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John Carpenter's

The Rothera Station                                                       

By Moriarty

Author's Note: The following tale takes place parallel to John Carpenter’s 1982 movie ‘The Thing’. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is an actual scientific committee designated in the Antarctica.

 

Prologue

1.

The place stank.

The mingled odor of machine oil, laboratory equipment and melted ice engulfed the Rothera Research Station, although none of the crew could smell it anymore. As far as they were concerned, it was part of the job. Mildew was beginning to grow on some of the walls, and some of the floorboards were beginning to rot. Although the storage rooms held an abundance of wood, no one could be bothered to fix them.

James Carter, Chief Technician of Outpost #24, donned his thermal jacket and strapped his goggles on. It was early morning, and as far as he knew he was the only one up. He walked down the corridor, towards the main entrance of the complex, and passed the communications room. The damn radio had been acting up all week, and Carter knew at some point throughout the day, he and Wren would have to fix it. It was the first week of winter, after all, and the thought of being cut off from any means of life outside the outpost grated on him.

Stepping out into the snowy wilderness of the Antarctic, he took a moment to survey the surroundings. The sun would be rising soon, and the others would want breakfast. Carter grumbled something inaudible under the bandanna he had fastened round his mouth, and moved towards the tractor. He hated the cold, and despised the fact he had to get up early to fix some of the components on the tractor. Damn machines were always breaking down out here, he thought. Knowles had wanted it fixed yesterday, but Carter wasn’t in the mood to spend a couple of hours of his time fiddling around with the machinery, and probably cutting his fingers in the process too. His contempt for Knowles has escalated further yesterday when he said he’d report him if it wasn’t fixed before the week was out.

“Fucking Knowles,” he muttered, the sharp wind drowning out his obscenity. He passed several fuel drums and then dropped to his knees when he arrived at the tractor, laying the toolbox he’d been carrying down on the snow. The machine was fine, in his opinion. Who cared if the makeshift valve had been acting up lately? It wasn’t like the thing would suddenly roar away at seventy miles an hour and plummet over the side of the cliff. Carter suddenly had an image of Knowles in the tractor, speeding off like a bat out of hell on the thing, and comically dropping thousands of feet, only to become a small cloud at the bottom. He thought of the cartoon RoadRunner, and in particular the character of Wile E. Coyote – he remembered watching a part where the devious coyote fell down a cliff, only to become a small dust-cloud at the bottom. Boom!

The spanner he’d been using to fix one of the parts slipped and smashed into the crevice of his thumb and index finger. He swore, loud enough so the wind wouldn’t be able to drown it out, and kicked the machine. Damn Knowles.

 

It was around eight o’clock when Dawkins smelt the bacon. He lifted himself off his bunk and stretched. Squinting, he could barely make out Quinn lying in a bizarre angle on the bunk next to him. Dawkins turned to the table next to his bunk and groped around blindly for his glasses. After finding them, he stood up and got into his clothes. It was chilly in the bunks, even with the radiators constantly on.

Dawkins was a small man in stature, his face was long and had what was known as a ‘weak-chin’. Although this irritated him, when he was around the other members of the Rothera Station he would try to jut the chin out, so that it made his face look more masculine and tough. He stroked a hand though his curly ginger hair, and put the glasses on. Looking out the bunk window, he smiled as the sun broke through the tips of the mountains in the distance. Another beautiful day, he thought.

“Quinn, wake up. Time for breakfast.”

A murmur came from the blankets of Quinn’s bunk.

“If you’re not up in the next two minutes I get to eat your bacon.”

Another murmur.

“I also shagged your wife last night. That’s why I wake up next to you with a boner every morning.”

From his position, Quinn’s face was turned away from Dawkins. A hand rose from the blankets though, and Quinn shot Dawkins the birdie. “You wake up next to me with a boner because you’re queer,” he replied. “And if you touch my bacon I’ll kill you.”

 

Assistant Technician Clarence Wren stood with George McPherson in the communications room, both men sombrely staring at the radio mounted on the desk.

“You’re the tech guy around here, fix the blasted thing,” said McPherson.

“I can’t just fix it,” replied Wren, “It’s a delicate piece of machinery. Hell, I don’t even know most of what this apparatus is capable of.”

McPherson turned his malevolent gaze and fixed it on the gaunt-looking technician. “We can’t run a research station without communication, no communication means no work, and no work means no pay-cheque. So you’d better find out what this apparatus is capable of, or else you’ll be out of a job. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

“Like un-muddied water,” he retorted.

“Good, because I wouldn’t like to think that you knew exactly what this machine can do, but instead decided to potter around and get out of doing some work.”

“Work is the greatest thing in the world, so we should always save some of it for tomorrow. And besides, do I look like the kind of guy to lie?”

McPherson didn’t answer.

Wren sat himself down. “Get Carter in here for me then, would you? I’ll need his help.”

“What do I look like to you, your personal assistant? Find him yourself.” With that, McPherson turned, and walked out of the room.

“Asshole,” Wren muttered, first making sure that the other man was out of earshot.

 

A quarter of an hour later, most of the men were in the recreational room. This place was the heart of the research station, fitted purposefully with all the comforts of home. In the middle of the room was a large pool table, missing a yellow ball that was believed to have dropped below a crack in the floorboards. The pool table also had a small tear along the far-side cushion; when, during a drunken tournament that had culminated in a show-down between Dr. Greenberg and Morse the helicopter pilot, a few misinterpreted words had made Morse wield the cue-stick like a spear.

A small portable television unit sat at the far side of the room, on top of medical journals and other magazines. Although there was no reception in the Antarctic, Wren had brought a collection of pornographic movies and some horror flicks from home. Beside the television unit was an arcade machine, a newly fitted Pac-Man, supplied generously from The British Antarctic Survey. The screen was stained with beer and the joystick counter was covered with ash.

Apart from the obligatory chairs and table, the room held an atmosphere that meant that after a hard day’s work, the men at Rothera could relax, drink and discuss subjects that they probably would never talk about anywhere else in the camp. This room had been subject to many heated debates, fights, humorous conversations and general tomfoolery. Right now, however, the room had been designated into a breakfast canteen, and the men huddled round the large poker table and ate their breakfasts hungrily.

“Where’s Morse, he’s missing out on some good chow,” said Quinn.

“You’re damn right about that,” came a voice from the kitchen, “I haven’t been slaving over these stoves for nothing! You’d better appreciate my cooking skills.”

“The day I don’t enjoy your food, Frye, is the day Knowles starts to seem attractive!” shouted Quinn. Knowles, busily stuffing a sausage into his mouth, grunted, and continued to eat.

“He’s still outside, working on the tractor.” Said Dr. Greenberg.

“How long has he been out there?”

“He was on it when I woke up,” replied the doctor, glancing over at Knowles.

“About time those two done some work,” garbled McPherson, his mouth full of mashed potato. Wren lay down his fork to say something, but thought again and stayed quiet.

“A man’s entitled to eat,” said Quinn.

“A man’s entitled to work for it,” snapped Knowles, his eyes down at his breakfast. “I’ve told him a hundred times to get that tractor sorted out.”

“So why’s he suddenly doing it now?” asked Quinn, his eyes narrowing.

Knowles remained silent, and continued to eat his food.

“Has anybody told him we’re having breakfast now?” Dawkins said, concerned.

“He should be able to smell the delicious flavour out there,” said McPherson, sniggering.

“You boys should grow up,” said the doctor, “or else Papa bear’s gonna have to teach you a lesson.”

The group laughed at the doctor’s remark, the tension broken.

“Where the hell is Morse, anyway?” Dawkins asked, craning his neck round.

“In his shack, probably. Guy spends half his life in that little shed.”

A thunderous crash came from outside. All the men around the table dropped their knives and forks, and looked around at each other for a moment. A second later, the door flung open and Carter stood, goggles in hands, breathless.

“You guys better grab your gear and come have a look at this,” he said, and then dashed off back down the corridor.

“What the hell is this all about?” spat McPherson, grabbing another sausage before he got up.

“Maybe the Germans are invading again.” Said Wren.

 

 

 

 

2.

 

Morse sat in his shack, head in his hands. Through his blurred vision, he made out an empty vodka bottle lying on its side on the floor. He groaned, turned over on his bunk, and stared at the wall.

He’d been down here too long. He’d forgotten how many months they’d been here – eight…ten, perhaps? Morse blinked several times. The room, which had been swaying slightly the last couple of seconds, started to balance itself again. He sat up from his bunk, scratched his gristly beard, and stood up.

He’d been a chopper pilot for Mountain Search and Rescue. Originally based in the rocky mountainous area of Snowdonia, he’d seen too many climbing accidents and deaths to continue working there. One in particular that he remembered was a girl no older than seventeen who had gone climbing with her boyfriend for his birthday. Due to adverse weather conditions, they became stranded on a rocky surface, clinging desperately to the surrounding boulders. Morse’s team had been despatched to pick them up and airlift them to safety…a normal procedure, something they did every other day. Morse could still picture the girl’s twisted face as she plummeted from the rescue line, the look of shock in her eyes – and then the screaming. A sound that he’ll never forget for the rest of his entire life. That high-pitched, squealing, distorted scream…

He inadvertently kicked the vodka bottle, sending it scuttling across the room. Apathetically, he trudged across the small shack and opened the door, allowing the cold morning air to wake him up fully.

The application for this outpost had been sent to him via a colleague at the Mountain job. It was their way of saying, ‘we know you’re cracking up, bub. Get out while you can. Before you put our lives at risk.’ And he’d taken it. He only had to use the outpost’s chopper every now and then, mainly for supplies and chauffeuring Quinn and Dawkins to their excavation sites. Apart from that, the work was relatively easy – it was clear open space and they didn’t fly around the mountains.

But he’d been down there too long. Morse wasn’t a man to sit back lazily and get himself drunk every night. That was Wren and Carter’s job.

He hated himself for turning into the monstrosity he saw before him. He looked back into his shack, and surveyed the dozen or so empty bottles lined up against the wall. And this was the first week of winter – the trash had only been taken out a couple of days ago. He leant against the banister of the shack’s stairs, and sighed heavily. Morse knew himself that it was futile, he’d be down here for the next couple of years, probably. Catering for the scientists and playing poker in the rec-room with the other guys.

This was the life he chose. This was the path he took. He had nobody else to blame except himself. And he hated that.

He heard it before he actually saw anything. It was a small humming at first, but then gradually built into a low rumbling noise. Morse looked up, and saw a small dark rectangular shape in the distance. He studied it as it ploughed through the snow, making its way towards the outpost.

It had caught someone else’s attention now, too. Morse noticed that someone working on the tractor outside the post had stood up to see what was going on. Morse hadn’t even been aware anyone was out here. Interested, Morse got his jacket from the hook hanging inside the shed and stepped down the shed’s steps. The object was clearer now – it was a ski-dozer, not dissimilar to the ones they used at the camp. At first, Morse thought someone had gone out in the morning, using one of the dozers. But upon glancing around the camp, both tractors were stationary.

What the hell was a dozer doing all the way out here? He thought to himself. The tractor kept pummelling towards the camp, with no apparent intention of slowing down. Morse could sense that whoever was working on the tractor had also thought about this. It was Carter, he remembered, looking at the jacket.

“Carter!” Morse shouted. Carter turned, shrugged, and then focused his attention back on the advancing tractor. Morse started to run now, catching up with Carter.

“Who is that?” Carter asked.

“Beats the hell outta me.”

The rumbling noise was intense now, the tractor being only a couple of hundred yards away.

“Is he going to slow down?”

Morse didn’t say anything.

The dozer was close now, but the driver obviously hadn’t intended for there to be a small hill crest just before the entrance of the camp site. It almost flew over the slope, but it landed top-heavy, crashing front-end into the snow. The tail end stuck up in the air for about a second. It then started to fall, so that it ended up on its roof. The tractor treads were still rolling furiously, smoke pouring from the exhaust.

“Christ!” exclaimed Carter, “I’ll get the other guys, and you go see what the damage is.”

Carter started running for the compound. Morse heeded Carter’s advice and started for the dozer, which was no on its roof. Going for the driver’s side, Morse had trouble opening the door. It seemed welded shut at first, but Morse realised that the frosty environment of Antarctica had stiffened the hinges. After a few swift kicks, Morse had the door open.

“What the hell are you playing at? You could’ve…” Morse began, but once he saw the occupant inside he stopped. Although upside down, Morse noted the wildness in the man’s eyes. They danced from left to right, not focused on anything in particular. Morse quickly wondered if he knew he’d been turned upside down.

The man was wearing black fatigues. His face was almost blue, and a thin bead of blood trailed down his forehead. “Shit, we better get you out of there,” Morse muttered, scrambling to get inside the ski-dozer.

