The Ice Man


Please note: this story was provided by the author and published as is.

Gather round now and gather close. The story I’m about to tell ya ain’t an easy one but it’s one you ought to hear. Now you might be thinkin’ this the season for some heartwarming spin on faith or good will to all men. But I tell ya that ain’t the case. Not here. Not in this town.

Yet you’ll be damned to get an honest story outta anyone else. Most folks around here love to hear his name but next to no one knows who he is. Not really. I do though, because I was there. I was working under the old sheriff back when we brought in that fella for questioning. And we brought him out that night – the night they like to forget.

You know what I’m talkin’ about? Ah… you do. I can see it on your face. His name hangs on your tongue like a cold sore.

The Ice Man…

Well if I’m going to tell this story right I’ll have to go back. Back thirty years – before our town’s name was covered in blood…

❄ ❄ ❄

Scottish Brooks had always been a quiet town – there’d never been nothin’ but a coyote to disturb it. And most folks had their feathers tucked so far down their Sunday pants that more hands were needed at the church than our local sheriff’s office.

At the time, it was just Old Sheriff Conners, Betsy, and me.

If we ever got a call, it was to discipline some trouble-makin’ teen or to catch Miss Olson’s runaway hound. There weren’t ever a real concern that we didn’t have solved within the hour. Yet I think, like everyone, we thought if somethin’ bad were to happen, it’d be due to the fella who lived on the outside of town. Maison Finch.

Course’ he goes by a different name now. One you already know. But what you might not know is how he got it. Back before we had ourselves the Dollar Store, there was a bait and tackle shop called Gillman’s. Now Gillman’s only sold essentials but it saw just about everyone in town. And after the old supply store shipped out, it was about the only thing standing for twenty miles. Point bein’, if you lived in Scottish Brooks, you shopped at Gillman’s.

Same was true for Maison Finch.

Some folks still remember what it was like, bein’ in the store and hearin’ that infamous tuta-tut-tut of a rusted, old truck coming up the gravel. The whole place would get all quiet, then the doors would chime, and there he’d be.

Art by Danny Ingrassia

The burley fella was like a statue, breathin’ low and labored, in and out of his ski mask. No matter what time of year it was, he was always dressed in full winter gear; tattered blue coat with gray fur, thick gloves, and a black facemask with goggles. He’d walk inside, swivel his head straight to the clerk, and in a voice all metal and hollow say, “Ice.”

Keeping a steady eye, the clerk would point back to the freezer – not like it ever moved – but he always obliged the stranger. Then the fella would turn on his boot and stride over. He’d haul a couple of bags in each hand and throw ‘em on the counter. He’d slap a twenty on the table and then, without waiting for change, he would leave, taking the ice and silence with him.

Twice a week, that was his routine. No other time would he come into town and no other soul would he ever speak to, ‘cept that clerk to buy his ice. So truth be told, the only thing folks knew about Maison Finch was that he was a Finch. And that name carried mud…

The Finch’s, ya’ see, were a herd of black sheep. They lived out in the woods, with property scattered like beer cans on a lawn. There was their main residence, but also a shack or two just hidin’ in the forest. Some say the Finch’s were buried out there, that they had their own graveyard. They were native like that, even made a living pickin’ mushrooms and such. But they weren’t religious folks, so you can see how a town full of church goers would cast a mean eye on them.

Maison was said to be the youngest son. Beside him, he had a mother and brother, but hardly anyone livin’s ever seen ‘em. There were rumors, rumors I heard as a kid, and rumors as old as my grandpa ‘bout some strangers livin’ on the edge of town. They were far from kind and further from fact, but those rumors were enough to fuel an idea about Maison and his family.

Some folks say the mother was something wicked, that she hurt her own kids and raised ‘em no better than dogs. ‘Also said she was high off her mind, that those shrooms made more of their diet than food. I don’t know if any of that’s true, but one thing’s for sure, if there was ever a word of somethin’ wrong, you could bet your bottom dollar the Finch’s felt the blame.

