By morning, the snow had banked up against the windows casting the living quarters in gloom. The small glass pane in the front door, which had been periodically scraped, was now the only hint at the world beyond. Even the storage shed, a few metres outside, couldn’t be discerned in the white out. With funds running low, the team’s existence at this remote outpost had always been fragile, but was now under serious threat as the weather set out to menace them, absorbing the hut in a disorientating white shroud. Sealed within, the atmosphere was dead, voices muted.
Little movement stirred from the soft, lethargy of the hut’s womblike warmth. The only sound was the eerie and relentless whispering chorus of the wind, punctuated by the systematic thwack, thwack of Floyd’s darts. His two colleagues remained in their bunks dozing or reading.
“Aren’t you bored of that yet?” Pasque asked, lifting her head momentarily to peer over her novel.
“Jesus, you’ve got a high boredom threshold.”
“They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something, so I reckon by the time we get out of here I might be good enough to appear on Bullseye.”
Since the team had become marooned at the research station, Floyd had bedded down with a blitz spirit. He was sanguine and matter or fact, asserting that there was nothing that could be done so they shouldn’t grumble. The nearest humans were 840 miles away. With the sun barely skimming the horizon, daylight was scarce and the chopper wouldn’t be able to land for at least another week. Floyd’s attitude had prompted a gnawing animosity from the other three team members, who grumbled, swore, ranted and raved and who had, after a week cut off from the outside world, worn themselves out.
“I told you there was no point in moaning about it.” Floyd asserted that morning as the team woke up to yet another white-out day. Pasque wanted to kick him in the shins. “What’s the worst that can happen?” he’d asked. “We’ve got enough food and fuel for another three months. Just relax.”
By mid-afternoon the soporific, stagnant fug from within the hut had caused both Pasque and Jolliffe to drift off in their bunks. Floyd sat on his using the sharp steel tip of the dart to remove the dirt from under his fingernails – a job he was concentrating hard on. To quell his boredom, whilst the others had been asleep, he’d torn a page from his tattered porno mag and pinned it over the dart board aiming at the model’s nipples. It had proved a worthy distraction until he’d noticed the black crescents under his nails.
The stillness and warmth of the hut was punctured by the Prof’s sudden re-entry. He staggered in, leaning heavily on the frame and then used his body weight to push out the weather, sealing the door shut. The interruption caused the two sleepers to stir and muster themselves. He pulled up his goggles, which shaved off a frosting of white ice from his brows with them.
“There’s something out there.”
Floyd smiled knowingly. “Nice try Prof.”
“There is something out there in the ice.” The Prof repeated fixing each one of the team with a wild stare, made more demented by his frostbitten beard and unruly gravity defying brows.
“One of the dogs is dead. The rest are nuts.”
Pasque sat up immediately. “Which one?”
“I couldn’t tell. It was missing. There was a trail of blood. It was something savage. I don’t know.”
“One of the other dogs did it?” suggested Floyd.
“No, no. This was a different kind of kill. I haven’t seen anything like this before.”
The Prof unzipped his snow suit to half way and pulled out a chair. Floyd grabbed the vodka and slid it across the table to him.
“Here, have a nip.”
With a shaky hand the Prof poured himself a large measure which he knocked back in one long gulp, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“There was this,” he said reaching into his pocket and producing one of his liner gloves. “Pass me those tongs Floyd.”
“I found it in the ice. I think it’s dead.”
“I bloody hope it’s dead,” said Pasque.
He used the tongs to clasp the thing whilst edging his glove away. He then laid it on the table for a proper inspection.
“I think it must be the offspring of the thing that had the dog.”
[Exercise: Introduce us to a setting outside of your direct experience]