Gelid’s Gale: The Rising Wind
· 7 min read
After eight straight weeks of partying, The Junction had finally settled down. This year’s Grave Rave had been one to remember. Grandpappy watched the other toys busily putting up lights and tinsel, a smile on his face.. As The Junction’s resident MC, the old toy loved seeing crowds of Blankos running around, dancing, and competing with one another. Yes, partying brought the old toy a profound sense of joy.
But nothing compared to the quiet moments between parties Grandpappy had to himself.
Standing on his stoop in The Depot, Pappy took it all in. The narwhals circling the sky above Chompstack Hill, the Vender Blender’s gentle groans as a few early-rising Blankos trickled in for their morning MashUPs—this place was truly a wonder to behold. The Junction had grown a lot since he’d first arrived, but the old toy’s favorite view was still pretty much the same.
Pappy groaned as he reached for his toes. His joints weren’t as limber as they used to be, so his fingers didn’t quite touch the tops of his sneakers, but he liked to think he was still fairly spry. From a deep squat he leapt into the air and landed with a flourish atop one of his giant speakers. For a moment he felt brand new.
He had a perfect view of Maker Point. If you caught it at just the right moment, the moonlight would shine through the Think Tank causing it to glow like a light bulb of inspiration in the sea of infinite clouds that surrounded The Junction. It was impossible to not feel a sense of hope.
Standing there, Pappy felt completely at peace. A gentle breeze blew across his face. This was pure tranquility. It was as if he was enclosed in a private bubble of serenity. He closed his eyes to savor the moment.
Instead of quiet reflection, the old toy was met with an unexpected, ear-splitting POP. It was as if someone unseen person had reached out and pierced his happy bubble with a pin.
“GAH! WHY, Shaman?!” Pappy gasped. The slim toy who'd just appeared, hovering gently on a cushion of cloud, laughed at his shock.
No matter how many times he experienced them, Pappy always jumped at Shaman’s sudden—and usually unwelcome—apportations. No one else could hop through space like that. That toy was something else.
“Ha! That never gets old! What’s the haps, Paps?” the mystic toy said. He stretched his four arms to the sky, causing the stars in the nebula pattern of his hoodie to shimmer in the moonlight.
Shaman had been in The Junction almost as long as Pappy had, but it was Shaman who had worked hard to make the floating archipelago feel like home. He’d organized The Figures—the first toys to party in The Junction—when The Maker vanished and encouraged them to keep building up their little city. It was Shaman who’d taken it upon himself to guide Blankos to The Junction. It was the Shaman who had done so much to keep hope alive through the darkest of days. That’s why they’d chosen Shaman to lead them. Yes, the two toys had been through a lot together. And through it all, Shaman had learned exactly how to get under Pappy’s skin.
The spritely toy did an obnoxious windmill in the air above his little cloud, as if he was spinning in the chilly breeze that was kicking up across the Depot. Or maybe it was just to taunt Pappy.
“I’ve told you umpteen-thousand times to stop sneakin’ up on me like that,” Pappy said in a huff. “Whaddya want, anyhow?”
“Not a lot. Just got back from out there. Thought I’d check in,” Shaman said.
“This place is really coming back to life,” said Pappy. “Whatever you’re doing seems to be working.”
Shaman settled into a more meditative pose. “It does seem that way, doesn’t it? Still, I wish I could find—”
But whatever the mystic was going to say was lost in the wind that had suddenly become violent and ice cold.
“By the beats…” Shaman said in hushed astonishment. “What is that?”
Pappy followed Shaman’s gaze out into the night sky, his eyes growing wide at the sight of a cobalt streak racing across the clouds. It was impossible to tell at this distance, but it looked like a giant snowball moving at impossible speeds. And it was on a direct collision course with Hype Park!
In the next moment, the frozen mass made landfall, sending a rippling shockwave across the floating city and covering the park in a thick blanket of snow.
“What could it be?” Pappy inquired. Never in his memory had The Junction seen snow.
“I’m not sure,” Shaman replied. “But I’m going to go find out.” And with that, Shaman disappeared with a POP.
“GAH!” Pappy exclaimed again and began making his way down from the top of his speaker.
In an instant, Shaman reappeared in the shadow of Hype Park’s open gate. Already gathered there were three of the other Figures: Willow, Shaman’s sister and an expert in Skills, Chauncey the shopkeeper, and the youngest of The Figures, the highflying Jet Pack Jenny.
“Like, what is this, Sha?” Willow said, gesturing with disgust at the drifts of snow that were now covering not only Hype Park but also Chompstack Hill and The Bizaar. “Half The Junction is covered and it’s so not the vibe.”
