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Phreezer Burn

by D.J. Rivera 6 months ago in Short Story
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"No one ever understands what they are truly capable of doing until they are forced to look over the edge."

Tuesdays ran like clockwork at the high school. Whether rain or shine, the notoriously mundane routine carried out by this institution’s drone-like occupants felt like it was stuck on an endless loop with no end in sight. It is almost as if you could predict everyone’s movements down to the very second.

A daunting task like this would probably take a lot of spare time, reconnaissance, and math, but when you don’t have much of a social life, those hurdles become very easy to overcome. Besides, the benefits of that game-changing knowledge heavily outweigh the menial cost of the manageable labor. Especially when it comes to information on one Ralph Monroe, a dim-witted, brutish thug with a greaser-like aesthetic, who never fails to miss his essential after-lunch cigarette in the stairwell that leads to the now-defunct, ghost-town auto shop.

No one ever goes back there for a number of sensible reasons. Cobwebs infest the walls, and the entire area is oversaturated in the thickest dust the world has ever seen. One of the many coherent arguments to steer clear of this dreary place is the fact that an innocent student tragically fell to his untimely death.

Some say every time he smacked against the stairs, another bone would crack so loud it was like a symphony of agonizing tones echoing through the empty halls until the lifeless body hit the floor and the unnerving stillness signified that the horrifying ordeal was over. After that, there was only one sinister scoundrel that thought this cursed spot would be a good place to unwind, of all things.

Ralph was a silver spoon-fed, cake-eating, privileged pile of insecurity whose hyper-violent tendencies were just as astonishingly abundant as his parent’s nefarious neglect. He roamed the halls like a towering demonic force stronger and faster than any that would dare oppose his adolescent reign. Like a stray dog with no master, he marked his territory and made sure no one questioned his merciless dominance.

With his hair slicked back, this monstrous titan claimed this spot as his unofficial sanctuary for reasons that can only be described as sadistic and deranged. Whatever his justification was did not matter because the fact that it was a place with no witnesses made this an ideal epicenter for the best dish served cold, revenge.

The oafish security guard that works the grounds today skips this area when he does his afternoon patrol in favor of scrolling his life away on his phone. That’s why I knew this would be a good place for us to talk without any distractions, and we could finally put an end to the madness. The man that thought he would never have to face the consequences of his actions is in for some serious payback.

The longer I waited I grew very concerned over my emotional state. Oddly I wasn’t nervous at all. Usually, I’m an absolute wreck in high-pressure situations. I guess things change. What worries me is the anger scorching through my veins and the impatience gnawing away at my soul. The only way to truly contain the mayhem and rage running rampant through my existence is to continue to remind myself to stay calm and remember that everything is going according to plan. Well, sort of.

I remember the night we had the idea to take on this bold and life-altering endeavor. It wasn’t just me. My best friends, Henry and his twin sister Penelope were in on it as well. Just like me, their mom was gone, and their dad might as well have been a glorified prop in the background. But that didn’t matter because the three of us had been pals as far back as I could remember, and we always had each other through thick and thin. We were as close as family and did everything together, even shared the same relentless bullies.

Ralph made our lives a constant struggle riddled with soul-sucking fear and decaying despair. Every day felt like an unjust prison sentence, and each time he savagely put us down, more people showed their blood-soaked true colors supporting his trauma-inducing cause.

The only solution we could find at the time was isolation, but thankfully we had each other, so it wasn’t all bad. In order to aid in our escape, we kept our minds busy learning all sorts of wondrous things. It's amazing what you can discover when you have the free time, ambition, and imagination yearning to eclipse all the pain.

The stuff you can find on the internet these days is truly remarkable. The secrets a person can uncover if they venture into its dark corners can make a significant impact on someone’s thought process. No one ever understands what they are truly capable of doing until they are forced to look over the edge.

It is crazy to think about what kicked off our dark Odyssey. The night things hit a boiling point when Henry came home with a black eye the size of a grapefruit. I remember immediately going to get some ice from the freezer. The trays were empty, and given the fact that their dad was passed out with an empty bottle of whiskey lying next to his gun on the table, it became very clear where all the cubes ended up. It’s funny how I remember being more unsettled by the liquor than the firearm.

Luckily there was an ice pack behind a tub of ice cream. I brought it back to him, hoping it would relieve some of the pain, but I could tell it wasn’t the massive shiner that was causing tears to drip down his face. The mental degradation, the embarrassment, and the fear had all become too much for him, causing him to break down. This harrowing ordeal was compliments of Ralph’s unforgiving temper and ferocious fist.

