The Man from the Ice
By Brian Smith
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
adrenalin – a hormone that increases heartbeat and breathing
antediluvian – a truly ancient person or thing
bated breath – subdued breathing due to strong emotions
emphatically – forceful, insistent
eon – an indefinitely long period of time
futile – ineffective, useless
gormless – very stupid, brainless
hysteria – an irrational and violent emotional outbreak
meander – to take a winding course
provocative – irritating, vexing
prudent – careful
pukka – real, genuine, first class
subconscious – existing or operating in the mind beneath or beyond consciousness:
trance – a half-conscious state, seemingly between sleeping and waking, in which ability to function voluntarily may be suspended
woebegone – showing or indicating woe
Welcome to a new world…
Did you think you’ve seen all the strange and weird things that there are? That’s what Edward and Anthony thought too! They have to face a totally new challenge as they leave behind their home and those they love. Why? Because they are sent to a strange and distant land where nothing is what it should be.
Will the boys rise up to the challenge on this quest? Little do they know, but they will not only discover an unknown world, they will have to fight an enemy more terrifying than any other before, an enemy right in their minds.
And yet who could enter a human brain?
Read on to see how your heroes fare.
Edward was at his school. It was a sultry, hot day and sweat was running down the faces of Edward and his schoolmates. They were all wearing their school caps to protect themselves from the heat of the tropical sun which shone down mercilessly. During recess time they could leave their classrooms and go to play in the school yard. At one end there was a playground with a slide and a swing, around the sides of the yard were many shady areas, and the middle was a basketball court with a rubber surface.
In spite of the heat Edward and his friends were running around excitedly playing various games and chatting about films, books and computers games. And with each film, book or computer game that was mentioned they tried to impress the others about how exciting and wonderful it was. The conversation slowly turned into a quarrel. No one wanted to concede that the others had anything of interest while everyone wanted to be admired for their experience. Things came to a head when one boy talked about a recent trip to Thailand where he had ridden an elephant.
“Ha!” Edward said with disdain. “That’s nothing special. I already rode an elephant in Thailand when I was one year old!”
“Did not!” the other boy said angrily.
“Yes, I did,” Edward said, “and anyway there are much more unusual and special things to do. Anyone can ride an elephant in Thailand.”
“Oh yeah?” the boy said furiously. Suddenly he didn’t feel happy about his trip anymore.
“Yes,” Edward said. “There are lots of things, I can do them quite easily.”
This was too much for the furious boy. He looked straight at Edward and said “If it’s so easy for you, then I dare you do the most unusual and weird thing ever!”
Suddenly Edward realized what he had done, but it was too late. Stars began to whirl around him and he was flung through time and space. His brother Anthony, who was at home that day, also found himself surrounded by stars. Moments later the two brothers landed in a very different place. They looked around in surprise. Gone was the heat and the humid, steamy air. Gone was the lush vegetation of tropical countries. What they saw instead was an almost bare plain that was interspersed with meandering watercourses. In the distance they could see rocky, rugged mountains with dark clouds hanging above. The air was crisp and cold.
“Oh no,” Anthony said. “What have you done?”
Edward hit his forehead with his hand. “Never mind that now,” he said. “The question is, where are we?”
“I don’t know,” Anthony said. “What was the dare?”
Edward explained it to him while they made their way downhill towards the open plain. When they reached the bottom of the hill they stopped to look around. It was a strange place.
“I don’t like this place,” Anthony said. “There are almost no plants anywhere.”
“And no animals,” Edward said. “It’s so quiet.”
The two boys listened. Edward was right. It wasn’t just quiet. It was eerily silent. Apart from the wind blowing past their ears they couldn’t hear anything. Not a single bird or even a buzzing insect. There was nothing.
“What a weird place,” Anthony said. “It’s like something from a billion years ago when the Earth was empty.”
“I hope not,” Edward said.
The thought of being in some antediluvian period of the Earth’s history was disturbing.
“Where shall we go?” Anthony asked.
Edward thought for a moment. “Let’s follow the river. Sooner or later it’ll lead us to a lake or the sea. There’s nothing to eat here, so the sooner we move on the better.”
They walked through the desolate landscape for several hours. The river they were following flowed past rugged, snow covered mountains. At times torrents of water cascaded down steep cliffs and joined the river which was gradually getting deeper and wider.
The land was empty, and yet the two boys felt a strange sensation. It was the feeling of being watched, no it was more than that, it was as though they were being called. It was a disturbing experience and from time to time they stopped to listen. All they heard was the constant wind blowing past their ears.
They looked at each other and walked on through the bleak countryside. After several hours they finally saw an expanse of water. They were feeling cold and hungry and their legs were tired from the exhausting march over the rugged terrain.
Let’s go down there,” Edward said. “Our chances lower down are much better.”
“Chances of what?”
“Well, I’m not sure. All I can say is that up in the mountains we’ll not find anything except snow and ice and a howling wind.”
Anthony nodded. They would go down towards the water. There was that weird feeling again. They set off but much to their own surprise they weren’t walking downhill towards the water, they were going back into the hills.
Edward wanted to say something to Anthony but found that his mouth would not say the words that he had formed in his mind. They found themselves walking straight up a tall mountain. The higher they got the colder it was until the ground was covered in snow. In spite of their long and exhausting hike the boys could not feel their legs anymore. It was as though the mysterious land had imposed its will on the boys.
Suddenly they came face to face with two animals. The boys stopped in surprise.
The boys looked at each other, They had the strange sensation of just having woken up.
Edward watched the animals. “They don’t look like prehistoric animals,” he said.
“Do you think we’re in the stone age?”
“I’ve got no idea. What I really want to know is why we’ve come up here. We wanted to go down, didn’t we?”
They were high up on the mountain and it was freezing cold. More worryingly the sun was low on the horizon. It would be getting dark soon. The wind was getting stronger. The boys wrapped their arms around their bodies to try and keep warm.
Then it began to snow.
“We need to get out of the wind,” Edward said.
“Look!” Anthony pointed to a place farther up the mountain. “Isn’t that a cave?”
Edward nodded. He looked around. What choice did they have? It was the only possible shelter in sight.
“Let’s go there then,” he said.
When they reached the cave they quickly went inside to get out of the biting wind. They went deep into the cave to find as much shelter as possible from the bad weather outside. Feeling utterly exhausted, hungry and cold, they huddled together in a corner, trying to warm one another. They were too frozen and miserable to sleep, then that strange sensation came back. It was like a voice inside their heads. Gradually the feeling of cold and hunger faded away and the two brothers fell asleep.
The following morning the weather had improved. The sun shone straight into the entrance of the cave waking up the boys as its light reflected and sparkled in the snow and ice. The boys stretched and rubbed their stiff arms and legs.
“At least the weather’s good today,” Edward said.
Anthony nodded and looked around the cave. As his gaze went deeper into the cave he suddenly froze in fear. There, in the ice, was something, a long dark shape.
“Edward,” he whispered.
The boys stared at the dark shape while the light of the sun gradually moved deeper into the cave. At last there was enough light to see clearly.
There on the ice lay a man.
They went to the man. He was wearing old fashioned clothes and he was covered in ice.
The boys breathed a sigh of relief.
“He must have died here a very long time ago,” Anthony said.
Edward nodded. “Judging by his clothes I’d say one or two hundred years ago.”
“So we’re not in the stone age?” Anthony asked.
