Episode 1 - Town of Obscurity ~ Nossrunn

Episode 1 - Town of Obscurity ~ Nossrunn

A Chapter by Luke Steed
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Luke quickly finds that the terrorist attack he saw on TV wasn't just a devastating event- it was a wake up call. (complete edit. Enjoy!)

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The locations and events mentioned in this story take place on a distant planet called Copperoton.

From the narrative of Luke Edwards the penguin, this is his story.

~////////////~

The crackling sounds of a warm fire and its heat pervaded me like a blanket. And I slept. The hearth’s stone pattern and the decorations upon it were lit a golden orange. In the doorway that creaked and swayed, snow concealed the welcome mat, always left inside. I, alone, managed to dig myself through the snow and out of my cabin and expanded my home to the world of rooftops. A draft of cold air waltzed into my cabin from the rabbit hole, making one side of the house cold from the outside and one side warm from the fireplace. The two temperatures fought quietly for dominance in the house, giving me a comfortable environment to nap in.

I fell asleep listening to the nightly reports on the CWNN. But something was different about what I was listening to. It wasn’t the usual lady speaking, but it was a man’s voice- evil and dark in tone. I cracked my eyes open a bit to see what was going on. I saw a dark figure standing in front of a burning news studio with a man on his knees behind him. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something about the doom of humanity…” Shortly after, he said something to his cronies and the camera zoomed in on the man.

“Remember humans... this is what you did to us.” The figure gave another command to his men and they began pouring the gasoline. The kneeled man was quickly drenched, and my eyes were now wide open. They lit a match and threw it upon the poor man. The screen was now fire and screams- an example of the suffering the humans had inflicted upon the arsonists.

To say I was disturbed was an understatement at best, so I scrambled for the remote from under my feathery body and turned my TV off- diminishing half of the light in the house.

I rose from my rocking chair and blinked my eyes up and down. I was in disbelief. I shook the terrifying feelings off my head with a series of violent jerks. They flooded back in. I looked up and around my house, trying to remember what I was going to do after I finished my nap.

Through the flood, my eyes swam toward my laundry room, where my fishing hole was. I could’ve stared at the fishing hole in the laundry room for a whole minute before I remembered what my idea was.

My fishing hole was a necessity, and not just for food, but for social reasons. The hole was cut straight through my floorboards and through the decently thick ice and into the ocean cities below.

I have a friend who lived in the ocean cities beneath the thick glacial ice. I named him Jed because his full name is somewhat of a mouthful (Jedediah). Jed is a blue-ringed octopus. He’s not very social, he likes weird food, and he’s also poisonous. Normally, Jed wouldn’t make a very good friend. Nonetheless, Jed was my friend. A beloved friend. He provided me with company through the long Arctican storms and I provided him with social skills. Our relationship was healthy, important.

While my thoughts were still lost among fear, I dove through the hole in the ice. Dark indigo waters glided off of the oily green feathers of my flippers. As I swam, physically now, I forgot about the beauty of the ocean city that rested beneath our village. I’m still not sure how ocean cities are formed, but I guessed at the time that some sort of hot magma cleared it out and melted the ice, creating the strange atmosphere. It was like I was under the ocean, but only in a bubble of it, and the water wasn’t salty.

I saw the lights of his cave down about four hundred yards from where I was in the water. I sped through the freshwater like a torpedo- impatient to tell Jed about me reaching the surface of the snow from my house.

Jed’s home sat on a small reef at the bottom of the ocean city. The reef was colorful and blooming with life, giving it a bright, ambient tone to the dark water that surrounded it. It was peaceful, and if only I could breathe underwater, I would’ve stayed down there for hours.

Jed’s cave was easy to spot. It was the only form of artificial light in the whole ocean city, and it gave a little humanity to the dark yet beautiful world that it hid in. I sped closer, and his indistinct movements from inside the cave became clearer.

Jed is, as already explained before, a blue ringed octopus. His original color seemed to have been a dandelion yellow, but it looked like he was attacked by a horde of blue rings somewhere in the past. The rings scattered all the way down his eight tentacles and stopped when the rings reached the tips of his appendages. The tentacles were an eight-man army, mercilessly able to sap the life away from his prey, with the help of his beak. The beak was hidden under his tentacles, shaped like a parrot’s and as strong as an alligator’s maw. Even through all this, Jed’s appearance was warm and welcoming.

