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The Fear Landscape Series: Elsa

05 Jun
The Fear Landscape Series: Elsa

Anna jumped from ice pillar to ice pillar, Elsa forming them with snow one at a time, always one step ahead of her young sister. “Catch me!” Anna giggled.
“Gotcha!” Elsa called back happily, making the sculptures.
But Anna didn’t wait for her to keep up. She got too far ahead. Elsa couldn’t make the snow that quickly. “Again, again!”
“Slow down!” shouted Elsa hurriedly, trying her best to keep up with how fast Anna was going. Taking a step back, Elsa slipped on the ice and lost concentration. Anna fell to the cold, hard ground, and as she fell Elsa made one desparate motion with her hand as if to catch her, though she was much too far away. Ice shot from Elsa’s fingertips and entered Anna’s head.
As quickly as she could, Elsa raced to her sister. “Anna!” The ice had never affected her before, but this time, Elsa could feel the biting cold in her little sister’s head. And she’d done this. Anna was going to die, Elsa was sure of it. And it was all her fault. She’d killed her own sister! She’d killed Anna! Elsa sobbed and cradled Anna’s frozen head.
Elsa watched the scene unfold again, in living color each time. The memory was stuck on the moment just before she’d yelled for their parents. The moment wherein Elsa was positive she’d killed her baby sister. And she nearly had. Arguably she really did. If it weren’t for that troll… Despite being immune to cold, Elsa shivered at the thought.
Her powers were dangerous. They were evil. They could hurt people, and that time, they’d hurt little Anna. Elsa protectively closed her gloved hands in a fist around each other. That power could never show itself again. She couldn’t risk hurting anyone else, especially not Anna. Not again. Conceal it. Don’t feel it. Don’t let it show.
If it showed, people would get hurt. “Conceal, don’t feel. Conceal. Don’t feel. Don’t. Feel,” Elsa ordered herself. Feeling would only provoke it. If she felt, she would hurt people.
But, according to the administer of the simulation, in order to pass each section of her fear landscape Elsa had to conquer each fear. She had to conceal her fear. But despite years of practice, Elsa still could never quite control her feelings like she needed to. Her heart would still always pound in her chest and her breathing would always be fast.
Elsa began to pace. “Conceal. Don’t-” there was a knock on the door.
“Elsa? It’s snowing outside. The first snow of the winter. Do you… I mean, would you like to, um, well… D-do you want to build a snowman with me?” Anna. Elsa froze as still as an icicle. Anna was just outside. If she felt too much and released her powers, they’d hit Anna again. That couldn’t happen.
“No! Just leave me alone, Anna!” commanded Elsa from her place behind the door. As she said it, she grimaced. She hadn’t meant for it to come out so angry.
On the other side of the door, Elsa heard a sniff. “Okay. Bye, Elsa,” Anna said, clearly starting to cry and choking on Elsa’s name. The quick tapping of shoes on the marble told Elsa that she’d run off.
She couldn’t do this anymore! She’d had enough! Elsa touched her folded hands to her lips and pressed them against her skin, fighting off tears of her own. It was bad enough to live knowing she’d been so very close to killing her sister, but now Elsa had to kill her slowly, a tiny bit every day. Just to keep her safe.
“She’s better off without you,” Elsa told herself. “If she could remember what you did to her, she’d hate you anyway.” It was true. Anna would hate her forever if she knew what Elsa had done to her. At least this way Elsa still got to hear her growing voice every now and again.
“Get a hold of yourself, Elsa. Conceal it. You have to get past this, Elsa. It’s the only way to get through the landscape.” Elsa forced herself to imagine instead the day her father had appoached her with the gloves.
“They’ll help,” he’d assured her as he slipped them on her hands. And they had. The soft white gloves he’d given her at first had gradually been replaced by the thick blue leather ones she wore now, but the gloves had helped. She couldn’t hurt Anna with those gloves on.
“Conceal it. Don’t feel it. Don’t let it show,” she and her father had chorused. Elsa whispered the words again to herself, and felt at peace.
In the blink of an eye Elsa’s bedroom disappeared and the edge of a cliff overlooking Arendelle took its place. Elsa found herself cowering as she looked at the huge, malevolent snowstorm that threatened the tiny kingdom. She’d done this. Worse even than hurting Anna. She’d hurt all Arendelle.
How could this have happened? What did she do wrong? Elsa stood paralyzed, ankle deep in snow that had no effect on her, but incredible effect on the people below. Children screamed. Women cried. Men shouted. And Elsa was to blame.
But how? The gloves- Elsa looked down at her hands. The gloves were gone. Elsa stared at her bare hands and suddenly couldn’t breathe. Sinking into the snow she gasped for breath and slammed her hands against her temples. All her fault, all her fault, all her fault…
Conceal it, don’t feel it, conceal it… control it. Control! Elsa’s head shot back up. It wasn’t real. All she had to do was control her emotions. And she could control the landscape! All she had to do was put her gloves back on.
Focusing with everything she was, Elsa created a pair of leather gloves that fell into her right palm. Elsa jammed them onto her fingers and clasped her hands tightly, pressing them against her forehead. “Conceal, don’t feel…” The storm died down mostly and Arendelle was out of most danger. She’d passed this phase of the landscape. But she was far from finished.
Glancing to her right, Elsa could just make out through her tears her parents standing over her. With their presence, all of Elsa’s emotions came rushing back. She hadn’t just failed Arendelle with that blizzard. She’d failed them. Her mother and father, the people who loved her and always believed in her. The only people she could let herself come anywhere close to.
“I’m sorry,” Elsa sobbed, still curled up in the snow. “I’m sorry, Mother. I’m sorry, Father. I failed. You believed in me and I failed. I failed you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Like a never-ending rainstorm the tears wouldn’t stop as years of regret poured out. The only two people who loved her and she’d disappointed them.
“Elsa, we still love you,” Mother said softly. She tried to come closer, but Elsa waved her off. The last thing she needed was to hurt someone else.
“Yes, of course we do, sweetheart. Nothing could keep us from loving you, Elsa,” added Father.
“I know,” choked Elsa back. “That makes it worse. I’ve- I’ve disappointed you. You’ve always believed in me, and I disappointed you. I couldn’t do it. I failed you,” she finished, the last words coming out as little more than a rasp as her throat closed in on her.
“No, Elsa,” replied Father, kneeling down in the snow in front of Elsa and smiling at her. “I still believe you can do this. We still believe you can do this. You’re such a good girl, Elsa. You always try your hardest, even when it gets hard, and you’ve always made us proud of you. You’re our Elsa, sweetheart.”
Elsa rose her head and sniffed one last time. “I- I love you,” she said. And the landscape changed.
She was floating on top of the ocean. It was dark out—no, it was stormy out. The waves crashed all around her and pieces of a destroyed ship littered the area.
“Elsa!” screamed Mother as she sunk lower and lower beneath the waves.
“Mother, no!” screamed Elsa back. For the first time Elsa tried to use her powers, to freeze the water around where her mother was so that she couldn’t sink. But this time she had her gloves on. And she couldn’t get them off. Elsa tried and tried and sobbed and sobbed as she watched Mother fall beneath the waves and not get back up.
“Elsa, sweetheart!” shouted a voice. Elsa whirled her head to the source of the sound and froze completely when she saw Father about to meet the same watery death as Mother.
“No! I can save you! I can save you!” Elsa screamed in a voice that no human should be capable of making. She threw her hands out in the direction of Father, desperately trying to shoot ice from her fingertips like she always did when she didn’t want to. But now that she needed to, now that she could actually save him, her powers refused to make an appearance. But still Elsa tried. “I can! I can save you! I can save you!” she repeated like an incantation, not seeing anything as her eyes became too filled with water.
“Elsa, no!” shouted Father in such a strong voice that Elsa stopped chanting for a second. “It’s too late. I love you, sweetheart, remember that. Take care of Anna, and remember, I believe in-” Father cut off abruptly, and those were the last words he would ever say.
“No! No! No, Father, no! Please, no! Come back! I need you!” Elsa screamed, resuming her futile attempts at freezing the ocean. “I can’t do this without you, please! No!” Only after a long time of mindless, indescribable pain and terror could Elsa collect herself to notice that the storm had stopped. There were no survivors, and not even a plank from the ship had survived.
It was over. All over. Elsa was too tired from her struggles, and too empty of tears, to do anything. All she had the strength to do was float on the water in shock. Where the love of her parents had been, only darkness dwelt.
Not even the knowledge that this was only a simulation, just a type of dream, could save her. Because this wasn’t a normal fear. This had really happened. Well, not exactly like this. Elsa wasn’t there when her parents had drowned at sea. But they had drowned. And it had probably looked a lot like this.
Elsa closed her eyes and remembered the last things this version of Father had told her. “Look after Anna.” But that wasn’t all, no, he’d died in the middle of a sentence. “And remember, I believe in…” her. He believed in her. To the end. Elsa chewed her lip. If only to honor him, she had to continue on.
The landscape changed, and Elsa was no longer floating on the water. Instead she found herself in the middle of the ballroom in the palace, with crowds of people all around her. A… party? No, no, that wasn’t the point. She wasn’t afraid of a party. She was afraid of people.
As the people noticed their crown princess standing among them, a line began to form in front of her and family after family bowed. “Your highness,” they said as they knelt, one after the other, each so different, but every one just the same.
Elsa forced a smile like she’d practiced in her mirror and inclined her head respectfully in return to each group. Things, to her surprise, were going rather well really. All thanks to her gloves. In between bowing to couples Elsa sent up an extra thank-you to Father for giving her those gloves. He’d given her a chance. A chance to make him proud.
The landscape, sensing that the fear it threw at her wasn’t having effect, changed. The party didn’t disappear, but something far more important did. A slight breeze swept through the ballroom, and the tips of Elsa’s fingers tingled with the cold. Her hands were bare.
Immediately Elsa broke out in a cold sweat. In a futile attempt to conceal her hands she clasped them together and held them tightly against her chest. Just back away, back away, leave… before something happens…
“Are you all right, your highness?” asked a young mother with a pair of twins hiding behind her skirts. Elsa gave her head a slight shake before she knew what she was doing, and then, before anyone could do anything else, Elsa turned to the door and ran.
Out of the room, out of the hall, out of the castle entirely. The previously happy guests had become a mob of angry citizens and the gates were closing in around her. In one last act of desperation before giving up completely, Elsa concentrated as best she could, and-
Froze the gates into place, left slightly ajar. Sharp icicles stuck out every which way on the huge doors, but Elsa was just able to slip through the cracks, gather up her skirts, and leave the crowd locked inside what used to be her palace. But she was still in danger. Somehow word had spread to everyone else in Arendelle, with men grabbing ice picks and torches and women hurrying their children inside.
“Monster!” yelled one of the men approaching her in a booming voice that shook the frames of buildings. “Witch! You are a monster, and there is only one fate for one of your kind.” With that, the man raised his torch and yelled, followed by the rest of the crowd shouting as well.
“Not real,” Elsa whispered. “Not real, not real, not real…” All she had to do was calm down. She’d done this before. How had she done it before?
The gloves. She didn’t have the gloves anymore. “No,” Elsa breathed. Even if she has the gloves, it would be too late now. Everyone had seen her for what she was. There was nothing that could help her now.
Then how could she get out? Elsa racked her brain for a word, a glance, a sign—something!—that would tell her how to conquer the fear. As her people came closer and she was all out of time, Elsa decided to try something daring. The opposite of what made sense.
Elsa threw out her hands, palms facing forward. A thick wall of jagged ice shot out from her fingers and forced everyone back and away from her. The grotesque ice grew around her and formed an impenetrable wall, shielding her from fire or picks. Elsa had wanted to control her power in order to control the landscape. So the opposite would be to release her powers completely.
Her hair falling out of its bun and the hem of her skirt muddy and torn, Elsa continued to cast ice outward until she was sure she’d be safe. She’d killed no one, although a few of the men closest to her had most likely been injured. Did protecting herself from death, without killing anyone herself, still make her a monster?
Even it it did, Elsa wasn’t sure she cared anymore.
Elsa woke. She had passed her simulation.

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