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Kenneth G. Brosky: Jack Frost


(. . .And some like it cold)

Tim tapped at the glass covering the gas meter for the old van that the group frequently traveled in. The needle moved towards the "full" just a bit, but not enough to get them home.

"We’re gonna have to stop in the town up here," he muttered as they passed a sign that read: “Jamestown 4 miles”.

"Man, this sucks!" Ricardo, the pudgy one in the back of the van whined. "I wanna get home!"

"Just shut up for five minutes," Rich said from the passenger’s seat.

The three had been snow boarding at Alpine Valley since ten in the morning. The Mountain the ski resort was located on was nearly four hours from their house, but it was still well-worth it. No other resort could match the perfect powder conditions that Alpine Valley had to offer. But now they were still a hundred and twenty miles from their town North of the resort, the junky ’86 van smashed and battered for more than three hours by a terrible blizzard that left the Highway jammed with accidents.

"Three hours to go a hundred-some miles," Tim mumbled angrily to himself. "No way could we make it back tonight anyway."

Ricardo offered a hand full of green dollar bills to Rich. "I got fifteen bucks left."

Tim reached into the pocket of his heavy jacket and pulled out a twenty. "So that makes it thirty-five so far."

Rich, unlike his name, had the least amount of money. "I have a ten. So we have a total of forty-five bucks left. Enough for a cheap room for the night and gas to get home. Then again . . ."

Tim rubbed the steering wheel gently. "Don’t worry. Old Bessy will pull through. She just got a little shaken up with all the snow and stuff. Had to use a little more gas to keep us safe."

"Keep us safe," Rich repeated. "You don’t fool me. I saw how hard you were clutching the wheel to keep ‘Old Bessy’ steady."

Tim shrugged off the insult. Ahead, rows of houses on either side of the road signified the beginning of the town. Further ahead, just visible over the horizon, was a large sign looming of the houses: “Motel 6”.

"You think it’s open?" Ricardo asked quietly as the van creeped closer to the Motel. The lights on the sign were out. Tim kept silent until they pulled into the large parking lot. The Motel itself was one story, the doors to the rooms on the outside with a few cars parked near the Office. All of the shades on the windows were down, but lights were shining through some of them.

"It looks open," Tim said finally as he pulled the van into a parking space near the Office door.

"Jesus, what’s with the fog?" Rich asked from behind. Tim looked around.

"I think it’s a mist," Tim corrected his friend. The mist was a cold white, and seemed to be getting thicker. In fact, Tim could barely see the light coming from the large Office window. He was getting a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Why don’t we see if there’s another Motel in town?"

"What, you scared?" Ricardo taunted childishly. He opened the back door.

"While you babies are fighting over your bottle, I’m gonna get a room and see if they got some grub." He stepped out and immediately folded his arms.

"Bundle up, fellas; it’s freezing out here!"

Freezing was an understatement. It was colder than anything Tim had ever experienced, and he was from Wisconsin. Stepping out, he locked the car door and walked over to the other side. Rich got out and the two looked around in the almost complete darkness for Ricardo.

"Yo, Rico!" Rich called out.

No answer.

Tim felt the pain in his stomach again. Something was wrong. "Maybe he’s inside already," he offered.

Rich nodded. "Who cares. I just wanna get out of this cold. Quicker the better."

Tim couldn’t argue. The two carefully walked down the sidewalk to the Office door. Rich pulled the doorknob, found it unlocked, and opened the door. Immediately, the two were met with a cold gun barrel pressed against their foreheads.

"Get them over here and shut the door!" Someone screamed out. Tim didn’t bother opening his eyes, just let a warm hand guide him forward.

"Who’re you two?" The same harsh voice asked.

Tim opened his eyes. In front of him, a man dressed in a gray Police uniform was holding a long shotgun to his forehead. He risked a glance to his right. Rich still had his eyes closed, a man wearing overalls and a plaid shirt was pointing a similar gun at him.

"I’m Tim, and this is Rich . . ."

"Shut up!" The Officer snapped. "I don’t care about your names! I wanna know what you’re doin’ here!"

Tim swallowed hard. "We needed a place to stay. I assumed the Motel 6 sign outside meant this was a place of lodging . . ."