So on the night of December 14th, 1994, when our phones blew up like charity bells, my mind went straight to Maison Finch.

This part most folks are familiar with but I’ll tell you it anyway, for consistency’s sake. On December 13th, 1994, the snow around Scottish Brooks was lookin’ a bit dull. And on that day, four of the local kids, Ally Burns, Joshua Reely, Wesley Coach, and Mary Donegan thought they might try for somethin’ fun.

Now, kids bein’ stupid weren’t anything new. Back when I was young, we beat time by sneaking into one of the neighboring farms and ridin’ a cow. But when you’re that young you ain’t grown to appreciate the longevity of life.

And so, it came to their bright and bored minds, an idea…

Let’s go steal the ice from The Ice Man.

It weren’t no secret, the Finch’s were like catnip to those kids. I’d heard, offhanded, several stories about some teen who went trespassing along their property. And in many of those stories I heard how Maison scared them off, waving a shotgun in the air. Now it’s hard to tell what’s fiction from fact, but if Maison was waving a gun at some kids on his lawn, he technically had a right, just not a very good one. I only hoped that those kids would finally grow some brains and stay off his property.

Well Mary Donegan had some sense to her cus she went home. She didn’t go missin’…

We had her in for questioning, the day reports came in…

Deputy:         “Alright Mary, walk me through it. Can you describe what happened yesterday night? Start with when you met up with your friends. What time was that and where’d y’all go?”

Mary:             “Um yeah, okay… We went to hang out by the lake. I don’t know what time it was – maybe seven? Seven thirty? Josh and Wesley made a fire. There was still a bit of snow so it took them a while. It was dark by then.”

Deputy:         “Okay.”

Mary:            “Um, and we just hung out for a while. We were just talking and sharing stupid stories and stuff. And Wesley brought up The Ice Man.”

Deputy:         “Maison Finch? … You’re nodding but I’ll need you to say that for the tape.”

Mary:             “Oh yeah, him. But we don’t call him that. The kids around school just call him The Ice Man. Anyways, Wesley got done with his story and he and Josh got into an argument about something stupid. But then Josh said we should all go over there and find out.”

Deputy:         “Find out what? Where?”

Mary:             “If something about the story was right? Um and the cabin. And listen, it’s just a story, but some of the kids say The Ice Man… killed people, and that he keeps their bodies frozen. I know it’s stupid but Josh said he knew where The Ice Man hides the bodies, so he wanted us all to go. I don’t think any of us really believed the story but we were just playin’ around.”

Deputy:         “And did you go?”

Mary:             “Yeah- I mean no! I didn’t go inside! I didn’t- I wasn’t involved. I told them we shouldn’t have gone but they wouldn’t listen. So I left.”

Deputy:         “Back up. You left the cabin? Was it the Finch’s property? What time?

Mary:             “I- I don’t know.”

Deputy:         “You don’t know what?”

Mary:             “I don’t know where it was. It was dark. I left eventually.”

Deputy:         “Mary, it’s important you be honest. I need you to be as specific as you can.

… Mary?”

Mary:             “Yeah- okay… Josh led us into the woods. I don’t know where. And it was dark, so I don’t know when. It- it wasn’t The Ice Man’s house. Or at least, I don’t think it was. It was smaller, like a cabin, and it was old. If Josh hadn’t pointed it out I might have thought it was nothing. But I didn’t like it. It felt… I just didn’t like it.”

Deputy:         “Anything you noticed about the cabin? Anything that made it stand out?”

Mary:             “No… But there was a lock on the door. A big one.”

Deputy:         “Okay, and what did you and your friends do next?”

Mary:             “Well… Josh wanted to get closer. He wanted to check what was inside. But there weren’t any windows and the door was locked, so he uh… he took a rock and forced the handle. We didn’t think anyone would really notice.”

Deputy:         “Go on.”

Mary:             “Josh opened the door. And there wasn’t anything inside, except another door- but like the kind that leads into the ground? Like one of those shelters. Well I couldn’t really see, the lights Josh brought had stopped working, but I could hear. And when we got closer to that door I- we all thought we heard… I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t wanna stay around there anymore and when Wesley and Josh went to open the door, I ran. I ran home and I went to bed. That’s it.”

