The snow drifted sideways on the other side of the living room window that was dressed in a kaleidoscope of lights, nestled in garland. My eyes followed Caleb’s truck as it plowed down the powdered street away from my house. He had gotten his license not long ago. During the drive to my house, he drove carelessly as he sung the wrong words to the radio through the clouds of thick smoke that we both exhaled. I wasn’t sure whether to blame the swaying of his truck on his lack of driving skills or the fact that he was high. I told him to chill out because the roads looked slippery, but before I could finish my sentence, he glared at me with heavy pink eyes as he pulled up to the side of my house and told me that I was hallucinating because he was the best driver in the world. I jabbed him in the shoulder, called him an asshole and got out of the truck.
Aaron, a dorky kid I’ve been friends with since elementary school, was at Caleb’s house with us earlier. When Caleb tossed his little bag of weed on the table, Aaron looked uncomfortable and suddenly needed to pick up his sister from work. He wanted to have a study session to study for our final exams that were coming up before winter break, but Caleb’s new habit, or as Aaron called it, “his new phase,” distracted us. With all of the new experiences and changes in our lives, the three of us weren’t handling our first semester of college well. Especially Caleb. He barely made it out of high school. He graduated because they wanted to get rid of the schmuck.
As I closed the blinds, my cell phone vibrated across the dresser beneath me. When I went to grab it, I lost my balance and knocked over the Christmas decorations my mother set up on the dresser. I knelt down beside some stupid looking smiling snowman and a posed plastic reindeer sticking its ass in the air and placed them back on the dresser. Aaron sent me a text asking about homework for our history class. I jabbed at the letters on my screen with my thumbs on my phone’s keyboard, picked up the snow globe spiraling around the wooden floor, and placed it on the red and white cloth that laid over the dresser. When I shut the ceiling fan light, the green glow of the nightlight reflected off the walls. I stumbled through the hallway that smelled of pine and went to bed.
I dreamed of colors. Frozen blue flickered into shimmering purple, shimmering purple blinked and I saw icy white.
I couldn’t breathe.
When I woke up, I was lying on my back in the snow, but I wasn’t cold. I was warm. I held my breath. I didn’t try to breathe because I knew that I couldn’t. I gripped what felt like handfuls of sand. I felt my heart accelerate. I had to breathe—I tried to fight it but I couldn’t. I opened my lips and a cool rush of moist air plunged its way down my throat. I screamed nothing.
My body felt relaxed.
But I couldn’t move. I breathed heavily, staring up ahead, but I didn’t even know what I was looking at.
My fingers tickled the white that was sprinkled around me, and when I looked at my palms, shiny diamond-shaped glitter glistened off of them. It had a bright purple tint that stung my eyes after looking at it for more than a few seconds.
I rubbed the back of my hands across my eyes before I got to my feet. That’s when I noticed I was barefoot and in my blue plaid boxers, wearing my white t-shirt. That was what I wore to bed the night before. I brushed back the hair in my face and had a look around.
“What the hell is goin’ on?”
I squinted my eyes.
I stepped through the snow that didn’t crunch, but swirled up to my knees then fluttered back to the ground. I was caught off guard when I heard a bark. I hesitated before turning around. When I did, I focused on a gray and white, wolf-like dog. Its bushy tail curled over its back and its ears stood straight up. It wore a wreath around its neck and attached to its red harness was a green sleigh. I stared at the dog, alert in the distance.
“The hell is that dog doing?” I mumbled to myself. “What do you want?”
The dog sniffed the air. A growl rumbled from its chest.
“Come here,” he demanded.
I leaped back, dumbfounded. Then I laughed and held my head. “Holy shit am I high.”
The mutt came prowling toward me. I bolted away but didn’t get far. I smashed into a foggy slab of glass. I laid flat on my back and began gasping for air when I realized where I was as my fearful eyes crawled up the curved wall. The dog wearing a wreath dragging a sleigh, the purple-tinted sprinkles of snow, the curved wall. I was in the snow globe on the dresser in my living room. I saw the top of the bookshelf through the foggy glass wall. It was enormous. I got to my feet and pressed my sticky hands against the glass. I saw the couch down below. It was 10 times its size. I touched my knees, my legs, my ankles, my torso, my face.
My body had shrunk.
I heard the scrape of the sleigh and the rattle of the dog’s paws close in on me. I sprung around, arms outstretched, knees slightly bent.
The dog stopped in his tracks. His blue eyes shot to the side, but his muscular body still pointed at me. I glanced over to see what he was looking at and felt my heart clobber my chest. A polar bear wearing a red scarf began to gallop over to us. I felt my confused body give up and I planted my face in the shimmering snow.
I was on my side as I watched a row of giant, lopsided gingerbread houses pass by. Some of them were missing walls, one was without a roof. I immediately sat up when I realized that I was being carried on the dog’s sleigh. The polar bear, who marched beside him, swung his head around and his dark beady eyes peered into mine.
“Well, look what’s up,” he announced as he nudged the dog’s side.
The dog turned to glance at me but kept walking.
“Hello there, little critter. My name is Sibe,” the polar bear said with a smile. As if talking animals didn’t scare me enough. Now a polar bear was smiling at me.
“What the hell is happening?” I shouted as I tugged on my hair.
We were surrounded by evergreen trees tangled in colorful lights, most of them broken. There were branches scattered around the trees. A reindeer who was on his hind legs attempting to put a candy star on a tree glanced over his shoulder and lost his balance when he saw me. He landed on his four hooves after stumbling. The candy star fell from his mouth and shattered.
“Kodiak! Sibe! What?” he slowly backed away until his ass hit the tree.
“This, Andrei, is what I found in the Wishing Field after Noel granted me my wish,” the dog, Kodiak said to the frightened reindeer. He pointed his snout at me. “He’s the cause of the destruction.”
Sibe looked back at me, then at Kodiak, then over at the reindeer, Andrei. “He really seems harmless to me.” He smiled at me.
“Well he’s not. He was the only thing in the Wishing Field. Noel knows what she’s doing,” Kodiak snapped.
I thought, This has got to be some kind of crazy dream. I was certainly high off my ass.
I began to shake as Andrei, the huge reindeer, cautiously approached me. He kept his head bent. The frizzy hair on the back of his neck stood up.
I crawled out of the sleigh when he stopped in front of me. He held his breath and looked down at me. Snow twirled from his antlers. I took a step back and felt something fuzzy beneath my foot. I leaped forward. Andrei jumped back, alarmed at my sudden movement.
“He’s gonna eat me!” Andrei screamed.
“Watch it!” Kodiak slid in between me and Andrei. The purple-tinted snow formed a cloud around him.
I looked back to see what I stepped on.
“Stocking alert!” Sibe said. He pawed at the stocking at my feet. He looked at Kodiak and Andrei. “It’s only a stocking. He stepped on a stocking. No cause for alarm.”
“This place is a mess,” Andrei sighed.
“Yeah, and whose fault is that?” Kodiak’s sleek eyes met mine.
“I’m sure it’s a big misunderstanding. Look at him!” Sibe pointed his nose at me as I shook in the snow. “He’s no threat.”
Andrei’s mouth hung open as he watched me. He cleared his throat. “I come in peace.” His skinny legs chattered.
“This cannot be happening! I have to get out of here.” I turned to run but slipped on the stocking.
“Whoa, we got a wild one,” Sibe chuckled. His giant paw swept me up, back into the sleigh.
Kodiak whipped his head around and viciously barked at me. I screamed like a bitch and jolted to the end of the sleigh.
“Kodiak, take it easy.” Sibe’s voice was serious.
Kodiak made his way onto the sleigh, locking his icicle eyes with mine. The rope that attached him to the sleigh circled around his paws.
“You’re coming with us. Understand?” he growled.
“Why is this happening to me? Why are you even speaking?”
Kodiak stood above me.
Andrei stared at me, wide-eyed. His legs still chattered. “This is crazy.”
He looked around at the messy town. “How did he do this? Where did he come from? Has anyone else seen him yet?”
“Just us three so far. I’m not going to go shoving him in everyone’s faces. I don’t need the whole town to be mortified. I’ll get what I need from him, then I need to get rid of him,” Kodiak said. “It’s no good having him here.”
I thought my heart was going to rip through my chest. I choked on my words as I spoke. “What are you talking about? What is happening? Why are you talking?” I was light headed and felt like I was gonna barf.
“Be quiet unless you’re going to tell me why you did this!” Kodiak barked in my face.
“Easy, Kodiak. You’re scarin’ him,” Sibe said as he stepped behind me. He gently lifted me up by the back of my t-shirt with his fangs and began to walk with me.
“Everyone else in the Wonderland must know that we have found the problem!” Andrei scattered off, after he tripped over a box wrapped in shiny red.
