By Nailah Clarke
As you have most likely noticed by now, this is a story. It is, unfortunately, a very short story, and was written in a short amount of time, but it is a story nonetheless, and so deserves to begin with ‘once upon a time.’
—Disclaimer: I will not take time to reveal the last names, middle names, ages, interests, appearances, etcetera of any of the characters in this story, partly because the people in this tale have asked me not to reveal their identities to the world, and because I do not wish for your imagination to be limited by anything as insignificant as who your characters are, but mostly because I do not know.
Once upon a time, there were three children named Sky, Zachary, and Peter who lived on a snowy hill in Alaska. I do not know why they decided to live in Alaska, but I will give the three siblings time to decide to move elsewhere.
One day, since the trio could think of nothing else to do in Alaska, they decided to go skiing on the nearest, frost-covered hilltop, which was directly behind their home. And so, after breakfast, Sky, Zachary, and Peter put on their winter coats, hats, mittens, and scarves, and took their skis and poles to the top of the slope.
Upon reaching the summit, (which, might I add, took an especially long time), the exhausted trio took a moment to catch their breath. (I will omit this portion of the tale also, considering it took even longer for the threesome to recuperate from the journey than it took them to make the journey itself.)
After reenergizing, the siblings began to quarrel over who would be the first to throw themselves off of the hilltop. The conversation went something like this:
“I’m not going down that!”
“Then why did you even come up here?”
“I came for the snacks.”
“We don’t have any snacks!”
“Well too bad…I’m stuck with you guys.”
“Whatever. Just slide down already!”
“No way! You first.”
And on and on and on it went, until the children had the brilliant idea to begin their descent in unison, and, being very competitive and irresponsible youngsters, decided to make it a race.
“On your mark,” began Sky.
“Get set…” said Zachary.
“Go!” Peter exclaimed, and they took off.
Zachary, who had given himself a ferocious push in hopes of starting in the lead, had accidentally flung himself headfirst into the snow in the process, and had begun rolling down the hill. And, as you may suspect, careening down a gargantuan mound of rock, dirt, and snow with skis on and poles in hand is not a very pleasant experience.
The first few rotations down the slope, Zachary could only see three things: the sky, the ground, and himself, and could only feel his head, skis, back, and bottom hitting the ice again and again and again. Over time, however, Zachary felt himself rise higher and higher above the ground, and firmly packed snow shape into a cold sphere around him. By that time, the three items within his field of vision had decreased to just two: snow, and himself.
After a while, Zachary realized what had happened. “I’m inside a snowball,” he thought, his terrified expression melting into an amazed smile. “A giant snowball!” Yet his delight was shattered by a large rock that his snowball had run over, and the jerking of the ball jolted Zachary back into his terror.
Peter, unlike his brother, had taken off expertly, and, although he heard (and felt) several deafening crashes, did not notice the significantly large snowball that was on his tail. By now, the rolling mound of snow had grown to the size of the peach from James and the Giant Peach, one of my favorite stories.
The earth shuddered once more under Peter’s skis. The quaking was certainly beginning to annoy him; the way the ground shivered forced him to constantly change his posture. Finally, Peter glanced behind him to see what all the fuss was about.
In all my years of studying, I have yet to figure out whether or not this was a mistake.
With an expression of pure dread, Peter began paddling about frantically, trying not to get eaten alive by the enormous snowball that Zachary, now tumbling inside of the slippery sphere like a rag doll in a washing machine, had created. In his haste, however, Peter had forgotten to watch where he was going, and, much like a cartoon, ran smack into one of the lifeless and leafless trees that was standing innocently on the hillside. And, as his nose began to bleed and his head began to throb, Peter was soon picked up by Zachary and the Giant Snowball.
By the time she reached level ground (although she was quite glad that she had won the race down the hill), Sky began to worry about her brothers, wondering if they had run into trouble along the way down. Sky knew that her two siblings were not as adept as she when it came to skiing, but she couldn’t help but think, “shouldn’t they be here by now?”
While Sky was fretting, a man and a little girl came to the base of the hill. She immediately assumed that the two were father and daughter, because they looked almost exactly alike, and wore such sour, piercing expressions that Sky feared she would disintegrate if one of the hostile-looking skiers merely glanced in her direction! Such unpleasant faces were enough for Sky to forget all about worrying for her brothers, and to begin worrying about what to say to these unhappy people as they skidded to a stop right beside her.
The father turned his bitter expression toward Sky. “Oh, hello,” he said to her, his acidic stare transforming into a harsh frown. “What’re you doing, skiing all alone? Where are your parents?”
Thinking furiously, Sky came up with a fitting response. “Well…I have two companions who are racing down to meet me. They told me that they would get to the bottom first and see that I came down real slow, but I beat them to it.”
Sky sighed with relief as the man’s harsh frown transformed back into an acidic stare.
“Well,” he said not-so-cheerily, “Have a good day.” He turned away from Sky and had begun to usher his daughter away when the ground began to shake. The sour-faced father and daughter whirled around to face the hill, and their cold scowls melted into terrified gapes. “Good Heavens above!” shouted the man, and he and his daughter threw their skiing equipment to the frosty ground and took off running as fast as they could. As the earth shook harder and harder, Sky spun around to face the slope, she had only a split second to process the terrible, white, spherical sight that was racing toward her before she was consumed by the rolling terror.
