Flynn could not bear another Alaskan winter. It wasn’t the snow, which he found beautiful, nor the bitter cold which made the world feel clean. Nor was it the darkness, as November daylight shrank in January’s shadow. It was the creeping, unbearable loneliness of solitude that Flynn could no longer bear.
Flynn moved to Anchorage to work for a logging company at the age of 24 when he couldn’t find work in the lower 48 states. He loved the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, but friends came and went. As Flynn turned 30, many of them married, had children, or moved away. Not Flynn.
Heavyset, soft-spoken, and prematurely gray, Flynn had never been a Romeo, and the Alaskan dating scene seemed as stark as a winter forest. With a higher number of men than women, Alaskans liked to say, “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.” Flynn never felt odd exactly, but perhaps unexceptional. “Bland as toast,” his mother used to say. “Duller than safety scissors,” college acquaintances quipped.
Flynn had joined a fraternity to find acceptance as a freshman, but instead found himself the butt of cruel pranks and snide comments. His “brothers” were known to compare Flynn to the main course at the fraternity pig-roast. They wrote fake love letters to his professors on his behalf, stole his clothes, and buried them in snow. Flynn dropped out, vowing always to go his own way from then on.
At first, Flynn cherished his solitude, but as long, cold years soldiered on, despair burrowed inside him.
His parents passed away, and his extended family was scattered. He began to develop chronic back and joint pain that seemed to signal a hopeless and inevitable end. Flynn knew he was still young. That he could move somewhere warmer and brighter. He could return to school and learn a new trade that was easier on his body. Yet these thoughts of greener pastures seemed far away, like mountain echoes.
Friday morning, after a Thanksgiving meal of canned beans and bologna sandwiches, Flynn set out on a hike. The lingering night spread over the woods along the Turnagain Arm. The sky seemed to press down on him, adding to the feeling of heaviness inside his chest. Flynn carried this burden always, its weight as real as anything, as if his heart were a medicine ball sinking into his guts.
A carpet of snow coated the woods. Bare branches frosted to brittle glass. In 19-degree air, Flynn’s tears froze to his rugged cheeks.
Flynn approached the reflecting pond he once loved, tucked away off the beaten path. An Inuit scholar Flynn used to know told him about the pond, which locals called “Janus.” Legend said it was a sacred place where secret wishes could be granted. Flynn never made a wish there before, but today, he sat on a snow-caked log and watched as the final hole in the ice seemed to glaze over in front of his eyes.
In his coat pocket, Flynn found a forgotten silver dollar. He removed his gloves and held it in his palm. His breath puffed over the coin. Like a child at a magic fountain, Flynn whispered his heart’s desire: “I hope I die soon.”
He flipped the coin. It somersaulted into the pond, breaking through the thin, icy layer with a dull sploosh, and sank into the blue nowhere. Before the coin faded from sight, long, translucent fingers bloomed from the depths and snatched it away.
Flynn stared, unsure of what he had seen. He allowed his hands and face to grow numb in the cold and waited, watching the pond glaze over again.
The next day, a gold cardstock envelope appeared in Flynn’s mailbox. It had no addresses, so it could not have come through the Postal Service, and there were no tracks in the snow leading to the mailbox near Flynn’s remote, one-room cabin.
The envelope was sealed by white wax, stamped with an ornate, calligraphic “G.” Flynn opened it to find a handmade Christmas card, the cover depicting a watercolor landscape of a winter forest. The words “Seasons Greetings” swirled across a star-filled sky.
Flynn opened the card, half-expecting an elaborate advertisement disguised as a personal letter, yet the interior contained a hand-written message as well, inked in elegant script:
Season’s Greetings, Flynn,
I live at the bottom of Janus Pond south of the park. I heard your wish yesterday, and I recognize your offering of silver. I am happy to grant this request. By midnight Christmas Eve, I will find you and drag you to the bottom of the pond to release you from this painful life.
Take comfort that your suffering will soon end.