Deputy:         “How’d you get back home if you didn’t know where you were?”

Mary:             “… I got lost. But I got home eventually.”

Deputy:         “Okay, and what time was that?”

Mary:             “I… don’t remember.”

Deputy:         “You don’t remember? So you don’t know where this cabin was. You don’t know what you heard. You don’t know how you got back. And you don’t know what time. Are you seeing a pattern here?”

Mary:             “We were high! Okay? Wesley brought a joint and we were smoking and they broke into that cabin and I don’t remember or know what I saw because I smoked too much and I freaked out. I’m sorry, can I just- can I see my friends already?”

To Mary’s credit, the latter part of her story checked out. Mrs. Donegan reported hearing her come home around 11:30 that night. But Mary hadn’t a clue as to what was going on. When we brought her into questioning she thought her friends had gotten’ busted for trespassing and that she was next in line. Course then we had to explain that Wesley, Joshua, Ally, none of them returned that night, that their parents reported them missing. The news hit Mary pretty hard.

Even still, she hadn’t any clue as to where that cabin was, but afterwards her voice took a hard turn. She described the cabin again, in a little more detail, and what she said next was almost too crazy to believe.

Mary:             “We heard voices. I know we did. It couldn’t have been anything else! When we got close to that shelter door, we heard people. There were people down there and they sounded trapped! The others wanted to get them out but I was freaked out so I ran. But what if… what if The Ice Man took those people?! What if he took my friends?!”

There was a worry in me, growin’ by the second. I knew this case was only a short fuse away from blowin’ up, but that’s not where my opinion counted. Sheriff Conners felt it too, the bubbling angst of a whole town knockin’ on his door. But his strategy was to push it off.

“We’ve got everything under control,” he told them, “We’ll find those kids. Just you wait.”

There should’a been a search party. There should’a been an arrest for Maison Finch on day one. But Sheriff Conners didn’t want that kind of publicity. He still believed Scottish Brooks was immune to sin. But after a whole night and day of only knocking on doors and patrolling the streets, the town was at their limit. Finally, Sheriff Conners made the call, and I drove out to Maison’s home.

Now I think most folks imagine this scene with a flurry of guns and bullets. It was certainly my leading concern as I drove miles away from any sort of backup. When I pulled up the property, I saw a rusted, old truck parked around the house. Maison was home. I made my way up the porch, feelin’ like every creak could set off a mine. But before I even got to the top, the front door swung open.

I flinched towards my gun, but stopped. Maison stood stock still, one hand on the door knob, the other at his side. He was already dressed in his winter suit, almost like I caught him in the middle of one of his grocery runs. I stalled there for a bit, trying to remember my Miranda Rights. But then Maison stepped out, locked the front door, and handed me his keys. He marched past me, steps rolling like thunder down the rickety porch, right up to my police car… and he waited there.

Any other day I might’ve been thankful, glad even, to have a back passenger come so easy. But given the circumstances, there was little for me to celebrate. I hadn’t said a word, yet Maison knew why I was there.

One of the first things I had to do was search his home. With Maison tied away, I walked through his house lookin’ for any sign of foul play. But there was nothin’ – no one – inside. Not even his family which I struck as odd. There’d be a more thorough search later, once we had a warrant, but for now I had to get Maison back to the station.

We took his clothes for evidence. Maison ain’t ever taken his mask off before, and now I knew why. The fella was a monster down to his DNA. Mean scars and some kind of growth wrapped around his whole body, all bulging and rough. Those same scars spread up his throat and ballooned half his face. Lookin’ at him, I could tell every breath must’ve been bailing stones out of a well. But what unsettled me to my core, were his eyes. Unblinking, pitch black, and half hidden by the lumps on his face, those eyes looked hungry as a shark.

I learned, among his many other conditions, Maison had trouble seein’ in bright light. That’s why he needed the goggles. To accommodate, we had the light in the interrogation room turned off. But I wasn’t about to give any kind of favors for his swollen hands. I had those cuffs tight and anchored to the table.

