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Congratulations to this year's winter winner,  Mia P.

 

Frosty Fables 2021 Prompts:

Shtories may be any genre, but must not exceed 1,000 words, and must incorporate the following three prompts:

 

Location:        FROZEN LAKE

Character:    SINGLE PARENT

Object:           WALKIE-TALKIE

 

Read Mia's winning shtory—plus shtories by first runner-up Beth Cole and second runner-up Rio L. Barney—below!

MEET US AT THE LAKE

By Mia P.

     Since the accident, I’ve been hearing things. Their voices in the dark.

     I’ve been assured that this is normal. Grief manifests in strange ways. Maybe I’m just not ready to let go, so I keep hearing what I want. Maybe I’m coping. Maybe I just need some rest. 

     Or maybe I can hear them because they are still talking to me. 

*** 

     I got to Hana’s school in the afternoon. 

     “Could you come down? We need to talk to you about Hana.” 

     “Is she alright?” 

     “Yes. We just need to talk.” 

     It was almost amazing how over ten years had passed since I walked these halls as a student, and yet the path to the principal’s office still made my heart race.

     “Hi!” The woman behind the desk stood to shake my hand with an enthusiastic smile. “You must be Hana’s sister.” She motioned at a chair and slid gracefully back into her own. “I’m Principal Shepard. You can call me Amy.” 

     I smiled back at her as confidently as I could. It was hard to shake the feeling that I was playing pretend. Soon, she’d realize I was a child in adult’s clothing and send me off to detention. 

     “Thank you so much for coming down here so quickly.” 

     “Where’s Hana?” I asked.

     “Oh, Hana’s fine. She’s with the school counselor right now.” 

     Principal Amy Shepard’s cheery exterior shuttered as her eyes fell to her clasped hands. When she looked up at me once more, eyes hopelessly and appropriately devastated. “Hana is having some behavioral issues, which is to be expected at a time like this.” She shook her head. “You two have been through so much this year.”

     She looked at me expectantly. 

     I nodded tersely. “Yes,” was all I could manage to say. 

     After a brief moment of waiting for more, she sighed. “Okay. Let’s just discuss how we can get her back on track.” 

*** 

     Hana wouldn’t talk to me on the drive home. Which made sense. She was hardly talking to me at all these days. 

     “You’re not in trouble,” I said, glancing over at Hana where she sulked in the passenger seat. 

     “I know,” she groaned. 

     We stayed silent as we passed Winterford Lake. I wondered if she was thinking of the fight we’d had just a week ago when I’d told her it was too early for her to skate its surface. 

     “The ice isn’t thick enough. It's too dangerous.” 

     She’d screamed how I used to go with my friends at this time of year. Which was true enough. But I couldn’t parse whether you were supposed to tell a twelve-year-old

that you, their guardian, have traditionally made very poor choices. Would that strip the small sliver of authority I felt worthy of away? 

     SLAM. 

     She was nearly as good as I had been at ending conversations with a shut door.

     That night, I continued making progress at turning my childhood bedroom into a new grown-up space. It had been suggested to me that I take the master bedroom of the house. I found, though, it was easier to work through aging up my childhood space than to open that shut door to find them gone. 

     I had taken on the daunting project of sifting through my closet. I was sorting old notebooks, magazines, CDs, and ripped-out diary pages filled with forgotten names when I stumbled on my old walkie-talkie. It was decorated with stick-on rhinestones and my name, clumsily painted along the back of it. Hana had proudly presented it to me just two days after she’d received the set for her fifth birthday. 

     “I can’t take this from you!” I’d protested, even as my heart melted at the misshapen hearts she’d painted by my name. 

     “It’s so we can talk at night,” Hana had said. Then, she leaned forward, a small hand cupped around her mouth as she whispered, “After bedtime.”

     I smiled now as I had smiled then, turning the toy over in my hand. Many a time had I heard Hana’s exaggerated whisper crackle through its small speaker at 9 PM. Once upon a time, being twelve years older than Hana meant I could be a good sister to her. I was too old to fight or argue with her. Instead, I could play with and watch out for her. I could answer her clandestine calls in the night as a coconspirator instead of hushing her as an authority figure.

