Imagine that you are eleven years old. You live in Arctikia, where it stays below freezing for years at a time. The last time there was a warm year and everything melted was the year before you were born. You have never known anything but snow and ice, and you are used to it. Twenty degrees is warm to you. At that temperature, you take your sweatshirt off.
Of course you’ve heard the stories. For years after the periodic Great Thaws, tales of flooding and water and crocuses circulate. But you can’t imagine the world any other way than the way you’ve always known it: frozen.
One day your father tells you that the weather man has predicted a warm year, nothing less than a Thaw. And you are not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. The reactions of the grown ups around you don’t help your uncertainty.
Some are excited. It has been a long time since a Thaw. They miss the smells, the splashing, the color in all the plants that come out of hibernation for the month or so that the world is warm.
Others scowl and mutter, foretelling everything from floods to fire to dragons awakened by the heat. There are good reasons for Arctikia being frozen, they say. Thaws are unnatural, they cause suffering and death.
One day you awake to the sound of wind, a wind unlike any you’ve ever heard, and with the wind another sound that is new to you, the sound of rain.
You get up quickly and climb down from the loft in the little cabin where you live. Your father is standing at the window, looking out at the storm. You join him and for a long moment you can’t even speak.
The snow, the white snow you have known for your entire childhood, is being pelted by water falling from the sky. It’s riddled with holes and beginning to look brown. It’s limp and tired looking. It’s melting. You’re dismayed.
“Go outside,” your mother says. “You’ll like it, you’ll see.”
You are reluctant, you want to go up and hide under your bed and cry. But instead you bundle into your coat and hat, don your gloves, and step outside onto the porch.
The warmth amazes you.
There is rain on your cheeks and wind in your hair. You pull off your coat and hat and gloves, dropping them heedlessly in the melting snow.
There are little green leaves peeking from bare patches, the trees are dark and dripping, twelve years of snow is running down the driveway, the ground is soft and muddy and you take off your shoes.
For the first time, mud squishes up between your toes.
It doesn’t matter if there are floods and fires and dragons. There are green plants, mud puddles, and the air is soft. The rain is cool and wet on your bare arms and your legs are spattered with mud. You run and laugh and fall down and you don’t care.