Check back every week for a new instalment of the online exclusive by Richard Cozicar The Ice Racer
Marcus wheels around and looks at us with an expression of concern covering his face.
“He’s right. It won’t be safe here for the two of you much longer.” Turning his attention back to the young man who came to warn us.
“Go back up the tunnel and warn us if you hear or see the guards coming.” Marcus instructs, the man quickly leaves our small gathering and bends to scoop up his discarded military robe on his way out.
“What are you thinking?” Annaliese asks him.
“Grab some supplies.” He replies. “We’ll have to stick to the tunnels for as long as we can…from there…I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out as we go.”
I stand back and watch as Annaliese rummages through sacks stacked against a wall assembles a collection food and water and places them into a smaller sack. When she is finished she returns to our side.
“Do these tunnels run under the whole city?” I ask.
Marcus shakes his head before replying. “No. They’ll keep us out of sight for a while but we will eventually come to a dead end, there we’ll have to ascend to the streets.”
I relieve Annaliese of the sack of supplies she has packed. Marcus passes me a flashlight as he takes one last look around the room then proceeds to check the hall leading from the hidden room before signalling us to move.
We follow Marcus for a short distance down the tunnel before he ducks into an intersecting tunnel that leads us in a different direction away from the original entrance. The lava tunnels change from a comfortable open space to where we have to squeeze and crawl through further sections.
The three of us hurry through the labyrinth of sharp lava rock tunnels in silence. How Marcus knows where each tunnel leads and what direction to follow is beyond me. He leads us past tunnel after tunnel walking in some, crawling through others.
The stale air is laced with the smell of sulphur from the volcanic rock. The confined spaces grow humid and tight but still Marcus leads on at as fast a pace as we can manage.
Coming to a halt in a closet sized cavern Marcus paces for a second in the little space before talking.
“We are going to have to surface not far from here. These tunnels end under a street a few blocks away from the entrance to the oil mines.” He says while staring into Annaliese’s eyes. His face is contorted with apprehension.
“Is that were you are leading us?” Annaliese asks with an evident note of surprise.
“There’s no where else to go.” He diverts his eyes. “You know that your dad will have the city torn apart for looking for you two. The people in this city are too scared of him and the rest of the prophets and most would never consider helping or hiding you for fear of retribution. Even for a short time.” He adds.
On our journey Marcus had summarized a brief history about the small resistance that had been growing in the city against the iron-fisted rule of the prophets. A large portion of the people of Adam’s Mountain resented being over lorded and this resentment had been festering for years but the majority of town folk were too afraid to act fearing being sentenced to the oil mines.
The city people would guardedly grumble to their closest friends and then look at their neighbours while suspiciously wondering if they were spies for the Prophets. The distrust that rippled through the community helped the Prophets maintain rule.
“Can’t we leave the same way I was brought here?” I implore.
“No. The path ends not far from the city. A giant crevice makes it a dead end. Several people have died trying to cross it.”
“Then how about along the lava river, surely we could follow it away from here.”
“It closes up farther past the city, besides, the heat from the river would kill you before you travelled very deep into it.” Marcus releases a quick breath. “Your only hope is to climb through and cross the oil mine and try for the air chute, it will take you to the surface.”
I gape at Marcus, confused by what he is saying.
“The surface.” I repeat as I try to comprehend his words. “Annaliese doesn’t have a thermal suit like mine. I don’t know this place at all, but I have to believe there is another choice. She would not survive out there, not even for a short period.” I argue. In my mind I am frantically searching for a plausible solution. “Hell, I don’t even know if I could survive on the surface without a sled full of luck.”
Annaliese gently touches my arm.
“They will kill you if they catch you.” She states matter-of-factly. “We don’t have much of a choice.”
“What will happen if they catch you?” I search her face for answers as I ask.
She turns to look at Marcus; the two exchange a knowing look.
“I’ll be alright.” She mumbles, but her face pales in the glow of the flashlight.
“How about you Marcus? If your friend talks they will know that you two helped me.” There is obviously something they aren’t telling me. I push further, “I am not going another step until you guys level with me.”
“Dissidents get sent to the oil mine as punishment.” He quietly confirms. “I can avoid them, Annaliese should be okay…her father is the High Prophet.” He says without sounding convincing.
