Check back every week for a new instalment of the online exclusive by Richard Cozicar The Ice Racer.
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.
Check back every week for a new instalment of the online exclusive by Richard Cozicar The Ice Racer.
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.