Given the arrival of Winter here in Souwesto, I thought I’d put up an excerpt from the second half of The Fridgularity (A Cold Reboot), in which the lead character goes for a little cross-country ski, and things go awry. No spoilers here, so it’s safe to put up.
The novel is a satire of the technological singularity, Internet culture, and major kitchen appliances.
On day three of Zathir’s silence, Blake quietly slipped on a pair of cross-country skis and went out into the wilds of a Southwestern Ontario winter storm. Blake worked up a good sweat and reveled in the joy of nature’s fury, becoming one with his animal nature. This was what living was all about. He was present. He lived in the moment. He was embedded in the reality of nature, which was numinous and beautiful in itself. It didn’t matter what happened on a computer screen! This was what he was meant to do! It was what humans were meant to do!
Then he skied into the river.
To be fair, Blake had already been skiing on it for a little while, and to call it a “river” was a bit grandiose. It was more of a wide stream. Unfortunately, the ice was not thick enough to support him in the middle of it, and he went through. He was in the middle of enjoying another barbaric yawlp — “Yah!” — which turned into something that almost sounded like “Yaaaah — wah — help me!” (Blake was raised Roman Catholic, so it was odd for him to be calling upon the God of the Israelites.)
God or Yahweh, there was no supernatural intervention. If he was to avoid death, it was up to Blake to do something about it. Unfortunately, the skis on his feet had not come off as he went through the ice. Part of his brain thought, Why didn’t I get some kind of ominous cracking sound before I went through? Aren’t you supposed to get a cracking sound? Another part of his cerebellum tried to calculate how long he could survive in sub-zero temperatures when totally soaked before succumbing to hypothermia. However, the main component of his mind was actively engaged in the thought, COLD! FUCKING COLD!
Blake wasn’t able to actually shout because his testicles had retreated to the point that they were choking his voice box.
But even if his mind was not helping him in this desperate survival situation, Blake’s finely tuned body was not letting him down. It was thrashing. It broke chunks of ice. He couldn’t get a grip. The part of his brain that had been composing a letter of annoyance about not getting his warning crack started to panic, chirping, I’m going to drown! I’m not going to die of cold, I’m going to drown!
Then his legs engaged, and he stood up. The ice was at his belly button; he managed to unclip his boots from the skis, and he used one of his ski poles to balance himself as he stepped out of the ice. He promptly went through again.
“Oh, fuck it,” Blake said and proceeded to smash through the ice, walking to the stream bank closest to the Ranch. He used two fists at the same time, bashing the edge of the ice like a demented Neanderthal or a Canadian Hulk, more blue than green at this point. “Blake … want … live! Crash … through … ice! Blake smash!” he ranted.
He climbed out of the river, and the wind gusted again. His testicles tried to leap out of his mouth, felt how frickin’ inhumanly cold it was out there, and then crawled back in.
Blake’s brain was not firing on all cylinders, but it was cognizant of the fact that it was quite possible for him to freeze to death. He decided to run for home. The snow was about three feet deep, so it was hard work, and this definitely got him breathing harder than a hento-addled flasher in a Tokyo subway. It also helped him warm up a bit. The wind howled, and as he continued to struggle towards the Ranch — he could see it now, probably about a mile away — a really sick feeling overcame him, and as he realized that, he started to feel like he needed a short nap.
He spotted a nice little hummock that would provide some shelter, and he lay down, thinking, “I’ll just have a little sleep, and then I’ll finish walking home.”
He knew it was wrong, but it was an impossible feeling to resist.
The wind whipped up more snow clouds, the coarse granules whispering around him and scratching at his face. But he started to feel at peace. He knew that everything was going to be all right. He wondered if his mum and dad would have some hot chocolate ready for him when he got home, and he closed his eyes, and he remembered they’d been dead since he was a little boy.
Blake knew he was probably dying, that his brain was slipping from a conscious state to something else. He didn’t want to die, but at the same time, it didn’t seem as black and horrible as it usually did.
Then Blake was in some other state, much like a wonderful lucid dream. He felt warmer. Daphne came to him and said, “I have some great news, Blake. I think I may be in love with you.”
In the semi-dream, Blake said something witty, like, “I suspected as much,” but even in the dream-state, Blake realized that most likely he would have said, “Urk,” and then walked into a doorframe.
“But you know it will be hard for us to consummate our love if you’re dead.”
Alltop is slippery … with laughs! Photo by Johan Roed via Flickr.