We had to communicate through Morse code because we obviously couldn’t speak underwater.  He tapped the letters for “Welcome!” to which I tapped reply, “Thanks!”

Jed’s cave was quaint for underwater living. It managed a tank for keeping the weird fish that he caught and a small lounge (really a rock that was ergonomic for his shape) where he could rest his invertebrate body.

I hesitated to tell Jed to come up, remembering what I saw on the TV. He either wouldn’t understand, or he’d get overly stressed, or maybe even both. Jed noticed and looked at me concerned. I shook the thought back off my head and beckoned for Jed to come up to the surface. He complied and we swam back up through the hole in my floor.

“Soo, what are we up here for?” He asked as the brisk water from our bodies dripped on the sturdy wood floors.

I groomed my feathers from the oily water and took a moment before I answered Jed. I glared over at my television in the other room, worried. Worried that the problem on the TV would get worse.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Jed better noticed my timid attitude.

I rubbed my crest feathers stressfully and paced the floor. My worry only got worse. People were dying over in Escloeopia City, and there was nothing I could do about it. My family had always made a strong influence on the humans, and it would be a damned tragedy if the planet’s natives were to kill them. I exhaled, trying to expel the anxiety from my body.

“We’ve gotta do something.” I turned my focus back to Jed.

“Do what?” Jed was beyond confused, now almost as worried as I was.

I stopped before I told him about what was on the news. Jed probably couldn’t understand what happened, and I doubted he knew much about the humans living on Copperoton. I switched back to my old plan- “we have to go dig out the other houses.”

“Hmm okay…” Jed was skeptical. He looked through the living room at my open front door and reverted his focus back to me.

I hesitated again, and I sensed Jed knew that I was hiding something from him. He wasn’t very social, but he knew my personality well. “Yeah,” I said, avoiding eye contact.

Jed didn’t bother to ask any more questions. He knew that it probably would have stressed me out more. “Let’s get started then,” he said.

I opened the closet where I kept some of my random belongings and reached to the back, grabbing a shovel. I took the shovel out and tossed it to Jed, who snatched it from the air with ease. I reached back into my closet and grabbed the only article of clothing I owned- an ugly orange hawaiian shirt.

Jed looked at me patiently, yet puzzled. “What’s that?” He asked.

“Oh, this? This is just a shirt.” I said, slipping my flippers through the sleeves.

“Why do you wear it?”

“My dad wore something like it. Blind admiration, I guess. It’s probably because my parents left me, and this is what’s left of them.”

Jed seemed to step back in his mind, frozen in thought as I walked back over to pick up the shovel I left by the door. I started heading out of my rabbit hole when Jed raised a question- “wait, does this mean I’m meeting your neighbors?”

I paused grimly, which I shouldn’t have done. I should’ve said Oh sure! It’ll be fun! But I hesitated once again and turned back towards him. I needed to give him the same motivation I had for doing the task at hand, but I didn’t want to push Jed out of his comfort zone too fast.

“Yeah, uh… You know the humans?”

“Yeah you told me about them.”

My voice turned solemn. “The snatchers are taking over Escloeopia. .”

Jed spiraled deeper into confusion. “W-what? I don’t understand.”

“It’s a long story.”

“Oh…  Could it be about what you told me? About your dad?”

“Yeah… A little bit,” I inhaled and exhaled a bout of cold, fresh air.

Jed knew that my family was separated, and I told him before that my mother was probably killed in a village fire and that my sister lives on the wayside of town. I also told him about my father, but very little. I only told him that he got involved with the snatchers and the humans. I was afraid to overwhelm him with who he was, because I knew pretty much everything he’d done in his life. I thought it’d be best that I save that story for another time.

My mother supposedly died while I was still being incubated. She was caught in a slash-and-burn raid of her and my dad’s village. Apparently, due to my father’s godsend courage, the snatchers decided to destroy these villages and brutally murder its inhabitants. This was Artica’s darkest time, but even though thousands of penguins died in this genocide, some made it out and started up a nomadic life. I liked to think that my mother was one of these penguins, but my thoughts turned pessimistic with time, and with those thoughts went that hope that my mother was still alive.

There was an awkward pause. “Look, I feel like I should do something about it. That’s why I went and got your help. I know it might seem hard to talk to new people, but I need you to be strong.” I sounded like a dad.

