The Angel with the Voice of Ice
by David S. Vaughan
©2002 David S. Vaughan -- all rights reserved
"Wow, what a storm! " announced the disc jockey in his usual baritone roar, "If you don't gotta go, don't go. Just stay home and enjoy some classic rock with K75 FM, rock'n'roll central in Eversham. Now, here's Crosby, Stills, and Nash with Marrakesh Express!"
Jack Lange turned off the radio and eased back in his armchair that faced the sliding glass door to the balcony of his apartment. Tea and a book waited at his side. With the university closed due to the weather, Jack had time to catch up on his study of the twelfth-century monk Estrebius of Smyrna. The obscure mystic's last work had become Jack's pet obsession as he sought to decipher its maze of cryptic, sometimes even encrypted, revelations about the affairs of angels and demons.
Trish had called the night before to say that the storm would probably keep her in Toronto for an extra day. She was there on business, closing a contract with one of her firm's many clients but Jack wouldn't really miss her. They had lived together for almost three years and seemed to be drifting further apart every year. Now Jack was slowly turning his attentions to Kathy, the sexy young dance student down the hall.
The wind howled, rattling the windows of Jack's apartment and Jack lowered his book and stared out at the snow. His eye wandered to the edge of the window where a fringe of ice was forming.
"Shit," he muttered, "I thought we had that all sealed up."
Jack and the super had spent a hot summer's day replacing caulking and seals on all the windows. 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," he finally muttered, before returning to his chair.
Jack picked up the book again. Secret Writings of the Monks was the only published work discussing the cryptic cipher that Estrebius used to write portions of his Angeles in 1156. The author hadn't actually cracked the cipher, but did make some important observations about patterns in the symbols and possible relationships to other works. Jack was the first scholar since the author of Secret Writings to attempt to decipher Estrebius, and felt he was close.
"'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 name.
Stretching, Jack looked up from the book and looked at his watch with bleary eyes. It was quarter past two in the afternoon. He put the book down, and stretched again.
"Lunch," he said aloud. "Time for some lunch."
After putting on some water to boil, he took out a package of instant noodles.
"Enough of Estrebius for today," he said to the air.
Idly, he wondered if Kathy was home. Her classes would be cancelled but she had friends in the area and was unlikely to stay home alone. He was feeling a sudden need for company, and decided to check on her after lunch. Turning the radio back on, he waited for some 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, half buried in snow and ice. 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, waiting for the noodles to cook. This was the first killer storm he could recall.
"I'm glad I'm in here," he whispered.
He walked to the sliding door to check on the ice. It hadn't changed much, advancing in some spots, retreating in others. Then he went back to the kitchen and added soup mixture to the noodles, and when it was ready he took the bowl to the chair and ate in silence as he watched the windblown snow dance in strangely regular patterns.
The snow was a white fog hiding the city from his eyes. Ice had advanced further along the sill of the sliding door 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.
With a sudden effort of will, 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 to call on Kathy. Kathy, seeing her would wake him up.
It wasn't far down the hall and the sound of the radio coming from Kathy's room relieved Jack. She must be home. He knocked on the door.
"In a minute!" Kathy yelled. A moment later the door opened to reveal Kathy in her bathrobe and bare feet. "Hello. Come for some company?"
"Warmth. There's ice forming on my windows."
"Warmth I can do," she replied with a smile, "Come 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 window, barely hearing the latest news as it poured from her stereo. It was now after five. They had made love, and then dozed a little. Eventually, Jack had awoken, restless, and left her bed. The DJ was reporting more deaths, but the details didn't register. Instead his eyes and attention were focused on the light frost on the window. The lines in the frost seemed to spell a name...
"What is your name?" he whispered, tracing the patterns 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. "Ahhhh!" 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, and then accepted a kiss.
"I'm fine. This storm is driving me crazy. I thought I saw a face out there."
"You're right. It's driving you crazy." Kathy giggled. Then she slipped her arms around him and pressed her body tight against his, her tender warmth driving away the ice. Jack's hands caressed her through the soft satin of the robe as they sank to the floor in an embrace.
It was late evening before Jack had returned to his apartment. The room was chilly from a draft blowing off the icy window and the patterns in the frost were very clear now. Carefully Jack sketched them and then walked over to his desk. A photo reproduction of Estrebius' book sat by his PC. Slowly he 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 name matched the symbols on his window.
"'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 windowpanes. "What is your name?"
He walked up and scraped some of the ice away. The snow swirled and leapt 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. He'd had an opportunity to study a copy of the Arab's strange book two years before and was able to draw out in more depth some of the relationships between Estrebius and his Arab predecessor. But that experience still didn't tell him the name he so desperately sought to know. That he somehow needed to know.
"'There is an angel with a voice of ice...'"
Bang! 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, was a man's body. The corpse was stiff with ice, its hands frozen 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 was drawn back to his books, huddling with them under a blanket on the armchair. Shivering under the blanket he perused his notes on Estrebius. So much of it made sense now, so much was clear. But the names, the names, they 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 that he found strangely comforting before the cold came to be too much. 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 loud, frantic, cold and empty. There was no reply.
Jack tried the doorknob and it was unlocked. Slowly he 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 cool refreshing air flooded the room and Jack hurried away to the bedroom.
Kathy was on the bed, her arms and legs spread for him in an icy cocoon that made her more appealing than when she'd been alive. Her skin glistened with ice, and her long brown hair was frozen into delicate icicles. Jack stared, flushed with desire for the frozen body before him, its cold and welcoming embrace. Entranced, he shed his clothes as he approached his lover, transformed from mortal softness into icy beauty. Kathy's cold arms and legs closed around him as an icy wind poured in through the open window and Jack knew his prayers had been answered.
In his last moment of love, he cried out the angel's name.