Once the interview began, I didn’t hold back…

Deputy:         “Did you hurt them?”

Maison:        “…”

Deputy:         “C’mon Maison, you came up to my car. You handed me your keys. Can’t tell me you’re gonna’ back out now. So be honest with me. Did you hurt those kids?”

Maison:        “…”

Deputy:         “I know you wanna talk. So talk. No other fella comes along like that unless they’re guilty of something. Maybe you didn’t mean to hurt them. I’d buy that. Hell they’re a couple of dumb kids going around on your property, right? They weren’t where they belonged. So did you confront them?”

Maison:        “…”

Deputy:         “Ally, Wesley, and Joshua. Maison, those are three kids

Y’know Ally’s in choir? Sings for her family every Sunday. Wesley goes fishing with his dad every chance they get. And Joshua, his uncle owns that shop you get your ice from. Maybe these kids did something stupid, maybe they were in the wrong for breaking into another man’s place, but don’t you think their parents got a right to know if their kids are safe?”

Maison:        “…”

Deputy:         “Are they dead? Maison, did you hurt them?”

Maison:        “No…”

Deputy:         “Then where are they?”

Maison:        “… Too late…”

Deputy:         “Too late for what? What did you do to them?”

Maison:        “…”

Deputy:         “Maison, where are the kids?!”

Maison:        “…”

The interrogation went on and on but went nowhere. Maison was silent as a gravestone and just as grim. Nothing I said got him to shift, but the longer I stayed in the darkness, listening to his deep breathing, the more I was set on edge. Several times we took a break from the questions. I told him it was to give him time to think but really I had to gather my nerves.

At the same time, Sheriff Conners was leading some of the town in an effort to scout the woods, but we’re talkin’ a stretch of wilderness too wide and too dense to evenly comb through. I think everyone had hopes that the kids were only lost, but with each passing minute death grew on their minds. It grew on my mind too.

I tried switching tactics. If Maison wouldn’t talk about the kids, I’d talk about somethin’ else. Still scratchin’ my thoughts were the state of his home. Somethin’ about it didn’t sit right. It weren’t just empty, it was clean. Like he and he alone was the only one there. Where did his family go?

Deputy:         “You know I saw your home. You take good care of it. Lot to manage all by yourself, though, don’t suppose your brother helps?”

Maison:        “…”

Deputy:         “What about your mom? How’s she doin’?”

Maison:        “… Hrrr…”

Deputy:         “What was that? Sorry, I couldn’t hear.

Must be tough with all of that. Did she do that to you?

Maison:        “… Hrrr…”

Deputy:         “What kind of parent hurts their own kids, you know? My dad used to whip me if I ever did somethin’ stupid but nothin’ like that.”

Maison:        “… Sick…”

Deputy:         “What?”

Maison:        “… MotherrrrSick…”

Deputy:         “She’s sick? Well then why wasn’t she at home? Is she in the hospital?”

Maison:        “… No…”

Deputy:         “Well then where is she?”

Maison:        “…”

Deputy:         “What about your brother? I didn’t see him at the house.”

Maison:        “… Sick…”

Deputy:         “He’s sick too? Huh, must be somethin’ goin’ around. And do they have the… same thing as you?”

Maison:        “…”

Deputy:         “You know I’d like to talk to them. You think you could call ‘em? Maybe they could help clear up this mess, answer a few questions.”

Maison:        “…”

Deputy:         “Maison, where’s your family?”

Maison:        “…”

He wouldn’t respond. Somethin’ about the subject got him shy and slowly a thought came creeping into my mind – maybe his mother and brother were dead. I thought about what Mary said, and I thought about the rumors. Folks say the Finch’s have their own grave. Kids say The Ice Man killed people. Maybe those two things have somethin’ in common.