 

Knowles stood at the entrance of the camp, allowing the men to run past and help Morse get the man out of the tractor. A sudden sense of foreboding entered his mind, and he retraced his steps and went back to his office. An American, Knowles had been sent to the Rothera Station because the heads at BARS decided that they wanted a scientific research station that ran a tight ship. He’d been headhunted to act as the supervisor for the station, even though McPherson was the station manager – they wanted a Warrant Officer to govern the place…a tough guy to call the shots. Although he knew most of the men resented him for it, he found solace in the fact that he gave the orders around here.

As he unlocked the cabinet nearest to his desk, he also found consolation in the fact that he was the only one who knew the combination to the weapons cabinet. He produced a six-gauge shotgun, and promptly started to load it. The sense of foreboding passed, and as he walked back to the entrance, barrel pointed to the ground, he surveyed the surrounding white blanket of snow around the outpost. There weren’t many men here from a military background, he thought, and they wouldn’t know the first thing about an ambush, if there had been one.

There didn’t seem to be any other people in sight, so he watched the team drag the man out and let Dr. Greenberg examine him.

 

“Let’s get him inside,” said Greenberg, checking his neck for a pulse, “He’s got severe hypothermia.”

Carter and Morse took him by the legs, while Frye and Quinn lifted him by his arms. The doctor jogged back to the entrance, signalling for Knowles. “We need to get this man to the infirmary – and we also need to use some of the plasma. Get a table ready for him.”

Knowles narrowed his eyes, “No, I don’t like this,” he said wearily, “we don’t know anything about this guy…why’s he out here in the middle of nowhere, huh? Don’t you think it’s funny that he made it all the way over here by tractor? You know the protocol Greenberg, twenty-four hour observation and quarantine.”

“Damn it, Knowles!” Greenberg exclaimed, “We don’t have time for that! He could be dead by then!”

Knowles took this onboard, and an uneasy silence fell between the two men. He switched his glance from the doctor, then to the man being carried across the snow. “You’ll take responsibility for anything that happens,” he added.

“Yes! Yes, I’ll take responsibility. Now move out of my way.” The tall black doctor barged past Knowles, knocking him against the door alcove. He grunted heavily, but allowed the man to be carried inside.

The man in black fatigues gurgled something inaudible as he went past, and Knowles tightened his grip on the shotgun. He didn’t like this, at all.

 

 

3.

 

“He’s going into anaphylactic shock,” cried the doctor, “Hold him down, will you?”

The man’s body started to convulse – his limbs jutted to a fro like a rag doll being tortured by its master. “Damn it,” said Greenberg, trying to steady the man’s arms, “I can’t get this needle into him. Will someone hold him the fuck down?”

McPherson and Carter stepped nearer to the infirmary table, and tried to restrain the man’s seizure. “What the hell’s happening to him, Doc?” asked Carter, watching the man’s ferocious eyes dance wildly in their sockets.

“His body has had an acute systemic type of allergic reaction – probably due to the morphine…fluid can leak into the alveoli of the lungs, causing pulmonary edema.”

Carter looked on, bemused.

“That’s bad, in other words.”

The man started screaming, an incomprehensible string of jumbled words. “Get him steady,” shouted the doctor.

“What the hell is that language?” asked Wren.

“It’s Norwegian.” Said Dawkins.

“I don’t care if it’s gobbledegook, hold him down!”

“What’s he saying, Dawkins?”

“I dunno…something…something about a monster…monster on the inside…”

The man jerked one more time, his face twisted in a pained expression, and then his body went limp. Dr. Greenberg cursed, and then began CPR.

“One…two…three…” Greenberg pumped his palms on the man’s chest.

“I’ll get the defibrillator,” said Quinn, racing to the cabinets.

“One…two…three…”

“What the fuck was all that about?” Wren asked.

“One…two…three…”

“Why’s a Norwegian down here?” McPherson enquired, staring at the man’s lifeless face.

“One…two…three…”

“Look at his eyes, they’re rolled to the top of his head.”

“One…two…three…”

Quinn came to the doctor’s side, with the large rectangular box. The doctor stopped pumping, and checked for a pulse. “There’s no need,” he finally said. “He’s dead.”

 

The nine men were solemn in the recreational room. A large map of Antarctica had been laid out on the poker table, with numerous markings on it from past excavations and experiment sites.

“There’s a Norwegian camp about ninety kilometres North of our area,” said Knowles, pointing out the specified area, “that has to be the place where he came from.”

“That’s about sixty miles,” said Frye. “Sixty miles in a dozer? That’s suicide, man.”

“Question is…why did he come down here?”

The room was silent.

“Quinn, did you check the tractor?”

Quinn, who had been very silent since the death of the Norwegian man, nodded his head. “There was nothing really exceptional to find, except a galleon of petrol and some home made Molotov cocktails.”

“Kerosene,” replied Knowles.

“Huh?”

“You said petrol. It’s kerosene.”

Quinn stood motionless for a moment. “You say tomatoe I say tomato.”

“So what was he running away from?” asked McPherson.

Dawkins paced the room, stopping occasionally to take off his glasses and rub them vigorously. “He said something about a monster, that’s for sure. Maybe he went a bit crazy up there, and decided to just drive away from it all.”

“Cabin fever?” asked Morse.

“Why not?”

“Sounds a bit poncy, if you ask me.”

McPherson turned to the pilot. “And why exactly did you come down here, Morse? It’s not like Mountain Rescue fired you, or anything, is it?”

“What the hell are you trying to say, McPherson?” Morse stood up from his table, chest inflated.

“All I’m saying is that stress plays a contributing factor in these situations. Isolated from humanity, in close proximity with other people we have to get on with…sometimes we just need to get away from it all.”

Morse stood silent.

“Hey, ease up guys,” said Quinn, standing in he way of the two men. “This isn’t helping anything. We’ve got a dead body in the infirmary, and we need to radio someone to report this. Wren, how’s it coming along?”

Wren, a cigarette dipping from his mouth, shrugged his shoulders. “Gee…uh, It’ll be at least another couple of hours until we can even broadcast.”

“Get on it, then.”

Morse turned to Wren, “Can I get a cigarette before you fix the radio?”

“Get your own,” he snorted. He tapped Carter on the shoulder, and they promptly left the room.

“Morse,” Quinn said, assuming leadership of the group, “We’re flying up there.”

“Up where?” The pilot grumbled.

“To the Norwegian’s camp. I’m thinking it’ll take a couple of hours to get up there, and back. So we’d better move now.”

Knowles scowled. “On whose authority?”

“Mine.”

“The hell you are.”

Quinn ignored Knowles’ threat, and turned to the doctor. “Greenberg, we might need you up there, too. If this what’s happened to one of them, god only knows what the rest are going to be like.”

The doctor nodded in agreement, and picked up his gear.

“Jesus, you people can’t just go wandering up to another nation’s camp and start interfering with what they’re doing. You need clearance and…”

“We don’t have time!” Quinn retorted. “You want to sit on your ass and do nothing, then that’s fine, Knowles. But I’m going up there to find out why that guy thought trundling along in a tractor for sixty miles was a good thing.”

Knowles fell silent. Not wanting to sound defeated, he picked up the shotgun and wiped his face, “Well, you might need some firepower…if the rest are as far gone like our friend in the medical room then they might start shooting at us.”

“Fine,” said Quinn. “Dawkins, we might need a translator, too. You up to it?”

Dawkins, who had been shuffling around the room, stopped. “You want me to go?” he asked, his voice quavering slightly. He hadn’t intended for this. “Um…well, I don’t really…”

“Come on, you pansy,” McPherson said, clapping the small meteorologist on the back, “I thought you liked the big open space.”

Dawkins, daunted by the prospect of being one of the investigation team, could only nod resignedly.

“Let’s get going then.” Quinn said, making for the door.

 

Morse, strapped in the cockpit, couldn’t shake off McPherson’s remark about stress related issues. What did he know, the pilot thought, as the blades of the chopper started spinning, has he ever saw someone die because it was their fault? He noticed Dawkins was uncomfortable in the back – he knew the meteorologist didn’t like flying…the bespectacled scientist sat in the back, along with the Doc and Knowles. He could feel Dawkins squirm now, and he liked that thought.

The chopper started to lift and a small rush of excitement filled Morse. Memories of the Mountain Rescue came flooding back, the kind of adrenaline of racing to the scene of an emergency. He liked that buzz, that excitement, and for the first time since he’d been stationed at Rothera, he began to feel like his old self.

“I hope you know a storm’s brewing,” Knowles muttered.

“We’ll fly right through it, then,” Quinn replied, looking over his shoulder.

Knowles turned back to Greenberg. “I don’t like this,” he said. “We should’ve put that man in quarantine the first moment he crashed that tractor.”

“Would you relax? It’s very unlikely the Norwegian had a disease; the coldness of the arctic would make sure to that. The only thing you’re likely to catch out here is pneumonia…”

Knowles sat back in his seat, and stared morosely out the window. Dawkins, who had been remaining quiet since he had been involuntary persuaded to come out with the investigation team, felt queasy as they soared through the open air of the cold Antarctic.

“Don’t worry,” Morse said through his headset, as if he’d been reading his mind “there’s gonna be some turbulence for most of the journey, but you boys will be okay.”

Dawkins took off his glasses, and started to clean them again.

 

Wren sat in the toilet cubicle, smoking the finely wrapped joint. The wind was beating against the corrugated iron outside, and the assistant technician couldn’t help but feel that something ominous was starting to engulf the station.

Or maybe he was just feeling paranoid from the marijuana. He took a drag from the joint, and inhaled deeply. The fact that a dead body was also lying on the infirmary room table was also discouraging. Since the chopper left with Quinn and others a few minutes ago, the camp suddenly seemed more desolate and isolated. They had to walk past that room to get into the recreational room, for heaven’s sake.

The toilet door opened, and Wren listened as the second cubicle became occupied.

“Let’s have some of that when you’re ready,” said Carter.

“This is some weird shit, man.”

Carter, in the second cubicle, sighed. “I know, man. What the hell are those crazy Norwegian’s up to, anyway?”

“Beats me. McPherson didn’t see you come in, did he?”

“Nah.”

“Guy’s even worse than Knowles when he’s in charge.”

“Frye’s cooking up some lunch, for when the guys get back.”

There was a silence in the toilets.

“What do you think they’ll find up there?”

“Santa Claus – how do I know…pass the blunt.”

A hand appeared under the stall, and Carter grabbed the now half smoked joint. “What makes a man do something like that? Jesus…he would’ve known it was suicide, driving out on a tractor. What was he running away from?”

Wren mumbled something.

“What?”

“Maybe he was trying to escape.”

“From what? The other Norwegians?”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Why would someone do that?”

“Why does a man climb a tower and start shooting people? It’s all relative.”

“We should get started on the radio when we’re done.”

“Yep.”

“Last thing I need right now is for Knowles to give me shit when he gets back.”

“He wouldn’t give you the steam of his piss on a cold day, that’s never bothered you before.”

Carter inhaled, and spluttered, “Yeah…I’m on my second strike though. Third one, and I’m outta here.”

“That’s harsh, man.”

“Yeah. Real harsh.”

“Just deck the bastard. At least if you go, you’ll feel like you’ve done something constructive down here.”

“Damn Knowles.”

Wren tapped on the cubicle door, and Carter handed the joint under the stall.

“Real harsh.”

 

 

4.

 

The tall black doctor looked uncomfortable in the chopper. Hunched over, he peered out of the window of the helicopter and gazed at the limitless expanse of the Antarctic. Coming up to fifty, he should have been making plans for his retirement, or at least be nestling on a hammock somewhere in Jamaica enjoying the fruits of his labour. Instead, he found himself in a snowy climate, reduced from a pioneering doctor in his field to a mere station medical officer.

And he had no one else to blame except himself.

His face was quite smooth for a man his age, and although white and grey streaks had begun to slowly slither their way across his hair, he was pretty fit and able to keep the pace with the younger men at Rothera.

There was a time, he pondered, when I had everything in the world at my grasp. A beautiful wife, who would be waiting at their lavish home when he returned from work…a child who adored him and scribbled numerous pictures of her hero – pictures they stuck on the refrigerator, and a nice convertible to go along with it all. But what does the man who has everything eventually crave? What does a man; who has conquered his professional world, seek?

Drink. Morphine. Addictions.

A few ‘quick-ones’ at work. Just a few drops of Jameson here and there – sneaking away from his colleagues to the airing cupboards, where a secret stash of brown liquid was always waiting…just a few…

But the drink isn’t enough. It makes him sloppy at work and hiding his breath from his co-workers becomes harder and harder. So he changes from drink to drugs. Small quantities of morphine, just to tide him over until the monotonous day is over.

