Free After Three|
The moment I arrived to the two big black metallic doors, I was confronted by a large colleague of mine, dressed in a heavy jacket, with his face buried under a snow mask and foggy goggles. He asked me why I was sweating, and I refused to answer. He told me, Mark Mercer, my highest ranking superior, had demanded to have a private talk with me, and I was going to get escorted to his office whether I liked it or not.
In his office, Mercer spun around in his comfy leather recliner, doing a one-eighty, and faced me, smiling wickedly. He spoke loudly and clearly. “I don’t care if we’re at the bottom of the world.” He got up and stared through his large panel window, out into an ever stretching snow field. “You have yet to do anything since we arrived. You just go out there when we tell you not to. It’s best if you freeze out there. That would teach you a lesson.”
I sat in a little wooden chair, and didn’t open my mouth.
"For the fourth consecutive day, you're late for work, which is a shame, because you live at the research station at which you've been hired to clean," he said. "I'm giving you one last chance. Just one more chance. The toilet isn’t working. Get to it.”
I got up and left his office. I took his words and locked them away in the back of my head; in a room where I kept all unwanted junk.
My escort, Roger Foy, was waiting for me as I left. “Just what is it that you do out there all the time?”
“The toilet isn’t working. It’s best I fix it right away, Roger.”
Her face stared into nothingness. In a block of ice, no taller than I, the vivid form of a nude woman was visible. Her thin figure was accompanied with shoulder length blonde hair, and a complexion as white as the snow. Her brown eyes had called me from afar. I had discovered her on my own, the day after I arrived with my working party, and not a day went by that I was not by her side. Thoughts of melting her would frequent through my mind.
“How will this task commence?” I said. “I could hack my way inside, with an ax; or perhaps use a fire to melt the ice away. I’ve just got to keep you a secret. I’ve yet to tell my superiors or colleagues about you. I will never tell them about my precious block of ice.
“My love, they’re here for some frozen lake which you lay beyond. I’m starting to cover my footprints and walk around in circles. I don’t want them following me. I don’t want them to find you.”
I would talk to the frozen woman for hours. The cold died down, and for the time that I was with her, it felt like spring. I was sweating inside my snow mask and goggles. I removed them and the sweat did not freeze. I merely wiped it off.
“I hope you can hear me in there.”
I let myself fall back, and the snow caught me softly.
I dreamed a little. Then I closed my eyes, and slept...
Their vague bodies stood out in the distance, atop a fifty foot hill, looking down upon us. Slowly they started their decent, a dozen of them, becoming clearer, destined to reach us. They were Mercer, Foy, and the others. These people--long anticipating the answer to my constant disappearances--were going to find me with her. They didn’t even know there was a “her.”
I saw the whites of their eyes, and their eyes found me.
Then I awoke. The woman was still here, beside me. My time with her was running up.
After a few more minutes of admiring the beauty, I realized they would become concerned that I stretched my fifteen minute break to three hours. I looked back at her face once more. “I will release you soon enough, love.” And she was left to continue her endless gazing onto the whiteness.
Back at the station, in the mess hall, some of the men gathered around a rectangular table, and others in their respective corners. Most of the men were drinking beer, and the smell alcohol was strong on their breaths. I picked at my ungroomed beard, staring at a clock that never told the right time placed above the front door. I found myself, sitting by myself, alone once more.
The stereo was playing some old broken rock song. The researchers and staff drank, sang songs, and told inside jokes. Mercer said to the room, with bottle in hand, “The ice plays tricks on you, you know. It’s full of mirages, and if you spend too much time out there, you are bound to see some crazy stuff. Let me tell ya, I’ve seen both my ex-wives going down with that lesbo shit.” The men laughed. Mercer poured more beer down his throat. “And let me tell ya, I’ve been coming down here for nine years, and I have yet to see it snow. Nobody understands this place. They just think it’s a wasteland.”
This place is Hell and Heaven is at the center of it.
I don’t drink by the way, I hate alcohol. I stay quiet, and listen to the conversations of other people. My eyelids grew heavy. The singing and chit chat stopped. I felt all eyes fall on me; only if I could wish their eyes away.
I dozed off a bit, and she wandered into my view. The woman was no longer entombed, but now walking towards me. We were both back out in the open. She was wearing a pink summer dress, along with a red flower held firmly in her hair. My hand reached out and felt her warm, soft, angelic skin. It was flawless.
With a smack to the back of my head, the dream vanished along with her.
“Wake up!” ordered Mercer.
“You hit me!”
