Sentient Beings

I was born in a nimbostratus over Eastern Canada, on December 17. My chances of survival are good to excellent. With luck, I may live to the ripe old age of 4 days in my present state. My cohort and I descend en masse, borne on the wind. We can see our destination from afar, our tiny eyes open wide by the cold air masses. There is safety in numbers. We do not quite know what to expect once we hit the ground, so we decide to enjoy the ride while it lasts. The view is magnificent from above and we gleefully dance and sing the whole way down.

Others are already waiting, covering most of the land. We can hear them clamoring, “Come this way! Welcome!” which is really encouraging. The ones I am travelling with, Simon, Wilbur, Anita, Joey, and others too numerous to name, are as excited as I am. We are new to this but have a cellular memory of Earth, our Mother, and rejoice at the upcoming reunion. Most of us have been reborn, in this incessant cycle of birth and rebirth common to those of our species.

I do not want to land in a lake, as they are not quite frozen over yet and I am tired of the cycle. I want to experience life in the trenches, so to speak. I am hoping to meet little humans, perhaps be part of something bigger than myself. I am a simple star, yet I have big ambitions. I want to see the world.

When first born, we are all just blobs. As we jostle for position, some get deformed in collisions and end up as generic snowflakes. Myself, I was able to sprout six stubs that turned to arms as I tumbled and fell. Then those arms grew, slowing my fall, and allowing me to grip unto other snow crystals. The joyous clink-clank flute-like sounds of crystals interacting is a melody like no other. Our whole childhood resonates of these ticklish sounds, laughter and innocence all rolled up in one.

I hang on to Anita, and together we are big and fluffy. Anita is a fernlike stellar dendrite, her family well off, but she puts on no airs and lets me ride on her back. The air is dry enough for us to drift slowly down and land softly on a branch. It is early morning. We see the sun rise but the air is too cold for him to damage us.

We hear humans getting up and see them walk their dogs, admiring us in a friendly way, commenting on the beautiful scenery when snow blankets everything. We are lucky, but we don’t know it. Friends and colleagues a few meters away, flying on a slightly different trajectory, are getting trampled underfoot, peed upon and shoveled. It’s like the nine circles of Hell. We hear their cries of despair as they are crushed underfoot or got dissolved in warm urine. The horror of it all!

We’ve landed on a pine tree, nicely decorated with coloured bulbs. Little birds nestle there, and squirrels run up and down, chasing each other in a flurry of boundless joy. We’ve landed in paradise through no fault of our own, destiny being kind to us. Anita shrugs me off her on landing, and I am embraced by a stellar plate. I rest snugly in her stubby arms and we get acquainted. Henrietta is a great storyteller. She is well-travelled and well-learned. She tells me tales of artificial insemination, creating fellows of columns and needles. I am stunned and perplexed. I never heard of those beings before. “Do they have souls like us?” I ask timidly.

Henrietta is stumped. She had not considered the question. “Well, I think we should assume they do, to be on the safe side,” she answers at last. That’s good enough for me. There are so many existential questions to attend to in our short life. I am quite taken by our collective beauty. As the night grows colder, we crystallize even more. The coloured bulbs light up at night. Imagine my fright when that happened. The older flakes had said nothing, wanting to see the surprise on our faces. We did not disappoint. I must admit to yelling out “Fire” when the red one lit up close to me. Fire, as everyone knows, being our sworn enemy. Anita was sitting on a blue bulb and she was even more magnificent when lit. My own personal angel. Some of us have all the luck.

Even asleep we grow, which should come as no surprise, I suppose. Under the right conditions, our limbs sharpen and glow. Squirrels dislodge me, Henrietta and all those on the branch. We fall unceremoniously to the ground. It is warmer there, I know not why. Everything is a mystery to my young self. Human children come out to play in the snow, shrieking as they bunch us up in balls, throw us at each other and we make contact with their skin, exploding into rivulets that are brushed abruptly away and in the air. Lives thrown and discarded without thought.

We stand there shivering, rooted on the spot in horror. Are we up next? We are heavy with moisture and perfect bonding material for their games. They decide to do snow people. Because they are small children, they make small snowmen, with just two balls. We feel safe under the tree but still we tremble. We see our compatriots rolled and sliced and shaped into a semblance of children. A small child runs to our tree and breaks off dead branches to make limbs. Another crouches down, grabs a handful of snow on her red mitten and licks my friends. She is thirsty. They melt obligingly, and become fuel for her little body, to be expelled in time through sweat or pee, and vaporize into the atmosphere to continue living in other ways.

She’s snatched Anita distractedly. I lunge and grab on to the pompom on the child’s hat. I will rescue my friend if it’s the last thing I do. The child is not a moron, she notices Anita, and shrieks. “Look, look, a perfect snowflake!” The others stop their banging and slicing of snow and gather around. A jealous child slaps her arm and she loses Anita in the multitude on the ground. I am perched on her pompom and don’t know how to get out of my predicament. I certainly don’t want to get in the warm house. I jump on the snowman as she brushes past it. That was close. Parents call them in and the children hurry home.

My dream is complete. I have lived a beautiful life and am retiring as a building block for a snowman. It is not a beautiful-looking snowman, but we bring a smile to the faces of the passersby. They are reminded of a simpler time in their lives, with friends and hot cocoa. I see an accumulation of nimbostratuses. Perhaps we will be welcoming new friends from the sky shortly and I can instruct them in the ways of the world. We’re here to cover old scars and create memories. We shall never surrender!

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