Creeping Death

“Jed and Marine are gone!” Eris stutters louder than she intended too and mere seconds after rushing over to where Marius and Yelena are huddled separately around tonights, hopefully lifesaving, fire.

“What do you mean they’re gone?” Marius queries hoping this is some kind of stupid joke.

“What the fuck do you think I mean they’re gone? They’re gone! It’s a pretty simple fucking concept, but I’ll put it another way. They’re not fucking here.” Eris’ voice is breaking; her expression meanwhile is frantic and fearful as her eyes dart all over seemingly unable to stay still for even a moment due to her panic.

Marius leaps to his feet. “Shit!” He can guess what they’ve done; gone for that damned blip and the supposed excavators Jed was so sure would be alongside it.

“We need to find them.” Eris splutters before erupting into a coughing fit as a result of the cold she has already dared to brave attempting to check the surrounding area.

“We should check the wreckage.” Marius declares.

“Already did.” Eris counters only to get a filthy look from the merc in the moments before he says, “Fucks sake, that’s why you’re spluttering. You stupid bitch. You could have died without heat.” Marius makes no attempt to mince his words as he gets straight to the point without any hint of a filter. His words blunt and severe even by his own typical standards.

“Then they’re lost.” Yelena remarks pointedly.

“You selfish bitch!” Eris, unable to contain herself, roars as she flies into a rage that’s sees her throw herself right toward Yelena.

Marius grabs Eris out of mid-air and whisks her away to the far side of the fire they’ve got roaring and spitting. There the merc hopes Eris will get some much needed warmth in her and maybe calm down a little.

“I hate her. We should have left her in her pod.” Eris mutters more to herself than the merc who is still restraining her so she cannot do anything she might later regret.

“She’s right though.” Marius murmurs.

Eris opens her mouth ready to scream, roar and wail angrily but the merc cuts her off as he adds, “I know. But we both know it’s true. We don’t want to admit it, but they’re done for out there. We need to think about us now. We’re all that’s left.”

“Bastard!” Eris spits unsure as to whether it’s aimed at Marius or Yelena.

Marius accepts her assessment but says nothing as the temperature continues to drop lower and lower. Before long the merc is sure it will be colder this night than it has been on any of the previous three. To make matters worse they have the largest fire they’ve ever managed and yet sadly seem to be struggling to get the kind of warmth from it as they have on previous nights with smaller fires.

“We need to huddle. It’s our only chance.” Marius decides in that moment as the words pass his heavily cold split lips, and while his breath visibly turns from a cloud of vapour to tiny droplets of ice before his eyes. That’s a first. Never before has a liquid turned to a solid while breathing on this planet. It explains why the fire isn’t doing enough and yet he feels as though time has passed. He doesn’t know why but it’s just a feeling, as though he lost consciousness for a while. That’s a very bad sign if he has. At least I can still feel Eris’ chest rising and falling, he thinks while her body is pressed against his own. That’s a good sign, but they need to move, to join Yelena. If they don’t they will die, he is sure of that.

“Come on Eris, we need to move round to Yelena on the far side of the fire.”

Eris offers no reply to his words though she does mirror the movements he makes as he climbs back to his feet, arms still wrapped around her body, like her own are wrapped around his. Then they start to shuffle. Her feet do a mirror flip of what his own manage until they reach the far side of the fire. There Yelena is sat, hugging herself.

“Yelena, join us.” Marius orders without an ounce of thought about how the fiery woman will take his words. He doesn’t care. It’s simply too cold to care, and situation too dire.

However, the woman doesn’t move. She stays still and rooted to the spot, so Marius tries again. “Yelena, come on we have to do this if we want any hope of making it through the night.”

“Marius, it’s so cold.” At first the merc thinks it is Yelena talking and complaining, which is why he is on the verge of giving a sarcastic reply when all of a sudden he realises that the words came from Eris and not Yelena.

The merc tries twice more to get a response from Yelena but is met with nothing. He now knows something is wrong. He can guess what but needs to be sure, which is why he whispers to Eris, “I need to let go of you for a moment Eris, but keep yourself pressed against me no matter what, understand?”

“Y-Ye-Yeeeeee…” Is all Eris can manage as her teeth chatter so rapidly it sounds as though she actually says yes, even though she doesn’t.

With Eris having giving her confirmation of understanding the words whispered to her, Marius unfurls his arms from around her body and then turns. Eris tightens her grip evidently fearful of losing hold of him somehow and freezing to death. The merc ignores her fearful tightening grasp as he bends his knees and squats, forcing Eris to do the same, which for her is far more difficult with him being so much taller than her.

Marius is now on level with Yelena and immediately knows that she is dead seeing as there is no breath visible in the air around her hood obscured face. There would have to be if she was still alive and yet he feels compelled to make sure. That is why he slowly raises his arm towards Yelena’s face and then holds his hand under her nose. There is nothing at all, confirming that she is indeed dead. “Fuck,” slips from his mouth which draws the attention of Eris who questions, “What? What’s wrong? What’s going on? Is Yelena’s OK?”

“No, she’s not. She’s dead Eris. We’re all that’s left.” Marius admits slowly.

