Apocalypse Weird: Reversal (Polar Wyrd Book 1) (10 page)

BOOK: Apocalypse Weird: Reversal (Polar Wyrd Book 1)
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“I don’t know, an underground explosion, a meteor…” Soren left off any suggestion of aliens.

They continued on. It didn’t take them long to encounter another crater, and then yet another. If they had a helicopter, and could get a bird’s eye view, Sasha began to suspect that they would see the entire plain dotted with giant holes.

The fourth crater was the largest and they again approached the edge to gape into the deep and wide expanse of nothing. They stood several feet apart, their faces likely mirrors of disbelief. While they were blind, she and Soren had grown accustomed standing close together so they could verify each other’s presence. But now they could see, they had resumed their respectful distance. Sasha wished Soren could be within inches of her again.

Soren looked at her, his face pale under his Arctic tan, and offered a weak smile. “I guess we’d better hope one of these doesn’t open up under the station.”

The dogs, who had been restlessly pacing the outer edges of the crater, noisily announcing their discomfort, suddenly went quiet and sat.

The raspy, chilling voice came from right behind them. “You are so very right, Soren Anderson, for more reasons than one.”

Sasha and Soren both whirled and Soren whipped out his gun.

The creature that stood before them was corporeal and yet not; humanoid, and yet definitely not human. Beneath its skin, if indeed one could call it skin, it shimmered with a white energy and there was a raw beauty and cruelty to its features that left Sasha breathless; its eyes the palest of blue, almost the color of ice. It wore a white uniform of sorts, but the clothing seemed to be part of the creature rather than attire. Sasha had the vague and fleeting impression of a multi-eyed, multi-winged seraph, even though that was not at all how the creature appeared.

“There is a conflict going on right now,” the creature continued. “A celestial one. And these holes are the result. When we once divided up the earth, we took territories. Famine and Suffering took much of Africa and India. Greed took North America and Europe. I took the Poles.” The creature swept its arms expansively, reinforcing Sasha’s notion of wings—dark, ungainly, evil wings. “Most of my demon brethren feed off each other. Jealousy, Mayhem, Greed, Sickness, and Suffering are having big parties in most of the rest of the world right now.”

The creature turned slightly, and the air shifted around it as if there were more mass to it than met the eye. “But Development and Pollution are getting sloppy and greedy. They’ve been moving into my territories for years. Ice all over the world—in glaciers, ice shelves, icebergs, permafrost, and sea ice—is melting. You humans like to call it climate change, and in your foolish anthropocentric ways think you are the cause. The other demons are drunk and high on their successes in the rest of the world in the last twenty-four hours, and are belching their influence north and south to the Poles with little regard for the consequences.”

“Why are you telling us this?” Soren asked.

The icy eyes regarded them dispassionately. “You will die…soon, likely, but I might be able to preserve your precious little lives for a bit longer if you consider your love of cold places when the time comes.”

Abruptly, a freezing wind lit across the plain and hurled itself at them from behind. Sasha and Soren both turned and braced, and when they looked back, Ice was gone.

“You know, in some ways, I think I preferred being blind,” Sasha said.

They gathered up the dogs and got back on the snowmobile in silence, fighting against the now brutal winds that swept across the island. With her legs pressed against Soren’s and her arms hugged around his chest, she felt marginally better. Still terrified, but better.

The wind slowed their progress, and when it had reached almost gale force and snow started to blow from newly formed clouds that surged and unfurled across the sky in a dense grey mass, Soren slowed the machine and pulled to a stop.

“For something that wants our help, it’s sure not making it easy for us.”

“Maybe it wants us to go the other direction,” Sasha said.

“Well, we’d better. I don’t like the look of that storm. We can go check out a couple of the safety pods on the way back to the station. See if anyone’s used them.”

Soren turned the snowmobile and they both immediately saw it—a huge plume of smoke extending skyward into the still-blue horizon east of them. Sasha felt a wave of nausea and then oriented herself. Mount Caper was to the right, Tremblant to the left. It was not the station that was burning.