The town’s search was goin’ nowhere. The woods were like a maze, hard to move through and easy to get lost. More to the point it was cold. Folks were freezin’ so we had to take shifts. I traded with Sheriff Conners and saw the mess for myself. People were so desperate to find those kids they were droppin’ like ice. I don’t blame ‘em. If we were freezin’, the kids were nearly dead… that is if they weren’t already…

After my shift ended and Betsy took over, I stopped by Maison’s house again. I looked harder for any clues, diggin’ into every nook and cranny. Found some old photos, back before Maison, well, “developed his features”. They looked like your average family, but so does every photo.

It took me a while to find his shotgun – of course, it was hidden behind the fridge. Just lookin’ at it it didn’t look like it had been fired. But then again, he might’a cleaned it. I’d send it off to the state lab to be sure…

But then my eyes turned towards the freezer…

A real bad sense of dread came up my shoulders. I imagined opening that door and seein’ a cold, severed head staring’ right at me. I gripped the handle nice and slow… then yanked it open!

It was empty…

I breathed a sigh of relief, but stopped halfway short.

It was empty.

I loaded up in my car and sped back to the station.

This time, the sheriff and I interviewed Maison together. This time, we weren’t so soft…

Sheriff:          “Where are the kids you sick bastard?”

Maison:        “…”

Sheriff:          “Chuck, throw the lights back on.”

Maison:        “HRrRr!

Sheriff:          “Yeah, now I can see ya’. You wanna talk? We’ll put you somewhere nice and dark where you can sulk, but first you’re gunna tell me where you’re keepin’ those kids.”

Maison:        “… Hrrrr…”

Deputy:         “We know you’re freezin’ the bodies. That’s why you buy the ice, isn’t it? You see normal folk store their ice in the freezer but you? Well, yours was empty.”

Sheriff:          “Now how funny is that. The Ice Man, with no ice in his freezer? Care to tell me where it is?”

Maison:        “… Hrrrr…”

Sheriff:          “I oughta’ hang you like you deserve. Or I could toss you in the lake, see how good you can swim with those claws. But I’m a law abiding man so I’m willin’ to settle with prison if you just play along. Now I’ll ask again. Where. Are. The kids?”

Maison:        “…”

Sheriff:          “Look at me goddammit!”

Maison:        “HuURrr!

Sheriff:          “Huh?! Somethin’ in your throat?! How about a drink!”

Maison:        “-Ahck! -Ouck!

Deputy:         “Sheriff!”

Sheriff:          “C’MON! TALK!”

Deputy:         “Sheriff!”

Maison:        “Auhk- HRRr -Cauhk – Hrrr…

Sheriff:          “You make me sick…”

Maison:        “… Hrrr…”

Deputy:         “Maison, I don’t know what you’re playin’ at, but it ain’t gonna end the way you think. Those woods are dense, I’ll give you that. It might take us years to find your secret little spot. But we don’t got years. And neither do you. You know why?”

Maison:        “…”

Deputy:         “Come spring, all that snow’s gonna melt. And I don’t care what the weatherman says, Scottish Brooks is due for some heat.”

Sheriff:          “And ain’t no amount of ice gonna keep it cool.”

Deputy:         “Right. So I don’t know how many bags of ice you’ve stored but I guarantee you, they’re all gonna melt within a few months. And that means those bodies are gonna melt too. And I got a sneakin’ suspicion you don’t want that. So let’s cut the crap. You show us where your cabin is… or we’ll find it when it’s dry…”

Maison:        “…”

I wasn’t sure if our play was gonna work, but evidently it did. Maison nodded. And for that single, brief moment, I felt hope…

We brought him out there ourselves, just the Sheriff and I. We drove to the edge of the woods, as far as we could, and then continued on foot. Maison led us. We kept a close eye on him and the barrel of a shotgun even closer. We woulda moved faster but that fella lumbered like a tree. We had to take off his fetters just to speed him up. I cursed the idea, but we couldn’t risk the time, not while the kids were still missin’.

