There are men who can kill without thinking. I’m not one of them. I have always had to think a great deal about it.

I can say he looked like a man: not bipedal so much as segmented. He did have legs, but they were part of his disguise. He did not use them for propulsion; they floated under him like the pieces of a chrysalis.

The students had been meeting in the icehouse, which is what it had been before refrigeration. (Many times it has seemed to me that my work mirrors that of the ice trade, which peaked in the 1890’s. I put things in the basement to keep them cold. And like them, I have had it made special.)

To kill without thinking must be the greatest joy. One minute you’re eating breakfast and the next you’re killing a man, without transition. Transitions are difficult for me, which is one of the reasons why I write this story.

The room insulates quite well, and so at first, when I saw how the temperature would increase when he entered, I assumed it was a blast from the radiator.

But no, he generated that heat internally. As far as I know, he still does.

I barked at him in my rage when I saw that he was writing on the chalkboard in his language. It is not a human language, you understand.

“Are you hungry?” he asked.

I pushed him against the chalkboard, but he was quite strong and held me back.

“You should eat,” he said, and gave me one of the cookies that he was always munching on in class.

I left at once, staring at the cookie. I was tempted to eat it, but I did not. Perhaps it would have been easy to join his legion if I had done so.

I threw it into the grass.

Overhead, the sun was deliriously bright: midsummer. Suddenly, I could not remember where I was. Canada, I assumed. The angle of the light indicated we were far north.

I was a graduate student at the university. There was a thing in the icehouse. Like a good Canadian, I should report it, but he was already well established in the department. He had received a grant; he had many teeth.

I had good reason to be afraid of him.

At the government office to receive my social insurance number, they had asked me if I was a twin or triplet. Suddenly, it occurred to me that there might be others, for how could he have come here alone?

For weeks, I deliberated: should I kill him in the icehouse or outside it?

The place seemed to give him some kind of power; if there were others, surely he would call them there.

There was also the problem of my advisor: having blood on my hands could make my graduation difficult. But one of the open secrets of university is that its privileges always increase, never diminish, with each successive generation. Likely, if I buried the body with honors, I could say it had been a duel. Anyway, there might not be a body.

He was the main problem: how could I overpower him? He was a man who seemed to be able to control light itself.

The bureaucracy was no help: I could hardly report a monster resident in the graduate school; the place was already full of them. Nor would it be politic to sabotage his research: he was well-liked in the laboratory.

No, I decided. Killing him was the only way to rid the icehouse of his curse, and perhaps even free the township entirely from his race of beings.

The government could, in its wisdom, invite all manner of foreign entities from realms beyond our ken to assist in their diplomacies. And I, as a citizen, could also work to slay them. In this fashion, English liberties are preserved in Canada.

Sometimes I wonder who I am justifying this to; I know you likely don’t believe me. I suspect it is to myself: the writing serves me for my transition from student to knight.


The colonial government dug tunnels beneath the university to protect themselves from bombardment; now they’re used for other things. I know he uses them too, after the lights have gone out and the icehouse is closed.

The lights of the entrance seem to dance against the concrete, as though they are ethereal fireflies. But it is only a fluorescent with an angry bulb.

His footsteps are in the grime on the stair—things which should not be—but there are many things I do not understand in Canada.

I duck my head and enter the passageway. The place is very warm; I know he uses it to recharge, like a reptile in the sun. Almost I can hear his breath; no, it is the university engines. Humming the town to sleep.

I have brought my knife and a clove of garlic; not that he is some supernatural vampire.  But I find I am superstitious, and the curled white papers of the bulb protruding from my pocket have a soothing effect on me.

At once, he is in the passage, standing like a beam.

We watch each other for a moment, like Gawain and the Green Knight. I almost expect him to remove his head. Perhaps he is an Indian ghost; but there is too much other evidence.

“You’ll be in trouble, Robin. I work for the same people you do. You know I’ve been invited here.”

I take out my knife; it is almost invisible in the dark.

“Your language, what is it?”

“I draw the pieces of the vestibule we are creating here; don’t you know how special a place this is? My work will do nothing to harm you. It may even help you.”

“You’re lying.”

He leans then against the wall as though in a feint, and I rush towards him, but he is ready and blocks my hand with his wrist. He is so strong.

I can feel his breath on my cheek, like the Norwegian glacier, the chunks the traders sold down the Atlantic to all the wealthy who would buy.

I twist my wrist and drive it up into his chest; I feel no give, but it does go inside. He cries out.

The man twists under my arm, a well-muscled cat, and swells into the yellow and black light of the place, and then he runs.


The northern lights come now in midsummer; I can stare at them for hours on my roof. Their shapes are almost like his face.

It is absurd to expect that my actions will have no consequences, yet I have seen none. I am certain only of one thing: my studies of the occult will have in future to be more discreet. My advisor has begun to give me strange looks.