But then you make a mistake. You prescribe a patient a wrong dosage of painkiller. It kills them. In the end, it kills you too. First financially…after the court costs, and after the reprimands from the hospital…after being fired and told you can’t practice again…then the emotional level comes into play…the clinics to rid yourself of the addictions, the endless arguments from the wife…then the divorce…finally, desperately, you find work at an outpost station in the Antarctica. Here, nobody knows your name. Here, you can try to be a professional again, try to retain what dignity remained.

Here though, you pay the price. No wife…no child…no convertible…nothing…nothing but they snowy Alps and the chilly climate. Nobody to blame but yourself.

“We’ll be coming up to the Norwegian outpost fairly soon,” said Quinn, over his headset. Greenberg blew some air through his mouth. Even though he’d been stripped of his humanity and dignity, there was something that had resurfaced since he’d been at outpost 24…his passion for medical science. The clinics, where they treated his addictions, couldn’t make him see that. In their eyes, he was another fallen doctor, another person who had abused their power. And they weren’t wrong. But now, he had regained something, in all that was lost. Today was a testament to that fact. The Norwegian they had pulled in today, he had wanted to save his life. He had wanted to save the precious life of another fellow human being. That was why he loved medicine. That was why he loved his job.

Before, it had all been unclear to him, for the last couple of years he’d been wandering aimlessly through a dense fog. But now, after travelling to the southern most part of the world, he had realised why he’d originally picked up a stethoscope. Now, he realised why he loved his work so much. To save lives. To help sick people.

 

The helicopter touched down at the Norwegian camp at around half past one in the afternoon.

Knowles was the first out, his shotgun by his side. Dark plumes of smoke rose from one of the charred buildings. There didn’t seem to be anybody in sight, and their arrival hadn’t incited any attention. He didn’t like the eerie calmness of this place, and he didn’t like the fact that the main building had been apparently burnt to the ground.

“What the hell happened here?” Morse asked, once they’d grouped around the helicopter.

“It’s recent,” Dawkins observed. “There’s another building over there,” he said, pointing to an arched metal building left of the main camp, “It looks all burnt too.”

“Okay,” Quinn announced, “We all stick together here. We’ll go into the main building first, see if there are any other survivors. Knowles, bring the gun.”

Knowles took the lead, and the other men followed. The entrance of the main complex was already open, and Knowles stepped into the remains of the building.

“Hello?” he shouted. “Is anyone there?”

There was no reply. Looking down of what remained of the narrow corridor, Knowles cautiously stepped forward, glancing inside the first room to his right. He assumed it must’ve been a bunk of some sort; two metal structures were the only objects visible. A mattress, which had been burnt, still smouldered in the darkness.

He went forward, checking the other two rooms, but to no avail. Whatever was in those rooms had been burnt, and there didn’t seem to be any sign of life.

He spotted something. Gun pointed forward, he stepped closer and came across a door. It had also been opened. “See the snow,” he whispered, to the other men behind, “It’s been disturbed recently.” There was an axe, embedded in the door panel. Dry blood was caked on it, trailing down towards the ground. He entered the room.

This room may have been the Norwegian’s communication hub. An assortment of burnt metal objects littered what standing desks there were, and filing cabinets were placed against the walls. The other men entered, and silently they began examining for any pieces of evidence, any clue as to what happened there.

“Guys,” Dawkins hissed, “Look at this.”

The men turned their attentions to Dawkins, and then to what he was staring at. A chair lay in the corner of the room, turned away from them. A trace of blood snaked its way along the snow and ended at the chair. The chair was occupied.

Knowles carefully stepped closer, and winced when he saw the occupant’s face. Frozen in terror, the man had slit his throat. His neck was open like a torn baggy, the cold climate freezing the blood. Icicles of blood jaggedly crept down his throat. Knowles looked down to see a razor in the dead man’s hand.

“He killed himself?” Greenberg said, incredulous.

“Cabin fever,” Dawkins said, absently.

“C’mon, lets move on.”

The team moved forward, and for once Quinn was glad that Knowles had brought some weaponry with him. They entered another room, presumably what was one a laboratory. Once again, the skeletons of metal girders and filing cabinets littered the place, empty beakers sat askew in their holding trays, glass covered the snowy floor and other papers, mostly burnt ones, flapped around noisily.

Greenberg came across an empty table. He muttered something to himself, and then tapped his knuckles on the charred remains.

“What is it?” Quinn asked.

“Oh, probably nothing,” replied the doctor, “but look here…this part of the table doesn’t look as burnt as the rest, like something big was placed here, but now has been moved.”

“The Norwegian took some instruments with him?”

“That’s what I thought, but there was nothing in the tractor, right Dawkins?”

Dawkins nodded. “So, whatever was here has been moved by someone else.”

“Well,” Quinn said, “Whatever happened here, we missed it.”

Greenberg surveyed the room. “It’s a laboratory…must’ve been some kind of electrical equipment…”

“It doesn’t matter,” Knowles whispered, “there’s still another room down the hall…”

Once again, the men vigilantly moved towards the end of the camp. They came to a small staircase, but each of men became bemused once they saw the large object in the last room – a hollowed out ice block.

“What’s that?”

“Looks like the Norwegian’s were experimenting out here,” quipped Dawkins. The men walked round to the ice-block, and looked inside. “Maybe they found some kind of animal…a small mammoth perhaps.”

Dawkins’ attempt at humour landed flatly with the other men.

“It was big, whatever the hell it was,” whispered Morse.

“The Norwegian did say something about a monster.”

The room fell quiet. Even though the idea was absurd, they couldn’t help but feel that some kind of ethereal presence had been lurking within the confinements of the ice block.

“Let’s get out of here,” Hawkins finally said, “This place is giving me the creeps.”

 

Outside, the men huddled round the helicopter.

“The other building is completely wasted, but the shack over there,” he said, pointing to the small shed, “still looks intact. Maybe we might find some papers or documents to explain this whole mess.”

Agreeing, the men started off towards the shack.

“That’s two dead Norwegian’s, that we know about,” Greenberg assessed, “A camp of this magnitude should hold at least eight people, so the others must be around somewhere.”

They followed the hazard lines towards the small shack, situated beyond the burnt down buildings. Knowles, again, took the lead, with the shotgun tightened around his hands. He still didn’t know what to make of this place, but Dawkins was right, it was creepy.

Upon opening the shack door, Knowles recoiled instantly. The other men quickly noticed his sudden movement, and became immediately on their guards.

“It’s okay,” he said, “It just threw me, that’s all.”

Knowles turned again, and faced the shack. The repellent stench that had made him recoil filled his nostrils, and he uttered a sound of disgust. The shack was dark, and he moved in slowly, checking all the corners to make sure no one was lurking within.

“What is that smell?” Dawkins enquired.

Knowles fumbled along the walls of the shack, and then found a switch. It took a couple of moments for the bulb to light, but when it did the origin of the stench quickly became apparent.

“Mother of God, what is that?”

Greenberg assessed the thing in the corner of the shack. “Is that a woman in there?”

It was a hideous mess, a collage of limbs and tentacles, all formed together resting against the far corner. A head protruded from the mess of blood and welded appendages, but it was like no head the men had ever seen. Long serrated teeth jutted from its mouth, a dozen or so obtruded and appeared like claws. It’s warped features were directed at the door of the shack, several eyes stared vaguely out…Knowles covered his mouth to stop gagging, and Dawkins had to leave the shack for a moment.

“Is it dead?”

Greenberg lowered himself and rested on his knees. The base of the thing was in gooey disarray; Greenberg couldn’t ascertain what point was the foundation. What apparently seemed like an arm hung lifelessly in the air, covered in blood and blubber. Another face poked out from the side, a feminine one with a pained expression. Greenberg studied it; her eyes were closed, her mouth open, in an O shape of terror.

“It’s been burnt pretty good,” Quinn noted.

Dawkins returned from outside. “Do you think that was the creature in the ice-block?”

“I don’t know what to think,” Greenberg said, scrutinizing another arm poking out of the dead creature. “All I know is that this thing is not human.”

Quinn noticed a book lying open on a desk. He picked it up and flicked through the pages. “This looks like a journal. Dawkins, will you be able to translate it?”

He handed the leather bound book to Dawkins. In a trance-like state, Dawkins slowly lowered his head and began reading the pages.

“It’s a bit fluent for my liking, but I’ll be able to pick out key words…I’ll need some time though.”

“I think we better be heading back,” Morse said, “It’s going to be getting dark soon, and I want to miss this storm before we’re stranded here with this…” he trailed off, uncertain of what to call the creature.

“There’s another camp not far from here,” Knowles said, his eyes still transfixed on the charred creature, “maybe we should fly over and warn them.”

“No time,” Morse said, already heading for the door. “You wanna fly up there, be my guest. But I’m not doing it. We’ll be lucky if we get back to our own camp in this state.”

“Hey, Greenberg,” Quinn said, “You want to take this thing back to camp?”

“No way,” Knowles answered, “we have no idea what this creature is. We could be at risk just standing here.”

“Knowles, your intolerance for the unknown is starting to irritate me,” Greenberg said, calmly. “First, with the Norwegian, and now…with this.”

“Its biological structure is amazing, isn’t it?” Quinn said.

“People, can we get out of here?” Morse said, with more authority in his voice.

“We can come back tomorrow, if we need,” Greenberg said, reassuring himself, rather than the group. “I need to get started on that Norwegian’s autopsy, anyway.”

The men collected themselves, and left the shack. The wind was fierce now, and Morse showed the group an ‘I told you so’ look, before they got back into the helicopter. As Morse piloted the chopper from the Norwegian base, no one spoke. Each man reflected on the monstrosity they had seen in the shack. Dawkins, however, was more perturbed by the journal he was reading. He no longer felt queasy about the ride…his mind was elsewhere…somewhere dark and foreboding.

 

 

5.

 

The men sauntered into the recreational room and dumped their gear on the floor. Dawkins, engrossed in the journal, walked into his bunkroom and shut the door. Whilst the other men sat around the large table, Morse went into the kitchen, where Frye was cooking dinner, and helped himself to some of the beer in the refrigerator.

Upon hearing the arrival of the expedition team, Carter, Wren, Frye and McPherson soon joined the discussion of the Norwegian camp.

“So what are you saying, that the whole place was burnt to the ground?” McPherson asked, troubled by this news.

“That’s about the sum of it.”

“You found a creature in the shack?”

“We don’t know what it was,” Knowles said assertively, trying to ascertain calm amongst the group. “It was dead, anyway.”

“Where were the other men?” Carter asked, wiping a smear of grease away from his cheek.

“Well,” Quinn began, “we found one dead, apparently committed suicide, and then there was our friend in the tractor. That’s two. Whatever the hell that thing was in the shack was three…”

“So you’re saying it was one of the Norwegian’s?” Wren asked.

“I don’t know…maybe…it had a woman’s face…but it wasn’t a human…”

“So what are we dealing with here?” Frye asked, “that these people got cabin fever and torched the place?”

“I don’t know, maybe they found something in the ice…that hollowed out ice block was pretty big…maybe it escaped…I don’t know.”

Quinn waved his hands in the air, “There’s no point assuming things at this point. All we know is that the Norwegian base is no more and that a couple of deaths have been the result. Whatever they were experimenting on out there obviously backfired on them. We’ll have more answers when Greenberg does the autopsy on the dead Norwegian and when Dawkins deciphers the journal.”

Quinn’s statement seemed to silence the men. Speculation and rumours was not a good thing in a condensed area of men in the Antarctic – it could lead to some bad karma. Quinn picked up his gear and went to the bunkroom. The door was locked.

“Dawkins…open the door.”

There was no answer from the other side.

“Dawkins?”

“I…need some time here,” came a voice from the other side.

“Jesus,” Quinn whispered, dropping his stuff. “Where the hell am I supposed to go?”

Once again, he got no answer.

A voice from the infirmary caught his attention. The men followed the voice, and found Greenberg alone in the infirmary. They also noticed that the body bag was open…and empty.

“Where the fuck has it gone?” Knowles snorted.

“Carter,” the doctor said, “did you move the body?”

The Chief technician narrowed his eyes, “why would I do something like that? Me and Wren have been trying to get that damn radio working since you left.”

Greenberg remained quiet, and the men stood uneasily silent.

“Well, he couldn’t of just got up and walked off!” Frye exclaimed.

“You sure he was dead, doc?”

A scornful look from Greenberg answered McPherson’s question.

“Wren, stop messing around and get the damn body.” Knowles ordered.

Wren shrugged his shoulders, a cigarette hanging limply from his lips. “I don’t have it…”

“Well someone in here’s got to know where it is!”

Once again the room fell silent.

“Looks like it did get up and walk off,” Morse muttered. “This shit is getting to my head. If anyone wants me I’ll be in my cabin.” Morse left the room.

