by TIMOTHY HENNUM
time for a freezer nap by hypersapiens | Flickr
The moment the door sealed shut behind me I understood the freezer people wanted me dead.
Here’s a bit of advice: Never trust a person who willingly locks themselves in a freezer because the world as we know it is over. And when I say over, I mean done, cooked, burnt to a crisp and never coming back. No electricity, no cars, no twitter, no turkey subs, no elevators. Whoever survives whatever comes next will eat dirt and ash and walk everywhere and take the stairs. But not stairs inside buildings because buildings as we once knew them are gone, melted, dissolved into nothing but nuclear dust. Whoever survives whatever comes next will live in huts made of nuclear mud.
Or walk-in freezers.
But not freezers that keep anything frozen because, well, no electricity. These are freezers in name only. Think of them as throwbacks to the olden days when we ate turkey subs and burned fossil fuels and farted whenever we felt like it and didn’t give a shit. When next thing we knew our world weighed twice as much because we weighed twice as much. And then in the not so olden days, when we stopped burning fossil fuels and burned our clothes instead and walked around naked or in our underwear because our cars didn’t work and the electricity was out and it was 125 fucking degrees and, well, we still didn’t give a shit.
Problem is, the freezer people think different. Which is why they want me dead I suppose. Apparently, I’m not a true believer. Give me a nuclear mud hut and a paper fan and I’m happy as a clam.
Clams. Those are gone too, boiled up in our oceans. Except the lucky ones that made it into freezers, whose thick walls stuffed with fiberglass and polyfoam and clad in sheet metal keep the bad air out and the good air in, well, the somewhat good air in, air that stays somewhat cool, like 80.
Damn freezer people think of everything.
“I see you decided to join us, Mr. Poindexter,” said the woman inside the freezer wearing a clam shell mask.
“Listen . . . ma’am. I don’t feel comfortable you using my name when I don’t know yours.”
Besides the clam shell mask, the woman was wearing a long red hooded robe. She could have been sixteen. Or sixty. Behind the mask not even her eyes were visible. Only her tongue.
“Come, sit, join us,” she said.
“Thank you but no, I don’t want to be a bother,” I said.
“Nonsense. We already have a place set for you.”
The only light inside the freezer came from a few lit candles on the floor. Behind the woman, it was completely dark.
“How big is this place?” I asked.
“Big enough, Mr. Poindexter. Or, I should say, big enough for those of us who prepared.”
“Honestly, if I had any choice I wouldn’t have come. It’s gotten bad out there. Worse, if you can imagine.”
“Funny, that’s just what the others said.” The woman ran her tongue over her mask at the place where her lips must be. “Come,” she said. “You must be famished.”
We walked together, she and I, for a long time, following a trail of red tealights on the freezer floor.
“When do I get my own mask?” I asked, trying to be polite. Fitting in with these people would be a challenge, but the more we walked the more I knew I would do anything to survive, even if it meant becoming a full-fledged freezer freak.
“Masks are reserved for true believers,” she said. “And you, Mr. Poindexter, are a skeptic.”
To this I said nothing. If they want to play hard to get, I can be patient.
At last we came to an open area in the freezer, an elaborate dining room with a large rectangular table in the center and a high ceiling that looked like something inside of a cave. A dozen or so people were already seated around the table, also wearing long red hooded robes and clamshell masks. I took the last open seat at the head of the table.
The woman came over a moment later holding a lit candle in one hand and in the other hand a ladle full of steaming red broth, which she promptly emptied into a bowl set before me.
“Enjoy, Mr. Poindexter,” she said.
I remember once hearing a story from an old deer hunter, a leather-faced man who called himself Brother Buck. This was years ago, back when we had deer. I remember he told me that the most important part of the hunt was the placement of the kill shot, because if you missed the vital organs, even by an inch, the deer would run and the meat would spoil. Apparently, this had something to do with fear hormones. Deer are like people, he said. When they’re scared, like us, their instincts kick in and a rush of fear hormones course through their bodies which turn their muscles red and give the meat a metallic taste. That’s how he described it: metallic. Which was how the broth tasted now: metallic.
The freezer people called it skeptic stew.
Timothy Hennum is a writer and physical therapist living in Minneapolis. He is an avid hiker, camper and paddler and his story “Stand-Up Paddling the BWCA: A New Way to Explore” can be found online in Gear Junkie Magazine. He also volunteers at Anwatin Middle School coaching budding outdoor athletes and striving eighth-grade readers. Inspired by their fall language arts theme on immigration, “Mr. Tim” challenged his reading buddy group to write an original story about a stranger in a strange land. “Freezer World” was his contribution to that effort.