Heart of Frost
Twisted from Rise of the Guardians
I killed her.
The words echoed endlessly in my head, and I clutched at my pounding heart, scrambling to sit up. The golden capsule containing my baby teeth—as well as memories of my past—was grasped at my side. I sat inside the icy crevice, the place I’d first recovered my memories after encountering Pitch many months before, far below the earth with my knees tucked to my chest. My breath came out in rapid, billowing clouds.
Her death was my fault …
Glancing down at the memories clenched in my fist, the thought sent a shudder down my spine. Ironic, considering I wasn’t one to be bothered by the cold. I recalled back to what I’d just witnessed: I once believed I’d saved my sister from drowning at the site of my own death place, the frozen lake, and, hence, I was chosen by the Man in the Moon to be a guardian. But upon seeing the new version my memories had undergone, I was beginning to realize that I was far from a hero. I was a murderer.
I’d witnessed myself sliding my sister to supposed safety, as I had seen before, just before falling through the thin sheet of ice myself and being plunged into the dark, swirling water. What I hadn’t noticed before, yet was exposed to just a second ago, was a new addition to the memory. Before I was sucked back into reality, I witnessed my sister crashing through the shattered ice as well, her mouth parted in a silent, eternal scream as she helplessly sank down into the depths of the lake; her brown eyes pleaded for me to save her, but I was frozen. Useless.
Now, every time I blinked, her terrified face flashed behind my eyelids. The memory of her haunted me.
With a cry of anguish, I flung the memory capsule in my hand against the jagged wall of the fissure in the ground. It then clanged to the floor, just as I picked up my staff and flew up out of the fissure. I needed to get back to the North Pole. As I was flying, I felt an icy pain course through my heart like lightning, and I staggered in midair.
“Ow,” I hissed through gritted teeth. Once I recovered, the pain in my heart ebbing to a dull ache, I took off in the direction of the north, the ground below swiftly blurring past. Guilt hurts. That was what I brushed the pain off as: guilt. What I wasn’t aware of at the time, though, was that the cause of my agony was something much, much worse.
I didn’t share my newfound knowledge with any of the other guardians. Not even Sand Man, who I already knew wouldn’t tell anyone. They’d probably claim that it wasn’t my fault, that I’d tried saving my sister and that I couldn’t have known whether or not the ice would break. They’d never admit that I wasn’t meant to be a guardian. But in all honesty, it was my fault. If I hadn’t taken her ice-skating in the first place, she wouldn’t have had to die. If I had done a better job of protecting her …
And it wasn’t just that. Over the course of several days, I began feeling … different. Ever since discovering that I hadn’t saved my sister, as I’d previously thought, cold, bitter thoughts have been bombarding my mind; they all happened to be some variation of “I’m not a guardian, I’m a villain, like Pitch wanted.”
As the days dragged on, these thoughts, which entered my brain every day now without my consent, began to worsen. I stood leaning against my staff in the pristine, endless snow. The wind rustled my snowy hair as I pondered the limitations of my powers. Surely, there’s more to my powers than giving stupid kids snow days. Pitch saw my potential. In what form is ice a good thing? I grimaced. It took my sister, as well as my own life. People get sickness and frostbite from my cold.
Hurling a snowball far into the distance, I drily added, I’d be better off as a villain.
The next day, as I was training outside in the brisk, gray evening, the other guardians approached me. I’d been isolating myself from them quite often lately, feeling unworthy of merely being in their presence. I wasn’t the same. Ever since learning of my sister’s death, I no longer smiled, but rather excluded myself from any enjoyable activity. I left myself to my thoughts and my training. There was no longer room for socializing.
“Jack,” Tooth murmured softly, fluttering up to me. I kept my head down, my blue eyes fixed straight ahead. The rest of the guardians soon joined her at my side.
“Jack,” North, aka Santa Claus, spoke in a stern tone of voice. With a sigh, I reluctantly turned to face them.
“What?” I snapped, my harshness even surprising myself for a second. I eyed North coldly.
“Listen, we need to talk,” he said, and Bunny quickly added, “You haven’t been yourself, mate.” At first, I didn’t reply. Then Tooth quietly murmured, “Please, talk to us, Jack.”
This broke my urge not to talk to them, if only for an instant. Exhaling sharply, I turned to face them, crossing my arms stubbornly. “Fine. What do you guys want?”
“You’ve been acting strange lately,” North answered immediately. “Don’t think we haven’t noticed.”
I shrugged coolly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I muttered. “Now, if you’ll excuse me—”
“You barely talk anymore, you’re constantly avoiding us, and when you’re not sulking around the workshop, you’re constantly training,” North cut in. When I didn’t argue, he continued in a grave whisper, one that sent chills shooting down my spine. “Look, we didn’t come here to yell at you. We came to make sure you’re all right, as well as warn you.”
“I’ve received word just recently from the Man in the Moon.”
Moon? Oh, great. I had a feeling I knew where this was going.
“Let me guess,” I interrupted sharply. “He says I’m not meant to be a guardian? That he made a mistake in choosing me?”
The guardians all blinked at me, clearly stunned by my conclusion. “No,” said North. “He told me something about your powers. Apparently, it’s quite possible that the ice that makes up your powers … well, basically, there’s a chance it may overtake your heart, condemning it to nothing but ice. You’re in danger. If this isn’t stopped, you’ll be frozen from the inside out, but not before you’re completely void of emotion.” Exchanging a wary glance with Tooth, then Sand Man, he finally admitted, “We believe that is what’s happening to you now.”
