CutFreeze – Chapter 3
CutFreeze – an Urban Fantasy
© 2022 – First published on 31 August 2023 – Christine Duts
All rights reserved
==> Click here if you missed chapters 1 and 2 <==
“How come you speak Terrarian?” Chloé inquired when they drove out of the depressing town and headed back to the gates. She could hardly wait to leave this godforsaken place behind.
“I learned it.”
“You’ve been here before. That bartender had no problem giving you the information we needed, and you know your way around here pretty well for someone who never comes here.”
It wasn’t any of her business and Canea had no desire to tell this conceited woman her personal stuff.
“The man you had frozen out of you was a Terrarian, wasn’t he?” Chloé said.
“It’s none of your business.”
“Ha! I knew it! So, he is! See? That’s why I make a great S-A Junior.”
“Because you are prying into my private life? That’s not called investigating, it’s called fishing for personal information.”
“What’s the difference?”
“You do have a low opinion of me.”
“I do? You’re the one always making sure I know that my place is ´below´ you.”
“So, you froze out the Terrarian,” Chloé insisted.
Canea stared at her, wondering why she’d care.
Canea stared ahead of her, seeing his bald head again in her mind. Damn Chloé and her questions. Now she had made her think of him again.
Two years ago she volunteered to help out in a soup kitchen in Terraria. It was an initiative from the Director that lasted for about one month. After that, there was no more funding for the project, and the soup kitchen was abandoned, and its stoves, ovens, and furniture were stolen. In that one month, though, she and Maihem worked side by side, she as a volunteer and he as paid staff. They hit it off, talked a lot, and after two weeks of banter, he asked her out.
He didn’t show up for his date. A few days later, she learned that he had been arrested a day before they had their date. After three weeks, she received his first letter from prison, and she decided to write back. He was nice and respectful, and she enjoyed his correspondence. They wrote for a year and a half until one day she received a message on her phone, stating: Hey Canea, it’s Maihem. How you doing? I’m just calling to say thank you for everything and if you want to talk or chat you’re welcome to call or answer the request. Have a good night and we’ll see what happens.
She wrote back, Maihem, is that you? Are you out? What a surprise!
And so it started, right after he obtained an early release.
They talked every day for several hours, and she began to realize that she started to like him as more than just a friend.
Now she wondered what the hell she had been thinking. How could she have fallen for him, for a guy who could turn so harsh, so cold? His cruelty shocked her, it came unexpectedly and it hit her hard. His words had cut her like a knife …
Damn it, Chloé, why did you have to remind me of him? she thought in frustration. The freezing procedure didn’t seem to work that well because he kept on popping up in her head. She didn’t want to think of him.
“They should teach us Terrarian at training,” Chloé muttered.
“They did for a while but they cancelled it. Most Terrarians speak English.”
“But not all.”
“We have interpreters if we need them.”
The car zoomed over the road. Canea had the names of the vanished people on her electronic notepad. She wondered how Sergeant Garin would react when she informed her how many more people had vanished. Garin wasn’t known for her concern for Terrarians, but having ignored so many disappearances was a major mess-up. Canea knew that the sergeant couldn’t explain that away to the Director.
“You could teach me the language,” Chloé remarked.
“Why on Earth would you want to learn it? Isn’t it beneath you?”
“Canea Delu, are you biting back at me?” Chloé laughed and added, “I knew you weren’t just a boring nerd. There is some grit in you.”
“You’re making fun of me.”
Chloé glanced at her with a smirk and admitted, “Fine, I am. I’m still not happy about us working together, but if we don’t like it we can at least have fun with it.”
“Fun? 109 people are gone.”
“I’m taking this seriously. Caleb is one of them.”
“I didn’t say you weren’t taking it seriously.”
“Do you always say things you don’t mean?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“For the second time today, you tell me that you didn’t mean it that way. Then how the hell do you mean anything when you say something?”
“You interpreted something the wrong way. I can say one thing and then you take it completely different from how I meant it!” Sort of like Maihem. He had gone on the offensive for a reply she had given him – a reply she hadn’t considered bad at all – and then he … She shook her head again. No! No! No, no no, no, no!
“Why do you keep shaking your head like that? You haven’t got fleas, have you?”
“For crying out loud, Chloé. I have a private life. Stay out of it.”
“I’m beginning to think that you may have some issues after all.”
Inside, Canea was boiling with rage. How dared she? Who did Chloé think she was to taunt her like that? Did it make her feel better about herself or what?
Suddenly a dog ran over the road. Chloé swerved to the right to avoid it, but a motorcycle raced on the lane beside them.
“Fly! Fly!! Canea shouted.
Chloé raised the car just in time to avoid the dog and the motorcycle and they soared into the air, barely missing the long branches of a tree looming over them like hungry tentacles, Chloé veered to the left but wasn’t fast enough and she hit the tree with the side of the car. Garin would be furious at the damage.
“Go!” Canea told her. Chloé managed to get back into the regular air traffic and steered the car straight ahead.
