Chapter 20- Flickering Lights
Jack stood beside North, gazing up at the Globe. The belief lights were starting to go out. Noticing their disappearance, Jack soared up for a closer look.
“Why are they going out?” Jack called down to North. North’s eyes were fixed on the Globe. Jack came back down, landing beside him.
“I don’t understand. We saved Christmas but the children still don’t believe.” North went to answer him but was interrupted as Sandy flew in. He had been out bringing dreams to the children of the world. Something was wrong. He was looking even more worn out than before. He collapsed, landing on his hands and knees. Jack ran over to him, making sure he was ok. There was black sand dusted on his arms.
“Sandy!” North bellowed. “What happened?” Dreamsand formed multiple raging fearlings above his head. The sand figures attacked viciously, before the whole image disintegrated.
“Nightmares” he realized. Sandy nodded, his head dropping in exhaustion. North stood up straight, slamming his foot down on the ground in annoyance.
“They’ve gotten stronger.” He turned to Jack. “That is why the lights have been going out. Children all over the world are being plagued with nightmares; nightmares that are too powerful for the dreams to overcome.” As he spoke the last few words of his sentence, he gazed at Sandy for a moment, before turning back to the Globe.
“I should have seen this” he muttered to himself. “No wonder Manny was forced to choose new guardian. Pitch is stronger than ever before.”
Jack was beginning to understand now. There was definitely something different about Pitch. He had brought darkness and fear, spreading his nightmares to haunt every child’s dream. But he had never actually harmed them. This time, that wasn’t such a problem for him. He had manipulated Jaz, before torturing her, body and mind. He exposed her to her greatest weakness and wished her dead. Jack knew that she shouldn’t have survived.
When Jack had been chosen as a guardian, Pitch had limits as to what he was willing to do. Those limitations he had were now gone. His lust for revenge had grown to an unbelievable extent.
North was right. They all should have known things would be different. Before Jack, the Man in the Moon hadn’t chosen a new guardian in hundreds of years. Only two years later, Jaz was picked.
Jack looked to the other guardians around him. They had to do something to keep children believing in them before they were too weak to fight. If the guardians lost their powers this time, there would be no chance of winning the fight. Jack still didn’t have many believers, and wouldn’t be as affected as the others but that wasn’t going to be much help either way.
“What to we do?” he asked. The teeth had stopped being collected, dreams were taken over by nightmares, Christmas had been on the brink of demise.
“We must keep children believing” North stated. He glanced at Jack. “Go see them, find out how strong the nightmares are. We must learn Pitch’s plan before he carries it out.”
Jack nodded, taking flight on the wind. He shot out of the workshop. Burgess was first on his list of places to check. It was where majority of his believers lived, so he could ask them about the nightmares.
He landed on the ground, looking around for any familiar faces.
“Jack!” he heard his name being shouted. He turned around to see the twins approaching him fast on their skateboards.
“Hey guys” he called back to them. They jumped off the boards once they had reached him.
“Had a nice Christmas?” He hoped by reminding them of the holiday that had just passed, he would continue their faith in the guardians. They nodded half-heartedly.
“It was ok” Caleb shrugged. Jack’s face dropped when he heard the lack of enthusiasm in his voice. Neither of them was smiling, and both were looking very tired.
“Jack,” Claude mumbled. “Has something happened to the Sandman?” He looked at his brother. “We’ve both been having nightmares recently.” Jack already knew this information, though he didn’t want to believe it. He thought about what to say.
“Pitch,” he began. “He’s returned. We’re doing everything we can” he assured them. They exchanged a worried glance.
“Sandy, uh, Sandman’s doing his best to fight off the nightmares. Don’t loose faith in us. You’re belief is what keeps us strong remember.” The boys didn’t look too convinced but nodded anyway.
“We will” they murmured as one. Jack forced a smile.
“I’ll bring you guys some fresh snow once this is all sorted out” he promised them. That seemed to lift their spirits a bit.
“Thanks Jack” Claude said in a happier tone.
His brother nodded. “That would be great” Caleb agreed. Jack waved his farewell to them, flying off in search of more people to restore hope to. Despite their pleased reactions to his promise, they still seemed miserable.
He spotted Jamie and Sophie in the front yard of their house with their greyhound, Abbey. Jack knew what he had to do. The battle with Pitch was on the horizon, and there was no way of avoiding it. He hated the thought of bringing Jamie into it again but he had no other choice. The guardians needed the belief of the children to be strong enough in this fight.
He glided down, picking up a handful of snow. He might as well have some fun with them first. He tossed it while Jamie’s back was turned. It hit him, making him stagger forward. Sophie clapped and laughed.
“Huh?” Jamie rubbed the back of his head, figuring out what had happened. He spun around to see the fun-loving winter spirit. He cried out his name in excitement, almost tripping as he ran over to him.
“Whoa, take it easy” Jack steadied him, helping him keep his balance. Jamie pulled his hat up, smiling. Abbey suddenly darted forward. She jumped at Jamie, barking loudly. Jack watched in amusement as he toppled over. Jamie struggled underneath her.
“Jack! A little help?” Jack took a moment to consider his options. He flicked his wrist, sending a snowflake floating through the air. It landed on the dog’s nose. She shook her head at the sensation, sneezing. Jamie quickly scrambled out from under her. Her tongue lolled from her mouth. She caught sight of her tail, and started to chase it. Her barking became more like an ecstatic yapping. She ran in circles trying to catch her own tail. Jamie got to his feet, laughing.
“How did you do that?” he asked Jack. Jack smiled, not entirely sure how to answer. He didn’t know how or even why his snow had an influence on human, and now apparently dog, behaviour and feelings.