“So the only real option we have is if the three of us leave the city? That is the only option I will accept. If the three of us can’t escape then you two should turn me in and tell Annaliese’s father that you recaptured me. I won’t let you take the fall for me you don’t even know me. This is insane!”
“Let’s get away from the city and try to cross the oil mine then we can worry about what to do after.” Marcus declares. “We need to get out of these tunnels. If they start searching down here we’ll be trapped and we won’t have any choices.”
We continue, Marcus in the lead as we snake through the tunnels. Suddenly the beam from Marcus’ flashlight highlights a solid wall of made of rough, sharp rock that appears to have footholds chiselled in it.
“Turn the lights off.” Marcus whispers as he set a foot on the rock ready to climb. In the blackness Annaliese and I wait. The only sound comes from Marcus’s feet in their search for the footholds as he works his way to the surface, only to be punctuated by intervals of the sound our nervous breathing makes.
The scraping of metal signals his arrival at the top of the climb. Then a light flashes back down lighting the wall and the floor.
“Its clear. Hurry, climb up.” He urges as he shines his light for us to see our way up the jagged wall of rock. I motion for Annaliese to go ahead of me, then with caution I follow her to the street above.
Marcus helps her climb out and then lowers a hand to assist me. Out on the street we wait while Marcus gently replaces the cover hiding the tunnel’s entrance then we all creep to the side of the alley we have emerged into.
In the shadow of a building we wait while Marcus adjusts his military disguise. When he is finished he whispers for us to follow and leads the way to the end of the alley. Abruptly stopping he points.
“We’ve got about another six blocks until we come to the entrance of the oil mine.” He describes. “If we are lucky enough to cover the distance undetected we will have to find away around the mine’s guards and down into the pit before we can cross it.”
He has already explained to me how the mine was the most guarded part of the city, not so much to keep city dwellers away, no one in the city was overly eager to see never mind venture into the pit he has depicted, but to insure the dissidents sentenced to a life of labour in the mines have no chance of escape. He did add that the Prophets were extremely protective of the mine. Without it the city would surely perish.
Giving us the signal to move from the mouth of the alley we stealthily creep along in the buildings shadows, our target the start of a new alley that will lead us on a direct route to the mouth of the oil mine.
Ten strides away from the alley we had just departed a stern voice calls to us.
“Identify yourself.” Two guards appear at the far end of the block stepping out of shadows and raising their guns. The three of us stop dead in our tracks.
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Annaliese left the prisoner and walked through the long building. The reading paper the man had given her secretly hidden in the folds of her robe. As soon as she returned the tray to the building’s cooking area she would race to the privacy of her room in what the towns folk secretly called the palace.
Her father’s house wasn’t anything like a palace but it was certainly grander than the other homes in the city. A perk she supposed came with being an elder and the most revered Prophet. Until now she had paid no attention to the whispers and snide remarks from the other towns people.
People were very careful about what they said when she was around but she occasionally overheard their shielded cries of discontent. Her father and the other prophets were stringent and not at all forgiving when it came to the rules being followed.
To question the Prophet’s laws or beliefs was received with extreme prejudice and any outward show of defiance was treated as blasphemy and dealt with quickly and harshly. This she accepted without question, but in her outings around the city she could tell that not everyone had the same unwavering faith. Ever since the stranger had been captured she had started questioning the strict system.
The one time when she was a child and she had raised her concerns to her father she was sternly scolded and warned about such dangerous thoughts, even threatened of the consequences of rebellious thinking. The repeated and scripted explanations her father used to quell her doubts started to sound feeble and contrite.
Annaliese knew that being the daughter of the High Prophet, she of all people should without a doubt accept the word of her father but after seeing the fear hidden behind the eyes of the city’s inhabitants she could no longer simply ignore the depressed and scared nature of the general population.
If her father found or even suspected that she had on her person a paper containing word of a history that preceded their own records and was different than the written archives in the city she would be dealt with in the harsh manner that had befallen other free thinkers, High Prophet’s daughter or not.
A lot of the archives in the libraries and schools contained accounts of history that she found harder and harder to believe as her mind searched for clearer meanings, the explanations didn’t make total sense to her whenever she spent time thoughtfully reviewing them. The accounts of the Climate Prophets and history of the city were taught to the young when they were old enough to understand and presented as the one and only truth.
