The aisles of the warehouse store wound around like a worm committing self-abuse. High up on one shelf sat a fifty-five gallon drum. All frosty white and silver on a midnight blue and black background, letters spelled out “Winter” like that was the name of a new energy drink.
“Why would anyone want a can of Winter that big?” asked little Jodie.
“Suppose you wanted to make it winter all over the world, all at once?” asked his father.
“I think you’d need a lot more than one can,” said Jodie’s older sister, Miranda.
“Well, yes,” said their father. “You’d need a lot of cans all over the world, hundreds or thousands of them, probably. Then you could open all the cans at once.
“Normally, it’s only winter at the north end of the world, or the south. But if you had enough cans of Winter, you could make it freezing cold, north and south, and even in the middle.”
The children nodded. Their father was wise, if a little strange. They remembered when he had taught them how to use tiny demolition charges to blow up their toys. Little pieces of Transformers and Bratz blown sky-high, while they watched wearing their safety goggles behind barriers made of steel-reinforced Legos.
Then he’d shown them his collection of extra-terrestrial lifeforms in plastic polymer solutions that carried more oxygen than water ever could. The tiny, teddy bear flower fish had been Jodie’s favorite, so cute and pretty, all mauve and gold and kiwifruit green. Miranda had preferred the bigger dart fish, pulling in its prey on a poisoned needle at the end of a line it shot out of its own body. When it ate the teddy bear flower, of course, little Jodie had cried.
But now, the idea of winter all over the world, all at once, had them fascinated and horrified all over again.
“How cold would it get, Daddy?” asked Jodie.
“If you kept opening more cans of Winter,” said his father, “it would just keep getting colder. Cold enough and the air would begin to freeze. First the water vapor would fall out as snow, several feet deep. And the oceans would freeze from the top down, though there might be liquid under the ice for a long time.
“Then the carbon dioxide would freeze, a layer of another kind of snow on top of the water ice and frozen oceans. Then the nitrogen would freeze out, making a slush mixture with liquid oxygen. And aliens would come in big ships to buy the frozen air, taking it away in cubic-mile-size sno-cones.”
“What flavor?” asked Miranda.
“A sort of salty raspberry, I expect,” said her father.