I could tell Jed was trying to look confident, trying to wipe away his nervousness with a face of determination. It was a mask, but it was a start. Jed was going to have to learn to overcome the hurdle that was his anti-social instincts.

“Let’s head out.” I finished.

~////////////~

We finally stepped out into the brisk Arctican air, which seemed to creep into our senses, like a burglar breaking into someone’s home- abrupt and violent. The cloudless, light blue sky covered the cold expanse, and there were no suns to make the expanse warmer. Surrounding us, the roofs of the cabins jutted out of the ground. The snow concealing them seemed to entomb them - a town turned into a graveyard.

“How are we supposed to dig everyone out of their houses now?” Jed asked.

“I dunno. I guess we just dig and predict where their front porch is.” I planted my shovel into the snow.

I scanned the village until my eyes passed over my neighbor’s house. I stared at the roof for a second until I came up with an idea. The roof belonged to my neighbor, Jack Gibson. Jack was a cool guy who liked to help his neighbors out. I had seen him help the other neighbors out with big projects or with carrying in heavy supplies, but other than that, I had only met him a few times. Jack was tall and he had a funky accent but it wasn’t anything we wouldn’t tolerate. I decided Jack would be our best penguin for the job.

“Hey Jed, let’s dig this one out first.”

Jed turned around, “which one?”

“This one right here- the short one.” I nodded at Jack’s small metal roof. “It’s Jack’s. He’ll be able to help us.”

Jed responded with an “okay,” and we began our digging excursion.

I planted the wide shovel into the thick snow to mark our starting point, and we soon found ourselves working. Working on something we didn’t typically work on, that is, if we did do any work at all besides basic housekeeping. On and on we dug, and a banana-shaped tunnel was soon beginning to take shape, and as it took shape, we had to literally work like ants and back all the snow we dug back out of the tunnel and to the surface.

Throughout our excursion, Jed’s two-eyed face bore no complaints. Not to say I was complaining, it wasn’t that. I was feeling more anxiety than I had ever felt in my life. I was anxious about what I saw - the horrors taking place, and the inability to do anything about it.

One of the many stabs I took at the snow ended up being one of relief. As I struck the white soil, a poor, frozen wooden board felt the shovel blade, making a chip in its woodwork. Although this meant we were only halfway done, it meant progress- and progress meant we were closer to our goal.

“Jed, come look at this.” Jed was just finishing up throwing a load of snow out of the hole when I made the discovery.

Jed hobbled back over, exhausted “uh… what’s that?” He said in a daze.

“That right there, is progress.”

“Yeah… but what is it?”

“The floorboard to his porch.”

Jed piped back up. “Woah, really?

“Yeah, but the real challenge is just ahead. We’ve gotta find the door. Let start trying to find the opening of the railing and figure out where the center of the porch could be.”

And so, on we worked. Worked until we finally gained a sense of direction. It could’ve taken twice the time to clear out his porch than to make the rabbit hole itself, but I could remember that his door was centered right in the middle of his porch. This knowledge worked wonders for us as we dug. Not only could I use Jack’s roof as a reference, but I also was able to consult my visual memory and track down the amount of snow that was needed to be pulled out. In total, all this might’ve cut off a good five hours of straight manual labor.

The final chink in the wood was made on Jack’s door, a door that was hopelessly frozen over. It seemed like we didn’t actually hit wood- we just hit solid ice.

“Alright, we made it,” Jed remarked as he threw aside his shovel.

I walked back over to the door, leaned my shovel next to it, and examined it, brushing off the excess snow that stuck to the ice. I rubbed my flipper against the ice, unfazed by the scorching chill that emanated from it.

I stepped back, “We could try busting up the ice, but even if we manage to get past it, I’m not even sure that the door itself will be unlocked.” I paused for a moment to think. Jed looked back up at me, confused. “I think we should try it anyway. It’s worth a shot.”

I picked my shovel back up and began spearing the door, trying to chink its cold armor. The ice wouldn’t budge- not even a crack. I kept spearing it, but stabbing the ice was proving to be futile. I stopped, disappointed, leaning on the slanted wall of snow. Jed’s big, exhausted eyes followed me.

“I need some water,” Jed said, feeling equally as exhausted as I was.

“Say no more.” I headed back into my house, got us each a cup and returned to the scene.

