Frozen, part one

25 Years Later

He had travelled everywhere. Well, everywhere that was feasible. There was no wind. Engines wouldn’t work. He’d discovered all these things to his dismay. The little catches no doubt intended to make him regret his decision. But it wasn’t a curse, or a pact with a devil. He could undo it at any time. So why not take the bad with the good? A bicycle worked fine, and it kept him healthy. So, unless he wanted to row across the ocean, he had travelled everywhere in the US and Canada and, briefly, Mexico. For one man alone, there was more than enough of the world just in the Americas. Twenty-five years and there was still all of Central and South America to explore. And with no wind, he could figure out a way across the Arctic and drop down to Europe or whatever. Was that possible? He didn’t know. He had spent a month drawing up plans, and even figuring out how to transport food and water, but had no idea how anything worked up there. His knowledge of the region was limited to what the TV had told him.

He didn’t much care, anyway. America was big. There was plenty to do in one lifetime without ever leaving the continent. Especially now that there were no more rules.

And especially since the only way to explore was on foot or bike. It took him five years just to get to California. So many wonderful distractions along the way… He spent months at the Grand Canyon on the way home.

Home. Home was the White House. The Oval Office. He’d dragged a bed in there. That was also where his only friend was. Well, not his only friend. He had others. But the friend he talked to the most. He liked to chat with the most powerful man in the world…even if that great king of kings could never respond. No tie, top button undone, sleeves rolled up. The President was as impressive frozen in place as he had been when he was moving and breathing.

The great man was on the phone. In the middle of a heated conversation, bent slightly in his chair, one fist about to come down on the desk.

Sometimes – increasingly, over the last few years – the great man would participate in conversations.

“Allison Tucker,” the President would say, “You’ve made the right choice!”

Allison. What a name for a man. It was Tucker’s great curse. He could have gone by his middle name – Phillip – but his dad always said hold your head up. Don’t let them bring you down.

Still, dad, why Allison? Well…he knew the why. His grandmother. Allison Tucker the war hero. A WAC in North Africa, one of the few survivors of a cut-off regiment just before the tide turned, when Rommel still had fangs, before Patton came along. The Allied troops – a mix of British, Free French, and American yokels thrust, once again, into war found themselves overrun by the old Desert Fox. Chewed to pieces. And out of the ashes came Allison Meri Wollingham-Tucker. The headstrong Chicago girl. Gun in hand, she and two wounded French soldiers managed, somehow, to turn the Germans away. (Probably they just ran out of gas or something, his dad would always whisper.)

In her home town – which is actually a small Podunk nothing about two hours from Chicago, though it sounds better to say that she’s from Chicago because the post-war family wanted to be more cosmopolitan – there’s a statue of Grandma Allison. All these war statues in all these towns around the world, and Deadsville Backwater Illinois has a woman bravely staring through birdshit at the horizon.

Still. No excuse to name your son Allison. If you’re that fucking driven, then how about trying for a daughter? Or adopting one?

Mom said no. Broke dad’s heart. They’d had to cut mom open and “scoop Allison out,” as she so disturbingly described it. She’d usually make the scooping motion, too. Like someone signaling from across the room that they’d like some ice cream.

Mom and dad were both dead now. He visited their graves often. Put flowers on it. Flowers that never died. 25 years of immortal flowers now covered their graves, spilling over onto the neighboring graves. Each flower as perfect as when they were first frozen. His recent travels were mainly for that reason – to find more flowers. Though there were plenty. He’d chosen well. Freeze in the spring, when everything was fresh and pretty and in bloom.

He was glad the spring smell in the air had frozen, as well. It had never gotten stale. And one man could never use it all up. He had all the world’s air to himself.

He had everything to himself.

“I am the king of kings, now.” He told the President one morning. He had once taken the phone from the President’s hands and said hello. Had the whole world, indeed, frozen? Or was it just his world? Was it only frozen when he was around?

When you’re alone for so many years, it’s pretty easy to become solipsistic. That’s why he had his friends. That’s why he slept next to the President, and sat in the park next to the beautiful blonde, and sat in the café at the National Gallery with all of the tourists. He often spoke with the man who looked Eastern European and had three kids but no wife. Or maybe she was in the bathroom, or somewhere else?

Sometimes he wished he had frozen his own needs. Nothing would ignite, and the electricity wasn’t flowing, so there was no way he could make hot food. He spent several days searching homes for someone who had been cooking, thinking that the stove would be frozen in a way where he could use it to prepare hot meals, but no such luck. Twenty-five years since he boiled water… Strange. A stone age man without knowledge of fire in the midst of 21st Century America. But there was plenty of cold food. In fact, the outer office was filled with cans. Decade’s worth. No pests to worry about. No flies, no mice, no diseases, nothing. Nothing except for Allison Tucker moved past the moment in which he had chosen to freeze the world.

He spent long days musing about the phone call. The President and…some unknown person. Maybe Tucker had saved the world. Maybe the call was with Putin and there was about to be a war with Russia? Maybe it was an Air Force Commander telling the President that missiles were headed for all the major cities. Maybe, high up there, a barrage of antique Russian missiles were bearing down on an unsuspecting nation. If so, then Tucker had saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Millions. Maybe even billions.

You never know. It’s all within the realm of possibility. The President of the United States could just have easily been on the phone with his wife arguing about the shopping list as he could have been receiving a briefing from the war room where the entire fate of Mankind hung in the balance.

Tucker was prepared to accept the mundane. He wasn’t delusional. But…what if? What if this was some weird fate, and he had delivered the world from certain destruction?

Tucker the hero. Like grandma. Though no one knew. No one would ever know. There’d never be a statue, or a child so addled by Oedipal fantasies that he gave his son a girl’s name.

But that’s okay. Many heroes were unknown, right? That was the true nature of heroism. Altruistic sacrifice. Like all those unnamed stars on the wall at the CIA building he’d read about. Agents lost in the line of duty. Probably not all heroes but, surely, some of them died to save several hundred million Americans from some unspeakable horror. And nobody would ever know who they were or what they did…or even what that unspeakable horror was.

Maybe the agents themselves, like Tucker, didn’t know what the horror was? Mere pawns sacrificed in the vast game of political chess.

Though, in this sense, Tucker was no pawn. If, in fact, his decision had inadvertently saved the world, then he was the king. He’d stopped the game. That is, he was the king left standing. Right? Or, using that analogy, was he the king lost? The king capitulated? Because he’d ended the game and that’s how it ended.

Yeah, things fell apart there. Sometimes the President would point that out.

Tucker knew that the President wasn’t actually responding. He knew that, perhaps, it was pretty crazy having a conversation with yourself and putting on a voice when acting out the second party. But if you knew it was crazy then it wasn’t, right? Tucker would only worry when he started to believe that the President was talking back. Like Golem in Lord of the Rings talking to himself. But, of course, then it doesn’t matter. That’s the problem with being crazy. So a good thing he wasn’t. A good thing he knew it was all make believe.

Man is a tribal creature. A social creature. It’s perfectly natural for a person, when alone, to create imaginary friends. Certainly everyone talks to themselves normally. And that’s all Tucker was doing. He knew that.

“Right, Mr. President?”

“Oh, yes, Allison.”