The Big Freeze



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Scene Title The Big Freeze
Synopsis At the threshold between life and death, Francois Allegre's mind wanders.
Date December 27, 2019

Rochester General Hospital

Rochester, NY

It's been a long time since he's dreamed of this.

And he never dreamed of it very often, not after he lost Kazimir Volken's ability to the desert. To dream of this would be a kind of maddening torture, and Francois has enough memories to relive when he closes his eyes. But he dreams of it now. The slow climb. The big freeze.

Snow and ice, packed into solid walls all around, against his skin, against unfeeling, nerveless fingers that scrape blackened flesh bloody. There is no sense of up nor down, but towards the healing. Towards life. It floods into his system stupidly, healing bones in wrong configurations only for them to snap again and send him plummeting back into the darkness from the shock of it, but it finds its way to the things that matter. Grey matter, a pumping heart, burning lungs. It becomes oxygen in his blood. Better than.

In the ruins of the Amundsen-Scott Antarctic Research Facility, he'd emerged broken and barely bleeding, eyes frozen closed, lungs collapsed, skin blackened. He hadn't seen the sky until he could restore his ability to do so, and seen too the dessicated remains of rescue military littering the pristine snow all around him.

Now, he sees light. He hears monitors. He can feel a hand, warm, holding onto his. He tries to clutch it back, harder, reaching, desperate for help, too tired to continue.

Move.” It’s what Kazimir had said to him back then, in the Antarctic ice. The voice feels as real now as it did then, and though the meaning isn’t quite the same, the subtle twitch of Francois fingers in the face of that ethereal voice is movement. It is precisely the progress he needs. But morphine provides a languid backdrop to these sensations, blunts them, makes the muffle of voices and sounds of heart-rate monitors feel like somewhere or somewhen else.

Being prone in a bed, barely able to move, while the gray-clad and dour form of Kazimir Volken looms is not a pleasant memory for Francois. The eggshell white walls of Rochester General are not the rust-streaked concrete of Fort Daedalus, but as he sinks into the cushion of the morphine Francois struggles to see the differentiation. Then, he was a specimen, bound to a table, under a cruel scalpel.

The light of an articulated lamp reflects off of Kazimir’s glasses, wire-framed and delicate like his old features. That long face and high cheekbones, those deep set, pale eyes and stern but thin brow. He regards Francois with all the clinical detachment of a doctor, but without any of the moral compass. “You’re a fast healer,” Kazimir says in that condescending tone that never fails to grate on the nerves. “I do wonder if that is innate, or manipulated.” There’s a shine from the edge of his scalpel when it catches the lamplight just so. “Do you have insight?” He asks the specimen.

Why is it, when he sees the shine of that scalpel, he does not imagine the careful slices — he remembers instead of anticipates — but thinks of a violent plunging, over and over? Francois can picture it, Dr Volken switching out the way he holds the implement, and raising his arm high, and Francois incapable of stopping him.

Because it's happened, non? He's already dying.

But when he glances down at himself, he sees just his naked torso, untraumatised flesh, the buckled straps holding him there. He sinks his head back. The room feels like it is spinning, and like his mouth is full of cotton.

"It is faster," he manages to say, although it feels like his words are just drifting into the room, directly from his thoughts. His accent isn't as thick as it was, either. The next fragment finally arrives after a breath drawn in; "When it has no purpose but to survive." Francois rolls a look up towards Volken. "When it has nowhere else to go."

“That would explain your state in Treblinka,” Kazimir’s voice is not the sandpaper of Richard Santiago’s body, but the somewhat nasally and higher pitch of his German predecessor. “Heightened… metabolism?” Kazimir wonders. “Autocannibalizing your white blood cells for…” he makes a noise in the back of his throat, unsatisfied with that diagnosis. To get a better look at the process, Kazimir reaches up and takes a hold of the shade of the articulated lamp, then swivels it in Francois’ face.

The light is bright, blinding, spread across the flat and snowy plain dotted with the lumps of heavy clothing and disarmed guns. Tracks of ash swirl gray across the top of the white snow and the clear sky is striking with illumination, the sun a blinding disc overhead that makes the snowy horizon bloom with light. Francois can already feel the biting cold digging into his exposed skin, less exposed now that he’s had time to cannibalize some uniforms, but still some extremities not quite protected enough from the abyssal chill of the bottom of the world.

Sleep is death,” Kazimir says beside him, marching side-by-side through the snow with Francois. Though Kazimir’s military-cut jacket and leather gloves would do little to protect him from the cold, were he anything more than a ghost of a memory. “These men came from beyond that horizon, somewhere, and that means survival is that direction.” Whether survival in a traditional sense or something vampiric isn’t clear. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be. The choice is Francois’ to make.

“Unless you’d prefer to lie down right here and die,” Kazimir makes a bold move to goad, given their shared predicament.

On cue, Francois’ foot slips where the crunching snow gives way to harder ice, and he lands hard on all fours. For a moment, there is an echoed shout of German, and hands that reach to grab him by the back of his shirt and his arms to haul him to his feet, but the moment passes, and he is left half-collapsed in the snow, exhausted, with a keen awareness of the phantom presence next to him.

