Episode 3 - The Rock in the Lake

Episode 3 - The Rock in the Lake

A Chapter by Luke Steed
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This chapter has not yet been edited, so it might have a few jagged edges, but I think it's okay for reading. Enjoy!

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We had no time.

Air didn’t even grab any extra clothes. We were forced to leave everything behind beside the clothes on our backs and the food in our bellies.

The town of Nossrunn rested on top of a glacier- the Nossrunn Cape to be more specific. The glacier itself wasn’t land at all, and it technically wasn’t a ‘glacier’ either. It was more or less a mixture of both. It never moved, and nothing ever broke off of it. It was a prime place to put a village by the ocean- that is, until someone chose to blow it off by force.

My first thought: It’s natural for glaciers to break off isn’t it? The booming must be the cracks forming. But why now of all the times it could’ve fallen?

My second thought gave a rebuttal: No… I grew up on this block of ice. Why would it just decide to break off now? There haven’t been any severe changes in the weather. If anything, the last blizzard proves that…

Wait. Don’t tell me...

The beeping device, the booming, the rumbling… Could someone have done this by force?! My third thought sent chills down my spine.

We stood out on the surface of the snow, panicking. In my denial, I scrambled in my mind for a solution. Jed. I needed to make sure he was okay, that he hadn’t passed out from hyperventilation or that he hadn’t pulled himself into a corner he couldn’t hobble himself out of.

“Air! I need you to go find Jack on the southern side of town. He’s the guy who looks like a macaw- find him and he’ll tell you what to do from there!” I was confident in Jack’s leadership ability because of how well he pulled Jed and I together while digging out houses. There couldn’t be any doubt that he was helping penguins evacuate.

Air nodded, almost reluctant. She looked back at me as I departed to find Jed. “Where are you going?!” She yelled.

“Don’t worry about me! Just go!”

Air was frustrated and confused. She didn’t have any time. She couldn’t worry about what I was doing. It would mean risking her own life, which would put every other penguin’s life at risk. She was a nurse- she couldn’t just die here and let every injured penguin go without treatment! It wasn’t smart. At the same time, she didn’t want to let me die either. It was one life over the life of dozens. She ran in the other direction.

I scrambled around looking for the places I last saw Jed. The sheriff’s office, the road I left him on when I went to dig Air’s house out, and the market, none of which had any traces of Jed left behind. My panic level rose, and my adrenaline rose with it.

The glacier rumbled and cracked below me, with each tremor provoking more stress than the last. None of this helped, but then something crossed my path that did help- Jacen.

I saw a flurry of blue feathers rush in from around a corner.. He looked a lot more panicked than me, and his eyes showed it.

“Jacen!!!” I yelled.

He wildly turned his head. “What are you doing?! Get to the edge of town, it’s safe there!” I could’ve told him the same, but there wasn’t any doubt in my mind he was doing anything equally as important as I was, maybe even more.

“I’ve gotta find Jed, have you seen him anywhere?!”

Jacen had what I was looking for- “I saw him about thirty minutes ago heading into your house, but that was thirty minutes ago! Who knows, he’s probably already at the edge of town!”
“Got it!” I gave myself a running start and slid on my belly to my house.

At the far end of town, in the end of a cul de sac, my cabin crumbled and caved in. The rabbit hole had collapsed on Jed.

There he was, tentacles hanging out and wriggling everywhere. The hole had collapsed on him while he was upside down, a bizarre position to be in during an attack, but I didn’t have time to question it. Jed struggled to look for a grip to pull himself out. At this rate, he was as good as fish food. I rushed over to help- a bad idea, but my only option.

Blue ringed octopus are poisonous. In fact, they’re one of the most poisonous predators living on Copperoton. Their poison kills slowly, and painfully, providing tender fish meat to feast on. It was his seasoning.

The scene was an oil spill to describe it best. Jed’s oily ink turned the snow black around his tentacles and oozed outward, a surefire sign that he was freaking out. I ran to help, frantically investigating a way to pull him out. I couldn’t dig him out, that would take too long. I was going to have to pull him out by one of his tentacles- no problem, right?

Wrong.

I took my flipper and grappled it onto his tentacle. I was reckless. Stabbing and ripping sensations shot up my arm. It was like crashing into a brick wall at mach 3. Jed had destroyed my arm in a split second, an overwhelming power. Jed wrapped his tentacle around my flipper and pulled, finally having something to pull himself out with. I reared back, the pain screaming throughout my whole body. Jed followed.

I rolled onto my belly and vomited, almost spilling my whole gastrointestinal system out onto the snow. Jed loosened his grip on my flipper and began to apologize.

Jed cursed. “I had no idea, I’m so sorry-” I couldn’t listen to his apology.

After a few seconds, the pain died down and I regained myself. Jed looked like he was looking for some way to carry me out. That wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t let Jed haul me; he had no way of getting us to safety quickly. My body ached from every patch of feathers that encrusted my body, and a tunnel formed around my vision. I got up, these things burning in my mind. I turned my tunnel vision toward the snow-paved road, and conjured up another bad idea.

“Jed,” I muttered, “Get on my back.”

I didn’t see his approval but I knew our thoughts were in cahoots with each other. Jed canceled his poison out of his tentacles and latched them onto my back. There could be no delay. I gave myself a running start, and sped through the snow on my belly.