“Andrei, no!” Kodiak growled as Andrei dashed into the misty distance. Andrei didn’t stop.
“The whole globe is going to go chestnuts,” said Kodiak. He looked ready to chase after Andrei, but turned back to Sibe.
“Hey! Get back here with that!” he snarled.
He danced around Sibe, who swung me around like a doll each time Kodiak jumped up to nip at me. I shouted at them to stop and to put me down but they didn’t listen. I felt Sibe’s breath dampen my neck as he laughed and told Kodiak how ridiculous he was being. Sibe joked (at least I hoped he was) about playing a game of fetch, with me being the object that got thrown. That’s when I put my first two pieces of the winter wonderland puzzle together.
“I would play a game of fetch if Alek was here,” Kodiak panted. He snatched at my dangling feet with his pointy teeth as Sibe raised his chin. My feet almost met my face as the powerful beast lifted me into the crisp air.
“This is all his fault!” Kodiak kicked sprinkles of snow in my face with his hind legs.
“Hey, watch it!” Sibe said as he backed away from the snowflakes that hit him on the nose. I felt powerless as I flung around in the grasp of his jaws.
Kodiak walked a few feet away and curled up on his sleigh. His gray back faced us.
Sibe carefully lowered me to the ground. I stared at the dog and wondered why he put blame on me.
“You were the one who flipped our world upside down,” Sibe said after a deep breath.
I felt my eyes widen. “Last night.” I looked up at Sibe. “I knocked over the snow globe.”
“I believe so. I took quite a bashing. But hey, a guy like me, I can handle those things. They happen.” Sibe shrugged his big shoulders. “We’ve had minor globe-quakes before, but never anything like last night.”
“What happened to him? Am I the one who made him so damn crazy?”
“You see his sleigh?”
“It’s empty now.”
“He’s lying in it.”
“Alek’s not in it. Alek is gone.”
I turned to look at the bear, who wore an expression of concern on his face.
“Alek is his musher. We don’t know where he is. He’s been missing since you caused our globe to shake.”
“Oh no,” I whispered.
“Oh yeah.” Sibe got to his paws, eyes still on Kodiak. “We’ll find him. I mean, he can’t be far. How far could the guy have flown? At least we know which direction he went in. Kodiak searched earlier, he went pretty far, but came back to wish for help. He knows Alek is out there somewhere, but not knowing the reason for this disaster angered him.” Sibe looked down at me. “I just hope Alek is okay.”
“How did I get here?”
“How?” I began to feel more dizzy than I already was.
“Noel the giant candy cane allows each of us one wish that will only come true if wished in the month of December. Kodiak wanted to know why this happened to our town and his musher.”
The both of us looked around at the shattered lights, the crooked trees, the sloppy gingerbread houses.
“He wanted an explanation. Maybe the explanation would lead him to Alek, and also prevent this from happening again.”
I was breathing in and out of my mouth so fast that it was making my throat feel sore. “Giant candy cane? Holy shit.” I put my hands up. “I don’t know anything about this, or Alek. I have no clue where he is. This was an accident. My phone was vibrating last night, my friend texted me about homework. Mrs. Payne is a pain in the ass, and he can’t miss anymore assignments. He needs to get his grades up for college. When my phone vibrated, I went to grab it and I knocked over the snow globe, your Wonderland. I didn’t think-”
I could tell Sibe was carefully listening to my words that didn’t have much space between them. His head was tilted to the side and his jaw hung open a bit.
“Say no more. I’m not interested in vibrating and pain. It was an accident. That’s good enough for me. You didn’t mean any harm.”
I began to pace. “Not at all!” I flung my arms in front of me. “How do I get home?”
Sibe looked at me with a sorrowful expression. “I don’t think Kodiak took that into consideration. He wasn’t sure what he’d run into today. We certainly never guessed that an alien was the cause for all this.”
“You think I’m an alien?”
“He just wanted to know why our world was so violently thrown around. He thought maybe he could prevent it in the future. Now he needs to find Alek,” Sibe said.
“I’m stuck here? There’s no way I can possibly go back?”
Sibe looked down at his paws.
“Are you serious?” I fell to my knees and punched the ground. Snow swirled around me.
“What’s the matter with it?”
I jumped up. Kodiak stood next to me, nose inhaling my scent.
“How are we going to get him back home?” Sibe asked.
Kodiak sat down. His eyes swung right, then left. “That doesn’t matter right now. I need to find Alek, and the alien’s coming with me.”
“I’m not a fucking alien!” I kicked up sprinkles of snow. “You guys aren’t even supposed to be talking! You’re not even supposed to be alive! You’re a part of a snow globe! You’re decorations!”
Kodiak barked, then turned toward Sibe. “What is it whining about?”
“Where I come from, from my world,” I said, placing a hand on my chest, “dogs and bears don’t talk. And you guys are holiday decorations. Like these!” I picked up a string of Christmas lights on the ground. “Decorations! As in, not alive!”
“Be careful with those,” Kodiak grunted, looking ready to dart at me.
“Yeah, put those down, you’d be surprised,” Sibe said.
My fingers that were clenched around the string of lights were shocked. I screamed and threw them to the ground.
“What the hell was that?” I watched the string of lights as some of them blinked at me. Then they squirmed, like a worm, away from us.
“This is insane!” I felt my head spinning. I pointed at the bear and dog in front of me. “You’re not even supposed to be moving! You’re supposed to be perfectly still in your damn little snow globe!”
Sibe and Kodiak looked at each other, both looking amused.
“If we don’t find my Alek, I’ll make sure that you will be perfectly still. We’ll talk about this when Alek is back in his sleigh,” Kodiak looked back at the empty sleigh that was tied to his harness.
“Now that I think of it, he may be able to work something out with Noel. It is December and he is a part of our world now,” Sibe said.
“This freakin’ giant candy cane. It grants wishes? Where’s it at?”
“Not so fast. I’ll take you there, after you help me find Alek,” Kodiak said. “Another thing: don’t get too excited. She may not grant your wish, foreigner.”
“This is ridiculous! I have to be dreaming. No, this is a nightmare. I gotta wake up! I have to get out of here. Who the fuck did Caleb get that weed from? That shit was not weed! I am whacked out of my mind! This is fucking unbelievable!” I stamped a foot in the snow. Some of it blew on Kodiak’s face. He closed his eyes and clenched his jaw.
“I sure hope Noel will bring this thing back where it belongs,” he said through his teeth.
The three of us set out in the snow, away from the town of gingerbread houses and lighted trees. Up ahead, I set my eyes on a field of snow-people. They were all finely dressed. A few of them wore red top hats, others wore green Santa hats. They all had buttons slipping down their plump bodies. Each had charcoal eyes and a pointy carrot for a nose. They had sticks for arms and a number of them wore red and white striped fluffy scarves, others had green bow ties. They looked creepy as hell.
“Maybe one of these freaks saw Alek,” I said, as the group of snow-people stared us down, permanent dotted smiles on their frosted faces.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t get too close,” Sibe said.
I turned to look at him. “Believe me, if I had the choice, I wouldn’t go anywhere near those things. Are they gonna start talkin’ too?”
Kodiak peeked his head around from the other side of the bear in between us. “We have to go this way, there is no other way.”
He looked up at Sibe. “This is going to be great.”
The snow peoples’ hollow eyes shifted toward me.
“Keep moving,” Kodiak ordered.
I stared at him as he marched away from me. Sibe stopped and looked back. Then he charged toward me.
“Look out!” he yelled.
I gasped when I saw an over-sized snowball come hurling in my direction. My hands weren’t quick enough to cover my face and it hit me, hard. I fell onto my back. My face stung.
Sibe hovered over me. “You okay?”
I blinked multiple times. Sibe’s big face was blurry. I sat up and put my numb face in my palms.
I heard Kodiak’s laughter.
I heard high pitched grunts as snowballs scattered around me and Sibe. One of them hit Sibe in the back. He roared and turned around, swatting a paw. The snow-people froze.
Sibe stared down a snowman that seemed to be smiling more than usual. He blushed and pointed his twiggy arm at the smaller snowman next to him. Sibe growled at him. The small snowman nervously laughed.
“Sibe, easy fella’,” Kodiak said, standing alert. “You know they were aiming for the alien and you know they have bad aim in the first place.”
Sibe shook his body. The snow on his back sprinkled into the misty air. He nodded his head at the field of snow-people.
“Please, let the alien pass. He is of no harm,” he announced.
“Oh yeah? Take a look at Jack over here and tell us that again,” a snowwoman bitched, pointing her stick-arm at the snowman next to her. He was missing his nose.
“Now tell me, how is he supposed to know when his wish is coming?” a snowman yelled.
I had no idea what he was shouting about, nor did I care. I just wanted to wake up from the bizarre nightmare.
“I’m sure we’ll find it soon. This was all an accident. He didn’t mean for it to happen. He didn’t even know that it happened,” Sibe tried to convince them.