The Officer loaded the shotgun. "Gettin’ smart with me boy?"

A skinny man wearing all black save for a white collar stepped forward and gently put a hand on the Officer’s gun. "Everything’s okay, sheriff. These boys were just looking for a place to stay the night. No harm in that."

The Sheriff lowered his gun. "Sorry ‘bout that."

"No problem," said Tim.

The Sheriff looked at the man in the overalls, who still had his shotgun trained on Rich. "Larry! Put the gun down!"

The man kept the gun trained on Rich for a few more seconds before lowering it. He set the gun against the far wall near a large check-in counter and walked over to a large couch near the back of the room. There, four others were huddled around a small fireplace. The Sheriff followed him, leaving the man in black.

"I’m Father Henry," the man said, holding out a hand. Tim shook it.

"I’m Tim. Listen, are we the first people to come in for awhile? We had another friend with us . . ."

Rich nodded quickly. "We thought he already came in, but we couldn’t be sure with the mist out there so thick."

The Father and the Sheriff exchanged worried glances.

"If he’s out there, you can forget about him," the Sheriff said without emotion.

"Forget? Why?" Rich asked.

"If your friend is out there, he’s dead," the Sheriff stated.

Tim’s face flushed with anger. "What? Why? How do you know? We should at least go and look for him!"

And old man ran toward the door and blocked Tim’s exit. "No! No one goes out there! God knows how you two even made it here!"

Tim looked around. There were about ten people in the room, all looking at the two teens. It was the Father that came forward again.

"Come over by the fire and warm up a bit while we still have some heat left. I’ll try and explain it to you." He looked over his shoulder to a middle-aged man huddled by a woman and a child. "Mike, could you get the two some hot chocolate?" The man nodded and walked into the Manager’s Office behind the Check-in counter. He was back in a flash with two steaming cups of black liquid. Tim took one and gulped it down quickly. The liquid scalded his throat, but it still felt—and tasted—good. Rich was warming his hands by the fire, slowly sipping at his cup.

"I’ll tell you what we know," Father began. "We know that two days ago a man by the name of Jack Frost—most likely an alias—rented a room here for an unspecified period of time. Last night, the mist appeared. It was too thick for people to see their neighbors . . ."

"But they could still hear them scream," the Sheriff finished. He had gotten himself a cup of cocoa and was sitting in a fold-up chair near the fire.

The Father nodded. "I could hear people screaming from my church, where I was setting up the Jesus Nativity Scene. I went outside and must have gotten lost because I ended up here. It was too cold outside to keep looking, so I went in and met many of the people you see here. They were staying here, already barricading the rooms from the Manager’s Office."

"Why would you do that?" Rich asked.

The Father pointed to a small box near the phone on the check-in desk. "We can control the heat. After the first screams, most of the power in the town went out; my guess is that the power lines were frozen solid. But this Motel 6 has an emergency generator."

"A generator that ain’t gonna last much longer, might I add." The Sheriff sipped his cocoa.

Tim nodded. "So Ricardo . . ."

"I’m sorry," Father said honestly. "If you want, we could have a small procession for you friend . . ."

"We ain’t got more time for that!" The Sheriff yelled, throwing his glass against the fireplace. It shattered and the group huddled around the fire jumped back, afraid. "We got guns and we got the manpower! I say we go out there and hunt Frost down! He can’t take us all!"

"He took down everyone else in the town pretty quickly!" A young man called out from the other side of the room. "I lost my whole family out there, so I know what you’re going through, but we can’t fall apart now! Not when daylight is so close . . ."

“Daylight. What happens at daylight?" Tim wanted to know.

The man shrugged. "It does something to the mist we think Frost created. It dissipates, gets warmer and finally disappears."

"Then we can hunt Jack down and cut him a new smile," the Sheriff whispered harshly.

Rich was eyeing the plump man carefully. "Just how did you get here Sheriff?"

The Sheriff looked at the teen for a moment, then lowered his eyes. "I was doing patrol when the mist started gettin’ thick. I barely saw a group of people running down the main street just in front of me and stopped. They told me something bad was goin’ down so I took ‘em here. I didn’t plan on locking myself in like a gopher."