Wind picked up and whirled over our two-passenger caravan; an unstreamlined, awkward, and heavy mess. Every inch of snow we cleared added another ten kilograms onto my back. I wasn’t sure how much of this I could take before I would pass out. The rumbling glacier wasn’t making it any easier, either. There was no possible way we were escaping this.

I passed Jack’s house. Another tremor. I felt all of Jed’s top-weight try to tip our caravan over; the glacierquake’s rattle. I felt my flipper throb, pulsating and pulling, pulsating and pulling, aching all the way to my head. I couldn’t see straight through the chaos. There was too much shaking, and there was too much loss. I was on the brink of death, and my hometown was about to be decimated.

I slid on, fighting with my grit and my willpower. What other weapons did I have? I rendered myself completely vulnerable and there was nothing I could do about it. I fought and fought to the center of the town. That’s where we had an opening.

I raced down the street like a soapbox racer, fueled only by the forces of motion. The center of town was upon us. Caved in roofs of houses and cabins lined the outer perimeter of the pack-ice street. The next episode of rumbling had us lurching to a halt- inside of an attic.

The malevolent quaking tossed us into the apex of a roof. We crashed, splintering the wood and tumbling onto the cold floor of someone else’s attic. My head spun. I could faintly see anything in front of my face. Shapes stepped in and out of my vision, like paint staining a dark, foggy morning. One shape stood out, and my instincts snapped.

A snowmobile.

An old, beaten up and abandoned snowmobile, but it was our only way out. I swayed and shuddered to my feet. “Jed… We need to get… this.” I limped, the pain spiking to my left leg.

Jed was still on the floor, as if ducking for cover from a bomb. He looked up and hobbled over to the snowmobile. He knew what we needed. “Here, I got it! Let’s go!”

Jed towed the snowmobile out of the hole we shot in the side of the house. I attempted to lift the vehicle to help, but I was useless. I wasn’t helping any by just touching the thing. Jed had it handled anyways.

Why, why, why didn’t I think about the poison!? I should’ve known Jed would get defensive if someone came up and pulled on his tentacle while he wasn’t aware! I’m so stupid!

We were back out on the snow. “Here… I’ll drive… I know how to do it.” I muttered, barely letting my words slip from my mouth. I was surprised Jed heard me over the noise.

Jed didn’t hesitate to allow me. Even though he knew I was struggling, he also knew that I could drive snowmobiles. Jed’s awkward tentacles could barely turn the gas handle, and even I was stretching it with my strange, bending phalanges.

I turned the ignition. The engine coughed and sputtered. I winced at the fuel gauge. Nearly empty. But there was still gas, a hope I clung to. I turned the ignition again, pulling the choke. The engine sputtered to a creaky rhythm. I jerked the gas handle backward as hard as I possibly could, and we were off.

The houses began to blur and I felt my consciousness begin to fade, clouds forming around my vision and piling on pressure to my head. 55 kmph. This speed wasn’t fast enough, but the speedometer’s hand was crawling gradually over its numbers.

I could see a wall of ice growing up ahead. The glacier was sliding.

88 kmph. There was no way we were making it over that final hurdle. The ice was falling too fast. The speed grew and the wind whipped, but I looked no further for our salvation than one of the many rooftops that dotted Nossrunn. A ramp.

110 kmph. The speedometer’s hand stopped at its top speed.

I steered the snowmobile toward the rooftop. I could feel Jed constricting his tentacles around my waist. He could brace himself, but me? I wasn’t so lucky. The ramp felt like it was about to slam into the snowmobile, and I suddenly wasn’t feeling so sure about my little plan. I overthought every little possibility in the small amount of milliseconds I had.

Time slowed and I could feel every whip of wind flowing past my face. My vision blurred and I suddenly felt dizzier than before. It was time. The snowmobile shifted up the ramp, a jarring force that weighed down heavy on my head. I leaned backwards as far as I could and mustered a scream.

“JED!!! LEAN BACK!!!”

Blast off. Our snowmobile became a plane without its aerodynamics. There was no way I was going to look down. We were close enough to the rising ice wall that I could tell how high we were- not high enough.

“JED!!! HOLD ON!!!”

I stood up on the seat and prepared to jump, each twitch of my muscles hammering my nerves with a sledgehammer. The snowmobile-plane took a nosedive. There could be no hesitation. I channeled all my strength into my legs and leaped for the nearest jagged ledge.

Adrenaline. I found myself jumping higher than I ever imagined I would ever jump, and now I was flying myself. Well, technically not flying, but jumping really, really high. The snowmobile parted ways downward, and I couldn’t control my consciousness. I was passing out and there was nothing I could do about it.

Jed clung to me, realizing everything that was going on around him. He took the wheel. With sudden, violent jerks, he grappled onto my legs and began to spin in the air. Still not high enough. Jed was close enough to the glacier wall now, hearing the snowmobile slam into it.

CRASH.

Extending and expanding his tentacles, he scrambled up the wall for a ledge to hang onto. Jed still had a grasp on my legs, leaving me hanging and banging against the ice like a ragdoll. Jed would try for a ledge, and then slip, try for a ledge, and then watch it crumble off. It was futile, hopeless, farce, meaningless to resist.

Behind us, before I passed out, I heard whirring. A motor of some sort. It could’ve been my mind sending me hallucinations before dying, but somehow, it felt real. A glimmer of hope began to peak through.



© 2018 Luke Steed


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Added on March 23, 2017
Last Updated on April 23, 2018
Tags: adventure, action, sci-fi, penguins, penguin, science fiction, cold


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..

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A Story by Luke Steed