“Why does Addison do so much with food?” Kara asks as they sit on the crest of a flattop hill. Sitting in a patch of spring-like warmth, she stares at the snowy valley that is filled with piles of ice cream. “This means we don’t have to hunt, but it’s weird that she keeps making edible places. She reminds me of those witches with candy houses. Do you think it’s a clue that we can kill her with an oven?”
“I saw her get stuffed into one and she fell asleep,” Dawn replies with a sigh. The lack of movement below has her nerves on edge and she cannot shake the feeling that there is a pattern to the desserts. “From what I remember, Addison is driven by three things. The constant one is fun, which influences everything she does. The others stem from the few things that can make her feel pleasure. First is sex, but she only thinks of that vice once every six months. Wait, you’re ten and probably shouldn’t have been told that. Last thing I want is to be explaining the birds and the bees to you.”
“People don’t hide such things from kids these days,” the girl says before making a crude gesture with her hands. She stops when her friend blushes and rummages through their bags for a flask of alcohol. “So, the second thing she loves is food. That doesn’t sound very strange. Does that mean she’s human enough to beat?”
Stretching her arm into the cold region, Dawn tries to ignore the question about killing her insane side. “Our . . . Her mother wasn’t much of a cook. Breakfast was whatever cereal was on sale, lunches were jelly sandwiches, and dinner was something boiled. There were a few times Addison had friends and would visit their houses. She’d be introduced to candy, ice cream, pizza, and all the goodies that we . . . she never got at home. I know it was because her mom was scared of her power and thought doing anything complicated would risk a fatal failure. It still backfired because the food was terrible. So, Addison has this small obsession with treats that has grown out of control without me in there. Put on warmer clothes and we’ll get going. I think I took some snowshoes off a cart at the lake.”
Heading to the small car that was abandoned by one of the terrified families, Dawn stops again when she spots smoke in the valley. Waving for Kara to continue getting ready, she takes out a pair of binoculars and walks along the edge of the hill. She cannot see the source due to a pile of mint chocolate chip in her line of sight, but she can see that the ice cream has melted on the righthand side. The sun emerges from the clouds and a momentarily glint catches Dawn’s attention. A large shard of metal-edged glass can be seen sticking out of a long mound of cookie dough ice cream. Whistling for Kara to come take a look, she leaves the girl to check the area and gets herself dressed. Poking her head inside the vehicle, she taps at the fuel gauge that is on empty and sighs at the thought of leaving so many supplies behind. Dawn quickly removes a roof rack and creates a harness out of a coil of rope, which allows her to drag half of their gear through the ice cream-covered ground. She nods her head for Kara to a backpack along with her precious satchel, which is now covered in flower stickers.
“Don’t eat anything,” Dawn says as they step into the colder temperature. The shock causes them to gasp for air and groan at the pain rippling through their heads. “Give yourself a few minutes to adapt. I didn’t think it would be this bad, but it’ll pass. Did you happen to see anything out here?”
The girl shakes her head instead of talking, her eyes watering from the pain that is gradually subsiding. Not wanting to push her too hard, Dawn takes her time dragging the heavy load down the hill instead of letting gravity do the work. By the time they reach the bottom, they are no longer squinting in pain and on the verge of throwing up. Adjusting their fluffy hats, the pair march into the eerie valley that reeks of old ice cream. The combination of smells is more nauseating than enticing, which makes it easier to ignore the edible landscape. Spoons are scattered about the ground and stick out of the piles in the hopes of being claimed. The plastic ends a neon yellow that prevents them from being ignored and they occasionally release a low hum as they vibrate. There are no animal tracks, but they begin to find ruts that are similar to what would be left by several trucks moving along the same path. Faint footprints can be found in the areas that are thin enough to expose the mud below, but there are too few to figure out how many people have passed. Coming around the mint chocolate chip, Dawn is not surprised to find the smoldering remains of a bonfire. The final piece of evidence that they are not the first to cross the valley does little to calm her nervousness. Now that she is aware of the fact, she finds herself picking out various pieces of metal and glass that are barely hidden by the desserts. A wind blows away part of a slumping pile of strawberry ice cream to reveal the flap of a tent that is embedded in the food.
