The little penguin pressed herself against the wall behind her, trying to keep warm. Cold had started to sink into the comfort of the walls around her, and it was slowly sinking into her fluff. She just wanted to go back to sleep. Sighing quietly, she snuggled deeper into the walls, when suddenly, there was a quiet mumbling. The little penguin opened her eyes for the first time. Strange shadows covered the walls, silhouetted by a dull golden light. She tried to ignore them, and tried to snuggle herself back to sleep. Another mumble came, this one was louder, and deeper than the other one, as if it was closer. The little penguin opened her eyes again, and realized for the first time that there were countless of other mumbles, and fuzzy cracks in the distance. Curiosity nagged at the little penguin. Another deep murmur from right next to her helped her make up her mind. Determination pulsing through her, the little penguin looked toward the dull light that was casting the silhouettes against the walls. She pressed her beak against it, waited, and then clacked her beak against the wall. A mumble from outside followed. Again, she clacked her beak against it. A small crack formed in the wall. Excited, her little heart pulsing with joy, the little penguin attacked the wall again, and a second time brought her head out of the wall. Bright sunshine flooded her eyes, blinding her momentarily. With a squeak, she ducked back into the shell, and waited for her eyes to adjust to the light. Then, she shoved her way into the world, pulling her little flippers out of the walls. Bright whiteness surrounded her, and so did many other penguins like her, some small, and fluffy, and others taller, and black. The little penguin was astounded.
Suddenly, a voice, deep yet caring, exclaimed, "It's a girl!" The little penguin craned her neck, and saw two large penguins towering over her, and she realized for the first time that she was perched on the feet of one of them. For some reason she couldn't exclaim, she got a sense of familiarity with this penguin, and the word, "daddy" came into her head. But something was missing...
"No, it's not just a girl," the penguin's daddy said, his voice awestruck. "It's Katie, our little girl."
Katie? The word echoed in the little penguin's mind, and for some reason she found herself responding to it. So, Katie's my name, the little penguin decided.
Just as Katie was about to snuggle back into the protection of her egg, she felt her father's feet shift. "Come on, get off," he said gently.
Katie shook her head stubbornly, and began to pull her fluffy white flippers back into the egg. But then, her father shook his feet again, forcing Katie out of the egg. Grunting, the little penguin pulled herself out of the egg, and slid onto the cold, snowy ground. Immediately, Katie stood up, and began shaking violently, so violently her feet tapped the ground occasionally. She watched as her father got rid of the egg shell that rested on his feet, and the while shivering, and exclaiming, "C-c-cold. C-c-c-c-cold!"
Finally, her father said, "Alright, come under here. Get warm."
Grateful, Katie waddled as fast as she could back to her father, and rested herself on his feet, warmth flooding over her. She looked up at the other penguin, who looked a bit like her father, but at the same time, very different. What do the other penguins look like? Katie thought, wondering if every penguin looked slightly different from one another.
After a moment, the other penguin looked at Katie's father. "Hey, Marcus," he said, "do you wanna go see how John, and his egg are doing? I heard they weren't doing so well."
"Sure," Katie's father, Marcus, said with a nod. The other penguin turned, and began to waddle away into the crowd of penguins. Marcus began to shuffle after him, forcing Katie to snuggle into her father's pouch to prevent herself from falling off. Finally comfortable, Katie was able to look around, and let her mind wander.
Everywhere, little fluffy penguins like her were also hatching from their eggs, some already walking around, and exploring. She noticed that none of them had gray fluff, while Katie on the other hand had white fluff. Does that somehow make me different from the others? she wondered. And why are we fluffy, and gray, and white while the daddies are black, and yellow, and white? Why is it so cold? So many questions!
Katie had been too busy spacing out that she hadn't noticed the other little penguin until she spoke to Katie. "Hi, there!" she exclaimed. Katie looked at the little pale gray penguin with the spacy look still in her eyes, not sure if she wanted to respond or not.
"I'm Taylor," the other penguin continued.
Katie blinked once, and finally decided to talk. "I'm Katie," she said, finding her words.
"That other penguin is my father, Michael. He's a friend of your father, I think," Taylor explained.
