The man from the ice, p.1
The Man from the Ice
By Brian Smith
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
adrenalin – a hormone that increases heartbeat and breathing
antediluvian – a truly ancient person or thing
bated breath – subdued breathing due to strong emotions
emphatically - forceful, insistent
eon - an indefinitely long period of time
futile – ineffective, useless
gormless – very stupid, brainless
hysteria – an irrational and violent emotional outbreak
meander – to take a winding course
provocative – irritating, vexing
prudent - careful
pukka – real, genuine, first class
subconscious - existing or operating in the mind beneath or beyond consciousness:
trance - a half-conscious state, seemingly between sleeping and waking, in which ability to function voluntarily may be suspended
woebegone - showing or indicating woe
Welcome to a new world...
Did you think you’ve seen all the strange and weird things that there are? That’s what Edward and Anthony thought too! They have to face a totally new challenge as they leave behind their home and those they love. Why? Because they are sent to a strange and distant land where nothing is what it should be.
Will the boys rise up to the challenge on this quest? Little do they know, but they will not only discover an unknown world, they will have to fight an enemy more terrifying than any other before, an enemy right in their minds.
And yet who could enter a human brain?
Read on to see how your heroes fare.
Edward was at his school. It was a sultry, hot day and sweat was running down the faces of Edward and his schoolmates. They were all wearing their school caps to protect themselves from the heat of the tropical sun which shone down mercilessly. During recess time they could leave their classrooms and go to play in the school yard. At one end there was a playground with a slide and a swing, around the sides of the yard were many shady areas, and the middle was a basketball court with a rubber surface.
In spite of the heat Edward and his friends were running around excitedly playing various games and chatting about films, books and computers games. And with each film, book or computer game that was mentioned they tried to impress the others about how exciting and wonderful it was. The conversation slowly turned into a quarrel. No one wanted to concede that the others had anything of interest while everyone wanted to be admired for their experience. Things came to a head when one boy talked about a recent trip to Thailand where he had ridden an elephant.
“Ha!” Edward said with disdain. “That’s nothing special. I already rode an elephant in Thailand when I was one year old!”
“Did not!” the other boy said angrily.
“Yes, I did,” Edward said, “and anyway there are much more unusual and special things to do. Anyone can ride an elephant in Thailand.”
“Oh yeah?” the boy said furiously. Suddenly he didn’t feel happy about his trip anymore.
“Yes,” Edward said. “There are lots of things, I can do them quite easily.”
This was too much for the furious boy. He looked straight at Edward and said “If it’s so easy for you, then I dare you do the most unusual and weird thing ever!”
Suddenly Edward realized what he had done, but it was too late. Stars began to whirl around him and he was flung through time and space. His brother Anthony, who was at home that day, also found himself surrounded by stars. Moments later the two brothers landed in a very different place. They looked around in surprise. Gone was the heat and the humid, steamy air. Gone was the lush vegetation of tropical countries. What they saw instead was an almost bare plain that was interspersed with meandering watercourses. In the distance they could see rocky, rugged mountains with dark clouds hanging above. The air was crisp and cold.
“Oh no,” Anthony said. “What have you done?”
Edward hit his forehead with his hand. “Never mind that now,” he said. “The question is, where are we?”
“I don’t know,” Anthony said. “What was the dare?”
Edward explained it to him while they made their way downhill towards the open plain. When they reached the bottom of the hill they stopped to look around. It was a strange place.
“I don’t like this place,” Anthony said. “There are almost no plants anywhere.”
“And no animals,” Edward said. “It’s so quiet.”
The two boys listened. Edward was right. It wasn’t just quiet. It was eerily silent. Apart from the wind blowing past their ears they couldn’t hear anything. Not a single bird or even a buzzing insect. There was nothing.
“What a weird place,” Anthony said. “It’s like something from a billion years ago when the Earth was empty.”
“I hope not,” Edward said.
The thought of being in some antediluvian period of the Earth’s history was disturbing.
“Where shall we go?” Anthony asked.
Edward thought for a moment. “Let’s follow the river. Sooner or later it’ll lead us to a lake or the sea. There’s nothing to eat here, so the sooner we move on the better.”
They walked through the desolate landscape for several hours. The river they were following flowed past rugged, snow covered mountains. At times torrents of water cascaded down steep cliffs and joined the river which was gradually getting deeper and wider.
The land was empty, and yet the two boys felt a strange sensation. It was the feeling of being watched, no it was more than that, it was as though they were being called. It was a disturbing experience and from time to time they stopped to listen. All they heard was the constant wind blowing past their ears.
