“Pogo”: Part One (Short Story)

Pogo: Part One (Short Story)

Madison Perline, Senior Staff Writer

October 12th, xxxx

       Untypically for the region, a barrage of frosty gusts had breached the border. They pounded at doors and windows, scratching and screaming aloud like caged wild cats. Branches tore away from their mahogany giants, blocking roadways and smacking against the sides of wagons. Horses whinnied and deer retreated to the farthest depths of the forest, their babies following close at their flanks. None dared to venture out of their homes, fearing the worst from the white blanket slowly coating their town in a dreary frost. Instead they peeked out of glass barriers, eyeing the barely visible night sky, which was shielded by specks of raging flour. Children propped their elbows atop the windowsills, and adults kept their arms crossed as they watched their town become a barren land of snow and ice.

       A stain of the harsh treatment the town received was left in many forms from the snowfall, but like a phantom, the storm dispersed and disappeared when the sun rose beyond the horizon. Cotton candy clouds and a beautiful array of yellows, oranges and reds that painted the sky mocked the townsfolk as they began switching on their lamplights to inspect the outdoors. They butted their bodies against their doors, leisurely nudging at mountains of collected snow. The town was a wonderland, and children were quick to dive head first into the first snowfall of the year. Adults, however, pondered softly to themselves, exchanging odd glances to one another. Something queer was lurking about — snow hadn’t hit the town as hard as it did since the dawn of time. Many worried that they had displeased their gods, and he had sent a devastating winter as a warning to them. Others assumed that the climate was simply changing. Thoughts circulated around, but one thing was for certain; Nobody expected what happened at 556 BlueBell Farm.

      Warmth akin to the crackling flame of a lit torch encompassed the interior of a miniature dining room, embracing every chair and silverware set it could find. A kettle, reflecting the glow of the rising sun off of its polished silver exterior, sat atop a lit stove, simmering and steaming fresh water from a nearby stream. Swans from outside the window, located directly above the stove, squawked a quivering symphony, gathering their troops together for morning feeding. They dipped their craned necks into a pond of water, fishing out whatever scraps they could find beneath the breaking ice. Fortunately luck was on their side, because a pale hand pressed against the glass barrier separating the swans from the warmth, and broke straight past it. With a delicately cupped palm, the hand tossed corn kernels and breadcrumbs into the air, which sent the feathered creatures into a frenzy. They pecked, honked and prodded at each other, each pushing for a spot at the buffet line. With a soft laugh and the click of a closing window, the barrier between hot and cold was forged once more.

     Clementine had been feeding the same flock of swans for three years, and prided herself for the streak. She hadn’t missed a day, and the swans surely didn’t miss a fulfilling breakfast. The fattest swan, who she had cleverly named Big Swan, darted for every breadcrumb he could fit in his beak. The carbs had caught up to him, but he didn’t seem to mind. Herbert, Grace, Philip and Reginald finished off the five birds of a feather, and they tended to stick to the corn. She supposed that some creatures just had a better sense of dieting than others. 

     With a mellow smile to her bird buddies she averted her gaze, setting emerald orbs on a breakfast of her own. She took hold of a nearby towel, removing the kettle from the heat and setting it down on top of the wooden dining table behind her. Out of the cupboard, an azure painted mug and spoon emerged. She poured the piping water into her mug, exhaling lightly as steam hit her face. Her freckled cheeks brightened with cozy color as she selected a bag of black tea, dropping the flavored pouch into the water. She took hold of the mug with both hands, walking over to the windowsill and throwing a piece of lavender into her cup. Allowing the flavors to mingle for a moment before taking a sip, she looked past her own reflection and out at the snow.