     Tears were beginning to brim my eyes when suddenly the walkie-talkie crackled to life once more. But it wasn’t Hana’s voice that came through. 

     “The lake.” 

     It was a hoarse whisper. The same kind that I’d been hearing. 

     “Join us at the lake.” 

     It was almost my mother’s voice. A perversion of her melodic tone. “Come. Join us at the lake.” 

     Suddenly breathless, I ran to Hana’s room. 

     Gone. Her room was empty. 

     “We’ll be there. We’ll see you.” 

     I tore out of our driveway with panic coursing through me. Would she listen to them? Would she believe that it was our parents talking from shadows? All the way to Winterford, the walkie-talkie crackled with beckoning whispers from where I’d tossed it into the passenger seat. 

     The car screeched to a halt when I spotted her, the small shape of her walking out onto the lake’s surface. 

     “Hana!” I screamed, running out onto the groaning ice. “Hana, stop!” She froze. When I got to her, I spun her around to face me. “What are you doing? What are you thinking?” 

     She looked up at me, her eyes overflowing with tears and her cheeks bright red.

     “They said they would be here,” she sobbed. “They said I could come with them.”

     She collapsed against me, crying into my chest as the ice creaked beneath us. In her hand, she clutched her own walkie-talkie. 

     “It’s okay,” I whispered into her hair. “It’s okay, I’m here. We’re here.”

DESTINATIONS

By Beth Cole

     “When I said ‘get away’, Ava, I meant Honolulu! NOT the North Pole!” Mother grumbled. We bounced in the backseat of a sputtering SUV as we slowly ascended the slick mountainside. “Have you lost your mind?! Some Christmas Eve this is!”

     “Holidays just haven’t been fun since Dad left us,” I reasoned. “I couldn’t stand another depressing Christmas at home. This is an adventure!” I mustered up false glee to lift Mother’s mood. 

     “Be sure that’s in my obituary,” Mother muttered.

     “Generator’s been acting up in the cabin. Might be a little cold, “ our burly host and driver Norm grunted  Mother shot me another look as Norm took in her venomous vibe. 

     The snow-blanketed hill twinkled under the dazzling sun. Norm tilted his head towards a picturesque cabin circled by pines on the edge of a smooth frozen lake. He scrambled to start a fire and check the generator (pretty sure kicking was involved) as we stepped into the icy interior. A peek confirmed the fridge was not bursting with delicious food as advertised.

     “Use these…..” Norm pointed towards a tower of worn blankets. “And here---” he shoved a walkie-talkie in my hand. “There’s no cell service.” (Mom grinned at my horror.) “I’ll check in tomorrow morning,” he shouted as he sped away towards civilization.

     “Mother, isn’t the cabin lovely? I love the decorations!” The interior was charming with Scandinavian blond wood and stainless steel furnishings. 

     Mother scowled at the bowls of bright citrus fruit and sugared cranberries swathed with fragrant pine and red ribbons.  “Where’s the tinsel? And colored lights? We need something shiny!” Mother began to rearrange the furniture.

     “Mother! That’s against the contract!” 

     “I didn’t sign anything. The room set up is all wrong,” she shrugged. “Ooooh…..look!” Her manicured nails tapped on a fully stocked bar. “Premium label!”  Mom sat up tequila shots in record time. “Gotta use up this damn fruit.”  She sucked on a salted lemon slice before downing another shot.

     My mood deflated as my blood pressure spiked. “Can’t we go outside and look at the lake?”  I caught our reflection before we dashed outside. We were a mismatched pair – my tall frame clad in practical outerwear contrasted with Mom’s spiked blond hair and flimsy tracksuit ensemble accessorized with high heels. (Gotta stay sexy for the wildlife.)

     We ambled down the uneven rock path and stood at the lake’s edge. The crisp air tinged with woodsmoke tickled my nose. Mother swayed slightly as we stared at the vast azure sky. A gaggle of geese suddenly honked overhead which  caught Mother off guard. “What the…?” 

     And that’s when Mother fell to the ground.

