Fish and Drift Hide and Seek
THE ARCTIC WIND SNATCHED Fish’s words from her mouth and laced them into its howl.
“Ready or not.”
Fish sighed and looked around. She had walked, well, Drifted really, so far North there wasn’t much to see. Just another snow-clad valley scooped out of the blue sky like a large bite from an ice cream.
“I told you this was stupid,” she shouted. But, again close as she was to her own mouth, even she had difficulty hearing her own words. There was no chance Drift would hear, wherever he was.
Drift was her friend. It had been his idea to get up early and travel into the valley which lay beyond the last frozen forest. Drift was a snowman, one of the nice ones but still someone most people preferred moved along out of their towns. He could change shape when he was fat with snow and was perfectly happy carrying Fish whenever she moaned about her little legs being too tired.
Fish often moaned.
The girl wrinkled her face and kicked at the snow with her boot. “Hide and Seek,” she muttered. “Dumbest idea since carrot noses.”
“Oi!” said Drift. “I ‘eard that.” A pile of snow shivered to its feet and a stumpy, orange nose splashed into view. This was followed by two dark eyes which shifted about upon Drift’s bumpy face until they were more or less in the right place. “You’re just jealous,” he said, poking Fish’s tiny nose with a finger of snow.
“I am NOT.” Fish poked him back, pushing Drift’s nose through his head and into the snow behind him.
“DOP DAT,” said Drift. He sneezed. A plume of snowflakes scattered into the wind. “Aha!” said the snowman as he plunged a fist into the snow to retrieve his nose. “Your turn.”
Fish, who was conspicuously dressed from head to toe in brown caribou skin, sighed. “This is the stupidest game ever.” But Drift had already covered his eyes.
“1… 2… 3…”
“OK, OK. I’ll hide.” For a moment, Fish considered sticking her arms out and pretending to be a tree. She’d fooled Drift with this before, even answering “I’m a tree” and sending him off in a different direction. Instead she tugged her hood down so that it almost covered her thick black eyebrows and stomped through the thick snow in search of a place to hide.
There was nowhere. It was snow all the way to the coast to here. Fish had wanted to get away from the town where she lived (and Drift mostly hid) from her mum. She didn’t want to be banned from seeing her snowy friend.
This wasn’t a good time for snowmen – worse than usual, in fact. There was a lot of gossip about the Blizzard Brothers laying waste to some of the towns further inland. Fish knew Drift wasn’t like the Blizzard Brothers, but she was just a small child – who would hear what she had to say? Her mum hadn’t wanted to listen. Go and play, Fish, was all she had to say.
“2… oh no, I did that already. 8… 6…” Drift could always be heard. His rumbling voice rolled with the winds. They were getting stronger and Fish could easily hear him. He would lose interest in the numbers any second now and just come and find her. She may as well give up.
“I GIVE UP.” She hurled the words into the air but once again the wind snatched them and gobbled them up. Fish stopped and jumped into the air.
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll be a tree.” She hit the ground, making a small dip in the snow.
“I’ll plant myself.” She leapt again and landed again, deepening the hole with a BUMPF.
“I’ll just put down roots.” Once more, the girl jumped and landed.
“And stay here…” FLUMPF. The snow was soft, making the hole easy to shift.”
CRUMPF. The ground beneath her feet gave way.
“Coming, ready or not.” Drift looked around, a huge smile on his face. There was no sign of Fish. “That’s the spirit,” Drift said, clapping his hands together.
The snowman gathered himself up and became as tall as he could. With the winds beginning to whip up the top layer of snow, he managed quite a height and stayed for a few minutes before crumbling back to his usual size. It was tiring carrying too much snow and besides, he couldn’t see Fish anywhere.
“You’re very good at this,” he bellowed. He took a step forward and looked again. Still nothing. Gosh. She was good at this.
Fish, however, wasn’t hiding. Fish had fallen into one of this part of the Cold’s many chasms, or gaps, in the ice. This far North there wasn’t much difference between solid rock and solid ice. The sea made its way between the two and often carved out great caves for it to sit inside. Never one to panic, Fish instead took her time to look around.
Below the surface, the chasm was a milky green colour. Sunlight dipped and danced upon its walls of frozen water. Fish had slid quite a way until she had come to rest upon a shelf of sea shell white ice. She peered over the edge, her gloves clinging, and saw that the chasm opened out even further below and spread a long way across from her. Kind of beautiful, she grumbled to herself.