Annaliese rushed back to her room and locked her door before tentatively sliding the reading paper out from the protection of her robe. Sitting in her bedside chair on her folded legs she soon became engrossed in words and a history alien to that which she learned as a child.
Skimming back and forth through the paper she at first dismissed the new accounts of history and then found that some of the writings fit better with what she had pieced together than the twisted artificial history the Prophets wrote and preached. Not to say the writings weren’t still disturbing to her.
She paused in her reading. How could she even consider this paper to be anything close to the truth? Could the prisoner not have believed in a history that was falsely presented to him and believe in it the same way she was told to believe the Prophet’s version?
Wouldn’t she be conceived as being irrational by simply dismissing a history that she lived with all her life, a history accepted as gospel by the entire city for a written narration passed to her by a complete stranger, in fact maybe even a spy as he was being called although she didn’t think he was a spy or was that because she kind of liked him. He seemed different than the people of the city, gentle in a way. For some reason she had a hard time believing that he came here to do any harm to the city or her.
Long into the night she read about the rise of the Climate Prophets, the climate wars and then the construction of the giant wind turbines and how eventually the earth started to vibrate and shake. How long doormat volcanoes became active again spewing ash and dust. How soon all the world’s volcanoes began erupting at the same time until the combination of dust and ash blocked out the sun slowly freezing and killing the planet.
She had never left this city, she had never been to the surface, the Prophets forbade it, but she had heard rumours that the surface consisted of nothing more than ice and snow like this diary claimed. The deeper into the paper she read the more uncertain of the Prophet’s version of history she became.
Alone in my cell again I sit down to eat the food the girl brought me. Each mouthful was chewed with no memory of the taste of the food as I dwelled on her parting words and then dismissing the subject I laid down and resumed planning my escape.
If she was right and they came for me tomorrow I needed a plan of some sort once I was removed from this cage. Where they were to hold this council and how many people it involved was an unknown. I knew that the more people around the harder it would be to escape so if I was going to get away it would have to be between this cage and the area where the meeting was to be held.
How many guards would they send? The same number that escorted me to this building I wondered. If it was four again I needed a plan to overpower them, maybe wrestle a gun away. How well trained the guards were I had no idea but I knew that the years of hard work on the ice sled had given me an uncommon amount of strength and for my sake hopefully enough to overpower the number of guards sent to retrieve me.
I lay thinking, my hand turning over a spoon from the tray of food. The spoon was made of a light metal and bent very easily. I played with it bending it this way and that until I fashioned a stout point on the end then I stuffed it in my suit. As a last resort I could at least gouge with it. It was the only object I had for a weapon.
The hour was growing late. I left the metal shelf and restlessly paced the small confines of my cell, my thoughts flashing between my captivity and Annaliese. I started to tire so I sat back down. If something was to happen to me tomorrow I didn’t want to spend my last hours sleeping or so I told myself as I struggled to keep my eyes open. Sleep eventually overcame me.
Sometime later I was roused from a troubled sleep by the sounds of clanking on the cages bars. By the time I discovered where the sound had come from and stood at the bars distant footsteps in the dark were all that remained. Disgusted by my tardiness I was about to return to the metal shelf when I glanced down.
On the floor at the outside of the cage was a bundle. I bend down to examine it. Squeezing my arm through the bars I grab the bundle and by twisting and pulling I work it through the bars. As I lift up my hands to have a closer look something falls and clinks against the floor.
Up close the bundle reveals itself. A robe. In the dim light I can see that it is a brown robe like I saw the town folks wearing. I don’t get it. What meaning would the robe have? Then I remembered the sound of clinking. Kneeling down I slowly search for the object that fell. The light was too dim so I place my visor on and look again.
Inches from my cell lay a shiny flat object. Once again squeezing my arm through the bars up to my shoulder, I stretch my fingers and then slide them along the floor until I feel the object, which I work closer to the cage.
I slide it close enough so I can use my finger and grab it. Raising it to my visor I study it, a strange looking object, one that I have not seen much of before, a key. Then it dawns on me as I look toward the door on the cage. Maybe, just maybe this is my way out of here.
I stand for only a second contemplating the object and the robe and who might have left them then with a rushed urgency I pull the robe on over my suit. My hands go instinctively into the front pockets, checking.
My right hand closes over a piece of paper. Drawing it up to my visor I check it out. A crude map is drawn on the one side of the small piece.