“Be a man!” he said. He smacked me again on the side of my face. “You’ve been missing for hours today. But I see you are now here, busy doing nothing.” His hand found itself placed firmly on my right shoulder.
Don’t touch me.
“It’s time I put you to work.”
“You’re drunk,” I told him.
He pulled out an expired bottle of ketchup with a crust at the tip. As if he was a child, Mercer scribbled the watery words, clean this shit up, all over the table at which I was sitting.
I took out my towel and proceeded to obey his written command.
Next he wrote: learn to work!
Again, I cleaned the table.
We took a stroll through the facility. Everyone followed. The researchers and staff were constantly struggling to stop the snow from coming inside. There was a good reason why all the doors in the station opened in instead of out. I spent the next two hours shoveling out the snow, under Mercer’s intense supervision, and managed to get all the doors securely closed.
“Let me tell you something, jerkoff. And I really hope you get it straight, for your sake. My men and I are the members of this team that have permission to venture outside this station. Not you! You can only go outside with another member. Chances are you still don’t know our names. Do you even know how to speak? You hardly say anything. Your job is to clean this place up, scrub the toilets, and wipe our asses. I really hope you got that, because it ain’t much.
“Now,” he said, opening the front entrance, allowing the snow to fall back in, “we’re going for a walk.”
Two men grabbed me by my arms, and another three supported me by my legs. I did little to fight them off. The room erupted with cheers and applause as they carried me outside.
“What do you exactly do out here?” asked one of the men.
“Do you play with yourself?” asked another.
“Ya, that’s what he does. The bastard,” said a third.
I let them do their worst. I spoke not one word of my love.
“All right, it’s time we all found out where it is you go everyday,” said Mercer. “C’mon. Start walking.”
I stayed low, and refused to budge.
“C’mon,” he continued. “We don’t got all day.”
“I...I don’t know what you guys are talking about,” I stuttered. Fear rolled off my tongue along with my lie.
“Oh, just forget it,” another said. “This is pointless.”
“He should stay out here until he collects himself,” said Mercer.
They left me out in the cold, all but Roger Foy. He came towards me, knelled, and whispered in my bruised ear. “You are keeping something from us. Either I’m going to find out and reveal it, or the secret is going to reveal itself. It’s just a matter of time.” He kicked me in the ribs, and went back inside. He closed the door as much as he could.
There is no love for me in this place, I was certain. How could there be any love for a man with a name like Melvin Boyle? My tears froze midway down my cheeks.
As Mercer had said, I collected myself, prepared myself with a pickax and tools for a fire. I marched into the cold.
I chopped away at the ice with my pickax and, after continuos attempts, I made my way inside the block, until only a thin layer surrounded the woman. I used the remaining heat from my torch to melt the ice away, until little remained.
From the bottom of my eye, I caught slight movement in her fingers. I examined her closer. She blinked one; twice; then three times. Life entered her stiff body. I took a step back, and she took a step forward. Her feet sank ankle deep in snow. She did nothing to cover her nude body, or to warm herself from the cold. I reached out and felt her arm, it was warm and soft as I had dreamt it would be. I wasn’t sure if I had taken this woman straight out of a dream or from another world; either way we were together, and there was no ice or distance between us. But then the most tremendous fact about the woman arose. She was not human.
“Speak,” I told her, “say something.”
Her emotionless face signaled nothing. Her pale lips stayed silent.
I grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her rapidly. “Say something! Anything! You’ve got to have a name!”
I shook her more, and she came into complete awareness.
“What is your name?”
“Hello,” she said, “good morning.”
“Can you tell me who you are?”
She looked at me, drew a puzzled look on her face, and tilted her head back. “You’re not him. You’re the new guy. Do you want to talk? Tom just wanted to talk.”
“He was so lonely and miserable. But I was surprised; he lasted till the end of his second wish. Most of my masters are killed at the end of their first wish.”
Due to confusion, I kept my mouth closed. The woman kept her place, kept her same dull face, and put not one foot forward. Her hair swayed in the wind.
“Come with me,” I told her. “There is shelter not too far away from here.”
I walked with her company under the perpetual sun. I offered her clothing or a blanket or anything to warm her, insisting she needed none, she still put on a generic weather outfit suited for South Pole research. Longing to speak my feelings for her, face to face, I grew hesitant, and did not speak the truth. As for her name, she said she was never given one.
“What if I refuse to wish for anything?” I asked.
“No one has yet to do so.”
“I want a hundred dollar bill.”
