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Voice of Ice

He sought the name of the angel of ice

The wind gave a piercing howl, rattling the windows of Professor Jack Lange’s apartment. Jack lowered his book at the sound and stared out at the blowing snow.

"Wow, what a storm!" announced the disc jockey on the radio as if he, too, had heard it, "If you don't gotta go out, don't go."

Jack turned off the radio. The storm had given him a rare day to himself, so he wasn’t especially unhappy about the weather. The campus was closed and Trish, his common-law partner, had called the night before to say that the storm would keep her in Toronto for an extra day. Trish was there on business, closing a contract with one of her firm's many clients.

Jack didn't really miss Trish. While they had lived together for almost three years, they seemed to be drifting further apart every year. Recently, Jack had turned his attentions to Kathy, a sexy dance student who lived down the hall. Trish didn’t know about that yet, and he hoped it would stay that way for a while.

Settling back into his favorite chair, Jack returned to his reading. The unexpected day off would give him time to catch up on his study of the twelfth-century heretic and mystic Estrebius. Jack had first stumbled onto Estrebius while working on his doctoral thesis. The obscure Syrian mystic's last work had quickly become his pet obsession. Ever since, Jack had been working on deciphering its maze of cryptic, sometimes even encrypted, revelations about the affairs of angels and demons.

When another loud gust broke his concentration, Jack was surprised and annoyed to see ice forming on the sliding door to the balcony.

"Shit," he muttered, "I thought we had that all sealed up."

Jack and the super had spent a summer's day replacing the caulking and seals on all the windows and doors. This was the first time he had any problems since then. Sighing, he got up and examined the spot. The ice was remarkably clear and refracted the room's light in odd ways.

"Nothing to do now. I'll get Dan or Glenda up here when it's all over," Jack muttered as he returned to his chair.

With a yawn, he once again opened his book. Secret Writings of the Monks was the only published work before his own that discussed the cryptic cipher used by Estrebius to write portions of his On Angels in 1156. The author of Secret Writings had not actually cracked the cipher but did make some important observations about patterns in the symbols and possible relationships to other works.

"There is an angel with a voice of ice. The name of the angel is…," Jack read aloud, stopping when he reached the jumble of symbols concealing the angel’s name.

Stretching, Jack looked at his watch with bleary eyes. To his surprise, it was quarter past one in the afternoon. He must have completely lost track of time. Jack put the book down and stretched again.

"Enough of Estrebius for today, it is time for some lunch," he announced.

After putting on a pot of water to boil, Jack took out a package of instant noodles. Idly, he wondered if Kathy was home. Her classes would be canceled, but she had friends in the area and was unlikely to stay home alone. Still, he was feeling a need for company and decided to check on her after lunch. Turning the radio back on, Jack waited for the news.

"This is the K75 newsroom," proclaimed a solemn voice, "The storm has apparently claimed the life of a young woman. Her frozen body was found in an alley behind Robertson's department store. Police say that she appears to have died of exposure to the extreme cold. No further details will be released until the victim has been identified and next of kin notified. In other storm news..."

Jack gazed out the window, ignoring the rest of the news. A fog of blowing snow obscured his view of the city almost completely.

"I'm glad I'm in here," he whispered.

As Jack ate, he studied the ice forming on the balcony door. It had advanced further along the sill, and a light frost was forming on the glass. Some odd lines running through the frost caught Jack's attention.

"The angel's name is…," Jack whispered, suddenly recognizing patterns in the frost.

That couldn't be. He must be working too hard. Jack rose from his chair, unceremoniously dumping his empty soup bowl on the floor with a clank and a rattle. Ignoring it, he turned and headed for the door, planning to go call on Kathy. Seeing her would give him a break to clear his head.

It wasn't far down the hall to her apartment. As he approached the door, Jack was relieved to hear the sound of the radio coming faintly from Kathy's room. At least she was home.

"In a minute!" Kathy yelled in response to Jack’s knock.

A moment later, the door opened to reveal Kathy in a bathrobe and bare feet.

"Well, hello,” she said, her voice dropping to a sultry whisper, “Come for some company?"

"For warmth,” Jack said, “There's ice forming on my windows."

"Warmth I can do," she replied with a smile, "Come on in."

As the door shut behind him, Jack embraced his lover. They indulged in a long kiss before retreating to the bedroom.