Sophie, who had been watching the whole time, hopped over to them like a bunny. She pointed to Abbey, giggling.
“Snowflake!” she exclaimed. Jack loved seeing her like this, excited and hopeful. He formed another snowflake in his hand for her. The wind carried it around her. She watched it with wide eyes. Her arms stretched up in the air as she tried to grab it.
The two boys looked on as she continued her pursue of the snowflake. Jack decided it was time to tell Jamie the truth of why he was there. He placed his hand on his shoulder, drawing him to the side. Jamie looked up at him in concern.
“Jamie,” he began. There was no easy way to say it. “Pitch is back.” Jamie pulled back slightly by his declaration.
“He’s back?” Jamie’s voice became a whisper. He glanced over at his sister, still having fun with the snow. He looked back at Jack.
Jack sighed. “Unfortunately there will always be fear.” He repeated the very words Pitch had said after his last defeat. Jamie looked hopeful.
“But you and the guardians can stop him, right? You beat him before, you can do it again.” His words only made Jack feel worse. How could he possibly tell a boy full of such optimism that Pitch had become too powerful, even for them. He couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“Sure we can” he tried to sound confident. “Can we count on you to help?” Jamie nodded without a second thought.
“Of course! I’ll never stop believing in you guys.”
Jaz lay awake in the infirmary. She felt as though she had been lying there for weeks. The yeti that had patched up her clothes had just left, giving them back to her. She was rather impressed by the quality of stitching he had achieved on her shirt. It looked brand new. However, she was annoyed that he had sewn up the rips in her pants.
She spotted a scalpel lying on a table next to her. An idea formed in her head. She smiled slyly. She reached over and grabbed it. She carefully pressed the knife to the fabric, tearing through it effortlessly. Having spent over 300 years with a blade of her own always at hand, she had become skilled at using razors of all sorts. She finished her cut design in no time. Jaz didn’t hesitate to change back into her usual clothes, along with her belt. In her opinion, they suited her much better than the new garments she had been dressed in.
Being back in her own clothes felt a little strange at first. She wasn’t used to wearing attire that was not covered in ash. But it didn’t worry her too much. Her strength was returning, and so soon would the cinder that she had grown accustom to.
She was alone. It was the first time since she had awoken that she had been the only occupant of the room. The other guardians were all busy trying to restore the belief of the children; the belief that she had helped destroy. It tormented her mind, knowing what she had done. She knew she shouldn’t be alive. The Man in the Moon should have taken her life. But the guardians had saved her and tended to her every need to ensure she recovered. She didn’t deserve their help or their kindness. She had betrayed them when she sided with Pitch and couldn’t ever forgive herself.
Her eyes flashed up at the sound of the door opening. She had expected Bunny, or North. Maybe Sandy to help her deal with the nightmares she had been having. She was stunned when Jack entered. She hadn’t seen him the entire time she was there. She had thought the heat of the room would have been too much for him to be able to handle.
He was already looking tired from it. Cold sweat dripped from his brow, down the side of his face.
“Why are you in here?” she questioned him. He wiped his forehead dry.
“Just seeing how you’re doing.” Jaz narrowed her eyes. She didn’t believe he would risk coming into a room that could make him thaw just to check up on his long-time rival.
“What’s the real reason?” Jack seemed taken aback, almost hurt.
“I told you, I wanted to see how you were recovering.”
Jaz looked away from him. “I’m fine” she muttered. He sat down on the end of the bed.
He shifted uncomfortably. The room silenced.
“Thanks for what you did in Antarctica.” He looked at the newly mended staff in his hand. “I know how hard that must have been for you, using the last of your power to repair my staff.” Jaz’s expression remained unreadable. Most of her memory had returned.
“It was the least I could do after everything else I had done. Besides, you came looking for me, despite the fact that I had tried to kill you”
“That was Pitch, not you” Jack cut her off. “He was in control of your mind.”
Jaz shook her head. “No. I was tempted by him. Even when he was controlling me, I knew what I was doing” she said bleakly. “I wanted to stop the guardians; I wanted to save Pitch when I did.” She paused, looking into his eyes sorrowfully. “I wanted to kill you.”
Silence fell upon them. Jack thought about what she had told him.
“Then what made you break free of his control?” he had to ask. Jaz gazed down at her belt, inserting her fingers into the empty vessel on the side.
“He ordered me to kill Blaze. I wouldn’t do it, so he demanded I give him my dagger, claiming he’d do it himself. He told me it was a sign of loyalty to him. I couldn’t let him do it. I freed myself from the grip his fear had on me; but when I tried to escape him, he trapped me there.” Her words faded away.
“He’ll be alright” Jack assured her, referring to Blaze. He remembered what Pitch had said about the blade only working by her hand. “Pitch’s shadows can only shroud your dagger. He can’t destroy it, or summon Blaze.” Jaz looked up at him, grateful for his reassuring words.
“Jack,” Jaz spoke up again. “My snow globe. Is that it there?” Jack glanced over to where she was pointing. Sure enough, a snow globe was resting on the table. He wasn’t sure if it was hers, or even why she was asking about it.
“I don’t know.” She hauled her upper body upwards, swinging her legs over the side. She struggled to stand. Jack jumped to his feet.
“Wait, what are you doing?” he startled as she stumbled across the room. She ignored his question, picking up the globe. She examined it carefully.
“Not mine,” she said to herself, disappointed. “But it’ll do.” She whispered something into it and smashed it onto the ground. Jack ran forward but before the portal closed over before he could reach her. His blinked his eyes multiple times, regaining his sight after the blinding light of the portal had vanished. But that wasn’t the only thing that had disappeared. When the light cleared, Jaz was gone.