Katie looked at the other penguin waddling ahead of the rest of them. "Do you know who John is?" she asked Taylor.
"Nope," Taylor replied cheerfully. "But I think he's a friend of our fathers."
Katie didn't respond, and an uncomfortable silence settled on the little penguins. Looking away, she began to space out again. Then, she realized that they were at the edge of the crowd of penguins. A lone black penguin stood by himself, his back to them. He was staring at the ground. Curiousity nagged at Katie. What's he looking at?
Marcus and Michael approached the penguin, standing beside him. An egg sat on the ground. It must be cold in there, Katie thought, thankful that she was under her father's pouch.
"John," Michael said, "is everything okay?"
The penguin, John turned toward him, and Katie could see the sad look in his eyes, and couldn't help but feel sad too. "I... I don't know. I can't hear anything."
Taylor began to approach the egg, but stopped, looking hesitate. Katie stared at the big, round object, lying in the cold snow. Whoever's in there is probably colder than I was! Why isn't the daddy warming it up? Still so many questions unanswered! Determined to answer the questions herself, Katie slid onto the ice once more, snow sticking to her very fluffy, and warm body. She approached the egg until she was standing right next to it. It even looked cold! Katie turned her ear toward the egg; she couldn't hear anything. Maybe he's still sleeping, Katie decided. Why doesn't he wake up, and come meet us? Stepping forward, Katie did her best to wrap her tiny white flippers around the egg. If your daddy won't keep you warm, I will! she thought determinedly, wagging her little tail. With her ear pressed against the egg, she could hear a noise, like a little beating noise, as well as fluff brushing against the wall.
The other penguins behind her didn't seem as positive as Katie was. After a while, Michael finally turned to John, and murmured, "It happens sometimes, John."
John sighed heavily. "Yeah," he said, sounding sad.
But Katie was positive about this penguin. Somehow, she knew what they were talking about, and somehow, she knew that they were wrong. Her flippers still on the egg, she tapped it a few times. "Hello?" she asked. "Hello in there?" No response; still asleep. She tapped the egg again.
"Katie," Marcus said, but Katie didn't listen. She wasn't giving up on this little penguin.
"Hello? Come on out," she called softly before tapping the egg a few more times. Then came the response: tap, t-t-tap.
Excitement flooded through Katie, and at the same time, John said, "Did you hear that?" Katie wagged her tail as another series of taps came from within the egg, growing louder, and harder so that Katie had to back up a few steps.
"Looks like he's okay, John!" Marcus exclaimed.
"Yeah, he's okay, guys!" John responded, overjoyed that his egg was hatching.
Suddenly, crack! And the penguin's little foot was sticking out of the egg. Katie squeaked in surprise, but was overjoyed that the little penguin inside had decided to join them. John exclaimed in surprise as the other foot showed up. The little penguin still inside the egg rolled on the ground, and somehow managed to roll over, and get on his feet. He balanced on one foot for a moment before heading away, down a snowy slope. Excited, and laughing, Katie ran after him, watching as the little penguint tried to keep his balance, while everyone else followed, John saying, "Well, that's unusual."
Katie ran after the little penguin, determined to help him out of his egg, and for some reason, the sentence, "Hey, come back here, Mr. Josh-wa!"
"Katie-" Marcus began, but John interrupted him. "Oh, she can call him whatever the heck she likes! Whoa there, little Joshua!" he exclaimed as the little penguin slid on his back for a moment before catching himself at the foot of the slop, which ended abruptly at a small drop. Katie ran after him, trying to catch him before he fell. But she was too late, and the walking egg took a clumsy fall. Katie heard the egg crack, followed by a loud grunt.
"Josh-wa! Josh-wa!" Katie exclaimed as she approached the miniature cliff with everyone else just behind her.
"Are you okay?" John asked his son.
Down below, Joshua was shaking much more violently than Katie had done, his feet almost flailing all over the place, creating a series of little taps, and clicks. "I-I'm f-f-f-f-fweezing! F-f-f-fweezing!"
John smiled, and replied with, "Don't worry. You'll get used to it."
Joshua shook his head in response, and continued to shake. Katie watched in amusement.