“They’re not going to understand, they’ve got snowballs for brains,” he whispered to me. “But we have to try.”
“Andrei told us about this scrawny creature! He ruined our world! He took my cousin’s nose! We should take his nose!” an angry snowman hollered.
I clutched my nose.
All eyes, and balls of charcoal, were on me.
“I didn’t mean for any of this,” I said, stepping up. Sibe looked at me, then carefully eyed the snow-people.
“If he can get Jack’s nose back, Jack’s exact, orange, handsome nose, we’ll let him pass,” a snowwoman said, locking arms with the nose-less snowman. “It’ll be alright, dear,” she said to him.
“Look, we haven’t got all day. We have to pass, with him,” Kodiak told them, pointing his snout at me. “My musher’s out there, he could be hurt.”
“Aleksandr is missing?” the nose-less snowman, Jack asked.
Kodiak took a breath. “Yes.” He looked around at the snow-people. “Please.”
“I’m not going to hurt you,” I said, as I took a stand beside Kodiak. Sibe followed.
“Why would you say that? That means you thought about it,” an elderly snowman said. He pointed his red and white striped cane at me.
Sibe rolled his eyes.
“No. I just want to get to the candy cane, that giant candy cane I’ve been hearing about. That’s all I want to do. But I have to help find Alek first.”
“Hey, come on. The little beast isn’t any harm. He just wants to get back home. The deal is this: he helps us find Alek, then we take him to the giant candy cane, who can hopefully get him home,” Sibe said.
“Sibe, don’t even try to explain anything to them,” Kodiak grumbled.
“Aleksandr and I are great friends,” Jack bellowed. He slowly made his way to the front of the crowd. “And you’re tellin’ me he’s missin’?”
“Correct,” said Kodiak.
“From the shaking this creature caused last night?”
“Yes,” Kodiak answered.
Jack stood in front of Kodiak. “Holy Christmas,” he muttered, throwing his thin arms into the air.
Jack turned his attention to me. “What’s ya name, foreigner?”
“Devan.” I stood up straight, trying to look fearless. The talking snowman made me want to shit myself.
“Where do ya come from?” He pointed a stick at me.
“From a much bigger world.” I tried to keep it simple.
“Kodiak wished you here, am I right?”
“And you are guilty for the cause of this terrible, terrible mess?”
I looked into Jack’s hollow, charcoal eyes. “I didn’t mean for any of this,” I said. “I had no idea at all what happened. Not until Kodiak somehow had me shrink while I was half naked and brought me here, who knows how. My dog could never do tricks like that. ” I stepped closer to Jack. “Look snowman, my world is so different, this was nothing but a mistake. This was all an accident.”
Jack shifted his body toward Kodiak.
Kodiak glared at him. “Accident or no accident, he did it, and he’s going to help me find Alek. We have to pass through Gusty Field. It won’t be easy. The more eyes, the better.” Kodiak circled me. “You caused it, now you have to suffer like the rest of us.” He stopped in front of me. “After we get through Gusty Field, I’m positive you’ll never cause our globe to quake again.” He cleared his throat. “If you make it through.”
My head was throbbing. I wondered what Gusty Field was like.
Jack placed his chin on the tip of his arm. He mumbled before saying to me, “I’ll let you pass. If you happen to see my nose out there, great. Have Siberia or Kodiak retrieve it to me. In the mean time, I’ll go with a new look.” Jack took a gumball button from his belly and plopped it in the center of his face.
The snow-people’s voices stirred up snow. Some of them motioned toward us to check out Jack’s button-nose.
Jack extended his skinny arm. “You may go in peace, Devan.” I gently shook his arm as the snow-people stepped aside, creating a path in front of me.
“Jack, thank you,” Sibe said. They exchanged nods and Sibe hobbled down the path. He swung his head left and right, thanking the snow-people. I followed.
Jack placed the end of his arm on Kodiak’s head. “Kodiak. Good luck, my friend. I wish you the best.”
“Thanks.” Kodiak began to walk down the path, but turned around. “Jack.”
Jack’s beady eyes peered down at Kodiak.
“We’ll bring you back your nose.”
“Oh, Kodiak. No wonder Aleksandr cares for you so much. Now get out of here, boy. Mush!”
The air was darkening as we made our way through a field of snow. I knew we had entered Gusty Field. It was windy, and the three of us walked with our heads down, against the gusts. The bell on the wreath around Kodiak’s neck jingled and the tip of his perky ears met the top of his head. Sibe’s scarf flapped in the blows of air.
Kodiak, who led the way, was constantly looking in every direction that he possibly could. Every so often, he’d bark or howl, or shout out Alek’s name. His nose was always pointing up, sucking in our surroundings. Sibe would call for Alek too, and insisted that I did the same, and I did.
The wind seemed to get colder as we continued our way across the snowy field. The sprinkles of blowing snow came at us strong. As I squinted my eyes, I tried to keep sight of Kodiak’s green sleigh in front of me, but I began to slow down. My legs were tired.
Who knew that the inside of a snow globe could be so big?
Sibe, who walked next to me, realized that I was having trouble keeping up.
“Are you alright, Devan?” he shouted over the gusts of purple-tinted snow.
“Are you alright, Devan?” he said, louder and slower.
I didn’t want to seem weak and I knew that finding Alek was important to them, especially Kodiak. He was missing because of me. And once he was found, I had a shot at getting the hell out of there.
I shrugged. “I’m alright.”
“What’s the matter?” Kodiak’s face came through the snow.
I realized that my teeth were chattering.
Kodiak’s head tilted to the side. “Why are you doing that?”
Sibe took a close look at my face.
I tried to stop shivering but I couldn’t help it.
“I think he’s cold,” Sibe said to Kodiak.
“So are the rest of us, including Alek. He may be out here,” Kodiak said.
He barked into the air a few times and turned in each direction, carefully listening. He looked down and sighed.
“Alright.” He glanced up at Sibe. “Anya and Dimitri’s igloo isn’t much further.” Kodiak looked into the distance. He licked his lips and looked back up at Sibe. “They’re not that far out. We’ve almost got Gusty Field covered.” He looked up at me. I had my arms tied around my chest, my hair was in my eyes. My legs were shaking. I was only wearing boxers and a t-shirt.
“You took a pelt in the face from a snowman. You can handle this.” He turned to lead the way again.
Sibe and I exchanged looks. Mine was tired, his was worried, for me.
It felt like we had been walking through the snowy field for at least an hour.
We continued to push through the snow. One heavy blow of wind forced me back, I couldn’t walk against it. Sibe, head down, eyes almost shut, pummeled passed me. Kodiak’s hind legs bent downward as he pulled the sleigh and fought the wind with all of his power.
“Shit!” I yelled as I was thrown back. I tumbled a few feet before stopping, and hit the side of my head on the ground.
“Devan!” I heard Sibe as he ran at me. Puffs of snow leaped as his giant paws hit the ground. Once Kodiak realized, he barked and ran back through the snow.
My heavy eyelids shut.
I wanted to be home, in my warm bed. I didn’t know how all of this was possible. I began to wonder if I’d ever see my parents and sister again. I wondered if they realized that I was gone. I wondered if I’d see Caleb again so I could kick him in the ass. I thought about the Christmas when I received the snow globe that I now found myself trapped in. When I was a kid, I loved animals, especially arctic-type ones. My great aunt, who I was never close with, got me the snow globe as a gift five years ago, when I was thirteen. She wasn’t sure what to get me, since I was a newly rebellious teenager. She figured I still liked arctic animals, saw the snow globe in a store, and bought it for me.
I remember the first time I saw it. I didn’t care about it. I remember looking at the various animals in the snow as I told my great aunt that it was nice or something. After all the years of my mom displaying it on the dresser in the living room each December, I never even took a second glance at it. I wished I did.
Warmth spread across my back as I snuggled into a soft blanket that smelled of peppermint. I inhaled deeply and opened my eyes when I smelled fire. I looked around and sat up when I realized I was in a place I had never seen before. What a surprise. I was on a giant red scarf that stretched across a big wreath. I sat in the middle of the wreath. A red and white striped blanket hung from my shoulders. Two bigger wreaths were to my right. One that was about the same size as the one I sat on was to my left. A fireplace was behind me. The bright orange flames didn’t move, they didn’t even look real. They looked like one giant sticker, but I felt the heat as it generated from them. I looked around as I wondered how a fireplace existed in a room of ice.
A decorated tree leaned against the wall. A few ornaments were scattered below it. Some of them were shattered. I looked at the white walls and realized they were made of ice. I looked up; so was the ceiling, but sparkling icicles hung from it. I got to my feet.