The three of us were easy targets for brutes like Ralph. None of us were very big. In fact, we were all rather small for our age. Some would even call us scrawny, and we were pretty forgettable in the looks department. We all had ailments that made us much weaker than most, and everyone who could, seemed to want to exploit that. There were times we thought we only existed to be a punchline and a punching bag, which can really wear on a person, notably those who are still developing emotionally.

Penelope tried to console her brother and asked me if I saw some ice cream in the freezer. My mood instantly changed when I remembered there was some, and if memory served me correctly, it was Henry’s favorite flavor, Rocky Road. But when we opened the tub, the frozen treat did not look right.

There were shards of frost all over the surface. Neither myself nor Penelope knew what was going on. Henry wiped his tears and explained to us that it was freezer burn and we shouldn’t eat it. After looking bewildered at Penelope, I inquired as to what freezer burn meant, being utterly confused at how the two words mean two completely different things.

Henry went on to explain that the ice cream itself got too cold and now it is no good to eat. It’s still ice cream, but parts of it are not as good as they once were. Basically, he said that all the best parts about the ice cream were gone and that what is left over will most likely never be the same.

The lingering silence was a clear sign of what each of us was thinking at that moment. That is exactly how we felt every day. So mentally and physically exhausted from surviving the school day that instead of enjoying our free time, we use it to recharge, dreading what abuse we would have to endure the next time around. All the good parts of us were slipping away because we were burnt out and somehow, at the same time, frozen in a world of fear.

But I was wrong about us all being on the same page because Penelope was fixated on something else entirely. She looked down at the lackluster ice cream in disgust, and then in a devilish fashion, her eyes became instantly transfixed on the pistol. Her pops was never hesitant about waving his hand cannon around when under the influence, and therefore all of us had gotten used to the unpleasantness that came with the insecure gun use. That’s why I thought it was very strange that she was so focused on it. Then when I saw that smile drape ever so slowly across her face, I knew at that moment everything would change.

She turned and looked at both myself and Henry and said, “I have an idea how we can stop this from happening to us and everyone else.”

That’s the one thing I have to say that I truly miss about Penelope. She always had a plan. We were all pretty smart, but she was a genius. Nothing was impossible in her mind, and anything considered science fiction was just an early concept waiting for someone to finish the design. She was going to be a real trailblazer. There was no problem she couldn’t solve… except for one, it turns out.

As my thoughts start to wander, I get a glimpse of something in the distance. Looking out the window across the quad, I can see a girl with glasses typing away at one of the PCs in the computer lab. I wonder what she is working on. She seems invested in her efforts. For the curious mystery girl, it is probably as if nothing else is going on around her, and focusing on completing her tasks is more exhilarating than the thrills ten of the world’s most ridiculous roller coasters could provide. It reminds me of Penelope because that is how she treated the process of enhancing one’s intellectual capacities.

She spent weeks after having her epiphany searching on the computer to make sure every detail was worked out when it came to solidifying the plan of action. Then she put us to work as we gathered the necessary materials and anxiously assembled the answer to our problem.

She somehow found a way to get the things we needed. Things that we should not have been able to get. I still can’t believe how easy it was to acquire these tools of destruction. Every time I look at the final product, all of this preparation led us to, I can’t help but feel an equal amount of pride and trepidation.

This was like something you would see in movies or on TV shows, except it was real, which meant what we were going to do was also very real. Henry’s geeky sister never ceased to amaze him or me. Everything about her was special, but her energy, presence, and resolve were unlike any other.

I had always thought I would end up marrying Penelope, supporting her as she went on to win Nobel prizes for making the world a better place with her extraordinary inventions and discoveries. I remember a time where I would always remind myself that when we got older, none of these struggles would matter, and we’d be able to leave this life behind able to finally live like normal people. That is all we really wanted in the first place, just a chance to be like everyone else. It all just felt so right, but I guess that was just a fantasy because now that she’s gone, none of that can ever happen.

One of my biggest regrets about all this, even more so than what I’m about to do, is not being there for her when it truly mattered. I was weak, stubborn, and selfish. I was angry at the world, and I took it out on the wrong person. When she needed me the most and I abandoned her. If she wasn’t alone that night, things could have been different. I might not be standing in the epicenter of all my sorrow. Perhaps I wouldn’t be waiting to do something that needed to be done. Had it been done sooner, things would be better for everyone.

