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John Carpenter's

 

The Aftermath

by Tim Metz


MacReady watched the dancing flames as they slowly engulfed the smoldering remains of Outpost #31. Childs took another swig from the whiskey bottle and then offered some to Mac.

"No thanks, I've made a resolution to stop drinking," Mac said, grinning. Childs then looked down at his hands, which were turning a puffy white color. He sighed.

"I imagine I'll be losing my fingers soon, my toes already went about fifteen minutes ago," Childs said.

MacReady then turned his attention to the dark snow capped cliffs off in the distance behind Childs. "Do you think we could make it to the Norwegian camp without the bird? I mean, if we could, we could probably manage to hold up there until spring..."

"No, we'd never make it, Mac," Childs said. "The storm's hitting this area too hard, and it took you guys an hour to get their just taking the chopper. Besides, who knows if there still isn't any of that Thing left over there crawling around the place."

"Exactly, that's why we have to go. I found the fused body outside, but me and Doc did a pretty quick sweep through the camp. There could be more of them, and I'll be damned if we just sacrificed everything so that Thing can get found by their rescue team."

"C'mon Mac, that's suicide."

"So is sitting right here, Childs. No one is going to rescue us, we can either curl up and die, or at least try to make it back home alive."

"I thought you said we shouldn't, maybe we should die," Childs said, eyeing Mac suspiciously. "You did seem awfully confident during that blood test, Mac, I've been wondering if you rigged it."

"You never were one of the brightest of them, Childs. That Thing still has you suspicious, even after I blew the fucker sky-high. If you still don't trust me, then go ahead, kill me, you're the one with the torch. I'm telling you right now though, if there's any of that Thing left at the Norwegian camp, I'm the least of your problems, and you're gonna need all the help you can get if you want to destroy it."

"Very well Mac, we'll go. But after we've checked out the camp, we'll continue this interrogation."

"Fair enough." The roaring wind suddenly died down, and MacReady looked back over at the burning compound, as the flames began to shrink. "Let's head out now, while the wind's down, it's our best bet."


After salvaging whatever extra clothing the two men could find to layer themselves with, MacReady and Childs began their long trek across the ice. After about an hour of walking, they turned to find the light of the burning camp a dim glow on the horizon. When two hours had passed, they found that they could no longer see it anymore at all. Childs soon began to find himself tiring, and stopped to rest on the field of ice the men were crossing. MacReady was still persistent though, even with traces of frostbite beginning to cross his face and hands. He walked back rather impatiently to his resting comrade.

"C'mon, we gotta keep moving, we're almost halfway there, and that storm could start back up at any time," MacReady said.

"How...how do you even know if were going in the right direction, it's darker than shit out here, and we don't have a compass or a map or anything," Childs said, rather frustrated.

"I just flew down here a couple days ago, and I'm a pilot remember, it's my job to know the terrain, even in the dark."

"This is crazy Mac." Childs looked at MacReady's frostbitten face, and then down at his own hands. He found that two of the fingers on his left hand no longer worked, the rest brought upon a terrible stinging pain when he attempted to move them. "Mac, we're gonna die out here, we should just head back to the camp..."

"What camp Childs? There's nothing to go back to, this is our only chance to live, and to maybe stop that Thing once and for all. You're welcome to see if you can even find the damn camp anymore, but I'm pushing on to the Norwegian outpost."

With that, Mac walked off, and after pondering what to do for a minute, Childs soon followed him. After several more hours the sun began to rise just a bit, staying low in the sky. In a few more weeks it would not even be rising at all as Antartica got into the dead of winter. With the rising sun, MacReady could see the Norwegian Outpost in the distance, and he felt his heart nearly leap out of his chest. What Childs had said had him doubting his navigation skills, for it was incredibly dark, and he was rather dazed between the booze and the frostbite, and after passing through the last two days of grim despair, a ray of hope suddenly was shining down on him and his comrade. Childs soon spotted the camp and ran up to Mac's side.

"I don't fucking believe it, Mac, you did it, you actually got us here."


Within a few minutes, the two men were upon the desheveled Norwegian Compound, and quickly got inside its walls. The interior of the complex wasn't much warmer, for there were numerous holes in the roof and walls, and the station's generator was dead as well. However, the walls, as poor of quality as they were, did offer shelter from the violent storms of the Antarctic winter. Plus, Childs was Outpost #31's mechanic, and with the proper tools, he felt he could fix the Norwegian generator.