I spun, looking all around. I felt nauseous. I grabbed my pounding head and sat back down on the edge of the wreath I was sleeping in. I pulled my hand up when I felt a pinch. It was only a pinecone, nestled in there. The thoughts of Kodiak and Sibe came to mind. I stared at the fake looking flames above the log in the fireplace.
“It wasn’t a dream.” I wiped my sweaty forehead. “This is real. Again? Where the am I?” I raised my voice as I looked toward the glistening ceiling.
“I heard something!” a little voice screeched.
I gasped and my eyes darted around. I didn’t see anyone.
“Can I see him, Mama, can I, can I?” another young voice squealed.
“Let me get your father and the boys,” a female voice said. “Come with me.”
I heard small feet scamper away. It sounded like they were on the other side of the icy wall behind me.
I slowly sunk back into the middle of the wreath, wide-eyed. I couldn’t believe any of this was happening. My legs hung over the edge. I turned my head back and looked at the glistening wall where the voices came from.
“How is this even possible?”
I heard small, fast footsteps patter toward a small entrance—a hole in the wall, that I realized when my eyes followed the footsteps from behind the shimmering walls. Strings of garland dangled down above the entrance.
I heard a bark and Kodiak say, “Wait! Slow down, pups!”
I was relieved to hear his voice. I wasn’t tossed into some random ice-cave. I heard the bell on his wreath jingle. His claws and sleigh scratched the ice as he walked.
The two tiny voices giggled as they neared the entrance.
“Mama, come on! Get on!”
“You’re safer in sleigh, Mama!”
“Kodiak, get Mama in the sleigh!”
“They’re right, Anya. You’re safer in the sleigh. He seems harmless, but you never know,” Kodiak said.
I wasn’t sure if it was him speaking at first because his voice sounded so gentle. I also didn’t expect him to think of me as harmless.
I got to my feet when Kodiak entered, carrying two chipmunks and a squirrel on his sleigh. His open lips formed a smile as his tongue peeked out of one side. His tail wasn’t tightly curled, but loosely twisted onto his hips.
“Little critters, I present to you: the alien,” Kodiak stopped in front of me. The chipmunks and squirrel poked their heads out from behind him to see me.
They stared at me as I looked from one of them to another.
“How, are, you, feel-ing?” the biggest chipmunk, Anya, asked me, slowly, like I was an idiot. She clutched onto Kodiak’s thick fur as her round eyes glared at me.
My stomach twirled. A talking chipmunk, what the fuck, I thought.
Her tiny paws nervously played with the red ribbon around her neck.
I swallowed. “I’m…confused.” I scratched behind my neck. “How are…you?”
“Mama!” the little squirrel squeaked as she tucked her nose into Anya’s fur.
“It’s alright, Alena,” Anya said as she put her paw on the little brown squirrel’s back.
“Hey alien, you were knocked out!” shouted the smaller chipmunk as he stepped out of Kodiak’s sleigh. He marched toward me.
“Careful, Viktor,” warned Anya.
“Did you suffocate?” Viktor, the smaller chipmunk asked, standing on his hind legs. He pushed an end of his dark green scarf over his shoulder and then placed his paws on his hips.
Kodiak laughed and shook his head. “You are somethin’ else, Viktor.”
Viktor looked back at him and smiled, then focused on me.
Kodiak walked up to me, besides Viktor, and sat down. “You hit your head back there.”
I fingered the bump on my head. It hurt more when I put pressure on it.
“You were shaking out of control!” shouted Viktor as he shook around in circles.
Alena laughed from behind Anya, who sat behind Kodiak on his sleigh.
I began breathing heavily as I took in my surroundings. I still was in disbelief and I felt nauseous again. I felt the color drain from my face.
Viktor gasped, looked back at Alena and Anya, then looked back at me as his curious eyes lit up with wonder.
“Mama, Mama!” Alena screeched, as she clung to Anya’s arm.
“Is he alright, Kodiak?” Anya asked. She and Kodiak exchanged confused glances.
Kodiak leaped to my side. Anya and Alena hopped off the sleigh and stood on each side of Viktor.
Kodiak’s eyes shot around the room. “Here, get in bed.” He nudged me with his snout to the big wreath that was behind me. I fell into the middle of the wreath, onto the giant red scarf. I pulled in my feet that hung over the wreath.
“Yo. I don’t know about putting it in my bed,” Viktor said, followed by a forced laugh. “I don’t know what it means when an alien changes colors. I don’t want him dying in my bed. I don’t want any germs. I like the way I am, I-”
Anya swung a paw around Viktor’s shoulder and covered his mouth with the other. Alena hid behind the two of them.
I tried to make the back of my neck feel comfortable. I shifted my head around on top of the wreath.
A big gray squirrel wearing a long green scarf that dangled over his white belly entered the room. He waddled on his back legs, holding a small, steaming clear glass that looked like it was made of ice. The fluid inside was dark green.
“Daddy, Daddy!” Alena darted at him. The bow on her red ribbon flapped on her back as she bounced over.
“Is he up?” the gray squirrel asked quietly. The steam from the glass swayed up passed his face.
“Daddy, its face is turning colors!” Viktor shouted.
“Viktor!” hushed Anya. She looked at me.
“Is it safe, Kodiak?” asked the gray squirrel.
“Yeah, he’s fine.”
I put my palm on my forehead and sighed. “Why is this happening?” I whispered as I inspected the icicles hanging from the glistening ceiling. When I looked back toward the animals, the gray squirrel peered into my eyes. His front paws clenched the wreath and the steaming glass was between his paws.
“Hello,” he said. His voice was comforting. It was scruffy and low, but calm.
I lifted my head. “Hi.”
“Welcome. I am Dimitri.” He turned to the others behind him and pointed a paw. “My mate, Anya, and our pups, Viktor and Alena.”
I looked them over as I wondered how a squirrel and a chipmunk could possibly produce offspring. I shrugged my shoulders when I thought to myself, In this world, forget it.
“Do you have a name?” asked Dimitri. He grasped the glass and held it toward me.
“My name’s Devan.” I eyed the green liquid. The way its mushy texture swished in the glass made my stomach knot.
“Don’t be frightened, Devan. Drink this. Anya and I grew the ingredients in the garden. It’ll make you feel better.”
I took the glass. The green potion was thick. “What is it?”
“Pure deliciousness.” Dimitri smiled as he held eye contact with me. “It’s peppermint and gingerbread. Fresh. There’s not much left, enjoy it. We lost many crops during the quake—both the peppermint and the gingerbread bushes.”
I felt guilty, sick and was not up for chugging that stuff down. “You keep it,” I said, holding the glass in the air.
“No, that’s alright. Give it a try.”
“He loves having company over—they get to sample his cooking,” Anya said as she stepped up beside Dimitri.
“Yeah, Daddy’s favorite thing to do is to shove food down everyone’s throats, even if they say no,” said Viktor as he walked over. Alena scampered behind him.
“This is Kodiak and Alek’s favorite,” she cheeped.
My eyes met Kodiak’s. I looked back at Alena.
Alena sat beside her father and nuzzled her nose in his side as she wrapped her arms around one of his. He pat her on the head.
I lowered my eyes to the glass.
Since my senior year of high school began, I became a champ at downing shots of many nasty liquors, and I figured if I could handle that, I could take on the green gush.
Everyone watched as I raised the glass to my lips. All of their jaws were slightly dropped. Viktor looked up at Kodiak, whose head was tilted. He tilted his head too.
I dipped my head back and splashed it down. The smell of peppermint filled my nostrils, but the creamy mixture tasted more like gingerbread. After it coated my throat, there was a small peppermint aftertaste. Surprisingly, it tasted good. The warmth of the drink loosened up my tense neck and shoulders.
“You’re supposed to sip it slowly, to enjoy the taste,” Viktor said as he looked up at Dimitri. “Why did you drink it all at once?”
“Viktor,” Anya said as she crossed her front arms.
I wasn’t sure what to say. I wasn’t going to try to explain why I swallowed the drink whole. I looked around the twinkling room as I sighed. I suddenly felt comfortable. I looked over at them as they stared at me.
“Thank you,” I said.
“I don’t think he understands how to have a conversation,” Viktor whispered to Alena.
“Or drink properly. That’s really weird,” she whispered back.
“You’re welcome,” said Dimitri.
“Yeah, you’re welcome,” Viktor echoed. “My bed is comfortable, right?”
I looked down. “Yeah. This is a nice set up you got here. A cozy wreath, a warm blanket.” I tugged at the red scarf.
“Oh, that’s not my blanket. Mine’s the one made of candy cane,” Viktor said, pointing his nose at the red and white blanket that dangled from the wreath. “The scarf is Sibe’s.”
I wondered where Sibe was when Kodiak entered the room. A feeling of trust came over me when I realized that Sibe gave me his scarf to keep me warm.
“Where is he?”
“He’s outside putting some new ice-blocks on the top of the igloo. He should be in shortly,” said Anya.