“It doesn’t look like it. Maybe we haven’t travelled in time at all,” Edward said. “We’re just in some unusual place. Anyway, it’s no use standing here and talking about it. Let’s get off this mountain and see if we can find some people.”
This time they had no trouble going where they wanted to go and just an hour later they were both surprised and glad to come across a road.
On a sign it said: Kerguelen, Route 66.
Edward thought long and hard. Kerguelen. He had heard the name somewhere before. What was it? Then he remembered. It was the name of a French island far south in the Indian Ocean.
“Well,” he said, “at least we know that there are other people here. It’s a French island so we shouldn’t have any problems.”
They followed the road. It didn’t take them long until they approached a small settlement.
Feeling relieved they hurried down the road towards the nearest building where they met a very surprised woman.
“Whoever are you?” she asked in astonishment. “I didn’t know there were any children here.”
“Where are we?” Anthony asked.
“You don’t know where…? Come with me,” the woman said and took them towards one of the buildings.
“This is Port-aux-Francais,” the woman said on the way. “It’s the capital of the Kerguelen Islands. But how did you get here?”
It was a question the boys didn’t want to have to answer. The woman took them to the district chief who was in charge of the islands.
A few minutes later the district chief looked at the boys strictly. “So,” he said feeling irritated, “you would have me believe that you don’t know how you got here even though the only way to Kerguelen is by ship. There is no airport here and the nearest inhabited land is more than 3000km away. And then after just appearing here you spent a night in an ice cave which no one has ever seen before in spite of exploring the island for almost two hundred years. And to top it all you found a dead man in the ice. Are you taking me for a fool?”
There was an icy silence in the room.
The district chief banged his fist on the desk. “I demand to know where your parents are and how you got here. You must have come here by boat. Where is it hidden?”
Edward decided to ignore the question and said “We can take you to the cave. It isn’t that far. And there is a dead man in it.”
The district chief looked to the woman who had brought the boys to him. “What do you think, Monique?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “If they really did find someone we’d better take care of it. I can go there with Albert.”
The district chief nodded thoughtfully. “You’d better ask Dr. Courbet and two of the paramedics to come along. If there is a body it’ll need proper examination and besides it won’t be easy carrying it down the mountain.”
“Please,” Anthony said, “we’re very hungry.”
The district chief looked at the map where the boys had indicated the location of the cave. “And you’re absolutely sure about this cave?” he said.
The boys nodded and said “Yes, sir.”
“Very well, then,” he said. “Monique, take the boys to the canteen. When you’ve prepared everything you can set off to this mysterious cave.”
Edward and Anthony were glad to have found shelter in Port-aux-Francais. The French there were mainly scientists whose job it was to explore the islands, and there was a satellite and rocket tracing station which was operated by the French space agency.
In the canteen the boys were delighted to tuck into some good French food and talk with some of the people at the same time. One of the scientists, a friendly geologist called Frederic, was happy to tell them something about the Kerguelen Islands.
“The islands were discovered by Yves-Joseph de Kerguelen-Trémarec in 1772 and named after him,” Frederic said. “There were one or two attempts to settle the islands but they failed due to the harsh climate. In the nineteenth century sailing ships, especially whale hunters, came here occasionally to take on water. Since then the only exciting thing that happened here were rocket launches in the 60s and 70s. So you shouldn’t be surprised that our district chief isn’t very happy to have two boys mysteriously appearing who tell a wild story about a dead man in the ice.”
“But we really did find him,” Anthony protested.
Frederic laughed. “Never mind. A little excitement can’t do us any harm down here.”
Several hours later the sun set. Looking from the window the boys watched as the bright disc slowly sank beneath the horizon, its light reflected on the icy waters of the southern Indian Ocean with nobody but penguins on the beach.
Monique and her companions made it back to Port-aux-Francais with the last rays of the sun. Their arrival caused quite a stir as two of the men were carrying a stretcher. They lowered the stretcher to the ground and a curious crowd gathered round. Edward and Anthony rushed out but they couldn’t see what was on the stretcher as it was covered with a large white cloth. Everyone waited for the district chief. When he came at last he nodded to the doctor who pulled back the cloth.
A subdued hush fell over the crowd. At first sight there was nothing very unusual about the man on the stretcher. As the boys had noticed before, he was wearing old clothes, possibly from the late 18th or early 19th century. His clothes were that of an ordinary man, perhaps a shipwrecked sailor, who knew?
And yet a strange sensation befell everyone in the crowd. What it was no one could say, though everyone felt it. Nobody said a word. Everyone just stared at the dead man as if mesmerized.
Finally the district chief gathered enough strength to break the silence. “Did you find anything on him, Dr. Courbet?”
Dr. Courbet shook his head. The clothes and the body are still frozen. We’ll have to wait with the examination until it’s thawed out, sometime early tomorrow, I’d say.”
The spell was broken and everyone began to talk at once.
“Well I must say,” Frederic said to the two boys, “this is by far the most exciting thing that has happened here in years.”
That night everyone in Port-aux-Francais went to bed late after talking and speculating for several hours about who the dead man was.
Dr. Courbet took the body to the local hospital where it was left in the warm to defrost. He looked at the dead man one last time before switching off the light and patted his leg saying “I wonder who you are, my friend. Will you tell me any more tomorrow?”
Of course Dr. Courbet didn’t mean this literally. He was only hoping to find some clues to the man’s identity, some coins or perhaps even a letter tucked away in a pocket. He closed the door and went to his room to get a good night’s rest.
But that night nobody in Port-aux-Francais managed to get a good night’s rest. They were restless in their beds haunted by strange images that disturbed their minds. When they woke up the next morning people felt tired and ill at ease. They had dark shadows under their eyes and began the day feeling irritable.
Dr. Courbet was no different. He barely touched his breakfast, sipped at his coffee in disgust and then gave up. He changed into his work clothes and walked to the hospital. On his way he didn’t greet anyone though that didn’t matter, nobody was in the mood to speak. He entered the hospital, hung his anorak on a hook, and went straight to the room with the dead man. He pushed open the door and froze.
The man was sitting up. His legs were dangling down and he was staring at Dr. Courbet as though he had been expecting him.
The district chief looked through the small window in the door into the room where the strange man was still sitting.
“You must have made a mistake, Dr. Courbet,” he said.
“But that’s impossible, I’m telling you,” Dr. Courbet replied emphatically. “The man was frozen stiff, he was a block of ice, and now look at him.”
“Has he said anything?”
“Not a word. He just sits there and keeps staring at me as I walk about the room.”
The district chief pressed his lips together. It wasn’t the best of mornings. He had a bad headache that even several aspirins hadn’t managed to dissipate, everyone seemed peculiarly grumpy and now a dead man had come back to life.
“There’s something very strange about his eyes,” Dr. Courbet said.
“What do you mean?”
The doctor shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know how to describe it, you’d have to go in and see for yourself.”
The district chief pulled a face. He had no intention of going into a room to look at the eyes of a man who’d been dead for two hundred years and who had mysteriously come back to life. He shook his head.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, in fact Dr. Courbet, I would think it prudent to keep this man isolated until we know more about him.”
Dr. Courbet nodded. “I’ll try my best, but you have to understand that we’re not equipped to deal with anything contagious. At best I can keep him inside the room and not let anyone in, but if he tries to go out…” He shrugged his shoulders helplessly. “It’s not a prison you know.”
“What do you need?”