Jack stared at Kathy's kitchen window, barely hearing the latest news as it poured from her stereo. It was now past four. He and Kathy had dozed off after an hour of passionate sex. Eventually, Jack had woken and, feeling restless, left Kathy’s bed. The DJ was reporting more deaths, but the details didn't register with Jack. His attention was too focused on the light frost on the window. Lines in the frost seemed to follow a familiar pattern.

"What is your name?" he whispered, tracing the lines with a finger.

A movement in the snow grabbed Jack's attention, and he pressed his face to the cold glass in an effort to see beyond the frost and snow. The face that stared back was anything but angelic. Jack jumped back, suddenly filled with terror.

"Jack, are you ok?" Kathy asked as she emerged from the bathroom, clad once again in her robe.

Jack stared at her for a moment, then accepted a kiss.

"I'm fine,” he answered, “But I think this storm is making me crazy. I saw a face out there."

"You're right. It's making you crazy." Kathy giggled.

She put her arms around Jack and pressed her body tight against his, her tender warmth driving away the cold of the ice. Jack's hands caressed Kathy through the soft satin of the robe as they sank to the floor in an embrace.

It was late evening before Jack returned to his apartment. The room was chilly from a draft blowing off the icy window. The patterns in the frost were very clear now. Carefully Jack sketched them and then walked over to his desk.

A photo reproduction of the only known copy of Estrebius' book sat by his PC. Slowly Jack flipped to the pages on the names of angels and demons. Each was introduced in Latin, but the name was concealed in the writer's strange cipher. Quickly, almost too quickly, he found a passage where the cipher matched the patterns he saw in the frost.

"There is an angel with a voice of ice. The name of the angel is... and she shall come in the storm and speak in the ice," he read aloud.

"But what is your name?" Jack asked the frozen window panes.

He walked up and scraped some of the ice away. The snow swirled and leaped about in the wind and some of the patterns it made caught Jack's eye.

"She shall come in the storm, and speak in the ice.”

Jack picked up the monk's book and looked over the blotchy reproductions of the ancient handwriting until his eyes came to rest on the strange symbols. He had found a few of them in another source, a book written by an Arab mystic almost four hundred years before Estrebius. While Jack had studied a copy of the Arab's strange book during a sabbatical two years before, that experience still didn't tell him the name he so desperately needed to know now.

"There is an angel with a voice of ice…,” he recited.

Something struck the window, and Jack dropped his book in surprise. Slowly he walked to the window and scraped away the ice, taking some of the symbols with it. Outside, already dusted with snow, a man's body lay on his balcony. The corpse was stiff with ice; its hands froze in a gesture of prayer. Jack stared, shaking slightly.

"For what did you pray?" he whispered to the dead man, "Did God hear you? Or was there only the voice of ice?"

Jack withdrew to his books, huddling with them under a blanket on the armchair. Shivering, he perused his notes on Estrebius. So much of it made sense now, so much was clear. But the names all continued to be hidden. His eyes occasionally glanced up at the window, taking in the changing patterns in the ice.

"The name of the angel is…," he chanted.

Shaking off the listlessness brought on by too much cold and study, Jack stiffly stood up. The blanket tumbled to the floor, and the frigid air wrapped him in an icy embrace. Numb, confused, he wandered around the apartment for a few minutes, trying to shake off the chill. Then he saw the ice on the radiators.

"Kathy," he whispered.

The hall was cold, and Jack almost tripped over the frozen body of his neighbour's son. When he reached Kathy's door, he knocked. The sound was loud and frantic; cold and empty. There was no reply.

"Kathy!" Jack yelled.

He tried the doorknob, and it was unlocked. Slowly, Jack walked into his lover's apartment. The air was icy, worse even than in his dwelling. He started to cross the living room when he noticed the balcony door was open. With each gust of wind, icy, refreshing air flooded the room. Jack hurried to the bedroom.

The icy wind poured in through the open window of the bedroom. Kathy lay naked on the bed, her arms and legs spread for him. The young woman’s skin glistened with ice, and her long brown hair was frozen into delicate icicles. Jack stared, filling with desire for the frozen body before him; with an urge to enter the promised embrace. Kathy turned her head and smiled a frozen smile, a cold gleam in her empty eyes.

Entranced, Jack shed his clothes as he approached his lover. Kathy's arms and legs closed around him in a frigid embrace. As Jack stared into the frozen eyes of the angel, she spoke her name with a voice of ice.
 

 

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