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Popsicle Patrol by Levi Athens

As a State Trooper in the cold darkness of Alaska, sometimes I have to go on what we grimly call “Popsicle patrol.”

It’s a common myth that alcohol makes you warmer. In reality, it just makes you feel warmer but doesn’t prevent you from slowly freezing to death. Sometimes folks too drunk to drive home from a night of drinking will end up walking home completely unaware of the effects of the elements.

One night I came across an old man frozen blue and laying in the snow. Disturbing as that may be, it’s not the eeriest thing I’ve come across while on patrol in this frozen hellscape. That prize goes to what I experienced just a month ago that still has me up at night.

There I was in the barren darkness, driving my usual route along the icy roads and checking for drunkards along the thick snow covered environment. It was especially difficult to see since there was a bit of a snow storm that night. I didn’t really expect many people out wandering in this weather.

I was just about to head back when I suddenly saw a woman in a large coat walking alone along the side of the road. The snow was coming down in a blinding flurry and the temperature was much too cold to be walking even with a winter coat. I immediately pulled my vehicle over to check on her.

When I opened my car door and stepped out into the snow, a harsh gust of cold wind hit me. It was then that I heard it. The haunting far away sound of a flute playing was being carried by the arctic winds. I approached the woman, who was still walking forward away from my vehicle.

“Miss! Are you alright?” I called out to her, but she didn’t turn around or respond.

I ran to catch up with her, again asking if she was okay, but she just kept walking. I stood in her path to block her but she just diverted her course slightly to the left and went around me like a faulty roadblock.

It was then that I first got a good look at her face, glimpsed only through the falling snow. She was incredibly pale from the cold. Her lips were very badly chapped and had turned a shade of bluish purple. It looked as if at any moment she could pass out or succumb to the weather. Though, like a zombie, she marched onward.

Three more people then emerged from the blinding storm, a man and two women. They too were walking in the direction of the strange woman. I watched as they fell in line behind her like ducklings in a row.

I heard the flute sound again, but louder this time, and a chill went down my spine.

Suddenly the snow stopped falling completely and my visibility cleared. I saw that more people had now joined this odd parade. This time two men and three women. One of the men was a very elderly man. The rest seemed to range in age from about mid 20’s to early 40’s. They all wore only a single layer of winter clothing. They looked like any normal people you’d see in a crowd, the only thing off about them was their bizarre delirious behavior.

I put my hand on the shoulder of the guy at the back of the line.

“Sir!,” I said forcefully, “What is going on?”

He managed to break free from me and follow the group. I watched in amazement and horror as yet more people emerged from the seemingly empty black night and began following this peculiar line of people walking along the side of the road in the snow.

With all of them ignoring my verbal commands, I half-heartedly attempted to handcuff one of them, but they resisted mightily, shaking me off and continuing to move forward like a machine. Nothing stopped the endless march forward. I didn’t want to be aggressive or hurt any of these people. I was trying to help them and look out for their safety but they remained zombified and unconcerned for their own well being.

Looking back, I wish I had tackled them to the ground or done more to stop their reckless parade. In the moment however, I didn’t, and that haunts me.

At that point there were five men and seven women strolling aimlessly in a row through the snow. At a complete loss for what I should do, I phoned for backup.

“I’m not sure what the heck is going on, but I’ve got like a dozen people here in real danger of freezing to death. They're not complying and I need backup!” I said over the radio.

I watched as the group veered off onto the icy road. The situation was definitely becoming more dangerous. Now the distant flute playing sounded close and I could hear it clearly and continuously.

Suddenly they each stopped and began to strip off their winter clothes. Behind them was a steep slope hidden beyond a guardrail. As they discarded their clothing, they tossed them away down there.

When they were all standing stark naked, they began to march once more off in the direction of the woods, their bare feet stepping across the ice-covered pavement. I stood bewildered by the deranged display with a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. They walked directly into the pathway of any potentially oncoming traffic as they made their way towards the tree line of the wilderness.

Only then did I see where the people were heading and where the sound was coming from. The procession of freezing ghouls moved across the slippery road and to the dark snowy woods just beyond it.

There within the dark woods stood a small grotesque creature I can only describe as an “elf.” In its hands it held a carved wooden flute. It looked like something straight out of an old folklore story or fairy tale. Around the being was an aura of purple light. All I could do was stare at this cartoonish abomination as it played its entrancing music.

The creature, noticing that I'd seen it, cocked its head to the side like a dog and looked at me with a mischievous expression.

I lifted my weapon.

It had dark hypnotic eyes like looking down a deep well. The elf-like being remained unmoved, its lips still pressed to the wooden flute. In that moment I no longer felt like a police officer aiming a firearm but like a small child pretending with a plastic toy gun. It was like I had been taken back to my childhood. The disturbing form began to perform a mocking dance, grinning eerily as it played on. For some odd reason, I was physically unable to squeeze the trigger. The signals from my brain just wouldn't move my hand.

Suddenly, a blindingly bright flash of light came from the wilderness and I dropped my handgun. I watched as the line of people disappeared into the woods, and no matter how much I yelled or protested, they faded from sight into the strange purple glow, consumed forever into the light. The elf offered only a small chuckle before running off into the woods.

When backup arrived I didn’t know what to tell them, the group had vanished completely, so I made up a lie. I said the pale group of people out there walking had phoned for a friend of theirs to give them a ride home, and that I saw them safely drive away. If only things were so simple. Consider this the police report I should have written that night.

Written by Levi Athens
Content is available under CC BY-SA