I walked into the hole, handing a cup to Jed. “Thanks… Hey, I found this weird button beside the door. You know what it is?” Jed pointed one of his tentacles at the doorbell as he poured the water on his body. And it was at that moment that I had an epiphany.

The doorbell…

I sprung toward the doorbell, brushing off the powder and putting my ear hole against the door. I rang the bell.

Nothing.

I pressed it again.

Still nothing.

I tried a few more times, but but only silence filled the cave. Jed didn’t want to interrupt with any questions.

I turned around and put my back against the door, slumping downward. My feet gave out under me, sitting in an uncomfortable position. I didn’t care, though. My exhausted brain told me to give up on this stupid plan and go back to sleep in my rocking chair. What was the point?

That was when I remembered. Remembered the TV. Remembered the man being burned alive in Escloeopia City. It all came back. I stood back up with a new motivation. For far too long I’d witnessed the tension and the division between the snatchers and the humans. Humanity was falling apart, and if humanity fell apart, it would be back to square one for the penguins. My world depended on the resources of the humans, and if humanity falling apart meant living in a migration society, constantly scavenging for food like wild animals, there was no way I was standing for that. Not for me. Not for anybody else.

BANG… BANG… BANG…

It was Jack. I shot up and I backed away from the door, motioning for Jed to do the same. The main thing I was worried about was if Jack would be able to kick the door down even with all of that ice in the way. There was no possible way I’d be able to do it.

Then the door slammed open from its hinges and skidded across the snow between Jed and me. Jack charged out and stumbled over, surprised at the mysterious tunnel and the two creatures who had the good idea to dig it. “What in bloody hell is goin’ on here?”

To describe Jack’s appearance accurately would be like trying to shoot a dart at a target while riding on the back of a speeding snowmobile. It isn't easy, but for starters, I guess you could say that he looked like a parrot from one of those old books called Encyclopedias. His crest feathers were a spectrum of green, yellow and blue, and his face was a circle of white with thin, black streaks streaming from his eyes. His legs extended out from his body like oversized pencils, boosting him to a full one and half meters tall. He always looked strange at first, but everyone who knew him got used to his wild look.

Jack didn’t know where to start. He was absolutely lost. He stood up and looked at us both, seeing our startled expressions. Jack looked at this new environment like he had just woken up in the wrong bed last night.

“Hey Jack, how’s it going?” I said, shaking his flipper. Jack was still in bewilderment, “you were the first one we dug out. We thought you’d be a good helper with our little ‘mining excursion’ to get people out of their houses. What do you think?”

Jack blinked his eyes and regained his equilibrium, “Well… sure, mate. But who’s this?” He looked at Jed.

Jed’s anxiety kicked in, making him freeze up. A small puddle of black ink tainted the snow below him. “Jed…” I nudged him.

As Jed tried to speak, his tentacles curled up and knotted. His eye contact was non-existent. “Hello, uh… My name is uh…” he trailed off, “Jed.”

Jack was especially puzzled as to why there was an octopus on his porch, but he was reassured that whoever was digging his porch out wasn’t trying to rob him.

“Well, mates, let’s give it a fair go. I’m interested.”

Jack disappeared for a moment into his house and returned with a shiny new shovel. Our’s looked like war veterans compared to his. We followed Jack out of the rabbit hole, planted our shovels into the snow, and surveyed the village of rooftops.

Jack spoke up, “I know some bloke down the street. He’s a bit eh… dodgy, but he has the whole place mapped out. I say we dig him out too.”

Jed looked at me like it was my turn again. “Okay. What’s his name?”

“The bloke’s name is Jacen Robbins. I rarely see him. Always working on some crazy contraption. Nobody ever really knows what he’s mucking around with in his cabin.”

“Oh.” There was a pause. “Did you see what was on the news this morning?” I asked.

Jack shifted expressions from a relaxed look to his own worried look. He started towards Jacen’s house, with us in close pursuit. “Yeahh. What was that? Bloody terrifying.”

“I think I might have an idea of what it was, and I don’t know why, but I feel somewhat responsible.”

Jack looked back at me, suddenly worried. “Well, spit it out mate, let me hear it.”

“I think the snatchers are trying to take Escloeopia, and I don’t know much else, but what I do know is that my dad may have provoked it.”

“Well that can’t be your fault, mate.”

“Well, no, it technically isn’t, but I feel like what my dad did is all going to waste. I grew up hearing about him, and he was everything to me. I mean, I never knew the guy, but he was all I had besides my sister.”