We interrupt your story to bring you a message from the writer:
As your author, it is my job to accurately describe to you this tale of Sky, Zachary, Peter, and their grand skiing adventure, which I myself was only lucky enough to observe from my perch atop my neighbor’s retirement home. And so, I will apologize in advance, both to you and to these dear children. You see, I have not been as fortunate as Sky, Zachary, and Peter. I have not had the chance to fling myself off of the peak of an ice bank and create a colossal, frosty sphere. I haven’t had time to even entertain the notion of colliding with a deciduous tree. I have not been blessed with the opportunity to meet and converse with anyone so sour that I fear for my life. And, being merely a spectator to this remarkable scene in the lives of these children, I cannot truly explain to you the horror and incredulity that Sky felt as she was consumed by Zachary’s creation, or how she panicked during her short trip across the base of the hill. But, as I do not want this tale to be a waste of your time, I will do my best.
Sky was stricken with a wall of ice and snow. She immediately began to scream, but the furious booms of the rolling ice ball drowned out her desperate cries for help. Her body sank deeper and deeper into the hard, tightly-packed snow with each rotation. The way that Sky felt in this moment must have been something like how I felt when a waitress revealed to me that my Shirley Temple with lemon had been poisoned, and that one of the ingredients in the spinach and cheese frittata that I had just eaten was ground glass. You’ve most likely experienced this horrible sensation as well, your vision blurring, your face going pale, your heart skipping a beat, your breath quickly turning wheezy and choked. You know the feeling. Unless, of course, you don’t know the feeling, in which case you are either incredibly fortunate, or incredibly young.
Sky, I am sorry to say, was neither incredibly fortunate nor incredibly young, and continued to feel incredibly horrified, wheezing fearfully inside of the massive snowball.
Suddenly, there was a great crash—an earsplitting sound that, quite literally, rocked the siblings’ world, as it shot the shocked and shivering threesome out of the massive ice ball, and straight through what the ball had rammed into.
The children, who, miraculously, had not been critically injured on the way down the hill, heard a piercing scream coming from somewhere in front of them. It was a scream that they had most definitely heard before, but, after hiking up a snow mound, flying forward into the frost, getting a bloody nose from ramming into a tree, conversing with an unpleasantly bitter father, bumping down the snow mound in an enormous orb of frozen liquid, exploding out of a snowball onto a carpeted floor, and having a lady shriek at them, they weren’t in the mood to try and figure out to whom the loud voice belonged, and merely shut their eyes wearily.
“Oh, you poor children!” the woman exclaimed, flabbergasted. “Are you three alright? Let me look at you….”
Zachary, having never been handled by any lady except for his mother, began to feel quite squeamish and embarrassed as the woman felt him all over. As she rubbed his knees, the woman started to scold the children. “Why were you racing?” she whispered fiercely as she patted Zachary’s shoulders. “I could see you from home! Zachary, why did you push off so awkwardly? You could’ve gotten your head stuck in the snow! Or even gotten—oh, Peter! What happened to your nose?!”
Realizing that the woman was, in fact, his mother, and that the snowball had rolled into the frame of the open back door of their house, forcing the siblings out onto the living room floor, Zachary no longer felt self-conscious. When he opened his eyes, he could see his concerned mother hovering over a crusty-nosed Peter. Somehow, she had managed to grab some tissues without anyone noticing, and had begun to quietly instruct Peter to tilt his head forward and wipe the layer of dried blood off of his nose.
After hugs, scolding sessions, removing of winter coats, hats, mittens, and scarves, putting away of skis and poles, and sweeping of snow through the back door, Peter convinced their mother to make the siblings some ultimate hot chocolate, a creation that their mother had whipped together a while back. She made it the same way she always did, heating cocoa powder, sugar, and milk in a pot, serving in mugs, and completing with chocolate shavings, whipped cream, cinnamon, and three mini marshmallows standing atop the white mound of whipped cream. Peter usually slurped up his ultimate hot chocolate, swallowing the marshmallows whole. But today, Peter simply stared at the delectable drink that was beginning to melt before him. Today, he thought that the cream looked like the hill that he and his siblings had tumbled down that morning, and that the three mini marshmallows, now sinking into the cream, represented Sky, Zachary, and Peter, having a memorable time out in the ice. But the cinnamon and chocolate shavings sat there looking quite delicious indeed, and Peter, not one to waste such wonderful drinks, was finally forced to lap up the chocolate, still holding a tissue over his nose, which had begun to bleed once more.
As their mother did her usual tidying rounds, and as Peter’s nose concluded its gory episode, the three children talked and laughed and watched the afternoon sun rise up over the hill. They could still see the deep tracks from the giant snowball that ran from nearly the top of the slope to the back door of their home, and the now very bent deciduous tree that Peter had collided with, and even the unpleasant young girl and her father pouting over a meal of macaroni and cheese. What an adventure they had had!
“So,” Peter said after a while, “What should we do tomorrow?” Peter looked at his siblings. He could see their mouths turning up into sly grins, and felt his own mouth turn up too. “Go skiing!” shouted the children in unison, bursting into laughter.
 Thankfully, the waitress, thirty seconds later, admitted that the meal that I had just finished was not about to finish me, and that the whole thing about ground glass and poisoned Shirley Temples had been an attempt to cure me of one of my hiccupping fits.
It worked, and I haven’t hiccupped since.