“Frost” Horror by Dena Linn

I need a walk; my duplex neighbor’s cat howled all last night. It was not possible to read one of my favorites, Robert Frost. I shut the beast in our basement. It ate poison I’d laid for potential rats, and this morning the cat, copious blood from its nose and mouth, was quiet in a corner. As I approached, its gold eyes glared with menace. Cool under pressure, I took it up with a convenient rag and laid the animal on my neighbor’s step. What a relief. Now, I’ll be out the door and feel much better.

There’s that tiny voice, I’ve got to check— fleece lined canvas pants, yes, wool woven long underwear, alright. My pigeon gray Armani puffy coat is re-zipped, and I feel the slim, hard rectangle, phone in place. My Armani, purchased on vacation in Milan, is over a wool button-down shirt that is under my Dale zip-sweater, another classic. Through the entryway of the house, is a displayed possession I personally find very attractive: my Kastehelmi glass platter; the name is Finnish for dewdrop. My black, Gore-Tex gloved fingers bush, with purpose, the edge of its wooden stand, and my eyes catch in the mirror behind.

“Oh girl! You do help!—I nod at my reflection—“Whatever happens—never on you.” I am a natural helper—a social worker, licensed MSW.

It is by design—the mirror, the stand. Its stained surface brings to mind Mother’s dark paneled kitchen and my failed plot: to steal her wooden spoons.

At that time, my head was barely level with the silverware drawer, but I helped unload the dishwasher. As her prize crystal platter slipped from my hands and crashed into millions of pieces, Mother shrieked, biting her tongue. Her mouth burst with blood, and her fury spit red. I scampered through the glass shards, out of her grasp. My bloody toes left a trail. From under my bed, I heard her staccato rants, a growing storm and then, she was on me and cooed, smacking a wooden spoon behind her back, you’re my little helper, aren’t you? I eventually came out—I had to pee.

Even when I was older, she still called me a little helper. But, one day she pulled her hair screeching that I was a, it is a disparaging and obscene word, I now know, but I thought she said I was a ‘cut’ when she found me exploring the neighbor boy’s body. She whipped me again, hard, with the handiest wooden spoon and then sent me to my room—again, and again, my shoulders clenched, and I held my ears as she wailed in her room, evidence of her unrealized goal, my mind convinced, nothing short of locking me up and flinging the key in an ocean. I imagined her face swollen, hard. She’s dead now, yes, I know this for sure. I was veryhelpful.

Biting the fingertips of my Gore-Tex gloves, one by one, I undo my Armani coat and unsnap my fleece-lined canvas pants looking down. OK, good. While at it, I lift my Dale sweater and peek at my quality wool button-down shirt. Confirmation soothes—else my anxiety noses full into my brain and then—that twitch. . . fleece-lined canvas pants, check, wool long underwear, check. My hands clap up and down my body, my coat is zipped and tight, phone, as placed, is in my pocket. Yes, I am now ready.

Out the door, close it, lock it, pull the knob, jiggle to check, locked! Gloves on. The outdoor temperature is, my lips crack, minus 5C, crisp, dry. My tongue sweeps licking a bit of moisture, the taste a bloody tang.

The Norwegian saying, Ut på tur, aldri sur translates roughly as one will feel a hell of a lot better once one gets out and into nature on a walk. I can’t ingest any more meds; it’s exercise I need, to breathe.This is why I walk, knees bend, elbows pump to the rhythm of my mantra: smart and helpful, hoping to quell what they term my floating anxiety. I call things as I see them, when it suits me, and that earned me a lifetime of prescriptions—a cocktail of psychotropic drugs I carried around, neat as you please, bottles and packets, in a plastic box with a tight lid; they now live in a bottom desk drawer in my office, and I am fine.

I head towards the canal, dug around 1230 A.D. by some formidable, steely-eyed, icy-hearted Viking, and I tromp, tightened grip around my imaginary axe over the bridge to the island. It is all lovely quiet; I could have brought poetry to read. The air is transparent. The cold is piercing.

Focused, I push myself to the edge of the woods and cross onto a path, the one less traveled. The white birch, their naked black branches stretch, intersect and rub. I hear a susurrus of client voices. My attention snaps, I turn. The wind hisses.

I could have become a rocket scientist; I am that smart, but I went for a masters, clinically trained and licensed to help; top of my class, of course. There are people who cannot take care of themselves and need someone like me, capable.

My boots make a squishy sound. Patches of icy leaves caught by the sudden drop in temperature are now muddy black in my path and—eyes widen. I stare down, a suspicious notched branch, and then sludge color blends into the crimsons of impact and of broken blood twining round Inessa, my client’s throat, splashing across her cheek, encircling her eye.

