When I stepped into work that morning I wished more and more with every step that I could have called in sick. I'm not the type to do that, though. If I called in sick when I wasn't, technically speaking, it would be dishonest and I would be using up a sick day I probably need for when I actually am sick. I felt a bit sick, actually. But that wasn't the kind of sick that a virus causes. No, this was the kind of sick feeling that your bodies tortures you with when you've been scared out of your mind.
Why does the body do that anyway? I mean, what does that accomplish really? I mean, a lot of things the body does makes sense. When you get sick you get things like a runny nose, a cough, a fever, or the need to throw up to expel or kill the virus. I never felt like these have been particularly effective, does hacking and coughing really get the virus out? Maybe you'd be sick longer if you didn't, but in theory, it's not a bad plan. However, what's the point of your body making you sick when you're scared? What does your body think it's getting done by giving you the need to throw up? If anything, it's an impediment!
If the brain is a computer, it has the weirdest bugs. The human brain is one of the most amazing things ever, and yet one of the most flawed, and there's no Brain Version 1.1 to fix the bugs in the system. You feel sick when you're scared, forget things when you leave the room, hear your name in a crowded space, you yawn when you just think about yawning, and you certainly dream about the weirdest things. I would have thought the night before was just one of those weird dreams...except that I didn't sleep. I have no memory of falling asleep or waking up.
This was my train of thought that morning as I stepped into my cubicle and sat down. I think I just wanted to forget, but it all came back to the events of last night. I was sure that as long as I lived those events would sit in the back of my mind, and I was right, but not for the reasons I thought.
Right around when I would have gone to bed last night, around 11 I felt a chill. It wasn't just a random shiver, another bug in the brain. It was a definite coldness. I wouldn't find this odd, except that it's June and all my windows are closed. It's been an especially hot summer, the low tonight is over 80 degrees. I didn't have my air conditioning particularly high, either. So why was I feeling cold?
That's when I saw him. Outside my bedroom window was a small boy, no younger than 6. He stood there motionless, looking in my window. I worried about him, what was he doing out so late? But then I started to worry about me, why was he looking in my house? Does he want something? Does he see something.
I shook off these feeling quickly. What was I thinking? It's just some little kid. I got up and entered my kitchen. I poured a cup of coffee, hoping that might warm me up. As I sipped, I stepped back in the living room and checked the thermostat. Seventy-five degrees. A perfectly normal temperature, right where I wanted it. So why did I feel cold?
I looked back out the window. He was gone. I sighed, somewhat our of relief, somewhat of exhaustion. Maybe it was from the cold, maybe from unease, but I had been feeling a bit tense. There had been a tightness in my chest, but it was mostly gone now. I sat back down and looked back at the TV. It was an infomercial, the last interesting program of the night had ended and this channel would probably carry infomercials till dawn. Too tired to even consider changing the channel to find something else, like a late show or adult swim, I turned off the TV. I sat up and headed to the hall towards my room.
I mean that in two senses. I froze in fear, lacking the ability to move, but I also felt as if I had been frozen in ice. This was no longer a chill, my hair stood on its ends, and every inch of my body stung with a burning cold I hadn't felt before. I didn't know it was possible to be this cold. No, cold isn't even the right word for what I was feeling. There is no word in the English language to describe the sensation I was feeling.
Not that I'd have been able to move, even if I had felt any warmer. No, I was just as much paralyzed as I was frozen. What I saw in front of me caused every function in my body to cease for a moment, as my heart skipped a beat and I couldn't even process thought.
It was the little boy from outside, but he was not a normal little boy. I couldn't quite make his features out, they seemed blurry or hazy or distant. He wasn't distant, though, he was close enough for me to see every crack in his icy skin. No, it wasn't skin, he was ice. Maybe he wasn't even ice, I wouldn't have been surprised if he was the personification of cold itself. Even without being able to clearly see his eyes, I felt his stare, he was looking deep into my mind. I felt isolated, alone. I was alone. This boy wasn't company, he wasn't human. It was like I was in the room with an idea, a concept.
It was then I heard his voice. He sounded like a small boy, but he didn't sound like a person. It didn't even feel like I was hearing this voice as much as the words he was saying were wrapping around my throat, as each word made my chest tighter, and my breathing shorter. I was hearing the voice of a demon. No, he was worse than a demon, I was hearing the voice of evil itself.
“One, two, three, four, five.”
I began to lose feeling in my legs.
“Once, I caught a fish alive.”
The numbness worked its way up my body.
“Six, seven, eight, nine, ten.”
It reached my head, and I no longer felt anything physically.
“Then I let it go again.”
I felt, though.
“Why did you let it go?”
I felt like killing myself, but I couldn't.
“Because it bit my finger so.”
I could hear the crackling sound of freezing as the entire room became covered in ice.
“Which finger did it bite?”
Misery filled my mind as my world shattered around me.
“This little finger on the right...”
And then I was back. I wasn't cold, and I felt relief. I collapsed to the floor. I did not pass out, but the tension had taken its toll on me, and the sudden snap back to reality was faster than I could catch myself. No, this wasn't a snap to reality, that was reality. That was real. It had to be.