* The human imagination can conjure fantastic tales of magic, whimsical creatures, and heroic adventures...but where do reality and fantasy cross one another? Sometimes the only people who know the answer to this are viewed as "not all there," or even insane...but maybe their eyes just so happen to be more open than the rest of us...*
(The following transcript is from a recording made on a handheld tape recorder. It was discovered on the side of the road beside an abandoned red Hyundai near Buford, GA. Recovered and played back by authorities on January 16th at 7:32am.)
FEMALE VOICE: I’m going to write all this down later, but I can’t very well write by hand while I’m driving a car, can I? (She chuckles.) I should’ve thought this through better. I hope the ink in the pen doesn’t freeze. Shoot, what if she figures that out? Or she coats my paper in ice so I can’t write on it? Can you trap someone in a tape recorder? It’s kind of like writing. I’m sure Mr. Andersen would’ve done it that way, had recorders been invented back then.
(There is silence.)
I’m so bad at speaking. This is why I’m a writer. You can go back and edit what you write. But once you say something, it’s out there. You can’t take it back. God, I hate this. She’s really trying to keep me away. And it doesn’t help when she’s managed to scare the entire state into submission with these stupid snow bees—
(There is the sound of a car horn blaring in the background.)
Move it! Christ, half the people in this state don’t know how to drive in good weather, what makes them think they can drive in this…(She takes a deep breath.) Oh God, what if I got one of those shards in my eye? No, I would’ve felt it. It would’ve hurt. I’m just…I’m just angry right now. That’s all. Just normal, human frustration. But I can’t be that way. Not right now.
(There is silence.)
Dr. Warren, you’ll probably be one of the people who listens to this, if I don’t make it back. Is it all right if I call you Sicily? You said I could. First of all, Sicily, you were right. I haven’t been taking the pills. I hope you’re not disappointed in me. I know I lied a lot to you, so you thought I was…getting better, I guess. Actually, I’m sure you knew I was lying. I’m not good at it. But I can’t pretend to be blind anymore. I know what you said, about people who blur the lines between fantasy and reality. But, I don’t think I’m inventing stuff because I’m bored with my life, or angry about something, or whatever you said it could be. This…this is happening. I’m sorry I have no way to prove it to you. I really wish I did. I guess…I don’t want to you think that what happens to me is your fault. No one else believes me either. At least you tried to understand, to rationalize it all. Honestly, in a way, I think because you tried to…fit it all into the frame of…what I mean is, because you tried to explain it in a way that everyone else would understand it, and I know that what you were trying to convince me of wasn’t right at all, it made me realize how real this is. That what I’ve known all along is true. So…you did give me some clarity, which is what I think I was looking for in the first place. So thank you. Sicily.
(There is silence.)
Oh, and your hair looks really cute short. I forgot to tell you that last time.
(There is silence.)
Um…I’m going to say some very personal stuff now. So, whoever is listening to this, if you found Derrick, please pass this to him. If he’s not there, just stop playing this. The stop button’s the red one with the square on it. I’ll pause for a few seconds so you can stop this.
(There is silence.)
Derrick, I hope you’re the one listening to this. I know you put up with a lot of crap from me. You’re a very loving, supportive man. I love you for that. And I’m hoping you’re listening to this because you managed to escape from her. I…really, really hate her. I knew she was waiting for the right time. And it’s because of me you were dragged into this. She wouldn’t be trying to take you now if it wasn’t—
(She gasps, and there is a grinding of the brakes locking up. This is followed by a long silence.)
Oh…oh God…pen, pen…
(There is a ruffling of paper.)
No…no…I can’t see…
(The wind outside grows louder.)
God…where is she? She was just…
(She honks the car horn.)
I’m not afraid of you! Come over here!
(There is silence except for the wind.)
I can’t see her. Her snow bees are…clouding everything…but I know she’s right outside. I saw…I know I saw…she’s not going to show herself until I…until I get out. (She sighs.) The queen really is the most powerful piece on the board, isn’t it? I’m not playing. I’m not playing.
(There is a noise of the tape recorder being picked up. The car door opens, and the wind howls louder. The car door slams shut. The female voice is now muffled a little, possibly due to the recorder being in a pocket.)
I’m right here! Just me. No paper, no pen. See? So, you’re going to be a coward all night, or are you going to show yourself?
(The wind howls.)
