You can call Josh many things, but cheap is usually the first thing to come to people’s minds. So, there wasn’t much surprise when he picked up a used air conditioner at a yard sale across town. It’s been the hottest summer on record, and Josh’s window AC broke from overuse the week before. He’d been lying around his house in the nude, dripping with sweat because he didn’t wanted to shell out the money for a new unit. But with temperatures hitting unheard of highs, he finally broke down and bought the cheapest unit he could find.
He found the yard sale ad taped to a telephone pole next to his parking spot at work. And like it was meant to be, the first thing listed on the ad was a slightly used air conditioner. Without a second thought, Josh sped right over to the sale. After a few minutes of haggling, he was able to get the old AC unit at the price he wanted. Mainly because the unit was clearly older than its “slightly used” tagline in the ad. But as long as it worked, Josh didn’t care what it looked like.
As soon as he got home he set everything up and turned it on. A blast of cold air hit him in the face and he felt an instant sense of relief. No more sleepless nights dealing with the sweltering heat.
On his way to work the next day Josh started to feel ill. At first he thought it was just the normal dread of starting another Monday morning at work. But all day long his stomach was on edge, twisting and churning in a nauseous manner. And then he kept getting bouts of hot flashes—even though he worked in a nice cool office.
It wasn’t until he got back home and switched on the AC that he started to feel better. And after a week of this happening it became clear to him there was something seriously wrong. But no matter how hard he tried, he could never make it to a doctor’s appointment. By the time he got into his car and would make it a block or so away from his house, he would have to turn around and come back due to how sick he would get. He couldn’t even make it into work anymore. The only place he felt normal was in front of his air conditioner.
“…the unit was clearly older than its “slightly used” tagline…”
It seemed as long as he stayed inside of his home he was fine, but after another week of this he couldn’t even step out onto his porch without getting dizzy and lightheaded. The only way he could get the mail was if he braced himself against the wall to keep from falling over. And only when he returned back to his living room would he regain his composure.
One more week went by and Josh had to start sleeping on the couch in the living room. His illness had gotten so bad he couldn’t even stand being in a different room from the AC. One moment almost proved fatal when he accidentally tripped over the AC cord and unplugged it. The pain was excruciating and immediate—with the crawl along the floor to plug it back in feeling like it took hours.
Josh’s vacation and personal time got all used up and he stopped calling in sick. Most figured he’d simply quit the job. But one of his friends, Matt from work, worried something bad might’ve been going on. If he only knew how right he was.
Matt took a trip to Josh’s house and pounded on the door. No answer. He held in the doorbell long and hard. No answer. Finally, he stepped back and looked up at the second story window; it was completely frosted over. With how hot it was outside Matt knew something strange was going on. He starting flipping stones in the yard until he found a set of keys. He quickly unlocked the door and ran inside.
The air was so cold he could see his breath. There was an icy sheen to everything in the house and a thick coating of frost crunched on the carpet beneath his feet. Matt made his way into the living room, and that’s where he saw something that chilled him to his very core.
Sprawled out on the floor under a thick padding of frost was Josh—his body frozen completely solid like he’d be stranded in the barren wasteland of the Antarctic. All the while the air conditioner hissed its icy blast. Matt ran out of the house as fast as he could, but as he did, a stabbing fiery pain hit him right in the pit of his stomach. He started sweating profusely and couldn’t even make it to his car. Then a powerful urge took over him, and all he wanted to do was go back in front of that old AC unit to chill out.
If you like this, check out these other awesome flash fiction pieces!