"Okay, come over here. Come to daddy," John said, making his way around the drop.
Joshua walked toward him... if one could call jumping, and shivering, and tapping your feet walking. Katie thought it was quite amusing to watch, for she had almost done exactly what he had done when she hatched. Then, when he had reached his father, Katie realized that he wasn't just shivering. He was doing it on purpose!
John noticed this too, saying to his son, "What're you doing there, son?"
"I'm happy, Daddy!" Joshua replied, oblivious to all the other penguins staring at him with curiousity in their eyes.
John frowned. "What are you doing with your feet?"
Joshua looked down at his feet, still shuffling, and tapping in the snow. "I dunno. I guess they're happy too!" he replied with a little jump.
"Well, can you stop it?" John demanded, his voice growing hard as he glanced around at the other penguins.
"Why?" Joshua asked, slowly bringing his feet to a stop.
"It's just not penguin, okay son?"
"Okay." Joshua nodded, but sounded sad. Katie couldn't help but feel pity for him. Would her father have done the same thing to her if she had... danced like that when she hatched?
"Now, come on. Get warm," John said.
Joshua stepped closer to his dad, his feet tapping once more. After a moment, he leaped onto his father's feet, and buried himself underneath him, craning his neck to smile up at his dad. Katie watched him, wondering if her dad would let her dance like how Joshua did.
Just as she began to tap her foot, Marcus interrupted her. "Come on now, Katie. We have to be somewhere right now," he said.
Katie looked at her father. "Where?" she asked.
Marcus smiled down at his daughter. "You're going to see your mother," he replied happily.
Mommy! That's what was missing when Katie had hatched. Finally, she's going to see her mother. "Mommy! Mommy!" she exclaimed over, and over again as she leaped onto her father's feet, and made herself cozy in his pouch.
He began waddling toward an opening in the ice walls that surrounded the snowy valley, and as he did so, Katie began to notice that everyone was heading there as well with their little sons, and daughters. Behind them, Michael and John followed with Taylor and Joshua. While Michael was telling his daughter about her mother, John was giving Joshua strict instructions on standing perfectly still when he saw his mother. He was to stand perfectly still, and not dance in any sort of way, or manner. Katie felt sorry for him, but her sorrow was overtaken by the excitement of finally meeting her mother.
Within moments, nearly everyone was gathed by the opening in the walls. Nearly everyone because a group of penguins were standing on a large ice formation in the center of the valley. Katie had asked who they were, to which her father responded, "They're the Elders. They look after everyone in the kingdom, and make sure no one is hurt, or anything goes awry." Katie couldn't help but glance at Joshua, who was right next to her with John.
John was repeating the instructions Joshua was to follow. "So when you see you're mother..." he began.
"I stand perfectly still," Joshua finished with a smile on his face, oblivious to the fact that he was different. "But how will I know which one is my mommy?"
"Oh, you'll know. Her voice is the most beautiful voice in the kingdom. And she's just gorgeous." John stared out into the distance, daydreaming about his wife.
Katie looked up at her father. "Is my mommy like that?" she asked.
"Well, everyone has their own opinions on their wives. Personally, I think the same about your mother that John thinks about his wife. But maybe a little better," he added quietly so only Katie heard.
Katie turned to Taylor on her other side, wanting to ask what she thought her mother would be like, but she looked like she too was daydreaming, so Katie left her to that. Instead, she stared out into the white, flat landscape stretching in front of her, waiting to hear her mother sing, or something. She expected a beautiful penguin with a bright golden chest, and bright eyes. Whatever she looks like, or sounds like, I wanna be just like her, Katie decided.
Suddenly, a low, loud voice came from the direction of the Elders. "Wives ho!"
"Wives ho!" the fathers exclaimed, and everyone moved forward, excited to see their wives again. Katie could barely contain herself from leaping from her father's feet, and running through the crowd to find her mother.
But obviously, Joshua couldn't help himself. Exclaiming, "Wives ho!" Joshua leaped away from his father, and began half running, half dancing through the crowd.
John ran after him, yelling, "Joshua, get back here! Joshua!" But Joshua was lost to the crowd.