“Ideally he should be taken to a proper medical facility in France where he can be kept in isolation. Failing that we’ll need more supplies here.”
The district chief nodded. “I’ll contact Paris.”
He left the doctor in the little hospital. His head was still painful, in fact he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had such a bad headache. For a moment he thought of going back to ask Dr. Courbet for something against the headache, but then decided against it. “First I’ll go and talk to those two boys,” he said to himself. “Maybe they can tell me something.”
He had only gone half way to the canteen where he expected the boys to be having breakfast when he saw Alain Charpentier, the communications officer, running towards him. The look on Charpentier’s face already told him that there was more trouble.
“Well then, Charpentier, what is it?” he said with an air of resignation.
The communications officer stopped and took a deep breath. “It’s incomprehensible, I don’t understand it, I don’t know what to do,…I…”
“Now calm down and tell me what’s the matter.”
Alain Charpentier took another deep breath and said “All our communications equipment has stopped working.”
The district chief groaned inwardly and said “Then get the technicians to mend it.”
“That’s just what I wanted to do, sir, but they’re nowhere to be found.”
“They haven’t reported to work this morning?”
Alain Charpentier shook his head. “I’ve been looking all over for them, but nobody has seen them. They must have got up and left during the night before anyone else woke up this morning.”
“Are you telling me we have no way of contacting Paris?”
“Not only that, sir, we’re completely cut off.”
The district chief looked serious. It would be another two months until the next supply ship was due. He put both his hands on the shoulders of the communications officer and looked him in the eye. “Find me those technicians, and if they’ve really vanished then find me a radio, anything will do even if it’s just for sending a signal in Morse code, but I must get communications back. Is that clear?”
The communications officer nodded and hurried off.
“Now then,” the district chief said, “to those boys.”
When he entered the canteen there was the usual scene of people having breakfast. He stopped by the door and looked around. No one was talking. Normally people were cheerful in the morning, happy to chat before going about their various duties, but not this morning. He spotted Anthony and Edward and walked towards them.
“Good morning,” he said to them in an effort to seem friendly.
“Nothing good about it,” Edward snapped back.
Anthony merely looked annoyed and put his cup down on the table with a bang. He noticed a green pea on his plate. It looked offensive. He curled his forefinger against the thumb, aimed at the pea and shot it off the plate. It flew threw the air and hit a woman on the nose. There was no reaction.
The district chief sat down at their table. Normally the boys’ rudeness would have made him angry, but today he felt too exhausted. He opened his mouth as if to say something. He couldn’t remember what he had come for and just sat there with his mouth open.
Anthony noticed it and said “Look at the gormless fish mouth.”
Edward laughed. The next moment he slammed his knife on the table.
This jolted the district chief who suddenly remembered why he had come.
“I wonder,” he said and looked at Edward, “if you could tell me any more about that man you found. I mean is there anything else you know or…?”
“Nothing,” Edward snapped rudely. He pushed his half eaten breakfast away and looked at the district chief provocatively. “We just found him, we told you. That’s all. Now leave me alone.”
Somewhere inside Edward knew how rude he was being and he didn’t understand it, yet he couldn’t help himself.
“That’s right, gormless fish mouth,” Anthony added. “Go away!”
The district chief didn’t know what to say. No one had ever talked to him like that before. He wasn’t feeling well and decided not to waste time with the boys. He left the canteen. The door fell shut behind him and he just stopped where he was. What was he to do? The doctor didn’t know what to do, they had no communications equipment and the boys knew nothing. Suddenly everything seemed pointless to him, so he simply stood in front of the canteen and looked down the road.
Half an hour later Edward and Anthony came out of the canteen. The district chief was still standing there gazing into the distance. Seeing him suddenly made Anthony feel very aggressive. He went to the district chief, kicked him against his shin as hard as he could and shouted “Gormless fish mouth!”
There was no reaction from the district chief.
When Edward saw all this some strange emotions welled up deep inside him. His subconscious was telling him that something was wrong. He took Anthony by the hand and pulled him away. They walked along the road that led away from Port-aux-Francais out into the country.
It took some time for the vicious kick against his shin and the insulting words to work their way into the district chief’s mind. When he finally understood what had happened he came out of his torpor feeling furious. He rubbed his aching shinbone and looked about angrily, but the boys were nowhere to be seen. Feeling confused he looked at his watch and discovered that a lot of time had gone by since he had left the canteen, and yet he was still in front of it. Try as he might he couldn’t remember what had happened. When he remembered the strange man in the hospital he decided to go back there and talk to Dr. Courbet.
“Dr. Coubet!” he called loudly as he came through the front door of the hospital.
There was no answer. Everything was quiet.
“Where the heck is everyone?” he said to himself and looked into different rooms. There was only one room left he hadn’t checked, the room with the strange man. He hesitated. Should he go there on his own?
Suddenly he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He turned and looked out of a window. To his surprise he saw Dr. Courbet and the two nurses walking in the distance. He watched them for a minute. They were walking in a slow shuffling way as though they were half asleep. He shook his head.
“Where are they going to? There’s nothing out there.”
With a sudden pang his headache was back throbbing in his head. He abruptly turned and went to the room with the strange man. He looked through the window. “At least he’s still here,” he said and pushed the door open.
The man turned his head towards the district chief and smiled a little.
The district chief entered the room and said, “So then, are you feeling better?”
The man didn’t answer. He simply gazed at the district chief and kept smiling.
“Well,” the district chief said, “if you can’t talk you won’t mind if I check your pockets, do you? I only want to help you, to find out who you are and what’s happened to you.”
He put his hands in the man’s pockets one by one. There was nothing. Disappointed the district chief looked the man in the face. He wasn’t smiling anymore.
In a flash the strange man grabbed the district chief by the wrists. The man’s hands were icy cold.
“What are you doing?” the district chief said angrily and took a step back. He tried to pull his wrists free but the man held him with enormous strength. Slowly, ever so slowly the man pulled the district chief closer. The district chief struggled to get free but it was no use. His face came closer and closer to that of the man until their noses touched. The district chief noticed that the man’s nose was as icy as his hands. He tried to look away but couldn’t, it was as if his eyes were locked by some strange power into the eyes of the man. Then a shudder went through the body of the district chief. It became stronger and stronger until his whole body convulsed in a violent spasm.
Edward and Anthony wandered along the road for a long time. The sun was shining and a cool, fresh wind blew into their faces. Very gradually the peculiar torpor, the lethargy and the feeling of aggressiveness became weaker and faded away as if blown by the wind. Their minds became clearer and they remembered everything that had happened that morning.
“I can’t believe you kicked the district chief and called him a gormless fish mouth,” Edward said.
Anthony had a woebegone expression on his face. “I don’t know why I did it,” he said. “Everything was so strange this morning, don’t you think so?”
Edward thought about it. And the more he thought, the more he had to agree with Anthony. He realized that he hadn’t been himself all morning, no, more than that, it was as though he had been hypnotized. He stopped walking to look at Anthony.
“You know,” he said, “there’s something wrong. I wonder…”
“Do you think it’s that strange man? I heard he was alive this morning.”
Edward remembered hearing the same thing. He frowned. “But that’s not possible. He was totally frozen when we found him. Even the doctor said he was dead.”
“What shall we do now?”
They looked around. Port-aux-Francais was out of sight and all around them was the bleak Kerguelen countryside.
“One thing’s for sure,” Edward said, “we can’t stay out here. I suppose we’ll have to go back.”
