It’s been beautifully warm and then bitterly cold. Last week, we even saw our first real snowstorm since this all began. We were trapped for the entire weekend until we were able to dig out our little house. It reminded me how in my life before I should have been more appreciative of public services like snow plows and snow removal.
It was bitter and cold and we were thankful for it because it meant that we did not have to deal with The Man in the Ice. But then, it started to get warmer out. We had days where it felt like spring. I would stand with the children and we would stop doing chores. We’d put our faces to the sun and just feel the renewal that was coming.
It amazes me how much more in-tune we have become with the natural world since ours lives changed. Our moods align with the temperature and the weather. It was so nice for those few days. It made all of the snow melt and made it easier for us. Javier though paid close attention to The Man in the Ice.
One morning we could see the ice beginning to break up. We both stood there watching him, as his fingers began to slowly protrude through the ice. It was disgusting and stomach churning to watch these purple/brown bloated fingers worm their way through the weak parts of the ice. If we helped to pull him out we knew he would break apart. If we let him struggle to get out we figured the same would happen to him.
His eyes said that his mind was muddled, probably both with decay, his unceasing hunger and the temperature of the near-freezing water.
“If we leave him in there, he will spoil the lake. If he hasn’t already,” said Javier as he drew me closer to him.
“But how to we remove him?”
“A really big net.”
“Even if we had one of those, we’d still have to get it underneath him.”
Javier was already half way up the hill towards the woods before I could respond.
I stood and waited for Javier. I stood by the lake, watching the Man in the Ice wiggle his bloated corpse-fingers through the growing hole in the ice. I half wondered if he was just going to fall apart with every movement. He had been in there for a long time.
It didn’t take long for Javier to return. He came back down from the woods, his secret place with Vincent, with a bag swung absent-mindedly over his shoulder. He almost seemed excited as he walked. When he reached me, he brushed a kiss across my forehead, setting the bag down at my feet.
“You will be so excited to see this, Liz.” He bent down and started to open what he brought as I awkwardly stood there with my hands in my coat pockets. “This was one of Vincent’s ideas. He is so smart. Was he good at science at school?”
School. I hadn’t really talked about school in forever. I nod. Vincent not only did well in science, but he also loved it. He loved every minute of that period of the day. It was where he thrived.
“We thought we could use a net to catch food. To see what was in the lake, you know, before we saw…him. But now I think this will work even better. If we can get it underneath him, we can pull him out and deal with it finally. Maybe he hasn’t poisoned the whole lake. Maybe we can save it.”
Javier was always an optimist. I watched as Javier untangled a net made out of plastic six-pack holders. It was a good idea; nothing could destroy those things. Together, we moved towards the Man in the Ice, his bloated finger still sticking out from the hole that it had made. The first thing we did was break the top layer of ice which agitated the Man in the Ice to no end. He wanted our fingers, in his mouth and he was fighting to gain some footing in his sloshy, slushy ice-cocoon. Carefully, we manage to get the makeshift net underneath his bloated body. Javier wraps his side over the Man in the Ice and we put our ends together. We pull and pull and pull – the fucker is heavy, like super heavy.
Javier keeps pulling and I keep pulling. I can feel my footing slipping as the water that’s wetting the ice is making me lose my footing altogether. The Man in the Ice is free, wrapped in a plastic net – kind of. I slip backwards, falling on my back, hitting my head on the ice. It’s throbbing. I’m blinking, but everything is doubled. Javier, the net, the Man in the Ice. I can’t make sense of anything and then suddenly I feel the bloated weight of the Man in the Ice on top of me.
I feel my arms go up to stop him. I feel myself pushing at him, but then all I can see is McGrady’s face. I keep blinking. McGrady is dead. I killed him. I killed him months ago with a shank. And I ran and ran to my house. And Javier found me and McGrady found me and there was a fight. There’s McGrady’s face though, hardened and terrifying, on top of me, forcing himself into me. I just can’t.
All I see is red now. Deep, pulsating red. I feel myself pushing back even more. I feel my hands wrap around his decaying wet arms. I feel my hands go into him. All I can see is red.
I push harder and I can feel the weight finally leave me. I can feel him off of me. I can hear myself screaming, but I don’t feel myself speaking. On the inside everything is just red and silent. I’m tearing at him, I’m tearing him to pieces. He’s coming off into my hands as of he were made of play dough. I just can’ t stop, I want to kill him. I want him to be nothing more than pieces of what he once was.
And I make him so, but he lives still. He’s in three distinct separate pieces on the ice, but his head still moans and moves, trying to bite at me until I take my foot and as hard as I possibly can, I drive my heel straight through it, almost enjoying the feeling as it crushes and shatters underneath my own weight.
Javier stands speechless. I am covered in the Man in the Ice. I stink of rot, of death, of old water, but none of that matters. I meet Javier’s eyes with mine and I shrug my shoulders. I don’t feel like there is much more to say than that. Javier goes to clean up the Man in the Ice from the ice and I go back into the house.
I sit in one of the chairs in the living room until I see the sunlight disappear from behind the trees.