“I’d do it but Mama won’t let me.” Viktor scrunched up his face at Anya.
“It’s slippery up there, Viktor. And it’s too high,” she responded.
“Did the igloo’s roof get ruined during the quake?” I asked.
“Yes!” snapped Viktor. He narrowed his eyes at me.
Anya nudged him.
“You see, Devan, the thing is, we don’t live far from Gusty Field, the whirlwind of snow we have down at the bottom of our hill, Frosty Hill. It’s where we are now.” Dimitri’s paws moved as he spoke. “Usually, it’s not too bad but ever since the globe quake, the field hasn’t calmed. It’s angry!” His face lit up. His eyes widened and his small, pointy ears were pressed back against his head. “Some of the ice-blocks at the top of our igloo were ripped off by the gusts that flew over here during the quake.”
“Surprisingly, things aren’t that bad.” Anya shrugged her shoulders. “It could have been worse. We were lucky.”
“How did you do this anyway?” Viktor asked. “You’re not scary.”
Kodiak looked as interested in me as the chipmunks and squirrels did. His ears were perked and a front paw was slightly raised.
“I come from a much bigger world. Your globe is much smaller in my world. You guys are actually living in my world, but you’re just inside of this globe.” I stretched my arms up high, together, in front of my face, then separated them, both index fingers out, making a sphere. “I’m really much bigger than I seem, many times the size of all you combined.” I looked into each of their eyes as I continued. I leaned forward in the wreath, the small ice glass remained in my hand. “During December, we decorate our house. Your globe is a decoration in my house. Last night, I accidentally pushed your globe over with my hand and it fell and spun around on my floor. I had no idea about the wonderful life inside of this globe. If I had known, I would have been more careful.”
“Incredible,” said Dimitri.
Kodiak looked down at his paws. Viktor copied him.
“Hello!” Sibe crawled through the tight entrance to the room. The strings of garland slipped up his nose and down his back.
“Sibe!” Alena hopped toward him.
“Hey, Siberia,” Viktor said with a smirk. He ran passed Alena and stopped short in front of him. Alena slid into Viktor.
“Watch it!” Viktor turned to Alena. They closed their eyes and stuck their tongues out at each other.
Viktor turned to Sibe.
“How was it up there?” He pounced onto Sibe’s shoulder, climbed his way up, and sat in between his stubby ears.
Sibe rolled his eyes to the top of his head. “Slippery. You have to be careful up on the roof.” He turned to look at Dimitri and Anya. “But the work is done, everything is back where it belongs.”
“Oh, thank you, Sibe, we really appreciate it,” Anya said with a paw on her chest.
“Nothin’ you can’t do, huh, bear?” Dimitri chuckled.
“I do what I can to make sure everything is okay.”
“We are very thankful,” Dimitri said.
Sibe nodded, then turned his attention to me.
“Devan. How are you feeling?” He hunched toward me beneath the icicles that hung just above his head.
Viktor licked one of the icicles, then looked down at Alena.
“Hey Alena! Bet you can’t keep your tongue on an icicle for more than a few seconds!”
“Oh yeah?” She hopped onto Sibe’s shoulder, almost lost her balance, but Dimitri grabbed her and placed her back on the shiny floor.
“Get down, Viktor. Stop being silly.”
Viktor rolled his eyes and obeyed his father.
Sibe laid down beside me. “How is your head?” He looked over my face.
“I’m feeling better.”
“You were out cold! I’m glad that you feel better.” Sibe’s black lips curved into a smile as he looked at the glass in my hand. “Gingerbread and peppermint?” he asked.
I looked into the empty glass. “Yeah. It was good, surprisingly.”
Dimitri peered over at me, looking worried. I realized what I said offended him.
“No, no!” I shouted, shaking my head. I squatted across from Dimitri.
“In my world, we don’t blend gingerbread and peppermint together and drink it.”
“I don’t see why not.”
“Yeah!” piped Viktor.
“When you get home, it is something you should get many of your kind to try. Share the goodness!”
I smiled at Dimitri. A talking squirrel who created recipes from his garden of peppermint and gingerbread. That’s something I’d never expect to come across or even imagine in my life.
“But,” said Kodiak as he got to his paws. He glared up at me. “Before we figure out how to get you home, we need to bring Alek home.” He glimpsed back at his empty green sleigh.
I breathed in. I really did want to find Alek. Not just to be my normal self at home again, but for Kodiak and the rest of the worried snow globe.
“We’ll find him.” I paused for a few seconds. “I won’t leave until we do.”
Kodiak and Sibe exchanged startled glances. Kodiak stood tall, his tail curled, and his sleek blue eyes climbed to mine. Sibe’s beady eyes widened and gave his powerful appearance an innocent look.
Kodiak barked and stretched his front paws forward, ass in the air. His bushy tail swayed side to side. “Now you’re speaking my language!”
“What are we waiting for? Christmas? We’ve got an Alek to find!” Sibe said as he turned his hunched body to the room’s exit. The rest of us followed. Viktor scrambled beneath Sibe so that he could lead the way down the shimmering narrow hallway.
We passed entrances to different rooms as we shuffled down the icy path. Viktor declared what each room was, lifting a string of hanging garland for me to see. I peeked inside as I quickly hurried behind him, Kodiak, and Sibe. Alena sat in Kodiak’s sleigh and she kept her big eyes on me the whole time.
Viktor pointed out the kitchen, that had sparkling, transparent counters, tables, and chairs. Four green and red speckled pinecones decorated the center of the table. There was a little red and white striped oven and a refrigerator carved from ice wrapped with white ribbon, too.
Next was the ice-skating room. It was pure ice. Viktor’s eyes bulged out at me when he turned around to tell me how slippery it was in there. He asked Dimitri if I, “the alien,” could go ice-skating with him, but Dimitri told him that I had to help Kodiak and Sibe.
Across from the ice-skating room was a storage room. Clumps of snow were piled on the twinkling ground; shimmering acorns and nuts hung out of them. Frosty blocks of ice trapped candy canes, shaped gingerbread, peppermint leaves, nuts and berries.
The whispers of the purple-glossed wind swirled outside as we neared the end of the path that grew brighter. My hair swayed to one side and I held one hand above my squinted eyes. My legs that stuck out of my boxers felt the chill first.
Thick strands of garland dangled down from the entrance in front of us. Streams of light swept in as the wind swung the garland.
Sibe turned to look at me, eyes slanted. The ends of his scarf flapped below his chin. “You sure you’re alright?”
I felt strong, I was ready. I didn’t want to be the weak “alien” anymore. I couldn’t be. Who knew what else awaited me out there. I was curious to know what else was out there, but at the same time, I just wanted to find that Alek character and get to the mysterious, magical, supposedly giant candy cane. I kept wishing that I had taken the time to look at the snow globe at least once all the years I had it. I tried to remember seeing a giant candy cane in the snow globe. I was interested in finding out how it worked. However it worked, I hoped that it would work on me and not chuck snowballs at me like the crazed snow-people.
I took a deep breath and looked into the bright distance between the strands of swinging garland.
“Yeah, Sibe. I’m fine.” I sounded confident and he sensed it.
Sibe nodded and vanished into the light.
I grabbed the thick string of garland that was in front of me and pushed it back. I tilted my head down as I walked into the bright whispering wind. I slowly raised my head and looked up, both hands cupping the sides of my face.
“This way,” said Anya. She grabbed my leg with her tiny paw and pointed with the other. I could make out the figures of Kodiak, Sibe, Dimitri, Viktor, and Alena in Kodiak’s sleigh in front of me. Their silhouettes waited in the light.
“Come on! Over here!” Viktor waved his arms. His scarf flapped in his face and Alena giggled, holding her belly. Viktor tossed his scarf behind his shoulders. It flapped back over, so he held it still with a paw.
It was difficult to see through my scrunched eyes. My shaggy hair didn’t help. I took small steps as Anya led me to the others, her paw gently wrapped around the bottom of my leg.
Kodiak sniffed into the cool air, then looked down at Dimitri.
“Dimitri, thanks for everything.”
“Not a problem, Kodiak. I wish Alek a safe return.”
Dimitri opened his arms and Kodiak bent his head down. Dimitri swung his arms around Kodiak’s shoulders and Kodiak put a paw around Dimitri.
“The best of luck, my friend,” Dimitri said.
“Bye, bye, Kodiak!” Alena said, running out of his sleigh. Viktor ran beside Alena and they both stopped at Kodiak’s paws.
“Take care, pups,” Kodiak said.
“Later, dog,” said Viktor.
Kodiak held a paw out. Viktor bounced into the air and slapped Kodiak’s paw with the two of his.
Viktor and Alena each hugged one of Kodiak’s legs before scurrying over to Sibe. Viktor leaped onto Sibe’s shoulder, Alena climbed up to the other one. They each hugged a side of his face, pressed their cheeks against his, and said goodbye.