I held tight around her wrist that day. Her breath sucked in, spewed out disconnected, then caught up as she sobbed. Under my skirt waistband and traveling to the top of my spine, my muscles knotted; I needed her to shut up. My boss could have passed my door and heard. My fingers clamped tighter.

“He beats me; I’m scared! I hate my life.” Snot dripped from her nostrils.

My eyebrows may have raised. I recognized the strong accusation. “I will help you.” I told her, my voice calm.

“I’d rather be dead. I can’t escape—to anywhere!” This I heard and had heard over countless times.

These women are silly and unaware. Into loveless unions, they are bought, a sum had passed to her parents in some distant country, and now she is here, captive, helpless. Overall, it’s inconsequential, their attempts to escape from one bad to another worse, one destitution to another poverty, one abuse to another violation.

However, yes, they are fortunate. It is a fact, I am their assigned agent and will help. Inessa is especially lucky to have me to sort out her sordid life. Never mind, I drink alcohol, red wine and eat healthy food. I’m drawn to poetry and am familiar with poetic emotions, and I’m in a stable relationship, now, as well.


Once police—it was that neighbor’s call—stood feigning control in my kitchen, hands nervous on holstered guns, their lips stiff. My then lover, with his six-pack abs, stood frantic, a slice on his arm dribbling blood. He stomped in front of the officers. Bitch’ll kill me! The kitchen knife dropped into the drawer, the rosy pearl scallion halves stared as witnesses. Then he shouted, Psycho pinched my Hasselblad. I’d borrowed the camera, just a few days, a little project, and then slipped it back, no harm done, into his drawer. I never get angry, whatever it was, was on him.His pointer finger shot out. Look, she’s crazy! It became a terrible scene. I started to explain, and one cop’s baton was right in my face. I shut down, looking away. That lover left, and left for the hospital.

The important is the present. I have a nice, mild, unopinionated person in my bed and drinking coffee next to me in the morning. They gifted me—I can be persuasive—my Armani puffy coat. I have a well-tended collection of poetry, a respected government job and my clients, my boss, and my lover, they all need me. I’m actually smarter than they think I am.

But out here in the coldness, the forest heaves under the weight of snow and I walk. I’ve never understood astronomers’ fascination with an endless sky. With a narrow gaze, I eye the moving clouds, noting some are long and thin, some fat. Then my body lurches, my arms flail, my feet hit something, and lose the ground under them.

There is my inner voice, like clockwork. Damn, you’re going down! That familiar jolt up through my elbows and to the base of my neck, as my palms smack the icy earth.


My hands are covered in a Norwegian blend of wet leaves and cold muck. My nose is in the forest floor’s detritus, and there my eyes see a bluish swell blossoming. The problem was evident—drunken louts, beating on Inessa since she could cradle her own dolly— and so was the solution. I saved her. With that simple affirmation, my forehead nods and picks up a wet leaf. I ease back and get my legs under me. Ok, my right knee hit the ground hard, but nothing broke. My heart charges around my chest from my fall, not in the least from the memory of Inessa’s eyes.

My spine straightens. Before me, burnt green pine needles and frost. Tree noises or it’s a magpie, its black and whiteness hidden between the striped collection of tree trunks, although these sights are of no special interest—earth’s hues do nothing for me. In that moment, my nose crinkles and I gag, bile rising into my throat.

“Oh. Of course!”

My feet had found and tripped over a dead, rotting forest animal. I take a yogic breath but know I’m going to vomit breakfast. My head does ache, my vision swims. “Dizzy?” I ask the woods. No answer.

Shuffling to a nearby tree, eyes closed, coffee and crackers with paté make the reverse voyage. When my eyes open, the back of my glove is slimy, and the putrid smell is still there, mixed with coffee. Obviously, something is decaying.

My mind reaches for the sane and tolerable…A dead bear? Only 2 percent of all Scandinavian bears live in Norway.

The question fades as my gaze darts back to what tripped me, and I see bits of neon yellow plastic poking between slick leaves. That neon yellow is a kind of Norwegian fashion trend. This I know. The smell is fading, a good sign. But there is something in that reflective yellow under those twigs, then I’m distracted, my hands frisk my Armani.

“Ah, shit! Where’s my friggin’ phone?” My throat clenches and I hack up what was left in the pit of my stomach.

I mince-step forward; the grossness I’d fallen on is behind. Gore-Tex is known for its supreme breathability; my gloved hand clamps my nose and mouth. My boots roust through the stones, mossy sticks and leaves. My phone case is brown plastic. A sexist incoherent in the phone store had commented pink or yellow cases were ‘easier colors, better for the fairer sex.’ I almost punched him, daring a repetition of his statement and brandishing my recording phone that would sink his pitiful phone store career, but I knew he was a trifle, and a doctor told me do not engage. Now, it’s obvious how the brown camouflages with the leaves and dirt. My phone must be here; my smile tightens.