     Mother leaned heavily on me as we staggered to the cabin. The sight of her swollen red ankle alarmed us both. Some static filled exchanges on the walkie-talkie confirmed a doctor would arrive soon. I answered the polite knock at the door. “Oh, hi,” my mouth dropped. An athletic man with chiseled features and a dazzling smile filled the doorway. “You’re the doctor?”

     “Yes, I’m Bennett.” He offered a strong handshake, ruffling his wavy dark hair free of melted icicles. “Oh, left one bag in the car,” he motioned as he dashed outside. Mother moaned painfully and I peered down at her. She quickly pinched my cheeks hard as I held back a whimper. “You need color in your face! He’s a DOCTOR!” she hissed. 

     Bennett returned as I met him with colorful cheeks and eyes shining (with pain). “Mother fell on the ice.” 

     She offered him a buzzed grin and her hand. “Elaine.”

     “Ma’am, let’s get you comfortable.” Mother swooned as Bennett moved her from the couch to a recliner as he gently propped up her ankle. I looked away from Mother’s borderline inappropriate expressions as Bennett carefully examined her. “Honestly? I don’t think her ankle is broken.” 

     “Doesn’t she need an x-ray?” I questioned.

     Bennett sighed. “The ER is 75 miles away. At Christmas you’d be lucky to get in the door. Probably best to stay put overnight. ” Bennett taped her ankle and dispensed two pills from his bag. Mom snatched the meds and downed them with tequila before we could blink. 

     “Can you take those with alcohol?” I motioned toward the almost-empty bottle. 

     Bennett’s eyes widened. “Most definitively not.”

     Mother soon began humming “Jingle Bells” and attempted to nibble a dried orange string, likely coated in toxic preservatives. “Terrible candy,” she muttered.

     “Why don’t I stay?” Bennett offered. “She’ll probably be fine overnight, but let’s make sure.” 

     Bennett and I sat chastely bundled on the sofa  as we toasted the evening and grazed on a meager snack tray. We shared stories as sunlight dissolved into moonbeams. I confided I missed my dad after all these years and found my life unfulfilling. Bennett admitted softly, “I had no one to visit tonight. My  fiancé just dumped me.”

     Mother’s strained cough sent me to her side. Her eyes popped open as she glanced at her open hand holding two mushy pills. “Keep talking! He likes you,” she mouthed before she squinted her eyes shut again.

     Mother faked taking pills to keep Bennett here! Mother strikes again. “Dumped YOU? But you’re a gorgeous doctor!” I blushed at my merlot-laced confession as I stood fireside again. 

     “This job and town weren’t glamourous enough for her,” he sighed. “But I like it here. See, everyone gets dumped, even gorgeous doctors,” he grinned. 

     “Sometimes I think I’ll be alone forever,” I mused.

     “You? No way,” Bennett reassured me, then nodded in Mother’s direction. “She means well. She just wants to see you happy.”

     Bennett stoked the fire before we said our good nights. I checked on Mother one last time.      “What are you waiting for? Make me happy…..” Mother murmured before dozing off. 

     Emboldened, a terrific idea came to me. “Bennett?”

     “Hmmm?”

     “Do you know of a good hotel in town? That’s where Mother and I can spend Christmas night. Then I’ll book you and I a trip to Honolulu.”

THE KING OF ICE:

Or, The Year Santa Knew Exactly What to Get Me

by Rio. L. Barney

 

     “Attention everyone!” said the elf. Yes, elf. 

     I couldn’t believe my eyes. The interruption was irritating to say the least. I mean, come on! It’s Christmas Eve and I was still at work. I just wanted to finish up and head home to my son. I didn’t want to work on Christmas Eve, but being a single parent meant that when an opportunity to make more money came around, you took it.

     “First of all,” the elf began, “thank you and greetings from the North Pole! If you do not have children then this doesn’t concern you. I regret to inform you that the King of Ice has escaped his prison and has currently been spotted somewhere in this area. Now before you start to point fingers, Santa is looking for him and is quite sure he can find him and return the King before he does any real damage.”

     “What damage? Who is this king?” someone shouted.

     “Weeelll,” the elf said drawing out the word, “the last time the King escaped the planet suffered a mini ice age. And several children went missing.”

