The Frozen People
by Danny Adams
The village of Kriegerwald on the shores of Lake Teufel high in the Swiss Alps could only be reached by foot or ski lift, which suited the villagers. The villagers possessed broad foreheads and flat noses, and they spoke with strange guttural accents even the people in the valley below barely understood. They also had a singular tourist attraction, popular enough to fund village maintenance but not to flood them with visitors or stir a desire for greater accessibility.
Their attraction was the Ice Warrior. He was a wiry little fellow dressed in elkskin and wielding a sharpened fishing pole, made attractive by having been frozen on the mountainside the past 7,000 years. He also had a broad forehead and a flat nose, so the Kriegerwalders regarded him as their common ancestor. Outsiders could view him for ten francs (free to kinder under five).
The villagers were also proud of their precision; even nature ran like clockwork. Every December 17th (“Teufelstag“) at 3:36 p.m., a geothermal jet shot into Lake Teufel, which normally reflected the sky like smoky glass, and thawed it for exactly twelve minutes. Then, for reasons no one understood, the lake flash-froze and stayed frozen for another year. Warning signs abounded, so careless daredevils and ignorant travelers abruptly preserved waited ’til next Teufelstag for rescue.
This year, though, dark clouds shrouded the peaks of Kriegerwald. A single lightning bolt split the Ice Warrior’s transparent tomb, and as the clouds dissolved he lurched up, rubbed his eyes, emptied his bladder into the snow, then carried his fishing pole down to Lake Teufel. The villagers were thrilled, but Rogaverterix (his name, all they could get out of him) was less so, especially once he discovered the frozen lake was barren of fish. Ultimately, when he was tired of flashbulbs and incessant demands to go home to his ice, he cursed at them in prehistoric Celtic (though everything in prehistoric Celtic sounded like cursing) and fled into the forest, never to be seen again.
Fortunately the Kriegerwalders didn’t take long to recoup their tourist business. The international coverage of Rogaverterix’s awakening also highlighted the miraculous properties of Lake Teufel, and the world-weary quickly pounded their way to the village’s chill doorstep. They paid a lot of cash and in exchange could sleep flash-frozen for a year. More tourists come every day to gawk at them, or sometimes to leave notes or flowers.
If you want to ice-sleep, prepare to wait; the lake filled up fast, and the waiting list is long. But the Kriegerwalders take down every name carefully, priding themselves on their precision.
Danny Adams’ work has recently appeared in Strange Horizons, Not One Of Us and Mythic Delirium, with a poem forthcoming in Weird Tales. He has just finished a short novel called The City Beyond Play, co-authored with Philip Jose Farmer.
Art Director: Bonnie Brunish