Neither of them liked the idea, but they knew it was right. They turned back towards the island’s capital.
In the sky the sun was still shining, but out at sea, all around the island, an enormous mass of cloud was gathering. Clouds that heralded a storm which had encircled the island and which was closing in rapidly.
When Edward and Anthony came near Port-aux-Francais the town was eerily quiet. There was no one in sight, even birds, penguins and sea lions seemed to have abandoned the town. The only sound was a steady banging from a door being tossed about by the wind.
“Where is everyone?” Anthony whispered in Edward’s ear.
“How can I know?” Edward whispered. “Let’s check the canteen.”
They went in the canteen where they were met by the sight of half eaten food left standing on the tables. One or two chairs had fallen over and there was a weird smell in the air.
Anthony sniffed. “What is that?”
“How can I know!” Edward said feeling frustrated.
“Look!” They even left their anoraks here,” Anthony said.
It was true. Several anoraks were still hanging over the backs of chairs where they had been left earlier in the morning. It was clear that the canteen had been abandoned in a hurry. Yet what could have caused everyone to run away suddenly? So suddenly that some people had run out into the icy wind without their protective anoraks?
“Shall we look in the other buildings?” Anthony asked.
“You know,” Edward said, “it somehow feels different from this morning.”
“Of course, there’s no one here. It’s weird.”
“That’s not what I mean, how can I put it. It just feels different. Do you remember how you talked to the district chief? How were you feeling then?”
Anthony thought for a moment and nodded. “Yes, it almost feels normal now, inside me, I mean.”
The boys left the canteen to search the other buildings. They decided to start with the hospital. It was the obvious place where people would be if something terrible had happened. To their disappointment the hospital was abandoned too. They walked from room to room until they came to the place where the strange dead man had been taken the evening before.
Anthony pushed the door open and cried out “Edward!”
There on the floor lay the district chief. Edward quickly checked his pulse.
He shook his head. “He’s dead and his body is cold. He must have been dead for several hours.”
“Doesn’t that mean he died a short time after we last saw him?” Anthony asked.
“You’re right,” Edward said. “Remember how strange he was when you kicked him against his leg?”
“Yes, he didn’t even move. It’s weird.”
The boys left the hospital to search the rest of the town, yet wherever they went they were met by desolation. Port-aux-Francais had become a ghost town.
Just when they had almost given up hope of finding anyone they heard a whistle. They looked to see where it had come from and saw a very nervous Frederic waving to them.
“Come quickly!” the geologist called in an urgent tone.
They ran to him and he hurried them to the radar dome from where satellites and rockets were tracked. He banged against the stout metal doors that protected the facility.
“Who is it?” a voice called from within.
“It’s me, Frederic,” he answered. “Open quickly. I’ve got the kids, they’re all right.”
The door opened and they rushed in. Two soldiers quickly shut it again and secured it with metal bars. There was fear in their eyes.
The boys had never seen soldiers afraid before.
“But what has happened here?” Anthony asked.
“Come,” Frederic said.
They followed him to an underground room. As soon as they entered it a steel door fell shut behind them and was securely bolted and barred. There was a group of people looking at them anxiously.
“Have you seen anyone?” someone asked.
Edward shook his head. “There’s no one in town.”
“We saw the district chief,” Anthony said, “but he’s dead.”
“And where were you today?” someone asked.
“We were out of town. We walked away just after breakfast,” Anthony said feeling annoyed that people were asking questions and yet no one was telling them what had happened. “So what happened here?” he repeated.
“This morning,” Alain Charpentier, the communications officer, said “everything was strange. We were feeling bad and didn’t have much for breakfast, so some of us left the canteen early and were wandering about the town. Then HE came. You know, the man who was brought here yesterday, the dead man. Only he wasn’t dead today. I was at some distance when HE went into the canteen. My whole body was shaking when HE came into sight and, I don’t know how, I somehow managed to walk away backwards. A minute later, maybe less, HE came out of the canteen again followed by everyone who had been inside. They followed him, just like that, there was nothing anyone could do.”
“Captain Delors tried,” someone said.
“Ah, yes, that’s true,” the communications officer said. “He took his gun and shot HIM.”
“What happened?” Edward asked. “Did he kill him?”
Alain Charpentier shook his head. “Nothing happened to HIM. Captain Delors fired several shots but HE simply walked to the Captain and put HIS hand on the Captain’s head. Captain Delors put his gun back in his holster and followed HIM as though nothing had happened.”
“It was horrible,” a woman sobbed. “They were just like zombies out of a nightmare. They’re our friends, our colleagues and they simply walked away with that, that…I can’t say man, with that thing.”
Edward looked around. Sophisticated communications equipment was all around them, yet all the panels were dark.
“Have you radioed for help?” he asked.
Alain Charpentier shook his head. “All this has stopped working. I don’t know how to mend it and the technicians have vanished.”
“Along with more than half the people in the town,” someone said.
“Can’t you make a simple radio?” Edward asked.
“What do you mean?” Alain Charpentiers asked.
“Like on the Titanic,” Edward said. “Just to send a basic signal in Morse code.”
Everyone looked at the communications officer.
He thought about it. During his training he had learnt how radios were constructed. It was more than fifteen years ago. Would he remember enough?
“Well,” he said thoughtfully, “I’m not sure, and I can’t make any promises, but I’ll try.”
Several hours later he had managed to construct a simple radio transmitter. He connected it to a power supply.
“Right, here it goes,” he said. His finger began tapping out a call signal. He repeated this for some time until there was a crackling sound on the speakers. He listened and said “Good, I’ve made contact with a ship.”
Then he sent the real message “SOS, Kerguelen Island calling SOS. Under attack. Request urgent assistance…”
There was a loud bang and smoke came from the makeshift radio transmitter. The communications officer quickly turned off the power supply.
“Well, that’s that then,” he said.
“Who were you communicating with?” Edward asked.
“I don’t know,” Alain Charpentier said. “A ship, that’s all I know. All we can hope for is that they relay the message.”
The captain of the unknown ship passed on the unusual distress signal to French authorities who had already been puzzled by the absence of communications from their radar station in Kerguelen. The distress signal forced French authorities to take immediate action. They dispatched an aircraft carrier battle group to Kerguelen. The aircraft carrier was equipped with modern fighter jets and the supporting fleet carried thousands of troops.
Sailing time to Kerguelen: Nine days.
French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle
In Kerguelen Anthony and Edward were huddled together with the other survivors in the basement of the radar station. Outside the storm had broken and howling winds raged across the land. Angry thunders roared through the night. There was total darkness outside which was only occasionally pierced by lightening.
Then the power failed. There were gasps of fear.
“They’re coming!” someone sobbed.
A beam of light cut through the darkness. All eyes turned towards it. Anthony had switched on a torch.
“It’s just the generator,” Alain Charpentier said. “It shouldn’t have run out of fuel so quickly, but then all the equipment seems to…”
There was a strange sound coming from the front door of the radar dome. Then there were screams. A soldier took the torch from Anthony and shone it around the room.
“Everyone’s here,” he said.
“Then it must be them, outside,” someone said.
There were strange howls and wails that didn’t sound human. Then the banging started.
The sound of a heavy, hard object slamming into the main door echoed through the building.
The metal doors shuddered under the force of the impact.
The people in the basement cowered together.
Would the doors hold?
Then everything went quiet.