     Frozen crystals hung from the roof of the small home’s front porch, droplets of water cruising down the sides like a melting popsicle. Ground that was once covered in lush green grass was as white as cream. Caramel twigs littered the top layer of snow along with scraps from the surrounding forest. Clementine pressed the mug to her mouth, allowing the pungent flavor to tingle her lips before sipping. Unsurprisingly, because of the storm’s unwelcomed entry onto her property, she had quite a bit of cleaning up to do. A few inches deep below the snow, her carrots were getting positively overwatered. She had to act fast if she wanted to save her harvest from sogginess. So, setting down her barely finished mug of tea, she prepared herself to exit the home. 

     Working alone in the snow was certainly a daunting task, but it wasn’t something that she wasn’t used to. The farm was hers and hers alone, passed down from her grandmother when she passed away a couple years back. While growing up alongside and working with her grandmother, her passion for tending to crops flourished. Everyday she would wake up early to help harvest the fresh vegetables, digging at the soil like a puppy as she pulled them from their roots. Then, after all the vegetables were gathered, she would bring them inside — cutting and cooking them — before creating an extravagant feast for her and her grandmother. Fond memories such as these touched her deeply, and they made her strive for the perfection of the farm. Perfection, however, couldn’t be reached at the land’s current state. 

      Pulling her curly crimson locks back into a messy bun, Clementine wrapped a green scarf around her head. She stepped out of the kitchen and into the front hallway of the home, where a wooden coat rack sat filled with cloth. She took hold of a spearmint shawl, throwing it over her shoulders, and flattened out the white dress she wore underneath. She approached the front door of her home when she was prepared, inhaling deeply before twisting the doorknob and letting the cold air hit her face. Instantly, she shivered, but proceeded to step out onto the porch. Boot prints followed behind her as she stepped down the front steps and into the yard. 

      Arms crossed over her chest, she made her way over to a wooden shed. It was small, built from the same wood that her house was, but sizable enough for a variety of gardening equipment. The entrance was blocked by a mountain of snow, but with enough kicking Clementine managed to sweep the snow away. The flooring creaked as she stepped inside, evidence of its age. She walked to the farthest corner of the shed where a snow shovel, covered in spiderwebs and coated in a thick layer of dust, sat dormantly. She took hold of it and headed back outside, where she began working on the long and tedious snow shoveling job. 

      The sun had only shifted a tad since she started shoveling, and she could already feel tensing in her lower body. Her uncovered fingers were numb and red, gripping tightly at the shovel’s wooden end as she pounded the blade into the dirt, barely making a dent in the pile of snow. Her cheeks burned against the frigid air, sharp inhales of coldness only further slowing her progress. After only a couple more strikes, she took a second to breathe, shoving the shovel’s blade into the deep snow and leaning on the handle. She exhaled, puffing out a cloud of steam, and closed her eyes.

      There wasn’t a chance that she would finish, was there? Her best option was to head into town and see if she could find assistance. But she presumed that the townsfolk were hard at work on fixing their own yards. How long could she even leave her crops under the snow before they got destroyed? Her mind raced, and her eyelids tensed.

      That’s when she heard a light rustle in a nearby bush. Her eyes popped open, and she turned her head in the direction of the sound. She came to a standstill, watching the now silent bundle of leaves flutter in the icy wind. Her eyebrow cocked, intrigued by the presence of another lifeform. Perhaps a pesky rabbit had come to her farm hoping to find some unburied carrots. Maybe a sly fox was searching for an open underground burrow to sleep until the snow melted? After a decent window of time passed by she propped herself upright, letting her fingers slide away from the shovel. Whatever was in the bush, it stopped moving the second she noticed it’s presence. Cautiously, she took a step towards the greenery.

     “Hey there, little critter,” she cooed, “there’s no need to be frightened.” Mainly, she was concerned that the animal could be injured. Taking a couple more steps, she pulled a hand out in front of her, holding her palm welcomingly to the sky.

      “Come on out now. I’ve got some yummy carrots inside the house for.. you…”

       Her voice trailed off as her eyes spotted a peculiar detail. A bundle of blue feathers, each pigmented in their own way, swayed gently from side to side behind the bush. With squinting puzzled eyes, she attempted to fathom what sort of animal she was dealing with. Time was not on her side, however, and a sudden scramble in the leaves forced her to take a step back. 

