It happened again. The dream. It had always been the same one every night since she was small. Often she wondered if it was real. In her dream, there was a white-haired boy. Tall and thin as a sapling tree. His clothes tattered. And he was barefoot.
What she couldn’t forget was his eyes. So blue. Bluer than anyone could imagine. They stayed in her mind. Their eyes met, silent and not speaking. He was holding a dark blue sweater...then he ran away. She watched him in silence, watching him disappear.
The girl often wondered if it was real.
Upon waking up, she looked out the window and saw a thick blanket of white snow had fallen overnight. She smiled and got out of bed, ready to play out in the snow. She was happy to hear that school closed.
It was a snow day. Jack Frost walked on a picket fence, pleased with his wintery work he had done to the place. Snow continued to fall from the cloud covered sky; the white, cold particles touched the ground, creating a thick blanket as they layered up.
He heard a door open to the house to which the fence belonged and watched an eight-year-old girl run off the porch. Her blonde hair plaited into pigtails. She wore a grey winter coat with a pair of jeans, knitted green mittens and a matching scarf, and navy blue boots. An elderly, yet spritely woman emerged from the house soon after the girl.
Just as the girl was about to skip to the playground down the street, her grandmother stopped her. The two of them didn’t notice Jack Frost striding on the picket fence, his staff over his shoulders. He watched the girl and her grandmother talking.
“Y’don’t want Jack Frost t’ be nippin’ at yer nose, do ye?” she said in a heavy Irish brogue, pulling the Irish knit hat on her granddaughter’s blonde head.
“He doesn’t nip it, Gramma,” the girl said, moving a loose strand of hair away from her face. “He kisses it.”
“O’course he does,” laughed her grandmother. “Especially pretty girls like ye. Now go and have fun. Be safe out there. Don’t talk to strangers.”
The little girl nodded and went down the street to the playground.
“Kiss the nose?” Jack chuckled. “Haven’t heard that one yet.”
He decided to follow the young girl as she went to the street. He floated with the wind, a trail of snowflakes fluttered down in his wake.
The girl sighed in a bit of boredom and disappointment as she kicked the fresh snow on the ground. She was happy it was a snow day, yet she felt out of place and lonely. It was another day in a new town, knowing well enough that nobody was going to play with her. It seemed every time she settled down, it was time to move again. Leaving friends. Leaving home. Starting over. It wasn’t fair.
Well, that was the life of an Army brat.
Plus her Daddy was away again overseas. The only good thing about moving was her grandmother came with her; she took care of her while her Daddy was away. Though she was old, she still played with the girl, telling her stories and encouraged her active imagination.
It wasn’t fair that she had to move all the time; often in short periods of time, staying put for three to four years tops. She felt it wasn’t good enough that her Daddy wasn’t home. Though he called when he could, telling that he missed her and loved her.
She walked down the street towards the playground, passing a few shops and paused for a moment to look at the toys for Christmas in the windows. She sighed, knowing it was going to be a lonely holiday this year. There was nothing in the whole toy store she wanted. There was only one thing she wanted and she asked for it every year. Just for Daddy to come home.
Of course, if there was that miracle that he did come home, she would be full with joy. Most of the time, it was disappointing. The Army chaplain and the Family Readiness Group counselor told her the same thing: it was the duty for soldiers to put their country first before family. But that didn’t mean her Daddy didn’t love her. Yes, her Daddy did love her. Though she wondered if it was true or not since he wasn’t the same since Mom died. He was so distant and buried himself in work.
Jack decided to have his own type of fun. With a wave of his staff, he used the wind to blow snow at her from behind. She shivered as the cold wind and snow blew up from behind her, making her pigtails flutter.
“Stupid wind!” she grumbled. “Wish you would behave yourself!”
Jack chuckled, enjoying the reaction of the girl to his pranks. He decided to have the wind stop, as if it was listening to her. There was a gentle breeze every so often, but it wasn’t too bad.
She began singing ‘The Christmas Song’ that was playing in one of the stores. It was her favorite song of all. She sang a sort-of made rendition of it...
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost kissing your nose...
“She sounds nice when she sings,” Jack said, noticing as he continued to follow the girl.
He was interested in her for some reason. Perhaps it was her imagination, maybe her spirit. Yet, there was a touch of loneliness in her. He decided to have some more fun with her. He floated with the wind to the tree at the playground, landing on the lowest branch, and watched the girl. He wanted to get her attention, remembering doing something this to his sister. He looped his long legs around a low branch, hanging upside down. This would get her attention.
