It Smells Cold
rating: +105+x

graveyardshifter 08/12/2017 (Sat) 18:21:12 #90574322

I hate walk-in freezers. I've been working in retail and food service for five years, and I will do my damnedest to never go into one.

It's not because of the cold or the enclosed space. It's not even because of the fact that I'm afraid I'll get trapped in there and freeze to death— literally every freezer I've been in has a handle on the inside, and a few of them even have guidelines on the inside walls to tell you what to do if you're trapped. In the case of something like a Wal-Mart, they'll literally tell you to just move merchandise and climb out through the doors the customers use if you get trapped back there. Dinged-up ice cream is less expensive than a wrongful death suit.

It's because of the smell. If you've ever lived farther north than Kentucky, you'll know that cold has a smell. It's dry, harsh, almost metallic, and when the temperature gets low enough, it can be like trying to breathe through a nosebleed. It's suffocating, and it's worse in the artificial cold of a walk-in freezer, because it mingles with other scents— freezer-burned hamburger patties, cold plastic, ice forming on metal.

A few years ago, I worked in a big box warehouse store— I don't think I can legally say which one. About six months into the job, right before I got certified to do the forklift, I tried explaining all of this to one of my co-workers. One of my managers— a guy named Ryan who has less brain cells than syllables in his first name— walked by as I was talking about this, called me a pussy. "A little cold never killed no one", he said in an accent that would make Daisy Duke think he was a hick.

On top of being a dumbass, he was vindictive— when I had started working there, I'd snapped at him because he'd picked up an unstable pallet of drinks while on the forklift, and the entire thing spilled over, right as I was coming back to start stacking it down into a more stable position. I apologized to him (as you should when you snap at a manager) but he's held a grudge since. I know this because the instant I got my forklift license, I got put on freezer truck duty every time it came in.

The truck only came once every few days, and there were a couple of other operators I worked with regularly— Jake and Lisa were their names. There were two freezers in this store, and one cooler— let's call them Ice Cream, Meat, and Milk. I would do either Meat or Milk, but Jake or Lisa would always insist on taking Ice Cream, even it it meant slowing things down because we have to move pallets around. And they always made sure that one of them came in whenever the freezer truck came— if Jake was off, Lisa would be in, and vice-versa.

Then, Jake's grandmother died. Don't know how, but he called in for bereavement leave the same day that Lisa had to go home after she threw up right in the middle of stocking the snack aisle. I helped take her up to the break room to cool off, and she just kept apologizing to me. When Ryan came up with her ID so she could clock out early, I heard her begging him to not let me do the Ice Cream freezer by myself.

So, naturally, he forces me to do the Ice Cream freezer by myself. This sucks for several reasons— for one, Ice Cream is the oldest freezer in the store, and the opening is small enough that I can't take my forklift. So I have to take the pallet to the door, take it off the forklift, and go in by myself with a pallet jack.

For another, it's dark. I knew that much from looking at it from the outside— the actual racks where the ice cream is kept is lit up just fine, but beyond that is pitch black. I've watched Jake and Lisa do it a bunch of times, and the only light I see in there is when they open the door and wheel in the pallets.

For a third… the smell of cold I talked about? Even opening the freezer from the customer side, it reeks of that. I actually had to check that my nose wasn't bleeding after I bought ice cream from the freezer there. There's a reason that we don't really sell any of it, even in the dead of summer.

The first pallet comes off the truck. It's for Ice Cream, eight feet high, at least four wide. Ryan sneers at me as I go to do it by myself, and a few of the more experienced staff are just looking at me like they're seeing a cancer patient as they're being taken off life support.

When I finally open the freezer, it's like I just ran head-first into a brick wall. The darkness, the cold, the stench of frost, it's overwhelming. I have to bow my head and breathe through my mouth as I push the pallet in, having to crane my head to look around it to make sure I don't bump into anything.
There was nothing to bump into. To the left of the door, there's a set of shelves where you put damaged freezer items— Lisa had told me about it when I found an industrial sized container of ice cream in electronics, melting right on top of the case where we keep the iPhones, before taking it there herself.

But beyond that? Pitch blackness. The freezer is maybe twenty-five feet long, and about eight wide, when you account for the amount of space the shelving takes up. I put my hand out, and it stuck to the back wall of the freezer for a moment. But I move it a few more inches to the side, and it trails off into the dark air.

I look back, and through the plastic curtain that covers the freezer, I see the shape of Ryan looming there. I can almost make out the smug look on his face as he nods for me to go further in.

The floor— no, the ground below me crunches as I walk. There's ice everywhere, of the consistency one would expect if they took a cheese grater to a glacier. There's enough light from the entrance that I can see that the ice is black. Soon, after about fifteen feet, the light fades, and I'm in darkness.

"Keep going!" Ryan shouts, and I can tell he's on the verge of laughter. Probably expecting me to crack, to come running out so I can get written up for failing to do a duty assigned by a manager or something.

Another six feet in. I can tell that the freezer is bigger on the inside, but it's not, like, a full-on pocket dimension. Already, I can see the lights of the store from the other side of the freezer doors. The light there is bright enough that I can almost make out the individual brands of ice cream.

