Author: Nihit Kaul
That felt like heaven. The warmth spread out over his entire body, enveloping him in a hot blanket on a cold night. Oh, and what a cold night it was.
It had started getting nippy last evening itself as he tried to find a place to crash for the night. He pushed his faithful shopping cart in front of him, as he went from shop to shop and kept an eye out for a good spot that wasn't taken. Along the way he was overjoyed to find not one, but two bottles of cheap whiskey folks has left outside near the liquor shop. This was going to be a comfortable night, he thought to himself, as he took a big swig from one of the bottles.
He trudged along and eventually found a good spot on a bench near the library. He settled in and over the course of the next 2 hours managed to drain all the alcohol into himself. He hadn't heard of the warnings about the deep freeze expected overnight. He hadn't seen weather folks excitedly explaining how temperatures overnight would dip precipitously to record lows. Explained on TVs watched by the all the folks who didn't need to know this. Who had warm, comfortable homes to sleep in. He hadn't received any calls from loved ones making sure he was prepared. He had gotten used to the fact that loved ones were perhaps a luxury of the rich and the "normal".
At first, the alcohol helped a lot. It warmed him up and helped him doze off to sleep. But then when things started getting really bad, it managed to keep him knocked out. He did eventually get up frozen stiff but barely managed to drag a few worn out throws from his shopping cart of a home, before crashing back on the bench, hugging the meagre blankets for life. After that it was simply a game of curling up tighter and tighter as it got colder and colder. He grew numb eventually and couldn't move - literally frozen stiff. Watching his frozen breath come out as fog. Even his breath seemed to come out slowly - as if it too was getting frozen stiff like him.
The last thing that he remembered was the icicles on the bench. Growing like claws in front of his eyes. Surrounding him and closing in on him from all sides. Scratching, teasing, taunting him to run away if he could. But all he could do was watch with frozen eyes stuck wide open. Watch as the icicles seemingly speared his heart. And that's when the warmth started spreading through his body. Maybe the icicles weren't evil - maybe they were a type of syringe that he was being given medicine with. Whatever it was, he didn't want it to stop. He let it flow all over him and take him out of his pain and his misery. He was saved.
"Dang! This one has been dead a while," exclaimed the police officer as he looked at the frozen body of the homeless man lying outside the library. They called it in and started clearing out his belongings. There wasn't much and once they were done, the only thing left under his bench was a crumpled newspaper which had housed his whiskey bottle last night.
The headline was clearly visible even in its filthy, torn state: "Extreme weather danger tonight: Best to skip those night skiing plans!"
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