(She speaks in a low voice.) The Snow Queen…is tall…slender…from what I could tell…crap, this isn’t going to work. It’s too stilted. It’s not…good enough…
(She raises her voice.) Where’s Derrick? Do you have him? He’s not yours! You can’t just take any man you want! You don’t have any real power. You’re in Georgia, for crying out loud. It’ll be eighty degrees by the end of the week. (She laughs.) All this, all your work, is going to shrivel away and die, just like you. How pathetic is that, that you can melt in the sun…even lizards, even bugs, are better than you. Why should I be—
(The wind howls. There is a wheezing sound.)
Christ…Christ…black eyes like obsidian…like two bottomless chasms of molten glass…(She begins to speak faster.) Faceless…featureless, like a…like a barn owl, just those massive black eyes set in a smooth untouched canvas…(She coughs.) No, not faceless, not now…I think…Oh, oh my God…why do you look like…is that what I look like? Somehow I knew…I knew you’d be a mirror…I only wish I looked like that…
(There is an indecipherable noise in the background.)
Can I…can I spell? Spell what?
(The wind hisses.)
Eternity? Is that what you—
(There is a sudden explosive screech, followed by static. The screech sounds like tires halting on pavement, but one audio engineer claimed it sounds like some sort of animal, although no local zoologist or wildlife expert has been able to identify it.)
* * *
(The subsequent documentation is a diary entry from a leather-bound journal, found in a townhouse in the historical district of Gainesville, GA. Authorities believe it was written a few hours before the tape recording was created.)
I must write this. I need to write this, otherwise I may never see him again.
She’s taking him away from me. I know it. They didn’t believe me when I told them about her. I’ve come to learn no one believes me when I tell them about the things I see. When I was young, my parents would just smile at me when I told them about the things. “So imaginative,” I would hear them tell other people who asked how I was. “She makes up such unusual stories and characters.” As I got older, I learned to stop talking about the things, because I knew what they did to older kids who said that they saw things. The adults sent them away, somewhere. I heard it wasn’t a nice place. I didn’t want to be sent away, so I stopped talking about it.
But someone needs to know. Someone has to believe me, or she’ll take him away from me.
And I know she’s real. Know how I know? Because I’m not the first person who knows about her. Mr. Andersen knew about her. He wrote a whole story about her, and it wasn’t like his other “fairy tales.” This one was very detailed, all about where she lived, how she lured boys and men away from their homes, how she kept them hidden away in her castle. It is pieces of a mirror, you see. There was a mirror made that distorted everything that was reflected in it, making everything good look bad and everything beautiful look ugly. But it was shattered, and the tiny shards of mirror blew away in the wind, and some got caught in little boys’ eyes and it made them mean and nasty. That’s when she comes and takes them away, because she’s the only thing that looks beautiful to them after they get the mirror in their eyes. But you can’t see the shards if they come down at you, because they mix in perfectly with her snow, or “snow bees,” as Mr. Andersen put it. It makes sense. She is the Snow Queen, after all, like a queen bee, so she has snow bees to serve her. People think they’re snowflakes. They’re actually bees. Very quiet, very soft bees.
That’s how I know she’s behind this. Georgia never gets snow like this. Maybe once or twice a winter, we get a light dusting of snow bees. They don’t live very long so when they die they accumulate on the ground into a nice white blanket. One year Derrick and I made a snowman, even though I knew we were making it out of dead bees, but he liked it so I built the snowman with him. I don’t mind that so much. But this…this is a living, breathing swarm, and here in Georgia we don’t have plows or salt trucks to shrivel away all the dead bees that pile up on the roads. They’re kind of like slugs, in that sense. But, of course, I’m not concerned with the dead ones. It’s the living ones, filling the air with swirling bodies that sting at your face and fingers and nose and force you to stay inside.
He still had to go to work. It is an hour’s drive to get there, and the news on TV had already warned that the storm would hit overnight. The company rented out rooms at the hotel down the street from the building where he works. He told me it was safer to stay there than trying to drive home in this weather. Don’t worry, it’ll only be one night, he said. It made sense to him. I had never told him about the bees. Maybe he would have stayed home if I had. Snow bees are much scarier sounding than snowflakes. No one would go to work if they knew it was a swarm of bees outside.
Fortunately, the store I work at closed for the day of the storm, so I stayed safe and sound inside the house. I saw the swarm enveloping everything outside, in that dreadfully quiet way that the bees do, and I sat back with my honey vanilla tea, trying to remember if snow bees made something like honey. I don’t know if they do, but I bet it’s something thick and awful like molasses. Then my thoughts turned to her, the Snow Queen, and I realized she must have sent out such a massive swarm because she was planning to take someone away with her, take someone up to her ice castle far away. Which meant she was hiding pieces of the mirror in this storm, waiting to see who would be the lucky ones to get a piece caught in their eyes.