Anya gave Kodiak and Sibe a hug, wished them both good luck and hoped for Alek’s safe return. She turned to me, who stood slightly hunched, hugging my body, away from the group of snow globe inhabitants. She had a soft look in her eyes.
“Devan,” she said, and scampered over to me.
I squatted down to meet her.
She took one of my fingers in her paw. “Be safe.”
I smiled at her little brown face, her big black eyes.
“Everything will be alright.”
“I’ll be sure not to hit my head on anything,” I said with a small laugh.
Her rosy cheeks took over her eyes as she smiled.
“You take care of yourself,” Dimitri said as he put an arm around Anya.
“I’ll be extra careful.” I rubbed my head.
“It’s been a fascinating treat having you here. That candy cane is beyond amazing,” Dimitri said as he scratched his chin. He studied me as I stood up.
“I bet you’re excited to go back to your big world,” Viktor said as he and Alena sat beside their mother.
“Don’t forget to tell your kind about Daddy’s gingerbread and candy cane recipe!” Alena piped. She and her father exchanged smiles.
“I won’t forget. And yes, I’m looking forward to getting home. I need to help Kodiak before I go, though.”
“Oh yeah, because you threw Alek across the globe when you were a giant. Yeah, you should find him,” Viktor said.
“Viktor!” Dimitri and Anya shouted as they looked down at him.
If the little chipmunk wasn’t their son, I would have kicked him like a football. Who knew that a chipmunk could be such a smartass. I just stared him down. He crossed his arms and looked right back at me; one of his little paws tapped in the snow.
“That was a mistake, Viktor,” Sibe said.
He looked at Kodiak. He had his back to us and was looking down the hill into the distance. His ears were perked up, alert.
“We better go,” Sibe said.
Sibe said his goodbyes to the chipmunks and squirrels once more, I gave them a wave, and we set off down the windy hill, behind Kodiak.
As we neared the bottom of the hill, the wind calmed. I was able to walk with my head up and my eyes open. I wanted them to know that I was serious about finding Alek, so I could get home. I didn’t want them to think I was scared. At that point, I wasn’t. I’d been through enough bad things in the snow globe. I was set to take on any other obstacles that came my way.
I walked quickly, keeping up with Kodiak’s fast pace. He and Sibe looked into the distance in each direction. Kodiak stopped a few times to howl. He’d pause and listen as he stood tall. He wouldn’t hear anything and he’d continue to lead the way. His nose would alternate between dragging on the ground to sniffing in the air. Sibe inhaled some of our surroundings as well.
The snow seemed crunchier as we distanced from Frosty Hill. It had an ice-shine to it. As we got further, it got slippery. I didn’t want to slow down and hold up Kodiak and Sibe, and I lost my balance on the crystal-like snow.
Kodiak rolled his eyes and shook his head as he stopped and waited for me to get to my feet.
“You are not the cookie cut out for this. What’s it like where you live?” Sibe asked as I bent backwards and my arms flapped in a circle.
“It gets like this in the winter,” I said, catching a hold of myself. “But I usually wear shoes in the snow.”
“Shoes?” asked Sibe.
He didn’t know what shoes were. It took me a few seconds to catch on.
“Yeah. I put them on my feet. They make walking easier.” I kicked up my foot as I stepped on a sharp block of ice. “And safer.” I hopped toward them on one foot.
“I’m not even going to ask,” Kodiak said as he turned to lead the way.
Sibe slowed down to walk beside me. He noticed that I was limping.
“Are you hurt?”
I didn’t want to seem weak, even though I knew my foot was bleeding. It did hurt, even through the numbness.
“You weren’t walking like that before,” Sibe said. “Hey, just because you’re from a bigger globe and are more advanced than we are doesn’t mean that you don’t get hurt. It’s okay if you’re hurt. You can hitch a ride in Kodiak’s sleigh.”
“I’m okay. I’ve been through much worse in the real world.” No I hadn’t.
I wanted to ride in the sleigh rather than walk, but I didn’t think Kodiak would like the fact that I was resting and he was doing all of the walking, especially since Alek was lost because of me.
“The real world? What is that supposed to mean?” There was a hint of hurt in Sibe’s voice. “You mean in your world?”
Sibe walked with his head lowered and kept his eyes on the leg that I dragged.
“Your leg can’t come off, can it? Like Jack’s nose?”
“No, it won’t come off.”
I forgot about Jack’s nose until then. We still had to find it.
“We still have to get his nose back,” I said. I watched Kodiak’s sleigh a little further out in front of us.
“Yeah, poor Jack. I hope we find it.”
“I hope nobody eats it,” I said.
“Eat it?” Sibe was shocked. “Why would anybody eat a nose? You eat noses?”
“No, no,” I shook my head. “His nose is made out of a carrot. We eat carrots.”
“That’s so strange. I would never think to eat a carrot. That would be cruel. Everyone needs their nose to make a wish.”
I had no idea what Sibe was talking about.
“To make a wish?”
“Yes. You know Noel granted your wish when your nose tingles. Right before your wish comes true, it almost tickles!” Sibe laughed and scrunched his nose around.
I scrunched up my nose.
“That’s insane. I need to see this giant candy cane.”
That sparked a thought in my mind. What did Kodiak and Sibe eat? Did they even eat?
“Do you guys eat?”
“Of course we eat! We eat lots of things. We have candy canes, not the living ones, though. There are different types. We eat the ones you can make from peppermint. Dimitri makes them good.”
“Living candy canes?”
“We have gingerbread and peppermint, as you know, chocolate and candy, different kinds of nuts, pudding, custard, fruit—I love berries! Jams, pies, hot chocolate. There’s plenty to eat.”
“Wow.” I was surprised that they had so much food in the snow globe. “Where I come from, bears like you eat seals and fish.”
Sibe frowned. “That’s repulsive!”
I slid again, but caught myself. Sibe looked down at my feet.
“Do these candy canes talk? What do candy canes eat?”
“What do candy canes eat?” I repeated.
I followed Sibe’s eyes down to my bloody foot. It was bleeding more than I thought.
“That’s blood,” I said as I knelt down to get a better look at my foot. I lifted it between my hands. The bottom of it was smeared with blood.
“Kodiak!” shouted Sibe, alarmed.
Kodiak whirled around. He ran back to us.
He looked up at Sibe, who backed away from me.
“Sibe, what’s wrong?”
Kodiak looked at me with narrow eyes. They were a mix between impatient and angry.
He sniffed at Sibe. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, but what is that? It doesn’t smell right.”
Kodiak looked in Sibe’s direction, at my bloody foot, and sniffed. He jolted his head back and scrunched up his snout.
“That doesn’t smell good,” he said, looking at Sibe. He turned his attention to me. “What’s happening? What’re you doing?”
“What?” barked Kodiak.
I stood up and took a few steps. It hurt more than it had earlier.
I balanced on one foot and held the bloody one slightly above the snow. “I didn’t think it was this bad.”
“You couldn’t have wished him here when he had his booze on?” Sibe said to Kodiak.
Sibe had confused the word ‘shoes’ for ‘booze.’ I laughed a little. “You mean shoes. You would not want me here when I had my booze on, that’s for sure.”
“How was I supposed to know that some alien caused the globe-quake? It’s his own fault,” Kodiak said.
Sibe groaned and shook his head at Kodiak. He turned back to me.
“Well we can’t sit here. We have to make a move on,” Kodiak said.
“Can you make it stop gushing that stuff out?” Sibe asked.
“I can’t control it.”
“You can’t control it? I’d think an alien from some big world would know how to control his own body,” Kodiak barked.
“You don’t understand,” I told him.
“And I don’t want to. I don’t care about that. I care about Alek, and he’s out there. He could be hurt, and it’s because of you. You did this to yourself. You’re going to help me find him, I’m not bringing you to Noel until Alek is back in his sleigh.”
Kodiak was getting irritated, and I understood why. I just couldn’t stand his attitude. He didn’t even tell me what Alek looked like. How was I supposed to help him find Alek when I didn’t know what the guy looked like? I didn’t bother to ask earlier, because I didn’t care, but mainly it was because I was so freaked out of my mind when I realized that I was the size of small Christmas ornament and in a snow globe with talking animals, killer snow-people, crazy weather and a giant, wish-granting candy cane. But I did care at that point. I felt guilty. I’d be worried if I was Kodiak and I needed to help find Alek to get myself home, and back to my normal size.
“We talked about this, Kodiak, multiple times. I will help you find Alek. Problem is, you never described him to me. That doesn’t help any of us, now does it?”
Kodiak looked at me, his jaw shut tight. I’m sure he was shocked at what I said. I could tell he felt defeated and didn’t have a comeback when his eyes made their way to the ground in thought. He sighed.
