[An extract from another of my little projects in the War Against Boris the Bytrode Series…]
Escape From the Ice-Cave
She rubbed the frosty walls, her hot hands fused to the ice. Prising her palms free, she blew her stinging hands and then flapped her arms to keep warm. Drops of water trickled around her pooling on the cave floor. She marvelled how the enclosure had expanded to the extent that she could stretch out her arms, the tips of her fingers touching the opposing sides.
‘If only I could fly out of the cave,’ she said.
A groan, then a sigh.
She stood still, arms by her side. She gazed up.
The roof trembled. There was rumbling above her head. The rumbling turned to a roar.
Maybe there’s a search party, she thought. She held that thought and sought some spare piece of clothing to toss through the small gap above. She picked up a soggy scrap of material and prepared to throw. An avalanche of snow swamped her. She tumbled, rolled and suffocated under wave upon wave of frothing ice and snow. Her hand gripped the rag.
With a thud, she hit an icy wall. She gasped; air knocked out of her lungs. A glaring sun and pure white snow assaulted her vision, dazzling her. She blinked; the glare rendered her sightless.
Letitia twisted in the waist-deep snow packed as hard as ice. Her eyes hurt. She squinted and held up her hand. She could just make out a washed-out hand against a backdrop of white. She spun around, slowly, her arms gliding around her on the packed ice as if she were a human drill. Thirsty, she scratched up a ball into her palms. The snow melted under her fingers. She put some crystals to her mouth, the fresh icy water trickled down her throat.
‘Lord,’ she rasped, ‘I’ve been patient enough. I need food and water to survive.’
‘Okay, okay,’ the small voice replied, ‘I’m working on it.’
Once again, an incredible heat overwhelmed Letitia. Her eyes adjusted to the light. Each side, the snow and ice gave way as if it were water, the heat generating from her body causing her frozen captor to melt and form puddles at her feet. She cut through the bank of snow and tottered to freedom. Before her a vista of blue-green sea dotted with icebergs, and a muddy plain with green boxes scattered on it.
Letitia strode down the slope. The hard patches of snow and ice squeaked beneath her numb feet. Had to take care not to slip and slide on this virtual black ice. She headed to what appeared to be faded green shipping containers. The containers seemed to be strewn over a carpet of mission-brown rock as though they were forgotten toy blocks.
Further down the hill, a large shed emerged from the shadows and then a bright red tractor loomed up in the foreground. An old-style ship lurked off to the side, its red hull reflected in the water so still, it appeared as a mirror image.
The air was biting and still, as if holding its breath. Letitia remembered reading that Antarctica was the windiest place on earth, but there was no evidence of that fact this day. Granite-like boulders poked through the mountain blanketed with snow. The heat radiating from within her did nothing for the excruciating pain when she stubbed her foot against a rock.
As she drew closer to the shipping containers, she detected bright orange and red parka padded forms lumbering over the brown ground. Red trucks ferried their human drivers from one Leggo block to another. The closer she came to the settlement, the more impressed she was with the hive of activity.
‘I hope they accept me,’ she murmured and began to feel apprehensive at the thought of imposing herself, her situation, upon this peaceful, industrious community. ‘What if this is another world Boris has sent me to? What if he’s sent me to the Ice Planet? What if the inhabitants are hostile to my kind—human? Or if they’re human, what if they’re prejudiced against people of my colour? I’m not white. Not anymore.’
Letitia remembered the last world, the one Boris said she’d escaped. Black was beautiful. Dark-skinned people were dominant. She’d been so badly burnt, and her DNA so damaged, that the doctors on that world had grafted her skin and reconstructed her DNA sequence to conform to the dominant race. White people had been oppressed on Mirror World; more in the Eastern States, than in Mirror’s Baudin State, the equivalent of South Australia… But on Earth, particularly Australia in the 1960’s, people of colour were marginalised. Letitia shuddered. The indigenous people of the land were considered fauna and denied the right to vote. And when she stepped out with Nathan, the general public of Sydney at that time, shunned her. If this was Earth, then, how would she be treated?
A siren brought Letitia back to the present, this world of winter. She took stock of her predicament—not good; not good at all. Destructive vials of chemicals, catastrophic explosions and a plane blown apart, flashed through her mind. Boris’ threat of the southern polar cap melting, and the world forced into further global warming stabbed her with fear and dread. ‘Will I be blamed? I’m coming out of nowhere. Do I have to alert this unwitting scientific community to this planet’s fate? What if they don’t believe me?’
She glanced down at her tattered rags for clothes. ‘How can I tell these scientists anything? Even if I am on the same world, the scientists still believe mankind have ventured no further than a short trip around Mars with a robot probe. Boris men and their mutant armies are beyond their sceptical comprehension. To these men as much of the world, the recent Fusion bombs were merely the work of terrorists intent on religious and racial wars.’
Letitia sighed and hobbled down a slippery scree slope. She darted past the bright yellow tractor, and lumber-jacket clad fellows dragging a lump of metal over to the khaki green shed. She searched for a door.
The buildings and equipment she passed appeared weathered, and antiquated. She kept thinking that the station would appear different; more updated, more slick, more “science-fictiony”, more modern. She was sure that the brochure about Antarctica which she had gleaned in the airbus, had the buildings more rounded in a saucer shape and standing on stilts. She was positive that the buildings had been portrayed in such a way that they reminded her of the Martians and their craft in War of the Worlds. She had not expected out-dated shipping crates with the constitution of Lego bricks. Still, perhaps that was Mirror World, and so, confirmation that this is Earth.
After detecting a likely door, she stood before it, puzzling how to open it. She tugged hard and down on a metal handle. The door swung open with a jerk and she entered a holding cell. She shoved open another, lighter door. A common room cluttered with walls of pin-up notices, photographs and an obligatory dart board greeted her. A wave of heat washed over her. There were no windows. A green strip of felt for carpet bowls stretched over the floor. Battered coffee tables and chairs that had seen better seasons, hugged the edge of the room making way for the bowls tournament. If the place had been graced with a few dark green slightly deflated cushions, she could have imagined that she was back in the 1960’s at a young peoples’ coffee shop.
The group of seemingly young adults were mainly bearded and unkempt, except for the odd female who was merely unkempt. None of the crowd of strangers were affected by fashion or keeping up appearances. They were focussed on the carpet bowl competition. They ignored her as if she were invisible.
The initial heat receded. Letitia shook, her body jerking, her teeth chattering, as if possessed by demons of the cold. Her bones ached with the chill. Her strength left her, and her legs turned to jelly threatening collapse. She hunted for a stray jacket or knitted rug to throw over herself. She staggered back to the entrance hall and grabbed a fur-lined checked lumber jacket. Aware that she was suffering the effects of hypothermia, she reasoned she had no time to be fashion-conscious. She had heard from fellow compatriots of the IGSF that such a species of fashion existed way back last century, but she, herself, had by-passed the joys of such clothing. During that span of time, the previous encounter with Boris’ attacks had catapulted her into another world where those particular fashions never existed. Just the fancy French ones on Mirror World.
Still weak, she shuffled back into the communal hall and watched the scruffy-looking people with pity. ‘At least they are human,’ she muttered. She mused that they must have been so isolated, so far south, that they had to resort to reject attire from fifty years ago. A calendar with a typical Uluru photo hung askew on the wall. ‘My goodness, even the calendar’s out of date!’ She chuckled half-amused that they would have a 1967 calendar still hanging dolefully on their common room wall.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Uluru at sunset © S.O. Gross circa 1950