“Well, we’ve got to find it,” Knowles said eventually. Dr. Greenberg nodded and rubbed his brow. The whole day’s events were beginning to show on the man’s face. “Alright Carter, a jokes a joke. Where’s the body?”

Carter stared incredulously at the tall doctor. “And what makes you think it was me?”

“Aw, come on Carter,” McPherson sighed, “You and Wren are always getting up to your usual tomfoolery up here. This isn’t funny.”

“Hey, fuck you!” Carter hissed, “I haven’t even stepped close to this room the whole time. As I said, we were fixing the radio.” He turned to Knowles; “You better control your boyfriend before things turn ugly.”

Without waiting for an answer, Carter barged his way out of the room.

“Well…” Wren said, raising his eyebrows.

“Damn punk,” McPherson spat.

Quinn sighed heavily. “If no one’s owning up to this then I guess we’ll just have to search for it.” There was no argument, and Quinn arranged for two teams to search for the body. After the selection, he walked back to the bunkroom and slapped his hand on the door. “Dawkins,” he said, “We need you out here.”

There was no response. “Fine,” he muttered, “any suggestions where I sleep tonight?”

 

After several hours, the search for the Norwegian corpse proved fruitless. The men, bar Dawkins, met back in the recreational room and talked further about the creature they had found in the shack. Before long, the men retired to their rooms, still bewildered about the corpse, and each a little suspicious of one another. Someone had clearly moved the body, but for what purpose?

Quinn lay on the sofa in the recreational room, a blanket draped over his body. Swearing under his breath, he tussled in the darkness to find a comfortable spot to position his body. It was colder out here than in the bunks, and he swore again at Dawkins for locking himself away from the other men. The wind battered against the corrugated iron outside, and Quinn was getting restless.

What seemed like hours passed, and as sleep began to take hold, a hand shook his shoulder.

“Wha…” he began.

“I need to speak to you,” whispered a voice.

“Leave me alone, I was just falling asleep,” the biologist muttered, turning away from the dark shadow looming above the couch.

“It’s important.”

Quinn turned again, and stared at Dawkins’ face. In the darkness, a small strip of light from the moon outside illuminated the meteorologist’s troubled features. Quinn nodded, and he rose from the sofa.

“So, what’s your beef, Dawkins?”

“Not here.”

“It’s late…”

“In the store-room,” whispered Dawkins. Quinn groggily followed the man into the small storeroom and shut the door behind him. He fumbled along the walls and found the light switch. Snapping it on, Dawkins’ distressed state became more apparent.

“What’s the matter?” Quinn asked, a little weary of the man standing in front of him.

“The journal,” began Dawkins, “it belonged to a biologist named Antonia Iversen. She goes into minute detail about this creature they dug up.”

“So they did dig up something from the ice.”

“That’s not all, Quinn. It escaped. You should really read this though…at first she starts writing about virus’ and germs. It’s all interesting stuff, like how she thought the creature in the ice had some sort of bacteria – and when not properly fed throughout time metabolises abnormally and produces bacteriophages…”

“Spare me the science lesson,” Quinn said, “I know all this stuff. What has it got to do with the creature they found?”

“Well,” Dawkins continued, “her first analysis was wrong. It wasn’t until one of their team was taken over by the thing.”

“Taken over? What do you mean?”

Dawkins seemed hesitant to respond, and took his glasses off and rubbed them forcefully. One of the lenses fell out. Dropping to his knees, he stammered, “It began to…absorb one of the Norwegian men…became one of them.”

“Have you been drinking in that room, Dawkins?”

The small man suddenly leapt from his position with cat-like precision that startled Quinn. He grabbed his collar and pulled his head down.

“This is an alien entity,” Dawkins hissed, “those Norwegians dug it up and it took over their camp. It lives by digesting…no…absorbing a host, and assimilating them. Quinn…the whole camp degenerated into a mass of hysteria and mistrust because they couldn’t tell who was human and who was this creature!”

Quinn took this information on board, and looked into the wild eyes of the small meteorologist. He knew the man was a little edgy at the bet of times, but living in a cramped environment like the Rothera station couldn’t be helping. For a brief moment, Quinn pondered the notion that in all the excitement, Dawkins was starting to lose his mind.

“It assimilates people?”

“Yes! Iversen wrote that at one point, about two days after the monster escaped, she witnessed the creature take over one of the men at the camp. She goes into a macabre detailed report about how this beast works…God, Quinn…I’m scared…I don’t know who to trust…”

“Wait a minute, calm down…what are you talking about?”

“Quinn, this thing becomes a perfect imitation of whoever it assimilates. Hair…voice…mannerisms. Everything. And the way it takes you over…” He trailed off, not wanting to complete the sentence.

“So what do you want to do, Dawkins? I’ll call the other guys and…”

“No!” Dawkins hollered. He noticed his own sudden outburst and kept his voice to a hushed whisper, “I think it may have already taken over one of the people here.”

“What?”

“The body…the Norwegian’s body…I don’t think it was human.”

“That’s crazy, Dawkins. What do you mean it wasn’t human?”

“Think about it, Quinn. There were only four people left here who could’ve been exposed to it. That was over ten hours ago. I don’t know who else has been exposed now…I’m not going to become one of those things we saw in the shack.”

“What was that creature?”

“It was Iversen. In the last entry of her journal, she states that nobody can be trusted. She’s secluded herself away from the others…and then it stops. No more entries…”

“So what do you think happened?”

“My best guess is that the creature got to her, but someone interrupted them whilst she was being taken over. Quinn…we have to get a message to somebody…we have to get out of here or something!”

Quinn stood in the stockroom and thought about this. It was too crazy to comprehend, but the scientific evidence was bewildering in itself. The malevolent-looking remains of the creature they found in the shack was something nobody in recorded history had witnessed. Then there was the missing body…Dawkins was already shot, and it looked like the slightest thing could totally push him over the edge.

“Alright Dawkins, we’ll figure something out. But tomorrow. I need some sleep now.”

“You do believe me, don’t you Quinn?”

There was moment for Quinn to answer. He looked into Dawkins eyes. Those wild, deep set eyes. “Yeah. I believe you.”

 

 

 

6.

 

“I want to go back up there,” Greenberg said the next morning, arms crossed. The men stood around the large table, undecided of what to do.

“Have you seen the weather out there?” McPherson stated.

“This is the scientific find of the century!” Greenberg added, “and you want to leave it out there? All we need to do is bring some tarpaulin with us this time, and we’ll be able to bring it back. I can perform an autopsy and find out more about this specimen.”

“Hold on, doc,” Knowles interrupted, “This may be your ticket into getting your name on the Medical Journal of the year or whatever, but I’m not going to risk infection if we bring that thing back into our base.”

“Jesus, man – can’t you see past your own damn nose? It was burnt to a crisp! There’s no way germs could infect us – besides, we’ve already been in close proximity of it. Do you feel any different than yesterday?”

Knowles remained quiet, but uttered something inaudible under his breath. Quinn remained seated at his couch, surveying the growing tension in the room. Dawkins, once gain, had isolated himself away in the bunkroom.

“There’s more factors to consider here,” McPherson added, “Like what happened to that body yesterday.”

“Yeah, and I don’t like being accused of things I haven’t done,” Carter said, eyeing the doctor intently.

“Why don’t we all just calm down and think about this for a moment,” Wren said. “Morse has the final say-so on this, anyhow. And he’s still in his shack.”

“Well, go and get him, Wren.”

Wren looked out the window, and shrugged his shoulders.

“I’ll get him,” Frye replied, and left the room.

McPherson turned to Carter. “And what’s happening with that radio?”

“We’re on it,” Carter sighed, and tapped Wren on the shoulder. They both ambled off towards the communication room.

 

“You believe any of this?” Carter asked Wren. The assistant technician shrugged his shoulders, and fished around in his breast pocket for his small baggy. “The doctor’s really starting to piss me off,” he continued, “who the fuck does he think he is trying to imply I moved that Norwegian. Man…”

The two men entered the comm. Room and looked at the machinery around them.

“Did you even get anything done yesterday?”

Wren shrugged again, sitting himself down at a table.

“Well, I’m going to finish off the tractor today. Think you can handle this piece of junk?”

Wren nodded without listening, rolling up his joint.

“And give me some of that when you’re done.”

 

“Morse, you drunk?” Knowles looked at the rugged pilot, and already knew the answer. Morse blearily sat himself down at the couch, next to Quinn, and rested his head against the cushion.

“Well, that answers your question of going up today.”

“You jerk, Morse.” McPherson added.

“Who are you calling a jerk?” Morse spluttered.

“Get a coffee in him,” Greenberg said, “We can wait a few hours.”

“No.” McPherson stated, “He’s not fit to fly.”

“I can fly whatever you give me,” Morse said, to nobody in particular.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to go up anyway,” Quinn said.

The doctor turned his attention to Quinn. “Oh, and why not?”

Quinn didn’t reply at first, but then signalled towards the bunkroom. “I think Dawkins is losing the plot.”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you seen him since we got in from the trip yesterday?”

The men didn’t say anything. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

Carter poked his head through the doors. “I’m taking the flame unit outside, tractor’s started to freeze up again.” Knowles waved his hand as approval, and Carter left.

“Has he said anything to you?” Frye asked. Quinn narrowed his eyes at the young cook, and sat upright.

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing,” Frye replied, “I was just wondering how you knew he was losing it, that’s all”

“He’s been edgy lately.”

“Edgy?”

“Yeah…like he’s about to…I don’t know…maybe I’m losing it down here.”

The doctor looked at Morse, who was now sleeping peacefully on the couch. “Somebody wake him up and get him some coffee.”

 

It was late in the afternoon, and Wren was testing the equipment in the comm. Room. A needle jerked erratically from its dial and Wren sighed heavily. Lighting a cigarette, he sat back in his chair and wiped his eyes. It had been a few hours since the men had decided to wait for Morse’s sobriety, and it was starting to get dark. Carter, to Wren’s knowledge, was ducking out of work and sleeping off the potent joint he’d had earlier.

Wren turned one of the dials on the machinery and a splutter of life emitted from the speakers. Spurned on, Wren took the microphone and announced a call from the station. He was replied with static, and he swore again, unable to find any life outside the camp.

He turned the dial again, and more static filled the room. As he began to fiddle with the components, he failed to hear the floorboards in the corridor creaking as somebody made their way towards the comm. Room.

Wren muttered something as a small burst of static pierced his ears, and once again he failed to notice the handle of the door turning…

 

 

 

7.

 

It was evening and Frye had just served dinner. The men sat around the recreational room, still trying to answer questions in their heads. The body still hadn’t shown up, and Dawkins was still locked in the bunkroom.

Morse was on the Pac-Man machine, trying to beat Carter’s high-score. The circular yellow blotch gobbled up the dots, but he’d inadvertently misjudged a corner and found himself face to face with a red ghost. The ghost touched Pac-Man and the game was over. Morse beat his fist against the screen, and grunted when heads turned to see what the noise was about. Slotting in another 20p, the game started again, and Morse noticed Wren’s cigarette packet lying against the second joystick. Smirking, he slipped one out and lit up as the ghosts were released from the middle of the screen.

Carter was slouched on the couch, sitting beside McPherson, watching the TV. It was a fifties horror film. Knowles and Greenberg were discussing the possibilities of going up to the Norwegian camp the following morning. Quinn was standing at the entrance of the room, studying each man for a particular amount of time.

What Dawkins had said disturbed him. The possibility that one of his fellow team members was not an actual human was too much to grasp. He had said he’d believed Dawkins, but knew the man was suffering from cabin fever. But that didn’t explain the missing body, and it also didn’t explain the Norwegians. Dawkins had also said that Iversen had secluded herself away in the shack, not trusting anyone. He didn’t say it at the time, but Quinn wanted to state the comparison of Dawkins’ state with that of the unfortunate Antonia Iversen.

He hadn’t told the others of his conversation in the stockroom. Why? He asked himself. Why hadn’t he informed the others of what Dawkins had deciphered from the journal?

Because, he realised, there had to be some truth to the story. So now, he found himself scrutinising each member, trying to find something that was out of character for each man, something that wasn’t quite right. Wasn’t quite…human. He went to the infirmary and without realising it his hand came to rest on a scalpel. Absentmindedly, he pocketed the surgical instrument, and made his way back to the recreational room. Too many thoughts were passing through the biologist’s head…too many questions that needed answers.

So far, nothing out of the ordinary was happening. He felt stupid for mistrusting his own intuition, but couldn’t explain the situation.

“Turn this crap off,” McPherson moaned.

“You turn it off.” Carter retorted. McPherson grumbled some more, but refused to budge. “Morse, turn off the television.”

