Author: R. J. Erbacher

He is known by many names. Most people call him Jack. He prefers Old Zero. His campaign starts on the first nippy morning in late September when the average person wakes with a chill in their bones and turns the heat on for the first time in six months, wrapping up in a warm sweater. At this point he is just a scout, picking and choosing his moments to catch glimpses of the onslaught ahead.

But as October really gets going and pumpkins adorn front porches his work is in full swing. Bloodying the healthy leaves with stabbing pricks causing most to run red, orange or yellow, draining their life’s fluid.

By November he’s not even attempting to hide his presence. He is strong and vibrant and on the hunt. Furry mammals take refuge from him in hollow pine trees and underground caves. Small shrubbery goes dormant. Yet most people shrug off his fore-coming with silly scarves or a pair of gloves. At this point he is joined by his comrade Boreas, that old harsh tyrant, assisting with his sharp tool in stripping the dying carcasses of the trees down to their skeletons and leaving them denuded so he can do his dirty work. And on exposed human skin, Bo knows pain.

His full arsenal is on display in December and his army is complete when the fat bastard Ullr joins them as he travels down from the north and pounds relentless with his white reign of fury. The three, led by Old Zero, start taking lives by any means possible. With their combined strength they bite into flesh, snap limbs and bone, cripple anybody or anything that dares come up against them and their insurmountable force. Their name is on everyone’s lips and they are cursed for their tactics.

The war is full-on as the new year turns and the masses finally begin to fight them with their primitive tools of shovels and ice scrapers. How feeble their attempts are. The death squad can wreak havoc on the highways shoving cars into crashing piles of metal. Rip trees in half or just yank them from their moorings. They take great pleasure in applying pressure onto weakened structures until roofs cave in. And they snatch life away from every possible stranded passerby or homeless gent who does not respect their cold bitter power. For months they rule the world with an icy iron fist and their battle seems victorious on all fronts.

The first to tire is Ullr, dragging his hulking mass around wears him down and he leaves suddenly to retreat back to his northern home, sulking away battered and spent. They try to soldier on, but their impact lacks the aggressiveness that they presented as a unit. Soon Bo has blown himself out and he can no longer sustain the ugliness he once delivered with extreme prejudice. Old Zero is left to fight the battle alone clinging to what is left of his strength.

However, he now has a formidable enemy as the bitch Persephone joins the little people with her emergence in the spring and she bolsters their weak demeanor with her newness, rallying their defenses and raising her mighty hands, armed with thorny flowers and stinging bees.

The final blow delivered, Old Zero drags his wounded body off to a remote corner of the arctic tundra to curl up next to an ice mountain and die. But demigods like him never die; they postpone, they abide, they wait…then return with a vengeance. When his cold heart will be ready for the next wintry battle.