A 2000(ish) word story I wrote for the Secret Santa writing a gift for a randomly drawn group member challenge section of the Roath Writers Xmas Holidays Bash
SLUSHY THE SNOWMAN
A considerable amount of time before this present Christmassy moment, a snowman with something on his mind trudged a pensive path towards the consulting rooms of the local mystic. Every town had one, and Snowton was no different from any other town in that respect. Snowton would have been as ordinary as your town if it wasn’t for the fact that it is the town where the Snow People live.
Fashioned from the flakes that fall from the sky into a precarious existence dependent on cold temperatures, Snowmen (and more rarely Snow women, children and dogs) had to pick the right moment to leave the place of their creation to seek out the sanctuary of Snowton. If you are wondering how they know about Snowton and how to find it, I will quickly tell you but then I will get on with the tale I set out to tell…
Every Snowman or woman, child or dog stands frozen to the spot after they have been created, fearing any hint of sunshine. The lucky ones receive a message whispered into their ill-defined ears, telling them they can move if they want to, and telling them of the exact location of Snowton, and instructing them to pass on the same message to any Snow People or animals they happen upon during their hazardous trek. The journey has to take place at night, so that as few human people as possible see them travelling. So, sometimes, when you see a Snowman that has mysteriously appeared during the night, that Snowman is on his way to Snowton, which is why he mysteriously disappears by the next day. Since you’re up to speed, now, back to the story…
Through half-moon spectacles perched upon a bright carrot nose, coal-black eyes peered up at Slushy the Snowman as he stood in the doorway, letting the door click closed behind him. Slushy felt nervous.
“Why are you looking at me like that, Fortuna?” asked Slushy
“Just waiting to see how long it would take you to talk, Slushy, “ said Fortuna, who continued sadly, “Nobody ever comes to see me anymore unless they are desperate, so you’ll have to forgive me if I play a little game I call Don’t Speak Until You Are Spoken To”
“Um, okay…” said Slushy, uncertain, but accepting that wise old Fortuna was probably as strange as everyone tended to say he was. Fortuna’s reputation made him wary enough but being looked at by Fortuna was like being caught without your hat and scarf on, naked as the day you were made…
“Sit down, Slushy” ordered Fortuna. “I’m not one for small talk. Or big talk, for that matter. Talk in general, pointless guff, mostly, yes?”
“If you say so,” said Slushy, even more nervous than before now he was eye to eye with Fortuna, and then more nervous still when the un-soothing Soothsayer dropped a small drawstring bag onto the table between them.
Pick up the bag, Slushy” said Fortuna, with a smile that showed he enjoyed the effect he had other Snow People, “Shake the bag Slushy, keep shaking it until I tell you to stop”
Slushy shook the bag. The contents rattled woodenly. Slushy kept shaking the bag as Fortuna studied him intently
“Now, Slushy…Slushy the Snowman…don’t stop, keep shaking it! Don’t stop until you’re told!”
“Yes, Fort-“ began Slushy, cut to dead silence by Fortuna’s sudden frown
“Less chatter, more listening!” Fortuna barked, “Now, Slushy, what is it you want to know? Keep shaking the bag!”
“Um…well…Am I going to be able to stay clean this time?”
“Are you clean now?”
“Yes. Clean as the day I was made” said Slushy, allowing pride to creep into his voice
“Hmm, Pride, you need to keep an eye on that” counselled Fortuna, watching Slushy look between him and the bag, shaking its woodenly rattling contents the whole time. Fortuna continued to watch. Then smile. And smile more as an exasperated Slushy dropped the bag onto the table.
“Do whatever it is you do, Fortuna” demanded Slushy
“I’m already doing it, Slushy, and don’t worry, it’s going well. We just played a game, called How Long Will He Keep Shaking That Bag? And the moment you decided to stop shaking the bag, you won.”
“Is it all a game to you?” asked Slushy.
“Everything is always a game, Slushy, that’s why there are winners and losers in life. So far, you have been a loser. You just became, albeit temporarily, a winner. “Are you ready to keep winning?”
“I get it, every day I’m clean, I’m a winner…” said Slushy, slightly bored
“No.” said Fortuna. “No,” he said again, “Thrice times, no”
“Can you be a little straighter with me?” asked Slushy, impatience forming in his every flake.
“Yes, of course! See, you are taking charge of the situation, directing things to be what you want them to be. Clean or not clean is not the big question. Who am I and what do I want out of my life? That’s what you need an answer to. If all you are doing is trying to stay clean, all you are really doing is waiting for the day you start playing with fire again. And fire is, as you know, the stupidest thing for a man made of snow to be addicted to.”
“But…but, it’s so..warm” Slushy was feeling nostalgic for his recently abandoned habit. Dangerously so.
“Hmmm…” said Fortuna. “No doubt you have heard this a million times, but you keep up with the arson, you won’t just be Slushy, you’ll melt into a stupid puddle of stupid wet stupidity.” He was trying to rile Slushy. It was working.
“You talk a lot for man who doesn’t really like talk.” Slushy was acting tougher than he felt, but he didn’t feel like being called stupid with such force and regularity
“I say a lot of things, Slushy, and if you remember I called most talk pointless guff, I don’t recall including my own talk in that assessment” Fortuna winked, after reading in Slushy’s eyes that “you think I’m a hypocrite.” And when Slushy nervously nodded, he added “Everyone is hypocritical sometimes, and people who go around accusing other people of being hypocritical usually turn out to be the biggest hypocrites of all. Now…eh? What do you think you are doing?”