“You’re right. My mind’s been all over the place lately.” He continued walking. “He’s got two legs, about your height. He wears a red jacket, has silver hair and a big nose.”
“Okay, now it makes sense to have me around. I can help find Alek. Alek and his big nose. I’m surprised I can’t see it from here.” I tried to annoy Kodiak, and it worked.
With a snarl, he lashed his head around and barked at me.
I held my ground. “I’m not afraid of you, you Christmas ornament.”
“Devan, don’t,” warned Sibe. He stood beside me.
Kodiak’s upper lip was scrunched and it wiggled with anger.
“What’re you doing to do, you fake dog? You can’t hurt me. You might as well be nice instead of nasty.” His fiery temper made me mad. “In the real world, they get rid of beasts like you. No one stands for your nasty shit.”
Kodiak’s lip still trembled with anger. His light blue eyes were overtaken by a dark blue tint.
“I’m sorry I caused your friend to go hurling through the air, but come on, he’s around here somewhere. It was an accident. We can’t change the past so let’s make the best of the situation.”
Sibe nodded his head in agreement as I stood in front of the growling Kodiak.
“Enough, Kodiak,” Sibe said.
Kodiak kept his focus on me.
“We have to find Alek, Kodiak,” Sibe said.
Kodiak stopped his growling, but still stared me down.
“It isn’t worth all of this trouble. Let’s continue to look for Alek. We’ll find him and everything will be alright,” Sibe continued.
Kodiak breathed heavily and he looked away from me.
I really was worried that he would attack me but I had to hold my ground.
“Keep him away from me,” Kodiak said to Sibe. “He’s lucky.” He walked ahead of us.
Sibe and I looked at one another, then at Kodiak as his sleigh plowed through the icy snow.
“He’s not himself right now,” Sibe said.
“I wouldn’t think so.”
Sibe switched the subject to my bloody foot. It really stung and at that point, riding in Kodiak’s sleigh definitely wasn’t an option.
“How’s the foot?”
“It doesn’t feel any better.”
“It’s not gushing as much.”
I looked at my foot. Dried blood surrounded the wound.
“Why does it gush out that red stuff, anyway?”
“My skin is broken. The red stuff is blood. It keeps my body going. I need it to survive.”
“What if it all gushes out when you break?”
“It won’t. Not with a cut that small. My body makes new blood, anyway.”
“Smart. Who came up with such a thing?”
“We’re born that way.”
Sibe nodded. “Okay.”
We began to walk, slowly.
I pictured myself on Kodiak’s sleigh. My foot caused so much pain.
“He wouldn’t let me on his sleigh, would he?” I didn’t want to, but I had to ask. My foot hurt too much.
“He’ll put up an argument just to be hard on you, but he will. He understands that you’re hurt. We put you in his sleigh when you were knocked out before. Wrapped you in my scarf and ran up Frosty Hill, to Dimitri and Anya’s.”
A warm feeling tingled through my body.
“Thanks for that.”
“Of course. We weren’t going to leave you there.”
I smiled. Sibe was loyal as a dog. Kodiak was tough as a bear.
I noticed that Kodiak slowed down. He stopped and turned to us.
Once we accompanied him, he turned back around to face the giant frozen pond.
“We’re on Frigid Beach. After we cross over Frigid River, we’ll be on Jolly Riverside. After that, we’ll hit the end of the globe. I’ve searched everywhere, if Alek isn’t between here and the end,” Kodiak looked down, “I don’t know what to do, besides to keep searching.” He looked up at Sibe. “I don’t know if he’s on the move or not. But I haven’t caught scent of him anywhere else. He has to be this way.”
“I don’t think crossing Frigid River is a good idea,” Sibe said as he eyed the frozen water in front of us. It was white and cloudy.
Kodiak glared at Sibe. “If you don’t want to cross, I can do it alone.”
“It’s not safe, Kodiak. I’m not sure if the ice can handle me.”
Kodiak looked over the ice. He sniffed and took a step onto it. His sleigh made a thump as it fell from the crunchy snow onto the frozen river.
Sibe knew better than I did, and he was hesitant. It didn’t seem like the greatest idea for me–it would be difficult to balance. I needed to go though. I looked back at Sibe.
“The ice looks like it will hold.” Kodiak walked further out and turned back to us. “But I can understand why you’re worried, Sibe.”
“I don’t want the ice to crack. I’ll be fine if it does, it’s just that I’ll be crossing over with you guys. It’ll put us all in danger. Devan’s already hurt.”
Kodiak nodded. “Understandable.”
“I’ll be fine. I need to cross. I’m going with you, Kodiak,” I said as I balanced on one foot.
“Not like that you aren’t.” Sibe looked at Kodiak. “He should come back with me. I’ll carry him back to Dimitri’s and Anya’s. We’ll be sure to keep a look out for Alek on the way.”
“I can sit in his sleigh.”
Kodiak looked back at his sleigh. “Only until we find Alek. Then you’re back on your feet.”
“Kodiak, he can barely walk.”
“Who knows what kind of shape Alek is in,” Kodiak said.
We all looked at each other and heard nothing but the breeze.
“You comin’?” Kodiak turned his back to me, his sleigh slid to the side.
I looked up at Sibe.
“I’ll head back to Dimitri and Anya’s. You guys can meet me there on your way back.”
“We’ll see you there, Sibe.” Kodiak nodded.
Sibe nodded back. “Don’t be too rough on him.”
Sibe held his paw out next to me, pointing to the sleigh. I looked out onto the ice. For as far as I could see, I just saw ice.
I took a few slow steps before I began to slide around, trying to catch my balance.
Sibe caught me when I leaned back. He picked me up by the back of my t-shirt and took gentle steps onto the ice toward Kodiak. Kodiak walked back to us and Sibe placed me in his sleigh.
Kodiak looked back. “You ready? Hang on.”
“Wait,” said Sibe, mouth stuffed with scarf. He pulled it off with his teeth, placed it on the ground beneath a paw, and tore off a small piece. He placed the scarf over my shoulder. It was so big, it drooped over me, over the sleigh and onto the ice. Sibe swept up the end of his scarf that hung over the sleigh with a paw and swung it around my shoulders. “Stay warm.”
He crouched low and dropped the torn off piece in my lap.
“Tie this around your foot.”
“Thanks Sibe.” I knotted up my foot.
Sibe took a few steps to Kodiak.
“Kodiak.” Sibe sighed a puff of cool fog. “I wish I could go with you. Good luck.”
“Thanks, Sibe. I’m lucky to have a friend like you.” Kodiak focused on the distance. “I’ll see you back at Frosty Hill.”
“Alright. Mush, Kodiak!” I said. I felt the need to break the ice between me and Kodiak, since it was going to be just the two of us.
Kodiak turned to me, the rope from the sleigh tangled around his paws. “Well this is going to be a joy,” he said sarcastically. “Don’t push it. Only Alek can say that.”
With a bark, Kodiak shot out along the ice. I clung to the handles on the sides of the sleigh. My face was cold from being nipped with the frigid air, my hair blew back and my ears were clogged with wind. My body wrapped in Sibe’s scarf rattled from side to side. Kodiak was moving so fast that I just saw a grey and white blur in front of me. Some ice particles shot into the sleigh as he ran, so I kept my eyes squinted.
Kodiak began to slow down. Soon enough he was walking, nose in the air. I looked left, right. Ice. I looked up, the sky was hazy. Beyond the haze, I could make out the arch of the curving globe and the dim air outside of it. We were almost at the end of the snow globe, and night had settled in. I wondered what would happen when someone shut the light off in the living room. What went on in the snow globe in the dark?
“Do you smell anything?”
“Yes. He was here. Not long ago.” Kodiak looked at me. “Stand up, see if you can see anything.”
I got to my feet and looked far out. I saw where the frozen river ended. A narrow strip of snow was at the end. Beyond that, I could see the beige wall of my living room through the speckled glass. I sighed. Seeing the wall frustrated me. I wanted to get back home. I curled my fists and stared ahead. I wondered what my family was doing. What did they think happened to me? They would never believe it. No one would, besides for Caleb.
I shook my head. I had zoned out.
“Do you see anyone out there?”
Kodiak’s ears blew back as he shut his eyes and sniffed.
As Kodiak dragged the sleigh, I heard a crack from beneath me. I had a feeling the ice would crack. I felt like I was in some sort of movie. It was bound to happen. Things just had to stay interesting.
“Son of a bitch,” I whispered.
Kodiak stood still. I carefully tilted to the side to get a look beneath the sleigh.
“Don’t move,” said Kodiak.
We heard another crack. Kodiak gasped and looked back. I gripped the handles of the sleigh.
“Uh…Kodiak,” I said as my eyes followed the growing crack that ran out from beneath the sleigh.
Kodiak’s eyes widened and he held his breath.
