Just sitting at the foot of Micah Peak, lies the picturesque town of Crystal Woods. Not much could be complained of in this town, the weather was usually constant and rather predictable. The big blizzard happened around the same time every year, between Christmas and New Year’s, and the heat spell happened between Baptistmas and Midsummer’s. Ah yes, the weather was practically perfect in Crystal Woods. As for why the rest of the world didn’t rush to live in the valley, well, there’s more than one spot with perfect weather, a lot of which is in Asphodel, and there’s a lot of people, each with different likes and preferences. But, one other thing, there is one anomaly that Crystal Woods is known for, and that is its ten year cycle of colored snow. No one knows for sure how or why it happens, though it’s probably mostly due to the magic used by the genies, but every ten years, the snow that comes between New Year’s Day and Candlemas falls to the ground in different colors. Some years it’s blue, sometimes green, other times red or yellow, and there have even been times where the whole rainbow has shown up. But no matter what color the snow comes in, something interesting always happens during that time. One adventure in particular is worth noting as nothing like it has ever happened before, nor has anything like it happened since.
That year, a teen by the name of Peter Bates was having a particularly hard time. His grandfather, probably the only person who understood him better than anyone else ever had, passed away the day after Christmas. With his grandfather gone, Peter felt like a ship at sea without an anchor. What could he do? His grandfather had often warned him that this day would come, but Peter held onto the hope that his grandfather would live to see him graduate from high school. But now he was gone, and all his words of wisdom came flooding back, particularly about making new friends. Peter did try, he really did, but he couldn’t find anyone with whom he could be himself, truly himself. He had always thought that the people with whom he could be himself was nowhere near the little town of Crystal Woods, making him quite eager for graduation. But with each passing day since his grandfather’s death, he was finding it harder and harder to cope.
To add insult to injury, Peter’s father, Geoffrey Bates, had sent an application to Crystalline University for Peter, and received an acceptance letter the day after the funeral. Peter was furious, he didn’t want to go to Crystalline University, he wanted to go to Pearlescent Academy where he could improve his artistic skills. But Geoffrey thought that his brilliant son should put his genius to better use in the science field. And things kept getting worse. The bullying at school only intensified when test scores were revealed and, of course, Peter came out on top. The bullies took it out mainly on his art, and one piece in particular that Peter was going to submit to the art competition at the upcoming school fair. Seeing what they did to what he considered his best piece yet pretty much sent him over. He couldn’t handle it anymore, and there was no one to vent out his anger to, his grandfather was gone, his parents didn’t want him to pursue art, his siblings just didn’t care as they had their own pursuits, and he had no friends. He had had it, and a passing comment by a bully planted the thought of suicide in his head. The more he thought about it, the more he savored the idea, he would no longer have to deal with the bullying and the nagging anymore, he would be free from the cares of the world, free to join his grandfather. As such, he found himself at the bridge overlooking Diamond Falls whilst colored snow fell all around him. The waterfall and the river it fed into was a torrent of water and ice, the river having melted a bit from the last snowfall. Peter glanced down at the river with a shiver, dying from hypothermia was the best thing he had, he couldn’t bring a gun to his head or a knife to his heart. But, even staring at the water flowing beneath him, he was getting doubts. Why? Why couldn’t he just end it, right here, right now? His life was a horrible mess of loneliness and pain. What more could he do? A scream rang out from his right, just before he heard the splash.
“Help! Somebody help me! Help! Please!” Peter took a quick glance around, and when he saw that no one else was around, he jumped into the freezing water. He reached the teen fairly quickly and swam with him back to the shore. “Th-thank y-you,” said the teen through chattering teeth once they were on land.
“Y-you’re we-welcome. C-come on-n, l-let’s g-get y-you t-to th-the g-guardhouse and g-get y-you all wa-warmed up,” stated Peter through chattering teeth. The teen nodded and followed Peter through the trees. Upon entering the guardhouse, Peter immediately set about getting a fire going and trying to get the teen all warmed up. “What were you doing on the bridge?” asked Peter as he got a good look at the teen. He was clearly about thirteen, his mop of dark brown hair was drying into curls, yet his brown eyes seemed older and wiser than a thirteen year old’s.
“What were you doing on the bridge?” the teen asked, a hint of innocence in his tone.
“Trying to think,” mumbled Peter as he glanced at the fire.
“Well you were thinking awfully hard about that freezing water.”
Peter’s head snapped up as he glared at him, “What do you know about what I’m thinking? You haven’t answered my question, what were you doing on the bridge?”
“Keeping an eye on you,” he stated as he returned the glare.
Peter blinked in surprise, “Keeping an eye, on me? Who are you?”
“The name’s Christoffel, your grandfather asked that I keep an extra close eye on you.”
“How, how do you know my grandfather?”
