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Shifting Seasons 2018 Writing Contest: Mayoral Monster

Mayoral Monster
By: RazzleBerryDazzle

Polaria trudged through the crunchy snow as the late day sun turned everything gold, rose and blazing white. The weather was gentle, but the place she had been asked to journey to was anything but; The Dead Forest consisted of the crumbling, blasted trunks of trees killed in a severe freeze of unnatural severity that had struck the area decades before. Now the sad remains of the forest jutted skyward from the rolling hills, all wind-crumbled tops and ice-splintered limbs, creating one of the least joyful locations of Tigereye Peak. It was a place that had a reputation for bad luck and bad energy, even though there was nothing obviously dangerous about it. As always, true danger tended to stay concealed.

"Hello?" Polaria sang out, looking around for any sign of the one who had left the note and map that had brought her here. The note, written in a fancy hand and slipped under her door, had specified she must come alone, and the information that had been written of was enough to make sure the seasoned polar bear did just that. There had been no threats, and nothing of a sinister nature, but there had been promises of answers to things Polaria craved answers to, things she wanted the answers to so she could better protect her people and better do her job as Mayor.

"Oh dear, I wonder if I'm too late," Polaria said with frustration as she took in the rolling hills with their skeleton-finger trees. She squinted at a flare of sun shining off a hill crest, and then she saw a shape dart behind the cover of one large trunk. "It seems that no, I am not," Polaria mumbled to herself, getting an uneasy feeling, as she started off toward the shape. What at first had seemed like an offered gift was now starting to smell like a trap, but Polaria was determined to face it head on. If someone was out to do her harm, she'd be giving them a harder time by coming right at them than by turning her back and giving them her entire trip home to pull their nonsense on her.

"Hello, hello," Polaria sang. "Is that you, my mysterious note leaver?"

The mayor then gasped when she saw a dark shape laying prone in the snow, and she feared whoever she had just seen may have been some poor ill-prepared traveler suffering exposure out here in the Dead Forest. All thoughts of her meeting fled from her mind as she ran forward, taking the snow in easy strides, leaving her age behind as her breath puffed in frosty clouds. She was upon the fallen shape in no time, but as she looked down and squinted at who laid before her, she got the feeling her eyes were playing tricks on her. All she saw was a strange translucent shadow in the vague form of a person, and even that quickly seemed to disintegrate, deflating and melting away, leaving only bare undisturbed snow where it had been.

"What in the world...?" Polaria said, puzzled, and it was then that she heard the sharp crack of breaking wood behind her. Turning quickly, she saw one of the trees falling right in her direction and though she didn't have time for a long look, the old polar bear got the impression of some strange lashing darkness playing about the tree's base. Her reflexes were easily good enough for her to dodge the tree, but as Polaria tried to move, she felt her foot snagged firmly, and when she looked down she saw something like a weird blue-black root or vine tangled tightly about it.

The Mayor of Tigereye Peak was scarcely able to let out a cry of alarm before the heavy trunk crashed down on her, striking her across the shoulders and driving her to the ground on her belly, pinning her. Gasping for breath, hoping against hope she wasn't badly hurt, Polaria waited for the numbing, stunning blow to give way to throbbing soreness. Her vision was blurred, her glasses flung from her nose. As she tried to figure out how bad her situation was, a dark blur welled up before her, taking the form of someone standing, looking down at her. Its color was the same as the vine or root that had snagged her leg.

"That seems like quite a spot you're in, Mayor," a very civil female voice said with the same tone one would use to compliment someone's curtains.

Polaria coughed, gasping as she regained her breath somewhat, though the trunk laying atop her made breathing difficult. "I imagine you had something... to do with it." Polaria squinted, wishing she could easily lay a paw on her glasses. The strange vagueness of the shape along with the flaring sunlight and the dizzyness from the blow was making it so hard to register just what was before her. The edges of the blur seemed to swim and change.

"Oh indeed, but it's nothing I should be proud of. I exploited your kindness and sense of duty to get you here, and exploited my own unusual nature to trap you. It was unsporting and unfair. But that's politics."

"What do you want with me?" Polaria demanded, a growl creeping into her pained voice. Her brow furrowed with anger.

"With you? Nothing. It's your position I desire. Position as mayor, that is, not position of being pinned under a tree."