For an instant I think this might be a trap but it’s a chance I am willing to take. I reach my hand through the bars, the metal in my hand held tight. Reaching and twisting I line the key up with the front of the cages lock. I am careful not to drop the metal while I manoeuvre it toward the hole in the door of the cage.
It takes some patience but I finally manage to insert the key in the lock and holding my breath I twist. Clunk.
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Standing tight to the bars of my cage my gaze remained lost in the dark where Annaliese disappeared. A feeling of despair overtakes me. What can I do, how can I leave when I can’t even get out of this cage?
Pushing off the bars I dejectedly arrive at the steel shelf and sit down, the tray of food forgotten. Sitting hunched over I stare unblinking at the floor ready to surrender to what ever awaits me.
Then gradually the bleakness that has me in its grip starts to recede. Sitting up straight I gulp a few breaths of air. It occurs to me that I have faced far greater dangers on the frozen unforgiving surface of this miserable planet while working on my ice sled. A dangerous occupation causing many of our people before me to be lost to the ravages of the ice and snow while transporting goods across the plains, goods the New Capital desperately relied on for further survival.
I once again take stock of what I have. In the cage with me I have nothing, but outside the cage the environment is warm and the air is breathable. Outside of the building I am locked in are thousands of people and a whole city of wonder; surely there is something I can use, some sort of tools or weapons to aid in my escape.
I stand up and pace, my mind focused on recalling everything I noticed on my short walk to this building. The crowds of people, the tall shiny buildings behind them, guards with guns and maybe somewhere in all of that a way out.
Annaliese had said something about pumping air from the surface which means there has to be a way up and out of here. She had also told me the name of this place is called the Adams Mountain City. From the few geography lessons we were taught at the New Capital the Adams Mountain was less than forty miles from Mount St. Helens.
I thought about this. Forty miles didn’t seem that far but on the surface when you’re fighting against frequent blizzards and minus seventy-degree temperatures, even with my thermal suit, walking the forty miles would be near impossible. Without the ability to recharge the batteries in my suit I wouldn’t last more than a couple of days. My backpack and shovel had been forgotten back on the trail and I didn’t think I ‘d have the time to retrieve them.
The afternoon passed while I was lost in thought planning my escape. The sound of feet shuffling from the far end of the room roused me, supper no doubt. I glanced at the uneaten food on the tray that was delivered earlier. Grabbing the tray I walked the short distance to the bars ready to exchange the trays.
I released a quiet sigh of relief when I noticed Annaliese carrying the food. Waiting for her to slide the new tray through the opening I slid the tray with my cold dinner back to her.
“Is there something wrong with the food?” I detected a touch of concern in her voice as she asked.
“Um…no, I am sure it is fine. I don’t have much of an appetite I guess with the worry of what is going to happen to me.” I lied. I couldn’t really tell her that I had forgotten all about the food as I tried to figure out a plan for my escape.
She lifted her head and with sorrow filled eyes briefly looked me in the face before dropping her gaze back to the floor.
“They are to take you to council tomorrow.” She whispered. “Soon after that I am certain that they will do away with you…I’m sorry.” The words barely escaped her lips.
“I don’t want to die yet, especially here in a strange city.” I stammered as a flash of anger took hold of me. “No. I will not die here.”
“I am sorry.” She apologized again and she stood on the other side of the bars looking at me.
“You don’t have to apologize.” I consoled her. “It isn’t your fault.” Then not wanting to be left alone I asked. “Can you stay and talk for a while.” She didn’t answer but remained standing, the tray clasped in her hands.
“What do you do here?” I started the conversation hoping she would stick around.
“Not too much.” She finally answered. “My father is one of the Prophets so I have free run of the city. When I watched the guards bring you here I volunteered to deliver your meals.”
“Well, thanks I guess. What’s it like living here?” I quickly fired off the question searching for a way to get her talking. “Are you happy here? What do you do with your time?”
She told me how she was in the habit of roaming the city helping out where ever she could and about the day-to-day workings of the city, sadness underlining the tone of her voice. Changing the subject she asked me about the place I called home.
I told her about the giant ice cave at the bottom of Mount St. Helens and how I was an Ice Racer. I forgot about my captivity as I described my ice sled and explained how I basically lived on the surface while my crew and I explored and transported the meagre supplies of oil and scavenged materials we were able to find.
