high was rotating in the north, bending back above his head, marking out winter as its prey and feast, measuring the continent under a slowly twisting hand of climate.
The lake did not freeze, except along the shore, where mounds of frozen slush piled up, built by the constant splash and spray off the cold, disturbed waters. He did not walk out there. Stayed on the hard, concrete sidewalk just inside from the beach. But as he walked, he followed the twisted collar of ice, and constantly heard its siren call urging him to come closer, slip and fall into the grip of death.
Weird enchantment lay face to face against the great city.