Flynn felt numb. He read the card several times and examined the envelope. Surely, he had been alone at the pond, and if he hadn’t, who could have heard his faint whisper as he tossed the coin into the water? Perhaps he was losing his grip on reality, but the card was real and the script far too fancy for Flynn’s own hand, even if he were capable of deluding himself.
Flynn tried to put the card out of his mind and returned to work that week, but soon more cards arrived from Mister Glass. They were all handmade, thoughtful notes, and they arrived unexpectedly, always with no sign that any person or vehicle had trekked through the snow.
I hope you are not finding your workload too unbearable this week. Rest assured, you will not toil much longer. Know that you have the luxury of retiring from your job.
I regret that I cannot grant your wish sooner, but I must follow protocol in such matters. I’m afraid your demise must wait until the 24th.
Embarrassed that someone had deduced his sadness and that they could make light of his pain, Flynn grew bitter. The letters reminded him of the cruel college pranks that had driven him into solitude. This prank cut deepest, perhaps, because part of him yearned for Mister Glass to be real.
Eager to settle the matter for himself, Flynn returned to Janus Pond. By the first weekend of December, the water had completely iced over, and several inches of snow had piled on top. Flynn wiped the snow away and attempted to peer through the ice.
Within minutes, a long, dark shape floated to the surface. The ice grew transparent at the touch of the being’s sharp, delicate fingers. Its bulbous, featureless head glimmered.
Flynn whispered Mister Glass’s name. The being scratched the underside of the frozen pond, raised a lanky arm, and gave a stiff salute. Then, slowly, it sank like a gaunt phantasm, into the darkness.
The next day another card arrived, depicting a flock of ravens looming on stark winter branches. It read:
How nice of you to drop by. I felt your sincerity through the ice, and now, I am even more confident that I am about to do you a beautiful service. You know it as well. The end is coming.
Please make any necessary arrangements, and I will be with you in a few short weeks.
December wore on. Darkness consumed more daylight. Flynn awoke on December 10th. He lay listless in bed, pondering whether or not to call in sick again. Truly, Mister Glass was correct that he should simply quit his job with the certainty that he would not live to see January.
The fact neither upset nor comforted him. The horrible numbness had to end. He felt a great, terrible nothing—a monstrous white-out—about everything, even the cards from the stranger in the pond. In fact, the only feeling Flynn experienced this morning was hunger. His freezer and cabinets had run bare. He’d hardly been out at all, and after a full day with nothing to eat, an intense craving gnawed at his guts.
Flynn dressed and drove to the general store he frequented. As he wandered fluorescent aisles in the late morning darkness, Flynn pondered just how much food he’d need in the two weeks leading to his rendezvous with Mister Glass. He stared into a freezer case of pizzas, and his thoughts drifted from his hunger to the frozen world at the bottom of the pond. He imagined himself pulled under the ice by sharp fingers and wondered how long he would feel cold before he felt nothing at all.
“Can I help you?”
Flynn snapped out of his reverie to find a familiar cashier, a plump woman in her 30s, leaning over her counter. A silky black braid hung over her shoulder. The nametag pinned to her red vest spelled “Nan.” Pink flower stickers adorned the letters.
“I’m sorry,” Flynn said. “I can just—I can hardly remember why I’m even here.”
Nan’s flat nose crinkled with her smile. “For groceries!”
Flynn returned her smile. “Right.”
Nan had one lazy eye that twinkled chocolate brown in fluorescent light. Flynn appreciated her upbeat attitude and found suddenly that another emotion had broken through the numbness. Was it fear? Were there small pleasures in life—friendly cashiers, sunrises and sunsets, the taste of food—that made it worth living even despite the seemingly unbearable stretches of loneliness?
Flynn pushed the thoughts aside. He gathered up a few frozen pizzas and TV dinners, milk, eggs, and fruit, and clumsily unloaded them onto the conveyer belt.
“Fosters’ Frozen Lasagna! Oh, I love these,” Nan said as she scanned. “I make these all the time.”