Upon arriving at the playground, the girl continued to sing ‘The Christmas Song’, walking past the tree. She almost bumped into something that was hanging from a branch. All she saw was a pair of ice-chip blue eyes...
“Whoa! Hey!” said an impish voice that belonged to the eyes; cold breath tickled the flesh of her nose.
The girl let out a startled scream, jolting back and fell backwards in the snow. Her Irish knit hat fell over her eyes and her pigtails were covered in snowflakes.
“What the FUDRUCKERS?!” she yelled.
She heard light laughter. She sat up and fixed her hat, looking where she had seen those eyes.
Instead of eyes, there was a boy hanging upside-down from the tree branch by his knees. She had never seen a boy like this before! He reminded the girl of a sprite or a fairy that her grandmother had told her in many of her Irish stories. He looked like a teenager, maybe. He was so pale and lithe. His tousled hair was the color of freshly fallen snow and his face expressed impish playfulness. He wore a blue hoodie sweatshirt that glittered with frost in some places. His faded brown trousers looked tattered and he was barefoot! She wondered if he was cold, especially on a day like this.
Jack was surprised by the girl’s reaction. And it was funny too, watching her take a spill like that. He wondered if she could see him. He figured he’d talk to the girl anyway as if she could. He didn’t expect a response. He never thought anyone would reply to him whenever he spoke to them.
The strange boy did an acrobatic flip off the branch, landing gracefully in the snow on his feet. He grabbed up a wooden shepherd’s crook staff that was leaning against the tree. It turned a frosted blue when he touched it.
“Are you OK? You gotta be more careful out there,” Jack said. “Don’t want to see you buried in all this snow.”
He held out a hand towards her as an offer to help her up out of the snow. The girl just sat there, staring dumbfounded at the boy with wide evergreen eyes. She moved aside strands of loose blonde hair that had escaped from her plaited braids. She blinked her eyes a few more times, rubbed them to be sure what she was seeing...just a minute ago, that branch was empty.
After hearing no response from the girl, Jack sighed in disappointment, pulling his hand away and tucked it in his pocket. He guessed she didn’t need his help. He was used to not getting an answer nor seen. Even then, it still upset him a bit. He just wished someone would notice him. A friend. He was about to leave when...
“Wait! Don’t go!”
Jack perked up in surprise when he heard the reply, freezing in his tracks.
“Where did you come from?” the girl asked. “You came out of nowhere. You scared me.”
“Wait,” he said, ignoring her question. “You can see me?!”
He felt his excitement beginning to grow. He couldn’t believe someone could ACTUALLY see him. The girl furrowed her brow when he asked such a question. He was standing right there, clear as daylight.
“Yes,” said the girl.
“So wait...” He walked towards the girl. He had pure excitement all across his face. “You believe in me?”
She raised an eyebrow. What did the boy mean by believe in him? She guessed he was like the Easter Bunny, Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman: one had to believe in them in to see them. Yet, she never saw any of them. The boy was right here like a normal person would be.
“Well, if I can see it or touch it, then yes. I believe it’s real,” the girl answered.
The feeling Jack felt was hard to explain, but it was bursting throughout his body of everlasting happiness and exhilaration.
“You believe in Jack Frost then?” he asked.
She recalled ‘The Christmas Song’ she was singing earlier and the stories her grandmother told her about him. Oh! So this had to be...
“Jack Frost?” she said. “You’re real?”
He nodded; his blue eyes were near tears and his face had the widest smile filled with joy.
“Y-yea,” he said. “Who do you think brings you all the snow days? And the blizzards and stuff?”
“Funny, I expected you to be an old man...that’s what Gram said at least,” the girl said. “She referred to you as ‘Old Man Winter’ who would frost the green fields of her homeland.”
He shook his head in amusement at the girl’s statement,: the idea of being an old man!
“No way. I’m all about having fun,” he said. “Snowballs and all. Messing up the Kangaroo’s plans for Easter by covering up the place with snow. All that kind of stuff. I think it would be hard to have some type of fun as an old man.”
Kangaroo of Easter? the girl thought. She guessed he meant the Easter Bunny.
“Oh!” she said. “Guess I’ll have to tell her that you’re as young as, um, freshly fallen snow then.”
“That works. Better than being old.” He nodded with agreement.
“And you know the Easter Bunny?” the girl said. “If you see him, tell him I want no eggs or gifts this year. Just to bring my Daddy home.”
“Alright. If I see him, I’ll let him now,” Jack promised her. He would keep that promise too. After pausing a moment as he heard this unusual request. “Hey, where is your daddy anyways if he’s not home?”