It was maybe a thirty of fourty minute hike. By now the sun was goin’ down and the cold bit into our jackets. Maybe he was numb to it, but Maison seemed at ease. Even with only the few layers we’d given him, he had the skin of a bear. I started to worry, thinkin’ he was leadin’ us for fools, but then we came through a field of brush… and saw it…

The last bit of sunlight reflected over the cabin – a gloomy, old hut half covered by trees.

Maison paused for a moment and the Sheriff pushed him forward. At first glance, the cabin looked empty, but I called out, “Hello?! Anyone there? Joshua? Ally? It’s Deputy Wallis. Wesley? Hello?!”

It was quiet…

The Sheriff held close to Maison while I moved in. Snow cracked with every step, filling the silence in broken pieces. I came to the door and noticed a lock. Mary said they broke in. Someone must’ve replaced it.

Again, I called out, “Hey! Is anyone in there? This is the police you hear.”

After even more silence, I took out my gun.

“If anyone’s in there, I’m comin’ in!”

I shot the lock clean off and the door slid open.

The inside was empty. There were some tools, an oil can, and an old lantern set off to one side, but no one was there. I shined my flashlight around the floor. Some crates sat over a tarp and I got to movin’ them. The sunset came down right as I flipped over the sheet to reveal a hatch

The door looked sturdy, all metal, with a massive deadbolt. I knew I had to go in there, I knew I had to check, but somethin’ in my gut was tying me down. I threw off the feelin’ and opened the hatch.

I stared down a ladder and a hole. As soon as my flashlight touched the darkness, it started to blink. I tried shakin’ it, but it only gave a dim sight into the misty grave. I listen hard for any sign of life, before finally speakin’ up.

“H- hello? … Anyone down there?”

An ice cold breath came up from the ground and then finally, a reply

“… heelllooo…”

“Hey! H- hey! It’s Deputy Wallis! Who’s down there?”

“… heelllooo… heeeelllp…”

“Ally? Is that you? Are you okay – can you reach the ladder?”

“… heelllooo… heeeelllp…”

What other choice did I have? It was my job…

Feelin’ my gut pull the other way, I descended the ladder. Each rung burned ice cold and echoed as I climbed but soon enough my feet found concrete. I looked around but I could barely see, my flickering light caught between shadows and an icy fog.

“Ally? Where are you?”

I found one side of the cellar. Old bricks, half broken, covered the wall, dirt pokin’ through. Some kind of grass or weed was growin’ off the side. I followed the odd vines towards the ground. Up against the wall was something long, like a casket. I got closer and on the ground I found a few empty bags of ice. The object which was layin’ on its side, I saw now, was a freezer. Ice circled the lid with more of that mold crawlin’ out.

Every sense in me told me not to open that lid and for once I listened to it. I shined my light just a few feet down and found another one. Another freezer. I looked for the other wall and found even more. Over half a dozen crates all spaced apart.

“… heelllooo…”

That voice, it sounded almost familiar, but it was hollow like a doll. I followed my instincts, gun in one hand, light in the other, and inched through the fog.

“… heeeelllp…

I came close to it, in front of one of the freezers. Like a bruise covered in frostbite, more of those vines sprawled over the walls. The lid to the freezer was half cracked open and that fungus spilled out thicker than paint.

“… heelllooo…”

Holdin’ the light beside my ear I used my free hand to grab hold of the door. As soon as I pulled I went back for my light. But it was burnin’ dimmer than embers now and all I could see was a body covered in… something. They were young, female, with long dark curls just like Ally. But they weren’t movin’ – not by much. They shifted, their chest rising and falling, almost like she was breathin’. I brought the fadin’ light as close as I could and saw she was covered in ice… ice and somethin’ else

If the scars around Maison were a rash then this was full blown cancer. It was like her skin were a glove with someone pressin’ their long, cold fingers through. Some of that growth led up her face and bloomed outta’ the corner of her milky white eyes. Ice moved around as her chest deflated.

“… heeeelllp…

My heart froze to a stop. The problem weren’t the shallow voice comin’ from Ally’s throat, the problem was her lips weren’t movin’. And then I saw it, a slit, like the corner of a smile stretching down her neck and breathin’. The lesions around her chest squeezed like a bagpipe forcin’ human notes. A livin’ bile wormed around the hole in her neck, openin’ wide, as if it were ready to-

A shotgun blast! It lunged!

