by Monim Wains
I can see the lights around me, sparkly and bright. And there is glitter on the trees, little fireflies flickering in the wind. Music and colour fill the scene no matter where I look. Here and there, giants curl over steaming hot drinks, smiling and laughing, all their noses bright pink. I don’t know what they’re drinking, but it’s never something I’ve had. I have seen it before, black and frothy. It would be too strong for me anyway, I think. It always smells like burnt wood and chocolate, somehow. They look so happy, standing round. They remind me of penguins (huge penguins …) standing in a huddle, keeping each other warm.
That reminds me of the cold, as another shiver goes into my hands. I see puffs of mist whenever I breathe out. I was stuck doing that for quite a long time earlier today. It’s always funny when it happens, like I’m a dragon breathing fire –
Oh, look, it’s a puddle! I skip towards it, starting to crouch, ready to – and just as I’m about to jump, a strong tug on my arm keeps me in place –
‘No! Be careful!’
I freeze for a second, confused. It doesn’t look right – it’s not wet! It looks rock-hard, and slippery. It’s not a puddle at all, it’s something else, shimmering on the floor like a mirror. And now that I look, it’s not the only one. Everywhere on the ground, there are these shiny mirrors, like shards of glass embedded under my feet. ‘We’re going somewhere magical,’ I had been told.
I’m curious though – what is it? I step closer, slowly, and take a good look …
Woah, I’ve never seen that before … It’s like a portal. I can see the clouds and the moon all the way below. It’s like a whole new world, a sky stretching way down. Could I fall in?! That’s terrifying! I stop, just making sure I’m on solid ground.
But something’s off in the portal. Everything looks hazy, like there’s a fog smudging everything over. And there are scratches in it that catch the light when I bend down.
I step closer, making sure not to fall in. I want to see inside if I can …
Ah! I jump back – who was that?! – there was something moving in there!
I couldn’t quite see it, but I know that I saw it. There was a flash of something moving inside!
I curl up, heart beating. There’s something in there? What? … Who??
I don’t know what to do – should I run away?
No. I want to know. I’m not going away just like that …
I want to meet whomever that is.
So I take a deep breath, cold crisp air fills my lungs. I flap my arms a bit just to shake the fear out of me. My legs are still tense, feet curled up as tight as they can get. My fists clenched shut even tighter. I take a step, and another, closer to it. Craning over, just about, I peer into the hole. A little bobble appears, right at the edge.
I stop …
Lean further …
It’s a hat! It’s a hat just like mine! What are the chances of that? That’s not too bad, I suppose. So I go closer, even more, tiptoeing now. I can see the whole hat, exactly like mine, and a little bit of their face. There’s a scarf hiding most of it, but even still, there’s something I can see. Oh, another pink little nose. The rest of the face is hidden behind I don’t know how many layers of wool. But I can see its eyes shining through, just below the hat. It’s staring right back at me… like it knows me. Curious.
I wave …
It waves back – it waves just like me, that’s hilarious!!
I burst out laughing – it laughs too! It’s clutching its chest while it ha-ha-has as loud as it can.
I’m still too scared to laugh properly, but I laugh to hide that away, as loud as I can. It seems friendly.
I stand there, staring at my friend; I’m not sure for how long. We have a good talk, though we’re just pointing and laughing, waving sometimes. I don’t know who it is, or why it’s there. And still, there’s a whole sky … deep behind it … so far, far below. I make sure not to fall through.
What about my world?
I start to look up. The ground is shimmering in places, pulsing with life as the waves of light shine over it. It looks cold, somehow. Wet, I can see, but also solid. I didn’t know the ground could do that. I see another portal shining in the distance, even hazier than mine. I wonder whether that has another world… another friend? But then a huge leg comes down on it, getting in the way. There is a half-second pause as the weight bears down, and then a little crack as the portal smashes! She broke it?! The clear surface snaps into a thousand tiny shards. The world inside disappears right there!
The giant slips, stumbling and almost falling. I hear her yelp, tripping over her feet for a few clumsy steps before catching herself again. She’s fine. But that portal – it’s flooding! A pool of water bursts out from underneath. The surface, which looked so completely solid, broke. I watch as little pieces sink away. I don’t know how that could happen. How did she not fall in?
I’d have to make sure not to do that to mine – I don’t know what would happen to my friend if I did.
I look further up, from the forest of legs to the forest of trees. They’re different today, glistening and golden in the wind. The tips of leaves lit up with flames. I blink a couple of times, the light is too much at once. When my focus returns, I notice something else. There’s another thing covering the trees, webs of string hanging from the leaves, branch to branch, each dotted with those little lights of a kind. Red, blue, white and yellow, flashing on and off, on and off. The more I stare, the more colour I can see, pink and purple, shades of yellow and orange. It’s a kaleidoscope wrapping higher and higher as I look, framing the sky.
And the sky itself … I’ve just seen that cloud! It was in the portal, all the way down. How could that be? It’s huge! It covers the whole night in a swathe of grey and white. Layers of light and dark, hiding the heavens whole.
I could stare at that forever, lost in its folds. And I do, for a while, watching as the moon tries to peek through. Blue-white rays of light pierce out in places for a moment, before the cloud takes over again. Its luminous shades of chalk keep flowing in and out.
The smell of their drinks, their laughing, the lights … that portal with all of this in haze… all under that vast canopy of cloud … I stand, awed.
Ah! Something’s in me eye?!
I take my hand and rub it out – whatever it is. I can’t see for a second, until I blink my eyes clear.
It’s so cold! What happened?
I look up again, and I can’t believe it. The cloud is falling! It’s falling from the sky! Everywhere I look, there’s this rain – but it’s not rain – like little balls of wool falling down. It looks so pretty!
I let out my laugh again, shrill and quick – half amused, half confused. It’s so pretty! One of them lands on my face, freezing cold. It turns into a drop of water as soon as it hits my cheek! What is it?!
‘Aww, look, darling! It’s snow! Sssnooww,’ says mummy.
She holds my hand and points to all the cloud falling around us, smiling at me. I listen carefully to the drawn-out word. ‘Shnooo!’ I laugh, ‘shnoo!’
I reach out with my hand, trying to catch it. All I catch is water, somehow.
‘Haha, is that the first time?’ says the giant.
‘Yeah, first snow,’ says mummy. ‘We just came for the market, but this is even better!’
‘What do you think, darling? Isn’t it pretty?’
‘Yesss mummy! Look, it’s shnoo!’
‘Yes,’ she laughs, ‘shnooooo!’
It’s perfect, I think. The webs of light, and the portal. And most of all, the shnoo. All falling from the sky. I look down, and my friend is smiling too. There’s shnoo there as well. This really is a magical place.