Snow Is Hell
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rating: +19+x

The winter wind could be heard blowing through Sloth's Pit, from the windows of Site-87.

Researcher Kase Iglesias sat down at his desk, his earbuds embedded so deep they were nearly at risk of fusing to his ear canal. Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You on the local radio station was pleasant the first time. Maybe even the first few dozen times. But every third song on the radio?

He rubbed his temples and looked over to the Dinosaurs of the Anomalous World calendar on the wall, a gift from his sister when he transferred here. A small note scribbled on it read "Merry Christmas to the best brother ever. -Angie".

Oh shit. He still hadn't figured out what to send her for Christmas this year. This report could wait, anyway.

Kase scrambled downstairs, racking his brain for ideas, and decided he should grab some food first. He walked into the cafeteria and was greeted by the familiar laughs of Oz, the current cook.

"Hey, Kase. Rough morning?"

Kase smiled. "Had better, but one of your sandwiches wouldn't hurt."

"You flatter me. Want turkey or salami today?"

"What about ham?"

Oz shivered. "You've been cooped up in the labs too much if you haven't even heard about THE HAMSTER rampaging through here last week."

"The what now?"

"Well… my hamster died in a tragic hamster wheel accident, and its vengeful ghost came in here and tried to terrorize me by animating the ham in the meat locker. At least, we think. So yeah, no ham sandwiches for a while."

"I see… salami, then."

"You got it! Want some cocoa with that?"

"That'd be great, thanks!"

"How's the family doing, by the way?"

Kase rubbed his neck. "Oh, they're doing great. Angie's been off doing her task force stuff, she writes every so often. Dad finally retired; he and Mom said they were moving to Utah."

Oz paused in the middle of handing Kase his tray. "Really? Why Utah?"

"Hell if I know."

Kase took the tray with his sandwich and cup and sat down at an empty table. He bit into the sandwich and smiled to himself. Oz had done it again. He'd have to ask him for the recipe one of these days. As he drank the cocoa, Kase considered what Oz said. Maybe he did spend too much time inside. He'd only been here a year, and had spent most of that time researching the backstories and origins of classic Sloth's Pit oddities like the cursed streetlight on Poplar Avenue or the weird pile of tires behind the mechanic's shop that got people high on helium. He'd only get the reports and data, but he rarely even got to experience the weirdness of the town.

A voice broke his reverie. Kase looked up and saw Irene Nikolas, from Forestry Division. "Mind if I sit here?"

Kase smiled and nodded. "Sure. Hey, haven't seen you around in a while."

Irene laughed. "That's cause I've been outside, Kase. Oh, speaking of which, I was wondering if you could help me out."

"With what?"

"Well, it's been snowing like crazy these past couple days, and we've gotten reports of a weird hill in the woods with more snow than usual. Jack Thomson's kids got lost in there and said something about ghosts. They're all alright, but they told me to check it out. Ordinarily I'd have my assistant go with me, but she's fighting off a flu right now. You in?"

Kase contemplated it for a second. It would be a fun distraction. "Heck yeah, I'm in. Let me find my snow boots."


Kase and Irene trudged through the woods, and came to the location of the hill.

"Come on!" Irene started climbing.

Kase felt himself relax. There was just something refreshing about the cold wind, and the feeling of the snow under his boots. Irene crested the top of the hill, and heard laughter. "Kase, get up here." Kase climbed up to where she was. "Weird. I don't see any- SPLAT" A big fat snowball hit Kase right in the face.

Now Irene was laughing. Kase wiped the cold snow off his face with his gloves. "What was that for?!"

"Wasn't me, dork. Look."

Kase turned to where Irene was pointing, and saw several translucent, child-shaped silhouettes standing next to a rather large snow fort, surrounded by pyramids of snowballs. The children were dressed in a random assortment of vaguely army-like costumes, helmets, hats, and jackets.

One of the silhouettes called out. "This hill is our territory! We, the Pigeon Street Treehouse Club, formally declare WAR!"

Irene cocked her head. "Hey, you can't just bean my friend here before the war starts. That's not very fair."

Kase piped up. "Irene's right. At least let us build our own snow fort first!"

The ghost kids whined. "Fiiiiiiiine. You got, uh, ten minutes."

Kase and Irene hurriedly scooped up snow, compacting it and piling it high. Kase made several thick walls, while Irene dug behind the walls to give them more space to hide.

Irene adjusted her beanie. "Huh. You're pretty good at this, you know."

"Thanks. My sister and her friends taught me the basics of snowball combat, heh."

"Lucky. I never even saw snow til I moved here. Actually… this would be my first real snowball fight."

"No way."

"Yeah. That's what happens when you grow up in Arizona of all places."

Kase shoved another pile of snow towards Irene and smiled. "Well, if we're gonna win this, we're gonna need you up to speed on prime snowball technique." Irene grinned. "Teach me the ways."


"TIME'S UP, CHUMPS!"

The ghosts snickered, picking up snowballs. "I hope you're ready!"

Kase and Irene looked at their own pile of snowballs and let out a war cry.

The world seemed to suddenly go sepia-toned, and Irene felt like she was in some WWII documentary stock footage as she picked up her first snowball. Drums sounded in the distance, with no apparent source. She took aim, and flung the snowball at one of the ghosts.

PAFT!

The snowball hit the kid directly in the chest, sending him stumbling back in slow motion. Irene and Kase watched as the ghost child fell to the ground, pretending to cry out in pain. The other ghost children surrounded him. "Jimmy! Hang in there, we'll get you to safety!"

The two researchers hid behind their wall as a storm of snowballs rained down. Kase peeked out and took potshots, knocking down a section of the kids' wall, before ducking back behind the wall. Undeterred, the ghosts tried other tactics:

"Kase and Irene sitting in a snow fort! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"

Irene hit one of the kids with a snowball. Amateur tactics!

The battle raged, with both teams lobbing larger and larger snowballs at each other's fortifications.

Irene paused while making more snowballs, and fumbled in her back pocket. She pulled out her buzzing phone, which displayed an image of her parents calling. Kase moved towards her.

"No! Don't you know what happens to people who look at pictures of their loved ones during a battle?!"

A gigantic snowball from the ghosts flew through the air, and made a comically large explosion of powdered snow when it collided with the wall. Kase and Irene were sent flying back, with an inexplicable ringing noise in both their ears.

Kase got up, and crawled over to Irene while staying behind what was left of their wall. The front of Irene's purple coat was completely covered in snow. She grinned, then coughed weakly. "They got me, Kase. Tell my family… I love them…" Kase suppressed a laugh as Irene pretended to go limp.

Now was the time to put his sister's training to use. Kase drew lines under his eyes with snow as dramatic music played from somewhere. He stood up, snowball in each hand, and charged the ghost kids.

The kids launched a barrage of snowballs at Kase, but to no avail. He dodged to the left, then ducked, then jumped, then tumbled forward. Expertly avoiding every projectile, he hurled snowball after snowball at the laughing ghosts, each one a critical hit.

Finally, there was only one ghost kid left. The kid picked up a snowball, and the two of them faced off like a scene from an old Western. The icy wind blew. Kase was ready. He poised to strike, the snowball in his hands the roundest one he'd ever made. He narrowed his eyes. This was it! The final-

SPLAT!

Kase and the kid both fell to the ground overly dramatically, snow covering their faces. Irene was standing up, laughing, having just ended the war herself.

"I win!"

The kids cheered, and she and Kase laughed.

The ghost kids got back up. Some started rebuilding their fort, while one walked up to Irene and Kase.

"Rematch?"


Kase mailed his sister a framed picture of him, Irene, and the ghosts.

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