As I demanded, a legal piece of tender with Benjamin Franklin’s face appeared on the palm of my open hand. The winds picked up and blew the bill away, and it became nothing more than a little green thing in the distance. Then it disappeared altogether.
“Can you tell me what the others have wanted from you, and what has happened to them?”
“Tom, my last master, was a paleontologist who had come down looking for fossils. He asked if I was as old as the dinosaurs. I told him I had little understanding of time. I have been trapped in stone, gold, at the bottom of the ocean, at the tops of the Himalayas, in closets, and frozen in ice. I don’t experience the world as you do. I am constantly in suspended animation. None of my masters have been anything but human, but I doubt my creators who cursed me to this torturous punishment were anything like you.
“What got him, you asked? He wanted to talk. And once he found me, all he did was talk. Then he wished to be popular among his fellow scientists, and they all dove over him. The men wanted to become best friends with him. And the women wanted to fuck him; practically rape him. But Tom was only one man, and all his new friends couldn’t get enough of him, so they ended up killing him. The men toyed with his severed head, and the women clung to his body. Soon his arms and legs came off, and all eight of the team members had their own piece of Tom. They all disappeared back in to their base camp. I have no idea what they could be doing now.
“Listen to me,” she said, “I’m just as cursed as you are. I watch all those I serve, die. I myself cannot be set free--to become human--until someone survives through their third wish. Money, looks, respect, love, all these things come back and kill you.”
I grabbed her firmly. My kiss fell on her dry lips. She pulled her head back, away from me.
“You’re just as dead as the others,” she said.
“I will be the one to free you,” I promised.
A small cabin came into view; located at the outer rim of the station. Several hundred feet beyond it, lay the mess hall which appeared as a small thing with lighted windows.
I loved this woman. Being a forty-five year old man, she looked young enough to be my daughter, yet I had no doubt in my mind that she had been around for eons. I've never slept with someone who wasn't human before; when I think of it, I've never even slept with anyone before, human or not.
“Just tell me one more thing. There is something I still do not understand. When I finish my last wish...”
“Well, when I do, what will happen? What if I die after my third wish?”
“All I can say is that you will get whatever you get, and that is whatever you want. Listen to me when I tell you this: you must live beyond your third wish. You must be alive when I am set free. Sure you can die of old age, or a disease. But if the consequences of your wish kill you, then back to sleep I go.”
“Now listen to me: I am going to be your last master.”
In the cabin, I kept the woman hidden. I thought about the others, likely drunk and busy indulging themselves with dinner. They must be sad. They must be bored. They need amusement. Something to hurt so they can be entertained.
I need my own entertaining, damn it!
I pondered heavily on what my second wish would be. I thought it would be interesting if I wished for all the hinges to all the doors in the station to change, so that the doors would open out. The snow would prohibit them from leaving, and they would be trapped inside. And perhaps have the woman start a fire on the inside. I could hear their screams as they burn to a crisp. How brilliant of I. But, they should just be tormented.
I decided on my second wish. When I took her outside, I froze at the sight of Roger Foy. Foy that clever fox of a man, sneaking around, kicking me when I’m down. He had been peeking in through one of the windows, spying on us all this time. Thankfully, he decided to drop by at the right moment. “Angel,” I called out the name that I gave her. “You know what to do.”
“Should death follow?” she asked.
“No! Not immediately anyway. Torment them at first. Make them pay!”
Coming out of shock, arriving to his senses, Foy asked, “Boyle, what the heck are you talking about? Who is she? What is she?”
I felt godly as I commanded the woman to execute my evil demand. From the snow, sinister powers arose. They were black as coal, snakelike, and slithered slowly through the air like eels of the sea. These beings--there must of been a dozen of them or so--wore no frowns or smiles, no mouths at all, no eyes, no noses, no ears, no faces. The fronts of their long bodies were the same as their ends.
She said, “It has been released.”
Foy, still staring at these creatures in amazement as I was, got attacked by one of these things. It flew down and forcefully entered into his body through his mouth. He fell, confused to what had just happened, and felt something sizzle on his skin. I knew this because his fingers immediately went for his irritated skin; and scratched away he did; screaming for his life. The last he said before he ran off was, “It’s eating through my insides!”
As for the rest of these airborne beings, the last we saw, the pack had flown hastily toward the little light that made the mess hall.
I strolled around, told Angel it was best if she stayed in the cabin, and started to pace towards the station.
The lights in the mess hall were on, and the door was open. Leading from the entrance were a pair of bloody footprints, untouched by the winds.