“That was close,” she said with a grin.
“Garin will have our hides for the damage.”
“Just some scratches, no big deal.”
Canea was sure that Chloé’s father, the general, would take care of it but she didn’t speak her mind. Lashing out at her would feel good but in the end, it would only lead to more conflict, and right now she didn’t feel like it. She had had a week from hell because of what Maihem did to her.
Damn it, Maihem again! There, Chloé would have it now. Besides, she was the one who had brought it up.
“Your daddy will probably smooth it all out, even pay for the damages, right?” she spat, but it didn’t have the effect she had hoped for. Calmly, her partner nodded as if this were a fact of life.
The car began to sputter and the dashboard shook.
“What the hell?”
Canea knew that the tree hadn’t just scratched the Mondae. They would have to make a landing somewhere.
“Get down on the side of the road,” she instructed her partner.
“We’re nearly there, just five more minutes.”
“It won’t make it. Just set it down.”
“Just a little more.”
“Chloé, we’re nearing the swamp. We won’t be able to cross it. Just park the damn car!”
As if the vehicle agreed with her, it sputtered and coughed and let out its last breath. Once the motor turned off, it hung motionless in the air for a few seconds. Then, it dropped at once.
Chloé screamed. Canea held her breath.
With a loud crash, the Mondae collided with the ground. Its emergency system opened the doors and released its passengers who both flew through the open doors and landed facedown in the morass.
Far behind them, the traffic headed to the city. They were alone.
Maihem rose from his chair and crossed the busy room to the bar. The bartender had finally found a small respite and hurriedly he lit a cigarette before the next order could interrupt this small pleasure. He wasn’t surprised to see his friend here.
“Coming to check what she wanted?” he said with a sneer.
Maihem found a seat on the only empty barstool and he sat down before it got occupied again. Leaning with his elbows on the bar, he replied, “Well, what did she want?”
“Cracogo,” the bartender muttered.
“What are ye calling me that for?”
“Because you’re a friggin’ bastard.”
A scowl appeared on Maihem’s face. “You’re lucky you got all these people here. Otherwise, I would have sent ye sprawling over that bar.”
“And you’re supposed to be my friend. No wonder ye pulled a Maihem on Canea.”
“I did a what?”
“Ye heard me. Ut hachar sempre to milmo.” You always do the same.
“What does that even mean?” he asked but before the bartender could reply, he said, “Nah, don’t tell me.”
His friend filled him in anyway. “With your bullshit of ´not dealing with negative stuff´. Ye can’t differentiate between what’s negative and what is important, can ye? That girl wrote to you when ye were locked in a cage. She supported ye, was there for ye always, and ye treat her like garbage because she … what? What exactly did she do? I haven’t got a clue what upset ye so.”
“Why do you care?”
“She’s one of the few decent Middle Dacarians. If there’s anyone who will help us it’s her. Good job sending her away, cracogo, nice work. What were ye thinking, huh? Oh, wait, ye weren’t thinking, were ye? That’s it, ain’t it?”
“It’s none of your business. Ga rop.” Shut up.
“Ye will never find one like her and ye know it.”
“Ga rop a dan ma e birre.” Shut up and give me a beer.
The bartender puffed on his cigarette and grabbed a cold beer from below the counter. He spilled some when he slammed it on the bar.
“What? I’m paying?”
“Ha! Now we’re friends again? Of course, ye pay, cracogo. Times are hard.”
Annoyed, Maihem threw a bronze coin on the bar. “You don’t know what happened between us.”
“Ye showed me her letters. Remember? I read them. I know a sweet lady when I see one. We’re all allowed mistakes. Even you. Too bad you’re too weak to admit your own mistakes.”
Two men shouted their orders and the bartender turned his back on his friend, busying himself making cocktails. Incensed at that last comment, Maihem grabbed his beer and returned to his seat in the corner.
It had been good to see her. She was like a breath of fresh air in this dark dump called a “bar.” He would be damned, though, if he talked to her again. What was the point anyway? When he had been in prison, her letters had always brought light into his darkness. How he had looked forward to receiving each of her letters.
Every time he heard the guard call “Mail” his eyes lit up, hoping that her letter was on the pile in the guard’s hands. He had kept them all, especially the few black and white photos she had been allowed to send. He still had them in the top drawer of his nightstand in the small room he rented, but he hadn’t looked at them in a while. Their last conversation still filled him with rage, and when he remembered her words, he ground his teeth in frustration and turned his back on his nightstand, unwilling to look at her.
Fuck you, Maihem! I wish I’d never met you!
Those had been her words. It had hurt to hear it but he would never acknowledge that. He locked up those feelings and threw away the key. It was his best protection.
A small crab crawled away from Canea’s face as she lay in the mud. She rose and found Chloé in the water. She was wading knee-deep through the murky lake with spatters of mud on her face. Her usually immaculate hairdo was a big mess and twigs stuck out everywhere.
to be continued …