The people in the basement listened with bated breath. Had those outside given up? Slowly a new feeling pervaded everyone in the basement. Somehow it entered their heads. Some people got a headache while others became tired and lethargic.
“It’s HIM,” someone whispered.
Slowly the thing in their minds took over and the people began to lose control, it was as though their own will faded away, replaced by something stronger. One of the women stood up. She had a strange, vacant look in her eyes. Then she began to move towards the steel door. Everyone watched her as she crossed the room. If she opened the door they were doomed, they knew it and yet they had no strength to act. Edward and Anthony watched her in horror. Anthony was holding the torch, the only source of light in the room. In his heart he had a growing feeling of anger and aggression. The strange sensation in his head was infuriating, the sight of the woman shuffling across the room was too much. With every step she made her feet dragged on the concrete floor.
Anthony jumped up and shouted at her “You ugly, smelly, fat toad!”
The woman reached the door and began to remove the steel bars that secured it.
In a rage Anthony dashed to her and began hitting her with his torch, again and again, and all the while he yelled and shouted at the top of his voice.
The woman woke from her trance.
“Ouch!” she cried, “stop hitting me.”
Anthony didn’t hear her. His heart was filled with rage. “Gormless, ugly toad!” he yelled and kept striking at her with the torch. “You dirty toilet brush!”
Now the woman got angry. She was still holding a steel bar in her hands and without thinking she struck at Anthony with it. The steel bar collided with the torch. It flew from his hand and hit one of the soldiers in the face. Moments later both Anthony and the soldier awoke from the trance they were in.
The three people looked at each other in surprise.
“I’ve got it!” Anthony exclaimed. “Pain can wake you up!”
The woman and the soldier immediately realized the truth of his words. They walked from person to person in the room and smacked everyone in the face until they were all masters of their own minds again.
“Astounding,” Alain Charpentier said. “And we’ve got this young man here to thank for saving us all.” He shook Anthony’s hand and said “How did you know what to do?”
Anthony felt all eyes resting on him. It would have been easy for him to show off now, but he was an honest boy, so he said “To tell you the truth I didn’t really know. That feeling in my head just made me so angry. It happened this morning already.”
“I see,” Edward said, “so different people are affected in different ways.”
“Speaking of which,” Frederic said, “I can’t feel anything strange anymore. Looks like HE has gone again. Maybe HE’s given up?”
“Not likely,” a soldier said. “HE, or rather that thing, will only stop when it’s got all of us.”
“At least HE can’t get here without us knowing about it,” Edward said. “We can always feel it when danger is approaching.”
The soldier looked at him with respect. “Good thinking there. And it’s just as well since we’ll have to leave here soon.”
“What do you mean?” a woman said fearfully. “This is the only safe place on the island. We’ve got to stay down here until help comes.”
“Firstly,” the soldier said, “we don’t know how long it’ll take until help comes. It could be another two months if that message we sent didn’t get through, and secondly there’s nothing to eat and drink down here. Some of us at least will have to go out and get supplies.”
The light from the torch flickered, then it went out.
“And that’s another problem,” Edward said. “We need light.”
“It’s late already,” someone said. “If we have to go out tomorrow we’d better catch some sleep.”
They arranged for two people to keep watch while the others slept in case HE came back, yet the rest of the night passed without any further events.
Kerguelen Radar Station
Despite having nothing but a hard concrete floor to lie on everyone slept until late the following morning. Even the two men who were supposed to keep watch during the second shift had fallen asleep. Was it because they were all exhausted and mentally drained or simply because they were in the pitch dark? No one knew. The fact is that it was eleven o’clock gone by the time the first of them stirred. At first the previous day’s events seemed like a bad dream, but when the people in the basement tried to turn on the side to sleep a bit longer they were quickly brought back to reality by the hard floor they were on.
“I’m hungry,” Anthony complained.
They all were. And thirsty.
“Time to go and get our breakfast, then,” Edward said with a yawn. “Everything’s quiet outside and I can’t feel anything strange, so it should be safe to go out.”
“I agree,” a soldier said. He felt his way across the floor until he reached the steel door. The steel bar made a loud clang against the metal door when he removed it. When he pulled the door open a faint light from upstairs entered the room. They slowly went upstairs. The outer door was still locked from inside and everything was normal.
“At least they didn’t manage to get into the building last night,” a woman said.
Frederic looked out of a window. “I can’t see anyone,” he said. “Let’s make use of the opportunity. We’ll go back into town, grab as many supplies as we can and then come back here immediately.”
“What if we feel HIM?” someone asked.
“Then we leave at once,” a soldier said. “And one more thing. Don’t wander off alone. Always stay together in groups of at least four or five people.”
“How many are we?” Anthony asked.
“Thirty-one including you two boys,” the soldier said.
“So we can form six groups,” Edward said. “Let’s decide who goes where so we can work more efficiently.”
“Right you are,” the soldier replied.
“I have a question,” Anthony said.
Everyone looked at him.
“How many people were here before, I mean how many are there now with that weird man?”
Alain Charpentier sighed. “That’s a good question. There were 130 people here not counting you. The district chief is dead, as you told us, but that still leaves one hundred of them.”
“We’re badly outnumbered then,” Edward said.
The soldier nodded. “All the more reason to stick together, and at the slightest sign of trouble get out immediately.”
When they reached the outskirts of Port-aux-Francais they stopped and looked around. There was no one in sight. Some penguins were waddling through the deserted town and everywhere they heard the sound of seabirds.
“Good,” a soldier said, “let’s get going.”
They hurried into the town. Anthony and Edward were in one group together with one of the two soldiers, Frederic and the communications officer Alain Charpentier. Their task was to find technical supplies such as batteries, torches and any kind of electronic equipment. Whatever they found they put into two rucksacks they had brought along. The rucksacks were already half-full when Anthony said “It’s so quiet now.”
They all stopped to listen.
“I can’t here the birds anymore,” Edward said after a moment.
“Get out!” the soldier ordered.
They ran out of the building and looked around. Not a single bird could be heard. At first they couldn’t see anything, but then Anthony said “Look!”
There was movement in the country. A line of figures was moving towards the town.
“They’re all around us,” Edward said.
“Run back!” the soldier shouted.
They ran back towards the radar station. At the same time they yelled shouts of warning to the other groups in the town. People began pouring out of the buildings.
The figures around the town began to move faster. They were closing in rapidly and some of them were close to the road that led back to the safety of the radar station.
“Let’s slow down a bit to let the other groups catch up with us,” Edward suggested. “In one big group we’ll be able to break through their line.
The soldier agreed and they slowed their pace to a brisk walk.
One of the THEM appeared on the road ahead. Then THEY began pouring in all around past the buildings in the town.
There was no more time for waiting or they would all be lost. Four groups caught up with the one Edward and Anthony were in. Everyone was in a panic. They charged ahead.
There were three of THEM blocking the road now. But where was the last group?
Edward glanced back and saw how they were surrounded. They tried to break through, but there were too many of them.
“Help!” a woman screamed in desperation.
It was too late. There was nothing anyone could do to help them. The surviving groups managed to break through the blocked road and ran back towards the radar station. All the way THEY were in close pursuit. The survivors began dropping supplies they had gathered in the town as they were too heavy and slowed them down.
The radar station came in sight, yet THEY were catching up. The distance narrowed. Would the survivors reach the radar station in time?
