On Frozen Ground
It used to be a joke, when it was just the movies. Now the joke's on humanity, and it's not the same.
I used to make fun of the idea. The movies, the shows. I thought they had it all wrong. I thought the characters were stupid, and the story simple. And being as popular a subject as it was, I also thought it was all just so redundant. Uncreative. A short-cut theme for people who wanted to be famous but couldn’t come up with any ideas of their own.
I haven’t changed my mind about any of that. Now I just think it was all a sick joke. Or maybe this is the sick joke, the universe throwing humanity’s obsession in its face. A challenge or a dare. “You think you know how it would play out? Then play it out yourself.”
I wonder if they’re still out there somewhere. Not all of them, of course. Time, accidents and other diseases have taken some over the years, even before this. But the ones that remained, do they still? Are they out there, feeling so stupid for being so wrong? Do they think they asked for this with their work? Do they think they’re prophets who foretold the endtimes?
“This isn’t the end,” Dany says, as if she can read my mind. Then again, right now, I doubt anyone would need that talent to guess what I’m thinking. It’s been what everyone’s thought ever since the beginning.
Dany’s old fingers slip between mine, our palms pressing together. “This won’t be like the movies.”
“We won’t be like the character,” I correct her. It’s already like the movies. Except when the movies were all redundant and dramatic, the real thing is quiet, still and eerie.
Maybe that’s just the snow, muffling everything.
Dany lets go of my hand and kneels down on the edge of the frozen pond. I watch as she takes out her athame and stabs the tip of the blade forcefully into the ice. She does this repeatedly, in slightly different spots, at slightly different angles, until she’s carved out a chunk of the ice. When she stands back up, she passes the ice chunk to me before sliding her athame back into its scabbard. “May we always be able to find our way back.”
I cup my hands around the ice, focusing on the cold and sharp edges that bite into my palms and the pads of my fingers. I close my eyes and embrace the cold, tempering is, warming it and cooling my hands, balancing both temperatures until they become the same. “No matter how far we go,” I say, opening my hands and my eyes. In my cupped hands now sits an ice-colored crystal in the shape of a carved-out chunk of pond, a little colder than cold but not freezing anymore, solid and unmelting.
When I lift my gaze from the crystal, I see one of them. The movies called them zombies. I haven’t decided yet if that’s what I’ll call them too. The reality and the movies seem so different it feels like the word zombies wouldn’t do any of it justice. The news just called them “victims,” even if they never figured out what, exactly, these poor unfortunate souls are victims of.
“Do you think they’re like on TV?” Dany asks as I put the crystal in my backpack.
The movies always showed them as rotting corpses, but this thing just looks emaciated. Pale – but everything’s pale in the winter – with sunken in skin and torn and dirty clothes hanging off its emaciated frame.
“I guess we’ll find out.” I step onto the pond’s thick ice, and cross the frozen water, moving towards the zombie, or victim, or undead, or whatever it is the survivors or I decide to call these creatures.
It started as a distraction. Something to do in the in-between times. It started with one random girl put into someone else's story. But then it grew. She told me her real story, introduced me to her world, and I fell down the rabbit hole.