Check back every week for a new instalment of the online exclusive by Richard Cozicar The Ice Racer
I feel the adrenaline seep through my blood, my hunger and thirst forgotten for the moment. Running my eyes over the length of the wall in front of me I desperately search for a path of hand and foot holds that will allow me to climb away from the heat of the river.
I cling to the jagged wall of rock and work my way upward. The climb is not really that far but the state I am in from the strain of my multiday trek, forces me to creep along so slowly that it takes me hours to crest the side. Finally I reach the top, I tell myself that I just need a moment to rest and I take a second to pause and catch my breath before I crest the lip of the cliff. I peer over, from what I can see of my surroundings I think I am about half way between where I was first discovered and the city itself.
Raising my body over the top I spend a bit more time to study the area around me to make sure there are no scouts out this way. Turning away from the city I make sure to keep my body low, I can use the cover of the rock outcroppings as I move away from the city in search of the spot where I hope my pack must be.
The surroundings begin to look familiar, man, that seems like an eternity ago. I search a large area until I spot my pack right where I left it so many days ago when I had gone in search of water. I snatch it up and quickly move away from the lava river toward the ice that has accumulated far from the heat.
The closer to the city I get the more diligently I have to watch my surroundings. I carefully work my way along the path making sure to keep myself hidden from plain sight. I touch the walls around me, never have I been this happy to see ice and feel the cold radiate off of it.
Ripping off my visor I chip ice into a cup from my pack and set a heat pod under it. My mouth is parched as I wait for the cool relief the water will bring. Setting the ice aside to melt, I pull a food pack out and prepare one of the best meals I have had in my life.
The water burns as it passes down my constricted throat. I allow myself only small swallows of water at first as I struggle to swallow, my throat swollen and raw from the dehydration over the last few days.
Mixing sips of water with small bites of food I lay back and for the first time in my life I thoroughly enjoy the coolness of the ice.
Another whole day goes by as I recover and formulate a plan to break Annaliese out of the city. Near the end of the second day I grab a few supplies and stuff them in different compartments in my suit and stash my pack out of sight. I carefully weave my way back toward the city of Adam’s Mountain.
The easiest way in is straight down the path I had first walked. The closer I get to city, the more I think about my plan the more I figure a less direct route in. Walls of volcanic debris line both sides of the trail leading into the city.
A safe distance from the city I climb up to my right and into a field strewn with boulders. The path I have decided on will take me over and around mounds and large boulders but it will provide me with the best cover. I have to move slowly and carefully because if I miss my footing I can look forward to a body’s worth of broken bones.
I stop short of the city hiding behind a cluster of rock. The lights of the city are dim. I was sure there would be some sort of perimeter guards but I haven’t noticed any so far. From my earlier visit, I’m sure the citizens of the city are too afraid of the Prophets to challenge the curfew, at least most of them are so thankfully there is no one else around to spot me.
I creep in on the far end of the city, several blocks north of the building I was held captive in. My plan is more random than well thought out. The start of it is easy. Find a military guard, subdue him and then have him tell me where Annaliese is being held.
I stick to the shadows of the streets until I spot a pair of unsuspecting military guards. I have spotted a few pairs of them since entering the city and decide to follow these two, slipping from shadow to shadow waiting for an opportunity to trap them.
Staying low I maintain my pursuit of the guards waiting for them to stop and give me an opening that I can take advantage of. I soon become aware that these two don’t venture far in their travel, we travel in circles for a while as I wait for the perfect oportunity.
Eventually they stop at the end of an alley. I creep behind a pile of bins stacked against an adjacent building and wait. I watch as one of the guard turns away from his partner and retraces his steps back down the alley. His walk brings him right by hiding spot.
Pressing tight to the bins I watch him pass by me and stop at a break in the buildings behind me. His back is to me as he stops and relieves himself. I carefully check back in the direction of the other guard. He is still facing away from his partner. The bins I am behind stand in between the guards sheltering them from each other.
Seizing the opportunity I raise the butt of the rifle and creep silently along the wall toward the guard. Within a few steps of the occupied guard I raise myself to my full height, the rifle raised above my head. I am almost directly behind the man when he starts to turn.
With all my might I drive the stock of the gun into his face. He releases a startled gasp as the rifle smashes into the side of his face. Bones crunch under the force. The guard crumples to the ground. I strike him again and hastily grab at his robe as I try to remove it. My mind screams at me to hurry before his partner comes to investigate.
Rolling and tugging at the man I remove his military robe and swap it with mine. Taking a second to regain my breath I compose myself and with a shaky confidence I stride back toward the mouth of the alley closing the distance to the other guard.
The man at the mouth of the alley moves his head slightly at the sounds of my footsteps. He asks me a question. I mumble back a reply and cough to disguise my voice pulling the hood of the robe lower over my face.
My heart races, as I get closer. The second guard spins around and looks directly at me. I am still yards away from him. I can see his eyes studying me. While he hesitates I raise my rifle, the barrel pointing at his head and motion him back into the alley.
“Drop your gun.” I bark.
His gun clatters to the street, his eyes narrow as he obeys. Stepping behind him I stick the barrel of the rifle in his back to prod him along. I scoop up his discarded rifle and follow silently behind him. At the break in the building where I left his unconscious partner I call for him to stop.
“Grab his feet and drag him behind those bins.” I command again using the gun to point to the stacks against the wall. Watching closely I wait until the three of us are hidden deep behind the stacks of bins.
“Where is Annaliese?” I ask. The guard looks at me dumbfounded.
“Annaliese.” I repeat. “The High Prophets daughter.” Still the man stares at me like I speak a different language. I’m not sure what to do; I have never had to question anyone before. The guard ignores my question.
My hand goes under the hood on the robe as I scratch my head. The guard grows braver at my indecisiveness and takes a step toward me. I hesitate. He rushes and grabs for the gun. With both hands I hold on tight as he tries to wrestle it from me.
He lifts his foot to kick me. I turn and take the blow on the side of my leg. My adrenaline surges. I jerk the gun closer to my body bringing the guard with it. His head jerks forward. I twist the gun across and drive my elbow into the side of his face.
He staggers from the blow. With the momentum in my favour I keep him off balance driving him straight back into the bins. The air rushes out of his mouth and he eases his grasp on the rifle. I pull hard on it again and release it from his grip while at the same time I sweep my foot around tripping him.
He falls into the building. I rush on top of him and smash the butt of the gun down on his shoulder. The third time I do this he lays crumpled on the ground panting for breath.
“Where is Annaliese?” I ask again in an anger filled voice.
“Locked in her room in the Prophets house.” He answers through smashed teeth.
“How do I find this house?” The guard pauses for a minute, his eyes filled with fear then in a shaky voice he gives me directions. “I hope you’re successful.” He mumbles as my rifle crashes into his head.
The guard’s words ring in my head as I cut strips from his robe and tie the two men up.
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.