Doors. Many doors. All around. Anna was in a circular room that was covered in locked doors. Frantically she ran from one to another, trying to knock as hard as she could to get someone to hear her. Minutes she ran from door to door, pounding her fist against each one, knuckles bleeding on her hands and getting blood smears on each door.
No one answered. “Someone! Anyone, please, help me!” Anna screamed as she pounded at another, her knuckles numbing at this point. “Please! I need help here!” Still no one came.
Anna went limp and leaned against the door, letting herself slide down it and to the ground, where she collapsed in a heap. No one could hear her. Or maybe they could. Maybe they just didn’t care.
So this was a fear landscape. This was what Anna had to go through. When she’d first heard about it Anna had thought it would be easy. Maybe even fun. Boy had she been wrong.
She hadn’t thought it would feel real. Not this real, anyway. Anna felt exactly like all of this was her only reality and everything in it was true, when all along it was just her own imagination.
“I don’t need help,” whispered Anna on the floor. “I don’t need their help,” she chanted as she rose. Shakily, she stood, clenched her fists, and bit her bottom lip. Her eyes went hard and she breathed in deeply through her nose. She didn’t need them. She didn’t need to knock.
Anna was thrown into the middle of a large courtyard, and many a family milled through, talking to each other and playing with their children. She simply stared me watched for a few wonderful seconds and breathed everything in. Perfection. Anna eagerly went to a group of small children in the middle who were playing duck, duck, goose and crouched down by them.
“Hey, guys!” she said excitedly. “Can I join you?” Anna started to sit when one by one all of the children glanced at each other and shook their heads.
“We don’t want you to play with us,” one of them said.
“You’re too old,” another piped up.
“You’ll only mess everything up,” explained another.
Anna was taken aback. Really? Maybe eighteen was a little old for duck, duck, goose, but usually she thought children loved being around older people who liked to play. “Oh. Well, ok, if that’s what you want,” she said, rising. She’d just have to find someone else to talk to was all.
Next Anna turned at a small group of girls her age whom she noticed talking about Joan of Arc, her personal heroine of history.
“Joan was burned to death wasn’t she,” asked one girl?
“Yes, she was burned for claiming godly powers,” answered another.
That’s when Anna decided to make her appearance. “Hey, girls. I noticed you talking about Joan of Arc. I happen to really love studying about her. What were you saying?”
The three girls exchanged glances before one finally rolled her eyes slightly and turned to Anna. “We were just talking about how Joan of Arc was burned at the stake after all she did for her country. But you probably wouldn’t want to hear about that,” said the girl.
“Oh, no, please go on!” Anna said. “Like I said, I really love Joan. Have you been learning about her in school?”
“Um, no, actually. It kind of just came up,” the first girl quickly supplied. “We weren’t really talking about her, specifically. Sorry,” she added at the last second.
“Oh,” said Anna. “Alright. Well, nice talking to you,” she mumbled as she walked away. The signs had been obvious; they wanted her gone. No one cared. No one cared what she had to say. No one cared about her.
Anna knew that was a fear of hers, of course. She just kind of liked to keep it down and buried. That was another thing about the fear landscape. She hadn’t expected it to look this deep within her.
She took a deep, calming breath. She hadn’t needed anyone’s help back in the room with the doors. She didn’t need anyone’s help now. She would be fine by herself. She’d done it for eighteen years, she could do it a little more. Anna knelt on the green grass and soaked in the sun. She was content here. Alone.
“Anna?” asked Elsa in the hallway by the two sister’s separate rooms. They’d managed to pass each other. How did they manage to pass each other? Anna was frozen to the spot until she could regain control of herself.
“Elsa! I, I didn’t, expect to see you here!” she started. Anna winced at her own words and clasped her hands behind her back.
Elsa Rose an eyebrow and kept her mouth in a thin, straight line. “We live in the same house,” she reminded her sister.
“But it’s a big house!” Anna argued weakly. They hadn’t crossed paths in weeks. Why now? Because this is your fear landscape, Anna reminded herself. A landscape, a lie. Not real. That’s why she had run into Elsa now. Because she was scared of her.
That hurt. As much as she really loved Elsa, Anna was scared of her. She always seemed, so… mature. Like she was centuries old, even though there were only four years between them. And it’s not like they ever talked or anything.
“It is indeed,” Elsa nodded slightly in agreement with Anna’s assessment about the size of their palace.