“Word. Is this one of Kit’s experiments gone wrong?” Chauncey said anxiously. “I’m worried the Blankos won’t be able to get through this stuff to hit the shop.”
Shaman didn’t respond to their complaints. He was distracted. The strange weather was more intense here. He could barely see his friends' faces. He strained his eyes against the squall. Was there a hulking shadow at the center of this storm? Perhaps he was seeing things…
“Jenny, can you take off in this?” Shaman asked pointedly.
The young Figure was usually something of a chatterbox, but the icy chill seemed to have frozen her tongue.
“I--I think so…”Jenny said.
“Good,” Shaman said, giving the pilot a confident look. “I just want you to head straight up and see what you can see. Then come right back down. Should be easy for an Ace like you.”
With a nervous smile, Jenny nodded her head and fired up her jetpack.
Shaman called after her as she took off, “Straight up and straight back down!”
Once Jenny disappeared into the snow, Shaman floated down from his hovering cloud and set his feet on the ground. The wise toy rarely let his shoes touch the ground, so Willow and Chauncey knew something was amiss.
“Something is wrong,” he said. “There’s something…just over there, I can feel it. Wait here for Jenny while I go investigate. And whatever you do, don’t follow.”
Willow and Chauncey exchanged a look, then nodded.
He could have teleported to the center of the storm, but to do so blind was dangerous. Instead, Shaman pushed through the forceful wind on foot. He looked back just once to ensure that Jenny had touched down safely. Through the growing blizzard he could barely make out the glow of her jets as she neared the ground.
Though the distance he had to travel was short, it seemed an eternity before the mystic toy broke through the gale and found himself at the eye of the tempest. The wind was calm and apart from the snow, things seemed almost normal.
Then he spotted it. Standing in the middle of the park was a terrifying horned creature. Its visage was ferocious—teeth bared, its scaly blue-black hide was cracked with icy fissures—but, it was the voice that froze Shaman where he stood.
“Greetings mortal! Have you come to pay respect to Gelid Zero?” the creature bellowed in a hollow tone that resembled a winter wind whipping through a cold, dark cave.
“Gelid Zero? Is that what you call yourself?” Shaman said.
“Ha! I see tales of my greatness have yet to reach this land,” Gelid replied. “I have razed with winter across all of creation and now I claim the realm as my own.
Shaman was not prepared for this. The Junction was still recovering from the last time party crashers showed up. Curse The Maker.
“Sorry to tell you, Gelid” Shaman said, putting on a brave face, “but someone’s already called dibs on this realm. Several someones, actually. Why don’t you turn off the storm and we can talk.”
“You dare defy The Bringer of Blizzards?” Gelid said incredulously, “This realm is mine. There will be no negotiations. You and your friends will either accept my terms or freeze.”
Friends? A literal chill shot down Shaman’s back. How did Gelid know about the others? Shaman turned just in time to see Willow, Chauncey and Jenny emerge from the swirling vortex of the storm.
“I thought I said to stay put,” Shaman said to his friends as they came to his side.
“Bro, you know I never listen to anything you say,” Willow said matter of factly, patting a handful of snow into a perfect sphere as she spoke. She then turned to address Gelid. “Dude, you can’t just show up in someone else's house and mess with the thermostat. Not cool.”
“Not cool?!” Gelid roared. “I am the frost. I am winter. I AM THE COO--“
The monster’s tantrum was cut short by a hard-packed snowball hitting him in the face. Shaman turned to face Willow, who shrugged smugly. As the elder toy opened his mouth to apologize, the swirling winter vortex that surrounded the group slowed to a gentle breeze and Gelid erupted in a fit of laughter.
“MWAHAHA! You dare challenge me, Gelid Zero to a snowball fight?” He laughed. “I knew this place had promise, but now, you must pay.”
No sooner were the words spoken than the squall whipped back up. Shaman turned to see his friends engulfed in a flury more furious than anything they had yet faced.
Then everything went white.
Pappy was just nearing the bridge to Hype Park when he was once again startled by one of Shaman’s unannounced appearances.
“Boo,” Shaman said.
Despite the joke, Shaman looked worried. More than that; he was translucent. This wasn’t Shaman’s physical form. He had appeared to his old friend as an astral projection.
“Where’s your body?” Pappy replied as the wind and snow passed right through Shaman. “I want to smack you.”
“Well, you’ll have to wait on that, Paps… A few of us seem to have caught a cold. For now, I suggest you stay out of the park. We’ll need you healthy if we’re going to figure this thing out.”