If you are looking for a dark read, chapter one for you of my book – The Unknown, link to buy below…
As the expedition set out into the tundra, the view was as brilliantly white as they had ever seen. Blinding and bleak but beautiful nonetheless. It had all been a bit of a rush to get out here, not unusual with scientific discoveries, they happened when they happened. Very limited information had been given to Greg about the find, only its priority and as they got closer to their destination, the transport guide asked if they were here to search for the other scientists. Silence befell the group.
“What other scientists?”
Greg ventured, aware that this was supposed to be geological specimen recovery, not a rescue. The guide then went on to tell them through the broken English of a translator of the previous two teams, they had also ventured out this far to find the meteor site but that they hadn’t returned. He said he felt bad because he had joked with them about how they shouldn’t go wandering off in the snow, a whole village had wandered off once and had never been found. Greg had to ask.
“Two teams and a whole village? How long has this been going on?”
His grim expression backed up his words. It didn’t sound good at all; suddenly this simple scientific task had become shrouded in mystery and intrigue but not the kind he liked. This was out of the realms of his logical brain to understand, how so many people can just get lost. He knew the landscape was vast but really, a whole village. He decided he had to dismiss this as nonsense and folklore, a tale to scare the tourists and science guys, have a joke at the nerds’ expense. That made him feel a bit better, settling back into wondering about the find and what type of strain they might find if any. Often they were wasted journeys and it would be a known specimen. But you never knew when it would be a new one and suddenly you have years of research and papers ahead of you.
Focus on the expedition he thought and what they were here to do, no distractions. Although the story of the other science teams was playing on his mind, he couldn’t deny it. As if reading his thoughts the guide put forward that there had been extreme weather for the rescue team and they had been thought lost during a storm. That was good enough for him; it wasn’t a mystery at all just bad timing and treacherous terrain, nothing more to think about. Just a tale to scare the tourists after all.
The rest of the journey was a quiet one, each occupant of the vehicle mulling over their own thoughts but no-one talking about them. Greg could tell there was unease amongst them and decided a briefing when they arrived would be the best course of action. Get all the questions out in the open and start getting some work done; this was being paid by the job not by the day, so he was keen to get in and out as quickly as possible. It was just so cold here; he made a mental note to remember not to take another job in Russia, although he doubted another so well paid would come up again anyway. Snapping them back to reality, the vehicle stopped suddenly and everyone was thrown from their seats slightly.
“You’ve got to walk the last bit, track is too icy to get down and back again.”
Said the guide, a little bit too cheerily for Greg and the team. There were multiple grumbles as they started to unload themselves and the equipment, luckily not the usual heavy load they would take away with them.
After a slippery but careful short walk to the research centre, the small team stood before it with trepidation. No-one wanted to be the first to go in and they all glanced at each other. The lights were on and there was equipment outside, evidence of recent activity but the silence was incredibly eerie. As night started to draw in, the ice gave off a strange blue light, they could almost believe they were on another planet.
“Come on then.”
Greg said loudly, making them all jump followed by unsteady laughter. It was what they all needed to gather up their courage and make the move inside. The minor jollities and laughter were short lived once they entered the research hut. It could have been the Mary Celeste, everything held in mid motion except the people. Experiments that had been underway, a tap running, a few plates of food half eaten. No-one around though who may have cooked it or been sat eating when something happened to make them all leave. It was funny but Greg started glancing around looking for a note, as if there would be a neatly hand written explanation of why they all needed to abandon this facility. But there was no such revelation for them. Instead they had to tidy up and clear away the previous team’s lives before they could begin with their mission.
It felt strange though, knowing these people haven’t been found and you are clearing away what was left of them, unavoidable but still strange. They were a bit more careful when tidying the experiments, there were notes but they didn’t make any sense. They didn’t seem to have a specimen so he they knew they would have to go on the long arduous journey to the meteor location, retrieving another sample or it would all be for nothing.
Greg knew as the team leader he would have to plan to split the up for some to head off tomorrow for samples, he figured he may as well start preparing them now.
“Guys, with no original sample a team will have to head off in the morning to the meteor site.”
There were a few moans but generally they took the news well.
“Any volunteers or is it down to me to pick?”
He was hoping he got to pick, he would be going as well and knew who he trusted the most. But newer member of the team deserved a shot if they wanted it he thought, can’t play favourites.
No hands went up, but they all looked at each other. Willing someone to the first to show a brave willing hand, none did. They were feeling so spooked that no-one looked like they wanted to be there at all let alone undertake an even more potentially dangerous aspect of it, but it was what they came for.
“I’ll let you know in the morning who’ll be going, so if you change your mind after a good night’s sleep then let me know.”
Greg didn’t actually believe any of them would get a good night’s sleep but it’s what you’re supposed to say. They found their way to the bunks, again having to clear away the previous inhabitant’s personal items to take back with them. Wondering if they might return while they were there, confused why other people were in their beds. They all quietly retired for the night, hoping the next day would bring a more explanatory result.
The Unknown – K L Wicks
(c) K Wicks