Chapter 6: Two of the Same Person
Pippa looked at her brother's hauntingly pale face for a long second. Her brown eyes were wide with astonishment and disbelief, making Jack's breathing falter slightly as he watched her. Slowly, Pippa backed away, the news of Jack's actual death shaking the girl straight to the bones for a second time.
Jack watched the girl nervously, making a pained face once he realized that his choice of words were probably not best suited for this point in time. Jack had royally screwed up this time; the look on Pippa's face was enough for him to realize that. What kind of a brother was he to make Pippa believe that he had actually survived his dive in the icy Pond, but in all actuality had died and then reborn?
Pippa backed up into the table, bumping into the chair that she had been sitting in. As she made contact, the small girl let out a startled gasp. The fear in her eyes was evident, and Jack couldn't help but come towards her, hands held forwards to help his sister. He walked slowly as if not to set off a startled cat and made his way to Pippa.
"Please, if you are a ghost, I meant you no harm." Pippa whispered as she cringed away from Jack's reach, shutting her eyes tightly as if to protect herself from him. Jack froze in his stride, but kept his silver blue eyes on the small child in front of him. "I- I just wanted my brother back with me."
"I'm not a ghost, Pippa." Jack said quietly. Pippa didn't respond to him, and Jack frowned at himself in annoyance. Suddenly, Jack thought of an idea. Slowly, Jack sat down on the cold floorboards, coughing softly as he did so. That got the young girl's attention, and she peaked to see Jack sitting cross legged, now level with her. "I'm as real as you. I'm here, right next to you and very much alive."
Pippa then opened her eyes completely, eyeing this white-haired Jack more closely. The more she thought about it, the more it did look like that this was just a copy of her brother. A ghost. His skin looked incredibly sickly and pale, and was almost as white as the crop of snow-white hair on his head. The eyes that stared at her, nervous and hopeful, were not the same warm brown ones that Pippa remembered. They were now a cold, harsh silver blue that secretly frightened the poor girl. Not only that, but the clothes that Jack was wearing seemed . . . otherworldly.
But he spoke with so much sincerity that Pippa found herself slowly moving towards the blanched version of her brother. Before Pippa knew it, she was reaching out, index finger pointing, and poked Jack on his chest. She had expected it to go through for some odd reason, but soon found out that Jack was still a solid person. Pippa poked Jack a few more times before freezing when she saw Jack raise a hand up to hers. Slowly, Jack took her extended hand and gave it a loving squeeze.
This time, Pippa felt how cold Jack's hand was. She fought back the urge to pull her hand away and warm it up by the fireside. The chill from Jack seeped into the warmth of her skin, making it tingle as if she was trying to catch a snowflake from the first snowfall. It reminded Pippa of fresh peppermint on the holidays, their parents' special gift to the two of them.
"See? I'm real. Not a ghost." Jack said with a soft smile as he squeezed Pippa's hand. "Besides, if I were a ghost, could I do this?"
And before Pippa could respond, Jack was attacking the girl's sides with his cold fingertips, tickling her until she submitted to a fit of giggles. Jack didn't relent, and soon his sister was a puddle of wriggling nerves on the floor, laughing her head off. Jack pulled the girl into his lap, wrapping his cool arms around her warm body, and was pleasantly surprised when Pippa snuggled into his body.
They remained there for a long while, content as they were, even when Jack's chill seeped into Pippa's body. It served as proof for Pippa, letting her know that Jack was indeed here, and very much alive. Pippa strangely didn't mind the cold, but it did make her curious.
"Jack?" Pippa asked quietly.
"Hm?" Jack hummed.
"Why are you so cold?" Pippa asked, this time her voice slightly louder than before.
With that, Jack swiftly dropped his arms from Pippa's sides. He quickly pushed the girl off of his lap and disappeared from her senses in less than a second. Pippa turned around to look for Jack, but oddly found her brother already on the other side of the room sitting on top of the sofa like a cat, perfectly balanced. He was holding his arms in a manner of embarrassment, and he was not meeting Pippa's eyes.
"It has something to do with my death." Jack muttered.