They were almost there. Edward and Anthony ran through the door. The soldier jumped in and turned, ready to slam the door shut. When the last woman ran in THEY were only an arm’s length behind. The soldier tried to push the door shut. Too late! Arms reached in and prevented the door from closing.
“Help me!” the soldier called.
He put his shoulder against the door and pushed hard.
More arms reached through the gap.
The men inside hit the arms and tried to push them back out while other pushed against the door.
At last it closed and they quickly locked and barred it.
“Let’s go back down,” Edward said. “We’ve got enough batteries and torches now.”
They got back down into the basement and securely closed the steel door.
“Not good,” a soldier said when they had finished examining the supplies they had managed to get from the town. “That’s just enough food and drink to last us for one day, and we lost five of us.”
The rest of that day and the following night everything was quiet.
It was another eight days until the rescue fleet was due, though no one in the basement knew about it.
The next day was foggy.
“I don’t like it, not one little bit,” a soldier said looking out of the window. “In this fog we’ll have even less warning.”
“We’ve got nothing to eat and drink,” a woman said.
“So let’s stay together in one big group today,” Edward suggested. “That way we can always break through their line even if we get surrounded.”
The soldier looked at him. “Maybe,” he said. “It’s probably the best we can manage under the circumstances. And we’ll leave several to stand guard outside a building while the others go in.”
“Perhaps we don’t need to go back into town,” Anthony said. “All those supplies we dropped on the road yesterday should be enough for us.”
“That’s an interesting idea,” Frederic said.
Yet much to their disappointment there was nothing left lying on the road. All the supplies they had dropped while fleeing on the previous day had been taken away.
“Well,” a soldier said, “that settles it. We’re going back into town.”
Fog whirled around Kerguelen
That day everything was quiet. The fog was all around them and the birds and other animals kept quiet. The group of survivors crept into town as quietly as they could and gathered supplies. They kept close watch.
“Looks like we’re lucky today,” Anthony whispered.
“Let’s not count our chicks before they hatch,” Edward whispered. “We haven’t got back yet.
In spite of Edward’s caution everything seemed to go well. They managed to get everything they wanted and turned to leave the town. On their way back everyone was in a jubilant mood. They had succeeded. Now they would be able to hold out in the radar station for a long time. The fog was still all around them and the road vanished into it.
“Well, that was easy,” a woman said happily.
They began chatting and even making some jokes. Everyone was relieved.
Through the fog a dim, dark shape loomed ahead: the radar station.
“We’ve made it!” Frederic said happily.
They walked faster and talked loudly. There was no need anymore to hide their presence. The safety of the radar station was right ahead of them.
Then they stopped in shock. There were figures standing in front of the radar station.
The survivors were horrified.
“THEY took over the radar station while we were in town,” a shocked soldier said.
The survivors had no time to think. Suddenly figures appeared all around them in the fog. There was no way out.
“Back into town!” someone shouted.
They turned to run but found their way blocked by a strong group of THEM.
Then there was panic.
Everyone tried to run. There was nowhere to go. Screams filled the air.
“Follow me!” the soldier near Edward shouted.
The soldier, followed by Edward, Anthony and Frederic charged at the line of people surrounding them. He punched a man in his way. The man fell down and they broke through. The soldier was at the front, the boys in the middle and Frederic at the back. A hand reached out and grabbed Frederic’s leg. He fell.
“Help!” he shouted.
For a moment the soldier and the boys wanted to help him, but then several more of THEM pounced on poor Frederic. There was no way to help him. The soldier and the boys ran into the fog. For a few minutes they heard screams of terror through the fog.
Then it was quiet.
The soldier and the boys stopped running. They were out of breath and crouched on the ground.
“I can’t see anything,” Edward whispered as he peered into the fog.
“Do you think anyone else escaped?” Anthony whispered.
“Hard to say,” the soldier said.
“What’s your name?” Anthony asked.
The soldier managed a brief smile. “Thierry. I think we’re safe for the moment. Let’s see what we’ve got.”
They examined the contents of the rucksacks they had escaped with.
“That’s enough for about three days,” Thierry said. “What we’ve got to do now is to find a place as far away as possible where we can find shelter. Kerguelen is quite big when you’re on foot.”
“So if we get away far enough they won’t be able to find us?” Edward asked.
Thierry shrugged his shoulders. “That’s the idea, yes. There’s not enough of THEM to search Kerguelen properly if we keep on the move. There’s only one thing…”
He said nothing and peered into the fog.
“You mean that strange man?” Anthony asked.
Thierry nodded. “He’s obviously got some special powers. Can HE sense where we are? Who knows. If not then we should be all right, but if HE can direct the others towards us, then we’ve got a problem.”
“Do you know any place where we can go?” Edward asked.
“Maybe,” Thierry said. “I’ve been in Kerguelen before and I know my way round, but we’ll have to get a move on. It’s a long way to go to the nearest shelter I know and if we’re caught out in the open over night we’re likely to die of cold.”
They took their things and set off towards the mountains. On their way Thierry stopped from time to time to gather a plant.
“What’s that?” Edward asked.
“It’s Kerguelen cabbage,” Thierry said. “It’s the only edible plant around here. If we gather enough we’ll be able to stretch our supplies by a day or two. I can’t say it’s delicious but it’ll keep us alive.”
Two hours later they came out of the fog.
Kerguelen covered in fog and clouds
Their way took them through the mountains for several hours. It was nearly nightfall by the time they reached their destination, an old, abandoned hut.
The abandoned hut
“It’s not much,” Thierry said, “and it’ll be cold at night, but at least we’re out of the wind and we won’t get wet if it rains or snows.”
“Let’s make a fire,” Edward said. “There’s plenty of wood around.”
Thierry shook his head. “If we make a fire we’d be visible for miles around and someone might smell the smoke. We must keep a low profile.”
They made the interior of the hut as comfortable as possible and after a meal of canned food they settled down for the night.
When they woke up the next morning they looked out of the windows and saw that the fog had lifted. It was very cold and over night snow had fallen. Below the hut there was a glacier which stretched into the valley where it gave way to a brown lake. In the distance snow clad mountains represented the icy glory and beauty of Kerguelen. The sky was cloudy and only in a few places did the sun manage to pierce through, yet where it did the snow and ice sparkled and gleamed brightly.
The glacier and lake below the hut
“Wow,” Edward said when he looked out of the window.
“Yes,” Thierry said, “Kerguelen is quite a sight. “All around us is wild, untamed nature. It’s not a hospitable land, but it has its own rugged charm.”
“Are we staying here?” Anthony asked.
“Ah well, now,” Thierry said, “that’s the question.”
They sat down to a breakfast of icy water, canned tuna fish and Kerguelen cabbage and talked about what to do.
“Aren’t there any other towns in Kerguelen?” Edward asked.
Thierry smiled and shook his head. “No, Port-aux-Francais is the only one. There are some abandoned farm houses and one or two empty huts like this one, but that’s all. All attempts at colonizing the land in the past failed. The climate’s too rough. Even an attempt at sheep farming was a miserable failure.”
“So when we run out of supplies we have to go back to Port-aux-Francais and try to get more?” Edward asked.
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Thierry said. “It’s too dangerous. I think we’ll have to get farther away and try to hunt penguins.”
“I didn’t know you could cook penguin meat,” Anthony said.
“It’s worse than that,” Thierry said. “I told you we shouldn’t light a fire. If we kill a penguin we’ll have to eat the meat raw.”
“Yuck!” the boys said.