Turning away from the entrance, I followed the prints. They led around the station to the limp body of Tod Winston, the radio operator. Hopefully he hadn’t had the time to contact the outside world. His red feet were naked and covered with sores.
He cried out to me.
I shouted back: “What is happening?”
“It’s covering my body,” he said, tears ran down his face in streams. “It hurts!”
There he stood. His body trembling, jacket open, chest exposed. The cold meant little to him. His skin was opening up, his face marked with large oval sores. He fell to his knees, and crawled out of my sight. He took his moans and cries with him.
Within the building, the other team members were sharing a similar fate. Six of them had collapsed; their skins had started to catch fire.
Mercer, plagued, pointed to me. “He’s untouched!” All eyes fell on me. I wished that I had brought Angel along, so that I could wish their eyes away. They started to approach: some limping, some on their knees, faces grinning, teeth gritting, eyes raged by their suffering, carrying their flaming flesh, eager to rip me apart.
“The bastard is clean. Why is nothing happening to him?” he asked. “Quick! Get him before he escapes.”
One of the men, Paul of Peter or whatever his name was, grabbed on to my left boot, and I kicked him with my right, catching him on the side of his head. He fell back, and did not move.
The rest got closer. Nothing human remained in them. Blood was pouring out of their wounds, and their skins had transformed into something gratuitous and unsightly.
Before anyone else could lunge at me, I spun around and exited the front door. I must return to Angel, I told myself. Mercer exited, shouting as hard as he could, his red, hideous face now resembled a different kind of monster. His bloody hands roared into fearsome fists, and his chest was heaving. I swallowed hard. We stood a mere ten feet apart. The winds put out his flames.
“You...have any idea how much pain I’m in?” His voice was like an incinerator, opening its ugly mechanical mouth, ready to burn all that entered. “Why are you untouched?”
“There is a girl,” I told him. “I made her do this to you. She can do anything.”
His fists roared to life. “I will kill you with my bare hands. You are mine, Boyle!”
He charged forward. I made a dash for it, stumbling through the snow as I did. I heard Mercer approaching quickly. Surely, he’ll kill me if he catches me!
I felt a blow to the back of my head, and things grew blurry. The snow mixed with the blue sky, and I let my eyes rest.
My head was hurting. Allowing myself to lie on my back, I opened my eyes, and the bright blue engulfed my vision. A large force kept me pinned, and Mercer’s face came into view.
A few more punches erupted on to me. They were enough to make my head feel like smashed-up hamburger meat.
I remained conscious, but my vision grew blurry again. Blood ran down my nose. I let my head rest in the snow, swollen and bruised.
“Tell me about the girl.”
Life was faint inside of me. Death had come to take me away from her.
Mercer grabbed me and shook me. “Tell me about the girl!”
“I must live for her!” I found strength and swung at him. My fist caught him on the left cheek. It was enough for me to escape his grasp, but not enough to keep the man down for long. I got up and made my way for the cabin.
You know what to wish for!
He started to gain on me again. I was taken down once more; my face collided with the snow.
“I’m so sorry,” she yelled out to me. I could see her approaching. “You’re going to end up like the others.”
These words gave me the strength to rise up. I nailed Mercer hard, and he fell hard. After several kicks to his gut, the red beast subsided. The sores--and whatever those flying things were--had taken their toll on him. Mercer--now resembling butchered animal meat from a slaughterhouse--did not move. I remained silent, listening carefully to his sounds, all the way through his last breath. When he quieted down, I was sure it was finally over. None of the others came out. I was certain they had already passed away.
Having used all my strength, all the power from my legs disappeared. I fell back and, for a couple of minutes, all I did was look up at the sky.
Clouds appeared, and it started to snow softly. A flake graced the tip of my nose, and soon my face was coated with the white stuff. But it was not cold, but rather warm and inviting.
Let it bury me...
A true funeral for a sad and lonely man...
I was sure they would walk over my grave without a hint that anyone rests here. But then I asked: haven’t they always walked over me--without noticing that I was really here at all?
During what I thought were my final moments, I whispered unnecessary apologies and last-minute prayers. The white faded to black. The black faded to reality. “I wish,” I said, knowing Angel stood close by, knowing I possessed the greatest power in the world, and I didn’t even know how to use it properly.
Even if I did survive, what would become of Angel and I? Would I ever tell her how I feel? How would she function in society? Screw that, there’s plenty of time in the future to think about that stuff, I love her, and hell, I want to live. I want a happy life.
I spoke these words: “I wish for happiness. Grant me this.”
And my wish was her final command.
12/8/2009 11:38:52 PM
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