08 Jul Snow
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Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
I opened the door, and I was met with the cold blast of Antarctica’s winter winds. I wasn’t really sure why I was here; I just needed to get away from the others. This was my first stay over winter in the base. I did it to escape my previous life. After basically going broke, and the divorce, I just needed to escape. I was employed here as a maintenance worker. The pay was good, and, since there was nothing to buy, I would have six months worth of savings at the end. There were 36 other people at the base, none of which I particularly liked. Commander Evans didn’t accept anyone questioning his command, even when he was wrong. He was the reason I was probably out here; an argument with him. He asked me to fix the lights in the geology labs, as Norton wouldn’t shut up about it, but I was already in the middle of fixing some of Bennett’s meteorology equipment. I told him to get Ripley, Young or Anderson, the other engineers here, but no, he asked me. Eventually we started arguing, and, just as we were both about to start unleashing an hour’s worth of built up fury, Norton heard us, and just told Evans it didn’t matter. This just pissed Evans off even more, as he didn’t like anyone telling him he wasn’t Doctor fucking Manhattan. Eventually, I just left.
I decided I needed to get out. It was dark outside; very dark. All I could see was snow whirling next to me, the lights of the base, and darkness. My destination was the tool shed. It was heated, of course, and I reckoned that no-one else would want to be out there. I didn’t tell anyone where I would be; I just wanted to be left alone. I clipped my harness to the guideline, and I stumbled into the snow. It was hard enough walking into the blizzard anyway, and it was even harder with the heavy clothes I was wearing. Still, I’d be dead without them.
It was about a 100 meter walk. I had a survival time of about one hour out here, if I wore all of the correct equipment. I did, of course. While going out of the main building without telling anyone was strictly against the rules, I didn’t care.
The blizzard tore through me, and I was holding on for dear life to the rope, as the increasing winds nearly took me off my feet. I slowly edged my way along the rope, although I couldn’t see anything ahead of me other than the snow, the rope and my hands. I was truly alone. Apart from the other 36 in the base, I was thousands of miles from anyone else.
From then on, it was simple. I would move my hands forward, then step, keeping a tight hold on the guideline. I nearly lost my grip at several occasions, and I was even blown off my feet at one point, but my safety wire saved me from getting lost in the infinite bleakness of the blizzard. Eventually I reached the building, and I pushed open the door, collapsing into the room. I slammed the door behind me. I began to discard my heavy outer gear; it was a cozy temperature. I let out a sigh of relaxation. The toolshed consisted of just a wall full of tools, one solitary window on the opposite side, and an extremely old TV with some DVDs next to them. Five DVDs in all, all ones that we had a second copy of, or were just unwatchable rubbish. The first was The Thing, which was of course popular down here in Antarctica; we watched it every year as part of a “Tradition”. We watched it with The Shining, which we all found odd since this base had its own caretaker named Bill Watson. However, while the Shining!Watson was an ok bloke, the one here was a dick. I had probably watched both about ten times in three months, and I decided to just pick another DVD at random. I closed my eyes, and randomly pointed at one of the DVDs. I opened my eyes, and saw my index finger jabbing into the “E” on the battlefield earth cover. I grabbed it, opened the door, and threw it out into Antarctica. I smiled, as I hated the movie with a passion. Instead of bothering with picking randomly, I just picked up the Saturday morning Watchmen DVD, and jammed it into the DVD played on the side of the telly.
As the menu came up, I simply selected “PLAY ALL.”
Just as I began to lay back down, I had a part of me shouting that something was missing, but I just couldn’t figure out what. Then I remembered: cigarettes. I’d always been an avid smoker, so I was dismayed that they were banned in the base.
Of course, I had a pack or two smuggled away in the toolshed, so I pried open the loose panel, and grabbed the last packet left, along with the lighter. I sat back, and lit. At this moment, it seemed like everything was perfect. As Rorschach told Adrian to duck as he “Biffed” a criminal in the face, as I inhaled the smoke, as the radiator kept everything warm, as I had been up for the last 20 hours, I fell asleep.