Anger hits him hard enough to make his vision swim. It also seems to draw off his reserves of strength, getting up onto his feet in spite of slightly ill-fitting boots, the bulky coat he's pulled onto himself that smells like ash and blood.

The hood has fallen back, and he can feel immediately the sting of the cold on his ears, the escape of warmth out through his scalp, but he doesn't care as he rounds on Volken. "Why," he says, hoarse, barely audible. It would be loud, if he were not half-delirious with dehydration. "Why would you come for me now? What should it matter to you, if I live or die?"

“Because we’re linked, you and I.” Kazimir’s tone sounds both regretful and frustrated. “If you die, with nothing out here for miles but snow and ice, so do I.” There is a symbiotic sense of kinship there, not reluctance out of the necessity of it all, but begrudging admittance that their fates are interlinked. Antarctica is unforgiving, desolate, and isolated. It is an easy enough place for death and little else.

Up ahead, Francois can see the cargo train covered in a thin layer of snow and ash, intermingled with one-another. The booted feet of SS officers behind him crunch the fresh morning snow down with each step though their distracted conversations with one-another show little interest in what is actually going on. Kazimir keeps pace at Francois’ side as they leave the camp, following the snow-obscured dirt trail to the train and the waiting military truck parked beside it.

“I am left to wonder who you would have been, had you not become the man you are now…” Kazimir wonders aloud, looking at Francois over the frames of his wire-rimmed glasses. “Possessed of such ability, pulled from the grave, given fortune enough to live to see another day.” His head tilts to the side, brows furrowed together. “Would you have wound up in Treblinka? Is it your gift that led you here? Or is it a measure of your humanity that did?” Kazimir motions to the truck, rather than the train.

“I hope to find the answer with you in Berlin,” Kazimir says thoughtfully.

There is no point in even entertaining the notion of dying here — of doing so wilfully, anyway. How noble and heroic it'd be to just lay down and let the evil ability of Kazimir Volken burn itself out on his dying body. And Francois knows he's not going to do that, anymore than someone could suffocate themselves by holding their breath. A physical impossibility.

He's moving, marching along the endless desert of Antarctica as he remembers the cold winters of southern Germany. To his more temperate sensibilities, blue skies and spring-green hills, both might as well have been the same thing.

Francois says nothing, initially, as Kazimir speculates as to the make of his person. He doesn't know.

"New York," he says. Correcting. "It's in New York."

“I thought the same once,” Kazimir admits as he walks beside Francois through the Antarctic snow toward the sound on incoming engines, snowmobiles more than likely. Soldiers, probably from the George Washington come to survey the blast site. “After the explosion in Manhattan, after the reason for my… witch hunt,” he carefully chooses his words, “was brought into the light. But as it turns out, the answer was never in New York. It was never in Berlin. It was never in Antarctica.”

Kazimir steps in front of Francois, two fingers pressing at the center of his chest. It feels real. “The answer was here, inside of us. Inside of the very thing I blamed for all the wrongs of the world.” His gloves hand falls away, and Kazimir looks up from Francois chest. “You and I once sat at different ends of a spectrum, Francois. Now you have the opportunity to see the other, to experience it first hand.”

Behind Kazimir, the snowy landscape of Poland rolls to the hazy horizon. Behind Francois, a parked train, just like the one that had brought him here looks dark and tall. But beside Kazimir, that truck waits, it's tailgate down and an SS officer standing in anticipation. Kazimir narrows his eyes, then with a motion of his chin directs Francois to the truck.

“You are uniquely prepared for a journey of understanding,” Kazimir suggests as a snowflake lands on one lens of his glasses, but is smudged away by a gloved finger leaving a faint streak of ash behind. “The answer of who and what we are, is inside us.”

"I'm going to destroy it." He might have said this before. Snarled it at the empty air, or spoken it privately to himself, a promise that drove on each trudging foot step. Here, however, Francois says it like an inevitability. The thing that happens next.

The earth is more sure beneath dust-grimed boots, less treacherous. Rock and sun-baked earth, the sky above all blue and endless over the dry landscape of a far-flung corner of Mexico. There's an open stretch of road that he's been walking for a long time, and because he remembers it, there's a pistol in his hand. Sweat soaked down the back of his shirt, damp in his hair swept back off his face. He imagines that his eyes are bright blue, sharper and brighter and clearer than the usual murky green.

Francois shakes his head. "It was a mistake," he says. Confession. He doesn't remember, did he tell Eileen that he felt that way? Teodoro, Abigail? Nathalie?


“She's a lot more like you than I'd care to admit,” comes a voice that wasn't there in Antarctica or Fort Daedalus. Smoky and smooth, illuminated by the glow of a desk lamp with her feet kicked up and a crooked smile on her pursed lips. “It really makes you wonder, Francois, what it's all really about, doesn't it?”

It's been a long time.


“I mean, you've had it both ways,” Sarisa says with a rise of dark brows. “You've been host to the light of life and a walking cemetery. But that girl, my girl, she's got life and death in the palm of her hands.” Sarisa’s brows knit together, blue eyes studying Francois.

“And here you are, dying again.” Sarisa’s smile sags some.

What’re you doing?

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