Then, my pallet hits something, and gets stuck. I try adjusting the jack a few times. Nothing. I try pulling it back and ramming it forward, thinking I got caught on a patch of ice or a splinter from the pallet. No dice. I try pushing forward, and I hear a an organic crunch, as if I'd just run the pallet jack over a large head of lettuce. It moves after that. I try to ignore the trail of red the pallet leaves behind.

After about twenty minutes, I reach the far end of the freezer. Things are semi-normal now, but the stench of cold has grown stronger, and is underlined by something else— and I see what it is.

I can't tell if he was tied to the shelves, or if he had died leaning on it and had just frozen to them. But before me was what I could only describe as some kind of mummy— a brown, desiccated body, covered in frost. At its feet are a collection of items— a few coins, some half- sandwiches, a frozen cup of water, even a hundred-dollar bill. The mummy looked like it was expecting me to leave something, too.

I dropped the pallet, first of all. Then, I rooted through my pockets, looking for anything to give him, because I wasn't sure if I would make it out if I didn't. The longer I rooted, the stronger the smell of cold became, and I wasn't sure if my nose was bleeding and freezing over, or if it just felt like it was. Eventually, I decided to leave behind the Payday bar I had been saving for my break.

The smell faded, and I took the jack and booked it. Ryan, the fucking asshole, made like he was going to slam the door to the freezer in my face, but stopped with barely enough room to let out me and the pallet jack— I heard it scrape against the metal of the door on my way out.

I had to go back in there two more times. One of the more experienced staff made damn sure that Ryan wasn't there. There were more smears on the floor, more ice, each time I went back in. On the third trip, I saw that my payday bar had the wrapper undone, and it had teeth marks in it. The hundred-dollar bill was gone, too.

The good news is that Ryan got fired for that, within, like, two days. It made local news, even. The official company line was that he had been attempting to 'haze an employee' which was pretty much the case. I got taken off of freezer truck duty, and my next paycheck had a massive bonus on it— it was over twice what it usually was. I could tell it was hush money.

That was two years ago, now. I never went back into the Ice Cream freezer, nobody expected me to, and nobody explained what was up with it. I quit late last year, after I got maced by a customer during Black Friday. I put it ouy of my mind— then I found a thread here documenting missing persons cases by state (started by alexandriahamilton, thread is here). There's an article about a guy from my area, worked there before forklifts became small or maneuverable enough to do much beyond putting stuff in the shelves. Worked the graveyard shift, even. Apparently he just vanished after unloading the freezer truck.

horushorsecollar 08/13/2017 (Sun) 15:24:08 #09652887

Dude, I think we worked at the same place!!! It's near Route 250 in Ohio, yeah? I worked there back in '05-06, I KNEW there was something creepy about that place. Never worked the freezer myself (I was cashier) but I always avoided the ice cream, because it smelled weird!

Ryan worked there, too, as a cashier— he got 'promoted' to graveyard shift manager about six months after I started, and he was a massive douchebag, but I still shot the shit with him on the regular. I'm actually meeting up with him in a couple of days for drinks, I'll ask him about this.

horushorsecollar 08/15/2017(Tue) 01:15:39 #98630530

Managed to talk to him. Asked him about the freezer, and he took a long swig of beer, sighed, and shook his head, before he asked one question: "Did graveyardshifter tell you?" (I'm putting your handle here because I think he used your real name.)

I told him yeah, I read about it from him. He said that it had been there since as long as he had worked there, maybe as long as the store had been there. Management didn't want to risk knocking down the freezer and unleashing whatever the hell was in there. When they did maintenance on the door, the mummy made sounds for a few weeks. That's around the time they started playing music in the store during daylight hours.

graveyardshfiter 08/15/2017 (Tue) 11:52:06 #98631237

Well, that explains a lot. Right after he was fired, they installed something called a "Free-osk". It's a machine that spits out free samples of products when you scan it with an app, and it plays a message, on loop, ever ten or fifteen seconds, telling you to buy the product loud enough that you can hear it from across the store. For about three weeks after it got installed, it couldn't be turned off period, even during night shift, and we would get written up if we unplugged it. They fed us a story about a glitch with the software, since it was supposed to turn off automatically after 8:30 (closing time).

I decided to try it out for myself one day, since it was giving out sample sizes of shampoo, and I needed travel-sized stuff for a trip I was taking. When you scan the app, the machine stops playing the message for about ten seconds while it processes and dispenses it. In the time between the message stopping and the product being dispensed, I heard someone whisper:

"I can't feel my nose, help, I can't feel anything, I can't feel my nose, I can't feel anything…"

I looked up at the freezer. The door was ajar, and the stench of frost was overwhelming. The bottle of shampoo I picked up burned cold, and I almost screamed as I dropped it. But I couldn't. I was frozen in an entirely different way.

The mummy had turned its head to look at me. It had no eyes, but I swear to god, it was looking at me. Its lips were moving, and it just kept on saying it was cold.

The machine's advertising started back up, and the door slammed shut by itself. I called in sick for the next week.

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