Brett brushed his black hair from his eyes, took his glasses off, cleaned them with the hem of his black t-shirt. He blinked, blue eyes dilating. The computer screen stared.
“Free Doom refrigerator; pick up only. Text Jay for details.”
He scratched his nose and coughed. Was it a typo? If it was, what possible word could have been misspelled? “Room. Zoom.” He paused and thought, “Dorm fridge?”
The hole where his fridge had been stared at him in his otherwise fully furnished kitchen. He’d just bought a modest ranch home in Towson and it was as he unloaded the last cardboard box from the U-Haul outside that he’d heard a loud shudder. When he investigated, he found the fridge warm and unmoving, like a fresh corpse.
His phone in his hands, his fingers rapidly typed: Is the fridge still available?
The phone buzzed immediately. Sure is. Want to come by and pick it up?”
Seems too good to be true. It’s free?
Yes sir. Free Doom Refrigerator. No catches.
Brett looked at the empty place in his kitchen, thought about his painfully lean bank account. Did you mean dorm fridge?
Something like that. See you soon, Brett.
Brett left minutes later in the rented U-Haul he had until the next morning, directions received and displayed on his phone.
He stopped in front of a ranch house like his own: wide lawn, two bay windows, white-and-green paint, window boxes full of daises and marigolds, man-made pond in a far corner of the yard, a set of stone paths leading to it. A statue was in the middle of the pond, water tumbling from its mouth. He was too far away to see clearly, but he smiled at the tinkling sound.
The door opened. The man was tall, broad shouldered and strong jawed. He wore no shirt, his chest sculpted, glowing a sunburnt red. When he grinned, his teeth sparkled. He held out a large hand with dirty fingernails. “Hi, Brett. I’m Jay.” His voice was deep, mesmerizing. Had Brett mentioned his name before this?
The next moment, Brett was shaking Jay’s hand. It was strong, like a friendly vise. “I’m here for the dorm fridge.”
“Yes, of course. The Doom fridge.” Jay ushered Brett inside.
Inside, the house was hot. To their left was a living room, a simple futon facing a small television, a painting of grease-painted clowns above it. To the right, the kitchen had black-and-white tile and a stainless steel stove. They stood in a little foyer with a large black refrigerator, plastic still coating it. Jay patted it and grinned. “Here it is.”
“It looks heavy.”
Jay used one hand to rock the fridge; he smelled of smoke. “Between the two of us (and I know you’re a tough cookie), I’m sure we can do it.”
“Right,” Brett said, his eyes oddly unfocused. The doom fridge glinted dully at him. “I’m a tough cookie.”
“That’s what I said, good buddy.”
Jay grabbed the top of the fridge and pulled it toward him. Brett grabbed the bottom half. Jay was right. It wasn’t heavy at all. They were at the U-Haul in moments.
“Is this a good fridge?” he asked.
“It’s a Doom fridge, good buddy.”
“And it’s free?”
Jay laughed. “It’s amazing what people don’t hear. Yeah, it’s free.”
While Brett unlocked the U-Haul and rolled down the ramp, Jay held it by himself for a few seconds. “You’re strong,” Brett said.
“Oh, I don’t know, partner. You did plenty of work.” Jay smiled and clapped his back. His hand radiated heat and Brett winced.
“So, we’re done?”
“Yes sir, good buddy. Enjoy your Doom.” Jay put out his hand. Again, it crushed in the most pleasant way. When he smiled, his teeth shone rhythmically. Brett blinked and blinked.
Suddenly, the front door was closed and it was night. He shook his head; how long had he been standing there? The street was quiet, the ranch house dark. No cricket chirps, no distant din of traffic, just the steady stream of water.
Using the stone path, Brett went for a closer look. Bending he squinted at the pond and raised an eyebrow. “Creepy.”
The angel statue in the center of the pond had large, eagle’s wings and two prominent horns. It was massively hung, down to its knees; its tail trailed into the water. The water that shot from its laughing mouth seemed black.
Brett backed away. When nothing jumped at him, he got into the U-Haul. He couldn’t drive home fast enough.
Once home, it took an hour to get the fridge inside. He lifted it by increments, then dragged it through the door and into the kitchen. Sweating, he hooked it into the wall, and smiled at its purr. “Let’s open you up,” he said, ripping at the protective covering. It fell off easily, as if eager. Of course, imagining that fridges had feelings was crazy-think.
“Wait,” he said, one hand tensed on the black handle. What the hell was a Doom fridge anyway? He couldn’t remember Jay’s answer, just his sparkling teeth, crushing grip and the odd odor of brimstone.
He frowned. Was it his imagination, or was the fridge oddly cold, like he held an icicle in his hand, full of sharp edges. He pulled his hand away … or thought he did. Though he pulled, his hand refused to budge. Instead, the door cracked open.
Howling winds lashed from the tiny opening, carrying dust and screams. “Oh god,” he moaned. He pushed and the door gave, a little. His heart quickened and he reached into his pocket for his phone, to call for help, but with fingers suddenly thick and numb, it slipped and shattered on the kitchen tile. As it did, the door swung open, the gale intensifying. He screamed, closing his eyes.
Silence; Brett’s eyes opened. An ordinary refrigerator faced him, lit by a simple bulb. The handle was smooth and cool. He closed the door, then let go and stepped back. He shook his head, suddenly tired. He had imagined everything. He felt his head for signs of fever and resolved to forget the whole thing.
He left the kitchen, returning with a dust pan. The fridge stood there, immobile, door firmly closed. He bent and brushed at the mess that was his phone. From the corner of his eye, something twitched.
“What was that?” he asked, his head jerking up. The house was empty, but did the fridge door hang open slightly? He nudged it closed and continued sweeping.
When something flickered again, just out of his field of vision, Brett brandished the brush like a knife. Mouth tight, he bent a final time to get a piece that had rolled just under the fridge door. He reached with the brush and kicked up a dust cloud.
Brett sneezed, the brush flying back, snagging the bottom lip of the fridge door, pulling it into the crown of his head. He fell back, eyes unfocused.
From his back, he looked up through heavily lidded eyes. The doom fridge loomed, impossibly tall and wide, the door hanging open, tipping forward, hungry.