They made chit-chat, about weather, holidays, and the darkness. Flynn, of course, pretended that it was only “the usual darkness.” Only a typical Alaskan December that they were both so accustomed to, but before he left, he admitted to her, “I really hate winter…and so much of life seems to be winter. But lately, I think I like the cold.”
“I like people like you.” Nan touched his shoulder. “You’re honest.”
After he left, Flynn smiled for the entire ride home. Sun gleamed over slush-crusted roads. It would only be out for a few precious hours.
Back home, as he unpacked groceries, a small, square envelope flipped from the bag onto the counter. At first, Flynn thought it was another note from Mister Glass, but this paper was different. Instead of a white wax seal, flowers drawn with pink and purple iridescent ink adorned the envelope. Tucked inside, Flynn found a greeting card. On the cover, a happy looking cartoon puppy wore a Santa hat. On the interior of the card, in neat, bubbly print, was written:
To the nice bearded man who buys frozen dinners:
I don’t yet know your name, but you brighten my weeks when we chat at the general store. It would be nice to know you better over coffee. Life is too short not to take chances, right?
Nan had signed her name beneath the brief note, and under that, printed her phone number.
Flynn and Nan met for coffee the next day. Both layered up, they strolled downtown Anchorage, impervious to the 12-degree air. They spoke for hours about their histories, interests, habits, and livelihoods.
Flynn learned that Nan didn’t just cashier at the general store, but she also sold handmade scarves and hats online. She loved to knit, sew, paint, and write poetry. Nan also loved musicals. She was spiritual, but not especially religious. Her parents raised her with a blend of Christian and Inuit beliefs. Nan, he learned, was short for Nanouk, an Inuit name which meant “polar bear.”
“As a girl, I hated my name,” She said, her nose crinkling as she smiled. “I always wondered why my parents named me after a bear.”
“I think it’s beautiful,” Flynn said. “Polar bears are tough. It means you’re strong.”
In that moment, Nan grasped his gloved hand, stretched onto her tip-toes and planted a kiss on Flynn’s chilled cheek.
Time soared by, and they found themselves sitting hand-in-hand in the town square in the early evening, their breaths puffing into pristine clouds. Flynn offered to buy Nan dinner, and she suggested instead that they share a frozen dinner—the Fosters’ Lasagna they both adored—at her place.
The very next day, Flynn returned to work with a smile on his face and a zip in his step. He and Nan spent the next five days together, sharing new jewels of information about one another. Flynn even confessed to her that he’d been growing increasingly depressed and had been struggling to find something—anything—worth living for, until he’d received her note in his groceries.
Nan had taken him by the hands upon hearing that. Her eyes misted. “My father was a soldier,” she said. “He struggled with depression too, and PTSD. It was very difficult to watch him suffer.”
Nan showed Flynn a folded American Flag, a silver star medal, and a photo of a young man in uniform whose face echoed hers. “Dad ran an army surplus store. My mother was his happiness, but their marriage fell apart when I was a teenager, and he started drinking too much. He never wanted to talk about the things that haunted him.” A heavy tear began to roll down her cheek. She let it fall. “He took his own life when I was just 18. I wish he had sought help.”
“I’m so sorry.” Flynn pulled her close and held her. She leaned into the embrace for a brief moment, then pulled back and looked him in the eyes.
“Flynn,” she said. “I’m glad to bring happiness into your life, but I hope, no matter what happens, you’ll always be the source of your own happiness.”
It was corny. It was cliched, Flynn knew. But hearing it from Nan’s lips melted his frozen insides. Flynn had never experienced such warmth. He had never before yearned to spend as much time with anyone. Nan was so wonderful that he had almost forgotten what awaited him at the bottom of Janus Pond.
On December 18th, Flynn returned home to find another golden envelope in his mailbox. The hand-painted card depicted a dead caribou, a shock of scarlet in a snowy clearing. The interior read:
Salutations, My Dear Friend,
As I write these words, I’m relishing the thought of holding you in my icy grip and pulling you into my underwater world where pain does not exist.