"Alright, let's see what we can do with shithole," MacReady said with a grin. After working for several hours with the few materials they were able to salvage, the two weary men managed to get a good section of the camp into reasonable shape. MacReady had patched up all of the walls in the camp's Recreation Room, so that they had one room completely sealed off from the pounding snow, and sure enough, Childs did manage to repair the generator, and hooked up several portable heating units to keep the Rec Room warm. There were a couple frozen candy bars and cans of soup in one of the cuboards, so if the men ate sparingly they'd have enough to hold them out until Spring came along. Much to his pleasant suprise, MacReady found an old chessboard stashed away underneath one of the tables with two complete sets of pieces, one black, one red. He gently picked it up and set it up upon the card table in the middle of the room.

"Do you play?" Mac asked Childs with a smirk.

"Well no, but hell, I guess I'll be learning," the weary mechanic said. With that the two men plopped down in a set of chairs on opposite ends of the table. MacReady gave a quick explanation of the rules as he set up the pieces on the board. Childs made the first move, ushering a red pawn forward. As the game wore on, and Childs found himself quickly losing to the superior MacReady, a puzzling thought began to wander through his tired mind.

"I don't know Mac, this kinda reminds me of a game we already played."

"And what is that?" MacReady asked, as his black bishop took Childs' red knight.

"You know what I'm talking about, Mac. Just how did you walk away from that explosion unharmed?" Childs took a swig of whiskey, and moved forward his queen while carefully eyeing MacReady.

"A good question, Childs. Almost as good as the question of why exactly you went out into that storm, and how you made it back to the camp alive." MacReady quickly took Childs' queen with his rook.

"I already told you, Mac, I thought I saw Blair and went after him. That damn storm spun me around all over the place, and I probably wouldn't have found the camp again, but that explosion was hard to miss, even in that god-awful weather. You however never did explain your half of it."

"I blew that fucker sky-high, and ran for my life, just got lucky I guess. Check." Childs quickly moved his piece out of check in retaliation.

"Well, Mac, since you and I are so sure of ourselves being human, one more little blood test wouldn't hurt now, would it?"

"If you insist Childs." With that, MacReady cut his hand with a nearby shard of glass, and poured the blood into a cup on the table. With a sly grin, MacReady threw the cup of blood on the nearby heating generator, and Childs watched in horror as the blood let out an unearthly shreik of pain before quickly burning away into nothing. Childs lept up from his chair and pointed his flamethrower directly at MacReady.

"You son of a bitch! Before I torch your alien ass for the last time, I just want to know why... why you did this to us."

"It's nothing personal, Childs, it's just the way we survive. It's the way we've survived for thousands of years."

"But why attack us, man? We could have lived together, in peace."

"Oh Childs, but we do live together. All your friends... Mac, Palmer, Nauls, all of them, they're all in here with us, along with millions of other lifeforms from all across the galaxy. We're all in here, sharing our knowledge and experiences, and compiling them into something big, something wonderful..."

"Yeah, one big happy fucking family."

"C'mon Childs, don't be so cynical. I know all of your friends, the Norwegians too. I've looked into all of your minds, and I know that you humans are always looking to feel loved, to feel accepted, but ultimately you all simply feel terribly lonely and alone. With us you'd never be lonely again though Childs, you'd always be loved, and you'd always be accepted."

"Oh I see, you think you can just bring in your big fucking universal wisdom, and convince me to give up the one thing that is truly mine... my individuality? Well fuck that, bwana!"

"This is most disappointing Childs, I was hoping that you'd come with us willingly. No matter, you soon shall be a part of us."

"Ha, how do you figure that shitheel? Last time I checked, I was the one with the torch." MacReady began to laugh.

"You still don't understand, do you? You're already becoming part of us?"

"What the fuck are you talking abou..." Childs suddenly froze, an expression of sheer horror crossed his face as he looked down at the bottle of whiskey on the table. "Oh my God."

"Catch on quick, don't ya?" MacReady said, sarcastically. "We've slowly been infecting you ever since you took that first drink when the Outpost went up in flames."

"I... I... my head... hurts..."

"Yes, the mind is always the last part we take. Don't fight it, it's less painful when you don't fight. Not to worry though, you'll soon feel right as rain." MacReady then picked up the bottle of whiskey and finished it off.

"It's... it's all so clear now Mac, I can remember it all."

"Wonderful isn't it? You better double check the heaters though, we wouldn't want them crapping out on us in the middle of this awful winter. After all, waiting in that ice for a hundred and fifty thousand years was such a pain in the ass. Hate to have to wait in it again." With that, Mac Ready moved his queen into position on the chessboard. "Checkmate."


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