Snow opens her eyes. Zero is still curled up next to her. She moves slightly, and one of his eyes pops open. She grins. “Good morning, Zero!” she chirps. He licks her face in response. She starts to close her eyes and nap a little more when she remembers what Jack told her before leaving: “I’ll come back later in the day to see how you’re feeling. Then maybe you can come back out.”
“What time is it, Zero?” she asks, sitting up. While waiting for the dizziness to clear from her head, the ghost dog flies off –
Right as the door opens.
Snow doesn’t even gasp as Jack walks through the door. “Hello, Snow,” he says.
“Hey, Jack. What time is it?”
He laughs. “Still very eager to help, I see. How are you feeling?”
“Fine. Can I come help now?”
He walks over to her and feels her forehead. “You don’t feel warm. Have you coughed at all since I left?”
“Does your stomach hurt?”
“Have you taken very good care of her, Zero?”
“Alright. You can come.”
“Yay!” Snow throws off the blanket.
Jack chuckles. “Get dressed and I’ll take you to Town Hall. I have a special job for you.”
“Really? What is it?”
“Hurry up and get dressed, and then you’ll find out.”
Snow grabs her bag and runs up the staircase to the bathroom to change. After fixing her dress because she put it on backwards at first, she runs back down the staircase. Jack is sitting in the wingback chair, near the fireplace, reading a book. Zero is curled up at his feet. “Whatcha readin’?” Snow asks, jumping from the last step to the ground.
“The book on Halloween history,” he replies without looking up. “You got me thinking when you talked about the significance of pumpkins and Pumpkin King. I’ve been looking through this book trying to find a section on the subject.”
“I found a story: The Legend of the Pumpkin King.”
He closes the book and sets it on the table in front of him. “I’ll look at it later. Right now, would you like to-”
“Yes yes yes!” Snow cries, skipping over and giving the startled skeleton a huge hug. Zero smiles and nudges his friends with his lit-up nose.
Jack laughs. “Okay. Let’s go.” Snow lets him go and steps back, a happy look on her face. “Oh, before I forget.” Jack picks up Frost from his shoulder and brings him to Snow’s cupped hands. “Here’s your friend back.”
“Hi, Frost!” Snow says. She puts him on her shoulder and asks, “So, what did you guys do?”
“Well,” Jack begins, leading them out of the house, “Lock and Shock are gathering small pumpkins for us, Barrel is helping the doctor, the Vampire Brothers and the Corpse Family are looking for good reception places, and the Mayor is trying hard not to lose his head.”
Snow freezes at the bottom of the stairs. “He can’t actually lose his head, can he?”
Chuckle. “No, it’s an expression.”
They walk in comfortable silence the rest of the way to Town Hall. Citizens are coming and going all around them, asking each other about decoration ideas for “spiders and pumpkins.” Snow grins, feeling shyly proud of what she’s done. When they go inside Town Hall, the white drapes are still up right where she left them. Nothing else has been done to decorate. “Um, it doesn’t look changed,” she says.
“I wanted to wait until you were feeling better,” Jack says. “I would like you to be in charge of decorating Town Hall.”
“Really?” Her eyes are wide.
He nods. “I know you’re working on Sally’s project, too-” (‘I forgot all about that,’ Snow thinks) “-but I thought since this is your idea, you’d like to have some say in how everything looks.”
“What exactly do I do?”
“Everyone will help you set up, but you will be the one telling them where to put things and how the room should look. Oh, and Frost suggested bringing in more spiders. Did you want to use ice spiders from Christmas Town or use the ones from here?”
“Um…” Snow stares up at the plain white drapes. “What are the ones from here like?”
“They can spin webs fast, and they don’t tire as easily as other spiders.”
“What do their webs look like? Are they silver like Frost’s?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Oh.” Snow looks down at Frost on her shoulder.
“Why don’t I send Sandy a letter,” Jack suggests, “asking for more ice spiders?”
She looks up at him, hopeful. “Can he do that?”
He shrugs. “I’m hoping so. I’ll send the letter off right now, and while we wait for his response, you can work on that project with the paint.”
Snow shyly says, “The paint’s back at your house, Jack, and all the little pumpkins, too. Can I go back?”