I crawled to the front of the sleigh and sat on my knees. We heard another snap and our heads swung to the front. Kodiak looked down and spread his front legs as the ice in between them looked ready to break.
Kodiak dashed to the side, away from the cracking ice. For a second, the sleigh tilted on its side, and I almost fell out, but grabbed the handle above me with both hands. The sleigh landed on the ice and I still hung onto the one handle, my body on the sleigh. My legs hung over the side.
I heard Kodiak’s heavy pants as he ran, his claws scraped the ice. The bell on his wreath jingled.
I looked back when I heard a splash. Small bergs of ice fell into a wide gap filled with waving water. A small stream extended from the gap and rushed after us, ice from both sides rapidly fell into it.
Kodiak looked behind me to see what was happening. His pointed ears were pressed back against his head and his sleek eyes looked determined to outrun the dividing ice. His wreath thumped up and down on his chest.
When I saw the oversized log in the distance, I tried to pull myself onto the sleigh with all of my strength. I clung to the handle as I fought against the wind that blew frosted snow particles in my face. I managed to pull my leg with the hurt foot onto the sleigh.
“Get in the sleigh, Alien, get in the sleigh!” Kodiak barked through his pants as he gained even more speed. The rushing stream gained on us.
“I’m trying!” my voice rattled over the bouncy sleigh.
I pulled my other leg into the sleigh just in time. I grasped both handles and closed my eyes as pieces of ice hit me in the face.
Kodiak leaped into the air. We both screamed as we soared above the log. Kodiak’s front paws hit the ice on the other side first. He tripped over the rope attached to his harness that flew in front of him. The end of the sleigh hit the log and I was launched into the air. My legs flew over my head and I tumbled to the ice.
I landed on my front. The ice beneath me cracked into a snowflake-like design. I kept still, spread out on the ice. My cold breath formed misty clouds. My whole body was numb, I didn’t know if I was in pain.
I was surprised that the ice didn’t crack but I still kept myself still, eyes on Kodiak, who was on his side. His sleigh was next to him.
“Kodiak.” His name fought its way up my throat.
He didn’t move.
I gently lifted myself with my arms first. I pulled my feet forward and stood up. I looked down at the cracked ice. I took a step, paused, then took a few more steps and looked down. I squatted and touched the ice with my fists. The ice seemed strong. I stood up and walked to Kodiak.
I knelt down beside him. I looked over his body. He had a different look to him. A fake look. I touched his side. He wasn’t furry, but he was plastic. I pulled my hand back.
I crawled to his face. His eyes were glossy and they looked toward the sky. His jaw was slightly dropped and the ends of his dark lips formed a smile. I touched his snout. It was solid. I grabbed the bell on his wreath. It didn’t jingle, it didn’t even move.
I was really freaked out. I wasn’t sure what happened. Did that mean that he was dead? He was a piece of plastic.
“Hey Kodiak.” I grabbed one of his front paws.
They were cold. One was posed, proudly held up.
I stood up and looked over Kodiak’s body. I didn’t know what to do. I had no idea where to go, no idea what to do with him. I wasn’t sure how to get back to Frosty Hill. I lost my sense of direction after sliding around on the ice. I didn’t know what was out there. I thought that there couldn’t be much else. I could see that the snow globe sloped down above me. I had to follow the curve of the globe. Kodiak came so close. Alek was somewhere out there.
I crawled over to the sleigh to touch it. It too, was plastic. So was the rope that attached the sleigh to Kodiak’s harness.
The settling darkness became increasingly noticeable as I scanned my surroundings. I needed help. I needed to find Alek, or anybody. But I knew that I couldn’t leave Kodiak on the ice. It could have cracked again.
I looked into Kodiak’s eyes. They were still; his pupils glared up above. The smile he wore began to creep me out, especially since it was getting dark.
That’s when I noticed his head. A dark line dragged down the back of it. I stepped over him and onto his other side. He had a small crack on the back of his head.
I drew myself back as I understood what happened. His head was bashed open; he was no longer alive. He reverted back to his posed, decorative, lifeless state.
“Shit.” I pushed back the cold hair that hung in my face. It felt like straw.
I looked into the distance. I could barely make it out through the fog, but the beige wall was dark brown. It was night time. The living room lights would go off when my parents were ready for bed.
I eyed the red rope that attached to Kodiak’s harness. I could unclip it, put Kodiak in the sleigh and drag it.
I leaned over Kodiak and grabbed the solid rope. I hoped that it would unclip, and it did. I bent down and put a hand beneath Kodiak and the other over his body. He was heavy but I managed to somewhat lift him. I held him in front of me. His bottom paws dragged across the ice as I walked him to the sleigh. I gently placed him down.
I slid my hands together to shake off the ice, picked up the rope, and pulled. I followed the bent outline of the snow globe above me.
Then everything turned to darkness.
I swung out my arms. I spun around. I couldn’t see a thing.
At that point I was so frustrated. I didn’t want to wait until it got light out again to continue, despite the fact that I had no idea where I was going. I figured I’d run into the wall if I went too far. But how was I supposed to know if Alek was around?
I looked back.
I was alone, lost in the dark. I looked into the endless night. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I wondered if other snow globes came to life.
I thought my mind was messing with me when I saw an orange glow far out to the left. I bit my lip and squinted as I tried to make out what it was. I listened for sound but just heard my own breathing.
I wasn’t sure if I should shout out to it. I didn’t feel confident without Kodiak.
“Hello?” I blurted out. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to speak but I did. The orange glow swayed up into the air. It was a fire. Someone had to be there.
“Hello?” I gripped the rope and headed forward. The sleigh’s bottom scraped against the ice. It was so quiet that it sounded extra loud.
A dark figure moved passed the fire. I stopped and listened. I heard a chirp. Then it sounded like someone was running on the ice. After a few seconds, it was silent again.
“Who goes there?”
I jumped and lost my balance, tripped over the sleigh and fell on the ice. I was on my side as I swatted a hand around in search of the rope attached to the sleigh. I grabbed it and got back on my feet.
“No reason to be frightened,” the voice said.
I felt something slick touch my arm. I stepped back. I heard the creature’s feet fumble back.
“It makes no sense to be talking in the dark. Come to the light so you don’t hurt yourself.”
The creature shuffled toward the fire. I clenched the rope and followed.
As I neared the fire, I could see the creature standing next to it, looking in my direction. It was a gray penguin with a blue beanie on his head and a blue bow tie on the center of his neck. By this point, I was immune to talking, dressed up animals.
I stopped a few feet from the penguin.
“Oh my,” he said, taking a few steps back. “I have never seen such a being!”
“It’s alright,” I said. “It’s a complicated story.”
The penguin backed away some more.
“I’m not from around here and in order to get back, I need some help.”
“How did you get here? I’m not sure what I can do for you, I have never…”
“My friend is hurt, badly. I need to help him before I can get home,” I said.
“I have never experienced your kind before, I wouldn’t even imagine. I don’t believe I can help him.”
I took a step forward and the penguin slid back.
“It’s okay.” I thought about what Andrei said to me earlier. “I come in peace.”
We stared at each other, breathing heavily.
“My friend is from here-”
“Oh, is he?”
“His name is-”
“I don’t see how that could be, I-”
“His name is Kodiak.”
“Kodiak?” The penguin stretched his wings out and he waddled toward me.
“You know him.”
“Where is he?”
The penguin ducked his head down and looked at me as I hung my head and sighed.
I pulled the sleigh into the light.
The penguin gasped and slid on his belly over to the sleigh.
“Kodiak! Kodiak buddy, can you hear me?” He put a wing on Kodiak’s side. “Oh no. Oh no, this is not good. This is not good!” He rested his forehead on Kodiak’s shoulder.
“Everyone has used their wishes, it’s the end of December,” his muffled voice said into Kodiak’s stiff shoulder. “Why now? We can’t wait another year. Who knows what will happen. There has got to be a way.” He turned to me and got to his feet. “Where did you find him? This happen during the quake?”
“This didn’t happen during the quake. We were crossing the river back there and the ice cracked and he outran it, but he had to leap over a big log and he did. But during the landing, he fell and hit his head. We’ve been traveling all day looking for his friend. He has to be around here. Do you know Alek?”
The penguin looked speechless. His cheeks were rosy and his beak was open.
“I am Alek.”
I was so relieved. I smiled a smile that turned into a laugh. “Alek is a penguin?”
“They could have told me that!”
Alek got down on his belly and examined Kodiak’s head. I squatted down next to him right as we heard a gentle, high pitched humming noise.
“Noel!” Alek said. “The baby!” He stood up and slid on his webbed feet into the darkness, but came back.
“Stay with Kodiak! I’ll be right back!” He slipped away again.
I stroked Kodiak’s frozen back. “We did it. We found him.”
To be continued…