Alone at long last, just me, Cain and Abel.
Abel, as always, is pushing the back of his neck up alongside my leg as I unpack a month’s worth of groceries. And Cain, in his typical mad fervor, is trying to twist and wrench his brother back down to the tile floor.
I’m relieved that they seem to have had no trouble adjusting to the new place, and I immediately set out the fishy treats that I had planned on using to draw them out from under the furniture for the first few days at the new place. It didn’t seem to matter to them at all that our environment had changed drastically from what we were used to. The lack of carpeting, the ocean smell, the brutal heat. They seemed not to give one single fuck. I, on the other hand, was puffing and dripping sweat after five trips to and from my uber.
I scolded myself for giving the driver five stars and a 30% tip even though he had just sat there in the air conditioning and watched me unload my groceries. I am going to have to start being a bit more frugal if I want to maintain my new lifestyle for as I long as I hope to.
It had been a month since Renee had given up on me. I was a bit stoned during that last argument and her words cut deeply, and still seem to stick.
“Someone who hates human beings as much as you, should never have been allowed to be one.” Nothing quite so rational as questioning my very right to exist, right? She was always that way though. Fiery. And I can’t blame her. Not really. I never did like people much, and they meant everything to her. And the way I loved never did quite look like love to anyone but myself. I am aware of that.
But hell. The groceries were stored safely in the fridge’s cold embrace and it was as quiet in the tiny house as it was in the icebox. I had a cabinet full of middling wine and literally hundreds of books installed on my kindle. All of them torrented, not a single one legitimately purchased.
Three hours later I decided to move from the couch outside onto the chair on the front porch. A change of scenery did wonders and I was hundreds of pages deep when it began to get chilly. The driveway was easily a hundred feet from what passed for a road in these parts, and the front of the house was shaded by thick trees. Even so, the sun had not yet fallen below the horizon and I was surprised by the drop in temperature. Good to know that even here I’d be able to get cool for a while without taking a dip at the small beach out back.
I didn’t sleep much that night. Each time one of my thoughts would fall to hallucinatory fancy, some crick or creak of the house would snap me back to the reality of the moonlit room.
I had a vision for the structure of my days here and followed the plan to a tee. Breakfast, a few hours of work, a bit of light day trading, lunch with a podcast, a glass or two of wine, and diving into my book until nodding off. But the second night out on the front stoop was even colder than the first.
So much so that I got up and transferred out back. The back yard was postage-stamp tiny, but gorgeous. The back door led directly to a circular japanese style rock garden. Pristine sand and twenty three stones (I counted). And you could just spot little glimpses of the ocean glimmering through the trees.
What struck me most though was the overbearing humidity and heat. Moisture seems to collect on my forehead before I even had a chance to sweat.
I beamed like a child crossing the interior of the house from the back to the front. Then again. And again. Cold. Hot. Cold… Hot. The difference was so extreme that I found myself wanting to share the weird experience with someone. Cain was busy destroying the couch with his deadly claws, and Abel was so deep in meditation that I could not bear to disturb him.
When night fell I tossed in bed for maybe three hours before the new and strange house-settling sounds increased in intensity to the point where it sounded like someone was occasionally pelting and even cracking the windows with stones. Crick. I shot upright in bed, angling my head to audibly survey the room. Crack! I was on my feet and out in the hallway, painfully aware of my nakedness.
The decorative oar that hung in the hallway was in my hands instantly and I was soon toe-stepping toward the front hall, towards the sounds. I reached the front door and pressed my fingers to the handle, but drew them back immediately in searing pain. Not hot, but cold. I could in fact feel where a thin layer of skin had been torn from my forefinger and thumb as I drew my hand back.
What the actual fuck? This was the tropics. The record low here was fifty-five degrees, and that was in the mountains, in the winter. I backed away from the front door, gooseflesh conquering my body, and noticed the frost spreading visibly across the windows. Not only outside, but on the interior as well.
A low ominous growl startled me from behind and I spun to find both Cain and Abel at the back of the hallway, near my bedroom door, staring at me. Their growling occasionally broke into yowls and hisses. They were not aimed at me though. I approached them slowly and they craned their necks to peer around me towards the front door. It is quite silly that I felt protected behind them, back in my bedroom. Though it was warmer back there as well. Comforting.