I turned my head for only a moment but found an elbow locked around my arm. I struggled back but was caught in its roots. I unloaded my gun, blowin’ ice and frozen flesh into clouds. The mold holdin’ her arm together suddenly snapped and I fell on my ass.

I scrambled back as Ally’s corpse stood up. Each limb creaked and bent with the bark of wood. It turned towards me and I saw her head hangin’ to one side like a broken limb.

The ringin’ in my ears had barely gone away before it was replaced by the stirring of ice.

Another shotgun blast! And freezers blew open!

Even more shapes rose outta their graves, withered weeds growin’ from ice-filled planters. The shape of Joshua stumbled beside me, splitting its torso down the side to crawl on three limbs. His innards were so intertwined with icy-black vines that at first I thought it were his guts reachin’ out.

I set it back with a few more shots before hobbling towards the ladder. One of the nightmares tried whipping its head at me. I ducked and flew up the ladder so fast I dropped my light. Another wrestled for the gun in my hand and I let him have it, unloadin’ what was left before letting go in its mouth. Whatever was left of Wesley tried slinking up the ladder. With barely enough time I climbed out and slammed the hatch. I locked the dead-bolt and then ran to find the Sheriff.

I made it to the doorway, where I met the end of a gun.

Maison was leanin’ to one side, red painting his clothes, but he held the shotgun steady. Behind him I saw the Sheriff’s body.

Maison’s breathin’ was rough, rougher than normal, and I might’ve been able to take him, but whatever was bangin’ on his cellar would easily take us both.

Maison waved the gun and I followed his direction. Keepin’ a firm aim on me, he limped into the cabin. I held onto his shallow eyes and saw him look around. Quickly, he let go of his wound and picked up the barrel of oil and a lantern.

I was confused, but then he shambled toward the hatch.

He looked at me, and for the first time I think I understood. And even though I could barely see ’em behind his scars, I’d almost say his eyes looked… sad.

Without sayin’ nothin he turned away from me and threw up the hatch. He unloaded two shot into the hole and I heard somethin’ scream and fall. Then Maison kicked the oil down there… and dropped the lantern.

Smoke and shrieks shot out of the ground as fire crackled and burned. Starrin’ into the glowin’ pit, Maison fell to his knees, his head hung tired.

Without wasting time I ran over to the Sheriff and apparently not a moment too soon. The cabin was set to blow and threw me forward.

I turned over seein’ the roof collapse in a pile of flames.

The Sheriff stirred from his concussion and I propped him up. We leaned on each other’s shoulders. I was ready to high tail it out of there but Sheriff Conners stood petrified. Slowly I followed his look of horror to the cabin, to the roaring flames, and to somethin’ crawlin’ out.

In all directions burnin’, stumblin’ corpses mindlessly shambled forward.

Those things survived. Beacons of smoldering light, they walked aimlessly into the forest. Quickly we limped the other way, watching over our back as the creatures faded like fireflies in the night…

❄ ❄ ❄

Joshua Reely, Ally Burns, and Wesley Coach.

There weren’t anything we could say that would bring their families comfort. Not even knowin’ that their said-to-be killer was killed himself would heal that wound. But it was better than knowin’ the truth. Cus the truth is, we never found their kids. Not alive… or otherwise.

And officially, we never found that cabin. Officially, Maison led us on a chase and drowned in the lake. Officially, what we saw was nothin’ but a dream, a horrible tale good for nothin’ but fuelin’ a few nightmares.

Pick through the rumors and take what you want. Believe if you will that The Ice Man was evil and that he kept people frozen just for his own perverted needs. Trust if you choose that there’s nothin’ in the woods, and that when we all die, we stay that way.

That’s the bliss of hearin’ a story, you don’t know what I know.

Oh don’t look so hurt, I’m only tryin’ to get a reaction out of y’all. Come now, it’s Christmas, go on and share in that holiday cheer…