“Daddy issues, eh?” Jack chuckled.

Jed cracked up hard. I felt like a chump.

“Lighten up mate. Just having some fun with you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said, sighing. “I just feel like I should do something about it.”

Jack scoffed, but I could tell it wasn’t rude. “So you’re just going to leave the village all by yourself? Look, mate, that’s not how the world works. Sure, blokes’ll tell you you can change the world with enough ambition, but you can’t just clean up years worth of political damage by yourself without even a lick of power. You’re gonna need an army to fix that one, mate.”

“Yeah, I guess.” He was right. I couldn’t just go headlong into whatever was going on in Escloeopia. I wouldn’t fix anything, and I would probably get myself killed too. There had to be a way, any way I could help.

We approached Jacen’s roof and begun our hard day’s work, stabbing at the snow monotonously for hours on end. Whenever I made one scoop of snow, Jack was making two- working twice as fast and three times as hard. Jed and I trembled and strained at each scoop, only scratching the surface of the work ahead. It was discouraging for us that we were so worn out, but looking at how fast Jack was working gave the journey hope, and it wasn’t long until Jack hit Jacen’s concrete porch.

“Jack, we’ve been going at this for two hours. Can’t we take a break?” Jed moaned through his exhaustion. Frankly, I felt the same way, but I thought it would be rude for me to quit on Jack, who was giving it his all trying to clear out all the stupid snow. Jed was used to basic housekeeping and hunting, not shovelling snow.

“Breaks are for wusses! We’re almost there mates, c’mon!” Jack heaved.

Jed and I reluctantly decided to push through and continue digging until we had finally made the door visible.

The door, much like Jack’s door, was frozen over, but it wasn’t long until Jack decided to break it down too. I thought that was a terrible idea, so I tried holding him back. It was already too late. The door was already ripped from its hinges and sliding across the inside floor. Jack stood in the doorway, his foot still stiff in the air.

Jack peeked his head inside while I worked up the courage to do the same.

The inside of the house was dark and gloomy; candles contained in glass jars dimly lit what had to be seen and the darkness concealed the rest. We stepped in and observed the atmosphere, Jed staying behind. Papers cluttered the desks around the candles and scrap metal leaned against the drywall. The air was dry and cold, as if the AC stopped working and Jacen relied only on the heat of the candles to stay warm. (Note: it’s not necessarily the fact that Arctica is so cold but it’s the fact that penguins have been mutated and evolved in this society to need more external warmth than typical Earth penguins.)

“Hello!?” I called out into the darkness of the house. For a moment, there was no response, but then, from the back of the room we heard a bounding- a startling explosion with each step. The bounding noise grew louder, and especially more frightening.

“WHO ARE YOU?!” Jacen boomed as he cocked his shotgun. He shined his blinding flashlight straight into our eyes, as if we were a bunch of werebears.

We froze, but not by the scorching cold. Every feather on our bodies stood up and our eyes winced shut by the excruciating shine of the light. The clicking of his gun was enough to send us into submission- our flippers in the air.

“Easy, mate... easy… We ain’t trying to rob you.” Jack said, probably wincing too..

“Who are you two?!?” he said in a gruff voice, trying to sound intimidating.

I managed to spit it out before Jack could. “I-I’m Luke and this is Jack-”

“What are you doing in my house?!” He yelled.

“We just dug your house out. That’s all we did. We wanted to do the same to everyone else’s, and we heard you kept the locations of all the houses-”

“Does that explain why you guys ripped my door from its hinges?!” Jacen boomed, interrupting me again.

He sighed and tried to cool himself down, stepping back and lowering his portable floodlight. Our eyes creaked back open, still in a wince. Our flippers lowered at ease. He set his shotgun down on a nearby cabinet among an array of tools. Our eyes soon found themselves following Jacen to a rope in the middle of his living room. Jacen grasped the rope and yanked on it, setting off some contraption in the ceiling. We heard a few clicks and a gurgling of a liquid. Our eyes soon focused on a chandelier in the center of the ceiling, bursting ablaze with fire and illuminating the whole room. It seemed that Jacen didn’t even need electricity in his house.

Jacen’s house was no longer a mystery. Everything was cluttered. Couches and coffee tables were strewn with tools and papers. Posters crowded the walls, acting as his wallpaper. Cans of food and crumpled up paper filled his trash bins and leaked onto the floor. It could’ve been a dump, but everything that seemed cluttered was either inevitable or productive.