But through the bedroom window is where I first saw them. The people. I caught the reflected glint of the moon in their eye. There were twenty three of them. I counted. Stretching from the left of the house to the right, each hand in hand, interlocked. Staring at my tiny bastion of a home.
Both the leftmost man, and the rightmost woman had a hand rested on the fence separating the front area from the back. Each of their hands, grasping the fence posts, were glittering crystal white in the moonlight, frosted over.
They were dressed casually and typically, as would be a group of grocery shoppers at the market. Some in shorts and sandals. Others in summer dresses. One in dress slacks, a polo and wearing what appeared to be an apple watch. The only thing they had in common was that each of them had a stone in their mouths, ranging in size and color. Each clearly from the rock garden, now just barren sands, behind the house.
I fell to the floor in front of my bed, and dropped my head to my knees, palms over my eyes. I no longer understood the flow of time as I sat and rocked, unconsciously waiting for sunrise when this madness would be wiped by the light of the sun. I never even gave a second thought to my cats. I’ve never been any good at caring for those around me, even those dear to me. This new horror I was facing did not elicit any improvement in that regard.
The sun came reluctantly, but was soon countered by dark clouds and a thick tropical rain. I forced myself to untangle my criss-cross legs and make my way out of the bedroom. I quickly returned as I spied the inch thick frost now covering the front door, windows, and walls of the living room and kitchen.
Cain and Abel were at the foot of my bed, circling, taking turns monitoring the bedroom door, and then ducking their heads to peer out of the window behind us. The people were still there. Perfectly still, standing like soldiers at attention as the rain fell in thick drops and the lightning flashed behind them. Unaffected. Singular in their focus upon my new home.
Out. I had to collect my remaining feline friends and get the fuck out. I flew into the kitchen to open the bottom cabinet retrieving my cat carrier. The ice snapped as I opened the low door and grabbed the suddenly stiff mesh carrying bag, wincing at the temperature of the handle in my hand.
By the time I returned to the bedroom my finger tips, nose and ears stung with cold. I had only been out there for a moment, but the tips of my fingers were hard to the touch and I could do nothing but return to my station at the foot of the bed shaking, waiting, and watching my fingertips slowly darken.
I don’t know why it hadn’t yet occurred to me to call for help, but it did now. Maybe Renee was right and I would simply rather die before reaching out and opening myself to others. I was ready now though. I was mortified by the madness of what was happening here, and I fumbled for my cell phone. Dead. Off and not coming back on. As if the coming cold had drawn it’s life away like a heatsink.
My mind raced. How could it be dead? It was on the charger. I tried the lamp and discovered that, of course, the power was out. Be it the storm, or that the power lines had frozen solid and cracked apart, I did not know. What I did know is that there was no remaining connection to the outside. The only connection I could make would be in person. And I was not entirely sure that the people I could manually interface with were people at all.
Better in the dim light than the darkness. This is what I told myself as I made my way to the back door. At least it was still warm back there. I would be safe from frostbite going in that direction and could warm up a bit. My assurances did nothing to prepare me for confronting what was back there, but did help to get my feet moving. To do something.
“What? What do you want?” My question shouted from the open door-frame fell upon deaf or denying ears. I’m not sure how they could have possibly responded anyway with those stones in their mouths. But they did not even regard me in any observable way. Each of them continued to stare directly at the house, their gaze unbroken by my challenging questions.
I yelled. Pleaded. Raged. Nothing. Not a shift or a twitch out of any of them. My knees gave out, and I fell to the floor of the threshold and I wept, without cause or logical thought.
Fuck! Something grabbed my shoulder! I shot up, releasing a guttural cry halfway between anguish and anger. The sound of fight meeting flight in a brutal tumult of indecision.
“Noooo!” I screamed as I realized that I had not been seized, but that pitch-black Cain had leapt over my shoulder, using his claws as leverage and launched himself at the hands-across-america-zombie-fence before me.
They did react to that either, at first. It seemed like time slowed as Cain launched off of me and towards the face of the well dressed creature at the center of the human fence that penned me in. In an instant all of their eyes shot toward my black companion, and all chained hands released, then reached towards him. Four of those hands laid claim upon Cain midair and held him there. His black fur frosted over instantly. His body seized. His eyes went white.