“Huh?” Morse turned his head, and by doing so lost concentration of the game. A small noise indicated a ghost had eaten him. “Shit, now look what you did, McPherson!”

“That game will melt your brain anyway,” the station manager replied, smirking.

Morse stepped over to the couch and loomed above McPherson.

“You owe me twenty pence.”

“You’re getting jack-shit.”

“I’m not going to ask you again, McPherson.”

McPherson turned and eyed Morse. After a couple of seconds he stood up and the two men faced each other. “You’d better remember who you’re speaking too, Morse.”

“Easy boys,” Carter said, still watching the television.

“Just give him twenty pence George, for crying out loud!” Knowles said.

“You’ve been getting on my nerves all day, Morse,” McPherson said. “Getting drunk, sitting out in your little shack all day – it’s not right.”

“Come on guys, it’s been a long day,” Carter said, “Everyone’s tired, but quit it.”

“You’ve got something to say to me?” Morse said, pushing the station manager.

McPherson stumbled back, regained his balance and struck out with his fist. Morse, not expecting the punch, staggered back and fell amongst the pile of magazines.

“You little son-of-a-bitch!” yelled Morse, picking himself up.

“This has been a long time due, Morse.”

By now the other men were on their feet, shouting at the two men to stop. Morse came forward again, and tackled McPherson to the ground. Carter sprung forward and tried to get Morse in a headlock, but the grizzled pilot was too quick and a quick elbow to the technician’s face sent him sprawling. McPherson was on the floor, and Morse established the advantage by pinning his arms down and sitting on them with his legs. He managed to give McPherson a blow to the lip before the doctor and Knowles were atop of him, achieving control of the situation.

Knowles kneed Morse in the stomach, winding him. Greenberg tackled the pilot to the ground and soon he was on all fours, trying to suck in air. Knowles helped McPherson on his feet.

“You moron,” McPherson spluttered, spitting blood on the floor. “I think you knocked a tooth out.”

Carter, Frye and Wren were standing at the door, roused by the commotion. “What the hell was all that about?” Frye asked.

“Morse and McPherson letting off some steam, that’s all.” The doctor said, checking McPherson’s lip. “Stop whinging, you baby. It’s only cut.”

A groan from the couch made everyone look at Carter. “What the hell did you hit me for, you asshole?”

Morse was still on the floor, clutching his stomach. “I just wanted my money.”

“I’ll give you a bloody pound, for Christ’s sake.”

“Not the point,” the pilot wheezed, “He made me lose on purpose.”

“That’s ridiculous,” McPherson replied, “He’s probably still drunk…it’s not like it’s the first time he’s spoken with his fists in here…”

Morse was on his feet and went back to the arcade machine. Picking up the cigarette that was left on the side, he took a drag. “You’ve been looking to deck me for a while,” he said, and flicked the cigarette at McPherson.

It bounced off his shoulder and landed on the small splatter of blood.

As soon as the lit cigarette touched the blood a violent screech penetrated the room. Everyone looked down at the floor, and noticed that the blood now had several spikes protruding from it. The blood swirled around the cigarette and slithered away like a snake.

“What the…” Greenberg uttered, “McPherson, what…”

As the doctor looked up, the station manager started to transform before his eyes. His expressionless face started to convulse suddenly, his eyeballs beginning to spasm in their sockets. Carter, watching from the sofa, started to climb the cushions to get away from McPherson.

Blood began to spurt from the McPherson’s mouth and ears. Greenberg backed away in horror and listened to the bones in McPherson’s body crack as something alien blossomed from the station manager’s ribcage.

“What in the name of the Lord…” cried Frye. McPherson’s side burst open, smattering the table with blood and other fluids. Knowles, watching his friend in a dreaded daze, opened his mouth to say something, to scream…but nothing came out.

An animal of some description began to squeeze out of McPherson’s exposed side. Its flailing arms tried to grab onto something, anything to release it from its imprisonment. Tendrils began to drop onto the surrounding floor around the McPherson-thing, as blood began to seep from every pore on his face.

“Knowles!” screamed Morse, “get your gun!”

The Warrant officer didn’t seem to hear Morse’s cries – he was transfixed with the creature beginning to develop before his eyes.

“George?” Knowles asked.

The McPherson creature opened his mouth and a stabbing wail came from its mouth. The men began shouting orders at each other, trying to ascertain control of the situation. Carter had flung himself over the side of the sofa, and scrambled to get up.

A long tongue-like tentacle whipped out from the creature’s mouth, and dashed across the sofa, catching Carter’s leg. It coiled itself round his boot, and began dragging the technician towards its proximity.

“Knowles!” yelled Quinn. “Where’s your shotgun?”

Knowles, snapping awake from his trance, ran from the room into his office. The other men could only helplessly watch as more bones cracked and other tentacles protruded from the thing that used to be McPherson.

“Mother-fucker!” shouted Carter, kicking wildly with his free foot at the tentacle wrapped around his boot. McPherson’s chest ripped open, revealing grotesquely deformed innards and a mesh of teeth. One of the arms that had jutted from his side began to scrape along the floor – it was easily seven feet long now, curving out of the body in a stiff arc made perhaps by a dozen knuckles, descended to the floor. Now it was tapping and feeling its way along the floor towards Greenberg. The doctor was helplessly confined to the corner of the room, having retreated when the creature began to form. Now he was in a perilous situation. His back nudged against the panelling of the wall, and he gasped as the talon at the tip of the arm slightly touched his boot.

Morse ran out of the room, barging Quinn and Frye out of the way.

“Get back here!” shouted Quinn desperately, but the pilot had made his way to the camp entrance door.

“Get this thing off me!” yelled Carter, powerless to do anything as the tongue dragged him nearer to the sofa.

A shotgun blast ripped through the air, and the McPherson creature shrieked in pain as one of its appendages exploded. Knowles stood at the doorway, the shotgun barrel smoking from the blast. Frye and Wren took this opportunity to help Carter and took him by the arms.

“It’s tightening!” he yelped, as Knowles fired another round.

“Get your boot off, man!” Frye said, his eyes darting from the monster a few feet away and then back to the technician.

“Help me!” shouted Greenberg, pressed up against the wall. The elongated arm smashed against the television, causing a plume of smoke to rise from the set. Knowles fired again, this time aiming for the creature’s head. It exploded in a mash of flesh and blood, only for more tentacles to thrash wildly from its neck. The tongue was beating on the floor, its grasp on Carter’s boot still strong.

“Shoot it, Knowles! Kill it!” screamed Carter, the tongue digging into his thick boot.

“I am, damn it! I am!”

The Warrant officer aimed at the arm making its way towards Greenberg, and fired. The shot broke the arm in half, making the limb drop to the floor. It flopped around for a moment, like a fish just being taken out of water, and then started to skitter violently. Knowles fired again, and blew McPherson’s human hand clean off. It thudded against the wall, fell to the floor and instantly rolled onto its fingers, scuttling off towards the door.

“What the…” Quinn gasped, watching the hand make its way towards him.

“Get out of the way!” exclaimed Morse. Quinn snapped round to see the pilot standing at the open doorway, armed with the pressurised flame-thrower. Quinn leapt from his position, giving Morse the target. The hand, however, was not choosing this exit, and had instead ethereally darted into the kitchen. Morse swore, but the cries and shouting from the recreational room caught his attention. He rushed forward, and aimed the nozzle at the deformed beast in the middle of the room.

“I’ve unloaded everything into it,” shouted Knowles, “But it doesn’t seem to be working!”

“Maybe we’ll heat things up, then,” Morse said, before shooting a wave of fire at the McPherson-thing. Once the flames licked the creature, it screeched an inhuman noise, and tried to get away from the fire. Morse was relentless though, and shot another burst at the creature.

The tongue wrapped around Carter’s boot wilted, giving Wren and Frye the chance to drag the technician away from the immediate area of danger. The thing was alight now, and dancing vehemently around the recreational room. Knowles fired again and the creature dropped like a ton of bricks. Morse shouted for Quinn to get a fire extinguisher, before the whole place burned to the ground. He shot another stream of intense fire at the slumped creature, and its wails soon became gurgles as the flames sapped its life away.

Quinn came into the room, with the fire extinguisher at the ready.

“Hold on,” Morse said, watching the tentacles droop and finally lie lifelessly on the floor. “Okay, go.” Quinn rushed forward, and put out the flames.

 

The room was silent.

The mingled odour of charred flesh and gunpowder overwhelmed the room. As soon as the flames had been doused, Frye had turned and vomited.

The burnt corpse lay at far wall, its features black and smouldering. What used to be George McPherson was now a deranged mess of entrails, tentacles and bones. Carter kicked his boot off and rubbed his ankle.

“You okay?” Wren asked.

“Yeah…” he examined his boot. The leather had been torn. “It didn’t break the skin.”

“You okay, doc?”

Greenberg was still pressed up against the wall, a bead of sweat trickling down his brow. He didn’t respond at first, but then collected his senses and gave a thumbs-up.

“What the hell was that?” Wren asked, collecting his cigarette packet and popping one in his mouth.

“A perfect assimilation,” whispered Quinn.

“What?”

“Dawkins…Dawkins said it could be a perfect assimilation of whatever it was in contact with.”

“What shit are you talking about, Quinn?”

“You spoke to Dawkins?” Carter said, narrowing his eyes.

“Yeah…last night…he…he told me about it.”

Morse stepped nearer the biologist. “He told you about it? Why the hell didn’t you tell us?” He grabbed Quinn’s collar, and slammed him up against the wall. “McPherson’s dead now…and you knew about this…this thing?”

Quinn bowed his head, ashamed that he withheld information from the rest of the group.

“Hey,” shouted Greenberg from across the room, “where is Dawkins?”

All heads turned to the locked door of the bunkroom.

 

 

 

8.

 

“Get your ass out here, Dawkins!” yelled Morse, slamming his fists against the door.

“That’ll get him out, for sure,” Wren snorted.

“Get the axe,” Morse said, “he’s coming out here and telling us what the hell is going on.”

Knowles was leaning against the doorframe of the recreational room, staring at the body of his former friend.

“It wasn’t McPherson, Knowles.” Quinn said, clamping a hand on his shoulder.

“Gary,” Knowles muttered, shrugging off his hand. “His name was Gary.”

 

The door shuddered as the axe ate into the panelling. “If you’re not coming out, then we’re coming in!” hollered Morse, digging the axe out.

He struck the door again, and some wood splintering flew out.

“McPherson’s dead now!”

The door took another blow.

“I didn’t sign up for this shit!”

A clump of wood fell from the door, and Morse took the axe out. Peering through the hole, he could make out a darkened silhouette, standing in the middle of the bunkroom. He also noticed that the window of the bunkroom had been smashed.

“Get out here, now!” commanded Morse.

“I’m not going anywhere near you people!” sobbed a voice from inside.

“Make it easier for yourself!” yelled Frye.

There was no response.

Morse raised the axe, about to strike another blow to the door, before a shot rang out and a small hole blasted outward. All men ducked, taking cover.

“Dawkins has a gun?” Wren asked, astonished.

“Where the hell did he get a gun?” Greenberg shouted.

Morse looked at Knowles, who shook his head. “There’s no way he could’ve got a gun from my cabinet,” he hissed, “I’ve got the only key.”

Another shot rang out and a piece of wood splintered from the door.

“You’re not coming in!” shouted Dawkins.

“Anybody hit?” Greenberg asked. The men shook their heads, and they flinched as another bullet smashed through the door.

The men scrambled for safety, and once they were all out of the way, they assessed the situation.

“I saw that the window was smashed in there,” Morse said, “Carter, Quinn – go round and see if you get in that way. We’ll try to talk him out.”

Knowles and Quinn darted off towards the entrance of the camp.

“Dawkins…you don’t want to shoot us,” Greenberg said. “We’re your friends…not your enemies.”

“Bullshit!” screamed Dawkins.

“Now…we’ve got some very weird shit happening out here,” continued the doctor, “and you’re the only one who knows just exactly what is going on.”

The bunkroom was silent.

“Now…you may be suffering from shock…you may need some medical attention. Wouldn’t it be best to just come out and let us help you?”

“No one touches me!”

Greenberg took a moment to evaluate his strategy. He’d had many a patient in his life that was afraid of needles, women who had been beaten by their husbands who had refused to admit that they were victims…but he’d never had a patient wielding a gun at him before. He looked to Knowles for some help, but the Warrant Officer was busily reloading his shotgun. Morse nodded his head, indicating to continue.

“Dawkins…whatever you may think in there, you’ve got to come out so that we can help you…that you can help us.”

“I can’t trust you.”

“Trust is a hard thing to come by these days…but you don’t have to go near anyone…just tell us what this thing is all about…Quinn told us that you spoke to him last night. You trust him, don’t you?”

There was another moment of silence.

