DISCLAIMER: I have influenza (which is a dramatic way of saying “the flu”). I’m pretty sure that this post isn’t contagious, but I ask that you be merciful as you read it.
The night I gained my superpower, I was outside in the middle of the night, completely unprepared for the wintry weather I had discovered. Luckily I was enjoying the novelty of it all, or I might have realized how uncomfortable I was.
Before that night I hadn’t known that cold could hurt. I was more familiar with heat, which I found to be obnoxious but not usually painful. I didn’t expect the cold to pounce on me like some sort of enormous, lurking, feral monkey as soon as I stepped outside. It did though, then tried to maim and kill me. Oddly, it started by stinging and numbing. Both at the same time like a swarm of beautiful, fluffy, white bumblebees made of Novocaine.
I mostly focused on the beautiful fluffy whiteness. Snow is entirely too attractive for my good.
There was one field in particular that drew me, a gorgeous swath of land in the center of campus. Since the snow was still falling and everyone else was asleep, it lay pristine. I was typically inclined to leave perfection unsullied–a useful excuse whenever I felt lazy–but this was my first snow so it might as well have been a field full building blocks and candy.
Unfortunately, it presented me with a difficult decision: to play or not to play. (Not quite Shakespearean, I admit, but Hamlet would have had a happier ending if that’s what the character had wondered.) I knew that If I went back to my room to dress appropriately, my drowsiness was likely to trick me into bed until morning. Or afternoon. There was no guarantee that the field wouldn’t be a mess by the time I got back to it. The other option was to play in the field without a coat, hat, gloves, scarf, or shred of sanity.
Actually, to be honest, the decision wasn’t difficult at all. Playing in the snow would probably have beaten any contender. By that time I’d been impatiently waiting for nineteen years. (Assuming of course that I began the moment I was born, which is only reasonable.)
Specifically, I wanted to go sledding. I had always thought that sledding looked dynamic and exhilarating. Unfortunately, of the two conditions I knew that would make sledding possible–a sled and a hill–neither was right; I had neither a sled nor a hill. I had a field. Even with a sled I would have just been sitting on a board in the snow. That might have made me look crazy.
I was later told, by those who watched me from their dorm room windows, that my actual activity did nothing to address that last concern. Wandering around at night in the snow without winter clothes isn’t the best place to start, I suppose.
I decided to build a snowman, but it wasn’t as simple as I hoped. I didn’t know how to pack a snowball, much less something the size of a snowman segment. I probably should have started with something more basic like a snow angel. I had never made one of those either, but I’d been told that the process consisted of a single step: falling over. That was more within my capabilities.
Instead, I quickly discovered that I didn’t enjoy packing snow with my bare hands. The rest of me was pretty cold too, and either numb or close to it, but my hands were more sensitive than my belly, knees, and whatnot. Everything else seemed content to protest peacefully; my hands went into open revolt and turned themselves into awkward painful flippers.
Flippers might be perfectly serviceable appendages for some creatures, but only ones with low expectations for their limbs in general. I figure that they’re mostly sufficient for the blubbery creatures like walruses, who don’t seem to care that they have limbs at all. If you don’t ask much, flippers are probably fine. I tend to ask a lot of my appendages, however. They usually disappoint–they don’t bend as well as I’d like, they ache when it’s cold and rainy, and not a one of them shoots fire–but I ask anyway.
No doubt flippers are why walruses don’t build snowmen even though they live in the arctic. Also I suppose they’d build snowwalruses. (I don’t know what snowwalrus-man’s powers might be. Ice fishing?) I might have had better luck with a snowwalrus. Building a snowman was hard.
Nevertheless, by the grace of and mercy of God, who had probably been laughing the whole time, I eventually managed to craft a somewhat misshapen fellow with a height of about three feet. Then I got ambitious.
There’s a story about Saint Francis of Assisi, about how the devil was pestering him one day, trying to get him to renounce his vow of celibacy by making him long for a wife and children. Saint Francis, with his typical flare, drew figures in the snow and shouted back, “These are my family!”
When I saw my snowman, I decided that he needed a snow family too, so that he wouldn’t be snow lonely. (Apparently I didn’t want to make either snow angels or snow saints.) I built a snowwife and snowbaby for him, then set the three on a nearby bench as though they were enjoying a pleasant outing.
I was pretty proud of the whole adventure. I kept whooping and laughing with happiness. (It’s possible that I didn’t know how not to look crazy.) When I got back to my dorm though, the consequences started.
I didn’t find thawing to be much more fun than freezing. In fact it hurt just like freezing, but in reverse order. My hands in particular didn’t enjoy the recovery, but they were metamorphosing into something grand. (Any word built off of “morph” is exhausting.)
Ever since that day they’ve had a prognostic gift. They use a special sort of divination to detect the activity of germs and other contagions, then warn me about it in the most direct possible way.
Or, to be more straightforward, they ache whenever I’m about to get sick. That’s my superpower: I have infirm hands. They don’t glow or change shape, they just succumb easily to illness. Like I said, I can’t fight crime with it.
Much more impressively, my snow family lasted until spring. I didn’t know it at the time, because it was the middle of the night, but I put them on a bench that never received direct sunlight.
By the time I woke up the next morning, the field was a mess, just like I had thought it would be. After a couple of days, that mess and the rest of the snow on campus had melted away. My snow family became more popular after that. On more than one occasion, I heard total strangers talking about them with a level of fondness that nearly matched my own.
I’m not saying that to brag; it wasn’t anything I planned after all. For me it was only a bit of late night foolishness. As much as I occasionally wish for hands that don’t hurt, though, it made so many people happy that I wouldn’t undo it if I had the chance.
If only it could have given me a reason to make-up a uniform.