There didn’t appear to be any way of climbing back – the entrance to the chasm was at least twice as tall as she was – so the only hope she had was to shout for Drift. The trouble was, Fish hadn’t had much success with being heard in all that wind. But here there was no wind, and all was eerily quiet. So she took a deep breath.
“I’M DOWN HERE,” she called. This time, unlike before she had fallen, her words boomed. The space below the ice took her voice and turned it into that of a giant. “HERE HERE HERE” it said to her. She laughed and the echoes laughed with her.
“I AM A GIANT,” she said. And the echoes made it sound true.
When the chasm was quiet once more, Fish listened. There was no sign of Drift who, not far from her head, was behaving more like a dog searching for its own tail than a friend searching for her.
The snowman was running around and around, sniffing, scratching and yet still not seeing the hole into which Fish had fallen.
“Coming, ready or not,” he said again. “Coming, ready or not.” Each time the snowman completed a circle he bounced up and down to look through the gathering snowstorm. His body grew thin as he extended himself higher and then grew fat as he hugged the ground. There was no sign of Fish anywhere.
But there was a sign of something else.
Something very worrying indeed.
In the distance, the snowstorm had begun to take on a familiar and unwelcome shape. Drift recognised it and collapsed himself as flat as he could, pushing his nose into the snow.
“Oh dear,” said Drift. “Ohdearohdearohdear.”
It was the Blizzard Brothers. Clear as ice but not as nice. The Blizzard Brothers were two of the worst rogues ever to be seen in the Cold. Everyone knew them – even Drift, who rarely remembered anyone. They swept through towns causing havoc and left just as quickly, causing even more damage. They took what they liked and destroyed what they didn’t. Nothing good came of a visit from the Blizzard Brothers. Nobody really know what the brothers actually looked like beneath all the snow and ice they kept whirling around them but it was definitely them and Drift didn’t fancy hanging around.
Inching his way along the ground, Drift hoped they would go over his head. After all, most things did. His half carrot nose led the way, sniffing as he moved. He moved one eye to the top of his head so that he could avoid the danger. The other eye he kept tucked under his chin, to keep it safe. And on he crawled.
He’d moved only a short way when he smelled something. It wasn’t a good smell but it wasn’t altogether bad either. He decided to follow it. As he moved, a thought began to form… and then melted away before he had even noticed because his other eye, the one under his chin, had suddenly filled with light from a hole in the ground.
“Oh hello,” he said, directing his mouth down the chasm he’d rolled over as he spied a familiar figure. “Fancy meeting you here. What on ice are you doing down there?”
Fish hissed back at him. “I’m stuck,” she said through her teeth. “Playing your silly game of HIDE AND SEEK.”
“Oh,” said Drift. “Can I play too?”
Fish stamped her foot, which made the shelf she was stood upon ring out and echo. It was useless trying to explain anything to Drift so she gave him a scowl and changed the subject.
“Just,” she said. “Just help me out.”
Drift gave her a big smile and stretched his head down into the chasm, one eye still looking out for the Blizzard Brothers and the other gazing around where Fish stood. “If…” he began, in his most thoughtful voice. “If you were a penguin you’d be able to fly out of here.”
The sigh which came from Fish was sharp enough to start its own blizzard. “Penguins,” she said as though she was being the most patient person on the planet, “can not fly.”
The snowman thought about this. “So how did they get here then?” he said. “Across the sea, I mean? Aren’t we on an island?”
Fish spluttered. “They… Never mind. It doesn’t matter. I’m not a penguin. They can’t fly and nor can I. AND THIS IS NOT HELPING.”
“Oh,” said Drift. “Sorry. I’ll just wait here with you then.”
“No. You can reach down and pick me up,” she shouted. Her voice was loud enough to cause a panic of echoes in the chasm, which frightened Drift.
“I think I’ll take my chances with the Blizzard Brothers,” he said.
“The Blizzard Brothers?” Fish said. “Where?”
“Up there,” he said, pointing with his nose. “And getting closer every minute. But don’t worry, we’ll be safe down here.”
Fish relaxed. “Oh. Well that’s ok then. Come on down.”
Drift snaked down onto the shelf to join Fish. “You have such good ideas,” he said. “We can sit together and be safe whilst the Blizzard Brothers destroy the town where your mum lives.”
Drift smiled. “We’ll be fine,” he said, giving her a playful poke. “Thanks to you.”