“He made it to Heaven, and he’s really worried about you.”
“Wh-what? How do you know this?”
Christoffel rose, and though being thirteen, looked like a force to be reckoned with, “Because I am your guardian angel.”
“Wait, what? Where are your wings?”
Christoffel groaned, “Where are your wings?”
“Uh, I don’t have any . . .”
“Exactly, God sent me here in a physical form to talk to you, to get you to reconsider suicide as your only way out.”
“What? But, but, if, if God doesn’t want me to commit suicide, He shouldn’t have let any of this happen! He wouldn’t have called Grandpa to Him, He wouldn’t have let that stupid application to Crystalline University get through! He would have made sure my father understood me!”
“God can not make all the decisions for you, that’s not His job, that’s yours. That’s the whole point of free will, you get to make a choice.”
“Oh yeah? Well I choose to commit suicide!” Peter let out a yelp as Christoffel grabbed his arm as he walked by. The teen had an iron grip, and Peter couldn’t get out of it.
“Then let me clear up a few things for you. First of all, committing suicide is a grave sin, so grave that it will send you to Hell. How will you see your grandfather then?” Peter stopped struggling as he glanced at Christoffel in surprise. “Secondly, you didn’t even try anything else. How else did you expect things to go if you don’t even try to come up with a solution to your problems? I know things are hard . . .”
Peter scoffed, “Yeah, easy for you to say, you’re not the one having to live through all of this.”
“Do you really think it’s easy having to sit back and watch you go through this?”
“Then why don’t you do something about it?” shuoted Peter.
“I am,” Christoffel calmly stated.
“Oh, what? I’ll go home and everything will be back to normal. Will, will I get my grandpa back, all my art unruined, an acceptance letter to Pearlescent Academy?”
Christoffel shook his head and sighed, “You can’t get your grandpa back. And you’re the one who’s going to have to take care of the ruined art and the acceptance letter to Crystalline University, as well as talking to your parents.”
“Why can’t you be with me?”
“I am, I have been by your side since the day that you were created, you just can’t see me. This is the only time you’ll ever see me while you’re alive, the next time will be when you’re dead and facing God. And besides, there is always God, He is everywhere.”
“Then why doesn’t He hear me? Why doesn’t He answer my prayers?”
“He has more than one answer, Peter, He can say no and not yet. If you can tell Him no or not yet, He can just as easily tell you no or not yet. He knows what’s really best for you.”
“Bullying is best for me?”
“Not really, but if it’s the only way God can get through to you to make a point . . .”
“Oh yeah? How’s this for a point? I wish I hadn’t been born! Everything would be better if I didn’t exist at all!” Peter let out a yelp as the door to the guardhouse flew open and a gust of wind brought in dozens of snowflakes with a quick chill. Christoffel rushed forward and closed the door, but when he turned to face Peter, his eyes were slightly wide.
“You just got your wish,” he whispered.
“What? Oh, never mind, move out of my way.” Peter opened the door and walked out, only to pause. The river was now covered in the blue and green snow. “Of course, you waited long enough for the river to freeze over. Guess I have to go home now. Are you happy, guardian angel? You stopped my suicide!” But Christoffel was nowhere in sight. Starting to feel spooked by the whole thing, Peter immediately set off for home. When he closed in on the house, he noticed that his father’s office light was still on. Not wanting to talk to this father, he figured on getting in through the back door. He quietly slipped in and tiptoed up the stairs, careful to avoid any creaks. He slowly turned the knob to his room and slipped in, closing the door gently behind him. He flipped the switch, and paused, his mouth opening in shock. The faces of two of his sisters were staring right back at him from their beds.
“What the . . . what are you two doing in my room?” he blurted.
“What are you talking? This is our room! Daddy! There’s an intruder in the house!” Footsteps came bounding up the stairs. Well, looks like he was going to have to face the old man.
“What are you doing my daughters’ room?”
“What? Dad! This is my room, mine and grandpa’s! I’m only gone a few hours and you’ve already let Sarah and Rachel move in?”
“Sarah, Rachel, you know this guy?”
The girls shook their heads, “No Dad, never seen him before in my life!”
“How do you know my daughters?” Geoffrey growled in his face.
“I’m your son, Peter! Just, quit with the joking, alright? This isn’t funny!”
“I’m not joking.”
“Geoffrey, what’s going on?”
“Mom! Can you please tell Dad and the girls to stop fooling around? Uh, Mom?”
“Who are you? And why are you calling me Mom?”
“Because you are my Mom! Come on, please stop this! I’m not in the mood for this. I’m tired and want to go to sleep. You know what, they can keep the room, I don’t care anymore. I’ll go sleep on the sofa,” he grumbled as he stormed out of the room, tears starting to form in his eyes. But Geoffrey grabbed him by the arm.