She could do this. She could do this. Anna smiled wider. “Well, nice catching up with you!” she said, practically running to her room and shutting the door behind her. Anna looked through the keyhole to where Elsa was still standing in the hallway, looking to where Anna had gone.
She sighed, and walked to her own room, and locked her own door. Elsa was back in her room. Anna wasn’t sure if she was happy about that or not.
Anna sat hard on her bed. How would she conquer this one? It wasn’t like she could just waltz into Elsa’s room. Or maybe… It was Anna’s imagination landscape. Maybe…
Anna slowly opened up her door and snuck back into the hallway. She walked up to Elsa’s door, and, biting her bottom lip so hard she drew blood, opened it.
Elsa wasn’t in her room. It wasn’t even Elsa’s room. This was a completely different room. Her parents’.
“Anna. What are you doing here?” asked her father with a sigh.
“Um, I just…” stumbled Anna, unable to explain herself.
“Well, if you don’t know, then why don’t you follow your sister’s example and go find something worthwhile to do,” commanded her father.
What? Now her parents didn’t love her either? No one did! No one loved her! They were so caught up in Elsa and specialness and Elsa’s problems that no one cared about her! Anna ran out of her parents’ room and rammed herself against the wall so that she could lean on it. She had to get past this. She had to. Anna concentrated, and told herself that it wasn’t real, none of it. Not real. Imaginary.
The confines of the palace raced towards Anna as fast as the wind roared around Arrendelle during a storm. The beautiful tapestries and artworks on the walls disappeared until all that was left were six dark grey walls squeezing against her. Anna couldn’t breathe.
“No!” she screamed. “No! Please! Help me!” Anna pleaded to the air, hoping against hope that the walls would recede. They didn’t. Anna pushed against them with all of her might, but she couldn’t get the walls to move. She was trapped. And alone. And very, very scared.
Breathe, Anna ordered herself. Breathe. She pressed a palm to her heart. It raced along at speeds she knew her heart had never reached. Breathe. Slowly, best by best, Anna’s heart slowed and her breathing became regular. The walls receded. And Anna was left in her worst nightmare.
She thought she’d seen it all. Apparently she hadn’t. Two years after her parents drowned at sea, one year before Elsa was to be crowned queen of Arrendelle, a strange winter had taken hold of the tiny kingdom. Many perished that winter, in the snow and the cold. Including Elsa.
So Anna really and truly was alone. She’d been alone before, maybe, but there was always the chance Elsa would rekindle their friendship. There was always a chance things could get better. Now there was no hope at all.
One more time, Anna slid down her bedroom door after having locked it from the world. She was still dressed in black from Elsa’s funeral. Anna gnawed on her lip again and let the tears fall.
There was no hope for her. For Arrendelle. For anyone. There was no hope left in the world. And simulation or not, that wasn’t too far from the truth. How much hope did Anna really have left, even in the real world? Why did she bother holding on anymore?
Anna breathed in until her diaphragm couldn’t hold any more air, and held it there. She held on because she had hope. Because there was always hope. Because hope was not a thing that could be taken away. Anna released the air from her body, and stepped into reality. She had passed her fear landscape. And maybe she was better because of it.
Category Archives: *Le Disney & Dreamworks
Doors. Many doors. All around. Anna was in a circular room that was covered in locked doors. Frantically she ran from one to another, trying to knock as hard as she could to get someone to hear her. Minutes she ran from door to door, pounding her fist against each one, knuckles bleeding on her hands and getting blood smears on each door.
SPOILERS! This landscape takes place AFTER the events of the second movie! Do not read unless you have seen How To Train Your Dragon 2!
“Toothless!” shouted Hiccup as he fell away from Toothless in the windy, frigid air. “Take control of your fear! Beat it! This is all fake, bud, not real. I can’t be with you this time. Remember, it’s-” Hiccup’s voice abruptly stopped as he hit the water. Toothless didn’t have long to go himself until the water took him.
He flapped his wings as hard as he could, breathing in when they spread apart, breathing out when they folded into him. But he still fell. Hiccup wasn’t there to help him. He couldn’t fly without Hiccup. And Hiccup was still under the icy waters. Hiccup could swim with one leg about as well as Toothless could fly with one tailwing.
Which meant two things. One, Hiccup was going to drown. Two, Toothless was going to fall. And then drown. He didn’t want any of that to happen.
