Ian and I stare out the windows at the tundra before us, too stunned to speak. After a while, my eyes begin to hurt from staring too long at the dazzling white ice, but I somehow I still cannot get myself to look away. Finally, we are broken out of our trance by the slow, creaking sound of the hatch door opening. We both whip around to watch Hal ease himself up out of the control room and onto the floor.
“Now, before you attempt to kill me, I would just like to let you two know that I am armed with these,”
He holds up two shiny guns, one in his left hand and one in his right. They gleam menacingly in the sunlight that shines through the small windows.
“We know you’re not going to kill us. We’re not stupid,” Ian says through gritted teeth.
“Kill you? No, of course not. Why would I bring you two all this way just to kill you? But one bullet from these pretty things and you’ll be knocked out before you even know that you’ve been shot,” Hal says, glancing at the guns with a horrible, crooked grin on his face.
I can see Ian’s fists quaking at his sides, and inwardly pray that he doesn’t make a move on Hal. It’s just not worth it.
“Where the fuck are we?” Ian shouts.
"Language, Ian,” Hal reprimands, sounding like an elementary school teacher.
“I’m sorry, I meant ‘Where the fuck are we, you piece of shit?!’” Ian yells, his voice echoing off the walls.
My stomach lurches. In the moments of silence that follow, Hal stares at Ian, his ridiculous grin now wiped off of his face.
“What did you just say to me?” Hal asks, his voice creepily calm and quiet.
“Stop!” I cry out, cutting Ian off.
Both Ian and Hal stare at me, apparently surprised by my sudden outburst.
“Thank you, Miss Tessa,” Hal says.
I stare at him. My father.
Just those two words make my entire body shudder. Ian doesn’t know. Actually, no one knows, except for me of course. And I want it to stay that way.
“Now, back to business. Before we disembark from the submarine, you two need your gear,” Hal says.
“Gear?” I ask.
Hal walks over to one of the benches and lifts the seat up, pulling out two white snow suits from underneath. He then walks back toward us, handing us each one. They are extremely heavy, with gloves, boots and a hood attached to them.
“I’m not wearing this shit,” Ian spits, dropping the suit on the floor.
“No problem. Enjoy freezing to death then,” Hal says, without a hint of remorse in his voice.
I swallow hard, glancing at Ian’s stony, cold face.
“I’ll give you two a few minutes to put them on,” Hal says.
He then climbs back down through the hatch, closing the door behind him.
“I say we attack him. Bash his brains out or something,” Ian whispers.
“What? Ian, are you crazy? He’s fully armed and we have nothing. We can’t,” I whisper back, staring at him with wide eyes.
“What the fuck Tessa,” Ian says curtly, looking at me angrily.
“What?” I reply, confused.
“Tell me right now, why are you suddenly on Hal’s side? You’re acting like he’s your dad or something weird,” he spits.
My stomach does a somersault. Does he know? No, he can’t. Unless Hal told him...
For now, I’m going to stick with the notion that Ian does not know, and pray that it is true.
“What the hell are you talking about?” I exclaim.
“Never mind,” Ian mutters, casting his dark eyes down to the floor.
“Well I don’t know about you, but I’m just going to put this on. I’m not really in the mood to freeze to death” I say.
I unzip the snow suit and step inside of it. It has a pungent odor of new plastic, a smell that makes me wrinkle my nose up in disgust. After I am fully inside of it, and I turn around ask Ian,
“Can you please zip it back up for me?”
He looks up from the floor and nods, walking over to me. I turn back around, holding up my ragged hair so that it doesn’t get caught in the zipper. Ian begins to slowly zip the snow suit up, his rough hands gently brushing up against my back and sending tingles down my spine. I close my eyes. Once he reaches the top, I can literally feel his hot breath on the back of my neck, raising all of those tiny neck hairs.
Why. Does. He. Do. This. To. Me.
“Done,” he finally whispers, his lips only centimeters from the skin on the back of my neck.
“Thanks,” I reply robotically, letting my hair down and turning back around to face him.
His eyes scan me up and down, and I can see a smile breaking out on his face. Wow, now that’s rare.
“What’s so funny?” I ask, putting my gloved hands on my hips.
“Nothing. It’s just that you look like you’re three hundred pounds in that thing,” Ian says, chuckling.