“No, boy, I’m not in the mood for all of these lies. Who gave you the right to come in here and pretend to be my son?”
“Because I am your son!”
“The only boys I have are Tommy and Larry! Now get out!”
“No! I am Peter Geoffrey Bates, your eldest child, that is, or was, my room, and those are my sisters residing in my room!”
“I have no son with that name, now get out or I’m getting my gun,” growled Geoffrey.
Peter paused and looked at him, Christoffel’s words coming back to him, “You, you really don’t know me?”
“Which is exactly why I want you out of my house, do I make myself clear?” Peter’s answer came perfectly clear, he turned and bolted out of the house. He paused by a nearby tree, panting, as his thoughts returned to Christoffel.
“Wait, I got my wish? I, I got my wish. I don’t exist! But, if I don’t exist, how come I’m here?”
“So, you seriously don’t want to be here, either? I’m sure that can be easily arranged,” commented Christoffel as he stepped out from behind the tree. Peter yelped and jumped back.
“Don’t do that! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”
“Kind of hard to do considering you don’t exist anymore, right?”
“Ha ha, very funny.”
“What? It is what you wanted, isn’t it?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess . . .”
“You guess? You don’t even know anymore?” asked Christoffel as he crossed his arms. Peter just grunted and walked away. Christoffel let out a huff as he stuffed his hands into his pockets and followed Peter. They walked for a ways in silence before coming upon a commotion. The group of teens who always bullied Peter was now bullying one of his classmates, a girl who looked to be on the verge of tears as she battled to keep her bag.
“Whatcha hiding in that bag, little Susie?”
“Stop calling me that! And it’s none of your business! Now give me back my bag!”
“Not until you tell us . . .”
“Hey! Give Susan back her bag, Porter!” Everyone paused and glanced at Peter.
“Who are you? And how do you know my name?”
“Oh, I know a lot about you, Richard Porter, especially where you live. So, if you don’t want me to go running to your mama and tell her what a bad boy you’ve been, I suggest you give Susan back her bag . . . now!” Peter noticed Richard had glanced to Peter’s right, meaning that Christoffel had stepped up to stand next to him and was probably putting some of that angelic power to startle Richard. At least, that’s what Peter hoped he was doing.
“Um, OK, OK, here, keep the dumb bag, probably worthless girl junk anyway.” The group laughed, somewhat nervously as they hightailed it out of there.
Peter turned to Susan, “Are you alright?”
“Y-yes, thank you, but, really, how did you know who he was? I’ve never seen you before.”
“Uh, well, um, it’s a long story.”
“Really? I like long stories, I hope to be a writer one day.”
“Really? I’ve always wanted to be an artist.”
“Oh? That sounds like a lovely dream.”
“Well, thank you. I’m Peter Bates, by the way.”
“Susan Walters, but you might already know that.”
“Actually, no, I didn’t, I don’t know everything.”
“Oh, that’s good, you’d come off as rather creepy if you did.”
“Yeah, um, would you like me to walk you home?”
“Uh, no, no thank you, I think I can take care of it from here. Thank you again, for scaring off those bullies, both of you.” She smiled and walked off.
“You at least knew her first name,” muttered Christoffel.
“Yeah, she, uh, she’s always said hi to me whenever she saw me and give me a smile.”
“Well, she just might be a part of God’s answer to your prayer for friends. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, I forgot, you don’t exist.”
“What’s up with you?”
“What’s up with me? What’s up with me? You, that’s what! You think you know so much more than others, you think suicide is the best route to take, you think it’ll end all your misery! Oh yeah, it’ll end your misery here on earth, but as they say, out of the frying pan and into the fire, you’d go straight to hell. Your family and I have not worked this hard for you to watch you throw your life away like a piece of trash. But ultimately, it is your choice. Why should you care what I think of it, how I’ll feel about losing you to Hell? What about your parents? How will they feel after having to bury their eldest child?” Peter’s eyes widened at that comment. “Oh yes, that’s right, they do love you enough to mourn your passing. And therein lies your problem, Peter, you’re vain, selfish, proud, and cruel. You never thought about what this would mean for your family, for the few people you may have met briefly at school. Yes, even those who only knew you in passing would feel the affects of your suicide. Killing yourself won’t change a thing, it will only stop you from doing what good you could do in the world. Who knows what greatness you could achieve if you’d just live.” Christoffel sighed, “But, like I mentioned, the choice is ultimately yours. Just know this, your presence made your grandfather happy. Just live, and he’ll continue to smile upon you, from Heaven.” Christoffel began to walk away.
“Wait, Christoffel! Where are you going?”
“Can’t you see? I’m leaving. It’s not like you’ll listen to me. Though, if there is one thing you paid attention to, it’s this. You have to be back on the bridge before the clock tower chimes midnight with your decision, or God will choose for you.”