I marvelled at how lucky she was to be living in a city that had power and heat and I presumed good food from the trays she had served me. Unlike the substance we ate back at the Capital. Food that consisted mostly of a type of moss that grows along the rivers of lava. We have a small variety of food that the producers carefully tend but the quantities are small due to the lack of proper heat and light.
“I would offer you a chair.” I say in way of lightening the mood and waved my arm in a sweeping motion around the cell. For an instant the corners of her mouth lift in what is almost a smile.
“I’m good.” She responds. “You told me about your reading paper…would you mind if I looked at it?”
I hesitated. The paper was my most prized possession and I jealously guarded it.
“You said something about it containing writings about the Prophets. How far back in time does this paper go?” She stopped. “All the writings we have here date back to the founding of this city, nothing before that. We are told that writings before this time were blasphemous and contained nothing but lies about our people.”
I slipped the paper out of my suit thinking about her request before shoving it through the bars toward her. She set the tray of cold food on the floor and gingerly took my offering.
“There’s a button on the bottom to turn it on.” I instructed. She slid her thumb over the button and held it until the power on my reading paper lit up. I remained silent as she quickly swiped page after page. Her eyes lit up as she noticed the dates of the diary entries.
“Did this stuff really happen?” She asked with out taking her eyes off the paper. I launched into a brief family history and how my great-great grandfather started the diary before the climate wars and how the paper was passed down to my grandfather then my father and finally to me.
“I have never thought about it that way but I can’t imagine people making up things to write in a diary. The history the elders taught us in school told the same story.” I explained who the elders were and how we relied on their recollection of history because of the lack of writing material. All our teachings were done orally and memorized, passed down from generation to generation, there was no other way.
I thought hard about what I was about to do and then gulped before speaking. “Why don’t you take the paper with you and read it. If I’m to be done away with tomorrow I would rather you have it then it be lost or destroyed.” I tried to add with bravado so she wouldn’t worry.
Hiding my paper under her robe she bent to pick up the food tray and turned to walk away.
“Don’t give up hope just yet.” I heard her whisper as her footsteps retreated into the darkness at the end of the building.
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I stood gazing into the dark long after she disappears. I stand glued to the spot, the tray in my arms all but forgotten as I try to make sense out of her warning. Who would do away with me? The old men running the place, the guards…who?
And what did she mean by the others. What others? Were there a lot of people locked in these cages before me.
The weight of the tray on my arms breaks into my thoughts. I walk over to the metal shelf and set the tray down and sit beside it. I don’t know what to do about this new development.
First I am swept off my ice sled, then the fall through the ice cavity to the bottom of this cavern. If the all of that and the discovery of the strangers on the path wasn’t enough, now I find myself locked up in a cage awaiting an uncertain future.
I take stock of what I have with me. Not much. I had forgotten my pack miles back when I had gone in search of water and then came across the people on the path. All I have remaining is my reading paper and my thermal suit. Not much to work with.
I remove my helmet and check to make sure I have powered off my thermal suit to save the batteries, I have a feeling I will need it when I take my leave of this place. The ominous warning by the girl resonates through my mind and I have no plans to be done away with by anybody.
The tray contains solid food of some sort and a flask of water. I sample the food while I sit in the dark. It’s good, unlike the drab sustenance I’m used to. Daydreaming I wonder what it’s like to live in this shiny city eating tasty food and walking about without a helmet to filter the air and no need for a heat suit.
Paradise I realize. Too bad I have come upon it under such unfriendly conditions. I gobble down the food and drain the flask then settle back waiting for whatever comes next.
I sit and try to remain vigilant but the combined warmth of the building and the food makes me sleepy.
The creaking of an opening door stirs me from my sleep; the lights in the room turn on. Blinking my eyes for focus it takes me a second to remember where I am. Voices approach from the doorway and then a group of old men gather at the bars of my cage inspecting me.
“Why have you come here? How did you find us?” One of the elders asks. “Who sent you?”
“I fell through the ice from the surface. No one sent me because we didn’t know you existed or that your city was down here.” I tied to explain. I watch the men look at each other, disbelieving looks exchanged between them.
“My name is Mike Ryan. I’m an ice racer. I come from the New Capital, a long way from here, at the base of Mount St. Helens.” I keep talking trying to convince them that what I say is the truth.