The Sheriff was smart, Tim noticed. He must have known there was a generator in the Motel. Whether or not the man was completely with them was another thing.

"And that’s our story," the Father said calmly. The Sheriff’s face had flushed red and was staying that way.

Tim looked at Rich. "We couldn’t just keep driving to the next town," Rich muttered jokingly.

Suddenly, there was loud crack at the window. The group looked at the shade covering it quietly. Slowly, the Father walked over and pulled the shade up.

On the window, written in frost, were two large words in perfect italicized penmanship:

Little Pig

The group looked at it in silence. Finally, an old woman in the back asked: "What does it mean?"

Suddenly, the words melted away leaving small drops of water on the glass. The drops formed together and again froze with the exact same words:

Little Pig

The group waited. Again, the words written in frost melted and this time the small drops of water froze forming three new words:

Let me in

"I’ll let you in you son of a--" The Sheriff raised his shotgun and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. "Aw, Christ," he muttered. "I’m outta bullets."

Not by the hairs of my chinny-chin-chin, Tim wanted to say to the unknown force outside. He kept silent.

The Father exchanged glances with a few nervous faces. "Perhaps that was for the better," he finally said when the Sheriff’s once red face again calmed to it’s bright pink hue. "Had you shot the glass, you would have killed us all."

"Ain’t you been listenin’ at all, Father?" The Sheriff almost yelled. "He doesn’t like the heat! Why do ya think that mist hasn’t seeped through all the cracks in this run-down place? He’s smokin’ us out! Getting to our heads and just waiting for the perfect time to strike!"

"And that time’s going to come soon," someone from the back suggested. Tim didn’t turn around; he dared not take his eyes off the angry man with the large shotgun. "The generator’s only running at half power. I just checked."

The man stepped forward until he was right next to the Sheriff. He was tall, a farmer most likely but young and clean-shaven. Years of beer-drinking was beginning to show through his shirt, but Tim supposed it was the only thing to do in such a small town on weekends.

"I don’t like to admit it, but maybe we should listen to the Sheriff’s plan," he continued. "Because when that generator goes out, we’re all dead. Maybe if we took the initiative . . ."

The Sheriff set his hand on the man’s shoulder. "Yeah, I like this boy. Now, who else is with me?"

A few others began mumbling to each other. Tim looked to the Father, who just shook his head.

"You know," Tim started with his loudest voice. Everyone quieted and looked at the scruffy snow boarder standing in front of him. "You guys are actually thinking about going out there and trying to kill someone who by your own accounts has already wiped out an entire town when you can’t even see a foot in front of you? In the freezing cold?"

They began mumbling again, but Tim could tell he had persuaded at least a few to stay.

Then the Sheriff cut in. "There’s no way the generator is gonna last another four hours until sunrise! Face it, folks; we got maybe one hour or so left and then we’re doomed anyway. We might as well give it a try. Maybe we could even get to my car!"

More enthusiastic mumbling.

"And what if the cars are frozen?" Rich offered quietly. They all looked at him. "You all know how cold it is out there. It’s altogether possible."

The Farmer slouched in defeat. "He’s right. Someone would have to see if any of the cars are even working."

The Sheriff looked him angrily. "Then go out there and check, Jim."

The Farmer—Jim—looked at him with a fear in his eyes that could never be described. "I—I don’t want to go out there."

Father stood up from his fold-up chair. "You can’t force the boy to go out there."

"It was his idea!"

Jim held up his hands to prevent another harsh exchange of words between the two. "The Sheriff’s right. If I can get a car started, we can get out of here. I’ll go." His voice was as shaky and squeaky as a pre-pubescent teen’s. Tim couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for the young man.

They all watched the Farmer reluctantly put on his heavy Gortex jacket and mittens. Four people came forward to hand him the keys to their cars, telling him which one it was and any problems he may have getting it started. Tim made it halfway across the room before Rich pulled him back. He shook his head solemnly and the two sat down.

And then the Farmer was out into the brisk cold mist. Even with the door open for only a few seconds, the room went completely cold. Everyone went back to where the fire was still blazing, waiting. It was completely quiet in the room, the dry firewood crackling and spitting out small ashes onto the puke-colored carpet that just about every Motel had.