“No, wait, Christoffel, I . . .” But it was too late, Christoffel had disappeared, and Peter was all alone. He wandered the streets of the town as blue and green snowflakes gently danced around, his thoughts and feelings nothing more than a jumbled mess. What should he do? Besides going back and existing. It warmed his heart to know that his existence had brought happiness to his dying grandfather, but was that the main purpose of his existence? God clearly didn’t want Peter to commit suicide, which meant there could be more that God wanted him to do. Heaving a sigh, Peter stepped into the church and said a Rosary, hoping that some inkling of an idea of what God wanted from him would be given him. He stayed in the church a few minutes more after that, pondering over everything that had happened in the past few hours, and slowly coming to the realization that maybe, just maybe, things weren’t as bad as he initially made them out to be. Yes, he had received an acceptance letter from Crystalline University, but that didn’t mean Peter had to accept it. Yes, Richard Porter and his bullies ruined his art, but that only gave him the excuse to create better pieces. And yes, his grandfather, the one person in the whole world who understood him the best, was gone, but he was in Heaven now, and would be better able to watch over him and quite possibly guide him. But most importantly, Peter was glad that he was able to know his grandfather for as long as he had, the baby of the Bates family, Janie, wouldn’t get that privilege.
When he left the church some time later, Peter never felt better. He felt like he could take on the whole world! Yes, there would be troubles ahead, yes there would be problems, but with God guiding him, and Christoffel by his side, he could get through it. He quickly made his way towards the bridge, he didn’t quite know how much time he had left, and he didn’t bother to check the clock to see what time it was. Thus, when he heard the bell chiming the hour, he began to panic and raced towards the bridge.
“Wait, please wait! Christoffel! I’ve made up my mind I’ve made up my mind!” He got to the bridge, right as the final chime faded into the distance. “No, wait please! I won’t commit suicide, I won’t! I’ll live my life with the light and joy of God! Please! I don’t want to miss out on anything you have to show me! Just let me live!” Shaking, he grabbed the bars of the bridge and glanced down. He blinked in surprise, the river was flowing again. How? His mouth dropped open, the river was flowing before! He made it! Letting out a joyous laugh, he rushed down the hill back into town. “Hello Crystal Woods!”
“Hey, Bates! You still crying over your spoilt painting?” sneered Richard from an alley. His gang chuckled.
Peter just laughed, “Nah, man, I forgive you! In fact, I should thank you!”
Richard stared at him in shock, “Wait, what? Thank me? What are you thinking?”
“That now I can paint something better! I’ve still got time before the deadline to submit!” He started to run off.
“Hey, Pete! Your folks are looking for you!” called out one of Richard’s lackeys.
“Shut up, Harry!”
Peter just grinned, “I know!” He ran back all the way home, where every single light was on. He opened the door and walked in.
“Peter! Where have you been? We’ve been so worried about you! Oh, you’re covered in snow, you must be freezing! Rachel, Rachel! Get your coat on and go find your father, quick!”
“OK!” Rachel quickly threw her coat on, but as she was about to go out, Geoffrey walked in.
“I couldn’t find him, Martha, I . . . Peter!”
“Hi Dad. Ooph!” His father engulfed him in a hug.
“Where were you? What were you planning on doing?”
Peter looked down, ashamed, “Things have been so tough recently that, that . . . I, I was planning on committing suicide.”
Martha gasped, “Peter Geoffrey Bates!”
“What changed your mind?” asked Rachel.
Peter shrugged, “God’s grace, being out there, I, I felt closer to Him than I have ever felt before. I even went into the church for a little while before coming back. I feel so much more at peace.”
Geoffrey patted his son’s back, “That’s wonderful to hear, son, but . . . I was wrong in submitting the application to Crystalline University, knowing full well you wanted to go to Pearlescent Academy. So, I’ve sent in two letters, one stating you’ve declined Crystalline University, and an application to Pearlescent Academy. I really am sorry, son.”
“Really? You did? Thanks dad!”
“Well, now that you’re back, we should call off the search party, Geoffrey.”
“We should, and I think it’s time we all went to bed, we’ve had a long day. We’ll talk more in the morning.”
“A good idea. You heard your father, everyone to bed!” Peter’s siblings tried to groan, but yawns came out instead. Peter just laughed as walked up the stairs to his room and plopped on his bed. It felt good to be back. He glanced out the window at the green and blue snowflakes, and gasped. There, outside his window, stood the ghostly forms of his grandfather and Christoffel, a pair of wings now sprouting from Christoffel’s back. The two grinned and winked at Peter before disappearing into the night. Peter smiled, grateful for that appearance, just because he couldn’t see them, didn’t mean that they weren’t there. Peter laid down his head as sleep overtook him, yes, things were going to be just fine.