Episode 2 – Civilization
I slogged through the heavy snow for hours following my father’s missive to “head downhill to reach civilization.” The trip seemed endless. Over every ridge another loomed. It was two weeks before Christmas, the most sacred Elfin holiday, and my whole family was gone forever…wiped out in an angry sweep of the Mountain People. What had we done to deserve it? I racked my brain…trying to think of anything that could be viewed as an insult…frozen tears caked my cheeks. I pushed on. Realized after so many hours no one could be alive under the weight. It amazed me when I climbed up the avalanche…sort of looked like snow…but was solid ice.
I stared at the evening sky…crystal clear with a few twinkling stars. In the dark valley ahead, I suddenly heard a rushing sound like wind, or water. I topped the ridge and stared into the void. A pair of fiendish lanterns were speeding along a river-like track. Was it a road, something I’d only seen twice in my life, and what was the huge thing…some beast with glowing eyes?
I slid, fell and rolled down the slope…found myself lying flat at the bottom…blocked from the road by an endless snow barrier. I scrambled over and fell on the hard surface, the huge eyes rushed toward me…suddenly I heard a deafening sound like the honking of a giant goose…then loud hissing and screeching
I covered my head and lay motionless, hardly able to move. If the monster was to consume me, I hadn’t the strength to stop it. A door slammed, and a huge bearded man burst through the white light…God, or maybe Santa Claus?
“Santa?” I asked.
The man laughed, then kneeled next to me. “Are you all right, son? That was mighty close!”
“I lost my family in the avalanche!” I cried. “Eleven of us.”
“Oh Christ! You from the mountains?”
“Yes sir!” I said, unsure if it was really the great Claus.
He helped me to my feet…through the white light. Behind it was an immense wagon as big as a mountain.
“Where are you headed?” He asked.
“Looking for help….hoping one or two of us could be saved.”
He boosted me into the machine…I settled on the warm seat. The place was as big as our cottage…a huge bed behind me. “You live here?” I asked.
“Sometimes,” he replied in a thick, gravelly voice. “Listen, son, there’s a police barracks up ahead in Pikeville. That’s your best bet.”
I nodded. Santa picked up a metal thing on a rope and began to speak…about me. “We’ll be there in five,” He said, hooking it back on the wall.
“Quite an outfit you’re wearing.”
“My hunting clothes.”
“Yes sir…we have to…whenever my family needs meat…but…they don’t need it any more.” I tried to stay in control, but sobs burst out. “God, I’m sorry, Mr. Claus.”
“I don’t mind,” he said. “It’s natural to cry. Hate to disappoint you, but I’m not Santa Claus…name’s Sam Matlin. Funny, lots a kids think I’m Santa Claus.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a red bandanna. “Here. Blow your nose.”
“I’m Arne Twilber.” My hand looked tiny in his big paw.
“Doubt if the police can do much tonight,” he said. “The snow’s drifting bad…but…maybe they can get a chopper up there. Who knows.”
“A helicopter. Haven’t you seen one.”
I nodded. “They’re so noisy, you can’t miss ’em.”
“You been in the mountains long?” Sam asked.
“Never been out. We almost there?”
“A few more miles. I’ll step on it.”
“Step on what?”
I laughed. “How can you step on gas?”
“I’ll show you.”
To be continued… Read next episode!