Jonas closed his eyes and waited for the impact of the snow, but none came. His eyes fluttered with the tiny snowflakes on his lashes, and he looked around for Gabriel as he grew accustom to the thick white blanket of snow. The baby was wrapped in Jonas's old jacket, lying next to the sled. Jonas picked him up and held him tightly, letting the heat from his body soak into the baby's. He walked down the rest of the hill, past the woods with evergreens covered in snow, and finally came to a street corner. He saw people walking about wearing coats and hats and gloves, and children throwing packed handfuls of snow at each other.
Jonas gingerly walked over to a group of kids who seemed to be worn out from the snow fights. He wasn't sure of what to ask, and he hadn't made any plans beyond getting to Elsewhere. All of this, besides the fading memories, seemed new to him. He realized what some things were, but this place was so different from his own community, that he wasn't sure how to respond to things. As he approached a girl with a knitted hat, scarf, and mittens, he took a deep breath and called out.
"Uh, excuse me," he said, his voice cracking as he spoke.
The girl turned around to face him. She looked familiar, but Jonas couldn't place it. She had golden hair and rosy cheeks, and a warm smile. Her light eyes sparkled. He felt as if he knew her, maybe from a dream.
"Yes?" she asked gently.
He held Gabriel tighter to his chest as the child squirmed, and he looked into her eyes. "Do I, know you…from somewhere?"
The girl's smiled eased, and Jonas thought he heard a slight giggle. "Welcome Jonas," she said. "My name is Rosemary."
Jonas hugged Gabriel and rubbed him briskly, warming him to keep him alive. The wind was bitterly cold, the snow swirled, blurring his vision. But somewhere ahead, through the blinding storm he knew there was warmth and light.
Jonas stumbled through the newly fallen snow that soaked through his shoes and stung his feet as he walked. He tucked Gabe inside his coat in an effort to shield his tiny face from the cold air and bitter wind which bit his cheeks as he forced his weight against it.
“We’ll be okay Gabe” Jonas reassured him, not being entirely positive of who needed more convincing, himself or Gabriel. “Not much further now”.
Finally they reached the top of the hill and looked at the land ahead. It was too much. There wasn’t a house or a clear road or any sort of shelter in sight aside from the forests, with their trees barren of leaves that surrounded him. Jonas collapsed. He could go no further. He could never cover the distance ahead of him as weak as he was. “I’m sorry Gabe,” he muttered through sobs. “I’m so sorry please forgive me Gabe, please, please.” He cradled Gabe’s warm little body against his own and thought about what it would be like to die here. How painful would it be to freeze to death, to starve? Suddenly he understood why they released the sick, because at the moment death seemed a lot more desirable than this agony.
Swollen with emotions, Jonas tried to blink away the sadness that blurred his vision. Jonas recalled one of his last fading memories of what he now knew was Christmas and shared it with Gabriel. He remembered the warmth of the fire and how powerful it would feel to control something so dangerous. He recalled the infectious joy of the children as they anxiously waited to open their next gift. He also saw a man and a woman sitting close together on the sofa who he understood were a couple. They smiled at each other and the feelings that passed between them could only be described as love. Jonas thought of Fiona and couldn’t help but think that if he could see her again, they could be like that.
Suddenly the humming of propellers drew Jonas out of his memory. He looked up to see two men spilling out of the cockpit of a helicopter hovering above him. “It’s over” he said with resignation in his voice. “I’m sorry Gabriel. I failed.” The snowfall was too thick for him to recognize the faces of the two men moving towards him but he could clearly see that the search helicopter was from his community. The searchers had found him and now what? What would become of Gabriel? Would the Giver be chastised and blamed for what he did? Would they all be released? Besides that, all Jonas could think about was whether or not the memories had returned to the people and how it would alter their decisions. “No” Jonas thought. “I haven’t travelled far enough”. Jonas closed his eyes, ready to face whatever punishment that would come to him. He held Gabriel tightly to his chest but despite his best efforts, he was ripped out of his arms. Gabriel started crying then, the kind of crying that really tugged on the heart strings and made you want to cry too.
There were no words exchanged. Instead Jonas clutched his knees to his chest and kept his eyes shut. Someone pulled up his sleeve and he felt the sting of a needle enter his arm. It was probably the death potion. His mind started to wander and before he blacked out he noticed that Gabriel stopped crying and thought the heard one of the two men make a comment that Gabe had,
“Lovely blue eyes.”
Jonas awoke in a strange room with white walls and marble flooring. He was in a twin-sized bed with white flannel sheets and had an IV sticking into his right arm that seemed to be connected to some kind of monitoring system. “I’m in the hospital”, Jonas realized, shocked. He didn’t understand why he had to be brought to the hospital to be released. Maybe it was easier to get rid of his body that way. Jonas wondered if Gabe was safe. He hoped they would spare him. If only he had the chance to say goodbye to his family, the giver, Asher and especially Fiona.
Jonas heard heavy footsteps outside the room. The footsteps came to a halt in the doorway.
“He has only just woken up sir. I strongly suggest that you give him more time to recover before interrogating him,” said a high pitched voice who Jonas assumed was his nurse. There was a long pause in the conversation so the owner of the heavy footsteps must have been making an effort to keep his voice down low. “Yes sir I understand how relevant it is that things are explained to him. I’ll give you some time.” Jonas listened as the nurse and her high heels clicked out of the room and down the hallway, shutting the door behind her.
“Come to interrogate me?” Jonas said spitefully to whoever had taken the place of the nurse.
“No, but I have come to congratulate you.” Jonas looked up as the man came to sit beside his bed and stared at him with deep recognition. It was the Giver. Jonas remembered what the man had said about Gabriel then.
“Lovely blue eyes.” The searcher could see color and that meant that their plan had worked. The community had their memories back. Jonas was speechless and frozen in shock so he let the Giver do the talking.
“You won’t be released if that’s what you’re thinking. Our plan worked and I can’t tell you enough how grateful and proud I am of you. It was chaos at first. Everyone panicked but they have had a couple of days to cope with the memories now and they’ve just started to alter our rules. I now understand why you left before we were ready. I knew that you must have taken Gabriel as soon as I found out that he was missing and in case you’re wondering, he’s fine. You’re family has volunteered to adopt him.” The giver stopped to catch his breath. There was a lot for Jonas to catch up on.
“Why am I here then?” Jonas asked, referring to the hospital and anxious to start helping the community like the Giver had been doing while he was away.
“You’re being treated for hypothermia Jonas,” the Giver informed him. “You weren’t in very good condition when the searchers found you but you’ll be ready to leave soon, don’t worry, and Jonas, thank you.”
Jonas couldn’t find words. He reached across the bed and pulled the Giver into a bear hug. The Giver hugged Jonas back even tighter. He hadn’t felt comfort like this since he left the community. Maybe children wouldn’t need comfort objects now that they had love. This whole thing felt like a vivid dream to Jonas. What he had accomplished was unbelievable. Things would be different now that the community knew the truth, Jonas could feel it. Things would be better now.