“Frozen in Time” Horror by Alec Glisson

"Frozen in Time" Horror by Alec Glisson: ice cave

“We need to go in,” Pierce says, his dirty snow boots tapping the ice. A few flurries stick to his coat, nothing compared to the blizzard that flattened their town in snow last week. The blizzard melted under harsh mountain sun, leaving piles of mushy, soot-colored snow. Afterwards, a hole of ice appeared in the woods behind Brett’s backyard. 

The ice hole is special, Brett realized the second he almost fell in during their game of tag. Around the size of a tire, crystallized in a sheet of ice. The ice, like an infection, spreads out from the abyssal interior. They dropped rocks into its mouth, listening in awe as the ice swallowed the fading clinks. The hole does not go straight down, but instead curves into the earth like a water slide. 

“You’re fucking crazy,” Drew says, now throwing sticks down the hole.

“What? You don’t wanna check out Jack Frost’s Gloryhole?” Pierce crouches down, yelling into the hole, his screams disappearing inside. 

“You’ll get stuck. We won’t be able to pull you out,” Drew says. Pierce smiles, internalizing the compliment. This year he poured all his effort into football and wrestling, and it shows. 

“Brett, you’ll go in then. You’re the smallest out of us.” Brett’s body becomes as cold as the ice they stand on, hating how certainties spill out of Pierce’s mouth: you’ll go in. Pierce has always teased Brett for his late bloomer status, not having a single hair under his armpits while a forest grows under Pierce’s. In fact, Brett rarely enjoys spending time with Pierce, but still craves his approval; perhaps it’s because Pierce represents everything Brett isn’t: tall, muscular, confident, athletic—the epitome of masculinity. 

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, dude. We can lower you down, then just pull you right back up. Worse comes to worse, we’re literally right next to your house. Your dad’s still home, right?”

“I think so.”

“Then there’s no reason not to go in—unless you’re a pussy.” Brett hates the hold this insult has over him. He can’t be afraid. And, something’s been calling him ever since he spotted the ice hole. A ravenous curiosity needing to be fed. 

“Fine. I’ll go.”


Pierce holds one boot while Drew holds the other, lowering Brett’s body into the ice hole. “Head first,” Pierce ordered earlier. “Or else you won’t be able to see inside.” Brett’s body does not dangle, but instead lowers onto a sheet of ice that slopes downwards. Still, he feels a pull yearning to take him further down. 

Brett is shocked by the never-ending tunnel’s brightness. The ice above reflects his body, like he’s been swallowed by a mirror. His reflection does not look afraid, and he smiles. 

“What’s down there?” Pierce’s voice calls; it sounds distant, despite him standing just outside the hole. 

“It goes pretty deep.”

“That’s what she said.” Pierce and Drew’s laughs travel down the chasm. They must lose focus, missing how Brett’s snow boot slips from his foot. Momentum pushes Brett forward, causing him to slide out the other boot as well. A scream launches from his throat, circling around him in haunting echoes. 

He stops sliding. Voices, now sounding miles away, call from the surface: “Brett, we’ll go get your dad! I’m sure he has a rope or something we’ll use to pull you out. Just hold on!” Then the voices are gone, and he’s left with silence.

Tears slide down his face, freezing into ice before they even leave his cheek. His raspy breaths create a cloud of panic around him. He wipes his snot on his yellow Pikachu gloves. The gloves his Mom gifted last Christmas since their dog Lucie destroyed his old ones. His thoughts turn to the worst: Will he ever see them again? Will he freeze to death down here? Will a rope even allow him to escape?


The only measurement of time are his rapid heart beats. Even then, Brett is sure at least thirty minutes have passed. The walls coil around him. When looking up at his reflection within the ice, he sees a red-faced child with frozen tears pouring out of hopeless eyes; not the brave, smiling boy from before. 

He tries to turn his body around, but only ends up sliding deeper into the tunnel. His toes, without boots to shield them, start to burn as the cold drives needles into his skin. Taking deep breaths proves impossible with his choked-up throat, snot-filled nose, and the stagnant air shredding his lungs. 

A hand grabs his foot, and he breathes a sigh of relief. “Dad? Dad, thank you. Please pull me out.” Silence responds. He shifts his weight to his side so he can turn his neck around. No one crouches behind him, yet the pressure on his foot is undeniable: a tight vise-grip. Is this what frostbite feels like? he thinks, but that thought melts as something sharp digs into his foot, drawing blood. 

He hears guttural breaths that are not his own. The breaths morph into a syllable, like someone trying to shove a word out of their mouth, but can’t.

His screams, despite their volume, somehow do not shatter the ice. He kicks at this unknown being, but the pressure only increases. He crawls forward as fast as he can: the only direction he can go to escape. Deeper into the ice.


Pierce, Drew, and Brett’s father stand in a circle. No one utters a single word; they can’t find any. Their brains, it seems, have shut off, becoming lumps of flesh out in the snow. No questions circle their mind—only disbelief. A snowflake even lands directly on Drew’s eye, but he doesn’t notice it. The ice hole, open a few minutes prior, has now sealed shut.


The deeper Brett crawls, the smaller the tunnel becomes, until the icy walls start to squeeze his skin. The pressure on his foot has ceased, but a stinging pain persists. A light calls to him at the tunnel’s end. A scratching sound follows him, as if someone’s just above or below the ice, desperately trying to escape. He does not find the many rocks and sticks they threw inside. 

He’s hoping for some form of opening in the tunnel. A space large enough to turn his body around. Still, the idea of possibly encountering the creature that left these wounds creates a knot of anxiety in his stomach.

The tunnel continues to narrow. He removes his thick, heavy coat in order to slip through the crushing walls. Just when the tunnel narrows so tight that he’s positive he’ll be unable to progress, he reaches the light. 

