Short Story: Frost
Joe wasn’t too surprised when they got a small flurry of snow, followed by some freezing rain in early November. After all, he lived in Ohio, and wouldn’t be surprised if it was eighty degrees one day, then twenty degrees with freezing rain the next.
Over the winter months, he was disappointed that instead of getting snow, they got a freeze that had come in November and remained throughout the rest of the year and into the following year.
The news continued their stories of how the entire Midwest was having the same weather and blamed it on Global Warming, Hurricanes that had come and gone, changes to the rotation of the earth, and anything else they could find a scientist, or conspiracy theorist to corroborate.
Concern didn’t begin until the freeze remained through spring and into Summer. By June, people started to panic and stock up on all the supplies they could.
When the freezing rain and subsequent freeze began to spread to the southern and western states, the news and government switched from casual speculation, to real concern if the cause of the expanding freeze wasn’t determined and stopped.
Joe lived alone in his apartment in a rural suburb of Dayton. He didn’t give into the panic of stocking up but had plenty of food to last him for months if he had too.
‘As long as I have hot water, I’m good,’ he thought, looking out his back-balcony window.
He had seen enough apocalypse movies to know that there was no need to overly concern yourself until you began losing electric, water, and sanitation. So far, the weather had slowed some services down, but he had not lost power, or water.
Then the day came when he started to feel the panic set in.
He was taking a hot shower, when suddenly, the lights blinked out, leaving the bathroom window the only source of light for him to see.
Even then, he didn’t panic enough to cut his shower short. He finished normally, and casually made his way back to the balcony window to see if everyone else around him was without power as well.
He was not alone. As far as he could see, power was out, and since it was late evening, he could see the blackness in the far distance, with no light in sight.
Though he was only a little tired, he went to his bed, stared at the ceiling, and waited for sleep to overtake him.
His phone alarm went off in the morning, reminding him that he still had another few days of work before the weekend.
As he started to get up, he could see his breath and quickly tucked himself back under the covers.
If this would have been any other time, he would have used the loss of power and the cold to call off from work, but he soon realized, that he’d probably be warmer at the office, and he could charge his electronics there.
He grudgingly got up, quickly got dressed, and slowly walked down to his car.
Driving through Dayton, he felt like he was in a post-apocalyptic movie. The streets were void of people and cars, and it looked like power had gone out there as well.
He wasn’t able to park in the garage because the gate wouldn’t rise, so after he parked his car along the curb, he grabbed his briefcase and walked to the front entrance.
“Shit!” he said, when he couldn’t open the door because it was locked.
Upset that he had to drive all the way back home, he instead pulled out his phone to do a web search. He wanted to see if he could find any place that was open with power.
He turned on his car for the heat and cursed as he was unable to get a connection to the web. He tried calling a few of his friends to see if they had power, but all he got was the fast-busy sound.
“C’mon,” he said to himself, frustrated.
As he drove home, he wondered why he hadn’t seen the panic that he had expected when the power went out, and then he noticed it.
He slammed on the breaks and stopped in the middle of the street.
Looking around he saw what he had missed before. The stores had already all been looted. As he looked around, he now saw all the broken glass from the stores. None of them had been safe. Clothing stores were robbed of everything that could keep a person warm, the food stores were ravaged of anything consumable, and the supply stores were depleted of supplies that would be necessary to survive in this hostile environment.
Panic set in as Joe now realized how lax he had been when the weather didn’t warm up.
He now started to do the math on how much gas he had, and where he should go.
He drove back to his apartment and began gathering all the supplies he could. He packed up whatever boxes he had, so he could load them into his car for his trip south. He only hoped he had enough gas to get him to an open gas station.
When he got to his car carrying his third box, he almost fell over when he saw that someone had taken everything he had loaded up before.
He quickly scanned the area, looking for who the thieves could have been, but seeing none, put his box in the trunk. He cursed himself as he closed and locked it. He should have known there would be other desperate people out there that would try to take advantage of him.
In his apartment, he ran out of boxes and began putting anything he could use into trash bags. He searched through all the cupboards for anything worth taking.
Once the bag was full, he half dragged it down the stairs to his car.
When he stepped around the corner to where the parking lot became visible, he saw three men waiting for him at his car.
Not wanting to take on three men in the cold, he dropped his bag and ran back up the stairs. The men, seeing him, gave chase.