He listened as the girl told him about her Daddy: he was a lieutenant in the Army and always away or they had to move all the time. She had no friends from all the moving. And that it wasn’t fair, but she had to be understanding because his duty to his country came first.
“That sounds upsetting,” he said with a slight frown.
“It is,” she said sulkily. “And I know the chaplain tells me that Daddy loves me, but I wish that were true though. He hasn’t been the same since Mom died.”
He understood how she felt. After a beat, he came up with an idea.
“Hey, we could be friends,” he said. “I mean, I’ve never had friends, so it would be nice. Even if you move, I could go with you...and bring the winter with me. Would you like that?”
“Really?” the girl said, lighting up with excitement.
“Yea. We could have fun together in the snow if you like winter that much,” he said, smiling at her. “And you can thank me for the no school.”
The girl was absolutely delighted! Eyes widened and a smile spread across her face as soon as he mentioned fun and friends. It was something she had wanted for the longest time! She finally could have a friend that she didn’t have to leave and he could bring snow!
“That’s great!” she said happy. “I can’t wait for more snow days! You’re the best, Jack! Let’s go play!”
“Sounds like a plan! I’m sure you and I will have plenty of fun together as friends!” Jack promised her with a smile. “Oh. Before I forget, what is your name, Snow Angel?”
The girl giggled and blushed, flattered to be called a ‘snow angel’. She told him her name. “You can call me Snow Angel if you want.”
He smiled. “I figured I’d call you Snow Angel since you like the snow. And...you’re like an angel, to me anyways. For being able to see me. I’ve never had anyone see me before.”
More blushing came from the girl. “I’m glad you’re my friend, Jack. I promise to be your friend forever.”
The snow spirit smiled. “I hope you will be.” Jack said. “I’m glad you’re my friend too.”
Fifteen Years Later-US Army Base
Specialist Colleen O’Shea was twenty-three years old. Her shoulder-length blonde hair pulled back into a tight military bun without a hair out of place, framing her heart-shaped face. Light freckles dotted her cheeks and the bridge of her slightly upturned nose. Her evergreen eyes looked forward with seriousness and concentration, listening to her commander.
She wore her Army uniform, awaiting to receive her promotion for sergeant. That meant she could become a leader, motivating young recruits, turning them into soldiers. She had waited for this moment her whole life.
Though Colleen impressed her superiors with her skills and abilities to be a leader, with the younger recruits, she was not well liked. To them she was the Ice Queen. A tyrant. Though she was quite beautiful, it was her demeanor that was uncomfortable. Her voice was harsh as an icy wind. There was frostiness in her eyes. The young cadets would stepped out of her way when she was walking by. No one dared to cross her.
“Specialist O’Shea,” called the commander of her unit. “Step forward.”
Colleen strode up to the front, stiff as a board, keeping her back straight. She wanted to look her best for this moment. Her combat boots were the only sound heard in the vast silence of the room.
“This promotion goes to you,” says the commander, holding the patch that contained her new rank, placing it on the Velcro space of her Army jacket where her old rank used to be. “You are now a sergeant. Congratulations.”
“Thank you, Master Sergeant,” says Colleen.
Colleen was so proud with her achievement. She was chosen as a leader of her platoon at basic training. She was a born leader. Of course she was. Her Dad, the Lieutenant, was a leader. She wanted to prove to everyone she was the best soldier and pushed herself to be so. She was going to move up the Army ladder, receiving promotions. Hell, she could be a General if she wanted to. A girl could dream.
The next step was her SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) training. And boy, was she ready! Twenty-one days of this brutal exercise, leading her platoon through a forest, surviving all kinds of weather and teaching the cadets how to survive out in the wilderness, how to avoid detection from enemies, how to resist and escape when captured as a prisoner of war.
Yes. She was ready. Ready for anything to come her way.
Once drill was over, she went to the gym to work out, then went home to her condo on the base. She had dinner and watched the news. Upon seeing the time, she went to her bedroom, folding up her uniform neatly, making sure not a single wrinkle existed. She wanted to get to SERE training on time.
Colleen climbed into bed, sighing. She couldn’t sleep since she was excited about SERE training. She sang softly, thinking of that song her grandmother would sing to her on sleepless nights...
Mister Sandman, bring me a dream...
She hummed most of the lyrics in a lazy manner as she yawned. Sandy hovered on his cloud of sand miles above, sending dreams all over the world. When he heard the magic song, his chubby face broke out into a smile as he looked down his cloud with golden eyes. He liked it when Colleen sang that song. He blew a stream of golden dreamsand towards her. Colleen laid down and her eyes fluttered as she drifted off to sleep. Sandy observed to see what dreams she would have. Unfortunately, there was nothing. Sandy frowned, disappointed.