Without asking, Soren steered the snowmobile in the direction of the plume. When they rounded a slight hillock, they saw the flames of a giant bonfire licking up into the now considerably dimmer sky. The fire seemed to come from inside one of the craters. A single figure stood before it. The remains of a military plane lay in the snow not far beyond the fire.

Soren stopped the snowmobile and yanked his binoculars out of one of the containers on the side of the machine.

“It’s Robert,” he said. “What the hell is he doing?”

Any questions or surprise that Sasha might have expressed regarding this discovery were drowned out by the bawl of a wild animal. Sasha whipped her head around and saw a lumbering mass of white barreling down on them at alarming speed.

A polar bear.

Soren drew his gun and fired a shot before Sasha could even scream, but he fired it directly into the air. Despite all his earlier swearing about them, Soren did not like to kill polar bears. He had told her this before—he believed in sharing the Arctic with the majestic creatures and preferred to use the guns to scare them off. Sasha had agreed with this notion at the time, but now that the bear was thundering down on them, she decided that Soren was absolutely nuts. The dogs launched out of the trailer and assembled into a semi-circle, their teeth bared and fur standing in ripples on their backs.

The thousand pound bear was now fifty feet away, its mouth wide open in a howl of rage. Sasha hunted for her own gun but her hands were shaking too much to unzip her pocket.

“You need to shoot it,” Sasha said. “Please.”

Soren nodded and started to take aim, but before he could, rifle shots came from behind them, narrowly missing both them and the bear.

They both turned to see Cal, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, walking toward them with a rifle trained in their direction…at them, or at the bear? For a fleeting second, Sasha was unsure. It had to be at the bear of course, but they were right in the line of fire. Cal let off a few more shots. Instinctively, she dropped to the ground. The distraction of Cal had prevented Soren from getting off a shot. The bear was only twenty feet away now, closing in at a horrifying pace. She snatched squirming and growling Cedar into arms, curled into a ball, closed her eyes, and whimpered.

Shot after shot followed. The pounding of paws echoed in her ears. Why had nobody hit the bear? Bloodcurdling, mind-bending screams followed. Soren. Had the bear gotten Soren?

Something grabbed at her parka. The bear. She braced for death, hoping it would be fast.

“Get up. Get on the machine. Right now. Dogs! Tundra! Timber!” Soren bellowed.

Sasha rose up still holding Cedar, her knees quivering and useless. Soren was already firing up the engine. The screams continued and Sasha forced her gaze to where Cal had been—where the bear now stood, its white fur smeared with blood, tearing what had been a human form to pieces.

She thrust Cedar into the trailer and got on the snowmobile. Soren turned and drove off in the direction of the station as fast as the machine could go.

 

 

When the screams faded and had been replaced by the howl of the wind, Sasha dared to open one of her eyes a crack. She was still shaking so hard it was difficult to hold onto Soren. The storm had caused the light level to drop further and the giant craters appeared in front of them without warning every half mile or so, forcing Soren to veer suddenly to avoid catapulting into their depths.

They were traversing between two particularly large craters when they hit one of the patches of fog. The temperature instantly rose, and the wet air condensed on Sasha’s face and clothes. The way ahead was a billowing sea of white and she did not know how Soren could possibly know where he was going. Soren slowed, inching forward cautiously through the mist, and then suddenly cut the engine.

“Did you just hear dogs barking?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe.” Had she? The mist was creeping her out. The noise had seemed more like
voices
, but she didn’t want to say that. Whose voices would they be? Edie was dead. Cal was dead—and she was strangely obsessed with the fact that he had been smoking. He had never smoked before. Robert was back at that pyre. She shouldn’t call it a pyre. Pyres were for burning dead bodies. Vincent and Amber were back at the station. Kyle was who knows where—and he wouldn’t be talking to himself, and there shouldn’t be anyone else here in the Arctic.

Unless someone else had come on the military planes yesterday. She still assumed that was how Vincent had gotten here, even if he didn’t think so. How else could he have gotten here?

She heard the voices again. Snippets of conversation. Soren must have heard them too as he steered the snowmobile in the direction of the sound. They emerged from the mist in front of the station. Sasha snapped her head back in surprise. She had not thought they had driven that far away from the bear, and Cal, but her eyes had been closed, and with all the craters she had gotten a little disoriented.