It was all a series of unfortunate coincidences, wasn’t it? That Evans picked me, that we argued, that I smoked, that I removed my coat, that, half an hour after I went to sleep, my cigarette fell from my hands, and into some helicopter fuel that had been left there without my knowledge. I think it must have been either Benton or Harvey; either way it didn’t matter. The fact I didn’t die of smoke inhalation was just luck; the sounds of Storm Saxon getting punched in the face by Doctor Manhattan shaped like a boxing glove woke me. I woke nearly instantly; though I was tired, I had the ability to wake up instantly. I looked around, and for a second, I was utterly baffled as to what was going on. The fire had taken over an entire wall, engulfing my harness. I bolted upright, and leapt for my coat. I threw it on my shoulders, and I slid my heavy snow boots on. I threw the door open, and I was met with the howling winds, making me stumble backwards, towards the fire.
I had to make a split second decision: either stay in the shed, attempt to put the fire out, probably burn to death; or walk back to Amundsen-Scott’s main building without a harness, probably get lost in the snow and die of hypothermia.
You’re thinking about it now, and whatever choice I make I’ll be branded an idiot for letting this happen in the first place, but you weren’t here. You have all the time in the world to make your choice. I had seconds, if that.
I chose the ice over the fire. I jumped out, and grabbed the line. The winds were howling at me to let go, which would mean almost certain death without my harness. My hands gripped firmly onto the rope, and I slowly edged my way forward. After just a few meters, the burning shed was lost in the flames. I thought for a second what punishment I would face from Evans, but I instantly went back to concentrating on survival. I hugged onto the line, as the bitter cold dug into me, even with my coat on.
It was then that I slipped. My feet went flying off sideways, and my hands were hurting as the thin wire dug into them. My hands were tired, after just seconds. I knew if I let go, I was dead. The storm continued to batter into me, trying to convince me to let go. My feet weren’t touching the ground, instead my knee was supporting me. I pushed up with my knee, and I was finally on two feet again.
I was much more careful the second time, as I knew I was lucky to have this chance. My stance was wider, and I leant into the rope slightly. I put my left hand forward first, and I slowly released my right. I plodded my two feet forward. I was freezing cold. I was wondering whether my hands had frostbite, but I knew wondering things like that wasn’t going to help. I continued to march forward, slowly but surely, for about twenty meters or so. I wasn’t even halfway, and all I could see in any direction was snow and darkness. I was beginning to whimper, both out of pain and the knowledge that I’d probably die here. I started talking to myself, giving myself some false reassurance.
“You can do it, come on. Do it. Nearly there. Come one.”
About twenty minutes later, after I had cover a mere 10 meters, I began to cry. I wasn’t even halfway, and I was already beginning to give up. The tears froze on my face, causing even more pain. I screamed. Why? Why couldn’t Evans just have asked Young? She was head maintenance worker anyway! That stupid dumb cunt! Why couldn’t he have just asked someone else?
It was my fault, and I knew it. But having someone else to blame at least gave me a target. I imagined all the ways Evans could die painfully, and I must have covered twenty meters without realizing it.
Then, as I was imagining Evans’ head go flying from his body and crowds cheered, the storm picked up its intensity.
It must have bad, extremely bad, or maybe the wind just coincided with the flames somehow burning through the guideline, but, whatever happened, the guideline broke at the toolshed’s end. I fell to the ground, yet, by some miracle, I was still holding onto the rope.
I began to scream, as the winds tried as they could to knock me off the wire, to send me spiraling into the unknown darkness of Antarctic.
For a single second, I had a moment of self-doubt. That it would be so much easier to just… let go.
No. Not now. I’m not just bloody dying here, come on, you can-
The winds disagreed with me, as another gust caused me to let go.
Now I was truly lost; truly dead. I stood up, and walked into the winds.
Come on, there’s got to be something.
I closed my eyes, as the snow stung them. I knew my eyesight was useless now.
I’ll never know what exactly it was, but a piece of debris must have come loose, from somewhere. Whatever it was, it smashed into my leg at breakneck speed. I howled out in pain, and I fell. My leg was broken.
I clawed my hands into the snow. Come on. Come on. COME ON! There was that guy, they made a film about him, about how he broke his legs in some mountains, yet crawled his way to safety! His name was Joe, or Simon? It doesn’t matter, come on, nearly-
The wind made one final push, which forced me out of my weak grip on the ground, and out into the infinite snow.
Credit To – Come on, I mentioned The Thing. Take a guess.