So, I’ve been playing with a ridiculous premise: a bunch of eco-warriors saw a ridiculously huge hunk of pack ice off of the side of Greenland and, using a mode of propulsion based on the old Orion concept, decide to ram something important with it to make a point. At the last moment, the protagonist (I won’t go so far as to call him a hero) gets cold feet (ha!) and throws a monkey wrench into the plan.
I’m still working on it, and all this is rough draft, but I decided to post an excerpt here. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to publish this one on its own, or make it part of another collection. It’s already at around 10,000 words, and will probably take at least another 2,000 to wrap up, maybe more. Those of you who read my work know that I work in short stories. This one is shaping up to be my longest yet. If I’m not careful, one of these days I’m going to accidentally write a novel.
In any event, I hope you enjoy the excerpt. And if you like it, feel free to look to the right and click on any of those links to find more of my writing.
Excerpt from “Speed Glacier”, rough draft:
Harold tried to open his eyes but everything stayed dark. His hips and stomach hurt; the nylon seatbelt that had, and still, secured the broken-off seat to his butt remained in place against his bruised gut. He fumbled at the buckle with stiff, cold hands until he found the button and jammed it in; it was balky and he had to press it half a dozen times before it clicked and the strap parted. The seat rolled off behind him with a thump, wood against wood. He put his hands down and realized that the surface he was pressing on was soft, warm, and breathing. He felt around: a limb, a body, another limb… was that a third limb? Its position made no sense to him. He pulled his hands back and his knees popped painfully, pressed down on an uneven wood surface. Reaching down, more limbs. Reaching up and forward, leaning a bit… another limb. The violence of the glacier dragging bottom must have shoved all of them into the same corner of the room, into a pile. He was glad he hadn’t wound up on the bottom, but instead up against one side.
He tried to open his eyes again and everything stayed stubbornly dark. Was he blind? Were his eyelids crusted shut with ice or blood? He reached up with a finger and recoiled as he painfully jabbed himself in his open eye with a fingertip, provoking an illusory flash of white light. His eyes were open. Either all of the lights had failed, leaving them in the dark half a mile below the surface of the ice, in complete and utter darkness, or he was indeed blind. He reached into his pocket for his cellphone and found a crushed and bent tangle of glass face, plastic case, and prickly broken circuit board that jabbed his skin like a fistful of burrs. Recoiling again, he stuffed his offended fingers in his mouth and tasted blood.
Someone moaned softly in the dark, he wasn’t sure how far away but it was close-ish. He sat still, listening, watching, ears and eyes straining against the pressure of the dark, fighting claustrophobia. The walls aren’t any closer than they were before, he told himself.
Unless the ice had really shifted.
He put the thought aside with an effort. If the chamber had collapsed, there was nothing to do about it and it hadn’t collapsed enough to crush them. He quieted his thoughts and listened.
The moan came again, softer. The ice made a few distant pings and groans like an old house settling in against the winds of a nor’easter. Breathing came from the pile of people next to him; he thought he could feel their warmth radiating in the chill of the room. Their sighing breaths, nearly inaudible, were soft and slow: the breathing of sleep, of unconsciousness.
A third moan, somewhere that wasn’t in the pile, but nearby. And a soft gasp of indrawn breath.
“Butterfly Wing?” he whispered, “is that you?” The darkness swallowed his words without an echo.
“Moon Wolf B2?” It was her, on the opposite side of him from the pile, but probably close enough to reach. He leaned toward the voice, put out his hand, low to the floor. It bumped painfully over chunks of plastic and metal and plexiglass, shifting them with a clatter. He was about to pull it back when her hand found his and grabbed his wrist with surprising strength.
“Harold,” he corrected her, feeling silly, not sure why he felt silly. “Do you have a light? My cellphone is broken.”
Her hand released his and he heard her fumbling through her pockets. A brilliant light blazed into his face, blinding him.
“Ow. Shit,” she said, and he heard a sharp click. The light turned muted and red. It flashed away from them, out into the destroyed room, and as the afterimages faded from his sight he could see the twisted wrecks of the console legs still bolted down to the buckled plywood floor, but the consoles and screens above the legs were gone. Above, the frames that had held the plexiglass barriers had assumed new shapes that seemed to defy Euclid’s geometry. The pile of people he had groped earlier was indeed the other three occupants of the room, half-jammed into a crevice in the uneven wall, defying gravity to reach waist height.
Butterfly Wing turned the light on her wounded leg. Her bloody pant leg glistened black under the red light. He watched as she flexed her foot.
“Is it worse?”
“I think the bleeding has stopped, and I can still feel it,” she said. “I tied my bandanna tight, but I couldn’t get it as tight as a tourniquet should be. It didn’t cut off all my circulation. Either it was tight enough, or I got lucky,” she said.
“Can you walk?” Harold asked.
“How should I know?” she retorted. “I haven’t tried yet. I can feel my toes, so maybe. Why, where do you think we’re going?”
“To the surface, I guess,” Harold said. “Is there anyplace else to go?”
“You want to take an elevator up?” she asked. There was a tone to her voice that warned him that a ‘yes’ answer wasn’t going to be acceptable.
“Oh. The power.”
“Yes, the power. Elevators don’t run without it. Even if we did have power, what are the chances that the shaft is still straight? We took a hell of a pounding.”
“You have to have planned for it, though,” Harold said. “The worker bees like me were supposed to be close to the surface when we hit, but you guys had to be down here. You have to have planned a way out.”
“We didn’t really think we’d live through it,” she said. “We planned on a direct hit, not to drag to a stop on New Jersey’s barrier islands, which is what I think happened.” Harold’s heart sank. No way out. “But,” she continued, and Harold sat up straighter, hopeful. “But, yes, we planned a way out just in case…”