Jacen was a short penguin. Possibly adelie. His back feathers had a dark blue tint to them, and his beak had this same color until it hit the tip, then it was a pinkish-orange. His eyes were coldly white with drops of black for his pupils, and he wore a forest green bathrobe that was covered in blotches of oil and stains of grease.

“Look, I’m sorry… I can’t just trust two idiots who thought breaking into some random penguin’s house was a good idea.” Jacen rubbed his eyes and exhaled profusely, “But I guess it’s ok. You two don’t look like burglars.” He looked back up at the mess we made. “Though, this would be the perfect opportunity to rob someone. I mean, just who’s going to expect it?” He tickled himself.

Jack and I wiped the pain out of our eyes. I felt a little safer now, even though there was a giant blurry spot at the dead center of my vision. I blinked and winced between each one.

“Anyway,” Jack said, “...Like Luke was saying. I remember you charting the locations of the houses in the neighborhood. Do you have ‘em with you, mate?”

“Yeah, I have the whole village mapped out. Kind of a hobby of mine. I invent and do maintenance full time though.” Jacen turned around and started upstairs where his charts were kept, his voice muffling in the dark as he ascended. “I’ll be right back. I’m gonna go get my surveyor.”

“Okay mate, we’re goin’ to head on out. I’ll spare a shovel for you.” Jack hollered into the second floor.

We found ourselves back on top. Jack went back into his house to retrieve a spare shovel for Jacen, and Jed and I waited patiently. It didn’t take too long for Jack and Jacen to get sorted out, and they were soon standing in the snow with us, Jacen’s equipment organized and ready.

“Hey, I don’t think we’ve had a proper introduction,” Jacen said, looking up from his equipment. “My name’s Jacen.” He held out his flipper at Jed and I both, expecting a formal greeting.

I reached out and shook it. “Cool. My name’s Luke, and this is Jed and Jack.”

Jacen nodded. “Say, how is an octopus able to breathe air?” Jacen mused at Jed. “Shouldn’t you be in the ocean city?”

Jed stammered, “Uhh, well, my gills only need oxygen. I… don’t really need to be in water that much…”

“Oh, okay.”

Jacen pushed the unimportant thought aside and shifted his attention towards his theodolite. Jacen positioned the contraption on a tripod and spread his record papers out on a platform attached to the tripod’s legs. Jacen peered through the instrument and calculated the position of all the buried houses whose roofs didn’t jut out of the snow.

Our first house was right next to Jack’s- a buried time capsule. If someone were to walk by this house without any recollection of where it was, it could easily be overlooked. Jacen pointed out where we should dig in order to get to the front door the quickest.

And then we dug- dug until the day was done, releasing more penguins and more working flippers with each house. And at dusk, it seemed that most penguins’ houses had been cleared.

As Copperoton turned for the night, the nebula surrounding it loomed large over the surface of the planet- a spectacle of color so unique, anybody from another planet might fall into a coma of awe. The invisible sun’s icy blue rays peeked over the horizon while I stood beside Jed, making sure he was well watered.

“Hey Jed, you want to go with me to see if my sister made it out of her house?” I said, willing to push Jed outside of his comfort zone.

Nervousness filled his beady eyes. “Ah no, I’m good. I think I’ll just find somewhere to relax.”

“Okay well, you take care. Keep that water in your gills.” On that note, I left Jed and headed for Air’s place. I could tell Jed had enough for the day.

As I strolled closer to Air’s house, dragging my shovel in tow, other penguins could be seen carrying waste and food in and out of houses. Penguins hollered at each other from rooftop to rooftop, checking on each other to see if they made it out of the storm that happened just a few days prior. The community had been resurrected from its obscure, isolated state. Was it inevitable that this town had been brought back to life? It sure felt like it. I didn’t feel rewarded, but instead I felt like this was just a harbinger- a precursor to something greater. Any other idiot could have started the digging excursion. It wasn’t really a matter of who, it was really a matter of when.

“Hey, Luke! I heard you were the first one who started this!” A voice called from a rooftop.

“Yeah, good job man!”

Another voice yelled, “Hey thanks! My chicks were half starved to death!”

