Warning: This chapter contains minor spoilers regarding the Rise of the Guardians movie!
Dark, colors deeply muted, replaced by shadowy memories of their former vibrancy.
The silence bears into the depths of your soul.
The steam from your (your favorite hot drink) licks the underside of your chin, warming just that spot, the heat of the drink permeating through the ceramic mug and transferring into your cupped hands.
The rest of you is at the mercy of the bitingly cold air.
But this isn’t your typical weather, your Jack Frost kind of cold. This is a coldness brought on by the emptiness of the world, the kind that slinks in after the total extinguishing of all wonder, hope, and joy.
The snow has almost completely melted away, patches of whiteness piled up along fences here and there. Reminders that winter is coming to a close.
And of the absence of a certain spirit.
This is the environment that you are sitting in, your toes hanging slightly off the edge of the chair as you blankly stare out at the greyscale town.
You shift a little, drawing your knees up closer to your chest, your melancholic sigh a visible, airy cloud for a brief moment.
“Who-Whoa, Whoaaa—Aaaaaah!!!” you hear someone yell out down the street, followed closely by some very loud crashes and a hard thump.
Before you know it, you’re on your feet and running down the street to the source of the noises, your beverage, still steaming, left beside the chair, completely forgotten.
You make it to the converted barn of a house just in time to hear a single, confident voice chasing after a leaving group of children.
“He’s real!” Jamie calls out to his friends, who shuffle past you like a group of zombies, their heads bowed gloomily towards the ground, heavy with disappointment and misery.
“I know he is,” he says again, this time quieter and more to himself than anyone else as he peers into the empty Easter basket held in his small hands.
As you approach, you see that the basket isn’t empty. A lone purple and pink tennis ball rolls around in it, still exerting the energy provided to it by someone placing it into the basket.
You notice a fallen ladder beside the house, the rain gutter lining the trim of the roof broken at its corner joint.
The tennis ball must have once been perched up there, and little hope-filled Jamie—thinking that it had been an Easter egg—had gone after it, taking quite the fall in his honorable attempt.
Not noticing you, Jamie’s arms fall to his sides, holding tightly onto the handle of the basket. He begins to trudge inside, his head lowered in the same fashion his friends’ were. But his sadness is accompanied by confusion.
“Jamie,” you say, causing him to turn around and face you.
“Oh, hey (your name),” he greets you dejectedly. His eyes only look at you momentarily to acknowledge you, afterwards returning to their downward gaze.
You walk up to him and take a knee on the exposed grass, making him slightly taller than you.
“What’s up, champ?” you ask him, even though you know perfectly well what his problems are.
“There’s no Easter eggs,” he states. The tennis ball rolls around a little as he swirls the basket around unenthusiastically. “I don’t get it. I saw the Easter Bunny! He was right there in front of me, and Abbey chased him around! And he was with the Sandman and Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, too! What could have happened that he didn’t hide eggs this year? My friends say it was all just a dream, but I can’t believe that. He’s real, they all are. It wasn’t a dream, I just know it wasn’t. It couldn’tve been.” His big brown eyes finally meet yours. “Right?”
You sigh and place your hand reassuringly on his shoulder. You can’t possibly tell him that Bunny could very well no longer exist, along with the other Guardians. For all you know, Pitch has successfully rid the world of them, and that is why there are no decorative eggs hidden anywhere this year. For all you know, everything that has come to pass will forever remain memories of a better time when Christmas, Easter, beautiful little fairies, and wonderful dreams existed.
For all you know, Jack has joined Pitch and, together with the Nightmare king, is transforming the world into this cold, dark place.
Nevertheless, you look right up at the child with as much confidence and encouragement that you can possibly muster up in your less-than-wholesome state.
“Never stop believing, Jamie,” you tell him. In comforting him, you seem to also be comforting yourself. “I know it’s tough, but just don’t give up. Sometimes, all the world needs is one tiny blip of hope and light, one person to believe, to keep it going.”
A nip of cold comes to life on your chest.
Your snowflake necklace.
“Just believe,” you finish, your voice trailing off as you take hold of the icy pendant, a wide smile spreading across your face.
Jamie returns your smile, his round face brightening up with the expression.
“Maybe I’ll ask for a sign or something. Just to prove I’m right,” he says with conviction. “To show everyone—even me—that it wasn’t all a dream!”
Chuckling slightly and not quite sure he really got your message, you stand up.
“Off with you then, you crazy nut!” you say, jerking your head towards the house.
You exit the backyard, Jamie waiting on the porch as you come around and out onto the street. With a final wave, he departs into the house, most likely thinking of ways to ask the Easter Bunny for proof of his existence.
You soon return to your own home.
You momentarily stay by the door after closing it. Your not-so-hot-anymore hot drink in one hand, you press your fingertips to your necklace, which has returned to its more normal degree of small cold.
Woe begins to creep back into your consciousness.
You hope that Bunny will give Jamie a sign. That any of the Guardians will. Just so he keeps having hope and keeps it alive in the world. You feel like Pitch can’t really win and be entirely successful so long as one child believes, so long as Jamie believes…
After dropping your dirtied mug off in the kitchen, you take up your most recent book of interest and flop onto the couch, letting yourself get lost in the world of novels to escape the one of darkness and nightmares.
The sun eventually retires, though there’s no sunset. Instead, the clouds in the sky just turn from grey to a uniform black, signifying the transition from day to night. They’re so thick that the moon’s light is completely blotted out, making the night suffocatingly darker.
Something shuffles at the nearby window.
Then, a tap.
A few seconds later, another, more indignant one follows it.
You look up, not too happy about the distraction from your book but needing to make sure everything is all right.
The book nearly drops from your hands, your eyes widening and eyebrows shooting up, your jaw dropping ever so slightly, making your lips part.
Bright, a ball of pure white, its contrast to the deep night making it look like it’s glowing. Perched lightly on the outside windowsill.
You lean closer for a better look, almost kneeling. You rub your eyes and squint. It doesn’t disappear.
It taps at your window again. Twice this time.
A bird, made entirely of snow.
A small cardinal.