Sometimes I’m mad at her for leaving, but I understand why she did what she did. It's not easy losing someone; I know that now better than ever. I find myself carrying the photo she gave me of the two of them everywhere I go. She gave it to me so I wouldn’t feel alone, and on the back, in her enchanting handwriting, she wrote the initials P.H. Looking at my two best friends in the world when they were so happy provides me the strength needed to finish what the three of us started and properly preserve their legacy.

I put the picture back in my pocket, and I checked my watch to confirm that it was still not time. The weight of the weapon begins to take its toll, but I cannot stop the beast without it. Before my thoughts floor it down the highway at 200 miles per hour with panic in the passenger seat and doubt sprawled out all over the back, I try to distract myself, but not too much to lose my composure.

Up to this point, I had been avoiding looking over at a certain spot. But maybe it was what I needed to ensure I remember why I’m standing here today. So against all logic, I looked over, and for the millionth time, I’d relive one of the worst days of my life.

The plan was going as smooth as ice entering its final stages of preparation, but Henry couldn’t wait any longer, especially that day. He apparently decided he wasn’t going to take Ralph’s crap and decided to strike back. Henry got in one good shot to Ralph’s face and even managed to draw blood. But then he soon realized what he had done, and by his calculations, this was a fight he couldn’t win. His emotions got the better of him, and his anger took over, which ended up costing him dearly.

Henry took off faster than a bat out of hell with Ralph in close pursuit. He was a smart kid but not that coordinated. He also had respiratory problems and used an inhaler. Between his ailments and the chaos, things weren’t going to end well. And we were so close to completing the plan then.

Eventually, Henry made his way to this hallway, presumably thinking he was extremely close to freedom. The poor guy was right in the wrong way. He had tripped and fell down these stairs and broke his neck in the process. He was pronounced dead a few feet from where I’m standing.

The death was ruled an accident, and no one was held to blame. Ralph became relentless after that, showing absolutely no mercy. Getting away with Henry’s death made him feel like he was above the system like he couldn’t be touched. His reign of terror had to be stopped.

Despite knowing all of this, many people would probably look at what is about to happen as a frigid act of violence that should not be allowed. But unfortunately, this is what it has come to. I will carry out Penelope’s plan. She wasn’t insane, she was calculated. Where others would succumb to the fury, she would harness that boiling force and allow it to give her the ice-cold drive needed to do remarkable things some would have trouble believing.

Penelope is not a monster, even though her actions would prove otherwise. She always made sure to make everyone painfully aware that we weren't trying to hurt anyone and that we were preventing the target from doing any more damage. She also made sure that we would be precise and no innocent people would be harmed.

All of a sudden, the ear-splitting sound of the bell signaling lunch period was over roared throughout the building, and my pulse races into the stratosphere. My heart begins to pound like a piston pushing out a preposterous amount of horsepower, rupturing my chest cavity.

I hid underneath the stairs. There I took a deep breath and listened carefully because everything hinges on what happens next. It has to go right.

The sound of the halls clearing was almost as if a stampede of farm animals were being herded back into their pens. The resounding chatter and uproarious antics of the easily influenced occupants began to fade as the last of them scurried off to their next destination.

When he’s most vulnerable is the optimal time to strike a chilling blow. I knew he was out in the open. But despite every raw animal instinct in my being, I had to exhibit an exuberance of patience and wait for the right moment. Of all the strenuous tasks that needed to be performed to pull off this miraculous mission, the wait was by far the hardest part.

As the footsteps grew closer, I started making sure I was ready. The sights had been calibrated, there was a round in the chamber, fusion cells were ionized. I locked the weapon into place. Checked the diagnostics, temperature factor was nominal. All the while making sure to monitor my breathing and trigger squeeze like the internet said to do.

As he walks into my trap, I emerge from the shadows and point the barrel straight at his midsection. When he sees the armed assailant that stands before him, he immediately recognizes me and starts to say something. But not a sound is heard among the escalating tension I found myself sinking in like quicksand.

For a moment, I couldn’t go through with it. For a brief instant, I was frozen solid. The world had gone mute. The only thing I could hear was the sound of blood pumping through my heart so fast the beats sounded like bombs dropping every second that passed.