The group turns their back on me mumbling to each other amongst themselves. They turn back in my direction and continue watching me like a specimen in a…in a cage.
“We’ll be back to talk to you.” The spokesman for the group says as they leave. When the door closes the lights go out and I find myself standing in the dark alone with my thoughts again. I need a way out of this cage and I need it soon.
I hear a sound from the far end of the row of cages. The morning has passed. The same girl walks out of the darkness, another tray in her hands. She stops short of my cage and raises her head to look at me, wary that I’m standing close to the bars. Backing away I talk to her.
“What’s your name? What did you mean last night when you said they would do away with me?”
She slides the tray through the slot and waits for me to grab it then she backs away and with her head motions to the used tray sitting on the shelf. I quickly exchange trays and slide the empty one back through the slot.
“Annaliese.” She replies then lowers her eyes to the ground.
“Where are we Annaliese?” I ask trying desperately to start a conversation. She remains quiet and in the dim light I can see she’s nervous. “What is this place?” I try again.
“We live in the Adams Mountain City.” She very softly answers without raising her head. “You’re not here to spy on us like the others so that your people can return and attack us are you?” Her voice trembles as she asks the questions. “That’s what the prophets say.”
“The Climate Prophets?” I ask certain that I had heard her wrong.
She gasps and backs farther way from the cage. “You are going to attack us aren’t you?” She says. “How else would you know who they are?”
“No…no, I…” I scramble to pull my reading paper out of my suit and power it up. “Do you read?” I say as I show her the paper. She looks at me like I had just grown a third eye.
“Doesn’t everybody?” She replies. I have no answer for this because at our city we have extremely little reading material and to learn to read is not a luxury many want or need to spend time doing.
“Ah. Yeah, sure. I just thought…” I didn’t know what to say then remembering the paper I shove it toward her. “I only know about the Climate Prophets because of my great grand fathers diary.” I shook the paper hoping she would understand. “Who has been attacking you?”
“No one that any one remembers but the Prophets tell us this every time a stranger appears. It’s the only way to keep us safe they tell us before condemning the men to the oil mines.” She adds sadly. “No one knows what happens to them after that.”
The word oil catches my attention. “Oil. There hasn’t been oil for over two hundred years. It was outlawed and destroyed during the climate wars.” I said incredulously my hand tapping my reading paper.
Maybe I grew yet another eye on my face judging from the way she looks at me.
“What do you think powers this city, the lights and the heat? The huge air purifiers and the air pumps from the surface? All the equipment? Where are you from?” She finally asked.
Suddenly I become aware of the constant humming and vibrations I had been feeling, machines powered the city. I struggle with the concept. Nobody I know would think this is possible. We have a few very tiny crude generators at our city but the small amounts of fuels we have been able to find to run them make them almost useless.
A thousand questions rush into my brain and trip over each other as they leave my mouth. The girl, Annaliese, gets scared and backs farther away from my cage.
“I’ve said too much.” Her quiet voice almost blocked out by her retreating footsteps. “I will be back with your supper.”
With the bars grasped in my hands and my face pressed tight to the cage I call after her. Her footsteps fade into the darkness.
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My need for a drink forgotten as I strain to get a better look at the people moving in the darkness, my curiosity winning out against my growing trepidation. Crawling around the pile of boulders I survey the landscape between where I’m hidden and the path the others are taking.
I don’t see much in the way of cover, no darker objects blocking my view in this poorly lit section of the cavern, the only light provided by a very faint glow created by the liquid lava.
I have to move carefully. I have no way of knowing if the people I am watching can see any better in this light than I can. Just because I can barely make them out does not mean that they have the same problem.
I wait and watch as the distance between them and me increase. When the silhouettes are almost out of my sight I slip from my cover and cautiously follow.
The trail weaves in and out, around and then straight skirting small piles and then larger boulders created by bygone lava flows. A few times I stumble. Tripped up by the uneven footing and the dim lighting.
My breathing increases from the exertion bringing with it a metallic taste in my mouth and a slight burning in my lungs. Tinges of the ash-laden air in the cavern. Switching my air supply to the suits filters alone I sit down and wait for the filters to refresh the air.
By the time I stand back up and am ready to move I find I have lost sight of the shadows I was chasing. I can’t even be sure if I had actually seen someone or the air mixture had caused me to hallucinate.
