Hal Kempka returns to TK'n'C, bringing a winter chill to the heat of summer.
The Ice Man drove his dogs toward the next town, where he would collect more souls as Earth’s penance to Mother Nature. America’s time had come to pay, and he had plenty of stops to make.
When the Iceman Cometh
The gentle drizzle on Monday intensified into a chilling thunderstorm by Tuesday. A sudden arctic wind that night plummeted temperatures to well below freezing. The continued, unbearably cold weather prompted television news reports that the sudden cold snap had increased the number of deaths and missing persons.
Iced-over power lines and poles snapped, causing massive electricity blackouts. Martha awoke the following morning shivering beneath the covers. Cell towers had also probably toppled beneath the weight of their icy shackles for her cell phone did not work.
The storm’s ominous chill whistled through the un-winterized windows. Martha donned her wool socks and warm-up clothes and then burrowed deeper beneath the blankets. She curled into a fetal position amid its warmth.
She finally forced herself to jump from bed, and set the thermostat. The gas heater kicked in with a groan.
Through the frost-covered glass, the neighborhood’s ice and snow-coated sidewalks, roofs, and buildings resembled a frozen wasteland. Grit-blackened snowdrifts covered over the abandoned cars trapped in the frozen slush clogging the streets.
Martha tried the front door, but a sheet of frozen sleet sealed it shut. Damn, she thought, winter’s Iceman had cometh with a vengeance.
The cold wooden floor creaked beneath her feet while she hurried to the kitchen. She lit the gas stove for a pot of coffee, and opened the cupboard for the coffee can. The nearly empty shelf reminded her she needed to get to the grocery store.
She finished her coffee, and banged on the front door. The ice sheet broke loose, peppering the porch with jagged crystalline shards. Upon stepping outside, the blast of frigid air burned her lungs.
Martha hurried out the door and retrieved several armloads of firewood from the stacked cord alongside the house. After stacking them beside the fireplace, she dug out her winter clothes and headed toward the A & P two blocks away.
She took short, careful steps to avoid slipping on the ice hidden underneath the snow-crusted sidewalk. The neighborhood’s only sign of life seemed to be several large dogs digging through a trash receptacle at Fioli’s Italian restaurant. Martha noticed an unsettling wildness in their eyes when they stopped, glanced at her, and then continued foraging.
A few iced-over shopping carts sat scattered about the deserted A & P parking lot. Martha peered inside the darkened store and then turned toward home. She felt dumb for not remembering that if she had no electricity, they would have none as well.
A block from home, Martha spotted someone in a reddish overcoat, lugging a trash bag around the corner.
“Hey there!” She called out.
The figure stopped in the shadows, and briefly stared at her before disappearing behind the house.
Martha walked past the dogs now snapping at each other over a bag of garbage on the opposite side of the street. They stopped and glanced at her. One bared its fangs, and growled. The others joined in and she quickened her step. Upon reaching her driveway, Martha glanced over her shoulder.
The dogs had followed and now stood in the street watching her. They suddenly scrambled after her barking and snarling. Martha rushed up the sidewalk and hurried inside.
Her heart pounded in her chest as she watched them through the window. Nausea rose in her throat when the rib-thin dogs circled the front yard casting hungry stares toward the window, and howling. After sniffing at the sidewalk and basement windows, the dogs suddenly ran down the street.
That night, Martha curled up on the couch beneath an afghan. She sipped on a mug of brandy and coffee, staring at the eerie shadows cast across the room by the flickering firelight.
She cast a fearful glance toward the windows, which rattled when several distant explosions shook the house. Seconds later, the furnace shut off and the house turned silent. When a sharp chill soon filled the room, Martha realized the explosions came from ruptured gas mains.
She stoked the fire, and decided to spend the night on the couch. Martha grew drowsy from the fireplace’s radiating warmth, and drifted off to sleep.
A few hours later, Martha awakened to smoldering embers and a teeth-chattering chill. After placing more logs on the fire, she snuggled beneath the afghan. From the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a reddish image in the shadows.
The man in red stepped from the shadows. Martha gasped, and clutched the afghan against her, gripped with fear.
“Who are you and what do you want?”
His coal black, deep-set eyes bore through her as he stepped around the couch. Coagulated blood soaked the coat covering his large and grotesquely gnarled body. He emitted a whistling moan that resembled a death rattle.
The dogs that had chased her earlier stepped from the shadows. They sat at their master’s side, watching her. Martha began to sob and mumble incoherently as blood-tinged saliva dripped from their jowls.
The Ice Man produced a short-handled sickle and flicked his wrist. The blade sliced through Martha’s neck, and she slumped to the floor. He released his dogs, and they eagerly lapped up the warm crimson puddle forming on the floor.
When they had drunk their fill, he bagged Martha’s corpse, and drug it to a black sleigh hidden behind the house. After harnessing the thick, muscular dogs, he cracked his whip and took to the sky in another paralyzing and frigid storm he created.
Bio: Harold ‘Hal’ Kempka’s short stories have appeared in numerous Horror magazines, including Thrillers Killers and Chillers, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Black Petals, Dark Valentine, Golden Visions, Night to Dawn, Sex and Murder, and Twisted Dreams. His stories have appeared in Anthologies from Pill Hill Press, Blood Bound Books, and Post Mortem Press. He is a FlashXer flash fiction workshop member, and lives in Southern California.