Gently, only two minutes pass, I recover it from beneath a pile of grey snow and moss. Battery fine, 83%. Then, something clicks, a rustle, a bird emits a drawn caw; my brow knits, processing and I see, on replay, a horrid neon color. I turn my head and shoulders to inspect. Then, I speak to the forest. “Yes, that’s it. Neon yellow—on the ground. Not natural at all. I’m calling an authority, the police. It’s their job; this I know.”

I stare around the path and think of my planned walk. Emergency services told me ETA was less than five minutes. I’m standing, concentrating, inhaling, my nose is now used to the odor. From somewhere above, a distant sound and I sense my heartbeat starting a race. There is a deep yet building wee-waar-wee-waar. It shakes from the trees down to my boots, my heart thumps under my Dale. Wee-waar- wee-e longer, louder, closing in. My leg muscles fire wanting to dart but I stand stiff and blink. Two burly police arrive, one with a collapsible gurney and one with a huge toolbox painted white. My lips press in a funny smile. These protectors of public peace walk up in neon yellow pants and jackets. They want to talk to me.

“What is the situation here?”

I show them the damage to my gloves. “I was walking and tripped.” Then, as my gaze travels past their shoulders, I point to the stinky pile of leaves that cover an outfit similar to what the police are wearing.

Down to a squat, one says, “We’ve a body here. Call HQ, get the bag and gurney set.”—then growls—“You stand back.”

Police are unpredictable; I know it is best to stay away and as I’ve learned, don’t engage. I take two wide steps and look around, smacking my gloves together in the cold. I taste tension, bitter, metallic; it rises up along the sides of my mouth, yet my body is calm, respiration deep. In between slimy leaves, icy earth and twigs, my gaze lights on something dirty, silver and round. Of course, the police are absorbed elsewhere, so I, of course, pick up the shiny object. My eyes squint, assessing, and then open wide as I turn it over, and then over again. I palm it surreptitiously and let it slide into my pocket.

It’s a pin, like a two-inch campaign button. On top of my meds box, I have another box full of these pins which proclaim I am learning Norwegian, talk with me, two exclamation points. I should give out more of them.

Another conversation with Inessa—for example—colors streaked out the sides of her sunglasses. It was overcast that day, sunglasses were quite inappropriate, especially inside. But I saw magenta rimmed with charred orange when Inessa removed them. There, the full spectacle, her body rocked, as tears squeezing through slitted eyes, drops trailed along the sides of her nose. The papers on my desk were getting wet. Oblivious, she sniffled and wept. I rearranged my skirt over my knees and squeezed them together. My foot adjusted my trash bin; my office door was closed for privacy. I insisted, taking a firm hold of Inessa’s hand, that she be quiet at once. It is not good when clients are hysterical. Best are quiet clients.

Utmost patience, I asked, “What do you need?” Words articulated slow, careful. “I am the only one, your case manager.” My follow-up—as always. “How can I help?”

She’d looked through wet eyes and I felt the importance, my chest raising. As an MSW, I maintain my position… above, in control. My boss compliments that regularly.

“He’ll kill me. I’m exhausted.”—a long sigh passed pouted lips—“no one understands!”

Confident my eyes actually conveyed understanding; I thought rampant feelings are never beneficial. My head moved to one side, displaying either interest or concern or both. She looked truly horrible, but I felt my brain tick along, and then the solution was apparent. Inessa needs me, and I can help, and did. She left with a Talk with me!! pin, and an Rx bottle, contents: thirty-one capsules; 150mg of a robust anti-panic/anti-anxiety med.

I sense a whir of sober birds— up from the tangle, that magpie again. My lips press tight in relief and my hands snake down the sides of my puffy coat. Brown cased phone, check—pin, check.

More officials have arrived, and the police want to talk with me—again—But is there really anything to say?

Dena Linn, ex-urban, thriver, commune child, not to be one of ‘those’ girls, diving into hate, loss, rage, heartbreak, and insanity. First-Place: “The Problem Is”, published by Reedsy.com. Also appearing in Down in the Dirt Magazine and Ariel Chart International Literary Journal, she’s a story judge for Reedsy.com and published six shorts in anthologies.

6 thoughts on ““Frost” Horror by Dena Linn

  1. Pingback: – The Chamber Magazine

  2. Deliciously titrated narrative exploring social, mental health, and gender issues, within an intriguing backdrop of a unique culture and climate. Fantastic!

Leave a Reply