Frozen

by Hadley Bradley

I’ve just shot my wife. Not literally, of course, I love my wife; but I grow ever more fearful for her survival and her sanity. I’m worried about the evil entity lurking in shadows. So I’ve reshot her with my digital camera, capturing her essence and committing it to a sequence of ones and zeros. You see, she’s trapped, frozen in time, and I’m desperate to connect with her.

I check the image on the camera’s LCD panel. I’m satisfied with the quality and alignment of the picture, so I transfer it to my computer, adding it to the hundreds of other shots I’ve taken of my wife over the preceding months.

I start the computer program running and watch the progress bar crawl across the screen. With every new photograph I add to the collection, the analysis takes exponentially longer. But there’s no rush. She’s not going anywhere.

I’ve developed the program to accomplish two tasks. Firstly, it’s trying to detect if my wife has moved since this nightmare began. Secondly, and more importantly, if it detects any movement, it will predict how long it will be before she’s turned enough to see me. Turned enough at least to warn her of the danger she’s ultimately going to have to face.

This nightmare started months ago when my wife and I had been hiking through the valley of Garhwal, one of the remotest parts of the Himalayas. So distant, we were several days out from the nearest village called Kalap. We both love hiking and climbing. It’s how we met after I joined a local female-only climbing club. We instantly hit it off and started dating soon after. After a whirlwind romance, we got married last summer, one of the first gay marriages after the law changed.

We’d scrimped and saved for a year after the wedding so that we could afford to go on a honeymoon expedition of a lifetime to the Himalayas. I only pray this expedition wouldn’t cost my wife’s life.

Ruth and I were three days into our hike, miles from anywhere. We didn’t care about the remoteness of the harsh, exposed wilderness. We were well prepared and self-sufficient, equipped with tents, sleeping bags and enough food to last several weeks.

It was on this third day that we came across the cave. Ruth dropped her rucksack and set off to explore it. I’d been filling my water bottle from the stream, paying little attention to what Ruth was doing. Finally, my water bottle replenished; I turned to look at Ruth while screwing the lid back on. That’s when I saw those green eyes, lucking in the caves darker recesses.

Dropping the water bottle and sprinting towards her, I shouted to Ruth to stop, alerting her to the danger. She’d just passed the entrance to the cave, and that’s when it happened. That’s when she froze; standing still like a stone statue.

At first, I thought she’d frozen in place because she’d heard my warning. Minutes passed, and she hadn’t moved, didn’t even respond to my calls to back away from the cave. Then I started to get annoyed with her; why wasn’t she responding to me? Was she ignoring me? Why wasn’t she turning her head to at least face me?

As the minutes dragged on, I realised that maybe she couldn’t move. She was trapped like a mosquito in Amber. As minutes turned to hours, I knew something was very wrong. Ruth is a fidgety person at the best of times, always on the move, and there is no way she could keep that still for that long on her own. Whatever those eyes belonged to had caught Ruth in its trap. A time trap. Time within that cave was running at a much slower pace than outside the cave.

I briefly considered reaching in to pull her out. But, worried I’d also be stuck in the time sink, I decided it was safer not to. If trying to reach her, would I instantly be in the same time plane as her relativistically? Or did time move slower the further into the cave you went? Too many questions, so I opted to stay outside and try and solve this myself.

So for the last three months, I’ve been here taking daily photos and making comparisons. Only returning to Kalap to get provisions, clean my clothes and charge the array of batteries I needed to power my devices.

The computer pinged; it had finished its analysis and flashed the message, “movement detected”. With excitement, I checked the prediction for when Ruth would have fully turned her head.

Forty years.

Jesus. I’d be well into my sixties, would Ruth even recognise me, assuming I could still make the hike out here. From her perspective, only an instant would have passed. On the other hand, if I could save Ruth, would she instantly age forty years on leaving the time well? That would be unthinkable. What would that do to your sanity?.

Was that preferable to the fate that awaits her? I could swear those eyes are getting greener, more menacing. Of all the photographs I’d taken, the evil entity hadn’t become more recognisable. It was just a nondescript blob of flesh that looked like old festering wet leather.

My heart sank.

I realised that I’d have to involve the authorities now; I couldn’t solve this independently. Maybe a university or a fringe department of the government could help explain this strange phenomenon. Perhaps they could devise a plan to save Ruth.

Let’s face it; time is on her side.