Agatha Howard relates how each year she visits the grave of Dr. Juan Munoz, a man she met 50 years ago. Although the details fade, she remembers the cool air with horror.
Fifty years ago, Agatha arrives at the home of Juan Munoz. Mrs. Gibbons, the landlady, isn’t impressed with her when Agatha explains that she doesn’t have an invitation, and Agatha says that she’s there on behalf of her father and Munoz’s friend, Professor Howard of MIT. Mrs. Gibbons relents and takes her upstairs, explaining that Juan keeps his lab refrigerated and the unit leaks ammonia. She warns Agatha that she’ll want to leave soon enough as the grave is kept cold as a grave.
Juan allows Agatha to enter her chambers and expresses his condolences at the death of her father a year ago. She explains that she was sorting her father’s papers and found letters to Juan dating back to a year ago when he first arrived from Spain. Juan confirms that she read all of the correspondence, and Agatha admits that she found it fascinating that they both refuse to accept the finality of death. Juan explains that her father dealt with the regeneration of organs, while his verges on the mystic and deals with the human will staving off death. As they talk, the refrigeration unit breaks down and Juan quickly starts it back up. Agatha comments that it’s unusual that he prefers the cold, and Juan says that he prefers the cold only to death. He explains that he has an illness that prevents him from surviving at temperatures above 50 degrees. Juan thanks her for coming, but Agatha says she’d enjoy dinner with him. Juan admits that he would enjoy it as well, but admits that he never leaves. Undeterred, she suggests that he invite her to dinner in his apartment and Juan agrees. When Agatha asks if he is married, Juan explains that his wife died a year after he took ill. He then asks her to come anytime. She offers her hand, but Juan says that his touch is uncomfortably cold. Agatha offers her hand nonetheless. Touched, Juan takes and kisses it.
When they meet for dinner, Juan talks of art, of sculpture, of Spanish history. She returns again and again, allow Juan to release all the passion he has for knowledge. As Agatha visits, she grows more accustomed to the cold. She notes that he clings to life and Juan admits that he doesn’t want to risk uncertain alternatives. Only the lives they have, have substance, and that is why they clutch to it. Juan explains that his wife believed as he did, that one can forestall death by strength of will. However, he admits that she committed suicide a year after his illness but notes that she lost the will after his problems.
A week later, Agatha visits Juan during a heat wave and brings a present of Spanish olive oil. However, Juan calls through the door and says that he’s feeling ill. She tells him to call her at her hotel if he needs her and goes past Mrs. Gibbons. The landlady explains that the repairman came earlier and left, frightened witless. The lights flicker due to a storm and Agatha goes back to her hotel. She’s woken up when Juan calls and begs her to see him immediately. He insists that he needs her and then hangs up. Mrs. Gibbons reluctantly lets Agatha in and explains that the power is out, and Juan has been pounding on the air conditioning unit ever since. Agatha goes to Juan’s door and he calls out to her, asking her to find a mechanic to repair a piston on the unit. Before she goes, Agatha asks to see him and Juan reluctantly reveals himself. However, he has bundle dup his entire body and tells her not to look at or touch him. Juan repeats his demand for her to find him a mechanic at that hour of the night so the engine can be fixed immediately. He closes the door and Agatha promises to do what he can.
Agatha turns to Mrs. Gibbons, who says that Mr. Crowley, a garage mechanic, lives in the building. Crowley says that he has to get up in a few hours, but reluctantly gets his tools and goes with Agatha to Juan’s rooms. They go in and notice the smell of incense. Juan directs Crowley to the refrigeration unit and asks Agatha to leave. Crowley says that the pump arm is shot and leaves to get some sleep, and Juan begs Agatha to get him as much ice as she can to get him through the night.
The next morning, an iceman brings in as much ice as he can. Juan stays in his bedroom and tells the man to leave. As the iceman goes, he asks Agatha what Juan plans to do with 300 lbs. of ice. Agatha knocks on Juan’s bathroom and he warns that the ice isn’t working. She says that the pump arm will be delivered in an hour and a half, but Juan says that he only has fifteen minutes. He refuses to let her bring a doctor, and Agatha begs him to come out so she can see him. Juan warns that he has changed considerably in the last few hours, and explains that his theory about preventing death through sheer will wasn’t entirely correct. There is a slow deterioration of the organs, and the best he could hope for was an internal preservation. Juan tells Agatha his wife committed suicide because her life with Juan became unbearable, because she couldn’t stand living with a corpse, and that he died ten years ago. Agatha hears a thud and breaks down the door, and finds Juan’s desiccated corpse lying on the floor.