“No. We can’t be. You have to be wrong. Let me…” Eris replies with a hysterically tone as she starts to unwind her arms from around Marius, who in response blurts, “No” and then grabs hold of the woman’s arms to stop her from progressing further.

“We have to stay huddled or we’ll end up like Yelena, Eris. You know I’m right. We can’t let emotion and fear get to us. If we do we’ll die. And we’re survivors.”

“It’s so cold. I can’t feel anything other than the cold.” Eris replies. Her statements in no way related to the conversation they’d been having but seconds ago. It’s a bad sign. It could mean she is having a conversation with herself which she thinks is real, but very much isn’t. If that continues she could drop into a coma and that would drop her body temperature sealing her fate and Marius’ along with it.

“We need to move closer to the fire.” The merc announces out of the blue after a short period of consideration of the available options.

“But we’re already so close.” Eris counters.

“I know but it’s our only hope.” Marius thinks he says but can’t be sure with how he suddenly realises he feels. He hadn’t noticed it before but there is no doubt that he is not only slurring his words but only catching parts of what he’s saying.

His conclusion, he’s dipping in and out on consciousness, which is probably what happened to Yelena too. To make matter worse she likely didn’t notice until it was too late for her to do anything about it.

Marius, due to the cold, has forgotten that this isn’t the first time he’s suffered this exact occurrence during the still darkening night. If he did he’d know it isn’t just Eris who is close to running the risk of dropping into a coma.

What Marius does know and can admit is that the fire isn’t going to be enough, and nor is the shared body heat between himself and Eris, who he knows is still with him even if not conscious as he can feel her cold breath turned to solid particles on the back of his neck.

“We need to move.” Marius announces some unknown time later.

“Neeeeee…” Is the unintelligible noise that comes from Eris.

What it is the woman was trying to say the merc hasn’t a clue. Yet, he just plays along as though he does but pushes his point by saying, “We have to Eris. You know this. And I have an idea. We need to get to that cave.”

“Shiiiiiii…” Again Eris trails off but this time Marius can guess what she is referring to, the Dorian Three.

“It’s no good; there are too many holes and structural tears in it. Plus it’s above ground being buffeted by the winds. We’ll never survive even if we managed to get into the deepest parts of the ship before we succumbed to the cold. The cave is our only option.” The merc isn’t sure that what he thinks he is saying are the exact words coming out of his mouth. They might be slurred but it’s impossible to tell with the wind screeching the way it is.

Eris gives no reply but Marius can still feel her breath, though it is slower he has to admit. Shit! He thinks realising Eris has slipped into unconsciousness.

“Wake up Eris. Wake up. Don’t sleep. If you sleep you’ll die, you’re too cold to have your body temps drop any lower than they already have.” Marius shouts as loud as he can, while hoping it’ll be enough to wake Eris. It is and sees the woman wakes with a start, unsure as to where she is or what is going on as her eyes, which are little more than pinpricks through which she can see almost nothing, scan about. Marius repeats himself and this time Eris is aware of what the merc intends. However, she can’t bring herself to speak for fear that her chattering teeth might bite down on her tongue, so instead she nods her head. Marius feels the motion and orders that they stand but keep their bodies pressed together.

Seven minutes later, somehow Eris and Marius have managed to struggle their way out of the crater. However, their already considerably sluggish pace has now been reduced to a crawl.

Marius is almost dragging Eris along as thick icy-snow lashes down in a manner unlike anything he has ever seen before from ice or snow. To be honest it’s more like rain, except instead of being wet it is chilling to the touch. On top of that the excess weight where it has congregated is crushingly heavy, and yet somehow Marius continues to trudge forward until Eris’ toes begin to dig in.

He calls to her, his voice lost to the sound of the wind that forces him to shrug. But his shrug does nothing other than threaten to send him toppling over face first, so he grins and bears the dragging of Eris’ feet until finally he admits that in this storm he hasn’t’ a clue where he is or where he is trying to get to.

The merc, lost and near death, is about to accept that he’s been defeated when all of a sudden his next footstep does not settle on solid ground but rather carries on through as though there is a void beneath. Marius pitches forward, sharply, and falls.

Marius, with Eris on his back, hasn’t the energy to scream or howl once he slammed painfully into something unrelenting and jagged he cannot see in the pitch blackness. All he has the effort to do is groan and in doing so he hears his voice echo all around him. Suddenly he feels a small patch of hope stab at him. Following that he quickly raises his head to cast his narrowed vision around. To his relief he concludes that they are in a cave. He can’t say it’s the same cave he found on his scouting run, but he doesn’t care. It’s shelter, below ground and out of the elements proper, so it’s all he could have hoped for.

Sadly, in the state he is in he is far too cold to attempt rummaging around in search of kindle to build a fire, and Eris, though alive, is in an even worse state.

At least we’re out of the storm though, Marius thinks as the winds roar angrily above the tangled mass that is Eris and Marius. But as he lies there the merc feels himself dip in and out of consciousness. He can’t say how long for but it matters little as before too long he finally finds he cannot fight to stay conscious anymore and slips away.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: