by Marieko Amoah, Staff Creative Writer, December 2020

The wind burned Aalto’s eyes as he curved and zigzagged down the hill. A snow storm was coming soon, but he hadn’t been outside for days. He decided his trip would be short, and more dangerous than usual; you don’t cut corners when it comes to excitement. He went faster and snow collected on his jacket and face; it was like he was turning into ice. Aalto did 360s and double backflips as graceful as the falling snowflakes that collided with his face. He jumped up and did more tricks off of the snowy hills, gaining more and more speed, gliding effortlessly over frozen streams. He was coming towards a point he’d done many times, and he loved it each time. The villagers liked to call it the great chasm. It wasn’t that big but it did take a tremendous amount of speed to fly over it. On the other side of the chasm was a very steep hill; when he first saw it as a child, he thought it was a mountain. Aalto was going extremely fast now, and his body started to ache from the wind and the amount of tricks he was doing. He was losing energy, but his adrenaline always peaked when he got to the ledge. 3….he could see the dip now…2…the hill was towered over him….1…Aalto flew through the air, the wind seeming to carry him like an angel catching him in flight. His face erupted in a wide icy grin and he tried a trick he’d done only once before: a triple backflip. He soared through the air, his vision blurry as he spun while trying to keep control of his body. But, he couldn’t seem to become upright again and he still spun as he sloped down, his face getting nearer to the leveled part of the hill. Aalto panicked as he remembered stories the elders would tell about kids his age who would “trick to their death,” breaking their neck as they plummeted into the snow. It would take days before their body would be found. Aalto screamed under his scarf as he plunged into the snow, his face one inch away from a heavy rock that poked through. He heard a few snaps and pain radiated across his body. Then everything went black. “I’m going to die,” he finally thought as the wind howled and the snow storm arrived earlier than expected. 

It’s so bright, Aalto thought. He opened his eyes only to find himself on a bed not of his own. His eyes panned across the foreign room. Chipped paint on the walls. The bed was made out of a simple wooden frame, topped with what felt like a feather mattress. There was a rocking chair in the corner to the far right of his bed and a wide window shrouded with white curtains. A ceiling made of elaborate tiles and patterns. Sunlight burned his eyes, and his head pounded as he got out of bed. Someone had changed his clothes and he now wore a simple white gown; the wounds from the fall were also dressed up. The floors were ominously silent, although they looked older than his great-grandfather’s white oak floors that chimed and splintered with every step. He opened the ornate double doors that enclosed the room. There was a living room and kitchen, both with the same look of old age. However, the only thing that carried dust was the rocking chair that was in the bedroom. “Hello?” Aalto called out. Only his echo responded. He tried again, much louder this time, with the fear he’d called out to someone he didn’t actually want to meet. His clothes lay folded on a plain worn couch and his jacket hung on a steel rack. He promptly put them on and left the gown on the bed. Aalto slightly opened the front door and peeked outside. Then he swung it open in shock; he was in the Forest. Back home, aunts and uncles told tales about the Forest. They scared little children (and sometimes adults) with stories about an evil witch who resided in the Forest. It was rumoured she had once been a healer but one day she snapped and left her birthplace in turmoil for the Forest. No one was to go into the Forest, and only those desperate for medicine had done it. Tall pine trees and pillowy snow surrounded the house Aalto was in. The snow was so white and so thick Aalto didn’t notice the dead white rabbit that had been pinned to the roots of a tree, left out to freeze. He stood in awe of the serenity and beauty, but then the clouds left the sun and his head hurt again. He turned back into the house but bumped into something. He looked up. Standing directly behind him was a woman with red hair that had been tightly pinned back into a bun. Her skin was tan and she wore a long green button dress; her eyes seemed black and they refused to glimmer, even in the sunlight. Her face was stoic with lines telling of old age that also refused to reveal no true information about her. Aalto was frozen. “Would you like to eat?”, she asked. Behind her in the kitchen was a small table with food. Two roasted rabbits sat in the middle alongside a loaf of wheat bread, some sort of vegetable stew, and a bundle of frozen grapes. Aalto tried to speak but he somehow forgot how. She sat down expectantly and looked at him. He did the same and his stomach growled when his nose got a whiff of roast rabbit. They ate in silence. The roast rabbit was delicious: Aalto only recognized the taste of rosemary and everything else was spices he never had before. Suddenly, she placed down her fork and knife then began to talk. “There once was a land little known to your kind. The sun was a bully, its heat so hot that the earth would catch fire. Only a few children knew how to find it. We went while our parents slept. It was a short but harsh path. We had to cross an old unfinished bridge, pass over a chasm, and go through a cave. One night, while going, one of my friends had…I’ll stop. I’ll tell you the rest when you wake up. When you wake up. When you wake up.” She repeated the last sentence over and over like one of father’s broken records. It seemed like she would never stop.  Aalto watched expectantly, waiting to hear something else. “Um, hello?”, he asked. When you wake up. When you wake up. When you wake up. He woke up.

It’s so bright, Aalto thought. He opened his eyes only to find himself on a bed in a room not of his own. Then he remembered where he was. The woman was sitting across from him in the rocking chair, surprised by his sudden awakening. Her eyes did glimmer now and she was about to talk when Aalto jumped out of bed. He was about to sprint out the door, but he hadn’t noticed the snowboard right next to his bed. With scattered feet, he tripped and fell face first into a rock that had been wedged between two floorboards. He heard a snap and felt pressure radiating through his nose. Then, everything went black.  

Ouch. Aalto sat up. His nose and lips were covered in frozen blood. He opened his eyes and looked around to find his snowboard, sitting in the snow, a few feet away; it seems he slid a bit from where he initially fell. Somehow, both of his legs were good enough to stand. His snowboard was in bad shape. Aalto looked down the path on the hill. The trees got denser with each foot and eventually obscured the horizon. Smoke rose from the center of the Forest. Aalto walked down the path with an empty mind. The pines cleared out to a circle of wooden houses. In the middle was the one he had slept in. Flames licked the wood and the roof had already caved in. It was hot. The snow around the house was now puddles that slowly steamed off from the heat. The other houses were completely destroyed. With a loud cackle, the walls finally caved in and the giant fire started to die down. The heat had thawed the blood on Aalto’s face and it was now dripping rapidly down his jacket and dotted the snow. He watched the fire die down, his face stoic. It then went out suddenly with a soft snap. He slid back to the bottom of the hill, went over the chasm without a single trick and walked back home.