Thursday, February 17, 2011

"The Icicle" by Rick McQuiston

Grace stared at the crystal-clear spike of ice. It dangled precariously outside of her bedroom window, hanging down from a loose gutter her dad had meant to fix but never got around to. It was the biggest icicle she’d ever seen; twice the size of the one Jenny and Alyssa had knocked down the previous year on their way home from school. She still remembered how the ice snapped loose from the tree branch with just the slightest nudge. She had watched it crash to the sidewalk and shatter into a thousand jagged pieces.

That icicle was big, at least a foot and a half long, but this one, eroded down to an unusually sharp point at its tip, was bigger, maybe two or even three feet.

Grace crawled out of bed to get a better view of the icy formation outside her window. She studied it through the glass, noting how her reflection in it was slightly distorted: her short black hair was longer, flowing gently around her pale face, and her eyes had a bluish tint to them, unlike the dark hazel that they normally were. There was also a feral beauty in her face, a savage, tangible aspect that she simply had never seen before or thought she could ever possess.

Cringing in fear Grace felt weak and disoriented. She backed away from the window, never taking her eyes off the icicle. It had grown a little from when she had first noticed it earlier, undoubtedly due to the trickles of water streaming down from its base and refreezing. With a troubled mind she fell back into her bed.

The moonlight lit the room amply, casting a looming shadow of the icicle across Grace. She felt violated by it somehow, as if it were leaking into her bedroom, trying to gain access to her private domain. But she wouldn’t let it in. She was a closed door, her strength untested but definite.

Eventually sleep crept into her body, overtaking her in its calm embrace. She drifted into past realms that she cherished: birthday parties; playing in her sandbox; the first crush she had on a boy; her first kiss. The memories all danced around in her head like children vying for the attention of an adult.

And then she slept.

"Icicles," Photo by J. Toogood
Grace rolled over and moved her pink satin pillow out of the way. She focused her groggy eyes on the alarm clock. 7:24 a.m. stared back at her. With lazy effort she slid out of bed and planted her bare feet on the floor. Instantly a chill swept over her body. She glanced over to the window, as if somehow trying to attach the cool draft to the large icicle that had been there since the night before.

And it was still there, only bigger. Its streamlined shape was much more pronounced, the tip hanging a full three and a half feet below its base.

And it was sharp. Very sharp.

Grace watched it, again noting how her reflection was distorted slightly. But although it was she still appeared beautiful. Her face was smooth (a complexion fitting of a professional model), and her hair was full and glossy. She stepped closer to the glass, marveling at her newfound looks. Another draft of cold air blew past her. It caused her to shiver in her pajamas.

And then the thought drifted into her mind as if someone had planted it there, allowing it to take root and spread out, urging to her listen.

Why not go outside and get some fresh air? Just think how pretty you’ll look in the icicle’s reflection up close. You’ll be more beautiful than anyone else.

Yeah, maybe she would go outside. It would be really nice to see how she’d look in the icicle up close.

Slipping on some clothes Grace ventured out of her bedroom. Behind her, hanging above her desk, the pages of her puppy and kitten calendar fluttered when the air-conditioning kicked back on. All of the days for July were crossed off up to the 22nd, the previous day. But Grace didn’t notice as she walked past her desk. The only thing she was concerned with was reaching the icicle. She was helpless to resist it.

And outside the bedroom window the icicle shuttered with excitement. The tiny arteries inside it pulsed with blood, pumping it from its base to its tip. It leaned forward slightly, tapping the glass, causing a thin crack in the pane.

The icicle then bent back to its original position and waited for Grace.

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