Flynn panicked. In the whirlwind of his past few days with Nan, he allowed Mister Glass and his letters to fade along with his sadness, but the cards were still coming. They sat in a menacing stack on his counter. They were real.
Mister Glass, Flynn realized with renewed horror, was also real, and scheduled to arrive in less than one week. Only now, it was not pain he promised to end, but the joy he had only just discovered in Nan’s arms.
Flynn emptied his coin jar on the counter, found another silver dollar, gathered his ice-fishing tools, and journeyed into the black, star-filled night.
He reached Janus Pond, and in the glow of his electric lantern, he drilled and hacked at the ice. He worked frantically, until his arms, back, and knees ached, and he had a hole about twelve inches in diameter. Snow flurries fluttered by as he held the coin over the icy water.
“Mister Glass,” Flynn said, “I appreciate your promise to end my suffering, but I am blessed to have met a beautiful woman. I think she loves me. I know I love her. Maybe I will not be happy forever, but I greatly wish to live, for as long as I can. I wish to build a relationship with her, wherever that may take us. Please, do not come for me. Not on the 24th. Not ever.” He dropped the coin into the water and watched it sink into the shadowy depths.
Flynn waited, heart slamming his ribs.
A sinewy arm shot from the hole, spraying icy water into his face. Flynn fell backwards onto the ice and watched as one of the long, sharp glass fingers with knobby, angular joints curled down to the ice like a spider’s leg. The finger scratched the hard surface, making angry, lightning-bolt strokes. Then, the translucent hand slapped the ice and retreated violently back into the pond.
Written in severe scrapes was the word “NO.” In the center of the “O,” Mr. Glass had left the second silver dollar, refused and abandoned.
The next morning Flynn received another greeting card. This one showed the decayed caribou carcass up close, nestled in a storm of furious black wings. Ravens tore at bloody entrails.
You are a coward and an inconsiderate fool. I have the compassion to grant but one sincere request for a pathetic man, and this request I will fulfill.
Run as far as you wish. Hide anywhere you choose. Fight with all your might. I will find you and claim you on the 24th. I will slay anyone who tries to impede me.
This woman’s love cannot save you.
Thirty minutes later, Flynn arrived at Nan’s house, haggard and sleepless. The light reflecting off her white front door shined like a star in the civil twilight when she answered in her pink bathrobe.
“Flynn! What is it? What’s wrong!” She attempted to pull him into her warm home. It took every ounce of his willpower, but Flynn gently pushed her away.
“Please. I have to tell you something. It won’t be easy to hear.”
Fear welled in Nan’s eyes. “Please, come inside.”
“I’m afraid if I come inside, I’ll never be able to leave you,” Flynn said. “Someone is coming for me—someone dangerous—and I can’t allow you to be hurt.”
“What do you mean? Someone is coming for you? Who? Why?”
“I can’t let you get involved,” Flynn said, shaking his head. “The situation is so crazy, I hardly believe it myself. I’m going to try and stop him, but if I can’t, then…” He swallowed to steady his trembling voice. “I want you to know that I love you. More than I ever thought possible.”
Flynn started to walk away, but Nan raced after him, barefoot in the snow.
“Stop!” She yanked his arm and slapped his cheek hard. “You big idiot!”
Flynn’s cheek stung in the sub-zero air.
“Don’t walk away and not even explain the whole thing, you dope!” Nan shivered in her robe. “How soon is this person coming?”
Nan brought Flynn inside, made coffee, and patiently listened to Flynn’s entire story, never once interrupting, never once casting a look of doubt, disbelief, or anger. When he finished, she calmly fetched a book from her shelf and paged through it. She showed Flynn an illustration of a scaly monster reaching for a small child at the shore.
“Inuit people believed in portals to other realms at the bottom of the sea and other bodies of water. I was once terrified of a monster called Qallupilluk, who drags children into the depths.”
Flynn nodded. “That does sound like Mister Glass.”