What happened to that little girl who used to believe? It saddened all the Guardians when a child stopped believing. No hopes, dreams, wonder...nothing. When one did stop believing, that little light on the globe in North’s shop went out completely. They no longer saw them. It was even worse when the child’s parents told them that they didn’t exist. Most of the time, the child didn’t believe what their parents said and held on to their belief...and there were times they accepted the ‘reality’ what they said, then their light went out completely.
Yet, with Colleen, there was something special about her. She may have grown up and didn’t see them anymore, but the last time the Guardians looked, her light flickered on the globe like a candle about to burn out. Could it be there was a tiny part of her in that cold, hard exterior somewhere that probably still believed?
Sandy resumed his work in bringing dreams to children. Soon, there was a sinister chuckling coming from the darkness from beneath her bed. The room seemed to develop a dark ambiance that it made the female soldier uncomfortable.
“Oh, Colleen...” A sing-song tone drifted somewhere in her right ear.
She heard her name over and over all around her; gentle whispers and murmurs that drove her to annoyance and utter confusion. She felt like she was in a fun house. The room developed a dark atmosphere as well as an unsettling ambiance that the young woman was nearly unable to stand it. She turned over onto her back, shuddering.
A dark, tall figure of a man cast a shadow over her, implying that there is no chance of escape. The man grinned as he watched the girl wince in her slumber, knowing that his presence is the cause of the troubles in her supposedly beautiful dreams. Not that she had any.
“Had a wonderful day at training, my dear?” The question was whispered so softly that it was almost inaudible. “Were you able to satisfy your interest for war? Bonded with comrades? Hm?”
Pitch Black smirked at the sleeping Colleen, watching the swirling dream sand. He was pleased. This made it easier to create nightmares since she had no dreams.
Lately, tormenting children was no longer working for him since they didn’t believe in him anymore. He had found a new way to spread fear: adults who had experienced traumatic events in their lives. Though they didn’t believe in him either, but why not have fun with them? Adults lived in fear almost every day. The worse their fear, the more Pitch relished it.
In the aftermath of their trauma, nightmares often happened and it took years to overcome their fears. Sometimes they would let go, yet there always seemed to be a trigger: a smell, a sight, a touch, a sound...and the nightmares would start again. Flashbacks. And he decided to make their worst nightmares come true.
Colleen was one who experienced a traumatic event.
“No dreams?” he chuckled. “What a shame. How about I help you find one?”
With two pale grey bony fingers, he tiptoed towards the swirling gold sand and touched it. The sand turned black; he weaved it to form the ugly shapes of Colleen’s nightmare. She stirred uncomfortably, whimpering in her sleep. Pitch smiled, pleased to see the girl was giving in to her fears.
“What a lovely nightmare,” he simpered, watching in delight.
Shadows with golden eyes holding her down, whispering. They grabbed, ripped off her clothes, touched...the cold sharp tip of a knife pressed into her throat. She screamed, only to find them lost in the dark, falling on deaf ears. She had to get away from those whispering shadows...
Colleen jolted awake, sitting upright, drenched in a cold sweat and panted. Her heart was hammering in her chest. She looked around, so certain she heard someone. It felt so real too. Too real. She got out of bed, heading to the bathroom.
It was just a bad dream. It doesn’t mean anything. She kept telling herself this in a chant.
She pulled out the orange bottle of Prozac out of the medicine cabinet, looking at the label for a moment before popping it in her mouth along with a quick swig of water. She swallowed it down with a wince, knowing it helped her forget. Blocked the nightmares.
After splashing cold water on her face, in her peripheral vision she caught the sight of the three-inch scar on her right breast. She tucked it away, out of sight. She preferred to forget that ever happened. The past was in the past, buried long ago. It was an experience that changed her life, but vowed to never let it happen again.
Shutting the light off in the bathroom, she went back to her bedroom. A faint whisper drifted past her ear.
“You really think you can escape me?”
A dark chuckle came next, sending chills down her spine. Colleen heard the voice again, the hairs on her neck stood up. She whipped her head around, looking around where the voice came from. Memories flashed as she remembered a familiar voice and sinister laughter while she slept: one she remembered as a child, one that tormented her. Then the nightmares that followed, they were the worst. She recalled a nightmare that made her scream. Upon waking up, she saw a pair of golden eyes that reminded her of a solar eclipse staring down at her and those jagged grey teeth grinning wickedly in the dark.
Could it be? she thought to herself. Was it really...?“It was just a stupid dream,” she said, shaking her head.
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