Toothless continued to desperately flap his wings and search the water for any sign of his lost Viking. Any sign that Hiccup was alive. He found nothing to comfort him. The only thing he could remember were the words Hiccup had said as they fell together.
All fake. Not real.
What did he mean by that? Hiccup wasn’t one to speak in riddles. If he said it, if he chose those as the last words he might ever say, Hiccup had meant every one. So how did you beat a fear?
Toothless twisted in the air so that he faced down. He had an idea. An idea so bad Hiccup himself could have come up with it. Toothless closed his eyes, and closed his wings around him.
And Toothless fell.
That apparently worked, because Toothless didn’t feel anything as he hit the water. He felt calm. Peace. He’d beaten his fear. Toothless grinned. That wasn’t as hard as he thought.
He thought again when he continued to drown. Toothless was rapidly losing air and his internal ball of flame was going out. The cold of the water covered him and squeezed feeling from his nose and the tips of his wings. He tried to use his wings and at least get above water, but he couldn’t even do that. His wings were too weak alone and the lack of oxygen was making his head feel dizzy.
As water seeped into his belly Toothless fought to stay awake. He needed to beat this fear. Beat it like the other one. He drew in his wings again and tucked in his tail. And Toothless, despite the cold, despite the water, despite the certain death, relaxed.
Everything disappeared. And then, a second later, it all came back. Toothless was no longer under the water. There wasn’t even any water to be seen. Hiccup was back on Toothless’s back. He spat out a small explosion in contendedness… and winced a second later when Hiccup tensed in pain as they went through it. He always seemed to forget that Viking skin wasn’t as tough as nightfury skin.
A huge pillar of smoke rose in the distance and the echoes of a great roar could be heard. Hiccup tensed again, and Toothless with him. As Toothless hesitantly flew forward, the behemoth was revealed.
Toothless immediately quivered. This was all too familiar. This was the queen of his old nest. The beast that had almost succeeded in killing Hiccup and him, and taking Hiccup’s leg.
Hiccup patted the top of Toothless’s head. “It’ll be ok, bud,” he said soothingly. This was meant to be a calming gesture, but it only made Toothless more scared for his Viking’s safety. Hiccup was just so fragile! Only a tiny bit of flame and game over.
They were now on top of the beast, and flying up just as they had that first time long ago. Toothless flapped his wings hard and flew upward with everything he was. But all too soon, his cloth tail extension burst into flame.
Falling, again. Only this time there was no water at the bottom to save them—only fire. Hiccup clung to Toothless’s back, but eventually lost his grip and was thrown away. Toothless screeched and repositioned himself down so that he was facing the larger dragon’s fire, but despite flying lower in an attempt to reach Hiccup in time, he just couldn’t catch up.
“Toothless!” shouted Hiccup one last time as he was engulfed in flame. Toothless screamed back in return, refusing to believe what had happened. He plunged lower and lower, eyes being forced shut by the fumes, calling out for his Viking. But Hiccup was never going to answer again.
Giant, steaming tears ran down Toothless’s scales and evaporated in the hot air. He was too late. Too slow. Too late to save him. Hiccup, fragile little Viking Hiccup, was dead. And it was all Toothless’s fault.
“Take control of your fear. Beat it! This is fake, bud, not real,” pounded Hiccup’s voice in Toothless’s head. Fear? Toothless was confused. This wasn’t fear; it was grief.
But, thought Toothless as he evaded the behemoth’s mouth and sped towards the sandy beach, maybe it was a fear. A fear of losing Hiccup. Of letting Hiccup slip between his paws.
As he made contact with the sand, Toothless did something he never thought he’d have the power to do. He forgave himself. It wasn’t his fault. His tail was burnt up. He’d tried his best. And Hiccup knew that too.
He was in a forest. Toothless blinked a few times to take in the completely changed scenery. He was alone in an unknown forest, his tail extension back, but useless without Hiccup to guide him. This fear Toothless knew.
He was lost.
This fear Toothless knew had been coming. Sure, he could get himself food. He could find himself shelter. He could survive. But without Hiccup he was grounded. And without Hiccup, Toothless was just as alone as he was before Hiccup had befriended him.
Sitting up straight and still in the woods, Toothless lifted his head to the trees and wailed. He didn’t like being alone. And lost meant being alone for a very long time.