“Yes.” Nan nodded and paged further into the book. “But Qallupilluk is a woman, and she’s not made of glass. She also lives in an ocean, not a pond.”
She landed on another page and pointed to an illustration of a lanky, grinning demon. “This is Mahaha, who tickles his victims to death. He has long claws, like you described.”
Flynn shook his head. “That’s not him.”
She turned to another page, where shadowy beings lurked between trees with snow-white eyes. “Taqriaqsuit are shadow people. They are often heard, but seldom seen.”
“None of these seem quite like Mister Glass,” Flynn said. “A monster who sends Christmas cards. It’s bizarre, right? Why do you believe me?”
“Because,” she said. “I love you too, and I can’t believe you would lie about this. Besides, why should any one legend alone be true? What if pieces of all these legends and folktales hint at a real monster that does as it pleases? A being with the claws of Mahaha and the agenda of Qallupilluk, as shifty and sneaky as a shadow, and heartless and cold as glass?”
Nan closed the book, set it aside, and took his large, calloused hands in her small, soft ones. “I have heard many stories of strange things in the water, Flynn. But what is also true, across many cultures, is that monsters can be defeated. They can be slain, tricked, or driven away. You don’t have to do this alone, so please, forget whatever misguided chivalry made you walk away from my door and let me help you.”
With that, Nan pulled Flynn to her and kissed him long and hard.
Flynn and Nan only had a few short days to prepare. They spent them studying Mister Glass’s letters along with Inuit legends from Nan’s book, as well as several volumes they borrowed from the library.
In some stories, the monster could be tricked or distracted. The victim could ask for a final request or make another take his place. But there did not seem to be any one story that perfectly captured who or what Mister Glass truly was. They could only guess which rules, if any, he observed, beyond the promise to grant the wish of a suicidal heart—and his acceptance of a silver coin as payment.
In one book, Flynn found a passage about elemental beings. “Mister Glass is a being of the cold,” he said. “Whether he’s made of ice or water or glass, I’m not sure, but it says here that opposite elements can weaken or ward away elemental spirits.”
“Fire,” Nan agreed. “If all else fails, we can try to burn him.”
On December 23rd, Flynn and Nan, both mentally exhausted, agreed to share a frozen lasagna and a warm fire. He held her in grim silence. The stack of greeting cards from Mister Glass lay piled on the coffee table next to their stack of books.
The most recent, and Flynn suspected, final card arrived that morning. The shadowy black cover depicted nothing at all. It read:
I arrive tomorrow. Soon you will know the bliss of total silence.
Flynn listened to crackling logs in the fireplace, felt the steady beat of Nan’s heart, the rhythm of her breaths. The thought of cold nothingness had become an evil so vile that he hardly believed he had considered it a preferable alternative to living.
And yet he had sincerely wanted to die. For that alone, perhaps he deserved death, but Nan deserved only happiness.
“Nan,” he whispered.
She squeezed his hand. “Yes?”
“Promise that if we cannot stop this thing from happening, you will not stand in the way.”
“I will do whatever I can to protect you.”
“I will not let you die, trying to save me.” Sparks sputtered from fireplace logs. Flynn continued. “You must live. Please, promise me that you will never give in to despair like I did. Live with purpose, appreciate what is here and what is out there to discover and love.” Nan cried softly.
“Sadness is a dark spell. It destroys people,” Flynn said, holding back his own tears. “Promise that you won’t allow it to consume you, Nan.”
“I will always fight,” Nan said. “No matter what.”
Flynn awoke to the glow of dying embers in Nan’s fireplace. Nan was gone, along with her coat and her car.
Flynn dressed and gathered the toolkit they had prepared for Mister Glass’s arrival, which included Flynn’s hunting rifle, gasoline, a welding torch, and some other supplies Nan had kept from her father’s Army surplus store. He sped down icy roads, skidding around slick curves, wondering, “Why had Nan slipped away without saying goodbye? What could she possibly be doing?”
