Freeze!
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Stacey didn’t see her mother when she returned home from school. She went to her bedroom and was surprised to find a present wrapped in bright red paper sitting on the night table. Large black letters on the side of the box read: “Merry Christmas: Be forewarned…”

“So it’s a joke,” laughed Stacey, reaching out for the present. Her hands stopped in midair as she sensed a cold wind blowing. She thought of running from the room, but her curiosity was too strong. She just had to open the present, even if it wasn’t Christmas yet. Impulsively, she grabbed it and was about to rip the paper off when she froze into a block of ice.

# # #

“Stacey, open up!” her mother banged on her door before flinging it open:

“What are you doing? Have you even started your homework yet? And why on earth did you turn the heat off, it’s freezing in here.”

  
 
Stacey didn’t answer and for the first time, her mother stared hard at her and wondered at the bizarre shade of blue that covered her daughter’s skin.

“Who’s the present from, Stacey?” She asked, grabbing it from her daughter’s hands. “What is it, anyway? It feels like a block of ice.” It was the last thing she said before she herself froze into one.

Stacey thawed, and her eyes focused on her mother’s glacial form standing in the middle of the bedroom.

“What happened, Mom?” she slurred, but her mother didn’t answer.

# # #

When Aunt Edna and Uncle Ned arrived for Christmas, they marveled at the new “ice Sculpture” in the living room.

“How does it stay frozen?” they asked, “then again, it’s below zero in here. Don’t you believe in heat?” They hugged themselves and shivered.

“I’ll get your coats.” Stacey retrieved them from the closet and then ran into the kitchen, returning with a tray of hot chocolate and baked appetizers.

“Wow, you’ve really matured,” Aunt Edna remarked, “But where’s Mom?”

“Yeah, where’s Joanne?” echoed Uncle Ned. “A girl your age needs supervision.”

“Joanne is indisposed,” Stacey answered, her eyes coming to rest on the ice sculpture. “Don’t worry about me. I’m fine,” she slurped her hot cocoa.

“I find Joann’s absence disturbing.” Uncle Ned glanced around suspiciously.

“Don’t you want to know what I’m studying in school?” asked Stacey I her perkiest voice.

“Sure,” said Uncle Ned.

“I’m learning about the North Pole and its semi-permanent, continuous arctic front that moves between the polar region and into the shallower latitudes.”

“Fascinating!” Uncle Ned’s eyes continued to rove.

Aunt Edna gulped her spiked eggnog: “I’m sorry Joanne’s not back yet, but it’s time to open your presents, Stacey.”

With that, she unceremoniously dumped a garbage bag full of brightly wrapped boxes onto the living room floor.

Stacey shook her head: “I’m sorry, but this is one risk I simply cannot afford to take.”

“What’s gotten into you?” Aunt Edna frowned.

Stacey’s face twisted in alarm: “Oh no, the ice sculpture is melting.”

“Calm down, will you,” Uncle Ned shifted uncomfortably on the couch as an arctic front descended over the room.

“Stacey, are you all right?” Her aunt asked.

“The box,” Stacey managed to speak through her frozen jaw.

“You mean that one?” Aunt Edna pointed to a red box that had materialized on the coffee table. She reached out for it.

“I wouldn’t if I were you,” cautioned Joanne, newly thawed and shaking water from her hair. She walked over to where Aunt Edna and Uncle Ned were crouching on the sofa.

“Snap out of it, you two!” Joanne barked.

“We thought you were an ice sculpture,” ventured Uncle Ned.

“That must be Stacey’s doing,” scoffed Joanne.

“She was interested in this box,” Aunt Edna pointed to the present.

“Don’t open it,” warned Joanne.

“What’s with this family’s fear of presents,” Aunt Edna grabbed the box tore off the red wrapping paper as Joanne paled and ran from the house.

“She’s being ridiculous,” said Aunt Edna.

“What’s in it?” Uncle Ned craned his neck forward.

“It’s a snow globe,” said Aunt Edna, holding it up and shaking it. As white flakes floated in the clear liquid, Stacey’s face emerged within the globe, expressionless and hollow-eyed.

“Stacey, talk to me,” Aunt Edna shook the globe more vigorously, but the falling snow was soundless, and she was overcome by a chill that entered her bones and increased with each shallow breath she took until she froze into a block of ice.

“Hey,” said Uncle Ned. He rushed over just as a card fell out of the box and into his hands. This is what it said:

“You have been sent this present from the land of ice. Once you fall under its spell, you will freeze. You cannot thaw until someone related to you becomes frozen. That’s all: Now freeze, my friend, and be well.”

“Ridiculous,” said Uncle Ned, as he froze into a block of ice.

When Aunt Edna thawed, she called the police, who were at a loss to solve the mystery. The snow globe was the only evidence, but the falling fake snow within it did not reveal any secrets. Eventually, Aunt Edna relegated the whole affair to the cold case file in her head, or perhaps it was the frozen case file, she could never really be sure.

The story ends here, but the mystery continues. On that note, I would like to offer you this word of caution: If a red present should mysteriously appear to you around Christmas time, don’t touch it. Run far, far away. Otherwise, my Friend, be prepared to freeze!



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