Pippa frowned as she stood up. She walked towards Jack, but paused when she was as few feet away from him. She crossed her arms, trying to muster up some warmth into her body after snuggling with Jack. As she did so, Jack couldn't help but let out a sigh.
"But I thought you said that you weren't a ghost, Jack." Pippa pointed out.
Jack shook his head as he ran a hand through his snow-white hair. "I'm not. But I did die, Pippa. I was brought back to life, by the Man in the Moon. He saw me save you back on the Pond and made me into the spirit of winter."
With the blank look on Pippa's face, Jack could tell that what he was saying wasn't going through the confused girl. Jack sighed and shook his head. He plopped down into a sitting position on the sofa, finally noticing that he was shivering. Not from the cold, but from the chills of whatever sickness he had contracted. A few seconds passed and then Jack felt the sofa move under him as Pippa sat down next to him.
"What I mean is . . ." Jack struggled to find the right words. He paused and coughed, sounding like he was about to cough up a lung. After that, a silence grew over the two of them as Pippa waited. "I'm not human. At least, not anymore. I'm a spirit, Pippa. That's why I asked you how you can see me. You can only see spirits if you believe in them."
Pippa was silent as she thought for a few seconds.
"Jack, I never stopped hoping that you were still alive." Pippa muttered softly. Jack looked down at his sister, smiling at her before going into another coughing fit. Pippa frowned nervously and waited for him to stop. "I'm just happy I can see you at all, Jack. Even if you did die."
"Yeah, me too." Jack muttered as he felt the warmth of the fire begin to overbear him. With his chills growing stronger, the winter spirit recognized that the longer he stood in the warmth, the longer it would take for him to get healthy. He either had to go outside in the cold or find his staff to stabilize his temperature. Jack stood up, and then slowly made his way to the door. "I'll be right back, Pippa. I have to find something."
Pippa frowned slightly. "Aren't you going to wear shoes? It's really cold outside."
"No, the cold doesn't bother me now, Pippa." Jack said with a small chuckle. He opened the door, breathing in a sigh of relief from the breeze of refreshing cold air. "I've just got to find my, uh, my staff. It should be right in the tree with… Baby Tooth!"
The shock and fear in Jack's voice surprised Pippa. She had no chance to react before Jack slammed the door behind him hastily. Pippa ran to the window, seeing the blue blur of her brother's clothing dash through the sparse forest to the Pond. It was far faster than she had seen anyone run, but then Jack's words reeled through her head.
Jack wasn't human anymore. It hadn't really sunken into the girl before then.
Pippa watched in slight awe as her brother bent over on his knees, frantically searching for something through the aged snow. In one hand, Pippa saw her brother raise the stick that he had once carried with him wherever he went. She was amazed to see it with him, as it had also fallen into the Pond with him. But it only made sense after a while that the stick would still be with Jack even after his death.
A few more frantic seconds passed, and Jack had finally found what he had been looking for. Jack brought a cupped hand close to his face and his piercing eyes inspected whatever was in it. A frown formed, and Pippa realized that something wasn't right. Jack's head snapped up and looked at her, his face frightening hers.
"Pippa, get the fire going!" Jack shouted with a worried tone of voice.
She nodded in compliance and turned inside. Pippa rushed to the fireside and put a new log on the dying embers. The young girl turned around to grab another log, but jumped when she saw that Jack was already inside only seconds after giving her a panicked order. Jack was fast, incredibly fast. The white haired spirit set his staff down against the sofa and quickly grabbed the fire stoker. The fire roared with life, and Jack let out a sigh of relief despite looking clammy and unhealthy.
"Thank you Pippa." Jack muttered as he put a hand on her head and affectionately rubbed it. "I think she'll be alright."
"She?" Pippa questioningly looked up to her brother.
That was when she noticed that Jack was still holding one of his hands in a cupped position. Jack smiled softly before crouching down to her level to show the young girl what he was holding in his pale white hands. Pippa peered over to get a good look, but frowned in disappointment.
He was holding nothing in his hands.