Within moments, the two penguin crowds collided, and it became a mess of finding the right wife, and the right mother, and the right husband. Katie practically almost hid herself from the crowd. Just barely, she could hear a voice yell, "Michael!" Michael responded with "Kelly!" and Katie heard Taylor squeak in excitement of finally meeting her mother.
Katie tried to cover her ears to block out the loud voice coming from every direction, all the while looking for the penguin she imagined to be her mother. But the only problem was that some penguins looked just like what she had imagined her mother to look like. Katie found herself occasionally popping her head out, and calling out "Mommy!" to several penguins who passed by, but to no avail. None of the penguins passing by were her mother. She could feel her father grow tense, and worried as the group began to thin, and more penguins were finding their wives, and husbands. Are we ever going to find Mommy? Katie began to wonder.
Then, there was a voice that stood out in the crowd. "Marcus?"
Marcus swung around, and Katie's eyes fell on a remarkably beautiful penguin, with a pale yellow chest, and soft brown eyes. Marcus began to approach her, repeating the name, "Renae! Oh, Renae!" Katie stared at the penguin in excitement. This was her mother, Renae.
Katie's parents circled each other for a moment before brushing their necks together in joy. Finally, they stopped, and Renae looked down at her daughter. "Oh, she's adorable!" she exclaimed.
Heart pounding, Katie slipped onto the ice, and looked up at her mother, jumping in excitement. "Mommy! Mommy!" she exclaimed.
"Oh, Marcus, she's beautiful!" Renae said once more. "What's her name?"
Before Marcus could reply, Katie jumped up, and shouted her name. "Katie! Katie!"
Renae waddled closer to Marcus, and put her flipper around her back. Marcus did the same. "Marcus," she sighed, "she's perfect. Our little Katie."
Katie stared up at her mother, her smile so wide it would make her beak crack. She had the greatest parents in the world, and she wanted to be just like them.
Meanwhile, little Joshua was racing through the crowd, oblivious to his father's calls, yelling at him to come back. Joshua was too eager to see his mother, and show how he could dance. He ran through the crowd, looking up at every female penguin he went past, and yelling, "Mama! Mama!" But he couldn't find her. It'll take forever to find her! Joshua thought. The crowd began to thin out, and Joshua began to grow worried. Through the crowd, he thought he could see his father standing on the edge of the penguins, looking for him, and his wife. Joshua raised his voice again. "Mama! Mama!" he shouted, tapping his feet as loud as he could.
Then, he emerged from the cluster of penguins, and turned toward his dad several waddles away. He was with another penguin. She had a bright golden chest, and striking orange markings. Was this Joshua's mother? He waddled forward, and called out to her. "Mama? Mama?"
Sure enough, his father spotted at him, and instantly demanded, "Stay!" Joshua froze, confused.
The female penguin with him turned around, and gasped when she spotted him, a big smile on her face. Joshua was unsure as to what to do. His father had told him to stay still. But how would he get to his mother?
"Come to mommy!" the penguin exclaimed.
Happiness pulsing through him, Joshua began hopping forward, and despite his father's pleas to stop, he kicked up snow with his feet, showing his happiness. "Mama!" he exclaimed as he approached her.
Joshua's mother smiled, and gave an awkward laugh before leaning toward John, and murmuring, "What's wrong with his feet?"
"Oh, don't worry. He'll grow out of it," John said reassuringly, but sounded worried.
Ignoring what had passed between his parents, Joshua wrapped his stubby little flippers around his mother's legs, wagging his fluffy little tail. "Mama!" he exclaimed happily, and gave a little laugh. His mother laughed with him.
"Oh, John, he's perfect!"
"Isn't he, Miranda?" John replied happily.
Joshua met his mother's eyes, craning his neck to look up at her. He was overjoyed at finally being able to meet his mother. When he had hatched, he had felt that something was missing. He also wondered if other penguins felt that way. He also wondered why is what so cold, why the smaller penguins are fluffier than the bigger penguins... and why were the white penguin's eyes the color of the sky? So many questions! Did anybody else have questions like this? Did anybody else wonder the same things Joshua did about the Emperor Kingdom? Well, no matter. He was reunited... sort of... with his family, and he could live, and dance happily.