I probably won't have 50,000 words done by November's end, btw. I'm clocking around a 1,000 words a day, and that seems the best I can do. I'll take it.
Rough draft, may change, please do not repost or quote anywhere else. Thanks!
Katie stood, her feet cold in the snow, and watched several people decorate a huge evergreen tree on the outskirts of a town, singing while they did it. At least thirty to forty people stood around the tree, dressed in warm fur coverings, leggings, and knee-high boots, wearing colorful scarves covered with intricate designs. Most of the people were older--older even than Katie's own parents.
Crunching snow to her left drew her gaze. A girl who looked about seventeen, red hair framing her face, freckles across her nose, approached her. The girl had an open, friendly expression.
“Hello!” the girl said. “I’ve not seen you here before. Have you come to make your wish?”
“Wish?” Katie repeated.
“Yes. This is the Wishing Tree. Did you bring your decoration?”
“I’m sorry, I have nothing,” Katie said.
“Oh!” the girl said. She reached inside her fur coat and brought out a tiny doll made of sticks and cloth. “Here. I brought her in case someone lost or broke their decoration. You can have her.”
Since the girl held out the doll with an expectant look on her face, Katie took it. She looked at the doll and marveled over the handiwork. The doll wore a cloth dress that seemed to be made of some pliant leather and decorated with the same kind of intricate designs she saw on the girl’s scarf. The doll’s face appeared to have been hand-painted in exquisite detail.
Katie looked up at the girl, lost. “What do I wish for?”
The girl cocked her head. “Surely you must have some desire in your heart.”
I only want one thing, Katie thought. I want my sister back.
The intensity of her expression must have caught the girl’s attention. She reached out and caught Katie’s sleeve in sympathy. "Are you in pain?"
“Just my heart,” Katie said.
The girl let go of her sleeve, and Katie walked forward. The people around the tree parted to let her through. She found a branch and hung the doll from it, smoothing the tiny dress with her fingers.
An expectant hush seemed to fall over everything. Katie felt the weight of it pressing down on her. She opened her mouth, and what came out was altered from what she had meant to say.
“I want to see my sister Mel again.”
The wind sprang from nowhere, gale-force, flinging snow in faces and tangling Katie’s hair. She heard people cry out. The wind circled the Wishing Tree, which remained untouched.
Snow whirled, coalesced into a visible shape. As Katie watched, Mel looked back at her, an agonized expression on her face.
Katie reached out.
“Don’t!” someone said.
Katie hesitated. The girl,again at her side, hung on to her arm.
“She is a Yule Ghost! Touch her, and you will share her agony!”
“How can I help her?” Katie asked in a trembling voice. Her sister’s visibly tortured features shredded her insides.
“I—I don’t know,” the girl admitted.
The wind slowed, subsided to a sigh. Mel lost form and being, dissipating on the last breeze.
“Mel!” Katie whispered.
Leave me, Katie. Save yourself.
From somewhere the anger boiled to the surface, and Katie screamed after her sister's shade, “How dare you leave me!”