“It’s either that or stay hungry, and in this climate you’ll die quickly of cold when you don’t eat.”
The prospect of living off Kerguelen cabbage and raw penguin meat was disgusting, but the alternative of getting caught was even worse. They were caught between a hard place and a rock.
“If that’s the choice,” Anthony sighed, “then we’d better go hunting.”
Three hours later they reached a place where there were plenty of penguins.
Hundreds of penguins were gathered in a shallow stream. A narrow wooden bridge led to the other side where a road was visible.
“Where does the road go to?” Edward whispered.
“To Port-aux-Francais,” Thierry said. “That’s where all roads go to in Kerguelen. Anyway, the two of you stay here and be quiet. I’ll get us a nice juicy penguin for lunch.”
The boys sat down on the ground with a feeling of apprehension while Thierry approached the penguins very slowly and quietly. He had made a crude spear by fastening a knife at one end of a stick and with this he hoped to kill a penguin. The penguins had no natural predators in Kerguelen and as humans never hunted them they were not afraid of Thierry. He was able to get very close to a group of penguins. When he was just one arm’s length away from a big penguin, he took careful aim. His hands gripped the spear tightly, then he thrust it at the penguin with all his force. The blade plunged deep into the bird’s body. The dying penguin made a loud shriek. It struggled a little and then life faded from it. Thierry quickly took it. All around him penguins were waddling away in terror.
Five minutes later Thierry was sitting with the boys. He cut up the penguin and gave them chunks of penguin meat. They looked at it in disgust.
“Survivors eat,” Thierry said. “Just close your eyes and imagine you’re eating some chicken. They’re both birds, it’s more or less the same anyway.”
“But not uncooked,” Edward said. He was holding the piece of raw meat gingerly between two fingers and sniffed at it. “Yuck,” he said, “this is just gross.”
Thierry looked angry. “Now you listen to me. If you don’t eat you’ll die. Put the meat in your mouth and stop whining.”
Anthony licked the meat, then he started chewing some from the edge. Bit by bit more of the meat vanished into his mouth until it was all gone. Thierry gave him another piece while Edward watched with a sense of horrified interest.
“How can you eat that stuff?” he whispered to Anthony when Thierry was looking around.
“Just swallow it and you’ll feel better,” Anthony said.
After a few unsuccessful attempts Edward finally managed to swallow the meat. He nearly threw up but he forced himself to keep the meat down.
“There, have some more,” Thierry said and held out an even bigger chunk of meat.
Edward turned away. “Later,” he said feeling weak.
After the meal of raw penguin meat washed down with some water from the river the three began their way back up the mountain to spend another night in the hut. Half of the penguin was still left and Thierry carried it in an empty rucksack he had brought along for this purpose. The remainder of their other supplies, the canned food and Kerguelen cabbage, they had left behind in the hut as they saw no point in carrying down the mountain and then back up again. They said nothing on the way back. Anthony and Edward were silent as their mouths were busy trying to get over the taste of raw penguin meat and their stomachs were feeling queasy. For Thierry this wasn’t a problem. As a soldier he had been in survival situations before where he had had to eat much more disgusting things such as beetles and worms. Yet as a soldier he also knew it was important to conserve his strength and to keep a low profile, so he was happy that the children were quiet and he didn’t want to talk himself.
They came past a lake on the way and the stunning countryside slowly took all of their minds off the terrible events of the previous days. After a strenuous yet delightful walk up the mountain they were almost back at the hut. They were nearing the last bend around a hill after which their hut would come in sight.
“I hope we can have the tuna for lunch,” Edward said. The thought of the raw penguin meat in Thierry’s rucksack filled him with dismay. The tuna by contrast seemed like a food from paradise.
Thierry smiled, but he said nothing. It was better to tell the children later that the fresh meat had to be eaten first while the canned food would keep.
They came round the last bend and saw their hut.
They stopped aghast.
A thick column of smoke rose up in the air. The hut was on fire!
“The hut’s on fire!” Anthony cried.
“Our tuna is burning!” Edward cried.
“Be quiet!” Thierry whispered urgently.
Too late! Several figures around the hut had spotted them and came running towards them.
“Run!” Thierry cried.
They turned and ran down the mountain as fast as they could. The way down was over rough ground and they fell several times. Their hands were scratched and bleeding but fortunately their thick clothes gave some protection to arms and legs.
When Thierry glanced back from time to time he realized that their pursuers were slowly gaining on them.
Finally they reached the seashore. Edward and Anthony stumbled along the beach in utter exhaustion. How could two children outrun adults? Thierry realized that the end was near unless he managed to think of something quickly. There were at least ten men following them so a fight would be futile. They struggled on for a few more minutes. Then several people came onto the beach ahead of them. They looked around in desperation. Farther inland more figures could be seen. They were surrounded. All ways of retreat were cut off, there was nowhere to go and entering the freezing water would mean certain death.
“Quick, let’s go in there!” Edward said and pointed to a nearby wreck.
They crawled through a hole in the hull of the ship. The interior was full of water and they stood ankle deep in the icy sea water. Thierry waited behind the hole with his spear.
A man appeared and he stabbed him. To Thierry’s surprise the man didn’t seem hurt. He grabbed the spear and pulled it out of Thierry’s hands.
Several more men appeared at the hole. Thierry punched and kicked them as best as he could, but the fight lasted less than a minute. The men outside grabbed his arms and legs and pulled him out. Then they came in and pulled the boys out of the wreck.
There were more than forty people outside. Thierry and the boys gave up struggling. There was no point. They tried talking to the people who a few day before had been friends and colleagues, but there was no reaction. A man lifted Edward and put him over his shoulder. The same happened to Anthony and Thierry. Then they set off towards the mountains. Several hours later they arrived at their destination. It was the very cave where Edward and Anthony had discovered the dead man. What awaited them in this place of dread?
The cave of dread
The French rescue fleet was still six days away.
Thierry and the boys were lowered to the ground and immediately pushed into the cave. The deeper they went in the darker it got. It was cold. Their hearts were pounding and they breathed rapidly. They pushed yet deeper into the cave, farther than they had been before. All around them were dark rock and ice shimmering in hues of blue. When it was almost totally dark there was a sudden change. The rough, rocky floor and walls became strangely smooth and completely round, as though they were in a man made tunnel. Their heavy breathing echoed in the narrow space. They came around a bend. Light appeared. Not the kind of light humans are used to. It was a scintillating light that came in waves ranging from bright green to purple.
Then they entered a room. It was a perfect sphere that glowed in the peculiar unearthly light. And in the very middle of this sphere was the strange man, that man who had been dead and frozen a few days before, that man who had brought terror and misery to Kerguelen, that man was floating in the air. His eyes reflected the light around him.
The men holding Thierry let go of him and he suddenly floated through the air towards the strange man. When Thierry reached him he desperately tried to push himself away but to no avail. The strange man grabbed him by the wrists and pulled him close until their noses touched and Thierry’s eyes were locked into those of the strange man.
After a minute Thierry was released and he floated back to the other people who had been captured before. There was the same vacant look in his eyes that all the others had.
Next Edward floated through the air and a minute later he had been transformed in the same way.
Anthony was the last free human in Kerguelen, but already his mind was affected by the power of the strange man. When his feet lifted off the ground and he floated towards HIM his heart pumped like it had never done before. Adrenalin rushed through his body and Anthony became angry. He reacted to the strange power like no one else. The man grabbed him by the wrists and pulled him close. Anthony didn’t struggle to get away, he was much too angry. He was the first not to try to break free.