All fake, not real, echoed Hiccup again. It was a small voice, one that Toothless could barely hear, but he still heard it. Not real. Fake. He wasn’t really lost. He was still in landscape.
Toothless curled up tightly in a ball and nestled his head in his wing. Despite his own instincts telling him to get up and to at least try to find his way home, Toothless trusted Hiccup first. And let his fear go.
Once again the world around him disappeared. Toothless was now on a hillside, and Hiccup was only a few great dragon leaps away. Toothless grinned at Hiccup and Hiccup back at him, and together the pair ran to each other. But then something happened. Something Toothless didn’t expect.
A foreign mind entered his and fought with Toothless, winning out easily and caging Toothless’s mind in a tiny prison, completely encased but with just enough window to see clearly what was going on. Toothless’s pupils were slits, and his grin became a toothy snarl.
Hiccup realized what was happening too late, and by that time, this dark Toothless had pounced on top of him, ready to rip him to sheds.
Inside, the real Toothless gnawed at the bars encasing him and frantically hurled his entire body weight into the walls of his cell, trying relentlessly to take control, to come back, to save Hiccup from himself. But the prison was too strong.
“Toothless?” asked Hiccup faintly, clearly scared, confused, hurt, and betrayed. As Toothless stared at his Hiccup, knowing what he himself was about to do, Hiccup changed in his eyes from the young but strong Viking dragon master that Hiccup was now back to the mere child he’d been when he’d first seen his Viking. And that image, that innocence, completely and utterly destroyed by Toothless’s own paw, broke something inside of him.
As the dark Toothless tore at Hiccup and Hiccup screamed and cried his name, Toothless closed his eyes to the sight. He curled up in a tight ball in the middle of his cage and tried to block out the sound. But the damage had been done. Toothless could never unsee or unhear what he had done.
Was this fear? No. Fear was too light a word for this. This was a feeling so deep, so intense, so profound that it defied description. Panic was child’s play compared to this. Toothless’s heart shattered into a million tiny pieces that in turn ripped at his insides, causing him excruciating pain himself. All Toothless could feel was pain. Pain. Anguish. Self-hatred.
The one sliver of light that Toothless clung to in the dark was Hiccup’s voice telling him that none of it was real. The fact was that, real or not, the things Toothless saw now could never leave him. But maybe, just maybe, he could escape it here.
Toothless focused on one of the first moments he’d ever shared with Hiccup. The day Hiccup had turned away and offered Toothless his hand, putting all of his trust in a dragon he didn’t even know. The day Toothless had nuzzled his nose into that hand. And the day their friendship started. Little by little, Toothless forced his heart back to normalcy. And with a start, he woke.
A body clung to his side and stroked him. “Easy, bud, it’s ok, it’s alright, I promise. I promise,” he whispered, voice cracking almost every other word. Toothless twisted his body slightly to see Hiccup lying on the ground with him, throwing himself onto Toothless and quite publicly crying. Toothless felt a twinge of guilt. Had his emotion been really that visible? He must have worried Hiccup half to death! Toothless gently nudged his Viking under the arm.
Sniffing, Hiccup sat up, keeping one hand still on Toothless. “You’re awake. I thought I was going to have to pull you out early,” he said, trying and failing to sound nonchalant. Hiccup laid both hands on Toothless again and buried his face in Toothless’s wing. “I love you, bud,” he whispered. Toothless patted the top of Hiccup’s head in response. He was safe here. He was safe with Hiccup. His Viking.
A slight, unnatural breeze. A sharp intake of breath. Hiccup’s eyes widened, his body went cold, and he suddenly had to fight to stand up straight. He knew those warning signals. It could only be one thing.
Glancing to the right and then to the left, Hiccup searched for someone else—anyone else!—to tell him what to do. But Hiccup was alone in the forest. And he was defenseless.
As the nightfury flew closer, still invisible against the night sky and barely audible between the rustling of trees, Hiccup forgot how to breathe. Pure instinct found him curled up on the dirt, face against the grass and eyes shut, silently willing death to come quickly and painlessly.
“Leave it to me to die in a simulation. The first fear of the simulation. Heh,” whispered Hiccup in such a small voice that the sound never reached his own ears. Leave it to him. Hiccup. The coward of cowards. Afraid—not ready to fight, but just downright scared—of his tribe’s longstanding enemy. Afraid of a dragon.
