September’s Short Story of the Month
The lake was as still and shiny as glass, as if he could step on it and walk all the way across. It was one of those days when anything seems possible, and he stood there, breathing deep and imagining the feeling of soaring over the cool lake and feeling the crisp new winter air slide across his skin.
“Jack! Jack! Where is that boy?” he could hear his mother yelling in the distance.
He snapped out of his daydream and let out a deep sigh. As he looked once more at the lake that would soon freeze and become a place of fun and joviality, he let the cold air fill his lungs to the point that it hurt to breathe.
As he walked up the stone path leading to his house, his mother stuck her head out the door and began to yell again.
“Jack! Jack!” Before she could say it a third time, she spotted him. “There you are. What have you been doing? The groceries aren’t going to pick themselves up. Take my car.”
“Sorry, Mother.” I was just walking to clear my head because winter is coming, and I can feel the old longing in my bones. The longing to use the powers of ice and wind to create a winter wonderland – to feel everything hibernate and slumber for a season. Jack thought this part but didn’t say it to his mother. She and father didn’t like it when he talked of magic.
It didn’t matter anyway; he didn’t have any powers. But for some reason, he remembered having them, which didn’t make sense. He was only 17. How could he remember bringing winter to the world? He’d never even left his hometown.
As he drove away, his mother stared at the car leaving the driveway. She pursed her lips and failed to hear her husband walk up behind her.
“What’s troubling you, dear?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she said at first. Then she shook her head and tried to shake the nagging feeling that was always at the back of her mind lately.
“Actually…” she began, but then she hesitated and didn’t finish her thought.
“What is it?” her husband asked.
“I think he’s remembering again.” She looked at her husband, conveying a knowing idea that neither really wanted to say aloud for fear of giving it life.
Her husband paled at that look. “What should we do” he asked.
“I don’t know. We’ll keep him busy. Like always.”
“What if that’s not good enough anymore,” he asked tentatively.
“It has to be.” She was staring out the window as she said this, but whatever was troubling her, she let pass. She turned to her husband. “You know the consequences if he remembers who he really is. And they won’t be happy with us if his powers reawaken.”
“I know; I know. Don’t even say that.” He left the room in a huff very troubled with their conversation.
That night as Jack tossed and turned, he could hear his parents shuffling around in the living room watching the tv low enough that he knew it was on but couldn’t make out the actual words.
He thought he finally drifted off, but he had a strange dream.
He overheard his parents talking with someone. Whoever it was, their voice hissed and cracked like a log burning in flames. That was an odd way to describe someone’s voice, but it seemed accurate.
“He cannot be allowed to discover the truth,” the voice hissed and crackled.
“We know that.” His mother sounded afraid.
His father remained silent but Jack could hear the repetitive creak of his rocking chair.
“We are doing the best we can. But every winter it gets harder.” His mother paused, but then continued, “You can see it in his eyes.”
“Perhaps, it would be a good idea to move south then. Someplace warmer. Less winter. Less temptation.” The voice was moving around the room in a pattern. The speaker must have been pacing as he was speaking.
The rocking chair stopped moving. “We can’t go further south. You know what happened the last time we tried.” His father spoke forcefully, and Jack heard the words clearly in his room.
He remembered the day his father was referring to. It’d been a little over two years ago at around the same time of year. The seasons were changing – fall giving way to winter.
His parents talked about it for weeks. They were moving south. His father had found a better paying job – at least, that’s the reason they gave to Jack when he asked why they were moving in the middle of the school year.
They were heading south on the interstate following the moving truck loaded with all of their household goods. They’d been driving for about 6 hours when Jack started to get a headache. His parents stopped and purchased some medication for him, but it wasn’t helping.
After another 4 hours in the car, Jack could barely sit up. He was waning between awake and unconsciousness. His mother wanted to go to an ER, but his dad said he was probably just car sick. They never took long car rides and Jack just wasn’t used to it.
They finally pulled over at a rest area when Jack complained that his fingers felt cold. His mother threw open the car door and pulled him out of the car. She placed his hands inside a sweater, wrapping them like they were diseased.
“Get back in the car, Jack. I need to talk with your father. And leave that sweater on your hands.”
They walked a few steps away from the car. Jack couldn’t make out what they were saying because he could barely keep upright, but his mother was furious. She kept gesturing back the way they’d come. His father kept shaking his head and pointing the other way.
In the end, they’d turned around and headed home. As they went further north, he began to feel better. The symptoms disappeared in the opposite order that they’d arrived, and by the time they pulled into a hotel in the town he’d grown up in, he was feeling 100% again.
The morning after the strange dream with the person who spoke like fire, Jack’s mom prepared him a big breakfast.
“What’s all this for?” Jack asked as he dug into homemade waffles loaded with butter and syrup.
“I just wanted you to know that we love you.” His mother looked sad when she said it.
Jack just nodded and kept shoveling food into his mouth.
That day while Jack was at school, his mother paced about the house unable to complete any task because she could feel something was off. It was happening. She never understood how she had such a strong connection to Jack; he wasn’t actually her son. She’d raised him, and she’d always been able to sense his moods.
Today was the strongest feeling yet. Jack was awakening. The real Jack. Not the Jack who left his backpack on the floor despite there being a hook just for it right inside the foyer. Not the Jack who loved to dip French fries in his slushie at the movie theater. It wouldn’t be her Jack who came home from school. She didn’t know why but she knew it was true.
Jack would come home and be the truest version of himself. A version that had to be locked away with magic and wards. A Jack who given a chance would try to destroy the world because that was his nature. He would cover the world in ice and snow and watch as every living thing froze because he wanted to see the world end.