They looked at each other and walked on through the bleak countryside. After several hours they finally saw an expanse of water. They were feeling cold and hungry and their legs were tired from the exhausting march over the rugged terrain.
Let’s go down there,” Edward said. “Our chances lower down are much better.”
“Chances of what?”
“Well, I’m not sure. All I can say is that up in the mountains we’ll not find anything except snow and ice and a howling wind.”
Anthony nodded. They would go down towards the water. There was that weird feeling again. They set off but much to their own surprise they weren’t walking downhill towards the water, they were going back into the hills.
Edward wanted to say something to Anthony but found that his mouth would not say the words that he had formed in his mind. They found themselves walking straight up a tall mountain. The higher they got the colder it was until the ground was covered in snow. In spite of their long and exhausting hike the boys could not feel their legs anymore. It was as though the mysterious land had imposed its will on the boys.
Suddenly they came face to face with two animals. The boys stopped in surprise.
The boys looked at each other, They had the strange sensation of just having woken up.
Edward watched the animals. “They don’t look like prehistoric animals,” he said.
“Do you think we’re in the stone age?”
“I’ve got no idea. What I really want to know is why we’ve come up here. We wanted to go down, didn’t we?”
They were high up on the mountain and it was freezing cold. More worryingly
Then it began to snow.
“We need to get out of the wind,” Edward said.
“Look!” Anthony pointed to a place farther up the mountain. “Isn’t that a cave?”
Edward nodded. He looked around. What choice did they have? It was the only possible shelter in sight.
“Let’s go there then,” he said.
When they reached the cave they quickly went inside to get out of the biting wind. They went deep into the cave to find as much shelter as possible from the bad weather outside. Feeling utterly exhausted, hungry and cold, they huddled together in a corner, trying to warm one another. They were too frozen and miserable to sleep, then that strange sensation came back. It was like a voice inside their heads. Gradually the feeling of cold and hunger faded away and the two brothers fell asleep.
The following morning the weather had improved. The sun shone straight into the entrance of the cave waking up the boys as its light reflected and sparkled in the snow and ice. The boys stretched and rubbed their stiff arms and legs.
“At least the weather’s good today,” Edward said.
Anthony nodded and looked around the cave. As his gaze went deeper into the cave he suddenly froze in fear. There, in the ice, was something, a long dark shape.
“Edward,” he whispered.
The boys stared at the dark shape while the light of the sun gradually moved deeper into the cave. At last there was enough light to see clearly.
There on the ice lay a man.
They went to the man. He was wearing old fashioned clothes and he was covered in ice.
The boys breathed a sigh of relief.
“He must have died here a very long time ago,” Anthony said.
Edward nodded. “Judging by his clothes I’d say one or two hundred years ago.”
“So we’re not in the stone age?” Anthony asked.
“It doesn’t look like it. Maybe we haven’t travelled in time at all,” Edward said. “We’re just in some unusual place. Anyway, it’s no use standing here and talking about it. Let’s get off this mountain and see if we can find some people.”
This time they had no trouble going where they wanted to go and just an hour later they were both surprised and glad to come across a road.
On a sign it said: Kerguelen, Route 66.
Edward thought long and hard. Kerguelen. He had heard the name somewhere before. What was it? Then he remembered. It was the name of a French island far south in the Indian Ocean.
“Well,” he said, “at least we know that there are other people here. It’s a French island so we shouldn’t have any problems.”
They followed the road. It didn’t take them long until they approached a small settlement.
Feeling relieved they hurried down the road towards the nearest building where they met a very surprised woman.
“Whoever are you?” she asked in astonishment. “I didn’t know there were any children here.”
“Where are we?” Anthony asked.
“You don’t know where...? Come with me,” the woman said and took them towards one of the buildings.
“This is Port-aux-Francais,” the woman said on the way. “It’s the capital of the Kerguelen Islands. But how did you get here?”
It was a question the boys didn’t want to have to answer. The woman took them to the district chief who was in charge of the islands.
A few minutes later the district chief looked at the boys strictly. “So,” he said feeling irritated, “you would have me believe that you don’t know how you got here even though the only way to Kerguelen is by ship. There is no airport here and the nearest inhabited land is more than 3000km away. And then after just appearing here you spent a night in an ice cave which no one has ever seen before in spite of exploring the island for almost two hundred years. And to top it all you found a dead man in the ice. Are you taking me for a fool?”
There was an icy silence in the room.
The district chief banged his fist on the desk. “I demand to know where your parents are and how you got here. You must have come here by boat. Where is it hidden?”
Edward decided to ignore the question and said “We can take you to the cave. It isn’t that far. And there is a dead man in it.”