One man stopped to grab the bag of supplies and take them away, while the other two chased Joe up the stairs to his apartment, where they were able to catch up to him before he could close the door.
He tried to fight them off, but they were too much for him. He curled up into the fetal position as they kicked him over and over.
Relief only came when one of the kicks caught him in the temple and knocked him unconscious.
The men tore apart his apartment, picking away everything that could be used. They ran in and out with blankets, food, and whatever supplies Joe had left.
Close to an hour later, Joe groaned as he regained consciousness. He flinched as he remembered what had happened and anticipated another kick.
When none came, he slowly opened his eyes and looked around at what was left of his apartment.
As he lifted himself off the floor, he could see that all he had left was the clothes on his back.
He limped as fast as he could out his apartment door, down the stairs, and took some solace in seeing his car still there.
‘I’ve got to drive south,’ he thought, planning how he was going to survive.
His hope of making it far vanished when he noticed that his gas cap was laying on the ground, and there was some spillage on the ground. The men had also taken the gas from his car.
He looked around the parking lot and saw that all the cars that were there had their gas caps ripped off, and he was sure they were all drained as well.
Feeling defeated, he slowly walked back up to his apartment. He closed the door, more out of habit than protection.
Another groan escaped him when he walked into his bedroom and saw that all his blankets and sheets were gone.
He began to shiver as his adrenaline wore off and the cold once again seeped in.
He knew there was nothing left in the apartment to use. He also knew he wouldn’t survive long without water, food and blankets.
The door squeaked as he opened it to peer outside. Seeing it void of movement, he slowly stepped outside and walked to the closest apartment. The door was already broken from being kicked, but he needed to be sure.
That apartment too was picked clean and there was nothing left.
Desperate, he continued to search each apartment, but found each in the same condition.
“Where are all the people?” he asked himself. He got his answer when he entered the fifth apartment.
The apartment itself was like all the others he had been in, except when he walked into the living room, he found an entire family laying dead on the floor. They looked like they had been beaten to death like he was, except somehow, he had survived.
He continued his search as long as he could but found nothing of use.
Not knowing what to do next and exhausted, he limped his way back to his own apartment, climbed into a closet, and curled up.
He hoped the small space would be enough to warm up a little with his body heat and it did for a bit. He sat there trying to think of a way to get out of there alive. Those people had to have come from somewhere, but they didn’t seem to be the accepting type.
‘If those people are surviving, there must be more’ he thought. ‘Maybe if I walked around enough, someone would see me and take pity on me.’
After a short rest, he forced himself to stand up and leave his apartment. His body ached from the cold and beating with each step he took.
‘What I wouldn’t give for even just a towel right now,’ he thought, limping through the parking lot.
He knew he only had a few hours before the sun would start going down, and he also know he would not survive the night.
He looked for the footprints of the men that had attacked him and followed them. He hoped he would see other footprints he could follow, but until he did, he would take what he could get.
Seeing the tire tracks that the footprints stopped at, felt like the final nail in his coffin.
He dropped to his knees and began to cry, his tears freezing as they rolled down his cheek.
Shaking uncontrollably, he rolled on onto his side, and slowly drifted off to sleep.
‘Where did all the people go?’ was the last question he thought of as he slipped away to his eternal slumber.
What he could of probably guest, most people braved the frost like he did, but the few that felt the frost was more than just a long winter, began to take time off work, even quitting, to visit relatives further down south.
Those that stayed eventually lost power as Joe did, and those that didn’t die from the cold or starvation, died at the hands of their desperate neighbors.
The violence followed the power outages like a plague. The marauders that preyed on the weak thought the secret to survival was to act fast, and stock up enough to survive the frost.
While the frost was slow, the violence was quick, taking over cities and towns in days, leaving thousands, dead or dying.
Unfortunately, a happy ending was not met for anyone. The frost continued to spread West, as well as South, slowly covering the entire Northern Hemisphere, and eventually the entire world.
The same pattern followed the spread of the frost. Many people continued to flee until there was nowhere else to go, some stayed and attempted to outlast the frost with the meager supplies they could stock up on once manufacturing of those supplies ended, and the marauders continued to prey on their victims, lasting the longest, but in the end, ran out of supplies as well.
Prey and predators died alike, no one was safe.
In the end, the world became nothing more than a giant ball of ice, circling the sun, but not warmed by it. The people frozen where they had died, and where they would remain until the universe itself ended.
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Published on November 21, 2018 12:03
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