"Where is he?" A young lady wrapped tightly in a blanket asked nervously.

Despite the minutes that had passed, the room was still cold from when Jim had briefly opened the door.

"He said he would honk the horn of any car that he could get running," the Sheriff said, restraining his anger. He was more angry at himself for letting the young Farmer go, but he couldn’t show that to the others. "I gave him my handgun. He’ll be okay."

Tim noticed even the Sheriff’s cold, hard exterior was beginning to break. He got up and headed over to the window.

"What are you doing?" Father asked quietly.

"I’m going to look out the window, maybe see the flashlight he was carrying. Just to know he’s still out there--"

Immediately, the window froze over, the frost too thick to see through.

Not that it hurt them much. From the brief look Tim got, the mist seemed to be thicker than before. Why the group thought the sun could stop it now Tim couldn’t say. He couldn’t even think straight so close to the window, the cold seeping through the double panes enough to put goose-bumps on his flesh.

"What now, Officer?" Rich yelled out angrily at the Sheriff who wasn’t looking too well anymore. "Old Frosty won’t let us see outside! Anyone else have that feeling in the pit of their stomach telling them we won’t be seeing Farmer Jim again?"

Tim wanted to raise his hand. Actually, he wanted to fall to the floor and cry his eyes out until the mysterious man under the alias of Jack Frost finally killed them all. But even worse, he wanted to see what the creature looked like. He wanted to see what kind of person—if you could call him that—could spew forth a freezing mist from his body and destroy an entire town. And then Tim wanted to know why.

"Yeah, I didn’t think so," Rich was saying. "Farmer Jim is dead. We’re going to join him if we don’t do something about it now!"

"What can we do?" Father said calmly.

"We can burn this Motel to the ground," Tim offered quietly. He noticed them all looking at him and continued. "You said he doesn’t like heat. If we burn down the Motel, maybe the mist would fall back for a few minutes and we could get to the cars."

"And maybe we could get a bag of marshmallows and sing campfire songs!" The Sheriff offered sarcastically. "Boy, that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!"

Tim shrugged. "Better than following a pie-eyed drunk outside to get slaughtered."

The Sheriff stood up, his face red as an apple; maybe redder. "Boy, you’d do best to watch your words before I jam this shotgun in your mouth and pull the trigger!"

"Now Sheriff--"

"Shaddup, Father!" The Sheriff spat. "I’m gonna go out there and take care of our guest! Anyone with me come now ‘cause I ain’t waiting!" He snatched up his jacket and put it on, hastily. Two other middle-aged men with the same beer-bellies grabbed their shotguns and coats, too. The Sheriff opened the door and the three jumped out. They disappeared before the door was closed. Into the ice-cold mist.

Everyone remained silent again. Tim couldn’t help but hope he would hear the Sheriff scream before he died. Even as the thought hit him, he felt a shiver up his spine. Had he changed so much in the past hour as to want to hear a man die? Had he grown so . . .cold?

His thoughts were broken by gunshots. Three of them, very nearby. Someone was yelling as two more shots were fired, somewhat further away this time.

"He’s right in front of you!" Someone yelled out just in front of the door.

"Shoot him shoot him shoot him!"

"I shot him twice, for Christ’s sake! I shot him twice!"

Silence. Someone could be heard walking up and down the concrete walkway just outside the door.

"Jesus, he froze the whole building . . . where are you, James? James, Smitty, I see him! Get over here!"

Hurried footsteps stopped right in front of the door. "Smitty’s gone, I can’t find him."

"It don’t matter no more! Look—there he is just up there! I think he’s hurt! Hey Frost!" Two more gunshots sounded.

There was another tense silence. Finally: "Is he dead?"

"No! He’s gettin’ up! Fire again!"

"I’m out of bullets!"

Tim crept towards the window. The frost had thinned a bit—he could see two blurry figures just out front. One of them ran to the window. Up close, he was much clearer, though Tim had no idea who the bearded man was. Behind him, the other figure had moved out of site.

