The winter had been long and hard, colder than most and darker than many. Bob wasn’t going to take any more of it. He’d had thirty five years of Pennsylvania winters, and he was tired of it. He couldn’t take it. He wouldn’t. He had a plan. It was simple.
He was going to kill Phil.
It was the only thing to do. Bob wasn’t going to let his winter be decided by a large rodent, even if he was fairly adorable. Unfortunately, his groundhog assassination plan wasn’t going to be as easy as all that.
For starters, he had to drive to Punxafreakingtawney, which if it isn’t the middle of nowhere is at least in the same ZIP code, and he had to do it in the middle of a freaking ice storm. He was deeply suspicious about the timing of the storm, and he suspected that Phil had somehow become aware of Bob’s plot and was working against him.
Yeah, well, that wasn’t going to work. Bob made a slow and steady path to the home of the Beast of Bitter Winter. He nearly ran off the road a couple of times, but he kept going, because if he did this right, he wouldn’t have to deal with winter roads again.
Bob found when he got there that he might have slightly underestimated the difficulty of his task. There were bonfires and people and Bob’s handlers, his COLLABORATORS, in their dark jackets and funny hats. They were waiting for dawn, so that they could let the rodent decide whether the winter would continue.
Bob followed on of the groundhog collaborators as they walked off to use the john. He crept up behind the guy when he was safely out of sight of the others, and a quick conk of the head was enough to take the guy down. Bob dragged him safely out of the cold and five minutes later was dressed in the costume of the collaborator.
He kept his scarf over his face and his hat pulled low as he crept closer to the lair of the Beast. He thought it should be bigger. No one stopped him or tried to stop him. He was close to success.
Until, of course, he slipped on the ice. He went down hard, on the flat of his back, and the air went out of him in a woof. The rodent! He was upping his game and attacking him more directly.
The rodent was more clever than he had suspected, because the sight of one of the collaborators going down brought the others to him. They surrounded him, staring down at him. He saw, as they looked at him, the slow dawn of the fact that none of them actually recognized him.
Bob had to move fast if he were going to get to the Beast. He was on his feet in a second, and he ran towards the den of the demon. The collaborators were too stunned and possibly to cold to react with any speed, and he reached into the thing’s home.
It was, Bob had to admit, kind of cute.
He felt a smile coming to his face and pushed it away. No, he had to remember what this thing was and what it could do and not be distracted by the furry façade of adorableness.
He turned and held the Beast.
“Hey, it’s not time yet,” said of one of the traitors.
“Back up or the groundhog gets it!”
They looked at each other for a second, and didn’t know how to react. They only had a second before the wind came in. It came rattling through like a freight train, an almost solid wall of cold air and blown snow. Everything went white.
Bob saw, or more correctly, didn’t see, his chance, and sprinted away from the white out. The collaborators were lost in the white behind and the wind swirled around him and he was lost, too.
He felt the Beast squirming and suddenly Phil was inside his coat.
He could feel Phil’s warmth against his chest and tried to hit him, but all he ended up doing was smacking himself in the chest, looking like a man trying to do an impression of Tarzan. The groundhog was big, or at least big enough that he should be scurrying around in someone’s clothes, but Bob’s loose winter garb was more than roomy enough for the burrowing rodent.
Phil was trying to duck down into Bob’s ski pants when he finally got a hold of the things.
“Aha!” he said, “I’ve got you now.”
He held the Beast out at arms length, finally regaining his footing. He couldn’t see anything but the Rodent, the world lost in dervish snow. The beady eyes burned into Bob and he knew the thing was summoning its power.
Phil bared his teeth. Bob bared his. The groundhog lunged in his arms, and Bob took a reflexive step back and then he knew the groundhog had won.
Bob’s back foot stepped off into nothing. He windmilled his arms, trying to catchi his balance and dropping the groundhog, the Beast, the rodent. Bob fell.
He hadn’t been able to see the hill in the whiteout, but it was long and he rolled down it, causing an avalanche in miniature on the way down. He hit the ground hard, and he was pretty sure both his legs were broken. He was half buried in the snow. He looked up the hill.
The groundhog sat triumphant. The morning sun rose behind Phil his long shadow stretched over Bob.