Today, I'm sharing a short - but, literally, chilling - tale of a young man's worst nightmare...
Last night, I dreamed I was frozen. Quite literally, frozen.
Like most dreams, it seemed to have no beginning or end. Just a middle.
I work in a cash and carry and I dreamed I’d gone into the walk-in freezer to top up the frozen mince. My daily task finished, I was all loaded up and ready to come out again. I always left the door open, but I must have been thinking about that pint waiting for me at the pub, because it was closed now.
I pushed at the safety handle. Nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing. I kicked the door and threw my weight against it, but it just wouldn’t budge. Panic set my heart racing.
Despite my physical exertion, the intense cold seeped into my bones. My teeth were chattering and I saw my breath – white mist pouring from my mouth - as I panted. I hadn’t reckoned on staying in here more than five minutes. A quick in and out just before closing time and we would be all stocked up for the morning. It never took longer than that. I’d never dreamed I needed to dress for arctic conditions. So there I shivered, in sub-zero temperatures, clothed only in a short sleeved shirt and jeans and a pair of well-worn trainers.
I screamed for help. I banged on the door again. But I knew no one would hear me. Not much gets through steel that thick.
I steadied my hand long enough to glance at my watch. 8.55. The store would be closing in five minutes. Most, if not all, the customers would have gone. Many of my co-workers would be packing up. No-one would have any reason to come down here. They’d probably think I’d bunked off early. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time. God, I wished this dream would end.
I could barely feel my fingers. Still, I kept banging on the damn door, praying for a miracle, until I had no more strength left.
And then it hit me. How stupid was I not to realise it before? Someone had locked me in here. There was only one way that door could have stuck and that was if someone had deliberately used the key and locked it from the outside.
But who would do such a thing? Who had I upset so much that they would want to kill me? Or was it just a practical joke and any minute now someone would open the door and laugh their rotten head off?
I lifted a shaking arm, stiff and blue with cold, and peered again at my watch. Half past nine. No-one was coming and they would find me here sometime tomorrow. Dead.
It was deathly quiet in that freezer. The only noise came from the whirring of the motor that kept the place at its constant minus 18 degrees.
A sudden click. The lights went out, leaving only the low level safety lamp. It cast an eerie green glow over carcasses and shelves of pre-packaged meat. Now I was truly alone. I knew I needed to concentrate, but staying awake was going to be a real struggle. Scared as I was, a part of me marvelled at this dream. So vivid and real. I’d never had one like it in my life before and I never wanted to experience one like it ever again.
Tiredness overwhelmed me and I sank down against the door, hugging myself to try and conserve whatever meagre body heat remained in me. Surely I would wake up any second, find the bedclothes on the floor, the window wide open and an icy blast blowing through my room. That would explain it.
I forced my befuddled dream brain to try and work out who hated me so much they wanted me dead.
Of course there was one person; that’s if he had found out, anyway. Pete, my supervisor. I’ve been seeing his missus on the quiet for six months now. It’s his own fault anyway. He never spends any time with her. Neglects her for his golf course and his football. More fool him. It just means that Sharon and I can find plenty of opportunity to get together for a curry and a shag. He must be mad because she’s gorgeous, but she reckons he wouldn’t even notice if she left him. Personally, if she was mine, I wouldn’t let her out of my sight, but then, I’m not Pete. Even without all that, I don’t think he likes me much anyway. He thinks I’m too cheeky and familiar with the customers, but they seem to like it and we have a laugh. He needs to chill out more. Oh God, I’ve just realised how ironic that sounds! He couldn’t get any more chilled than me at that moment.
The dream grew fuzzy. Vague images washed over me. Sides of beef took on a life of their own and started to edge closer to me. Half a lamb bleated and a suckling pig grunted. I curled myself up as tightly as I could.
How much longer before someone came and found me?
I didn’t feel as cold anymore. I’d stopped shivering and my teeth weren’t chattering. Well, it was a dream after all, so I suppose you have to accept these lapses of reality. I was actually beginning to feel quite warm. Maybe I’d pulled the covers back over me and now I was cocooned in my duvet.
Then, from nowhere, a bright light nearly blinded me, although I couldn’t even blink, and I heard voices. One belonged to Steve, my mate from hardware. I recognised his distinctive Leeds accent. What was he doing in my dream?
‘Bloody hell, he’s blue! How long’s he been in here? He’s got icicles hanging off his nose!’
‘Is he dead?’ That was Pete. Didn’t sound too happy. Not angry. Just… sort of…worried.
I couldn’t feel anything but I think Steve checked my pulse.
‘I can’t find it. Not on his wrist or his neck. You’ve only gone and killed him, you moron.’
Pete didn’t reply.
More voices. Someone said, ‘Call the police. And an ambulance!’ Someone else suggested using a mirror to see if my breath clouded it.
‘No, there’s nothing there. He’s dead all right. He must have been in here for over twelve hours. Look at the poor bugger. He didn’t stand a chance!’
At that moment, I realised something else.
Last night I dreamed I was frozen.
And now I can’t wake up.