"You got to get us more bullets! He won’t stay down!" Behind him, a new figure had appeared. This one was much taller, and the way he walked made him seem like his feet never touched the ground; they just floated.

"Move!" Tim screamed.

Instead, the man turned around. Suddenly, the frost on the window completely cleared, but the bearded man was in Tim’s view of whoever had appeared behind him. The man jerked as something clear and pointed ripped through the back of his skull. Blood splattered onto the window, immediately freezing upon contact. Behind Tim, everyone was screaming. The thing sticking out of the man’s head was a very sharp, very big icicle.

And then the bearded man fell to the ground, the large icicle still plunged deep into his forehead. Jack Frost stepped in front of the window. He stood almost a foot taller than the five-foot ten Tim, his face a pale white and his eyes were a blue so cold Tim had to shiver to shake away the feeling. Instead of hair, large icicles jutted upward out of his head, making him seem even taller. He was wearing an unbuttoned white trench coat and under it a white suit. Through blue lips, he was smiling devilishly.

"Let me in," he said in a voice that actually felt cold. He stepped forward, hissed at the window, and stepped back.

"It’s all right!" The Father called out, obviously relieved. "The heat hurts him! He can’t get in!"

Frost smiled and reached for something out of view. When he brought his hand back, he was holding the Sheriff. "Let me in, little pigs. Or the one you call ‘Sheriff’ dies."

Tim stepped back to the others, who were huddled near the fire. Rich was holding a handgun in his hands. "Swiped it from the Sheriff before he left," he muttered. "I got a feeling it’s gonna come in handy."

The Father moved towards the window. "Why do we deserve to die, my son?"

Jack eyed him curiously a moment, then pointed his finger at the window. Ice grew from the tip, creating a sharp nail. With one swipe, he slit the Sheriff’s neck and dropped him to the ground.

"That’s just it—you don’t. But I need you. I need your essence, your very life spirit in order to sustain my form. Allow me to demonstrate . . ." he picked up the Sheriff’s still twitching body and clutched his stomach with both hands, lifting him into the air. He began to violently shake, the color in his skin fading to white, then to a dark blue. Jack Frost was smiling as the invisible energy surged through his own body while the Sheriff’s began to be taken over by a thin layer of ice. Satisfied, Jack squeezed his hands and the frozen body shattered into a thousand smaller pieces. The Father could only stare as Frost picked up the other two men that had gone out with the Sheriff and done the same thing to them.

"Don’t you see?" Frost said after he had finished. "One town will satisfy me for years! If anything, think of yourselves as the ultimate sacrifices. Now, turn off the heat and save me the trouble of waiting you out.

"No!" Rich screamed. He fired his gun and hit the window, the bullet shattering it and lodging itself in Frost’s chest. He looked at the bullet. Everyone else did, too. Slowly, the hole in his chest closed up.

"I cannot be killed," Frost stated simply. Tim could see the ice-cold mist seeping out of the pores on his skin. The creature stepped back as the blazing heat of the room entered the night. But already, Tim could feel the room getting cooler, the mist slowly creeping its way through the window. So why didn’t Frost just break the window before?

Then Tim knew. Painted on Jack Frost’s face was a picture of terrible pain; the mist not only came from him but was a part of him. Already, it was retreating from the room.

The group might have made it through the night. They might have been able to fend Frost off with burning torches near the window to keep him at bay until the sun came out and finished the creature. They might have survived, had the generator not stopped working, just as the Sheriff had said it would.

Within minutes, the icy mist began entering the room. The fire in the fireplace blew out, only the full moon outside lighting the room. Jack Frost smiled and climbed through the window, his coat sliding over the windowsill like a quiet snake stalking its prey.

The Father said a prayer.

Rich desperately fired his gun at the unstoppable creature.

The women screamed.

Then the men did.

Tim just fell to the floor, tears streaming down his face. They froze instantly.



(c) Kenneth G. Brosky


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Translated texts:

Interview with Mihaela Velina - read what editor of Futura, only Croatian SF semiprozine, have to say about our SF scene
NOSF (3) - a regular column from issue nr. 7
A glimpse of Croatian SF fandom - another article, made for one Czech SF e-zine
The Highway Quarrel - short SF story