"I don't think you're going to get many votes," Polaria said after taking the words in. Her breath had deteriorated to wheezing gasps, the momentary burst of anger only taking her so far.

"You've already been voted in," the shape said as it seemed to grow closer in Polaria's swimming vision. "I just need to... Learn you. I just need a close up look."

Polaria felt something rubbery and cold brush her face and she winced, becoming aware of two huge yellow eyes staring from the darkness of the shadow. It was stroking her face, looking at her analytically.

"Keep your filthy paws off me," Polaria wheezed.

"I don't have any filthy paws... Yet. But I'll soon have yours. I'm going to take your shape. That's why I had to be careful that the tree I dropped didn't crush your skull. I need your face for reference. Can't afford to miss any details. I've studied your manner for a long time but I could never get close enough for the cosmetic part."

"WHAT are you?" Polaria demanded, suddenly fearing for a lot more than just her safety.

The shape seemed to recede and stopped caressing the old polar bear's face, rising back up to full height.

"I'm you."

The shape turned and began moving away, though there was no sound of crunching snow. Even with such blurred vision Polaria could see it didn't move by walking as much as it seemed to flow and glide.

"You know quite well that a storm is moving in, so it's unfortunate you're pinned like that, dear, dear thing," The voice that came from the shape as it moved away changed, and Polaria realized it was now speaking with her voice. Her words. "Safety is so important here in the lands of Tigereye, and its dreadfully dangerous to wander out into the Dead Forest so close to nightfall, with a storm so soon to arrive. By the time they find your poor frozen body, I'll be finished with my business and long gone."

Polaria watched with horror as even with her blurred vision she could see the other changing color, taking on the soft purple of her clothes and the earth tones of her leggings, with a blaze of white the same color as her fur shining at its head. Blinking desperately to try and get a good look, Polaria finally saw clearly what was retreating over the snowy hills, just in time to see it stop its flowing, gliding motion and drop into a heavy-footed trudging walk. The thing turned and smiled at her with her own face, and winked a shining purple eye, even having copied her gold-framed glasses.

"See you," the thing said, once more using its original voice. Then it switched to her Polaria's once more. "Now I'm going to be you."

Then it was out of view.

Polaria felt the last thing she wanted to feel. She was about to pass out. The blow from the tree, the shock of it all, it was too much and things were starting to spin.

"No, no, no," Polaria cried weakly, knowing that falling unconscious was likely a death sentence, especially since the horrible fluid thing that had just stolen her face hadn't been lying about the coming storm. Polaria growled and tried to drag herself forward, but it was useless, and she soon fell limp, her purple eyes drifting closed as her mouth fell open.

When she awoke again, it was to near darkness, and the feeling of icy snowflakes stinging her nose. Night had fallen and the storm had arrived, wind whipping over the hills and driving scathing walls of blizzard before it. The snow had already started to compile over Polaria and she wiggled as best she could to clear it away. The sky shimmered with trails of aurora that lit the hills in dim ghostly green.

"Alright. Enough... Napping," Polaria grunted as she pushed upward against the tree trunk that pinned her. She was in pain, but nothing within her felt broken. Only bruised. Carefully, she gathered her arms under her and soon was able to try pushing herself upwards. The snow-dusted tree trunk was rising, and the sound of cracking wood joined the howling storm as Polaria, through sheer strength and force of will, shifted it. Her rest had done her some good!

Knowing that if she didn't complete the job in one try, it was going to be harder to do on a second try, and perhaps hopeless on a third, Polaria pushed her muscles to the limit and gritted her teeth. She let out an angry roar as finally, the tree trunk rolled off her bruised back and fell into the snow, leaving her free. Gasping for breath, the exhausted polar bear felt her injuries and could tell that she was going to be in a lot more pain the next day than she was at that moment. That is, if she survived the storm. Her first instinct was to seek shelter and wait it out, but she hadn't been elected Mayor and trusted by her people for the habit of going with her first instinct.

With the storm lashing her furiously, Polaria hugged herself tightly, pulled her hood closed to protect her face, and started out as quickly as she could for home. Even though traveling during a storm like this was something she would never allow anyone to do, the polar bear was determined that she was either going to immediately put a stop to whatever the impostor had planned, or she was going to end up a frozen corpse from trying.

"Dear dear... I could sure go for a cup of hot chocolate about now."