He’ll be fine, I told myself. He’s either in the car, inside at his job, or inside at the hotel. He can’t get a mirror shard stuck in his eye if he’s inside.
But then the snow bees got mean. They turned fat and wet and heavy, which meant their dead bodies created a slate of ice on the roads. He called me from the hotel room, saying that the highway was still too dangerous and he was going to stay at the hotel another night.
I wanted to go to him. I knew if she found out he was by himself, she would take him away. But I also knew if I went outside, she would order her snow bees to sting me to death. Even if I wrapped myself from head to toe in coats and scarves and hats so they couldn’t sting me through the fabric, she would send the winter demons after me in the car and throw me off the road. See, I knew about those winter demons. Mr. Andersen wrote about them as well. The little girl in his story fought the winter demons away by using her warm breath to create angels with swords and shields, and they slew all the monsters. But if I’m in the car, I can’t use my breath to do that. I don’t think I could anyway. The little girl in the story was innocent and pure hearted. I think I’m too old to be that way.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet why the Snow Queen hates me. I mean, I don’t think she likes much of anyone, which is why she stays tucked away in her ice castle most of the time. But me, she allows the burn of hatred into her ice-cold heart. I think it started that one Halloween when I dressed up like her. It was a fairy tale themed party at a coworker’s apartment, and given that it was autumn, I thought maybe the Snow Queen wouldn’t notice as I think she sleeps during the warmer months. I don’t really know how she looks, but I found a beautiful white dress at the local thrift store for $13, and I had a white mask and wig and gloves at home, and I thought I would be the only one dressed like her at the party so I would stand out. I was right. A lot of people really liked my costume. They said I was beautiful. I let it get to my head.
That was the mistake. If I had just been modest, and shrugged away the compliments, that would have been fine. But for just a moment—half a moment—I believed I really was beautiful, that I was every bit the queen I was impersonating. I felt that I belonged in that dress, that mask, that disguise. But she must have found out about it, must have sensed my pride and vanity. I had usurped her image, fouled it with my arrogance, so now she hates me. And she has been planning her revenge to teach me a lesson. I stole her facade, so now she wants to steal my husband. She’s very talented at that, stealing young men away. It’s probably her best skill.
He called again the next day. He said he was sorry, but the guy who normally did the midnight shift couldn’t make it to work because of the ice. Since he was already staying there at the hotel, his supervisor asked him to cover. “Don’t worry,” he said, “the highway looks like it’s already clearing up so by morning I should be able to come straight home. Just one more night.”
So I said that I didn’t have to go into work tomorrow. If the highway is clear, I could drive up and stay with him at the hotel.
He said his supervisors might get mad if they knew someone else was staying in the room that the company’s paying for.
I said I’d just slip in and out without anyone seeing. But he said one of the other coworkers staying here might notice and tell on him.
So I asked how much would it cost to rent out a room for a night. That way we could stay together in a room I’d pay for, so no one could complain.
He said it wouldn’t be worth it. He’d be working all night so I wouldn’t see him anyway. He promised to come straight home in the morning and we’d spend the day together.
It was a lie. I knew it. He didn’t want me to come be with him. He had been pierced in the eye by one of the Snow Queen’s mirror shards. He no longer loves me, and tonight she is going to steal him from me.
So I need to write this, because I know that writing things down, the things I know about, will trap them in these pages. Maybe if I see her, learn what she actually looks like and sounds like and thinks like, then I can write it down and trap her here. Or if not her, maybe her power, which would be good enough. I just need to figure out where Mr. Andersen failed. When he wrote about her, I think he had her trapped, for a while. That’s why no one else for a long time has said if they’ve ever seen the Snow Queen. And that’s why the snow bees have never been a real threat, why everyone thinks they are just harmless snowflakes, because Andersen trapped their power in the story. But she got free, somehow. It all got free. They slipped back into the world, and maybe that’s another reason why she hates me. Because I write. Because I’m a writer who knows that I can trap her here.
But if she takes him away tonight, and I go after her to trap her in these pages, I may never come back. I may forget the way back, or be stung to death, or be frozen alive, or she might even trap me first. So, if anything, I must write this so you know what became of me. So I embed a tiny bit of myself here, so if you stumble across me someday, lost in the world without my memory, which I could easily lose, then you can show this to me and maybe I’ll remember.
Just remember, these pages are a cage. If you are one of the rare ones who believe me, who knows what I know and can see what I see, then don’t get caught in these pages. Just be careful. Don’t get stung. And don’t forget.