From The Shining, by Stephen King:
Jack turned back, all zero at the bone.
What is the meaning of this expression?
Zero at the bone seems to be an idiomatic expression off Emily Dickinson’s poem:
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
The implication seemingly being a reference Zero (O° F – cold!) to the bone. Literally, a chilling fear!
It’s informal and not a set idiom as such.
“Zero” suggests cold and also nothingness. That the feeling penetrates to “the bone” suggests how deeply felt, how intense the emotion is. When you put all these details together, does the response sound like fear? (Melani, Brooklyn College)
… there will be a fearful constriction of chest and lungs, and bone marrow temperature will plummet. (Wood, humanities360)