A snippet from my current work in progress. First draft, please don't quote or repost. Thanks!
Katie stood, her feet cold in the snow, astonished at the sight. At least thirty to forty people stood around the tree, dressed in warm fur coverings, leggings, and knee-high boots, and with 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’s expression was open and friendly.
“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 --,” Katie began, when her hand closed around Mel's decoration in her pocket. She pulled it out and stared at it.
“Oh!” the girl said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before. Will you hang it from the tree and make your wish? I have yet to hang mine..”
Since the girl had an expectant look on her face, Katie followed. She looked at the decoration in the girl’s hand--a doll--and marveled over the handiwork. The doll wore cloth 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, that of a young man, was hand-painted and very detailed. Mel’s decoration seemed very crude and primitive by contrast.
The girl hung the doll from a branch, saying, “I wish ---” The girl hesitated. “You go first, if you don’t mind.”
I only want one thing, Katie thought. I want my sister back.
She hung Mel’s ornament on the tree.
An expectant hush seemed to fall over everything. Katie felt the weight of it pressing down on her. The singers fell silent, and the tin whistle trailed away. She opened her mouth, and what came out was altered from what she had meant to say.
“I wish 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 grabbed her arm.
“She is a Yule Ghost! Touch her, and you will share her fate!”
“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.
Let me go, Katie. Save yourself.
From somewhere the anger boiled to the surface, and Katie screamed at her sister. “How dare you leave me!”
Nothing answered her. No voice, no whisper of wind. She stared at the blank white snow, and the merest drift of snow crystals in the air.