The cold pools, p.1
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       The Cold Pools, p.1
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           Chris Ward
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The Cold Pools
The Cold Pools

  This story is a work of fiction and is a product of the author’s imagination.

  Any resemblance to actual locations or to persons living or dead

  is entirely coincidental.

  All content Copyright Chris Ward 2012

  Cover image purchased from 2012

  Cover design Copyright Chris Ward 2012

  Table of Contents

  Also by Chris Ward

  About the Author

  The Cold Pools

  The Cold Pools

  A Short Story

  Chris Ward

  Dreaming of a cold place…

  This story is a work of fiction and is a product of the author’s imagination.

  Any resemblance to actual locations or to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

  All content Copyright © Chris Ward 2012

  Cover image purchased from 2012

  Cover design Copyright © Chris Ward 2012

  Also by Chris Ward and available now


  The Tube Riders

  The Man Who Built the World (due October 2012)


  Ms Ito’s Bird & Other Stories

  Short Stories

  Benny’s Harem*

  Forever My Baby*

  Going Underground*


  Ms Ito’s Bird*

  Saving the Day*

  The Ageless*

  The Cold Pools*

  (* = included in the collection Ms Ito’s Bird & Other Stories)

  Castles Made of Sand

  Death Depends


  The Tree

  About the Author

  A proud and noble Cornishman (and to a lesser extent British), Chris Ward ran off to live and work in Japan back in 2004. There he got married, got a decent job, and got a cat. He remains pure to his Cornish/British roots while enjoying the inspiration of living in a foreign country.

  He is the author of 33 published stories and the novels The Tube Riders and The Man Who Built The World.

  Join the new releases mailing list here (new release notifications only - no spam) -

  “Like” Chris on Facebook at Chris Ward (fiction writer)

  Follow on Twitter @ChrisWardWriter.

  Read Chris’s blog –

  Thanks for reading.

  CW April 2012

  The Cold Pools

  Coming up to the cold pools along the main approach road it was difficult to see anything other than the huge bluff that formed a natural barrier against the heat rising up from the valley as thick as smoke. Already, cheaper tourist hotels were beginning to make an appearance, with their gaudy facades and neon signs and promises of low-cost bus tours up to the main site itself.

  Karen and myself, however, had a better room in one of the larger resorts up on the bluff. The brochures promised the best views of the valley, and the freshest, coolest air that only the pools could provide.

  We were heading uphill past the first cluster of hotels when the car began to choke. ‘Damn it,’ I swore, punching the dash. Karen reached over and touched my arm, and when I looked towards her, her smile calmed me. My own cold pool, I thought. My very own.

  ‘We’re almost there,’ she said. ‘Don’t worry.’

  I smiled and felt a welling in my throat. She smiled back, but her grin was just a little too wide to be safe and I saw one of the sores along her jaw line break open and begin to trickle pus down her neck. I didn’t want to say anything, but she had obviously felt it and reached up with a tissue to dab it dry.

  I watched her as she arched her neck and tried to assume a swanlike posture of elegance and grace. She glanced out of the car window and then back at me, her eyes defiant, but it was too late. Feeling hopeless, useless, I began to cry.

  ‘Oh, Lewis, don’t,’ she hushed me. ‘I can’t bear it.’

  I swallowed down a sob and tried to be brave for her, but I knew that it didn’t matter, it was a waste of time. Nothing I could do or say would ease the variant of skin cancer that ravaged her body; nothing would make this trip anything other than the last wish of a dying woman. Karen had dreamed of seeing naturally cold water for the first time, and it was only with sizable donations from friends and family that we could make this trip and afford the high prices at all.

  I urged the complaining car on up the steep road that jagged back and forth across the bluff’s face. Karen, ever cheerful, leaned forward in the seat, eyes straining for the sign the brochure had promised we would see about halfway up.

  ‘There it is!’ she shouted, and I smiled at her joy as I wiped away a tear with one hand. ‘Quick, turn it off!’

  I flicked off the air-con and together we lowered our windows. At first I didn’t feel it, perhaps because we’d started too early, but then, as we passed the sign I felt the cool breeze brushing against my face.

  The only breeze in the world beneath seventy-seven Fahrenheit: optimum room temperature. For the past twenty years even night had been over eighty. You could replicate the conditions of course, but here, on this bluff, was the only place you could feel it outside the comfort of your own home.

  Okay, so I had friends that claimed the peak of Everest was cooler, but as the road being built to the summit was barely half done and the plateau itself sat like a dead king in the middle of the most scorched of lands, it wasn’t really accessible for the masses.

  No, here was the only recognised place in the whole world where the air was cool, and as we finally emerged at the top of the bluff, we saw the reason why.

  My breath caught in my throat, and I heard Karen gasp beside me. There, ahead of us, still some ten miles off but looming like a great blue-white cliff, was the world’s last glacier.

  ‘Oh my,’ Karen said. ‘It’s even bigger than I expected.’

  I just nodded, speechless. The road moved down a slight incline into a valley where dozens of hotels dominated the small town of Cold Pools, named after the lakes and pools that had formed at the foot of the glacier, a town so close to the glacier’s front that it remained in shadow for most of the day. The brochure also told us that every year the glacier’s slow advance meant a dozen hotels were pulled down; those that could afford the high land costs were repositioned, and those that couldn’t forgotten for all time. The entire town was gradually shifting back towards the bluff edge, the brochure said, and one day, in perhaps no more than a couple of generations, it would spill over completely.

  Karen and I had no children; we’d refused to bring them into such a world. Several of our friends did, and while I could admit the kids were a delight I couldn’t help but wonder at the selfishness of it all.

  ‘It’s beautiful, Lewis,’ Karen said, her voice barely a whisper.

  ‘Like you are,’ I said, immediately regretting such a corny retort.

  She smiled. ‘Was. I’ll let you have was.’

  We checked into our hotel half an hour later. Karen was a little disappointed to find that our room on the third floor looked out not on to the mighty glacier but back towards the bluff edge, back towards the red sun that hung high above the Antarctic sky, swollen and sore. Those rooms with a glacial view were beyond our price range, I assumed, but from the restaurant at least we could see the white wall that fed the town, and we ate a modestly priced meal of beef and potato pie beneath its shadow.

  After dinner we took a walk into the town, feeling the cool air and I guess I could say wintery gusts of wind wrap around our faces. I held Karen’s hand by the finger tips, aware that the sores on her palms caused her pain. We hadn’t made love in three months, not since the worst of the cancer
began to show itself. Intimacy was too painful for her, and in a different way it was painful for me too. Each touch might be my last; Karen was on borrowed time: given six months a little over eight months ago.

  ‘I want to swim,’ Karen said suddenly.

  We were passing a row of cafes and wine bars. I smiled. ‘Wouldn’t you prefer a drink?’

  ‘Only of cold water.’

  We walked on through the town towards where the pools began on the outskirts. The brochure had told us how some were exclusively for bathing, with big complexes thrown up around piped water fed into landscaped pools, while others were nature reserves for what birds and fish were still left. Further on, we knew, right at the foot of the glacier, was a huge lake. In the shadow of the ice very little could grow or live, but the waterfall that fed it was a popular sightseeing spot and where organized climbs to the top of the glacier itself began. I didn’t like the idea of Karen slogging her way up a two hundred metre high staircase carved into the ice, but nevertheless she had insisted and we were booked on a tour for the day after tomorrow.

  I realised suddenly that we had walked right out of town. Ahead of us, the shell of an abandoned hotel rose out of the ground beside the road,
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