This Weeks Prompt: 31. Prehistoric man preserved in Siberian ice. (See Winchell—Walks and Talks in the Geological field—p. 156 et seq.)
The Research: The Old Ones…The Human Old Ones
The arctic wind is cold enough to cut rather than bite. Especially along the shore, as we made our way by boat to the large glacial outcropping. I pulled my jacket close over myself. Honestly, there was no reason for a man of my learning to be out here, so close to the worlds savage wilderness. Confirmation of what was apparent to anyone of intelligence was superficial in the grand scheme of things, but it helped to witness evidence you knew existed. But I was persuaded that the chilled air would be good for my temperament, and that some sketches could use my improvements.
It is hard to describe the arctic. It is mostly, without exception, a void of color and warmth expanding endlessly towards the horizon, broken by reflective cracks of blue. The scale of the void is only matched by the bareness of the open ocean. The parallel is apt, with islands of habitation popping up along the edge. One rig in particular lay across a cavern carved into the glacial walls, with Old Glory flying atop its edge. Unlike most zones of civilization in the tundra and bareness, this was hanging off onto the water and secured only by several steel beams to the might of the glacier.
“Now, if you’ll follow us this way sir, you’ll find what the object.” one of the workmen, in a coat three times his size said, gesturing for me to follow into the cave.
Right, the object. Some primitive man-thing, some backward savage they’d found the silhouette of covered in iron beneath the glacier. Iron this deep, and so form fitting, might indicate (to the foolish fellows within academia) that this might be actual equipment and clothing of a primitive man. Still, even ignoring such things were beyond him, a natural statue of humanity’s earliest form was of some use.
The caverns were like the lungs of some horrible beast, veins letting wind flow through them. Everyone was covered head to toe. Eventually, in the oil lamp lit depths, they brought me to the beast. A massive blob of black and red beneath the ice.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Mr. Crane?” a fellow who, prior to speaking, looked exactly like the rest of the barely civilized workforce. His voice, uncomfortably jolly, gave him away as my colleague Johan Berkly. One of those…less intelligent academics I mentioned.
“It inspires a sense of immenient dread that might be mistaken for wonder,” I said. I am at home in the warmth of an office, in my excellent chair and pipe. All three elements lacking, and I couldn’t find wonder in the holy ghost.
“Oh, Crane, you’ll see. The discovery of a century! I wonder how old the poor thing is.”
“How old indeed. No doubt we’ll find some proof of some Mongoloid deformity.”
“Well, I suppose,” Berkly said, glancing at the wall at that. Never a fan of phernology, strange man. How he earned tenure, I’ll never know.
A number of large drills were brought, to carve out the ice. It took several minutes of Berkly’s giddiness for cracks to form. At first, there was a revolting squishing noise and some of the iron oxide infused water began to flow out. Were I a suspicious savage, I would note how the very walls seemed to bleed from our intrusion. As a man of science I was unalarmed.
And then there was a shaking. The cracks spread rapidly. They all poured with blood. Blood spilled everywhere, like a scab of the earth being undone. It froze as it hit the ground, a crimson floor in a white hallway. And there, emerging from the cracks as if from a sanguine baptism, stood a tall woman with dark skin. She looked…peaceful. Almost as if she were enjoying a long sleep and slowly relized she was being disturbed.
Her eyes will stay with me forever. They were as bright as a pair of suns blazing in the cold void out us, heat burning across the workman’s face, leaving the room filled with the smelt of burnt hair and smoke. I was transfixed for a moment, as the skin of the workman fried and the smoke rose off of him. The walls of the hall began to crack from the waves of warmth slowly flowing off of her.
Control of my legs returned with the warmth, probably more from alarm at a sensation besides the near death embrace of the dread winds. Slowly I backed away from the woman towards the passages. The other workman turned to run, only to catch the woman’s gaze. Desert winds suddenly emerged in the depths, the sun rising again down here in the depth. As the head of the other workman began to crumple and burn to ash, I made it back another step. Berkly let out a shout, it took minutes for it to register, echoing as it did.
And I must thank Berkly three fold. Firstly, for his alarming shout that woke me from my dimmed slumber. Secondly, for a lifetime of indulgence and decadence that made it ahrd for him, once pushed onto the floor, to get up. Three, for making a very loud thud when pushed in such away, allowing for me to sprint down the halls, away from the madness. I am certain that someone as simple as him must have made his way to the choir invisible. If for nothing else than his noble sacrifice for the cause of mankind.
Chunks of the tunneled ceiling began to fall around me as I ran all the way to the rig affixed outside. I stopped for a moment to catch my breath, not being much of an athlete myself. There was something like the sound of thunder behind me as I heaved as well I could. Slowly turning, I saw a new line running across the cliff, and a sheet of Arctic landscape sinking into the sea. I have enough knowledge of the world to know what follows a collapsing glacier.
“Everyone,” one of the workmen shouted, “Onto the boats! Now!”
For once I yielded to my lesser. As we stood on the boat moving out to sea, there was a brilliant flash and something shot forth out of the glacier, a newborn comet out of the depths, dripping with blood. It burned to look at.
I cannot say where she went, or what dreadful thing she was. Certainly, if we share any lineage with such a thing, who with but a gaze can unmake the glaciers, then I fear we have not found some savage ancestor, but rather some ancient and enraged spirit.
I like this Crane man. I tried to capture the arrogance of Mr. James Frazer’s work with him, but don’t know if it entirely worked out. Depending on prompts, I’d like to return to Mr. Crane and his newly unleashed god/prehuman power. It seems…fascinating as a calamity. For those who may suspect another inspiration for the angel in the Arctic, keep quiet.
Come back next week for our new prompt!
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