The Home in the Frozen Zone

“9-1-1, what is your emergency?”

“Hello?”

“Yes. I’m here. What is your emergency, ma’am?”

“My husband,” the woman panted. “He’s…he’s…” Her breathing was so fast, so strong that the operator couldn’t understand the rest of what she said.

“Where is your husband? Ma’am?”

“He’s downstairs…” the woman cried. Her tears controlled her speech. The operator believed that fear dictated her tone.

“Stay with me. Are you there?”

After a few deep breaths, the woman responded, “Yes.”

“What is your name?”

“Cynthia.”

“Okay, good, good. What is your emergency, Cynthia?”

“It’s my husband?”

“Is he in need of medical assistance?”

“What? No—no.”

“Then—”

“He just killed that cop.”

“Excuse me? Can you repeat that for me, ma’am?”

“And he’s going to kill me,” she wept. Then the connection severed.

*

Officer Gray pulled up to the home in question. A beautiful two-story home with a large front yard surrounded by a white picket fence. The exact kind of home his wife had bugged him about buying once the baby arrived. Looking at it now, up close, he could see what she meant by peaceful. Living in the city was akin to staying in a zoo, but with no cages and minimal security. But this here, the house—the street, the block had eight homes, each with plentiful space. No stray dogs, no critters, crickets, just the air. And a neighborhood watch sign in damn near every lawn. But he had to quickly shove this wonderful vision to the back of his head. There was a call made. An emergency, coming from this address, involving an officer.

He’d rushed there and was first to the scene, had to wait for backup, though; dispatcher told him more units were on the way. Gray was anxious, though, too anxious to see what the fuss was about. Pulling up to the curb, alongside the thoughts of his wife’s dream home, he thought this was another prank call. In the past two days alone, there’d been a dozen prank calls involving violence on police.

No other cop car on the street, the front door of the home was closed, porch light on, nothing out of the ordinary. He grabbed the radio, “Dispatch, come in.”

“Go ahead.”

“Yeah, uhh, I’m here at the Center Parkway residence and everything looks good here. Think it might be another one of those prank calls.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah. Call off the backup. I’ll check it out, myself.”

“Copy that.”

Once he stepped out of the car, the air that had teased his face through his cracked window swarmed around his body. The cold felt so good to him that he stood there next to his vehicle, welcoming it. Damn, the man even thought of hugging himself there in the middle of the street. It was at that moment that he was sold on his wife’s plans. Maybe somewhere in the area, here was a lot better than his loud, musty neighborhood.

He stepped over the grass, crossed the sidewalk and stopped at the fence. Immediately, that wonderful chill left him once he unlatched the fence gate and walked through. The air was quiet, calm, even smelled differently, but he continued up the path toward the home.

A few more steps and it felt like his heart stopped. He slowed his stride and rubbed around his chest. It was a strange feeling, but the tightness went away just as it came. At the steps, he looked back, and his car was parked in the opposite direction. The fuck?

He returned to the front of the yard, stopped at the gate and gazed. It was too dark to see inside, but it did not look like his cruiser. He walked through the gate and the car flipped back to the way he had parked it, right before his eyes.

Holy shit! That tightness in his chest came back, full force, as did the chill, and it attacked his exposed neck. But that didn’t matter. What was happening with his car? He looked around, scratched his head, started spinning in circles on the sidewalk. He stuttered, maybe he was hallucinating. It had been a long night. He backed up to the gate, slowly, watching what his car would do, and as he crossed over into the yard of the home, sure enough, it flipped back the other way.

“What is this?” he said aloud then reached for the walkie strapped to his shoulder; to call someone, anyone to help him figure out just what the fuck was happening. “Dispatch, come in—”

A scream from inside the home grabbed his attention from this strange anomaly before his eyes. So, he rushed to the front door, and by the time he’d got there, it was as quiet as when he’d arrived. But he was sure he had heard it. Just as sure as the flip-flopping car.

He banged on the door and shouted, “Police. Open up.”

When no one answered, he grabbed the doorknob and turned. Locked. Then he kicked it, and it blew open, easily. Because it had been kicked before, he saw a damaged doorframe. But whatever. His gun led him inside and if things weren’t weird outside on the lawn, they were now. Once he stepped through the doorway, an opera tune exploded in his ears as if the door acted as a sound barrier. But that’s not where the weird ended. The foyer was too tall. Taller than the home looked outside. There were steps to his right, and rooms ahead and on the sides of him. Behind the loud voice of the opera singer, he heard a distinctive scratching coming from the second floor. Loud enough to drown out this dreadful noise pounding away at his eardrums.

“Police,” he yelled again. But no one answered, not a soul came looking. So, he ascended the stairway cautiously with enough time to realize that this was no prank. He grabbed the radio on his shoulder, again “This is Gray, dispatch come in.”

Like the occupants of the home, dispatch didn’t answer him. Is the world ignoring me today? Shit.

At the top of the steps, he looked down both sides of the hallway and they were identical; a door on each side and one at the end. “Hello,” he called out. No one answered or could be he didn’t hear. Seemed like the opera singer was getting louder, purposely blocking him from reaching the woman in danger. That’s what had him on edge. They dispatched him to this residence because a woman claimed that her husband would kill her. He arrived, heard a scream, heard scratching. She was up here. But where? “Hello, police!” he screamed once more, and listened.

“In here…Help!” Finally, an answer.

