Shooting ice is like swallowing stars. Not real stars, not burning suns, but the wintry diamond kind of stars, like you see in clear skies in January. Or like you imagine you'd see, anyway. There aren't many clear nights these days.

You freeze, but not like water freezes. You solidify. Everything in you decelerates. You feel minutes, hours, days (could be years, decades, centuries) whiz by like so many insects, but you hardly even notice them. You are clear and impassive. You are an iceberg, drifting for cold eons on arctic seas; you are crystal, unborn and undisturbed in the belly of the earth. You are slow life.

Naturally, after the first few times it‘s harder to get frozen. You keep getting pulled back to the present, to the pathetically organic body you inhabit -- flabby and frail and mewling with perpetual infant need, threatening to decay at any moment into its various putrid messes, blood and pus and piss and spunk and slime. You start to wonder why we bothered with evolution at all. You begin to disgust yourself.

The need to get frozen out consolidates in response, and almost before you've noticed, it's a settled part of you, like breathing and checking your inbox and one-and-a-half spoonfuls of sweetener in your coffee.

One morning, dressing, you notice a patch of hardened skin, on the inside of your elbow, maybe, or the back of your leg. It is smooth and glassy, not rough like the bottoms of your feet. It doesn't strike you as unpleasant. You get quite fond of it. The texture reminds you of an amber necklace your mother used to own, the fly trapped inside it lifting its limbs in a final and useless struggle.

Fly didn't know how lucky it was. Sometimes, you think that you would like to be preserved in amber. To opt out of life. You would like to be petrified, lifted for good out of the whole sorry cycle. Yes, you would like to be perfect.

*   *   *

She was the first one you saw, and you're still a little bit in love with her.

You weren’t supposed to see her -- you can kind of understand why -- and that’s why they kept her in that roped-off side room with the bored attendant by the door. But he had to go to the toilet sometime, and that was when you snuck in, a quick check that Ms. Feinberg wasn't looking and a dart round the corner.

She was like some old religious icon, mounted cruciform on the wall, eyes blank, face impassive, clear as glass. You could see the filigree of veins and the light that throbbed through her, regular and faintly blue, like an electric pulse. You'd never seen life that clear before, and you were mesmerised.

You didn't know what she was, at the time. You found out later. They sell for millions.

*   *   *

You set down the syringe and settle back, as best you can with these stiff limbs, onto the sofa. Ten minutes, maybe, before you need to make the call.

A last look around before you go. This room's depressing. Mangy carpet, threadbare furniture, nothing personal on the walls, a blur of light through the window and a clatter of noise outside. Not exactly where you expected to be at thirty. But it doesn't really bother you, not anymore. This, soon, will pass.

After a few moments or hours -- this being frozen time, you're not sure how many -- it occurs to you that you should probably dial. A little later, you decide you must have done so, because a tinny little echo of speech is somewhere in the room with you.

"Which service do you require? Ambulance, police or fire?"

"Can you hear me?"


You don't need to answer; they'll trace the call. They'll want to phone someone, probably, but you've sorted all that our too. There's a single number programmed into your obsolete mobile, a creditor's, entered as 'Dad.'

The operator's voice grows smaller and flatter, as though it is being pressed out of the world by a big fat silence, and then it cuts out, replaced by another voice that is smaller and flatter still -- a recorded message. It repeats in Spanish, in Chinese, in Esperanto, the same forced perkiness evident each time. You ought to find it depressing, or at least blackly amusing, but it does not seem to matter much. The room is blurring round the edges.

You are almost perfect now. Clean slate; new transparency; all debts paid off.

"The Jewel"

Copyright: © 2011 Jessica George


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