This madness continues until I close my eyes for a second, take a breath, and open up the gates of hell. The trigger is thrust back, and the shot releases. The recoil plummets into my torso, sending me backward a few steps and then eventually to the ground.

After a few seconds, I get back up on my feet. The air feels much colder than it did a second ago, like a brisk winter day.

Ralph is on the ground shivering with his arms are curled up like that of Tyrannous Rex, which is fitting given that’s exactly what I was looking at. The once-proud king terrorizing the weaker of the species now reduced to a frail state laying on his back like the prey he once hunted down mercilessly.

He attempts to speak. But nothing comes out. I tell him not to waste his breath and to save his strength, for he is in no condition to do anything except lie back and accept his fate. At that moment is when I decided that this was the part where I divulged my master plan in an enigmatic monologue that would stick so hard his ancestors would feel it. This is how I complete the plan. Our plan. It went something like this:

“Listen up you mouth breathing piece of scum, if you wondering what’s happened, allow me to enlighten you. First off, no I did not shoot you with a regular gun. So take some relief in knowing you are not going to die. That I can promise. You will live, but things are going to be different.

I’ve taken away the gift you took for granted. I’ve taken away that what made you a monster. I made you just as weak as those you bullied. And before you get upset, it's important to point out that this was all your doing. That is right, you are the architect of your reckoning.

What did you think was gonna happen, Ralph? You’d scare us into isolation, and we were just going to accept our fate? Loneliness, suicide, or shooting up the place, you thought those would be our only options?

Did you really think that we, the bullied, would just stand by and allow this type of behavior to continue unpunished? Did you really believe that the future’s greatest minds wouldn't find a solution to this problem, wouldn't find an answer to your menacing antics? Did you think we wouldn't find a cure for the plague of evil that you spread!?

Unable to venture outside, we searched the dark corners of the web for answers on a way to stop not just you but anyone from exhibiting this vile behavior. It’s amazing what a little motivation can do to a person when someone is pushed past the limits of what they are truly capable of accomplishing. There is almost something superhuman about it.

There is a dark side to this world, and people like me, Henry, Penelope are here to try to provide some balance in this very one-sided war that's been going on for far too long.”

Ralph tries to crawl away and begins to cry and whimper but fails miserably at his efforts. The dread of a one-way ticket to the afterlife is draped across his face. I refuse to acknowledge it and just take two steps into his line of sight and continue on like the interruption never occurred.

“While what I am holding in my hand may look like a modified assault rifle, it is most certainly not a firearm of any kind that shoots regular bullets. No, what you are looking out through frosted vision is a working freeze ray. You would probably laugh if your blue lips weren't frozen shut at the sound of someone saying they built a freeze ray. But that's what we did.

It's actually surprisingly quiet, and because of this, no one will come to your aid until I deem it acceptable because I am in charge now, a status you will never get to hold, ever again.

The concentrated force of energy released that struck you results in the same exact aftermath as extreme hypothermia. You now have severe nerve damage throughout your body, your eyesight will never quite be the same, walking will become more difficult, respiratory problems will occur, and most of your major organs are no longer what they once were.

You are not going to die, but you have also lost the ability to take a life. You can no longer bully, intimidate, harass, abuse, or terrorize anyone ever again. I have made you as weak as those whose lives you made so miserable for your own selfish reasons. Now you will forever live in fear as they did. That is your punishment. Penelope and Henry’s deaths are on your hands.

Simply put, all we’ve done is remove you from the situation or freeze you out, as Penelope so eloquently put it.

When they ask you why this happened, you’ll tell them what you did and what will happen if anyone else thinks they can play your twisted game of physical and mental pain disbursement because that’s all it is. It isn’t a disease or a phase, it's torture and abuse, and that all ends now.

It better be clear as ice that the plans for these freeze rays can be in the hands of capable victims very quickly if these actions are enabled or allowed to persist for any reason. Myself and others will continue the crusade as long as there is evil to purge.”

I start to walk away before I remember one last thing.

“Oh Yeah. One more thing. When they ask you who did this to you make sure you tell them this was the vengeful work of Phreezer Burn, with a PH instead of an F.”

Short Story

About the author

D.J. Rivera

Short stories, articles, and lists about movies, TV shows, video games and more! Make sure to check out WrittenByDJR.com and ProducedByDJR.com. Also check out my work on Amazon Prime, Vimeo, and make sure follow me on Twitter @WrittenByDJR.

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