Fish clambered onto the big snowman. “We can’t stay here?” she said. “Quickly, get us out.”
This was confusing. Drift put his face to Fish’s ear and looked through it. “Did your brains melt?” he asked. “Mine do, sometimes.”
“OUT. NOW,” said Fish with such a pushing a pulling that Drift found himself scrambling up out of the chasm and back into the snowstorm.
Fish tumbled off the snowman and leapt to her feet, brushing the snow from her. Her caribou clothes once again stuck out against the landscape. “You have to do something. Something to stop them.”
“Stop them?” Drift lowered himself into the snow and pulled his eyes back into their usual place. “Stop them, how?”
By this time the edge of the wide circle of chaos created by the Blizzard Brothers was level with the chasm. They hadn’t noticed Fish or Drift, intent instead upon making it towards the coastal town where Fish’s mum was.
Fish leant against Drift and shoved him as hard as she could. “I don’t know,” she said. “Run at them. Scare them away. Knock them off course. Just do something. We can’t let them destroy the town.”
“Scare them?” Drift rumbled. “Scare the Blizzard Brothers? Are your eyes in the right place? Can you see them? How do you scare something that big?”
Fish’s eyes were in the right place and she could see them. They swept across the frozen plain like two pirouetting rhinos, spinning a mean dance of destruction.
“Just do something,” Fish said again. “Please. I don’t want mum hurt.”
Drift always listened to Fish. When she told him to hide, he hid. When she told him not to drift through town, he listened and tiptoed (best he could). Fish looked out for Drift and Drift wanted to look out for Fish. With both eyes. He’d even add another if she asked.
“Alright then,” he said. “Reckon a big lump like me can attract their attention. One thing I know about the Blizzard Brothers is how they’re always hungry. So let’s see them pass up the chance for a snack like me.” He stood, rolled his belly with his great flat hands and began pawing at the snow with one foot.
Then he stopped.
“Think I’ll put on a bit of padding first, mind,” he said. Fish helped him pack more and more snow around his body until he was almost double his normal size.
She patted him on the cheek. “Be careful, Drift,” she said.
The snowman shifted his shape until he looked a bit like a steamroller with the legs of an elephant, and then he ran.
Drift roared as he galloped towards the Blizzard Brothers. If he could just knock them off course and take the wind out of their sails then he might just stand a chance. The closer he got to them, however, the more impossible that task seemed. The Blizzard Brothers were huge. He could see layers of snow and bits of wood and chairs and antlers and all sorts of things they’d picked up on their rampages. Around this was a further, but thinner, layer of snow – a whirling wall of wailing white.
Oh well, thought Drift. They’re still mostly only made of snow like me. And what harm can that do?
He picked up speed to narrow the gap between them and, with a 1… 2… 8… he hurled himself high into the air and then… FWALLOPF. The bulked up snowman slammed into the side of the Blizzard Brothers.
They didn’t even slow.
Drift found himself spinning around the outside of the Blizzard Brothers’ cocoon and hung on to a piece of the last town they’d visited. What on ice was he going to do now?
He had an idea. Drift thought he was good at ideas and so he congratulated himself on this one. He raised a mighty fist and was all set to bring it hammering into the side of the Blizzard Brothers when he became unbalanced and lost his grip. The twist of the whirlwind sent him flying skyward.
The Blizzard Brothers showed no sign of noticing him as he sailed away from them. He may as well have been a fly in a hurricane.
Drift flew through the air, clinging to the wide piece of wood, a fence of some sort, he’d pulled out with him. Lovely view from up here, he thought.
And then he landed with a SCHLUMPF, just a short distance from the chasm where he’d started. The fence panel landed on him, squashing him flat. SQUALF.
Fish ran to him. “Drift,” she said. “Drift. Are you alright?”
A rather slim voice called out in reply. “Fine. I’m fine.” The fence panel rose into the air, supported by two thin arms, and then it collapsed. “I’ll be fine.”
“Come. On,” Fish urged, pulling at the panel and helping Drift to slide out from under it. The snowman rolled around in the snow to thicken his body.
“Oh well, we tried. They didn’t even see me. Shall we play hide and seek again?” Drift drew a massive grin on his face and wobbled his eyes in what he hoped was an encouraging manner.
Fish poked him hard in the chest. “No we are…” She looked down at the fence panel and then at her own clothes. “Yes,” she said. “Let’s play hide and seek.”