A moment later his sleek frozen body dropped to the sand. The men and women of frost reassembled their interlocked stance, grasping the hands of their neighbors, back into their motionless vigil.
Cold tears stung my cheeks, I turned back inside, shut the door, took Abel into my arms and sat once again. I stroked him until he purred, and sobbed in confusion as the bedroom grew colder and colder.
There was no why or where. How or what. No analysis or clear though. Only an animalistic reaction to stimulus in those moments.
The cold was growing quickly. The hallway was now a foot narrower than it had been yesterday, crowded by the thick and growing ice. Crystalline on the outside, but solid nearer the walls.
By sunfall I would be dead. Found frozen stiff, or worse, moist and thawed. Even now my extra layers of clothing and blankets could not prevent my body from shivering uncontrollably.
It takes a lot to break the barriers setup by society, The limits and expectations of acceptable human behaviour. But once you cross the line in the sand, the insanity, the inhumanity… it escalates quickly.
The moment I secured Abel in the cat carrier and placed him on the bed, I threw open the back door and widely ran outside swinging the oar as hard as I could manage at the head of the well dressed monster at the center of the human wall. It shattered like glass, cutting my face with stinging icy detritus which seemed to settle deep into me, sinking it’s burning cold further into my cheekbones.
I roared a guttural and primal song at his face. For the first time I felt some level of warmth, as the inferno of rage tore from my insides. yet it was met only with icy, frigid silence.
Without a thought I returned to the bedroom and took hold of the side table. I stormed outside with it and slammed it into the sand directly before the chain of watchers. No movement. No reaction.
I repeated this again and again. With the footstool. The folding closet doors. Pieces of the bed frame and armoire that I smashed apart by lifting and launching them against the walls and floors. Until I had built a ramp of splintered furniture and decoration, increasing it’s height until it reached five foot something. The ramp’s pinnacle just inches from the face of the well dressed ice monster.
I imagined icing a cake as I dropped the boxspring and mattress over the chaotic ramp of splintered wood, and took up my only friend in his palanquin.
I screamed as I charged at the incline I had constructed. “Fuck. You. Alll!!!”
Somehow it seems like I actually gained speed as I pounded my legs one after another down upon the mattress and boxspring, like a quarterback with foot thick steel pistons for legs, and launched myself over the heads of those frozen fuckwats, suddenly below me.
Physics pushed my right hand into the air, helping to carry my body as high as possible, as my left arm carrying the weight of my now and only remaining friend swung back behind me. My gaze fell below to see the ice monsters hands break their connections and reach into the air. Trying to pluck me from the warm heavens I had finally attained.
I managed to sail over their deadly wintry touch, the soles of my ironically appropriate air jordans lifting at the last second, above their reaching fingers.
Time stopped and the realization of my error struck me with a force and clarity that I would have thought impossible in the millisecond I had to realize it. The tiny tug in my arm, as a pale white hand caught hold of the corner of the cat carrier dangling from my left hand.
I let go. It wasn’t a choice. I’m not sure I could have made that choice. Not sure I would have. In retrospect I would have in fact chosen to suddenly transform myself into a frozen cloud of mist, rather than lose the only friend I had left in this world. To this day, I still wish I had, even though I have finally gotten what I thought I wanted.
Without Abel and their clutch upon him, I sailed free and clear. Into the woods. Out of the woods. To the beach. Along the beach to the nearest town. To the police station. To the policemen and policewomen. To the investigators. To the counselors, caseworkers and psychoanalysts.
Each of whom had known that my “home” had been searched thoroughly. And that the only evidence found had been two dead felines. Whom they determined had been frozen to death in my freezer and then cast carelessly into my back yard.
And now I have everything I had wanted for myself, after Renee had left me. Quiet. Solitude. Little to no human interaction. Few visitors to my little clean white room with the clean white padding on the walls, resembling only freezer buildup in my eyes.
But each day the room seems just a bit colder. The stillness in my ears seems to insulate me. And each day the pure white frost of these walls grows just a bit thicker. A bit closer. And I know that soon, there will be no room left for me to fly, as I once did, over the frozen monsters that were once warmly considered “humankind”.