Not that death by dragon was a bad way to go. Honestly, around Berk death by dragon was one of the best, most honorable ways to go. But that was only if you went down fighting. And Hiccup wasn’t fighting.
But it didn’t have to be that way. As the nightfury descended and let loose its blast of lightening and death, Hiccup did what was for him unheard of. He would conquer his fear.
Hiccup stood up.
Clenching his fists and pressing his lips together into a tight line, Hiccup stared up at the Nightfury just as the blast exploded and all became flame. The fire tingled against his skin, but Hiccup hardly had time to feel it before being plunged into icy waves.
Hiccup kicked and fought to get on top of the water. He kicked off his fur boots and, against all odds, made it to the top of the water, where he found himself gasping for breath.
“So,” he panted, trying his best to keep his head above water. “I guess I passed the first test. That wasn’t so hard,” he reasoned, suppressing his shivers as the frigid water took it’s toll. “Still, out of the frying pan and into the fire. Well, out of the fire and into the frozen, anyway. There isn’t actually any frying pan.”
Hiccup looked around. Nothing but water in every direction. His legs started to kick more slowly and his arms became more lethargic. His strength gradually gave out, and again Hiccup found himself below water, with no way to get back up, and no air.
Wriggling his body every which way Hiccup tried to get above water. He didn’t float, he was frankly too weak to propel himself upward, and he didn’t know how to swim. He may have only been in a simulation, but it sure felt real.
He had to breathe. He needed air. His lungs took on water and the fiery feel of suffocation took over.
Will it to be over. Will it to end. That’s all there was to it, right? It was just a little mind game.
But mind games didn’t feel like that.
Conquer it. Control it, Hiccup ordered himself. His mind was willing, but his body was weak, and he continued to struggle for breath, his breathing much faster than it should have been. If you’re not going to cooperate, he ordered himself, then you’ll have to go down.
With the last of his energy Hiccup forced himself lower into the water. Letting go he went limp in the water and allowed the liquid to fill his lungs. This is it, were his last conscious thoughts.
Before waking up in bed. He immediately sat up and coughed up water until he could cough no more. Even then it felt like he needed to cough, but that was easily the result of going that long without air. While allowing his throat time to rest before the next coughing fit, Hiccup breathed in from his nose, filling up his diaphragm with air, and letting it out. He’d survived. He’d made it. Was it over?
No. It couldn’t be. No way did he only have two fears.
Hiccup wiped his mouth and stood up next to his bed. He’d gotten his boots back, and none of his clothes were wet. Dragons, check. Drowning, check. He wasn’t scared of his bed. So what would the next fear be?
In, out. In, out. Hiccup stood in his dark room for a minute more, simply breathing and enjoying the sensation of air entering his lungs.
“You never know how good you have it until it’s gone,” Hiccup muttered. The saying apparently went for oxygen too. When his body felt as close to normal as it was going to get, Hiccup walked slowly and cautiously into the living room, out the door, and into Berk. Normal. So far so good.
The Vikings all went about their business as usual, pushing past Hiccup and generally just ignoring him completely. Until the “peers” showed up.
As Snotlout, Ruffnut and Tuffnut, Fishlegs, and Astrid came closer, Hiccup braced himself. Even though these guys usually just left him alone, this was a simulation. He’d found his next big fear.
“What are you doing here?” asked Astrid accusatorially.
“Um, I…” Hiccup gulped.
“You don’t belong here,” she pressed, raising her axe the tiniest bit and thrusting her face into his.
“I live here,” he squeaked out. Why was he acting this squirrly? It’s not like any of this was real. Of course, a lot of good that had done him, back in the water.
“Oh? Did you here that one, guys?” Astrid called to the rest of the group. “He says he lives here!” She laughed a light, airy laugh and then waiting for the group to finish, staring Hiccup down with a soft smirk the whole time.
“He has no idea!” chuckled Snotlout quietly as he stopped laughing. The rest all nodded, like they were all in on some great joke.
Not real, not real, not real, not important, not real…
“You wanna get in on the big secret?” asked Astrid in a stage whisper. “You won’t be around for much longer. I hear your dad’s finally doing it. Exile. We all knew it was coming, and now the day is finally here.”
What? No. He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. Dad wouldn’t actually… No. Just a simulation. Not real. Conquer it. Control it.