I stand looking around. No. I am positive that the figures I spotted were real. They had to be. How else would I have found this trail worn through the lava field? Moving forward I continue picking my way along the path, my attention more focused on my footing than checking ahead for others.
The path runs parallel to the river of lava. My eyes seem to be adjusting better to the light as I can make out the trail clearer now. Soon I walk with my head raised as the footing has gotten better, the path wider.
There. Up ahead I watch the two figures I had seen earlier round a bend then become blocked from my sight by a pile of boulders. I pick up the pace. I don’t want to loose them again.
Rushing to make the bend I stumble as loose debris rolls under my foot. Getting up I hurry over the last of the trail stopping at the stack of lava formed boulders and peer around. Nothing. I put my arm up and lean against the pile letting my breath catch up with me.
Damn. I’m obviously not very good at this type of thing. I’ve never had to follow anyone before. Very few people ventured up to the surface and our ice dome wasn’t really big enough for somebody to disappear.
I stop the self-pity. I realize that I just have to stick to this path; it must lead somewhere so if I follow it I should be able to find out where the others were heading. That will likely give me time to study them and try to discover if there are friendly, if they can help me get back to the surface.
My throat is dry. I had forgotten all about finding myself some water. I will have to head away from the path, away from the effects of the red river to find ice to melt. Pushing away from the rock pile I turn the corner.
My heart jumps and my eyes go wide. Standing in front of me are the two people I was following. Standing behind the rock cover looking back at me. I stare at them, they stare back at me, nobody moves.
Their suits are different from the one I wear. Brown in colour and flowing…almost like a robe of some type. I have never seen these type of suits before but for some reason they seam eerily familiar.
“Hi.” I stutter. “My name is Mike.” I continue standing not knowing what else to do. The strangers continue looking me over. I can make out the features of their faces through their visors. One man, one woman. Neither looks pleased to see me.
I watch their faces. I can see their mouths moving as if they are having a discussion but I can’t hear a word they are saying. Then the man raises his hand to his visor and touches a button.
In a monotone voice he asks. “Who are you? How did you get here?”
Again I stutter trying to get the words out. “I…I fell through a opening in the ice from the surface.” I finally manage to say. The looks on their faces tell me that they are having trouble with what I am telling them.
The man pulls a gun from under his robe and motions me forward. Not so friendly. I turn my head to look farther down the path then back at the to robed figures. With a more threatening gesture of the gun I am urged to get moving.
Now what am I going to do I wonder as I move, the two figures falling in behind me. My head is down watching where I step. I move slowly. The sight of their robes troubles me. More so than the fact that I was being ushered down an unknown path at gunpoint.
We walk forward. No words are exchanged. Well none that I can hear anyways. Suddenly I stop suddenly.
The robes. There was a faction that used to wear them but legend has it that they were eliminated decades ago. They were the ones blamed for the ruin of the world. The Climate Prophets.
But that can’t be. We were taught in school that they were hunted down and killed. All of them hunted as pariahs. As history goes they were the reason that the earth suffered the wrath of the volcanoes. Their destruction of the fossil fuels resulted in massive fields of giant turbines being built to replace the power source.
As energy by fossil fuels was prohibited and destroyed more and more turbines were needed. Eventually billions upon billions of the metal skeletons with their massive blades took the place of the once abundant forests crowding the landscape.
Combined with the turbines millions upon millions of holes were drilled into the earth weakening it as people tried to take advantage of the thermal heat buried there. Then the unthinkable happened. The turbines vibrated and shook. Eventually the vibrations caused volcanoes around the world to start erupting.
A few at first but as the earth shook more volcanoes erupted, volcanoes that hadn’t erupted in several centuries. With the eruptions came the dust. Annoying at first but then slowly choking out the sun.
I can’t remember exactly but I think that the sun hasn’t shone through the dust for well over a century. No sun, no heat and on top of that nothing could grow. The earth cooled and ice age started.
I felt a hand shove me forward. Keeping my head down I walk on. All sorts of thoughts and doubts tug at my brain as I place one foot in front of the other.
Fear started to creep into my thoughts pushing aside all others. If these people were ancestors of the Climate Prophets and they kept themselves hidden this long…what were the chances that I would be able to leave…or maybe even live.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.