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Ice Station Beta
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

Crossing the open yard between the living quarters and the control section, he passed the corpse of the vampire he had killed. A scavenger-ghoul was crouched over it, feeding. The ghoul snarled at him, baring its sharp teeth in warning, but he ignored it, walking past without a pause. The ghoul, reassured that he wasn’t a competitor, returned to its meal.

The control section was wrecked, a tumble of shattered electronic equipment, upturned furniture, and dangling wires. The big window was still intact, looking out over the ice sheets, at the blue-white cliffs of glaciers on the distant horizon. The ice was beginning to crack up, he confirmed. He had noticed it this morning, before he had gone down again, but it was clearer now, jagged lines and fissures showing from up here. By this time tomorrow the sheets would begin to break.

This was not good news. This was news so bad that he wished there was some way he could get off this damned station and back to civilisation, but he didn’t even have a way to communicate with the base far off to the south. Everything had gone the way of the control section, including the radio equipment.

Edging as close as possible to the window, he tried to get a look from above at the ice at the foot of the tower. They had built Ice Station Beta on this sheet because the soundings had shown it to be thick enough to withstand breakup; but from the way the rest of the ice was fracturing, he didn’t trust the soundings any longer. From up here he should be able to see any cracks before they reached the surface. But all he saw was the shaggy form of the scavenger-ghoul, finishing the last of the vampire. The ice of the yard was marked with a huge red stain of blood.

From the corner of his eye, he saw something white move on the white ice, too indefinite to recognise. He craned his neck to see better, but the movement was gone, as if it had never been. He knew, though, that he’d seen something. Over the past weeks, he had learned to trust his instincts, and this was why he was still alive.

The light reflecting off the ice hurt his eyes, so he slipped on the dark glasses that dangled round his neck on a cord. The glasses were scarcely in place when he glimpsed it again, a twitch on the ice, scuttering along, gone before he could pinpoint it, but in a different position from the first. Two of them, then, at least, whatever they were.

He noticed then that the ghoul had vanished, leaving part of the vampire still untouched, scraps of furry skin and leathery wing spiked with white shards of bone, and this was all the confirmation he needed that something dangerous was out there. He had never known a ghoul to abandon a meal before; despite their diet of carrion, they were aggressive and courageous creatures.

Well, he thought, if there was something dangerous coming, the tower was the safest place he could be; assuming, of course, that the ice didn’t crack up just beneath it and topple it, and him, into the water. He glanced behind him, checking that he had locked the door at the top of the stairs. After these weeks, double-checking was second nature, but that door was among the most important. Three weeks ago, when the troubles began, a monster (he still didn’t know what it had been – it had never appeared again) had burst through that door and killed everyone in here, except him.

He leaned on the desk under which he’d hidden then, watching the monster race round the room on spindly legs, slashing round it with long hooked claws, screeching in a pitch so high it hurt his ears. Finally it had gone, and he’d climbed gingerly over the corpses of his colleagues and down to the foot of the tower, to try and get to the radio room. When he got there he’d found it wrecked beyond repair, and had hidden in the living quarters. He hadn’t known then that the tower was the safest place on the station, and it was only by good fortune that he hadn’t been attacked there the first night.

When he’d finally found the courage to return to the control section he’d found it a smashed ruin, and the bodies of his colleagues gone. He hadn’t found a trace of them, not even a smear of blood or a hair, and had no idea what had happened to them all. He hadn’t had a long time to think about it, because that night he’d been attacked by the first vampire, and after that he hadn’t had time for anything at all, except survival.

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:6.34 / 10
Rated By:42 users
Comments: 4 users
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