“Haha, that’s a good one,” laughed Hiccup in as strong a voice as he dared. Astrid’ smirk slowly changed as Hiccup’s control broke that stage of the simulation. The Viking teens disappeared, as did Hiccup’s front yard. He was back in the common room of his house, and Dad stood on the other side of the room.
“You are a failure!” yelled Dad, slamming his fist into one of the wooden walls for emphasis and leaving a large mark in it. “A disgrace to this tribe!”
“No! I’ve heard enough,” Dad roared. “There’s nothing you can say that could make me love you, Hiccup!”
Even though Hiccup had been forming a heated reply as Dad spoke, the words caught in his throat and all he could do was stand there, empty. He’d said it. He’d actually said it. And now there was nothing Hiccup could ever say to patch it up.
So he said nothing.
Stoick sucked in a few deep breathes, leaving the silence hanging in the room. Hiccup remained standing, but slouched a bit more and brought his arms in closer to his body in an attempt to become even smaller than he even was. “You are not a Viking. You are not my son,” said Stoick, simply.
Outwardly, Hiccup did nothing immediately. Inwardly, he screamed. Not that. Not that. He was afraid it was that, but he’d never really thought it was that. He was that much of a disappointment. So much of a disappointment that Stoick would give up his only heir.
Dad was the last person who had cared about him. And now Dad was gone. The word slipped out before Hiccup had a chance to catch it. “Dad.”
“Don’t use that word around me,” growled Stoick back. “Now get out of my house.”
Hiccup turned and ran.
Ran out, down the street, and into the woods, where he kept on running. Running, running, running until his legs gave out. He was far away from Berk now. He’d never be going back to Berk. He was a failure. He’d always been a failure, sure, but now it was real. It was spoken. So much a failure that Stoick wouldn’t even have him for a son.
Vikings weren’t allowed to cry. But Hiccup was no longer a Viking. He curled up in the tall grasses under a few pine trees, and he cried. It may have only been a simulation, but Hiccup was beginning to think that that’s how Dad felt anyway.
But no. No. Hiccup stood back up and sniffed once. It wasn’t like that in the real world. It was just like that in the simulation. Little by little Hiccup’s breathing became regulated and his heart beat became normal.
A bright white light flooded the area and erased the forest around him. In it’s place was black, from his eyes being shut. Hiccup was too weak to open them.
“You have passed your simulation,” stated a woman Hiccup’s didn’t recognize. “With only four fears. To date there is only one other person with that record.” Only one other? But, that would mean… that four wasn’t normal. He’d expected to have way more than your average person. He couldn’t possibly have only had four fears.
“We did not expect this of you,” continued the woman. Hiccup had to agree. “But then again, sometimes the people we think are weakest are actually the bravest of all.”
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.
“Hiccup, come here,” said Valhallarama one morning about a week after the last dragon raid. Hiccup had mostly recovered from the scare, but occasionally he’d still have nightmares about it. He hated dragons. They were scary.
Hiccup half walked, half ran to the front room where his mother was calling him from her chair. “Yeah, Mom?”
“I have a surprise for you, love. Come here.” Hiccup crawled onto his mother’s lap. Val turned to the table next to her, which was completely cluttered with blue bits of cloth, scissors, needles, threads, and Val’s button box. She picked up the completed project from the table and held it in front of Hiccup.
Terrible images flashed through Hiccup’s mind. Scary things. The fires and the shouting and the smoke of the dragon raids. He hated dragons, and now there was one in his own house! It was small, but Dad said never to underestimate the small ones. It was going to kill them! Hiccup clung to his mother and buried his nose in her chest, shouting for her to kill it.
“Hiccup, my love! It’s nothing to be afraid of, look!” She forced him to turn away from her so that he could see it again. “It’s just a stuffed toy, love. It can’t hurt you.”
Hiccup wasn’t convinced. It looked like a dragon, and he wasn’t about to take any chances. He refused to take it. After a couple tries, Valhallarama set it back on the table. Maybe if he just got used to it…
That night, Valhallarama gave Hiccup a good night kiss and tucked him into bed. She left the room and shut the door, leaving it a little open so his room wasn’t in complete darkness. Hiccup didn’t like the dark. He’d completely forgotten about that dragon, and fell asleep.
He woke up in the middle of the night. He could hear Stoick’s snores from the other room, so he knew to stay quiet. He opened his eyes and turned over in bed.
