Zach was awoken by icy rain assaulting the world like a hail of bullets. He’d been dozing in the chair by the window, feet propped on the ottoman. The house was chilled.
It was 8 A.M. and Lady Winter was in a hell of a mood.
“It’s freezing in here,” Jahania said, shrugging on her coat. She bent down and kissed him. “I gotta go. Breakfast is in the kitchen.”
He said goodbye, stood, and crossed the room. On the kitchen counter was a blueberry muffin, beside which was a pink sticky-note that read: “Have fun at work, sweetie. See you tonight. Love you!” He smiled, took a bite of the muffin and set it back on the counter.
Zach turned up the heat in the hallway, and continued on to the bathroom. He kicked off his slippers and winced as he stepped from the plush warmth of the slipper onto the ceramic bathroom tile. “Christ,” he said, looking down, surprised to find he hadn’t stepped into a pit of fire, such was the painful cold emanating from the floor.
He put his foot back in the slipper and lifted the toilet seat. Ice had formed inside the bowl. Zach didn’t need to be an expert in HVAC to know water shouldn’t be freezing inside a toilet. He let loose anyway. Not that he had a choice; the first of the day was always fierce.
Not daring to flush, Zach tried the sink. Cold and hot. Nothing. Not even a drip of water, not even a clang of pipes under pressure. Frozen.
Zack dressed, layering his clothes as if he were heading up to Blue Hills for a day of skiing. He checked the heat again, cranked it to eighty. But the dial hovered at twenty-five degrees. Below freezing. Inside.
At the living-room window, Zach got a glimpse of a beautiful, fantastical kind of horror. The world beyond the window was encased in ice so thick it could have been quartz. A jeweled kingdom. Trees, lampposts, cars, all entombed in a wall of ice.
As Zach took it all in, he saw shapes and forms on the sidewalks and in the streets. Things that looked human, contorted in terror, as if the victims of Pompeii’s destruction by Mt. Vesuvius had been transplanted here to Bridgetown, Massachusetts, and frozen for some twisted winter festival.
Despite the cold, sweat beads formed along his forehead, trickled down his face and neck.
Zach rushed across the room, snatched up the cell phone on the nightstand. He held down the speed dial for Jahania, put the phone to his ear. Dead air. “Come on,” he said. “What the fuck?” He tried a second time, a third, fourth. The line reached out to no one.
Tossing the phone on the bed, Zach went back to the window. This time there were people milling about, as if everything were normal, just another sunny mid-January afternoon. A woman with a baby stroller passed by on the sidewalk below. The stroller moved along smoothly, the woman’s footing sure and steady, though the ground was rough and uneven with ice.
Across the street Naton Smalls exited his building, walked to his car which was barely recognizable under all the ice. He pulled a set of keys from his pocket, thrust them toward the car’s door, pulled at nothing but air...and disappeared into the block of ice.
Disappeared into the block of fucking ice!
Just then, Jahania stepped out the front door and onto the sidewalk.
Fear seized him. All instinct. Zach pounded on the window. “Jahania,” he shouted, but she didn’t hear. He pounded harder and the glass shattered. He gasped, inhaled a cold he’d never felt before. It burned as it slithered down his throat and into his lungs, like cold steel razorblades.
Jahania crossed the street, fell to the ground, and slowly faded away to nothing.
Zach’s vision blurred.
Below him, the woman with the baby stroller was once again making her way along the sidewalk. The same way she’d already come.
Naton Smalls made his way from the building across the street and to his car. He removed a set of keys...
In the chair by the window, Zach was awoken by the icy rain assaulting the world like a hail of bullets.
Thoughts: I wrote this last night for the one-hour flash fiction contest over at the Shock Totem forum. The challenge was based on this prompt.
I've participated in these kinds of challenges before. They're fun. And sometimes—not often enough, unfortunately—a great story comes out of that feverish hour of writing. Last night was not one of those times. Couldn't think of a good title, either. Oh well.
The story is okay, I guess, but it's definitely a Direct-to-Trunk tale. But since it's not atrocious—I think—it goes in the online trunk.
As mentioned here before, Jason Sizemore, owner of Apex Book Company, has released volume one of a new anthology series under his The Zombie Feed Books imprint. The anthology, simply titled The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, features fiction from issue #4 author Lee Thompson, Daniel I. Russell, BJ Burrow, Monica Valentinelli, Simon McCaffrey, and many others, including yours truly.
[ click photo to enlarge ]
So how about a free copy?
Head on over to Jason's website and check out the "bad-ass" contest he's set up where two lucky—and creative—people will win autographed proofs of The Zombie Feed. You can find the contest here.