      In an instant, a blue blur ascended from the bush, leaping higher than any sort of rabbit ever could. Clementine gasped, throwing her arms over her face instinctually as the unfocused creature lunged at her. It’s clawed paws connected with her chest, and she was thrown backwards, the back of her head cushioned by the snow as it made contact. She whipped her hands away from her face in a quick effort to try and push herself off the ground, but the creature landed right on top of her body, weighing her down. Her eyes widened in fear, vision blurred from the sudden fall. It took a moment, but as her eyes readjusted she took in the sight of a terrifying beast.

       Icicle-like claws extended from a pair of furry baby blue paws. They put pressure on her, but refused to penetrate the fabric of her crumpled shawl. Two menacing eyes, shaped like those of a cat and colored a deep midnight blue, stared down at her. A snout sat directly below, extended outward with a pair of flaring nostrils. Pearly white teeth, sharp enough to tear flesh, extended from the creature’s mouth. It’s chin was covered in long ruffled fur, which held the same hue as its paws. Perhaps the strangest feature was twin, outstretched wings that casted a dark shadow over the petrified girl. They were translucent in the middle, outlined by pale blue fur. The same bundle of feathers she had seen previously were attached to the end of the creature’s tail, and it swayed behind it.

      A dragon. Fictitious creatures which were described as deadly predators to all who stepped foot on their territory. Clementine gulped down a lump in her throat that she didn’t know she had. A killer storybook animal had her pinned down on her own property. Was fighting an option? She’d most likely get ripped to shreds by those insanely sharp teeth. Fleeing? She could barely muster the courage to lift her arms. All she could do was squeeze her shaky eyes shut and await her fate. Though, strangely enough, the feathered tail behind the creature began to sway a bit faster.

       Moments passed, and those moments turned into multiple seconds. Clementine could feel the feathers of the tail brushing against her leg. Reluctantly, she peeked through her eyelids, and was met with an eerily comforting sight. The dragon was playfully wide eyed, its mouth opened and pinkish tongue drawled out. A small gob of slobber dripped from its tongue and onto Clem’s face as it chirped, the sound similar to the call of a robin. This deadly beast was looking for fun, and she couldn’t have felt more relieved. She slowly lifted her hands from the snow, cautiously setting her fingers on to the dragon’s flank. The fur was just about the softest thing she had ever felt, and her hands instantly filled with warmth. 

      The dragon hopped off of the girl’s stomach, bouncing up and down with glee from the gentle touch. It’s wings folded to its sides, and it yipped like an attention deprived puppy. Clem hoisted her upper body upwards, sitting and watching the dragon’s movements. Despite her mixture of confusion and terror, she found room to laugh. 

     “Hyper little thing, aren’t you?” She spoke quietly, standing up and looking down at the leaping creature. “Bouncing around like a little pogo stick, huh?” 

      A second barely had time to pass before the creature leaped upwards with full force, jumping into Clem’s chest once more. Luckily she was somewhat prepared, and managed to gather the dragon clumsily in her arms. She steadied herself, and the fluffy monster sang out approvingly. It raised its snout towards her face, its tongue lapping the bottom of her chin. She cracked a smile, giggling at the gesture.

     “You like that, hm? Pogo?” The dragon snorted loudly, and then let out a wet sneeze. Cementines eyes softened, and she ran her fingers through the creature’s fluff filled back. Rocking it back and forth like an infant, she turned towards her home.

      “Well then, Pogo. Why don’t we get you warmed up? I’ve still got those carrots inside that I mentioned earlier!”

       The dragon buried its snout into her chest, snuggling into her comforting hold. Clementine pulled the monster close. Leaving her shovel in the ground and her garden unkempt, she made her way back to her front porch, retracing her old boot prints up the stairs. She twisted the doorknob, walked through the entrance, and let an icy wind shut the door behind her.