With a single step, Dawn’s feet go out from underneath her and she goes sliding across an icy surface. The roof rack skitters behind her until it builds up enough ice cream in front of it to stick into the gooey mess. A sharp, wordless yell causes Kara to stop at the edge of the slippery ground, so she crouches and digs through the cold food. Unable to get to her feet, Dawn pulls herself along the ropes to reach their supplies and find a pair of ice skates that she packed for an emergency. Strange protrusions poke at her body with some snapping off, but her thick clothes protect her from getting stabbed or cut. Crawling through the ice cream, she keeps her mouth shut and shivers at the numbness coursing through her face. She has to repeatedly stop to wipe the muck out of her eyes, which are stinging from some of the ingredients. Her vision is blurry and random flickers of rainbow light make her think that she is damaging her sense of sight. It is only when she clears a patch of the dessert and tries to catch her breath that she notices the frozen lake is a mix of colors. Shifting more of the ice cream, she exposes wooden popsicle sticks that are poking out of the surface.
Using the fragile protrusions to pull herself along, Dawn swiftly comes within reach of the rack. A small crinkling sound is the only warning she gets before the ground beneath their supplies gives way. Still harnessed to the heavy piece of metal, she is yanked forward and nearly falls into the hole. Leaping at the last moment, she manages to catch the far side of the opening with her hands and slams her feet into the opposite end. Spread eagled and unable to move, she is about to yell for help when she hears Kara’s footsteps on the frozen lake. Dawn can tell that the girl is taking her time to avoid falling, so she focuses on maintaining her grip. Even knowing that she should not look down, she gazes at what awaits her if she slips. Swirls of colorful mist are where she expected to see liquid and she can barely make out strange figures standing on the smooth bottom. A knot forms in her stomach, but she fights back the sensation to avoid curling up into a ball.
By the time Kara arrives, the girl is covered in sweat and dragging herself along by her elbows. Dawn holds her breath as her companion closes one eye and stretches over the hole with a pair of shears. Shifting enough to bring the rope in reach of the scissors, she bites her lower lip and tries to avoid imagining her feet giving way. The thought of her swinging into the sharp points and plummeting after their supplies almost makes the woman laugh. Her head twitches slightly, but the tic stops as soon as Kara frees her from the harness. Both of them watch as the roof rack bounces off the rainbow walls and crashes into one of the figures, which shatters like an ice statue. Pulling herself to solid ground, Dawn takes out her binoculars to get a closer look at the destruction and frowns at the sight of red liquid seeping out from under what she had hoped was a statue.
Without warning, the lenses give her a close up look at the remains and she sees the head of a woman. The figure’s color is a mix of a blue and red, which makes it difficult to see any details of the face. It is when she scans low enough to see a discoloration across the neck that the knot in her stomach leaps into her throat. Realizing that she is looking at Melissa Williams and the rest of the Grand Caravan, Dawn’s vision grows even more acute. She can see all of the icy corpses beneath the frozen lake and each one jogs a memory of how the people had been treating her during their short time together. A single wooden popsicle stick is embedded in every head, which has either an expression of terror or sadness. Many are on their knees as if they were begging for their lives before an instant death. Kara’s voice is a distant whisper as Dawn continues staring at the mass grave that she fears was done in her honor. She is on the verge of climbing down when all of the dead travelers move their heads in unison. Melting eyes stare in her direction and mouths open to reveal sharpened teeth. No noise comes from their throats, but she gets the sense that they are screaming and growling at her like a giant pack of enraged animals.
“Let’s keep moving,” Dawn says as she backs away from the hole.