“Quinn…I…I don’t know anymore…”

“Dawkins, we’re very confused out here…McPherson is dead.”

“He’s dead because of you!” spat Knowles. Greenberg jerked his head round and ushered the man to be quiet.

“That’s not true,” Greenberg said, “you know what Knowles is like…”

“He’s an asshole!” Dawkins shouted. Knowles grumbled something, but Greenberg continued in his low, quiet voice. “Yes, he’s an asshole Dawkins…but the matter of fact is that we’ve got a possessed hand running around the station and we need to find it. You’re the only one that can help. What do you say, Dawkins?”

There was silence in the bunkroom.

“I was nearly skewered by that thing,” Greenberg said, “and I don’t want that to happen again…we’re dealing with something alien here, Dawkins. You know that. We know that…please…help us. No one will hurt you, I promise.”

There was a sound, and muffled voices. Another shot cracked the air and finally Carter bellowed that they had him. Morse got up from his position and kicked at the door. It swung open and they saw Quinn and Carter grappling with Dawkins. A few swift punches from the technician made the squirming meteorologist go limp.

 

Dawkins awoke to find himself strapped to a chair. He felt light-headed, and his cheek was cut. The other men stood around him, arms folded, sombre looks on their faces.

“He’s awake,” said Frye

“Wha…what’s going on?” slurred Dawkins.

“That’s what we’d like to know,” Morse said, taking off the flame-thrower.

“I’ve got to…we can’t…”

“Geez doc, how much morphine did you give him?” Wren said, stubbing out a cigarette.

“Enough. Dawkins…listen to me. Can you hear me?”

Dawkins lifted his head, his pupils focusing on the doctor.

“What is this thing we’re dealing with?”

“An alien life form,” Dawkins whispered, “something that hasn’t been recorded since man walked the earth. The Norwegians…they dug it up…it’s all in Iversen’s journal.”

“Who’s Iversen?” asked Knowles.

“She’s one of the Norwegians,” Quinn explained, “she’s the one we found in the shack, when we went up to their base. Apparently, the monster escaped somehow and took over the base. She was obviously taken over when someone fried her.”

“That’s right…” Dawkins garbled, “just like us now…we’re being taken over.”

“What happened to McPherson, Dawkins?” The doctor asked.

“He was…exposed…he was…infected…”

“I knew it!” exclaimed Knowles, “we shouldn’t have taken in that damn Norwegian in the first place. I told you, Greenberg, I told you and you didn’t listen.”

“Hey!” Carter snapped, pointing a finger at Knowles, “we were trying to save his life. You’d be okay just to leave him out there?”

Knowles backed down, resting the shotgun against his lap. “Would’ve suited me just fine,” he muttered.

“The body…must’ve started with the dead body,” Dawkins explained, “that’s why it was missing, when we came back…it got to someone…”

“Got to someone?” Frye said, bewildered, “How could it get to someone? He was dead, Doc. The dead just don’t get up and walk about,”

“No!” Dawkins yelled, “cellular activity…cells were still alive. All it would take is for someone to be in close proximity…when it attacks…”

“Can you make any sense of this, Quinn?” asked Wren.

“It makes sense,” the biologist replied, “If that Norwegian was infected, then it wasn’t human. If what Dawkins says is true, and its cells weren’t dead, then it’s very possible that it was in actual fact dormant. I mean, looking at that chunk of ice we found at the Norwegian’s base, it’s very probable that this thing was in a dormant state for hundreds…if not thousands of years…”

“We’re all at risk,” Dawkins continued, “We’re all at risk…”

“Why didn’t the Norwegian attack us when he was dying then?” Carter inquired, “I mean, McPherson…well, McPherson freaked out on us when Morse threw a cigarette at him…why didn’t the Norwegian attack when he was dying?”

“It’s clever,” Dawkins replied, his eyes focusing clearer now, “some predators feign death so that its prey unwittingly get close to it, to eat its carcass. But then, when it’s close…wham!”

The men absorbed this information, the sombre mood of the room turning bleaker. “All I know,” Dawkins said, “is that twenty-four hours ago one of the people in this station was infected…right now…that could be most of you. I’m thinking though, if you’re all infected, you would’ve taken me over by now…so some of you are still human.”

“This is horseshit,” mumbled Knowles.

“Quiet!” hushed Greenberg.

“It assimilates whatever it takes over, be it man or animal. It absorbs them, becomes them. Did you notice any change in McPherson when he was infected? No…he was a perfect assimilation…but it can’t do this out in the open. It needs time to…absorb its host. That’s why it took over McPherson. Alone, in a close space…”

“Surely there’s an antidote…some form of attacking agent?” asked the Doctor.

“You’re the doc, doc.”

“How do we know who’s infected, then?” Frye said, worried.

“I’ve been thinking of that,” Quinn replied, “watching McPherson, It came to me that every part of him was a whole…when you blew his hand off, Knowles…it just got back up and came running again…like it had merely been divided and was just a smaller form of itself. The cellular activity on a normal human being dies when it is separated from the whole, if a hand is cut off a human after a while it can’t be reattached…but this thing…when Morse’s cigarette landed on McPherson’s blood, it reacted. And it reacted big time. A small blood test should prove sufficient enough.”

“No one’s going near me,” Dawkins said calmly, eyeing each man separately.

“You don’t have a choice, Dawkins.”

“I’d thought you would have understood, Quinn.”

Quinn stared at the small bespectacled man, and nodded his head. “I do,” he said, “That’s why we all have to be tested.”

“What about…that hand?” Frye asked, looking down the corridor.

“We’ll have two teams look for it,” Morse quipped, picking up the incendiary unit. “We’ll deal with the hand first, then we’ll meet back here in ten minutes and do Quinn’s test.”

The men agreed, but Dawkins shook around in his chair. “You’ve got to untie me!” he wailed, kicking about in his restraints.

“You just tried to shoot us,” Knowles explained, “You’re staying right here.”

“And leave me alone? For that thing to get me?”

Knowles considered this, and then turned to Morse. “Take him up to your shack, Morse. Lock him in there – we’ll pick him up after we’ve found…Gary’s hand.”

“No!” shouted Dawkins, “take me with you…I’m not going up anywhere with anyone!”

Morse didn’t seem particularly keen to escort Dawkins up to his shack. He went to untie the meteorologist, but stopped and eyed Knowles. “How did he get that gun anyway, Knowles? You’re the only one with the key.”

There was an uneasy silence in the room.

“He must’ve slipped it off me when I was asleep,” he said defensively. “Why are you looking at me like that, Morse?”

Morse grumbled something, and began to untie Dawkins.

“Okay, Quinn, Carter and Frye – you take the first team and check out the basement…Greenberg and Wren, you come with me. Morse, when you lock him up there I want you to guard that room and check out the perimeter of the camp. If you see anything strange ring the alarm.”

“Who put you in charge, anyway? You’re just a damn watch keeper. McPherson was our station manager.” Carter said, folding his arms.

“We don’t have time to dispute this,” Knowles retorted.

“I want a weapon,” Wren said, stepping forward.

“Sit down, Wren.”

“I’m not wandering around looking for a damn detached hand without a gun,” he said defiantly.

“This is a research station, not a bloody garrison, Wren,” Greenberg said. After a moment he reconsidered. “Morse, you don’t need that flame thrower. Give it to Quinn and take the handgun.”

Morse contemplated this, and held tightly onto the pressurised flame unit. “I don’t think that’s going to happen, doc.”

“Jesus, man!” the doctor snapped, “Quinn and the others are going into the basement to find this thing. Take the handgun for Christ’s sake!”

Morse looked at Frye and the other two men. He could see that the young cook’s eyes were filled with a nervous terror. How old was he? Morse thought. Twenty? Twenty-two at the most? He stared back at the doctor, and reluctantly unclipped the belt around his waist. The cylinders clanged onto the floor, and he took the gun from the doctor’s hand.

“We meet back here in ten minutes,” Morse said, before ushering Dawkins down the corridor. “One funny look from you,” he said to Dawkins, “and I shoot to kill.”

 

 

 

9.

 

“We check each room, piece by piece, and ventilation shafts if we have to,” Knowles ordered, “I don’t want any heroics…if you find it, sound the alarm and we’ll come as quickly as possible.”

Quinn lugged the flamethrower onto his shoulder and began to fasten the straps around his waist.

“If what Dawkins said was right,” he continued, “then this alien can take us over by touch alone. So everyone watch who you’re with…carefully.”

Those ominous notes made each man discreetly look at on another with a newly found apprehension. They couldn’t trust each other now, but they had to stay together and find the rest of McPherson.

“Ten minutes,” Knowles said, looking at his watch. “Back here for the test, regardless.”

Quinn nodded, and the first team moved down the corridor.

Greenberg, Wren and Knowles were left in the recreational room. “I guess we’ll start with the kitchen, then.”

The second team moved cautiously towards the kitchen…

 

“Generator room,” Quinn whispered. Pointing the nozzle of the flamethrower forward, they stepped carefully down the narrow stairwell and came to the door of the generator room. Opening it, they were greeted by a dimly lit cavernous area, made specifically for the bulky generator. The Rothera station had been built a couple of years before the team had occupied it, but they’d rarely come down here. Carter and Wren were probably the only two people designated to check on the generators, but they infrequently checked the apparatus either. The generator hummed in the background, a low, grumbling noise.

On the damp floor a multitude of wires and cables snaked along the floor, entangled with each other. Once the first team had descended the steps, Quinn turned the nozzle and pointed it at Frye and Carter.

“What the hell?” Carter barked.

“Sorry guys,” Quinn said, “but you two were alone with that Norwegian body along with McPherson. Who’s to say you’re not going to jump me down here in the dark?”

“You’re crazy, man.” Frye said.

“Just protecting myself,” Quinn said, “but I need to test you boys right here, right now.”

Frye and Carter exchanged glances, and then looked back at Quinn.

“I’m not one of those things!” Frye exclaimed, his eyes darting around the eerily spacious generator room.

“Yeah, don’t you think we should look for that hand first, Quinn?” Carter said.

“Nope.” Quinn fished inside his thermal jacket pockets and produced a small surgical scalpel.

“What do you suggest we do with that?” Carter asked, staring mirthlessly at the biologist.

“Just cut your finger…that’s all. I’ll do the rest.”

“This is bullshit,” Carter muttered, “how do we know you’re not infected?”

“Because I would’ve fried your ass by now if I was, wouldn’t I?”

“Would you?”

A deathly stillness filled the generator room.

“Alright then,” the biologist said, “I’ll prove it to you.” He took the scalpel with his free hand and made a small nick on his finger. A bead of blood appeared and dropped to the floor. He then produced a small phial that contained a dark liquid.

“This is concentrated hydrochloric acid, I took it from the lab before we went on our little adventure down here,” he stated, as he unscrewed the top.

“That’s your word,” Carter said, still staring at Quinn.

“Well, you’re going to have to trust my word, aren’t you Carter.”

Carter made a small chuckling sound, and shook his head. Quinn tipped the phial and a small stream of acid poured from it. As it touched the blood it gave off a low fizzling noise. A little wisp of smoke rose from the reaction.

“You see,” Quinn said. “I’m human. My opinion is that this creature’s blood will react violently if attacked with a chemical agent. Or something hot…now, we’ll test you Carter.”

Carter’s expressionless face suggested nothing to Quinn. Watching the technician, Quinn was ready for anything. He was close to McPherson when he burst out, he realised, and it had grabbed onto his boot; torn through it…

“Give me that thing,” he grumbled, taking the scalpel. Grudgingly, he made a small incision and a trickle of blood fell to the floor. “Do it.” He stated, and stood back from Frye.

Quinn took the phial of acid and held it out, above Carter’s dark splodge of blood. A large lump had formed at the back of Quinn’s throat, and he noticed the phial was shaking in his hand. Looking back at Carter, he tipped a small dose of the acid out. It hit the blood and fizzled, like his had.

“You’re okay.” He said, relief sweeping over. Carter didn’t hesitate to step away from the cook, and stood beside Quinn. “Now you,” he indicated to Frye. Carter wiped the scalpel clean on his jacket, and handed the young cook the surgical instrument.

“Oh man,” Frye sighed, looking at the two men. “Do we really have to cut ourselves?”

“Quit stalling, Frye,” Carter said.

“It’s just that…you know…” he trailed off, as Quinn pointed the nozzle of the flamethrower at him.

Frye brought the scalpel towards his index finger, and held it there for a moment. Taking a deep breath, he was about to apply pressure when something in his peripheral vision caught his attention. Something was moving near the generator.

“Oh shit,” he quipped, before he saw McPherson’s hand scuttle its way towards them. Quinn and Carter had turned to see what had caught Frye’s attention, and just had time to react before the hand leapt for them. Quinn pushed Carter out of the way and hit the floor, as the hand flew at them. It swooped above their heads, before landing somewhere next to them in the darkness.