And was face to face with the dragon. Hiccup opened his mouth to scream, but stopped when he remembered how Dad didn’t like to be woken up. Hiccup would have to deal with this dragon himself.
First, he held the covers up to just above his nose. That way, he could still see it, but could keep most of his body safe under the covers. He slowly inched to the other side of the bed, held in his breath, and rolled off the side of it. He collapsed with a thud on the floor.
There was a wooden toy sword on his floor under his bed. Hiccup grabbed that with one shaky hand and crawled under the bed. That way he could strike the beast from behind. He rose. The dragon’s back was still to him, and he positioned his sword to sweep it on the left. He swung.
The dragon flapped its wings menacingly as his blow struck right across his body. Because of his thick scales, the blow didn’t kill him and he landed on Hiccup’s floor. Was he dead? Or just faking? Summoning all his courage, Hiccup waited silently to see if the dragon would rise. He didn’t. Hiccup slowly approached it.
It didn’t look dead yet, so Hiccup stabbed it one more time. Now the dragon was facing belly up, and his legs were twisted every which way. He looked pretty dead. Hiccup prodded him with the tip of his sword. No response. Hiccup raised his sword above his head and rose his other hand above his head in a fist.
He’d done it! He’d killed a dragon all by himself, without even waking up Mom and Dad! Hiccup crawled back into bed and kept his sword in his hand, just in case any other dragons tried to come that night.
Next morning, Hiccup woke to blinding light hitting his eyes. Light from the crack left in the door was getting into his room. The solution to this problem was simple. Hiccup turned in bed. The light stopped hitting his eyes and he was free to relax again. Perfect. He was about to close his eyes again when he saw it.
The dragon. The memory of the previous night’s antics came rushing back, and Hiccup threw off his covers, grabbed his sword, and stood. It hadn’t moved since last night. He really had killed it. Even so, it was probably a good idea to hold onto the sword.
He swung open the door, letting it creak as loud as it wanted. He couldn’t hear any snoring, and he could hear a fire. Everybody was already up. Hiccup strode into the front room with his chest puffed out and his arms swinging by his sides proudly. He’d killed a dragon all by himself.
“Mom! Dad!” Hiccup shouted. They were going to be so happy when they heard about his dragon. Maybe Dad would even like him!
“What is it, love?” asked Valhallarama.
“I killed a dragon! All by myself!” This got Stoick’s attention. Hiccup, unlike most Viking toddlers, was not one to normally pretend to slay things in his playtime. Was it possible he was finally toughening up?
“Is that so? Where did you find this dragon?” Val asked.
“In my bed last night! I was going to wake you up so you could kill it, but then I remembered how Dad doesn’t like getting woken up. So I killed that nasty dragon myself!” Hiccup grabbed his mother’s hand and started pulling her to his room. “Look!” All three family members stood in Hiccup’s room, where he pointed proudly to his kill.
While Val recognized the toy dragon she’d made Hiccup the day before, she didn’t let on. Neither did Stoick. “Well, what d’ya know? A real dragon!”
“You did good, son,” added Stoick. Hiccup beamed bright, and inside he beamed brighter. He’d finally gotten Dad to like him! Finally! Hiccup continued to smile all through the day, and in fact, fell asleep that night still grinning.
That night, Hiccup stirred. He didn’t know why, but he felt as though something was watching him. Staring at him. He turned to see it. Again. Completely intact. On impulse, Hiccup grabbed his sword, which he had insisted on sleeping with. He’d done it before; he could do it again.
That happened every night for four nights. Hiccup would kill the dragon, but somehow every night it seemed to come alive again and try to kill him all over again. Each time, Hiccup grew more and more scared. How many times would that dragon wake up? He couldn’t sleep at night anymore. He would fall asleep, but then he’d always wake up to find it next to him in bed.
It seemed to him that there was only one way to get rid of it. For good. He made up a plan one night, after he’d killed it for that night but before he fell back to sleep. Dad always took him fishing in a boat on Thursdays. This Thursday, he’d secretly take the dead dragon with him. Then, without letting Dad see, he’d throw it into the water. Then it would be gone for good. Yes. That was a good plan.
Hiccup settled back to sleep calmly. He could deal with the dragon—for good—in the morning.
Return next Thursday at 6:00am Los Angeles time for The Adventures of Little Hiccup: Chapter Four!