His heart froze when he arrived at the parking lot by the park and spotted Nan’s SUV. He parked next to her, strapped his hunting gear over his shoulder, grabbed the toolkit, and hurried toward Janus Pond.
Glistening, snow-caked branches poked at him as he struggled to keep his balance in the knee-deep snow on the rough, seldom-trodden side-paths. Someone had already hiked through here. He’d never given Nan exact directions to Janus Pond, and it wasn’t on any public hiking maps, but he had described it enough that he knew she could find it.
Sure enough, she stood in the middle of the pond in the dim light of a small Coleman lantern, holding her father’s Silver Star over a dark hole in the ice.
“Nan! Stop!” Flynn dropped everything and sprinted in her direction.
Nan turned in surprise. Mister Glass’s arm erupted from the water. His glass claws clenched around Nan’s hand. She screamed as the monster yanked her into the icy water up to her shoulder. She gripped the edge of the hole with her free hand, trying to keep from being dragged through.
Flynn lunged, grabbed Nan’s legs, and pulled her back, digging the barbs on his traction cleats into the ice. He struggled for many long, agonizing seconds against the tug of the thing beneath the ice, and at last managed to get Nan off the frozen shore back onto land.
Nan’s teeth chattered. Her lips were blue. The sleeve of her jacket was torn to shreds and her arm was covered with bloody cuts, but when her fingers uncurled, she still held the silver medal.
Mister Glass failed to claim payment for whatever wish she had made.
“Nan!” Flynn swept her into his arms and kissed her wet, freezing face. “You have to get out of here! Please!”
Ominous pops and cracks rang in the air. Jagged lines appeared. The pond shattered. Nan and Flynn scrambled back to the pond’s edge. Flynn grabbed his gun.
The ice split as an enormous, sinewy being rose from the frigid, black water, its long arms unfurling. The creature pulled itself onto solid ice and strode toward the land on its lanky legs.
Mister Glass had the build of a skeletal wraith. His wiry, translucent frame was barely visible against the dark pond, like water running over glass. His head was a featureless bulb without mouth or eyes. His pointy fingers reached for them.
Flynn pulled Nan’s shivering body behind him. He readied the shotgun, aimed at the monster’s shimmering head, and fired. The pellets ricocheted right off. Flynn fired at where he guessed the thing’s heart would be, but the creature barely flinched. Instead, Mr. Glass closed the distance between them in a single leap, snatched the rifle from Flynn’s hands, and tossed it over his shoulder into the pond.
“Flynn!” Nan was on her feet now, tugging him toward the trees.
Mister Glass brought his sinewy hand down. His talons slashed Flynn’s down-filled coat as he scrambled away. Flynn raced with Nan through snow-caked brush, leaving feathers in his wake. His heart and lungs threatened to burst. Ice crusted on Nan’s braided hair and frosted her eyelashes. Blood froze to her skin where Mister Glass had cut her. She stumbled when they reached a clearing. Flynn kept her from falling and spun her around to face him.
“Why?” he cried. “Why did you try to bargain with him?”
“Because,” Nan said, her teeth chattering, “what you want for me, I want for you.”
The glow of dawn tinted the horizon. Mr. Glass’s dome-like head reflected the light as he stalked through the woods, searching for them. He wasn’t far now, just fifty yards or so beyond the brush bordering the clearing, blocking the path to the parking lot.
Flynn removed his pack, covered Nan with his coat, then sloshed the gasoline all over the branches. He readied his torch and tried to steady his nerves.
“Flynn,” Nan whispered. She held out an empty beer bottle. He took it, filled it up, and allowed himself one last look at her.
“Mister Glass!” he shouted.
The creature whipped around and, taking impossibly long strides, crossed into the brush. Flynn threw the bottle. It smashed against the monster’s torso, splattering it in gasoline. Mister Glass swiped at him. Flynn ducked, lit the torch, and tossed it into the saturated brambles.