Frye shouted, and started off towards the staircase.

“Get back here, Frye!” yelled Carter, but the young cook ignored his words. He scrambled up the stairs, still clutching the scalpel.

“Shit!”

Quinn rolled away from where the hand landed, and got up. Without looking for a target, he blasted the surrounding area with the flamethrower. The darkness instantly became illuminated in a fiery light as empty crates caught fire.

“Where did it go?” Quinn snarled.

“I don’t know!” exclaimed Carter, searching for the hand.

The fire created dancing shadows around the two men, and soon the only sounds that could be heard was the crackling of the fire and the dull humming of the generator.

“Did you get it?”

A sharp popping sound aroused their attention, and they turned to see the hand emerging from another dark corner. Several finger-like appendages grew from its exposed wrist and it stood on them, like hind-legs.

“Get out of the way, Carter!” shouted Quinn.

The technician was too late to react, though. Using its newly formed finger-like hind-legs, the McPherson hand propelled itself towards the technician and wrapped itself around his head. The fingers bore into his flesh like a knife cutting through butter and the spindly hind-legs dug themselves into his stomach. The technician garbled a few words before the hand smothered his face, its fingers burrowing further into his flesh.

Carter dropped to the floor, convulsing furiously. The hand tightened its hold on his head, wrapping around tighter. Quinn aimed the flamethrower at the fallen technician, and hesitated to fire.

“I’m sorry…” he said, watching helplessly as the thing’s hind-legs ripped his stomach open, tunnelling its way into his body. It’s new host.

Quinn pulled the trigger, and winced as the intense flames burnt Carter’s body.

“Oh God…I’m so sorry…”

 

Morse held the door of the shack open, looking out into the cold dark night of the Antarctic. The fierce wind blew snow into the shack, and through his goggles Morse watched anxiously for any activities occurring around the perimeter of the camp. With his other hand, he pointed the handgun at Dawkins. Dawkins sat at Morse’s small table, his hands lying face down flat.

“I’m assuming you’re human,” Dawkins finally said.

Morse turned his attention away from the campsite. “What makes you say that, then?”

“Well,” Dawkins began, “If you weren’t, you would’ve already tried to take me over, wouldn’t you?”

Morse considered this, and shrugged.

“It’s hopeless, you know,” Dawkins said, resignedly. “Splitting into teams? That’s probably the worst thing you could do in this situation. It’s vulnerable out in the open…don’t you see that?”

“I see a scientist who’s been out here too long,” replied Morse, looking back.

Dawkins sniggered. “I’m going to end up like Antonia.”

“Who?”

“The Norwegian woman. The burnt creature we found in the shack.”

“Oh.”

“Oh indeed. The situation is the same…in a lowly shack…that’s how I’m going to die, isn’t it? In a damn little shack in the middle of nowhere…”

He leant forward and put his head in his hands. Morse could tell the man was crying as his shoulders bopped up and down.

“Don’t crack up on me, now.”

“Why? Why did this have to happen to us?”

“Yeah…why do bad things happen to good people? Because that’s life Dawkins…You can either start to face facts and deal with it or…” He failed to complete the sentence, and instead watched the glow of the guidance lights in the distance.

“Or you can start to drink,” Dawkins said, sniffling.

“Yeah…or that.”

The howling wind battered against the small shack. Dawkins wiped his nose against his sleeve and picked up one of the empty vodka bottles littered amongst the floor.

“What happened to you at the Mountain Rescue, Morse?” He nonchalantly read the label of the bottle, “what caused you to come down here, in the middle of nowhere?”

Morse remained silent, gazing out morosely.

“You can’t save everyone,” Dawkins continued, “Those are the facts.”

“No…no I can’t…”

“You’re a good pilot, Morse.”

Morse turned his head from the door, and looked at Dawkins. “I know.”

“Then let’s get out of here, Morse! We can get to the nearest Gateway station and get help! If we stay here…” he stopped, pondering the consequences, “If we stay here…then we’re dead. Both of us…do you get it? We’re dead!”

Morse looked back out at the camp.

“You’re the only pilot here, Morse. Listen to me, if we go and get help now, there’s a possibility we may save more people from this infection.”

“Or we could sit it out,” replied Morse.

“Or we could help save lives.”

A picture of the seventeen-year olds’ face he failed to rescue flashed in Morse’s mind. The surprised look, those wide, big brown eyes…the horrible screaming as she plummeted hundreds of feet to her death. He shook his head, trying to dissolve the vivid image from his mind.

“I don’t want to die out here,” Dawkins said.

Morse looked back at the meteorologist. He didn’t want to die down here, either. He didn’t want to end up like McPherson.

He lowered the handgun. “Let’s go.”

 

Dr. Greenberg was at the back of the line, behind Wren. They’d checked the kitchen, but failed to spot any indication that McPherson’s hand was still present in the area. Knowles stepped forward, making his way towards the bunkrooms. Wren duly followed, a cigarette draped from his mouth.

His hands were shaking. Thinking back to the recreational room incident, he was lucky to be alive. The thing had scraped along his boot, and if Morse hadn’t intervened with the flame unit it would’ve made its way towards him. He would have been infected, like McPherson…like someone else in the Rothera station.

No, he said to himself, there was a possibility that they were all human. He was growing paranoid; intolerable thoughts of his fellow team members…and that scared him. That he couldn’t trust anyone…he felt his forehead was damp from perspiration. He needed something, anything to steady the nerves.

The infirmary door was ajar. Not wanting to attract attention from the other two, he waited for them to start investigating the bunkroom areas. He didn’t want to arouse their suspicions, so he waited until they were fully in the room and then quickly dived for the Infirmary. Going straight to the cabinets, he found what he was looking for: a small bottle of whiskey.

Unscrewing the top, he gulped down a large shot and immediately spluttered. Wiping his mouth, he took another swig and pocketed the bottle. He was about to close the cabinet when his eyes lay on a small phial of morphine.

A quick fix, he thought.

No! No time. The others would be getting suspicious…he closed the cabinet door, and made his way out of the infirmary back into the corridor.

Someone rushed into him as he left the room. Frye bounced off the tall doctor and fell to the floor.

“Frye, what are you doing out here?” he barked.

The cook, delirious with fear, started to stammer a few words. The doctor knelt down.

“Get away from me!” screamed the young man.

“What’s happened?” The doctor went into his pocket to retrieve the bottle of whiskey. Frye saw the doctor’s hand reaching in, and uttered a small cry before he thrust the scalpel forward, into the belly of Greenberg.

Greenberg didn’t feel pain at first. There was a moment; a solitary moment where he watched the scalpel beginning to retract from his body, watching as its metal edge, now covered with is blood, glimmered in the hallway light. Then he felt his warm sticky blood seep through his clothes, and he looked down at his stomach.

Instant cramp. That’s what it felt like, at first. He moved his legs, and slumped down onto his bottom. The movement caused a ripping sensation through his body, and his head started to waver and black dots began to appear in his vision. He looked back at Frye, who was staring open mouthed at him, still clutching the bloody scalpel.

In the distance, he could hear voices. Voices shouting his name. Then he fell back and lay on his back on the cold floorboards. He closed his eyes.

 

Knowles had been in Dawkins and Quinn’s bunkroom when he’d heard Frye screaming. Up till then the search for McPherson’s hand had been quiet. Eerily quiet, for his liking. Turning sharply round, he noticed Wren staring distantly at him.

“Wren, where’s Greenberg?”

It took a moment for the assistant technician to respond.

“Wren?”

The dull sunken eyes of Wren moved in their sockets, and he turned to go out of the room. Knowles went to follow, but something else caught his attention. As he’d turned, his boot had crunched something underneath. Glass.

The wind howled outside, blowing some snow into the room. Dawkins had secluded himself in this room for well over twelve hours…

He went down on his knees, and checked under the bed. A large cluster of glass had been haphazardly stashed underneath. That would mean…Dawkins hadn’t escaped from the room and stolen the gun, like they all assumed…someone had broken in…Another scream disrupted his thoughts, and he ran out into the corridor.

Knowles saw Greenberg slumped on the floor, a small pool of blood covering his torso. Wren stood motionless, witnessing the events. Knowles then noticed Frye sitting a few feet away, his eyes wide and feverish.

“Frye!” He cried. The cook’s attention was grabbed, and he instantly dropped the scalpel. He scrambled to his feet and ran towards Knowles’ office.

Knowles and Wren raced forward, “Wren, get after Frye.” Wren nodded, and ran down the corridor, towards the office.

“Greenberg, can you hear me?”

The doctor slurred something, but Knowles couldn’t make out what it was. He grabbed the doctor’s arms and began to drag him towards the infirmary. Greenberg let out a loud moan. Quinn came up the Generator stairs, and came towards Knowles.

“What the hell happened?”

“Grab his legs,” said Knowles, “Frye stabbed him.”

Quinn grabbed the doctor’s legs, and the two men moved him into the infirmary. “Where’s he gone now?”

“To my office. Wren should be getting him now.”

“Damn it, Knowles. We shouldn’t break up the groups.”

They placed Greenberg on the table. He opened his eyes, faint noises gurgling from his throat.

“Where’s Carter?”

Quinn went to the cupboard, and took out some gauze tape for Greenberg. “He’s dead,” he replied flatly. “We found the rest of McPherson…it got Carter.”

Knowles cursed, and took off the doctor’s jacket. Greenberg groaned again.

“What do you want us to do, Greenberg?” asked Knowles.

“He’s dying, Knowles!”

“I know!” snapped Knowles, “what do we do?”

“Nothing…you can do…” stammered the doctor. “It’s too deep…I’m bleeding internally…just…give…me some morphine.”

He spluttered some blood up.

“No,” said Quinn, “There’s got to be something we can do, just tell us, man!”

The doctor shook his head, more blood pumping out from his stomach. “Please,” he said weakly, “for the pain…”

“God damn it!” exclaimed Knowles.

Quinn hung his head. He felt powerless again, just like with Carter. The doctor started coughing again, and Knowles moved towards the cabinet.

“Please…” the doctor uttered, “Tell my daughter…I love her.”

Knowles took a fresh syringe and loaded it up with morphine.

“How much?” he asked, his voice quavering.

“All…all of it…” the doctor said, before spluttering up some more blood.

Knowles moved towards the doctor, and took his arm. There was a moment that the three men shared, a moment that each man could not explain. Greenberg’s eyes were distant and glazed over, like a man who had found redemption somewhere along the line. As Knowles brought the syringe down on the doctor’s arm, he remembered how his daughter had painted a picture of him, dressed in his surgical white uniform, and hey had pinned it on the refrigerator door. Happy times, when he had a family.

“I’m sorry,” said Quinn, to no one in particular.

The doctor managed a faint smile, and closed his eyes. Knowles injected the doctor with the morphine, and soon Greenberg ceased to move.

 

“Get us out of here, quickly!” shouted Dawkins. Morse flicked on some of the controls, and glanced quickly at the camp. The lights were still on, and usually the men would be huddled around the recreational room, playing cards or debating some scientific myths of the Antarctic. Those days, he figured, were long gone.

The blades of the helicopter started to slowly rotate around, the engine coming to life.

“This is the only way,” Dawkins continued, sitting behind the pilot. “We’ll get some help for them once we reach the other station.”

Morse wasn’t listening. He was battling his own conscience. A part of him wanted to stay; he felt as if he were betraying the other men…but on the other hand, Dawkins knew more of the thing then he did…the infection could’ve spread rapidly whilst they were in the shack…he didn’t know who would be human if they returned…

The blades were spinning faster now, and Morse looked up into the sky. The storm was quieting down, but his visuals were poor and they needed some luck if they were to get anywhere remotely close to civilisation.

“Sit your arse down,” he grunted, “this is going to be rough.”

 

Quinn and Knowles stood around the dead body of Greenberg. The expression on the doctor’s face looked painless, but Quinn felt there must’ve been something they could’ve done to save his life. And Carter’s.

“If you’ve had any ideas lately, I’d like to hear them,” Knowles said, “because we’re dropping like flies here.”

“Who says I can trust you?” Quinn said, absently.

“The same can be said for you, Quinn.”

“I just did a test with Carter and Frye.”

“Yeah, but Carter’s dead and Frye’s delirious with fear. What the hell happened down there?”

Quinn looked up, his eyes red and puffy. “What are you implying, Knowles?”

“All I’m saying is that when we left to search for the rest of McPherson we were all okay. Now two people are dead.”

“I’m not one of those things.”

There was a short silence.

“Neither am I…but I found out something…in your room, where Dawkins was shacked up…the smashed window was broken in from the outside. I think someone got to Dawkins.”

“Jesus!” Quinn exclaimed, “Morse and him have been up there for over twenty minutes.”