"Isn't she beautiful? Her name is Baby Tooth." Jack said as he continued to look down into his empty hand. He smiled affectionately before placing his hand on the sofa and slipping it off gently, as if he was putting something small and fragile down. "She's been a good friend to me; I think you'll like her once she warms up."
Pippa remained silent before looking up at her brother in a questioningly manner. She must have gone insane. Her dead brother was now back, claiming to be alive and in control of the forces of winter. And now he was speaking to figures that did not exist. Pippa shook these thoughts out of her head, choosing not to believe them at this time and went for a more direct approach on the situation.
"Jack, I don't see anything there." Pippa said as she stared at the empty sofa.
That one statement made Jack freeze in place. This made Pippa frightened, and she was unsure of why. He remained where he stood, unmoving with a look of horror and grief plastered onto his pale face. It took a long moment for Jack to break his pause, and when he did, he took Pippa into an awkward hug. A few seconds later and Pippa realized that Jack might have been on the verge of tears.
"Oh Pippa. How old are you?" Jack asked, his voice faltering slightly. He waited for an answer, but Pippa was too confused about why he was asking it to respond. His hold tightened, and Jack asked with a bit more force. "Please Pippa, how old?"
Pippa gulped. "I'm twelve."
He sucked in a breath. "You're getting old. So old." He gave her one last tight squeeze before letting her go and picking up his staff. He looked at his younger sister and frowned. "But you shouldn't be that old yet. You should still believe in her."
Pippa was getting fed up with not knowing what Jack was talking about. She pouted as she confronted Jack.
"With who, Jack?"
Jack frowned slightly again with her last question, which made Pippa only slightly more irritated. She was so confused, and it seemed that she wasn't going to get any straight answers from Jack, either because he didn't know what was going on also, or that he just didn't want to admit it. Pippa was a sweet girl, but she did have a bit of a temper behind her when someone wasn't telling her something important.
Suddenly Jack asked, "Do you still believe in Santa Clause, Pippa? Or Father Christmas?"
Hesitantly, Pippa shook her head. Jack's frown deepened and then he began to pace around the small living area. Pippa watched him nervously, unsure of what he was thinking or what exactly was going on. Jack began to mumble to himself under his breath, and Pippa couldn't catch the words that he was playing around with. The small girl was only able to catch a few words: show and believe.
With that Jack exclaimed "Perfect!" and rushed forward towards Pippa. Pippa jumped backwards and looked up at her pale brother, confused and visibly startled. Jack didn't seem to notice how startled Pippa was; he grabbed her by the hand and picked her up as if she was as light as a feather. Somehow Jack had managed to put the young girl up on his back safely and he headed towards the door, picking up his old wooden staff on the way out.
"Sounds like you got a bad case of Premature Disbelief-ism, Pippa. I'm going to cure you of that as soon as possible." Jack said, a hint of a smile audible in his voice. He stopped and looked back at their house. "I'll be back for you, Baby Tooth. Hopefully with a believer."
Pippa clutched to her brother tightly, paying no attention to the bitterness that was radiating off of his body. She watched the world pass by them as Jack started running towards the Pond. She listened to his breathing, wondering if he would tire out, but could only hear that mischievous chuckle of his.
"What are you doing Jack?" Pippa asked as she sucked in a small breath. She squeezed her arms around Jack's neck tighter, somewhat afraid of what he was going to do. Jack didn't notice the strangle hold that the girl had on him, it only felt like an anxious, excited hug. "Please tell me, Jack. Please?"
Jack stopped, now at the edge of the Pond. He looked behind him, looking at his sister excitedly. He had to cough, but he forced it down in a futile attempt to hide his sickness. "Well, I know you've never watched it, or even heard of the story of Aladdin, but I'm going to show you the world."
And before Pippa knew it, Jack had jumped off of the ground. Now the two were hovering just above the tree line, looking over the snowy wilderness and staring at the beautiful, rising sun. Pippa stared at it, her stomach and mind disagreeing on the situation that she had now found herself in. Her breath caught, and her blood began to run cold.
Jack turned to look at her with his silver blue eyes. A wide, cheeky smile covered his face. "What do you think?"