“Oh, it’s nothing. Glad to help!” I smiled from my beak, taming my inner pessimistic thoughts. I was starting to feel a little better about myself.

I continued onward toward Air’s house. Several workers were still digging. Her home must’ve been one the last houses being dug out. I quickly pitched in and helped. Her door was one of the ones that wasn’t frozen over. So one of the workers knocked on the door and waited a few seconds. The door opened.

Air opened the door wide, not surprised, but almost relieved. Air may have been a nurse, but she did not look taken care of. Her eyes drooped lazily and her long yellow crest feathers were tangled in greasy knots. Her pink feathers looked almost pale, as if they themselves weren’t hydrated. And she still wore those same hospital scrubs I always saw her wearing.

She took one look at us and fainted. Her body dropped like a corpse, half dead from the lack of food and water.

Had it been that long?

We didn’t let her hit the ground. We caught her and hoisted her up onto each other’s flippers. One of the workers couldn’t respond, so he stood by. “Hey you, go grab some food and water from another house.” One of the other penguins called to him.

We headed inside and carefully set Air on a sofa. The penguin rushed back in with a huge cup of water and a two-liter bag of fish. I stood up and took them from him. I set the bag of fish on the coffee table and leaned Air’s head back, opening her beak. I poured the water down her throat little by little, in fear that I would drown her.

“I can handle the rest. Thanks guys,” They were relieved and left without another word. Probably to go to bed for the night. I, too, was exhausted, and I had only just realized it. I stumbled back on one of Air’s leather chairs and nearly crashed before Air began to cough herself awake. I sat back up.

Thinking she had regained all of her strength, Air tried sitting up. She groaned and rubbed her head, her eyes still shut. I walked over to the sofa.

“Hey, easy. Don’t overdo it.” I urged her.

Air coughed. “How long was I out?”

“Eh, about thirty minutes. You okay? You look terrible.”

“Thanks… Yeah, I’m okay. My water heater broke down a few days ago.”

“Well that explains it,” I said almost to myself. “What happened to it?”

“I honestly have no idea,” Air shrugged. “Around the time when it broke down, it started making a bunch of squealing noises. Since then, my pipes began freezing up, and water stopped coming out of the faucets. I had to make do with the IV bags I filled up with water during the storm.”

“Did you ever take a look at the heater?” I pressed, confident that I could probably figure out what happened with it.

“Yeah, I looked at it,” Air sat up on her sofa. “I couldn’t really see what was wrong though. I saw a big puddle of water there but I couldn’t find the leak. It’d make these scary noises in the middle of the night, but I couldn’t figure out why.”

“I’ll go take a look at it. You stay here and rest.” I had known Air to overlook things, so I doubted it was nothing.

I opened the door to the utility closet only to find that the floor inside was flooded. At first, I couldn’t see what was wrong with it either, but then there was this weird burning smell.  It seemed as if these things were foolproof; they were dedicated not to break down in the event of a terrible storm. If something were to go wrong at all with it, it would most likely just be a minor issue.

I examined further around the back of the heater. There I saw the problem. Holes bored out of the metal, like something had made its way out of the heater by drilling from the inside. I peeked inside one of the holes and found a small, flashing, beeping device resting on one of its inner mechanisms. I walked out of the closet and picked up a pair of tweezers that laid inside one of Air’s medical cabinets, and I returned to pull it out. Looking in the same spot, it appeared that the device stopped beeping and flashing altogether.

That’s when time stopped. I froze.

BOOM.  

BOOM.

BOOM.

The whole house shuddered.

“AIR!!!”

“Yeah?! I’m alright!”

“Get your things! Let’s get outta here, now!”

There were three blasts that shocked our glacier that night, and not only did it shock us, but would soon shock the world of Copperoton to its core. Even though I was far from ready, my journey was already starting.



© 2018 Luke Steed


Author's Note

Luke Steed
The complete edit is finally here! I'm excited to present my best version of this chapter! Critiques are needed, so feel free to share your thoughts in any way possible. Thanks!

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Added on January 30, 2017
Last Updated on April 23, 2018
Tags: sci-fi, adventure


Author

Luke Steed
Luke Steed

Fort Worth, TX



About
My main project right now is Copperoton: the Snatcher Saga, a long sci-fi adventure book. The first couple of chapters are still being worked on, with the first being the most heavily focused on. My o.. more..

Writing
Copperoton Copperoton

A Story by Luke Steed