It was an idyllic dream, at first. The perfect city, an ideal home. I thought the tales had been made up by the locals, to scare off any stranger who dared enter the city and intrude on their lifestyle. Aussies do it all the time. Dropbears keep the numbers of American tourists to a minimum. The outback locals cultivate their inbred, murderous reputation to scare away backpackers. So why couldn’t an entire city spread stories of a monster with cold, crazy eyes, designed to protect their perfect peaceful existence from overpopulation?
But seriously… a creature so fearsome that Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees fled back to hell, embracing each other for warmth? Alien and Predator returned to their home planets to nurse their frostbitten wounds? Even Clive Barker’s cenobites avoid this pocket of humanity, deliberately ignoring all summons from any newly opened Lament Configurations in this city. The problem was, I never heard any stories about the hideous Beast of Jerryl Deen until after I’d already moved there – until it was too late.
The city may appear perfect, but once you know of the beast’s existence you see the warning signs everywhere. Massive heat generators are spread discreetly throughout the city, ready to dispel the ugly hag’s icy stare within seconds of engagement. The roads and buildings are all heated, despite the tropical climate of the city. Bright, shiny objects are distributed prolifically, an attempt to keep its skewed eyes busy. Every local carries a thermal blanket rated for Arctic conditions, and must attend regular drills to keep their skills sharp. If you’re not covered within three seconds of an attack, you die.
As long as the Beast doesn’t single you out, you can cope. As soon as the Jerryl Deen alarm sounds, you drop to the ground, cover yourself in your thermal blanket, and wait for the radiators to thaw the city. The roads and footpaths melt first, thanks to their inbuilt thermal systems. But if the Beast singles you out – if you become the focus of the hag’s cold, crazy eyes – you will lose; at least your mind, probably your life.
Very few people have survived a beastly encounter with their faculties intact. One survivor claimed the Beast had a mate, a timid shuffling zombie which liked to be anally abused by the Beast’s forked tongue; however, that report was widely questioned – just an attention seeker looking for their fifteen minutes of fame. How could the Beast of Jerryl Deen possibly have a mate? Preposterous! Another survivor claimed the crazy monster was actually a warm, loving person. That survivor should have been mocked ruthlessly, but instead he was pitied. The poor man also believes that Fox News Channel is good quality, unbiased journalism and that Donald Trump would be a fair, equitable President.
One fateful day, the ugly hag focussed its icy gaze on me. I’ll never forget it. There was no hint of its previous humanity in that vacant stare. I have no idea what brought down its wrath on me, but the impact was immediate. One minute, I was sitting at a coffee shop sipping a green tea. The next, the Beast of Jerryl Deen was standing in front of me. The only warning I had of attack was the sharp barking sounds which emanated from its throat. I looked up and met its gaze, then froze.
The stories didn’t do it justice. Head like a horse. Several layers of make-up, trying to hide the cavernous cracks running across its face. Long brittle hair, dyed black in a vain attempt to blend into the surrounding humans. The overall impact was one of age: ancient, and cruel. But it’s the eyes which are burned into my memory. Each eye was independent of the other. Each eye constantly rolled and turned, focussing on different things in opposite directions. However, when they joined forces and focussed on you, the effect was chilling and immediate.
I froze. Literally. In the traditional sense of the word, not the selfie-obsessed millennials sense. My eyes froze first, then the numbing cold spread throughout my body. I could hear the Jerryl Deen alarm sounding and the people screaming as they dropped and covered themselves with thermal blankets, but I couldn’t rip my eyes away from the Beast. After a few seconds, it briefly closed one eyelid. Then the other. Then its eyes lost interest in teamwork and spiralled away on their own independent tangents. Eventually the beast trotted off.
The trauma team arrived in less than a minute but, to be honest, it felt like an eternity. I saw icicles hanging from nearby buildings as I was bundled into the back of the ambulance. Large panes of glass had iced over and cracked. Snow fell, the result of humid air being quick frozen. The footpath was white, frozen solid; however, the thermal indicator lights were on – the city was already healing.
I, too, have healed. Mostly. I lost a hand that day. The trauma team were spectacular but accidentally banged my wrist against the back door of the ambulance. My hand snapped off and fell into powdery shards on the icy white asphalt.
I’ve since moved to the desert, far from any civilisation. I decided to write this cautionary tale in the luxurious, dry heat of the Nullarbor Plain, but a new nugget of fear is gnaws at my gut. The few nomadic locals I’ve met speak in fearful, hushed tones of a monster with crazy eyes and twisted lips. They call this one The Crone, and it burns with a glance. I’ve swapped my thermal blanket for a fire-retardant blanket, just in case.
The moral of this story? Listen with your heart, not your ears. The tales are true. The Beast of Jerryl Deen is real. Avoid all contact. Do not engage. Yes, it has cold, crazy eyes, but once you’ve been the focus of that gaze you realise the truth: its heart is where the true coldness lives, not the eyes. The beast’s heart is not just subzero… it’s absolute zero.
I rubbed the stump of my right forearm. My phantom hand still feels the cold.