She started to get off the snowmobile, but Soren reached back and clasped her thigh so hard that it hurt, and his body went rigid. She raked her eyes over the station.

It was the same single-story blue metal building on cement pilings they had departed a few hours ago, with the central common area, storage bay, and long sleeping wing jutting out to the east. The west sleeping wing that she and Soren occupied was not visible from this angle. She glanced around furiously for bodies in the snow, polar bears, dogs, and demons, for anything in the windows of the station, but she saw nothing.

“What? What is it?” she hissed at Soren.

Soren extended a shaking finger to the sign that hung by the side door to the storage bay.

Instead of “International Polar Science Station—Arctic” which she was fairly sure it had read before, it said, “International Polar Science Station—Shackleton.”

“Did it say that before?” she said.

“No,” Soren said.

“Did Shackleton even come to the Arctic?”

Soren shook his head.

“Do you think we’re still in the Arctic?”

“I sure as hell hope so,” Soren said, dismounting and heading toward the station door. He climbed the short flight of stairs and punched in the code on the keypad to open the storage bay door. There was no comforting response from the door. Soren punched in the numbers again. Sasha got off the snowmobile and came to join him, while the dogs scattered and started to sniff around the edges of the station pilings where yellow marked the white snow. Still, the door did not open.

Soren had his fists clenched. “The code doesn’t work,” he said.

“Could Amber have changed it?”

“That and the sign? I can see why she would change the code, but why the sign? Anyway, she would need my passcode in order to change the keypad entry code.”

Inside the station, a lone dog started to bark.

Sasha and Soren looked at each other. Had one of the dogs come back? But instead of howling the greeting that Sasha thought they would, Tundra, Timber, and Cedar started to growl and bark in response.

Soren pressed the buzzer that would ring in the common room, and yelled into the old comm system that would broadcast his voice in the station. “Amber! Vincent! It’s Soren and Sasha. Let us in!”

The door remained closed, but the barking of the dog intensified. Soren tried two more times with no response. Then he started to pound on the door with his fist. His intensity scared Sasha a little.

“Maybe we should go look in one of the common room windows,” Sasha ventured. Because of the pilings, the windows were high in the air and relatively small to conserve heat in the icy Arctic winter. Soren would have to boost Sasha in order for her to see in.

Soren backed away from the door and started examining the storage bay walls with intense focus, running his hands down the metal siding, pausing at dents and marks, while the dogs skipped around him baying and howling their disapproval. He went around the corner to where the bay door stood. Sasha followed.

The corner of the door that Soren had boarded up with plywood just an hour ago was perfectly intact.

Soren stepped back from the station eyeballing it and shaking his head like it was a newly arrived alien ship.

“This isn’t the station,” he said. “We need to go.”

“How can it not be the station?” Sasha said. “How?” It was not that she was disputing his conclusion. It was just that she had no idea how any of this was possible, and at this moment she wanted to be in the station, Soren’s station, occupying the relative safety of the couch, far away from polar bears, and craters, and demons, and other researchers with guns.

“I don’t know. But I know my station—I’ve lived in it for seven years—and even without the fact that there is no plywood on the door here, I know this is not it.”

Before Sasha could say anything more, the buzz of something overhead cut through the storm. She looked at Soren. Someone was trying to land in this soup of a fog with the wind screaming all around them?

A small red helicopter dropped out of the murk above them and both Soren and Sasha automatically jerked their bodies into a hunch as if it might remove their heads. It bobbed and weaved, buffeted by the fierce wind until it dropped low enough to skitter about on the icy station runway. Sasha closed her eyes. Surely it was going too fast in this wind, and it was all over the place, it would never be able to pull out a safe landing.

But the anticipated clang and snap of metal followed by explosions of petrol never came, and after a few seconds, the engine on the helicopter was cut. Sasha opened her eye a crack. Soren scrambled over the swales of snow in the direction of the helicopter.

BOOK: Apocalypse Weird: Reversal (Polar Wyrd Book 1)
6.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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