At this, my eyes narrowed to tiny splinters of ice. “So, that’s it then? There’s nothing we can do to stop it?” My voice shook.
“There’s nothing we can do,” Tooth replied, wistfulness hazing her violet eyes. “However, there is something you can do.”
“And that is?”
She paused. “You have to forgive yourself, Jack.”
I stared at the guardians blankly. What? Was there a way that they knew of my true past? I shook my head. It didn’t matter—their whole story was nonsense. Besides, even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could ever forgive myself for what I’d done. No matter what, the image of those innocent, pleading eyes sinking into the shadows at the bottom of the lake would never vanish from my mind, nor would the voice that kept repeating, “It’s all your fault.”
Forcing the sorrowful thought away, I scowled at the guardians before me in an attempt to mask my pain. “Whatever,” I scoffed. Then, without giving them a chance to explain further, I clutched my staff and once again took to the sky, letting the wind take me wherever it wished. I didn’t dare look back.
I spent the next week on some remote, snowy island. Unaware of exactly where I was, I didn’t stress about the trip back to the North Pole. In fact, the thought of home didn’t cross my mind once while I was away.
My behavior didn’t cease to change, unfortunately. At this point, I couldn’t even make myself feel any sort of emotion, as North had predicted. Now, whenever my sister’s death replayed vividly in my mind, I would keep a blank face on, and despite what my mind declared I should feel, my heart remained completely detached from the situation. I felt no sadness, nor anger, nor fear toward what I’d become: an empty shell of my former self. I felt nothing but coldness.
And then one day, as I sat beneath a snow-laden evergreen tree upon the island, my transformation took on a whole new form. While staring down at my pale hands, I noticed an odd, intricate kind of frost slowly creeping over my skin. Except this frost wasn’t the type I came into contact with every day, but instead, this frost glinted a dark, fearsome shade of black, like the color of Pitch’s nightmares. My heart felt dead as I watched it seep over me. My heart was no longer mine, it felt, but rather replaced by a cold and heavy chunk of ice. My mind, meanwhile, began relishing in the idea of this fear-frost, as I called it. Lifting my staff, I shot a beam of ebony-black icicles, deadly and powerful and beautiful all at once. A malicious laugh escaped my mouth. I was no longer in control; a dark force had taken over, a force that hungered only for power and revenge on the world. Fear controlled me. Fear of being a villain, fear of killing my sister, it was all the same! All I wanted was power, and for everyone to suffer what my sister went through … what I went through.
I sought to use my abilities to expand my power. To spread fear throughout the world, that was my one goal.
“And no one’s going to stop me!” I screamed into the endless expanse of white. Then, I launched into the air, toward the North Pole.
When I arrived at my destination, my body now entirely adorned with a thin layer of fear-frost, I landed roughly, plunging my staff into the ground. All around me, jagged ice splinters suddenly burst from the earth; the wind picked up, carrying a deadly concoction of snow and hail. Though I couldn’t see it, I was perfectly aware of the effects my huge snowstorm was inflicting upon the rest of the world. Some people were buried beneath avalanches of snow, others eternally frozen into statues of fear. The world was freezing over; it’d face the fate I would soon inevitably meet.
Just then, I noticed a group of figures rapidly approaching in the distance. As I peered closer, it dawned on me with a grimace that there was still one force that possessed a chance at stopping my reign of terror. The guardians.
“Jack, STOP!” I heard the Tooth Fairy’s desperate voice from afar, but it no longer held any meaning to me. Nothing did anymore. Suddenly, Sandy’s billowing cloud of golden sand started tumbling toward me. Just as it was upon me, it froze into a huge wave of sheer ice. I grinned wickedly. Then, with a blow from my staff, I sent the massive ice wall exploding outward. The shattered blades of ice pierced Sandy as well as Bunny, knocking them both into the snow where they quickly disappeared from sight. I felt no guilt, absolutely none.
I was taken aback when Tooth zipped in behind me and landed a powerful blow to my back, throwing me forward. I whirled around to face her, a lust for power glittering in my now-ebony eyes.
“Jack, please, stop this!” Tooth cried, her eyes holding genuine sadness. It was clear to see she didn’t want to hurt me. The old Jack Frost probably wouldn’t have wanted to hurt her, either.
But the old Jack Frost was dead.
With a fierce battle cry, I plunged the pointed part of my staff into her stomach when she was caught off guard. Her eyes glazed over; her face held no judgment, only love, as she froze over with black frost and collapsed to the ground.
Swiveling around, I thought, Only one left. North, however, didn’t even try fighting me. His face was sad, much like Tooth’s. It took me by surprise when he gently tossed a small blue object at me—the doll he’d given me when I’d first became a guardian.
“Remember your center, Jack Frost,” he murmured solemnly, just before he, too, froze behind a veil of frost. I gazed down at the doll in my hands. At this point, I couldn’t even remember what my center had once been …
My center was ice. Cold, deadly, unforgiving. Covering the fragile doll in my brisk hands, I closed my eyes, and allowed fear to overcome me, bringing me to the fate I’d condemned the rest of the world to.