Drift clapped his hands together and covered his eyes. “6…”
“No no.” Fish pulled at his hands and put her mouth to his ear. “I have a better idea,” she said. “We’re going to play like this…”
The thing which arose from the snow a few minutes later was like nothing anyone had ever seen – even in a place as unusual as the Cold.
There were quite a few towns in the Cold. And they stayed where they were put. Then there were quite a few snowmen in the Cold. They didn’t stay where they were put. But, by and large, it was fairly easy to tell one from the other.
Until that moment.
Fish and Drift had worked quickly to break the fence panel into a series of antlers, horns and claws. Drift extended eight new arms and four new heads, as Fish set about arranging the wood on his body. The snowman now looked… if not terrifying, at least peculiar.
“I don’t think this is a very good way to hide,” he said to Fish.
“That’s the point,” she replied. “I can never hide. I always stand out like some sort of tree and…”
“A tree?” said Drift. “Was that you all along?”
Fish glared at him. “The point,” she said, “is that against all this snow the only thing which can’t be seen is you. So we need to make more of… well… ME.” The little girl clambered up Drift and plonked herself on his shoulders. “So let’s go and be found.”
Then together, the strange combination of Fish, Drift and bits of town, chased after the Blizzard Brothers. “Faster,” urged Fish. “We have to be seen.” She waved her arms and began to shout. But her voice wasn’t strong enough and the winds snapped it into tiny syllables.
Drift took up the call. “WooHOO,” he bellowed, echoing the words around his chest before sending them out into the air.
“WOOHOOOO WOOOHOOO WOOHOOOOOOOOO.”
The effect of Fish, Drift, the fence panels and the sound was rather like a garden shed might look and sound if it came to life and needed a wee. It was certainly noticeable and the Blizzard Brothers slowed their pace.
“Uh-oh,” said Fish. “I think we’ve been seen.”
“WOODLEHOO WOOODLEHOOHOOO WOODLEHOOHOOOOOOOOOOO.”
“Ok, Drift,” said Fish. “That’s enough. They’re turning.”
The Blizzard Brothers had turned. They had turned in a sweeping great arc which gouged a new valley from the ice until they were facing Fish and Drift. They’d lost none of their power in the move and the distance between them was being gobbled up with alarming speed.
“WOOHOOO WOOOHOOOOOO WOOO–“
“Drift!” Fish poked him in the neck. “It’s time to run.”
“Woo, oh. Run. Right you are, little Fish.”
Thankfully, turning around was easy for a shape-shifting snowman and Drift simply popped his eyes and nose through the back of his head and spun his feet around. He bounded forward, narrowly missing being snapped up by the relentless twisting of the Blizzard Brothers.
Fish kept waving her arms around, just in case the Blizzard Brothers forgot who they were chasing.
“Come and get us, you big pair of turkey twizzlers,” she shouted. The Blizzard Brothers couldn’t hear her but she felt good saying it.
She turned her head to face forward again for a moment. “Ok, Drift,” she said. “Get ready… JUMP.”
Drift, remembering this part of the plan, jumped at just the right moment. He cleared the chasm entrance and landed in a heap just on the other side.
Fish rolled off Drift’s shoulders and stood to watch the Blizzard Brothers. This was their only chance. There would be no way to outrun them now. She held her breath.
The Blizzard Brothers whirled forwards and forwards and then… PLUMPF… they fell into the chasm. Fish raced to the edge and heard the snap of the shelf she’d landed on not long before. A howl echoed up through the hole and Fish waved back towards where Drift was collecting himself.
“Quick,” she shouted. “Last bit.”
Drift ran back to the edge and threw himself across the chasm, blocking the hole and preventing any more wind from helping the trapped Blizzard Brothers.
Through the covering Drift had provided, Fish could hear the cracking of ice. The ground shook with the strength of their anger but Drift kept a firm lid on things and Fish felt them quieten until, after a while, she risked lifting Drift a little to look inside. The Blizzard Brothers were visible, but only just. A ray of sunlight cut through the tiny hole and bounced around the green-white ice until it landed upon the heads of two creatures hopping and kicking in the depths of the chasm.
“Well well,” said Fish. “Whoever would have imagined the Blizzard Brothers were actually…”
But once again, the wind stole her words. Though this time, she didn’t mind.
—If you enjoyed this and you are thinking 'how on EARTH can I support this young man' then why not...
Illustrations © 2016 Carl Pugh. You can see more of Carl’s incredible illustrations HERE.