     “What!” I shouted. “What do you mean?”

     “Okay, I see it’s been awhile since humanity has had to deal with this, so let me start from the beginning. The King of Ice is a bad dude. He’s been around since the dawn of time and he’s hell-bent on covering the world in ice…and taking all of your children,” the elf added.

     Audible gasps could be heard. 

     “But, fret not, as long as a loving adult is with your child, the King cannot take them,” the elf continued.

     I screamed as a wave of panic rose inside me. Without staying to hear the rest, I turned and bolted for the garage. I tried to still my shaking hand enough to get keys into my car. I slid into the seat and cranked…and cranked. But my car wouldn’t start.

     “Stupid car!” I shouted. 

     “Miss?” came a small voice.

     I turned to see an elf standing by my door.

     “What’s the matter?” she asked.

     All of the terror that I was feeling bubbled up inside of me and I said, “My car won’t start and my son is home with a babysitter! A teenager, she’s practically a child herself! I have to get home to him!”

     “Oh dear, that will never do. Well, come on. I will get you home,” the elf smiled up at me.

     “You?” 

     “Yes. I am a combat elf and trained for situations just like this. We must hurry though. Santa is near, which means the King is near,” the elf stated.

     “Uhm,” I looked around uncertainly. 

     “Ma’am, I promise I will get you to your son safely. I am Commander Juneberry and I have never lost a kid.”

     “Let’s go,” I replied.

     I hopped out of my derelict car and followed the elf. She was tiny, and covered in red and green, and fast! 

     “Hey!” I shouted as I was thoroughly eating her dust. “I…can’t…keep…up!”

     “Yes ma’am. I noticed. Breath deep and pump your legs!” the elf shouted.

     I did as I was told, I mean, come on, when a combat elf tells you to pump your legs, you do it. I followed the small figure as she weaved in and out of traffic and pedestrians. Finally, she turned down a darkened street.

     “This isn’t the way to my house!”

     “I know!” the elf shouted over her shoulder. “This is a short-cut!”

     I was too winded to argue. I felt like my lungs would implode! I definitely needed more cardio. I looked around and skidded to a halt. “Woah! Commander! That is a frozen lake in front of us! This isn’t a short-cut! This is a dead end!”

     “Frozen is the key word, ma’am. The ice is solid. It will hold. We can cut off six minutes through this route.”

     “How do you know the ice will hold? I’m like double your size.”

     “You are six and two fifths my size. And I know it will hold. Ready?”

     “Okay, you don’t need to be rude with your very specific math,” I hesitantly stepped onto the ice. 

     The elf skated across like she was wearing skates. I tried to mimic her but kept stumbling. I can do this, I kept repeating to myself, right up until my foot caught on something and I skidded face first across the lake. I swore very loudly. I looked up and saw a pair of massive, booted feet. I heard a rumbling. I tilted my head to behold the tallest, creepiest, iciest man I had ever seen. The King of Ice. My heart skipped a beat as he reached for me. His gloved hand grasped my arm too tightly. Where his fingers held, my skin began to burn from the cold.

     “No! Please!” I pleaded. But his cold face remained expressionless. 

     Something caught my eye. The elf! The elf held something up. A gun? Some kind of weapon? Nope. She held a walkie-talkie. A freaking walkie-talkie! I was doomed and I knew it. I also knew better than to trust a combat elf. Who had ever heard of a combat elf?

     I felt my heart slow, I felt my body meld into the frozen lake. I knew this was the end. A bright light, a jingle of bells, and a warmth spread over me. I thawed enough to stand. Before me stood Santa, the Santa. 

     “Well, Vanessa, thank you for being our bait,” the jolly old man said.

     “Bait?” I stammered. 

     “Works every time." Commander Juneberry high-fived Santa.

     “Indeed it does. Let’s get you back to your son. I have a busy night ahead of me.”

     The rest was a blur. Santa dropped me off at my house. I found my son, safe and sound inside. I curled up and instantly fell asleep next to him.

     The next morning, Christmas day, my son shouted from the tree, “Mom! Santa brought you a treadmill!”

     Yep. I definitely need more cardio.

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