The Kids finally see the Frozen Cave Girl.
Nina turned back with a handful of tickets, and we automatically lined up so she could hand them out. They were small, pink, and just said “Admit one”— the kind of tickets that you can buy at the stationary store any day of the week. I was expecting something else: parchment, maybe, and beautiful old fashioned lettering with scrolls and spirals. Something you could put in your best cigar box as a souvenir of your visit to the Strangeness of the World. I put mine in my pocket anyway, after I showed it to the top hat lady and she waved us inside.
Inside the tent it was small and a little musty. You couldn’t hear the rain. The Victrola stood on a metal folding chair off to one side. And there were lights– lots of little white Christmas lights strung all around.. A faint chugging noise in the background explained it before Lee whispered “emergency generator”. In the middle of the tent was a large, shiny black box, sitting on a stand covered a piece of slightly ratty looking black velvet. It looked like a cheap sarcophagus.
The man with the horns and tail (they looked so real) followed us in and shut the tent flap. He started the Victrola with a little remote attached to his belt. (Didn’t they have cranks?) Anyway, more old fashioned music started to play, full of authentic crackles—sad music, this time, with accordions and clarinets and mandolins in it. Then he left the tent. We were alone with the sarcophagus and we all turned to look at it sort of automatically.
Smoke or vapor started to rise. The wooden sides of the box dropped down, and a spotlight came on, a cold bluish light. There, in a cloud of pale blue mist, was what looked like a giant ice cube, and inside it was the Frozen Cave Girl.
My first thought was that the banner wasn’t a bad likeness. She was a tall girl—a young grownup really, like Nina’s cousin Shelly and our friend Iowa. She could have been a college girl like them if she wasn’t wearing a tiger skin for a dress. (The bone you could probably get away with, considering the styles.) Her hair was black and wavy and she had the remains of a tan. And yeah, her feet were big, and calloused like she’d spent a lot of time walking barefooted. I took a deep breath. She wasn’t scary, maybe even a little sad. And she didn’t look like she was wax. I tried, I really tried to see all the ways that she was fake.
We were standing around the block of ice like we were at a funeral. Nina said that she wasn’t exactly beautiful, and that made it more realistic. Pounce said the tiger skin was really a skin, and the stripes didn’t look painted on. Mr. Spit touched the ice and came away with his hand wet. Lee didn’t want to look at her at all; he lifted up one side of the box (just wood padded with insulation, painted gloss black) and the velvet drape and showed us a cart with wheels, and a pretty ordinary refrigeration unit, and a tray of dry ice with a lid that opened when the box did. I stepped back and started writing all of this in my notebook.
Murphy just stared and stared and didn’t say a word. Until he saw her eyes open.
“She’s real,” he whispered. “I knew it, I knew it all the time. She’s real. And she’s alive.”