The Road from FrostCon

Submitted into Contest #190 in response to: Write a story about a fandom... view prompt

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Funny Friendship

"Thanks again for taking me with you," Veronica said from the passenger seat. "Chuck swore he'd never set foot at another comic book convention."

Elle stared into the snow swirling past the headlights like stars at light speed. "I wasn't about to let you miss the cast of Twenty-Sided Tales." She glanced in the rear view, though it was functionally useless when the backseat was piled floor-to-ceiling with Veronica's haul. "…Speaking of Chuck, how are you gonna explain all this stuff? I thought you guys were saving for a house."

"We are." Veronica stared out the window at the dark, empty snow fields. "It's just taking me a little longer to come up with my half."

A lot longer, Elle thought, keeping her eyes on the road and biting the inside of her cheek to keep from replying. Yet somehow, Veronica always had the money for shiny new toys: expensive cosplays, an army of bobbleheads, the art plastered all over her walls—whatever new officially licensed geeky thing caught her eye. Wandering through the exhibit hall at FrostCon with Veronica had been almost heartbreaking for Elle. While her friend bought something at seemingly every booth, Elle had to watch and wish. The ticket alone for the convention had left a mere fourteen dollars in her bank account.

"As long as I sneak it into the apartment a little at a time," Veronica continued, "Chuck will never notice it hasn't always been there. You know, you should have gone back for that Carrie Fisher autograph. I know you've wanted one forever."

"Not if I want to replace this thing before I have to drive it like Fred Flintstone," Elle said, gesturing to the steering wheel of her 2005 Elantra. As she did, her eyes flicked to the dashboard in momentary surprise: as if she had cursed herself, the check engine light was now on.

Elle knew her car. This was either nothing to worry about, or an immediate emergency. Hoping for the former, she discreetly started watching the road signs in case she needed to know where she was. "Where are you going to hide this stuff while you're slowly sneaking it into the house?"

"Well…I was hoping you could—" Veronica stopped midsentence as the engine sputtered, then went quiet.

Tingling with adrenaline, Elle navigated onto the shoulder as the car coasted to a halt in the snowbank.

Veronica was already pulling up her phone. "No signal." The windshield started to fog from her short, panicked breaths.

"That's because we're in the middle of nowhere," Elle answered.

"But…someone will come past eventually, right? A snowplow, maybe?"

"Maybe." Privately, she doubted that a two-lane road in the middle of rural farmland would see a snowplow for several hours. "Stay here." Elle zipped her jacket up to her nose and stepped out of the car.

The wind cut immediately into her face, stinging her cheeks and turning her ears numb. Elle held up her phone and swung it around a bit, but there was no signal to be found. Heading back to the trunk, she dug through all of Veronica's souvenir plushies, past her spare tire, to find her emergency kit, and set up the reflective signals behind her bumper. Rounding to the front, she popped the hood, lit the space up with her phone, and stared at it, dumbfounded.

Elle could name for you every captain of the Starship Enterprise in chronological order, but she had no idea how to diagnose a busted engine.

Leaving the hood up, she huddled back into the car and turned on her hazard lights, massaging her earlobes and cheeks to lessen the stinging pain. Snow was already settling on the windshield.

Elle tried the engine again. It made a few feeble putts, then gave up.

"What do we do?" Veronica asked, her voice trembling.

"Signal for help?" Elle suggested helplessly.

"Like…build a fire?" Veronica asked. "Do you know how to do that?"

"Um…" Elle's eyes roamed around the car until they rested on its cigarette lighter. She'd never used it before for anything but charging her phone, but now seemed like the time. She took her phone adapter out of the socket, grabbed the lighter from the cupholder, and shoved it in. "Maybe. Saw this in a movie once." She turned the key so that the car would run on battery power, and they immediately got blasted in the face with frigid air.

"Ack!" Veronica yelped. "The heat's broken!"

"The heat comes from the engine," Elle sputtered as she slapped at the climate controls. "No engine…cold air." Once the blast stopped, she thought ahead to the next step. "We need something to burn." She looked around the car once more, and her gaze fell on the back seat.

Veronica's jaw dropped. "Elle. No."

"Do you want to live to attend the next FrostCon?" Elle snapped, seizing a handful of items from the back seat.

"But, the Sailor Moon poster set—Elle, that Yoda art print is limited edition—No! You can't take Detective Comics #38, that's the first appearance of—"

Elle shoved Veronica back into her seat and pulled the armload of paper and cardboard out into the swirling snow. Then, she touched the lighter to them and set them ablaze, pausing a moment to warm her numb fingers against the very expensive flames.

