FROZEN CHANGELING

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Hungrily Sarah opened the fridge, and remembered too late that she had forgotten to go to the supermarket and that it was empty. But as the door swung open, she was astonished to find someone in there. To be sure, they were small in stature (they only just fitted in), but the voice was loud and the gaze was fierce. It was a very little man. “Shut that door!” he cried, “or at the very least, get in here with me! I can’t tolerate warmth of any sort!”

She almost closed the fridge door, and spoke to him through the crack: “I can’t get in with you, there isn’t room. But I’ll switch the central heating off and open all the windows and doors”. Pretty soon the house was icy - it was mid-winter - and she eased the fridge open and out he clambered. Sarah wanted to ask where he came from, and how he had taken possession of her kitchen, but she was unable to get a word in edgeways. It was like trying to board a moving train, or (to use another metaphor) it was like trying to gain a foothold in a fast-running stream. The imprecations and instructions came pouring out pell-mell. He had to have cold food, white for preference, he had to be cold at all times, there were to be no visitors because of their unseemly body heat, and by the way, did she have a chest freezer?

Meekly, she ran to the corner shop for her visitor’s supplies. He demolished a whole frozen chicken and several tubs of ice-cream: “and now I’ll trouble you to show me to my sleeping quarters”. He lay nestled in the chest freezer on a carcass of lamb and several punnets of apple puree: “and now wedge the top open a little, and wake me in the morning with a cup of crushed ice”.

This went on for several weeks. Sarah realised that he had very large teeth which he was using to best advantage on her expensive groceries. Worst of all, the house was terribly cold: her nose had turned an unbecoming shed of red and she looked rotund from the three sweaters she had to wear. Clearly, this could not go on.

He would notice if the house was warmer, but would he notice if the food heated his blood? It was worth a try. Accordingly she began to make a number of stews with chilli and turmeric in them. Lots and lots of strong spices. Once they were frozen, he would chomp them in their icy state without noticing the spices. Sarah made tub after tub of ginger ice-cream, so hot that it made her eyes water: but he relished it. Pretty soon, though, she started to notice a change. He was leaking, and seemed to be melting from the inside out. He complained a lot. Being unwell suits some people, indeed indisposition renders the occasional individual quite winsome. Not him though. He become more and more costive and bilious, and he did not notice that the turmeric was making his eyeballs yellow.

One morning Sarah came down and found him dead in the freezer. She lugged him out and put him on her toboggan, thinking grimly to herself that Santa’s sleigh bore rather an unexpected gift for someone. She trudged deep into the woods, and put him into a snowdrift. He looked as though he was happy at last. He was certainly cold enough now. When she got home, she made the fires roar and the central heating gurgle, and she danced around in her underwear. To be sure, when winter came to end, she was a little concerned about what the melting snow might reveal. But she would worry about that later.