Monday, January 5, 2015

Story Seed - Key

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Kyle came to half buried in snow. Everything hurt, but nothing especially so, against any kind of reasonable odds he appeared to have survived the fall without anything being broken. High above the jagged opening of broken ice he had fallen through was little more than a distant mote. "Hello! Hey, Dave, I'm alive! Dave?" Only his voice, echoing against the ice, answered him.

He sat up with a grunt, and set about making sure that his limbs all moved and that he really hadn't been seriously hurt.  He was cold, but clearly hadn't bee unconscious for long,  Aside from that and a tender lump on the back of his head, he was actually unhurt. "Some kind of miracle," he muttered to himself as he got his feet under him and stood.

Dusting snow and ice from his clothing he verified that he still had his pack, and his gear. He grabbed his radio but got no response from Dave. A thought occurred to him and he finally really looked around him.  The area was covered in broken ice and fallen snow, but a half dozen yards away he saw a lump under the snow that suddenly made him anxious.  "Oh no, no no no ..." he covered the distance quickly and started clearing snow away, confirming that Dave had also fallen into the crevasse. The other man was clearly dead, his neck bent at an angle that wasn't natural.

Kyle rocked back onto his heels as sudden sadness and anxiety flooded over him. His best friend was dead, and his lifeline to the surface with him. He wanted to weep, but if he gave in and gave up he would end up dead like Dave, and neither of them would ever be found. Kyle buried his grief and his worry and focused on the situation and how to survive it. He reached out and closed Dave's eyes, and then planted a bright red flag next to his body to make it easier to find later.  Later, when he came back to retrieve his friend.  Later, when he had gotten out of here alive.

He stood back up, still pushing down all those feelings that wouldn't help keep him alive. Instead he looked around, really looked for the first time. They had fallen into a deep crevasse, but it was far wider down here than he expected, and at the far end he could see the darkness of rock behind the ice. He started forward, figuring that if this was a long buried cave he might be able to make his way out, otherwise he would have to try and climb up and out, which would be dangerous given that the ice had given out and dropped them in here in there first place.

Kyle's boots crunched through stiff snow drifts as he neared the narrowing end of the ice. He smiled, he'd been right, there was rock here, and an opening. He grabbed the small collapsible shovel from his pack and dug the opening out, widening it until he would be able to crawl through.  Beyond the opening was another cave of ice and stone, lit from above by blue-tinged light from the sun filtering through ice. Kyle stowed his shovel and wriggled through. The passage opened into a narrow pass that wound away to his left, it was filled with snow and icicles as thick as his arm but he could pick his way through.

The passage sloped gently downward and Kyle tried his best to keep his mind on the depth and his position relative to the crevasse. Anything to help him survive. Anything to help him keep his mind off his dead friend. The folks at McMurdo wouldn't miss them for another several hours, and even if they found the snowmobiles, finding the crevasse was unlikely as he and Dave had been on foot for a quarter mile on the unstable ice. Still he was fairly certain he was moving toward the south, and thus away from the ocean, the rock suggested as much.

Lost in thought Kyle missed his footing as the tunnel suddenly grew steep, and he tumbled, sliding down the ice into a new chamber.  "Twice in one day Kyle? Really?" he chided himself.  He stood up and just stopped. There was a door, twenty feet high, set into a stone wall, across the chamber from him. A door that bore graven symbols and an intricate locking mechanism, parts of which were clearly visible, doubling as decoration.  It was surprisingly free of ice, despite the cavern floor before it being heaped with snow and ice, like it refused to allow ice to form on its surface.

He approached slowly, eyes barely leaving the door.  It had a look of something ancient, but looked like nothing he had seen before.  Briefly, Kyle wondered if all of those kooks who said that Antarctica had been home to some lost civilization were right. The idea was as preposterous as the idea of a door buried under the ice, and yet unless he was delirious he was staring at some convincing evidence.  Up close the door felt slightly warm, though not nearly enough to lend meaningful heat to the chamber, it did explain the lack of ice on the thing itself.

What he had thought of as a single door was also clearly a pair of narrow doors joined in the middle by a complex mechanism of gears.  Kyle reached out and pushed on the doors, they yielded no more than he expected. He banged on them with his gloved fists and his ice hammer with little effect aside from a dull echo in the chamber. Exhausted and cold he slumped against the door trying to take in any of its heat that he could. He felt a sharp pain in his cheek and reeled back.  There was blood on the door where his face had touched it, and the doors' mechanisms began to turn.