As she bundled back into the car, Elle could feel that the temperature inside was already dropping, and she had no way to heat it back up. At least the car still blocked the wind that sliced through her jacket while she built the fire. She wrapped her arms around herself and tucked her hands under, hoping to rid herself of the dagger-like sensation of early-stage frostbite in her fingers.

Veronica huddled in her seat, sniffling dejectedly. "Are you done destroying my stuff?"

Elle watched the smoke plume rise outside the driver's side window. It was a good distress signal, but was it enough? It sort of disappeared against the dark, cloudy sky. She wasn't sure anyone would even notice it.

She scanned the backseat again, another idea forming in her mind. "No," She answered Veronica. She grabbed a few more things from the back seat and started cobbling them together.

*****

When Elle returned to the car, she couldn't feel her toes, and her entire body was convulsing with shivers, but she was satisfied with her handiwork. Veronica's bright pink Power Ranger costume was now flying in the air like a kite, tied to the end of Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth. Elle could fly it from the comparative warmth of the car through a slightly opened window. In case the bright color wasn't enough, she'd taken Veronica's battery-operated miniature Bat Signal, and lined it up to illuminate the Power Ranger suit perfectly. Someone had to see that, right?

"Elle, you okay? You don't look so good."

"I'm a little cold," Elle slurred. She couldn't feel most of her face, and her lips weren't quite listening to her.

"I think you have hypothermia. What do we do?"

Elle glanced around the car for anything she could use to add some layers of warmth. The pile of tee shirts, maybe? Perhaps if she piled up all Veronica's new plushies around herself…

One particular plush, toy, though, loomed above all the rest. Among Veronica's many purchases, blocking the majority of the view through the rear view mirror, was a life-size stuffed tauntaun.

Tauntauns, Elle reminded herself, are famous among the geek fandoms for precisely one thing. When stranded in the inhospitable night of an ice-covered planet in a galaxy far, far away, the hero of Elle's favorite sci-fi series was quickly succumbing to the cold. To keep him alive, his compatriot dragged over the carcass of their recently deceased woolly, bipedal steed—the tauntaun—and sliced it open from neck to navel, cocooning his friend inside the belly of the beast to keep his body temperature up until help arrived.

Veronica's eyes widened as she followed Elle's gaze and realized what she was contemplating. "No. This is where I draw the line."

"We're gonna be stuck here a while," Elle pointed out, her voice shaking as her body quaked from the cold. "The car's not gonna get any warmer."

"I don't care!" Veronica retorted. "You are not cutting apart my tauntaun!"

As Elle drew in a frigid breath to protest, a wash of light temporarily blinded them, brightness spilling over the car and everything in it. Elle craned her neck to look through the back window at the source: two headlights, affixed to what had to be a very tall vehicle. She leaned unsteadily over the car's center console to get a better look, and noticed the rotating yellow beacon on top of the vehicle: the unmistakable sign of a tow truck.

Veronica jumped at a knock on her window. A bearded face leaned into view, wearing a faded, frayed ball cap that read Valhalla Towing.

"That's quite the distress signal you ladies put together," the tow truck driver said once Veronica rolled down the window. "I'd say it saved your lives."

Veronica turned to glower at Elle.

Elle glowered back. "I guess the tauntaun lives another day."

March 23, 2023 02:52

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5 comments

Amanda Lieser
20:18 Apr 04, 2023

Hey Laura, Oh my goodness, the language in the story made me absolutely frigid! I liked that you chose to make this an adventure about two friends, trying to enjoy life. I thought that you captured the way that each of them perceive the world in a very interesting way with each of them have their own set of unique problems – whether it be about money or hiding trinkets from a fun day out. However, they unite when things get tough. I hope this is a story they can laugh over in the future. I thought you did a great job of explaining the diff...

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Jody S
00:38 Mar 30, 2023

Great story and the tension moved it forward nicely! Great interpretation of the prompt!!

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Kevin V
23:48 Mar 29, 2023

Hi Laura, this is a really cool story! (Pun intended...). So much to like since there is so much pop culture in it. Loved this: - Veronica's bright pink Power Ranger costume was now flying in the air like a kite, tied to the end of Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth. And to consider cutting open the TaunTaun! Life size! That is a lot of stuffing! Spot on story for the prompt! Thanks for sharing and for the smiles!

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Kathryn Kahn
21:07 Mar 29, 2023

I liked the metaphor of burning things to stay alive, things that used to seem so valuable.

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Glenda Toews
01:18 Mar 29, 2023

I enjoyed this piece because I was imagining the person who would drive up and see all the signals, the thought of it made me laugh. :D

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