He hustled to the sound on the right side and banged on the door. “Police. I’m coming in,” he shouted. Then he squeezed the door handle, twisted and pushed it open, slowly. He peeked in, gun first, checked the corners, followed the wall to the back of the room where a woman lay on a bed, handcuffed to the frame. She’d been beaten badly, was dirty, looked like she hadn’t slept or eaten for days.

He entered the room, and the volume of the opera tune eased a bit.

“Help,” she begged.

“It’s all right, ma’am,” he assured her as he finished scanning the room. “Your husband. Is he still in the home?”

She nodded.

He walked around the side of the bed and grabbed her wrists. The handcuffs were the same police-issued pair as his. Then he remembered, “The other cop? Where’s the other officer?” he screamed at her…couldn’t help himself but if another cop had been injured or even killed, he had to know, had to get backup here. “Miss?”

She wouldn’t answer him, flinched at every word he said. Poor woman looked traumatized.

“God Dammit!” He unlocked the handcuffs with his own keys and helped her off the bed.

She struggled but could stand on her own.

He tried the radio again, and nothing happened. “Shit. Okay, follow me.”

She followed him, grabbing his shoulder. Then, her hand went down to this back and around his waist. He didn’t make too much of it, though.

“Cynthia, right?”

“Mhmm.”

Back in the hallway, they had to talk over the opera tune.

“Your husband—he got a weapon?”

“Na—na—no, but he’s got this place wired with traps.” She seemed more talkative now.

“Traps?”

“Yeah, like boobie-traps.”

“I didn’t have any trouble coming up.” It was annoying him, having to shout.

“Well—”

“Where is he?”

“In the kitchen. That’s where he’s doing his experiments.”

Heh? Experiments? What kind of experiments?” He looked behind him to her, and she just shrugged.

Down the steps they went, and she said, “Careful.”

Once they made it to the first floor, the foyer looked normal, not like the weird scene upon his entrance. “Where’s the kitchen?” He looked at her as she stood on the second step.

She was staring at a door next to the front, and he followed her eyes, “There?”

“The other officer.”

“The other officer?”

“The other officer is in there. The one he killed.”

It was preposterous to think all of this was happening, the wonderful neighborhood, the weird thing back on the lawn, the loud music, the giant foyer, the battered wife…maybe I’ll stay in the city.

“Stay there,” he ordered her, then inched over to the door, his gun still pointing, his heart rapidly pounding. And with all that, some sweat forming. He took a deep breath first, and then he opened the door. It was a closet, no clothes, no shoes, but there was one dead officer.

Before he could react, the opera song shut off and a loud snap erupted from behind him. He turned, and a large axe fell from the ceiling and impaled him.

*

Cynthia stood on the second step of the stairway, frozen in shock, corrupted by horror. From the back of the first floor, her husband came into the foyer in full medical attire; lab coat, glasses, boots… “Another one?” he said. Then he looked up at her and smirked. “This is your doing.”

Cynthia’s husband had a nice face, a decent body, but a mean soul. He walked over to the closet door and looked inside. One of the officer’s legs hung outside the closet, and the husband pushed it all the way inside with the side of his foot. Then he flipped the switch outside the door; the axe retracted into the ceiling, and the closet door automatically closed.

With that gentle face and those kind eyes, the horrible man crept toward his wife. He looked up at her from the bottom step, squeezed his fist and punched her in the gut.

She bent over, holding her stomach and crying.

Then, he grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled her up. “It won’t be long now, wife. I am this close to solving the equation. But if you can’t be a good girl, and let me work, I’ll have to kill you before we even begin and then I’ll need to find another test subject to send back in time…Maybe your sister, heh? So please, Cynthia. No more visitors. No more surprises. Or I will toss you in that closet there and call your sister over. Okay?”

She only nodded when he squeezed her hair and his nails dug into her scalp.

“Now, get upstairs and shut up.”

He slapped her once more, and she stood there holding her cheek.

She knew that he’d assumed she would follow his orders, no question. He’d threatened that if she’d left the perimeter while in the middle of his experiment, that the field surrounding the home would rip her in half. He’d said that while he worked on the experiment, that their home would be frozen in time, and she physically couldn’t survive stepping from one place in time to another.

But those cops? How’d they get in? She wanted to ask him, especially after the first cop came rushing in, but she didn’t want to get beat up anymore.

Still on the second step, she took control of her life. To be the master of her destiny. If crossing over would be the end of her… so be it. She’d do it as a free woman.

The husband returned to the kitchen, and the opera tune resumed.

She reached under her dingy shirt and removed the taser gun from her back that she’d taken from the officer back in her room. You can do this. It took her another minute to gather the courage to do it. She gripped the handle, walked down the last step and went into the kitchen.  No turning back now.

With her husband’s back turned to her, writing notes in his notepad, the holographic image of their home amazed her, and the bright blue field surrounding it. It was beautiful, genius, a magnificent sight, but her freedom was more important to her. She shot him in the neck and electrocuted him as he fell over the hologram.

The music stopped, the lighting in the home flickered, and as the evil man continued to jolt, she dropped the gun and bolted.

She opened the front door, and the daylight smacked her in the face, much harder than the slaps and fists her husband had punished her with for the past few days—weeks, she couldn’t tell, but she knew she hadn’t seen daylight in a while.

Did her husband falling over his experiment turn off the device? Did she save herself from him and the field at the same time? Yes.

The sun stopped her in her tracks, blinded her, but the force-field was down. It got her thinking… And she knew then, in that doorway, that she was free from him, free from his wicked experiments. She took off from the doorway like a track star leaving the blocks. Not a second later, a loud snap echoed, and the porch floor opened up, and she fell in.

COPYRIGHT © M. SYDNOR JR.

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