Slushy was opening the drawstring bag and reaching inside.
“Good, Slushy, good!” said Fortuna, to Slushy’s mystification. “See, you took charge again. Take out a rune, and put it on the table.”
Er, okay…” said Slushy. He placed the wooden disc onto the table and turned it over to reveal…
Slushy sighed, and did as he was bid, with Fortuna supplying commentary….
Slushy, slightly caught up in Fortuna’s excitement, turned over the third rune, to reveal…
“So what does all that mean?” Slushy felt quite excited now that Fortuna had come to more enthusiastic life…
“You already know, Slushy, and you knew before you ever came to see me. You wanted a magic answer to give you what you want easily, and preferably immediately, but nobody can give you that.” He watched Slushy point to each Rune in turn as he referred to it.
“You mean, what I seek is to feel more complete, to feel at ease with myself. I want to feel joy, I want to feel good about the future and see it as an adventure not a dark and dangerous unknown nightmare. And anything I gain from life, I will feel more joy and more complete, if it comes from my own efforts…”
“Absolutely Slushy! Yes. Yes!!”
“And do you know what makes me feel like that?” asked Slushy
“What…? Asked Fortuna cautiously…
“Fire” said Slushy “it makes all my fears melt away, and makes me so, so-“
“Very slushy, said Fortuna. “And more slushy every time, until you are gone forever”
“So what do I do?” asked Slushy
“Keep doing what you’ve been doing the whole time you’ve been here”
“Which is?” Slushy’s exasperation was rising in every crystal of his being
“You tell me” invited Fortuna, with a smirk that communicated quite clearly he knew of Slushy’s rising desire to kick him, right in the snowballs.
“Look, you frozen old goat, first things first. How much is this total waste of my time gonna cost me?”
“See? you’re in charge again, taking the initiative. Now…the price…A pittance compared to the value of the future you might now have because you came to see me”
“You haven’t said anything about the blizzarding future! You’re a fortune teller, tell me the whistling future, for the love of snow!”
“The only future anyone can predict is you, me or anybody else, being stuck exactly where we are, if all we do is wait for things to get better. And when you understand that, and act accordingly, you will consider it an absolute bargain that this pivotal moment in your whole frosty existence cost you only two hats and one scarf.” Fortuna leaned back in his seat, placed his hands behind his head, waiting for Slushy to explode. Slushy only gasped.
“How much?” I haven’t got two hats and a scarf to spend on rubbish like this!!!”
“That’s the price, Slushy, and just so you know, that’s for two meetings, come back when you can pay, and we can finish what we’ve started here.”
“Oh, Snowbollocks to this!” grumbled Slushy, “I need some fire…I’m gonna go and light a fire right now.” To his surprise, Fortuna merely shrugged
“Off you go then.”
“What…?” Slushy waited, assuming further words would come. The ones that did were surprising.
“Get out.” Said Fortuna, “Leave. Light a fire, melt yourself completely away, for all I care. Or get yourself kicked out of Snowton for endangering yourself and others. Same difference. One less idiot may be just the thing this town needs”
“Is this a game again?”
“No!” yelped Fortuna, thumping a fist onto the table for emphasis. Then he leapt to his full height to bellow “GET OUT! NOW!!”
Slushy almost fell out of his seat in his scrabble to get to the door, but before he opened it, he heard Fortuna chuckling behind him. Slushy turned, still afraid, but not as terrified as a moment ago.
“It is a game, then?”
“It’s all a game, Slushy, I told you that already. You lost. But there may be some hope for you…”
“Tell me how I stay clean, Fortuna.” Slushy’s burning need to see flame had subsided, but he was afraid it would stoke itself up again soon enough. Moments, further moments, and more moments still passed before Fortuna spoke again, squinting a half frown at Slushy until he did…
“Sewetu. Wunjo. Fehu.” Fortuna let silence build between himself and the sad looking Slushy the Snowman for a while. “Repeat after me. Sewetu. Wunjo. Fehu.”
“Sewetu. Wunjo. Fehu,” said Slushy uncertainly.
“Again!” ordered Fortuna
Slushy did as he was asked. Over. Over. And over. When he got fed up of saying the words Fortuna motioned for him to stop
“Still want fire, Slushy?”
“Not so much now,” said Slushy. For the first time he smiled at Fortuna, who returned the smile with interest
“Say those words, Slushy, whenever you feel like you want fire, Sewetu, Wunjo, Fehu. Or whenever you find your mind wandering, because it will only wander back towards fire again. When you have two hats and a scarf to pay me with, come back, we’ll talk more about what those words mean.”
“I’ve already forgotten ” said Slushy
“It doesn’t matter,” said Fortuna. “We’re done for now. Don’t tell anyone about what we have discussed, this is about you and for you. Things will make more sense eventually, as long as you don’t blizzarding melt yourself or get thrown out of Snowton before you have two hats and a scarf for my fee. Now, please leave.”
“Thank you, Fortuna.” He felt like he should say more but couldn’t think of any good words. Fortuna sighed grumpily.
“Slushy. It seems you haven’t left yet. Remedy that would you?”
Slushy stepped out into floating frosty flake filled air of Snowton, feeling more hopeful than when he had made the journey in the opposite direction. On his way home he got the usual looks of annoyance at his presence, but they warmed him on the inside, because he didn’t react by wanting fire, and so he wished every tutting and harrumphing Snow Person he passed a Merry Christmas.
MERRY CHRISTMAS Y’ALL!!!!