Wizards in tan uniforms arrived at the factory in an orderly line. By 9AM they had already filled the rows and rows of benches under the high metal ceiling and begun to make ice. Several large motivational pictures were posted throughout the factory’s interior and a large, slowly ticking clock was mounted in the center of each wall. Forty minutes for lunch and two fifteen-minute coffee breaks (one at 10:15 AM and one at 3:15 PM). Their coffee was bland but high in caffeine.
The process of summoning ice was quite difficult, even for those with the knack to control the elements. It required reciting magical incantations and staring at cups for ten minutes in complete concentration before the tap water inside would even begin to grow chilly. Getting the water to freeze entirely took another twenty, depending of course on the mood of the wizard.
When the foreman saw a cup had frozen, he would come by and empty it into a rickety wooden box. Then he would ring a bell and an apprentice would rush in for a refill so the ice wizard could start again.
All of this was fine (if perhaps a bit dull) for the wizards. The pay was good and the union had come through for dental and two weeks of vacation a year. It was all fine, at least, until Bill (the Magnificent) made an announcement during the first break of the day, when all of the wizards were huddled in small groups near boiling pots of coffee to warm their hands.
“We’re finished,” he said, holding a copy of the Wall Street Journal.
“Why?” Sally (the Master of the Tundra) asked.
Bill thrust the paper up in front of the coffee pot and all of the nearby wizards bunched in close to read the headlines.
SCIENTISTS DISCOVER COOLING PROPERTIES OF FREON
NEW YORK, NY – Cornell Scientist Dr. Raymond Farhofer announced Thursday that his laboratory successfully carried out an experiment where Freon was compressed to a liquid using an electric current…
“We’re finished,” Bill said.
The foreman announced over the crackly intercom that break time was over and the wizards all shuffled back to forming ice. However, the ice just wouldn’t come for Bill. For hours his tap water remained as tepid as it had been when the apprentice poured it into his glass. He kept thinking about Dr. Farhofer’s experiment and how he would have to get a new job. Unless something was done.
During the second break of the day, the wizards once again crowded around coffee pots.
“We need to do something,” Bill said. “We can’t just sit by and be taken over by some tube of compressed gas.”
Most of the wizards mumbled in agreement.
“So,” Bill said, “I think we should go cover his laboratory in a sheet of ice so thick that his work is lost forever. It’s the only logical conclusion.”
The wizards decided to carpool to the laboratory. They waited until Sunday afternoon, when they were reasonably sure most of the researchers would be gone.
Sally tied up the security guy with cords and left him gagged and squirming in the guard shack. The other wizards concentrated with all of their power and years of training on making the building cold. Frosty. Nordic. The frozen ninth circle of Hell.
Ice began to build on the walls. Layer by layer it increased in thickness and decreased in temperature. One foot and then two and then an iceberg of Titanic-sinking proportions. When they finished the wizards went back to their apartments to get some rest for work the next day.
The morning papers announced that Dr. Farhofer’s laboratory had been frozen solid with ice. Analysts predicted that it would not melt for another two, maybe even three years. The security guard could only give vague descriptions of frail, gray-haired assailants who came in the night with cords.
On Monday morning the wizards exchanged confident glances with each other around the coffee pots.
Bill the Magnificent sat at his chair in the factory still trying to freeze his first cup of water of the day. The ice, when it finally started to form, was so cracked and brittle that it was barely suitable for stuffing in a cooler to keep cheap beer from going bad.
James Reinebold is a video game developer who lives near San Diego.