“I know…” he trailed off, not wanting to finish the thought.

 

Frye grasped the handle of Knowles’ desk and pulled it frantically. The drawer refused to budge, but he tried to pull harder. The desk started to move, and he swore vehemently. He knew Knowles kept his own personal popgun inside his desk, and right now he needed some kind of firepower.

Muttering incomprehensibly, he darted over to the weapons locker where the shotguns were kept. Knowles had one, so that meant another one was in the locker. He tried that door, but once again he found it locked tight. He needed the key and the combination. He screamed and started to kick at the locker door. The office door opened.

“Hey Frye, relax,” Wren said.

“Relax? Fucking relax!? There’s a monster prowling around the camp, and you’re asking me to relax? Wren, man…don’t come any closer to me.”

Wren stepped back from the young cook. He put his hands in the air, indicating he had no weapons on his person.

“You stabbed the doc,” he said, calmly. “He’s hurt really bad, Frye.”

“What was he doing on his own?” shouted Frye, “He was one of those creatures, man! I know it!”

“And now you’ve got his blood on your arm,” Wren replied, “So wouldn’t that make you infected?”

Frye took a moment to absorb this information. “No…I don’t…No, I feel myself.”

“You feel yourself?” Wren asked, incredulous. “You’re running around camp, stabbing people and kicking in the weapons locker…I wouldn’t call that your usual behaviour, now would you?”

“I’m human, man…I know it.”

“But do I know it?”

“What?”

Wren took a step towards Frye. “Let’s just walk back towards the infirmary…you can take Quinn’s test and we’ll all leave this place…together.”

Frye remained quiet, his eyes darting from the assistant technician to the weapons locker. Wren took another step towards him.

“Everything’s going to be okay, Frye.”

“You stay back, man!” he yelled.

“You’re going to be just fine.” Another step closer.

“I’m warning you!”

Wren was a few feet away now. Before any action could occur, the lights in the room went out. Shrouded in darkness, Frye hollered out a small scream.

 

“What the hell is going on now?” Knowles asked. Quinn regained his grasp on the flamethrower and went to the infirmary door. Looking out, he noticed that all the lights down the corridor were out.

“Must’ve been the flames in the generator room. They must’ve shorted out one of the fuse boxes.”

A couple of seconds passed, and then the crimson red emergency lights illuminated the rooms. In the distance, Quinn noticed a sound. A helicopter.

“Morse!” he shouted. Knowles took his shotgun, and the two men ran towards the entrance door. They ran outside, into the cold night, and watched as the helicopter started to lift off the ground.

“Morse!” Quinn shouted, “land that plane! Dawkins is one of those things!”

Knowles pushed the biologist aside, and aimed his shotgun at the ascending chopper.

“No!” screamed Quinn.

“They could both be those monsters!” Knowles shouted, “We can’t let them escape!”

The helicopter lifted higher into the night air. Knowles thought about this. He aimed the shotgun at the rotor blades.

“I can’t take that chance!” he bellowed. He began to squeeze the trigger.

A figure ran out of the camp entrance and barged into Knowles. He grunted and fell to the floor, the shotgun flying into the snow.

Frye and Knowles lay entangled in the snow. Quinn took the flamethrower, and aimed the nozzle at the two men. Unsure of who was human, and who alien, he hesitated to send a stream of fire at them both. Frye and Knowles hadn’t been tested. They could both be aliens, he thought…but they could also both be human. He’d already seen too many deaths for one night to last a lifetime.

If I live long enough to experience a lifetime, he thought coldly to himself.

Frye was already up before Knowles could regain his balance. He swiftly kicked him in the face, and was about to run when Quinn shouted at him to freeze.

“I ‘aint one of those things!” the cook screamed, turning to face the armed biologist.

“Where’s Wren?” Quinn demanded.

“In the camp somewhere. I lost him in the darkness.”

Knowles turned on his side, and scrambled for the shotgun.

“Don’t let him kill me, Quinn!” shouted the cook. Quinn, hesitant to fire on anyone, shouted at Knowles. The Warrant officer hadn’t listened, or refused to acknowledge, and picked up the shotgun. He turned the gun on the cook.

“If you shoot him I shoot you,” Quinn yelled.

“We’ve got ourselves a standoff then, don’t we?”

Frye remained motionless in the middle of the two men. The helicopter was slowly lifting.

“We can’t let that helicopter get away Quinn. You know that if that species reaches any other people it’ll take everything over. I can’t let that happen.”

“But what if we’re wrong, Knowles?”

The men stood in the snow, the freezing wind battering against their bodies. The standoff continued. Quinn looked at Frye and then at Knowles…the flame at the tip of his nozzle went out.

He was out of fuel.

“Shit,” he muttered, flicking the switch of the flame unit.

“Looks like I win, then.” Knowles said.

Quinn swore, and un-strapped the flamethrower from his shoulders and waist. It fell to the snow and Quinn stood like Frye: motionless.

“So what are you going to do now, Knowles? Shoot us both?”

Knowles considered this option, and was about to reply when a noise attracted all their attentions. It was the helicopter.

It began circling in mid-air, as if the pilot had lost control. Its front dipped sharply and it started to descend quickly. Unfortunately it was falling too fast and was heading towards the heart of the camp.

The men only had time to duck for cover as the rotor blades touched the roof of the campsite. It twirled madly in the air, dancing majestically in the night, before the cockpit crashed into the Rothera station and exploded like a supernova. The fiery explosion suddenly illuminated the Antarctic night – small fireballs flew into the sky, as the remains of the helicopter crashed through the roof of the camp and started to bring down the structure.

 

“Get this heap of shit off the ground!” Dawkins screamed, as Quinn and Knowles rushed out of the station. Morse pulled the stick sharply and the helicopter craned forward, lifting off the ground. “They’re coming after us! You see? Just like I said!”

Morse grunted again, his concentration focused on the sharp winds blowing against the helicopter. He heard Quinn shouting something…he heard Dawkins’ name being called, but the howling weather drowned out most of it. He gritted his teeth as the chopper began to rise, each feet that he ascended bringing more crosswinds his way. Dawkins was scuttling about in the back seat, yelping at him to get the helicopter further up into the night sky. Morse quickly glanced at the men on the ground, his fellow team members, the ones he was leaving behind to die…mixed emotions began to run through his head, visions of the small girl he failed to rescue brilliantly intensified in his mind, images of McPherson transforming into that horrible creature…he couldn’t leave them out there, without any support…he couldn’t just run off and leave them to die…

“I’m landing this thing,” he said finally.

“What?” Dawkins replied.

“We can’t leave them here. We’ve made a mistake.”

“If you land this helicopter, Morse – we’re both dead.”

Morse turned and looked at the weak-chinned meteorologist. “I’m landing.”

He turned back to the controls, but unfortunately for the pilot they were the last words he would ever speak. Dawkins came forward, his fingers clamping down on Morse’s head. Sharp jagged spikes ripped through the tips of his fingers and embedded themselves in Morse’s skull. He burbled something as the long fleshy spikes made their way through his cranium area and burrowed deep inside his head. He beat violently against the seat, helpless as the finger tentacles curled out from his nose and ripped his skin apart. The spikes had made their way down to his throat and ripped up through his cheeks, entangling themselves around his neck. Dawkins’ soulless eyes watched the pilot thrash around in the cockpit seat, watching intently as it began to assimilate the former human.

Morse kicked out at the controls, sending the helicopter into a spin. Dawkins didn’t have time to react, before the helicopter dipped forward and came crashing down into the Rothera station. Sparks exploded in front of his eyes – a brilliant light engulfed the helicopter, as the metal started to crumple like paper. The Dawkins-thing let out a bellowing shriek as fire consumed the helicopter…

 

 

10.

 

Quinn turned on his side and watched as the fires burnt fierce in the nighttime Antarctic. Plumes of smoke lifted from the main camp and the crackling of fire burnt in the distance. A shooting pain ebbed through his body; he looked down and saw a piece of shrapnel embedded in his leg. Clenching his teeth, he grabbed the small piece of metal and pulled it out. He let off a small yelp as the metal freed itself from his body.

Something else inside the camp exploded, jettisoning another stream of fire into the sky. Quinn dragged himself across the snow, and found Knowles lying facedown.

“Knowles!” he cried out. He turned him over, but Knowles was unconscious. “God damn it,” he muttered, leaning an arm against his body.

Some more of the roof collapsed in on itself, and Quinn then realised that Wren had been inside the building when the helicopter had crashed into it. Hanging his head, the biologist could only watch as the fire raged on…

A sound.

Quinn looked up. From within the rubble, a hideous scream overpowered the howling wind, making Quinn jolt upright. There was a low, rumbling sound, and then a mighty roar as the rubble from within the compound started to shake.

“What the…”

From within the skeletal campsite, a large creature emerged from the wreckage of the Rothera station and the downed helicopter. Its body consisted of several appendages and bodies of other unfortunate creatures.

Quinn noted that the main head was a deformed replica of assistant technician Clarence Wren. His eyes were wide and vacant, his face expressionless. He opened his mouth and another unearthly sound roared around the campsite. Several tentacles felt their way along the floor, finding sturdy ground so that the thing could balance itself. Quinn noted that it had to be at least ten feet tall, standing oppressively high amongst the remains of the burning building.

From its side, Morse’s body lay twisted and mutated – his arm protruding from its skin, craning towards the biologist; almost welcoming him towards the creature. Quinn could also see Dawkins’ face in there, gnarled and distorted, to the extent that Quinn nearly didn’t recognize his bunkmate.

The Wren-creature’s head split into two, a large flower-like bud projecting from its opening. The elongated stem curled towards where the two men were lying, and the bud opened to reveal a mesh of malformed teeth and claws. A hissing sound emitted from behind the creature, and a long, finely shaped rattlesnake tail lifted into view.

Quinn jerked his head round and searched frantically in the snow for Knowles’ shotgun. He found it lying nearby in the snow, and with all the power he could muster he flung himself at the weapon. The Wren-thing let out another screech and more arms ripped out from its body. Clinging to any nearby girder, it pulled itself out from the rest of the debris and launched itself onto the snow.

Quinn crashed into the snow, near the gun and clawed feverishly at the weapon. The stem-like neck of the creature felt its way along the floor, moving towards his feet. Picking the gun up, he aimed first at the creature’s body. Firing off a shot, the creature wailed, as the pellets smashed into its body, causing it to stumble.

Quinn noticed a fuel drum lying on its side, next to the monster. Praying that it had something inflammable inside it, he aimed the shotgun at the drum, firing off another shot just as the teeth were inches from his foot.

The barrel exploded. Covering his face, Quinn was knocked onto his back as the exploding barrel also blasted the Wren Creature. Its body burst outwards – sending pieces of its flesh scattering amongst the ruins of the station.

After a moment, all was quiet. Exhausted, Quinn began to sob in a half-crying, half-laughing mixture of emotions. The pain in his leg was unbearable, but the sight of seeing the creature destroyed brought him an immense powerful feeling. He dropped the gun into the snow, and with his last remaining power dragged himself over to Knowles. Then he blacked out.

 

 

Epilogue

 

Quinn opened his eyes and found himself in Morse’s shack. It was still freezing cold, but he noticed several layers of blankets had been put over him.

“You’re still alive eh?” Knowles murmured.

“Knowles…” Quinn responded, “Where did Frye go?”

Knowles was sitting on the floor on the other side of the room, wrapped in blankets. His skin was a deathly pale colour and his lips were bloodless. His eyebrows were covered with ice, and he stuttered his sentences as frostbite set in.

“One of the tractor’s gone…my guess is he bailed out of here…”

“Like the Norwegian that arrived here…” Quinn muttered.

“I told ‘em…” Knowles said, “Not to let him in…but…no one listened to me…”

The two men sat in silence, the last of the flames in the nearby building dying out.

“How long do you think we’ll last?” Knowles finally said.

Quinn couldn’t feel his leg anymore. “We’re dead already.” He said, resignedly.

Knowles chuckled at this, a small mirthless grin spreading across his face.

“I don’t even know if you’re human, still…”

“Ditto here…”

Another silence ensued.

“Do you think Frye was one of them?” Knowles stammered.

“I’m too tired to care anymore.”

Knowles chuckled again, and coughed. The wind howled outside, battering against the corrugated iron of the shack. Knowles finally closed his eyes, allowing sleep to take over. A few minutes passed, and Quinn watched the snow drop outside. He closed his eyes too…

 

A few miles away from the Rothera Station, a small tractor chugged along the Antarctica. Inside, a cook by the name of Frye sat at the seat, shivering from the cold. He didn’t know where he was going, or if he’d make it there…but he needed to find people…he didn’t want to curl up in the snow, and freeze…he needed to find people…

 

 


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