Monday, May 16, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Stopped Cold

They didn’t need shackles. Away from his homemade mechanics, Victor Fries was frail. He looked still frailer in grey boxer shorts, hunched over a chair that was bolted to the floor. He squinted into its stainless steel table’s surface, watching his breath fog at it. Half a degree higher and Fries would keel over. As it was, he wouldn’t have the energy to lift his hands from his lap. That was the nature of his condition, and at this point, they weren’t granting him any more amenities at Black Gate.

Warden Winslowe didn’t care to sit. He stood there in pleated khakis, arms folded behind him.

“I don’t want you in my house anymore, Victor. You’ve broken out four times. This is your fourth re-admission. I’ve tried palming you off to every other facility, and they simply don’t want to accommodate you. They have enough overpowered murderers in Fawcett and Metropolis. Every time you break out, more of my staff die. Do you know how many families won’t see their spouses anymore because of you?”

Fries’s upper lip twitched. He didn’t answer.

“You don’t care. You only care about yourself and your wife, in whatever order it feels like today. Which is fine. I’ve got an offer.”

Winslowe brought one hand around. It held out a manila folder. He placed it on the table and flipped it open. Glossy wilderness photographs spilled out over some yellow legal forms.

“Fifteen acres in the wilds of California. They’re a hundred miles from the nearest house. It’s gorgeous. My brother was going to retire there, before AIG ate his retirement portfolio. I bought the land with half my pension, and I’m offering it to you.”

He sifted through the photographs with his middle finger. All were verdant, save one. It flared orange underneath Fries’s nose.

“You and your nearest neighbors share something in common: wildfires. In the next three years, both your fifteen acres and that summer house one hundred miles away are guaranteed to burn to the ground. Global warming, arid California weather, overforestation – lots of causes. None you can solve by shooting someone.”

The photograph made a little snapping noise when Winslowe placed it on top of the others. He tapped it to make certain the man was paying attention. Still Fries wouldn’t speak.

“I got this idea when you froze Gotham Harbor last week. So you like it cold? Your new neighbors would like it cold. It being just ten degrees colder at the epicenter of the danger zone would add decades to the livelihood of the entire region. Once it’s safe, you keep the acres. I’ll sign them over. You’ll kill me otherwise, I’m sure, and I’ve got half a pension left to look forward to, and a wife.”

He adjusted his glasses, checking Fries’s face to see if the next verbal nudge would have effect.

“She’s named Nora, too. Coincidences, right?”

It didn’t. Fries simply frowned into the glossy wildfire.

That was okay. He had to keep going.

“You’ll be at the top of the list for federal grants. Their state economy sucks, but there are companies interested in your tech. They’ll pipe you money and parts in exchange for patents. You can build whatever you want out there, so after it’s colder you can spend all your time thawing out your Nora. There won’t even be a road for some drunken teenager to drive up and harass you from. Just some capes flying overhead every so often, and a daily check-in at a camera station.

“I’ve got your Nora. She’s not on the planet anymore – the Justice League has her up on that satellite. It’ll take you decades to get up there. But if you lower things ten degrees and go two years in California without an incident, I will get them to sign her over to you. At the same time you will get access to WayneTech health and research facilities. I have their CEO’s signature in that folder. They’re on board. Their resources – not some you steal off the back of a truck, but their full, up-to-date resources, will be at your disposal. WayneTech will watch the hell out of you. Probably kill you if you make a suspicious keystroke. But it’s better than any deal you’ve stolen for yourself so far.”

He tapped the wildfire photo, just so Fries would have to look at him. The man’s eyes flickered slightly, acknowledging the finger in the way of his snapshot vistas.

“This is the best chance you’re ever going to have of saving Nora and having a place where the two of you can actually live. Screw it up, and you end me. No half a pension, and likely no ever seeing either of our Noras again.”

Fries’s eyes continued roaming even after Winslowe removed his hand. They roamed ice-capped mountainsides and hills of pines.

Winslowe left him with it. They’d turn the temperature down in a few minutes, when he was back in his office on the other side of this damned building. Fries could take all the details in then.

His hand was on the doorknob when the inmate spoke.

“Say hello to Nora for me.”

He’d forgotten how grating Fries’s voice was. Shameful as it was, the room was already so chilled that the voice tipped him over the edge. Warden Winslowe shivered.

He turned from the door. Fries was still hunched vulture-like over the table, regarding the contents of the folder. One of his hands now rested on the paper, fingers holding two apart to examine a signature.

He opened the door without looking away. He wanted to make sure the man was still sitting there when he left.

“Take the damned deal,” he repeated to himself all the way to his office. “Take the damned deal.”

For Icy.


  1. This is awesome. I like the last line, in which we can feel both how desperate the warden is, and how earnest.

    What a fantastic use for a freezy-type person!

  2. Great characters, John. I love all the crisp little details you throw into your writing, the snapping of the photographs, vulture-like hunch, etc. And I always enjoy endings that aren't so final.

  3. How many times have I said this now? You NEED to be writing for DC. This is fantastic!

  4. Great idea for handing Freeze. I'm still impressed with your writing every day streak.

  5. Awesome handling of Freeze, John.

  6. That was awesome, John. I don't know enough of the history of the characters, but liked the way you referenced everyone else and, like Erin said, the small details you add in flow so easily in your writing. It was Wis-tastic!

  7. And you wrote it for 'Icy' too... hehe :)

    I love Mr. Freeze. I agree. DC would be lucky to have you.


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