Here’s chapter 2 of my ongoing little short story project set to the EP my friend–the very talented Thomas Rakowitz–put out a few months ago titled, Streams Volume 1.
Chapter 1 can be found here
The EP in can be found here
Chapter 2: The House of Ice and Glass
“Wait, stop!” the cat called. Rain turned around to see the tabby trotting after her, its tail swishing back and forth in an agitated state. “Listen, you can’t go that way. It’s dangerous.”
Rain shook her head. “Nope. I have a map, and it would tell me if there was anything dangerous.” When she had drawn her map, she had made sure not to put anything dangerous on it. This might be an adventure, but Rain was a practical girl.
“Oh really?” the cat said, rolling its large amber eyes. “Check it.”
“Fine.” Rain reached into her backpack and unfolded her map for the second time that morning, already pointing at where she was. “See? The sea is just ahead.”
“Look again, little girl.”
Rain did. Her map was different. The sea was still on it, and still expertly colored in crayon, but now there were other things in the way, places and landmarks she had not drawn. “I don’t understand,” Rain whispered, feeling that twinge of fear return, only now there were no adults. That was bad. An adult could fix this.
“You crossed the threshold,” the cat said. “Things have changed.”
They had. The stream now followed a zigzagging path through the countryside until it wound its way between a series of mountain peaks. Rain had never been this far from home, but she was very sure there weren’t any mountain ranges where she lived. Her teachers would have said something about that. They would have also mentioned the series of towns and cities between her and the sea, none of which Rain recognized. Most were out of the way, but one, a single house drawn in blue, was right on the stream.
“You should have listened to me,” the cat said.
“Shut up!” Rain snapped. It was just like Jody Casper to have the rudest talking cat in the world. “You’re a very mean cat, you know?”
“And you’re a silly little girl.”
“I don’t need your help.” Rain still had her map, and though it was different, it was still a map. It told her how to get to the sea. She wasn’t scared. Much. “I just need to go to this nice blue house.” She smiled. “I bet there’s a talking dog there who will help me. Dogs are so much nicer than cats.”
The cat said another bad word, this one much worse than the last one, and Rain turned to leave. Her mother always told her not to make friends with people who said bad words, and her mother was right. Rain wasn’t entirely sure how that rule applied to talking cats, but it didn’t matter. She had a new destination, and when she got there, she could get the help she needed.
Maybe whoever owned the blue house had a car and could just drive her to the sea.
Rain walked for awhile, though every time she checked her watch, the time hadn’t changed. It was still only a few minutes after 11:00. She tried not to let it bother her, mostly because the cat was still following her and she didn’t want it to know she was upset. The cat was mean and would only make fun of her.
The ground grew uneven and hilly, and Rain was finding it hard to traverse. Some of the hills were really steep and slippery. When she finally crested one tall hill, following the stream upwards the whole way, she stopped. It had grown colder all of a sudden, and a light breeze was picking up, blowing at her back. In the distance, small but shining like a little star, was the blue house. Rain was almost there.
Feeling fine, and still ignoring the cat, Rain decided to sit down and rest. She took her socks and shoes off again and went to put her feet in the stream, expecting the water to be cool and refreshing like it was last time. “Ouch!” she shouted, pulling away. The water was freezing, colder than ice. Rain looked at her big toe and began to cry. It was all white, like someone had covered it in snow. It hurt.
“Hush, hush. It’s alright,” the cat said, sliding up to Rain and rubbing against her.
“Go away,” Rain said, though already she was petting the purple-and-grey tabby. It was impossible to not pet a very soft cat.
Instead of leaving, the cat started licking Rain’s foot, melting the frost with its tongue. It hurt at first, and Rain winced, but soon the pain was gone and her toe was back to its normal color. She wriggled all her toes and grinned, remembering a game her father used to play with her when she was a little kid.
“What’s your name, little girl?” the cat asked.
“That’s a pretty name,” the cat said, and Rain smiled. She liked it when people thought she had a pretty name. “A witch’s name. You’re destined for great things Rain, but not today. Today you need to turn back.”
Rain shook her head. She couldn’t turn back, not when she was so close. She put her socks and shoes back on and stood up. Her foot didn’t hurt at all, and now that her scare was over, she felt refreshed. “I’m going to the sea,” she said, and started following the stream again.
It only took a few steps for her to stop. Somehow, the grass in front of her was changing color, turning from a bright summer green to a bitter white. She knelt down and watched one patch transform right before her eyes, like someone was painting over the landscape. When she exhaled, her breath was foggy.
“The house of ice and glass is up ahead,” the cat whispered, its ears flat against its head. “The frozen ghosts live there. If they see you…” but the cat trailed off. Something was approaching.
Rain looked around but didn’t see anything. They were alone.
Then she heard the crunch of a foot stepping on ice, and the world turned into a din of screams.