His nose met that of the man. Their eyes interlocked and through their eyes their minds became one.
The man was able to enter Anthony’s mind while at the same time Anthony was able to see into that of the man. There it was, the terrifying truth to the mystery that had haunted Kerguelen.
Eons ago, long before the first humans walked the Earth, an alien being approached our world in a spaceship. The spaceship suffered from critical damage to its functions and crash landed on Kerguelen. The alien being was seriously injured and unable to either save itself or repair the spaceship. Yet it did have one power. It could move its own mind out of its dying body into that of any other living being. And so for more than two million years the alien clung to life by moving its mind from one animal to another, from crab to penguin, from penguin to sea lion and so on, until one day humans arrived. The alien being invaded the body of a sailor and took control over it. The alien realized that here, at last, was a species that might in time develop enough technology to enable the alien to repair its spaceship and fly back to its own world. To do this the alien had to gain control over as many humans as possible to create a workforce that would be able to do its bidding.
What the alien being didn’t know was that far away, on the other side of the planet a desperate struggle was being waged between Britain and France. The year was 1806, the height of the Napoleonic wars. The French emperor Napoleon was trying to subject the whole of Europe to his rule. Only Britain stood in his way. So when HMS Argent, a British destroyer, stopped at Kerguelen to take on water, it was manned by hard men, men used to the cruelty and brutality of war after fighting for more than ten years.
And when one curious and unfortunate sailor by the name of Tom came too close to a penguin he was infected by the alien being who entered his mind. The alien being decided to take control of the entire crew of HMS Argent. The hardened men and officers noticed quickly that something was wrong with Tom. The officers decided that Tom had become infected with a strange disease. It was war and they couldn’t take any risk with their ship so they sailed away and abandoned Tom in Kerguelen. Being in a human body the alien being understood it had to find shelter or it would die so it decided to head back to the site where its spaceship had crashed so long ago. On the way there a snowstorm broke out. The body of poor Tom struggled through the howling wind and finally reached the cave. Utterly exhausted he lay down, even the alien being could not make his body move any further. That night Tom froze to death. The alien being could only leave the body of one creature and move to another by looking directly into its eyes so it lay there until Edward and Anthony came by. The alien influenced and swayed their minds so they walked towards the cave.
Though not conscious of it, Anthony was horrified and when he saw what the alien was planning to do with the Earth, how it wanted to enslave all humans to create a vast workforce, he became like a boiling volcano, ready to erupt.
The alien being felt Anthony’s anger and didn’t understand it. For the first time in two million years it had encountered a being that would not yield to its will. The alien exerted its utmost power to break Anthony’s mind and will, yet like a mirror reflects light, Anthony’s mind turned the alien’s power into anger. In an incredible fury Anthony grabbed the man whose body contained the alien being by the ears and pulled hard. This was unexpected for the alien. Everyone had tried to push away, Anthony was the first to pull closer. By surprising the alien being Anthony was able to get his mouth to the nose of the man. He opened his mouth wide and then bit with all his might. Their eye contact was broken and the alien being could not take control over Anthony anymore. His jaws locked on Tom’s nose. Tom had been dead for over two hundred years, and yet, when Anthony bit his nose so hard the nerves sent signals of pain to Tom’s dead brain. Anthony twisted Tom’s ears in fury and kept biting. At last Tom’s brain began to react. The alien being realized that it was losing control over Tom. The only thing that kept Tom’s body functioning was the alien’s control over it. If Tom’s mind managed to struggle free then his body would be completely dead and with him the alien being would die. It was a desperate struggle between the alien and Anthony. The alien being had waited two million years for its chance. It had to keep control over Tom or enter someone else’s body, but it could only do that with direct eye contact. This was impossible while Anthony was biting Tom’s nose.
Anthony ground his teeth on Tom’s nose. Finally the pain became too much and for a brief moment Tom regained consciousness. At that moment the alien was still in his mind, but not in control anymore. In an instant Tom understood everything. He didn’t want to die, yet he knew that to live meant doom for humanity.
“Thank you,” Tom said. He closed his eyes. His heart stopped beating and he died. With him the alien being died.
Tom’s body dropped to the bottom of the sphere. Anthony opened his mouth and spat out in disgust.
“Yuck,” he said and crawled up the side of the sphere to where the other people were. When the alien died their minds were set free again.
Edward reached down and gave Anthony his hand to pull him up.
Nobody said a word. They left the cave and walked back to Port-aux-Francais. On their way there stars began to whirl around Edward and Anthony. They were strangely pale stars. The boys were lifted off the ground but did not return to where they had come from. Instead they floated along with the survivors on their way to town. They saw everything, yet nobody could see them.
A few days later the rescue fleet arrived. Fighter jets thundered across Kerguelen looking for the enemy and thousands of soldiers came ashore. All they found were the dazed survivors who had a strange story to tell. Military officials investigated, they interviewed everyone, one by one and heard the whole story. But they never saw the two boys who had supposedly found a dead man. They never found the cave where an alien spaceship was supposed to be. They found no evidence pointing to an alien presence.
Their conclusion: mass hysteria
Edward and Anthony were still floating around Kerguelen. They saw and heard everything that happened, no matter where.
“Why aren’t we going home?” Anthony asked.
“I don’t know,” Edward said.
“Haven’t we fulfilled the dare?” Anthony asked.
Edward thought back to how it had started. “I think,” he said, “you have to tell me what you think of this adventure.”
“It was scary,” Anthony said.
“No, more than that,” Edward said.
Anthony thought hard. He wanted to go back home. How could he describe their adventure? He remembered Princess Geetu. “It was a pukka adventure,” he said.
“Come on, Anthony,” Edward said. “Think hard! Wasn’t this different from anything else we’ve ever seen? How could you describe it?”
Anthony thought hard. “It was the strangest, weirdest and most peculiar thing that has ever happened to me,” he said at last.
The pale stars around them became darker and whirled faster. Kerguelen vanished from their sight. Moments later Anthony was back at home and Edward was at his school again where he told his astounded classmates about the weirdest adventure ever.
Here’s a sneak preview of Edward and Anthony’s next exciting adventure!
The secret of
The Crystal Skull
When Edward and Anthony receive a letter sent long ago they are pulled into a dangerous world, the world of the cold war. Yet there is another power at work, a power that will bring them together again with an old friend.
…Edward nodded. “You wrote you were desperate. What has happened?”
Geetu took a deep breath. “Here in America my family has found a new home. The people have been kind to us and even my husband has somehow accepted that he is not a king anymore. But my son Adhip,” she sighed, “cannot resign himself to the fact that he won’t be king.”
“You’ve got a son?” Anthony exclaimed in surprise.
Geetu laughed. “Yes, and he’s thirty-six years old. He’s old enough to be your father, in fact.”
She saw the crestfallen look on their faces and said “Don’t forget it’s not everyone that can travel through the ages like you two. For everyone else time passes by quite normally and without mercy.”
The boys nodded.
“You can’t imagine,” Geetu said, “how the world has changed. After the terrible war we’ve just been through and the things that have happened since then we often wonder if the next day could be our last, just take a look out of the window.”
“What is a fallout shelter?” they asked…
A mysterious letter
The Power to rule the world
Follow this quest to the end in
The Crystal Skull
Collect them all!