“Jack!” the Mayor shouts. Jack and Snow watch him stride over to them with a strange-looking man. He’s wearing a black hat with a shiny buckle; a dark gray coat with white cuffs and collar, with a black belt and shiny buckle; dark gray pants that end past his knees; white tights; and shoes with the same kind of buckle. “Jack! Guess who’s here!”
The man smiles and tips his hat at the skeleton man. “So, you are the famous Jack Skellington,” he says in a strange accent.
“I am,” Jack says. “Who might you be?”
“I am William, the leader of Thanksgiving.”
Jack’s sockets widen. “Oh! Thank you for coming!”
“Still not yet finished?” William looks about the room.
Jack scratches the back of his skull. “Eh heh, we still have some work to do.”
Snow looks over at the Mayor, whose head is twitching trying not to switch to his worried side and frighten the new guy. She racks through her head the different things they need to do. Stumped, she asks, “What’s Thanksgiving about?”
The men look at her. “Who might you be?” William asks, bending down with his hands on his knees.
“This is Snow,” Jack introduces. “She’s an elf all the way from Christmas Town.”
“Really?” Impressed, the leader straightens. “Well, little elf, Thanksgiving is about the harvest and being thankful for the good things in life.”
“Harvest?” Snow thinks again. “Do you wanna help with the food?”
“Snow!” the Mayor exclaims, finally losing control and flipping his head around. The Thanksgiving guy jumps. “Don’t ask him to help!”
“He’s our guest,” Jack explains. “He shouldn’t be drawn into our troubles.”
“I don’t mind,” William says with a smile.
Jack and Mayor turn to him with apologetic faces. “Are you sure?” the Pumpkin King asks. “I wouldn’t want to cause-”
“It’s no trouble at all,” he reassures them. “I love helping with the food. Besides-” he gestures to all of Town Hall, “-it looks like you could use all the help you can get.”
Jack looks a little bashful, but he smiles nonetheless and says, “Thank you, William.”
“And I’m gonna go get the pumpkins and paint, now,” Snow says, taking off with Zero.
“Come right back here after!” Jack calls after her.
Snow and Zero walk all the way back to the manor, grab the bag with the pumpkins and paint, and are heading over to Town Hall when they hear something. She sees Lock and Shock running up the street. “Run for your life!” they shout. Snow’s about to ask what they’re talking about.
Then she sees the giant spiders chasing them.
“Ahhhhhhh!” Snow joins Lock and Shock as they dash through town, citizens jumping out of the way to avoid being trampled.
“In there!” Shock points to a hole in the upcoming wall. “It’ll take us to the sewers!”
“Ewww!” Snow grimaces, but she follows them down to the sewers. The spiders continue through the streets. After the kids catch their breath, Snow asks, “Why were those giant spiders chasing you?”
The two stare at each other, neither one wanting to speak up first. Finally, Shock says, “We were on our way to get more pumpkins, but we thought we’d take a shortcut through the cemetery. But Lock made the spiders mad.” She glares at her brother.
“No, I didn’t!” he retorts. “It was you! You cast that stupid spell at the spiders!”
“I was aiming at you!”
“Guys!” Snow is getting fed up with the bickering siblings. “Do you have any pumpkins with you?”
“No, we dropped them in the pumpkin patch when the spiders started chasing us,” Lock says.
“And we can’t go back now,” Shock adds. “The spiders will spot us and come for us!”
Snow groans, her head hurting from both the aggravation and because she’s not fully recovered yet. Rubbing her temples, she asks, “Is there any way to get past the spiders?”
“Fire,” they reply at the same time.
“But none of us know how to make fire,” Shock says.
“Does anyone in town know how to?” Snow asks.
“Jack does,” Lock says. “He does it every Halloween.”
“Great. Let’s go ask him.” Snow starts to get up.
Lock and Shock hold their hands up to stop her. “NO!” they shout.
“You go out there, you’re dead,” Lock tells her. In response to Snow’s wide eyes, he hurriedly explains, “Not dead-dead, but you’re stuck in their webs for a while. And Halloween spiders shoot out a lot of webs when they’re angry.”
They all fall quiet when they hear a sound. Another sound joins in, then another. They sound like…voices?
They are. And they’re calling, “Snow.”