“Aw thanks, that’s so sweet,” I say sarcastically, biting back my laughter.
“You know, I might as well join you in looking like that,” he says, unzipping his snow suit and stepping into it.
Once he is fully in, he turns around and asks me to zip his up for him. I walk over and slowly zip it up. When I reach the top, my hands accidentally brush the back of his neck, and I’m convinced that I can feel his entire body tremble.
“Done,” I whisper, awkwardly dropping my hands to my sides.
In that exact moment, the hatch door opens and Hal reenters, dressed in a snow suit identical to ours.
“Ready?” he asks cheerily, a stupid, toothy grin painted on his face.
We stare at him.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Let’s go.”
Hal walks over to a panel on the wall and slides it open, revealing an illuminated keypad. After punching many numbers, the submarine door begins to slide open to the outside world. I swallow hard, trying to remain as calm as I can. But I cannot stop my heart from pounding inside my chest.
Once the door is fully open, a wicked, icy gust of arctic wind blows inside, whipping my mangled hair in all directions. I quickly pull the hood of the snow suit up.
“Follow me!” Hal shouts over the loud wind, walking out of the submarine and onto the sheet of ice that lays outside.
I can see the two large guns secured in his belt, along with many other scary-looking weapons.
Hal takes a few steps forward then turns around when he senses that neither of us have followed him out. We continue to stand stock-still in the submarine, staring at him.
“Looks like I’m going to have to use these!” Hal says, beginning to pull one of the guns out from his belt.
Instantly, Ian and I rush forward, walking out of the submarine and onto the ice. Hal puts the gun back in his belt and turns around, continuing to walk forward.
Ian and I slowly follow him, trudging against the howling wind. Even with these snow suits on, I am absolutely freezing within seconds. I cannot stop my entire body from shaking with every step I take.
It’s as if we stepped into the Ice Age. Aside from the grey, towering, mountain in the distance, there is only one other thing in sight; ice. Sheets and sheets of it, stretching out in all directions as far as the eye can see. There is nowhere to run nor hide. Hey, the tropical island we were on before isn’t looking too shabby anymore.
We seem to be walking toward that mountainous island, but it seems so far away. Occasionally, my boots slip on the slick surface, and Ian grabs my hand to prevent me from falling. After walking for about fifteen minutes, I wonder if we’ll actually ever get there.
I am tired. I am cold. And I am starving.
After what feels like a few hours but probably only was a twenty minutes, Hal shouts, “We’re almost there!”
I look up from the ground to see that the rocky island is much, much closer than it was before. In fact, we really are almost there. Upon closer inspection, I can see that there is a huge building at the base of the island that actually looks miniscule against its giant mountain backdrop.
Even though it is probably only a few hundred feet left to the island, I don’t know if I can make it. The wind is still blowing against us, making every step feel like attempting to push through a solid brick wall. Suddenly, my knees buckle and I collapse to the ground, landing hard on the ice.
Ian sees me fall and imeadiately stops, kneeling down next to me.
“Are you okay, Tess?” he asks urgently.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just really, really tired,” I murmur dazedly.
Hal turns around and stops as well.
“What’s the matter with you two?” he shouts coldly.
I can see him grip one of the guns in his belt, ready to use at it any moment.
“Are you sure?” Ian asks, his dark eyes locking with mine.
I nod. He holds out his hand and I use it to pull myself back up. But this time, I don’t let go of it. Hal turns around, continuing to walk, and we follow. I don’t let go of Ian’s hand until we reach the towering front doors of the base building.
There is another illuminated keypad, this one mounted right next to the door on the black stone. Hal types a long string of numbers then hits enter. On cue, the rocky double-doors begin to slide open. I suddenly feel my heart begin to race as the true horror of what is happening dawns on me.
We are captured in middle of the Arctic.
I begin to tremble uncontrollably with fear as the doors slide fully open to reveal pure, utter darkness.
“Follow me,” Hal says, beginning to walk through the doors.
When he realizes that neither of us have followed him, he turns around, halfway through the entrance and orders,
“No,” I announce abruptly.
“No?” Hal asks.
“I’m not going anywhere that you go,” I say, trying to sound as defiant as I can.
Hal stares at me for a few moments, then says something in front of Ian that makes my heart stop.
“Now Tessa, that’s no way to speak to your father...”