He squirms out of the tunnel’s confines, into a cavern, reborn anew. Fresh air, for the first time since he fell into the hole, graces his lungs. He can stretch his arms and legs—a luxury he’ll never take for granted again. 

His fear ebbs as he admires the giant dripping icicles stuck to the cavern’s ceiling; water collects at their tips, plopping down onto the floor. Cracked fissures run along the cavern’s walls, the jagged ice like teeth. 

His eyes lock on the expansive ceilings. How is he this far underground? A cavern like this shouldn’t exist here. He didn’t crawl that deep, right?

The water droplets continue falling from the icicles; the sound jolts his body. He feels another presence in here, staring at him through the walls. Light pulses across the ice, like veins pumping blood. In this underground ice cavern, without a coat, he’s not cold. In fact, sweat starts to collect on his forehead and hands. He takes off his Pikachu gloves, shoving them into his pocket.

Removing his sock to check his damaged foot, he almost bites his tongue off. A word carves into his flesh: FREE. The letters are sloppy, frantic. A deep hiss pierces through the ice. An intense urgency to leave this cavern, as if he’s an intruder, overwhelms his entire body. 

Brett sprints towards the tunnel he entered from. His bare feet slip on the ice. Tumbling backwards, his tailbone smacks into the ground. A scream unleashes from him, and, as if the ice reacts to his pain, the hissing sound increases. 

His heart is about to burst. His hands shake as he pulls himself up, running to the tunnel’s entrance.

Except there is no entrance.

The tunnel is gone.

He runs his fingers along the cavern’s icy walls, as if there’s some secret button he needs to press to reopen the tunnel. Two pairs of eyes meet his gaze from beyond the ice. He screams again, his voice hoarse from a lack of water.
There’s more than just eyes. There’s a child encased in ice, her unicorn pajamas ripped and stained. Her face, on the other hand, does not have a single cut on it. She’s smiling. Her pupils do not move, but Brett feels them moving. Her blonde hair extends upwards, braided by ice. 

Next to her, a boy is also suspended in the ice, his eyes frozen open like hers. He, too, smiles. A baseball uniform with an alligator stitched into the fabric crinkles against his pale skin. His palms are open. Dirt, possibly from a baseball field, buries underneath his fingertips. His overgrown shaggy hair wraps around his ears and neck.

A clicking sound echoes from somewhere in the distance, drawing closer. Brett curls into a ball, tears pouring down his cheeks. He’s beginning to accept that he will die down here. He cannot escape. No one will save him. 

A presence looms behind him. Even then, he does not turn. Just kill me, he thinks. End this. End this all.

“It’s not an end; it’s a beginning,” the voice whispers. 

He cannot wait any longer. He turns around. 

After seeing the creature, he fully accepts his future death.

The creature’s face is a fusion of children’s faces, their expressions frozen and animated simultaneously: their sorrows, hopes, dreams, pain, anger, love. It hunches on all fours, the vertebrae of its spine jutting upwards, twisting and turning with every slight movement. Icicles poke out the surface of its waxy, shimmery skin, like it’s being consumed by ice. 

The creature smiles, revealing a gaping, reflective hole. Children’s screams escape from its mouth, and Brett cannot tell if they’re screams of joy or fear; it sounds like they’re on a rollercoaster. Steam rises from its vibrating body, creating that hissing sound he heard earlier. Its claws dig into the ice, creating more cracks and fissures. Its icy tail wriggles, twisting upwards like a scorpion. 

“Why?” Brett says, but he’s not sure he speaks aloud. Even then, the creature still responds.

“We want you to stay,” it whispers; the sound does not come from the beast, but instead comes from an invisible entity that speaks into his ear. 

“Please. I just want to go home.” He forces these words out, mixed with his tears. 

“It only gets worse if you leave. Trust us.” The creature’s tail undulates. The scratching sounds from inside the walls increase. Its mouth opens wider, now the size of an arm. “Look inside. You’ll see.”

Brett steps forward. Whatever this creature plans to do with him, he needs it to be over with. He stares inside the creature’s black hole. 

And sees his future. All of it, in an instant, the memories filter through him, then become one inside him. They burrow into his consciousness, and he falls to his knees, screaming, crying, clutching his head in his hands. 

“Help! Help!” he begs, collapsing into a ball.

“We can help. Let us help,” it says, its tail eagerly moving downwards. “You can stay here instead. With us. Forever.” 

“Make it stop!”

“We can.”

“Let me stay! I’ll do anything to stay!”

The hissing stops. All the lights in the ice cavern disappear, swarming the abyss in shadow. And yet, he can still see all the children, hundreds of them, frozen in perpetuity, their smiles and eyes fixed on him. 

The creature’s tail lowers, then opens like a flower bud blooming in spring. Within the blooming flower, a blinding light engulfs him, and he’s never seen something so bright and pure. He stares into the light, transfixed. A smile spreads across his face. 

The creature’s tail closes around his face, delicately, as if he were glass; it’s warm inside. Icicles emerge from his skin. The creature’s mouth must open again, because Brett hears the familiar screaming, but he now knows it’s one of joy; they must be running around on a playground during recess. The sound grows louder. And louder. 

All he sees is light, and eyes, and smiles embracing him, protecting him. The tail snaps shut, encasing Brett. He sinks into the ice, forever staring into that light, the biggest smile of his life seared into his youthful face.

Alec Glisson studies English Education and English and creative writing at the University of Iowa. His interests beyond reading, writing, and teaching include yoga, theater, and sci-fi/fantasy TV shows. Originally from Springfield, Illinois, he hopes to one day live somewhere that doesn’t have 6-month winters. 

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