The district chief looked to the woman who had brought the boys to him. “What do you think, Monique?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “If they really did find someone we’d better take care of it. I can go there with Albert.”
The district chief nodded thoughtfully. “You’d better ask Dr. Courbet and two of the paramedics to come along. If there is a body it’ll need proper examination and besides it won’t be easy carrying it down the mountain.”
“Please,” Anthony said, “we’re very hungry.”
The district chief looked at the map where the boys had indicated the location of the cave. “And you’re absolutely sure about this cave?” he said.
The boys nodded and said “Yes, sir.”
“Very well, then,” he said. “Monique, take the boys to the canteen. When you’ve prepared everything you can set off to this mysterious cave.”
Edward and Anthony were glad to have found shelter in Port-aux-Francais. The French there were mainly scientists whose job it was to explore the islands, and there was a satellite and rocket tracing station which was operated by the French space agency.
In the canteen the boys were delighted to tuck into some good French food and talk with some of the people at the same time. One of the scientists, a friendly geologist called Frederic, was happy to tell them something about the Kerguelen Islands.
“The islands were discovered by Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen-Trémarec in 1772 and named after him,” Frederic said. “There were one or two attempts to settle the islands but they failed due to the harsh climate. In the nineteenth century sailing ships, especially whale hunters, came here occasionally to take on water. Since then the only exciting thing that happened here were rocket launches in the 60s and 70s. So you shouldn’t be surprised that our district chief isn’t very happy to have two boys mysteriously appearing who tell a wild story about a dead man in the ice.”
“But we really did find him,” Anthony protested.
Frederic laughed. “Never mind. A little excitement can’t do us any harm down here.”
Several hours later the sun set. Looking from the window the boys watched as the bright disc slowly sank beneath the horizon, its light reflected on the icy waters of the southern Indian Ocean with nobody but penguins on the beach.
Monique and her companions made it back to Port-aux-Francais with the last rays of the sun. Their arrival caused quite a stir as two of the men were carrying a stretcher. They lowered the stretcher to the ground and a curious crowd gathered round. Edward and Anthony rushed out but they couldn’t see what was on the stretcher as it was covered with a large white cloth. Everyone waited for the district chief. When he came at last he nodded to the doctor who pulled back the cloth.
A subdued hush fell over the crowd. At first sight there was nothing very unusual about the man on the stretcher. As the boys had noticed before, he was wearing old clothes, possibly from the late 18th or early 19th century. His clothes were that of an ordinary man, perhaps a shipwrecked sailor, who knew?
And yet a strange sensation befell everyone in the crowd. What it was no one could say, though everyone felt it. Nobody said a word. Everyone just stared at the dead man as if mesmerized.
Finally the district chief gathered enough strength to break the silence. “Did you find anything on him, Dr. Courbet?”
Dr. Courbet shook his head. The clothes and the body are still frozen. We’ll have to wait with the examination until it’s thawed out, sometime early tomorrow, I’d say.”
The spell was broken and everyone began to talk at
“Well I must say,” Frederic said to the two boys, “this is by far the most exciting thing that has happened here in years.”
That night everyone in Port-aux-Francais went to bed late after talking and speculating for several hours about who the dead man was.
Dr. Courbet took the body to the local hospital where it was left in the warm to defrost. He looked at the dead man one last time before switching off the light and patted his leg saying “I wonder who you are, my friend. Will you tell me any more tomorrow?”
Of course Dr. Courbet didn’t mean this literally. He was only hoping to find some clues to the man’s identity, some coins or perhaps even a letter tucked away in a pocket. He closed the door and went to his room to get a good night’s rest.
But that night nobody in Port-aux-Francais managed to get a good night’s rest. They were restless in their beds haunted by strange images that disturbed their minds. When they woke up the next morning people felt tired and ill at ease. They had dark shadows under their eyes and began the day feeling irritable.
Dr. Courbet was no different. He barely touched his breakfast, sipped at his coffee in disgust and then gave up. He changed into his work clothes and walked to the hospital. On his way he didn’t greet anyone though that didn’t matter, nobody was in the mood to speak. He entered the hospital, hung his anorak on a hook, and went straight to the room with the dead man. He pushed open the door and froze.
The man was sitting up. His legs were dangling down and he was staring at Dr. Courbet as though he had been expecting him.
The district chief looked through the small window in the door into the room where the strange man was still sitting.
“You must have made a mistake, Dr. Courbet,” he said.
“But that’s impossible, I’m telling you,” Dr. Courbet replied emphatically. “The man was frozen stiff, he was a block of ice, and now look at him.”
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