Blue-white flame shot up and down the glass body, casting iridescent yellow-orange refractions. The rush of heat seared Flynn’s face, stung his eyes. He dove into the snow, next to Nan. Spots danced across his vision when he glanced back up. Mister Glass loomed, a pike of a being, writhing in a blaze of fire. The creature groped at the snow and struggled to douse the flames.
Nan snatched up their supplies, helped Flynn to his feet, and together, they ran through the woods. Flynn directed her under the pinkening sky, in the direction of his cabin. Soon, they found the main road, and Flynn’s mailbox appeared on the horizon. The red flag was down. There were no more messages for him.
When they reached the door to the cabin, Flynn looked back and spotted the monster striding through the forest, a shimmering wraith, sparkling in the sun. They slowed Mister Glass with the fire, but not halted him.
They hurried inside the cabin. Flynn wrapped Nan in a blanket and wiped the frost off her face. “There’s not much time,” he said. “Stay back. We’ve done everything we can. I love you.”
Nan gave a hoarse whisper. “Love you too.”
Glass shattered. A knobby arm bent in through the window next to the door and reached for the lock. Flynn grabbed his ax and raced across the room. He screamed, hoisted the ax, and hacked at Mister Glass’s hand. Neither the hand nor the fingers broke, but the ax left a deep crack in the wrist.
The fire weakened him, Flynn realized. Bullets had not put a dent in the diamond-like glass earlier, but now that they had burned Mister Glass, perhaps, the creature could be hurt.
Flynn attempted to re-secure the deadbolt, but the monster was already kicking the door in. Before Flynn could lift the ax again, the door shattered into splinters, and sharp claws slashed his arm.
Flynn dropped the ax. Blood dribbled onto the floorboards. Mister Glass had to duck to enter the cabin. The sinewy being crawled on all fours and grabbed Flynn by the throat. Gasping, Flynn’s fingernails dug into the tender skin on his neck as he struggled to remove the impossibly cold talons.
“Please!” Nan shouted. “Stop!”
Mister Glass dragged Flynn like a ragdoll toward the door.
“No!” Nan screamed.
It’s okay, Flynn wanted to say. He was going to drown in the icy sorrow of the pond. This was what he asked for. It was what he deserved.
“Please!” Nan dropped to her knees. “Take me!”
Mister Glass paused. His transparent neck snaked back. The featureless face glimmered in a ray of sun.
“I will give you, willingly, what belonged to my father, if you’ll spare Flynn and take me instead.”
“No,” Flynn choked.
Mister Glass tossed Flynn aside. He slid across the floor and crashed against the coffee table. He felt two of his ribs crack on impact. Flynn struggled to catch his breath, rolled onto his hands, and pulled himself up. “You can’t do this!” he rasped.
But Nan was already placing something into Mister Glass’s open hands. Sharp fingers curled around the object.
Flynn’s heart sank like a stone.
“Duck and cover!” Nan shouted. She wrenched her hands away, tossed something small and metal in Flynn’s direction, and dove behind the couch. Flynn glanced at the small, metal thing on the floor in front of him. A pin!
Flynn dropped behind the upturned coffee table and covered his head. An enormous explosion thundered. Freezing glass shrapnel pierced his arm.
When he moved his hands, he spotted Mister Glass, slumped, lower-arms shattered, fingers scattered like broken icicles. Cracks ran up and down the stumps of his arms. Slowly, desperately, Mister Glass began to crawl out of the cabin, slamming his glass stumps against the wood. Flynn cowered with Nan as they watched his glistening form stumble down the path and disappear between snow-crusted trees.
On Christmas morning, Flynn and Nan received a greeting card, in a golden envelope:
Season’s Greetings to the Happy Couple,
Congratulations on besting me. I am elated to have found such challenging opponents. Your defiance, I hope, will be your ongoing gift to me.
Flynn’s coin remains safe in my cold underworld. Thanks to Nan’s quick thinking, I had no arms this year with which to drag him away. Rest assured, our agreement still stands. I will return, on the 24th of December, next year, and every year until I have what I rightfully bargained for.
I have months to grow new claws and an eternity to develop new tricks.