The vast nothingness of this place was a sublime horror. Hills and mountains surrounded endless fields of ice, their bizarre frozen formations silhouetted against the sky. It was a world immersed in white and blue, and its trillions of crystallised sparkles prophesied him a lonely and cold death.
Dreadful sounds filled the air - sounds similar to the snapping of metal ropes, their echo reverberating across the plains. It was the ice breaking apart somewhere deep below the young man’s steps. They were the only tracks found in this abandoned land, isolated footprints that would vanish within the next few hours as an arctic storm was approaching.
His mind begged him to push forward, to keep moving at a steady pace like an old machine that worked at its relentless rhythm. He had slowed down though, ignoring the lazy and heavy sound of his fur boots. They were a gift from the natives whom he met five months ago before entering this lifeless piece of earth. Some people would have called his endeavour to cross the frozen dessert a bold adventure. But considering the many navy vessels that had tried to sail the passage and were never seen, let alone found again, gave this whole undertaking a touch of insane stupidity. He knew that, and so did the natives who warned him ominously at his departure.
He removed the hood of his heavy Lieutenant coat and dared to take off the oval snow glasses, which prevented him from going snow blind. His breathing produced thick puffs of air while he searched the landscape with narrowed eyes. There was nothing. And when small particles of ice, scattered by the wind, started to pierce his face aggressively, he had no other choice than welcoming back the protection of his head covering.
He walked on. Panting. Sweating.
The first time he thought about suicide was four weeks ago when his strength had started to let him down. He did quite well in hunting seal and storing the meat on the small sledge he pulled behind him, or generate drinking water from the ice. Still, his health seemed to diminish with each passing day until he realised that his troubles derived not from lack of food or water, but missing human interaction. In other words, his mind went to rack and ruin.
The man closed his eyes and tried to remember the last time he had felt at ease. He recalled the many moments of bellowing HELLOOOOO into the solitude of this land, yet his cries for human companionship were left unanswered and his hope of success irretrievably lost. There was no dry land far and wide, only endless fields of this dreadful whiteness, turning him into a loner who would talk to himself until he had resorted to silence once and for all.
But these were fading memories too painful to remember. The man looked up to the obscuring grey sky, observed the cloud movements, and uttered a silent Damn you in his thoughts. His sledge carried a small tent as well as some furs of long-dead animals, which prevented him from freezing to death while sleeping. Yet, the thought of turning in for another night, alone, shivering and listening to the ghostly sounds the arctic ice spat out, was nearly unbearable to him. And with an insane grin, the man put his forefinger to his head and pulled an imaginary trigger.
What would it feel like? he wondered. What would be my last thought at death’s door? He opened the loading gate of his revolver and saw the cylinder filled with two remaining bullets. They were his last ones and hopefully unimpaired. He snorted a chuckle – to hell with the mission he had not asked for. And to hell with this world. What he needed was peace from this odd silence.
He hunkered down and took out his knife. The scratching sound on the frozen surface relaxed him a little while his eyes followed the uneven lines that formed his name - Kayden. He looked up and into the land stretching out before him, and somehow he felt good, knowing that he had the choice to leave this deadly place forever behind.
There was nothing left in this world that was worth to live for, so why delay matters, if it weren’t for that small spot in the dim distance, almost indiscernible, yet somehow standing out from its surroundings. Kayden contemplated for a moment, got up and took two steps forward, his hands shielding his eyes.
It’s all in your imagination, don’t even bother, a voice in his head tried to argue logically. There is nothing. Why not attend to the business you were about to see through.
Or..., another voice intervened,...you might want to take a closer look at this thing. And Kayden began to move his feet.
He made slow progress as the wind became more powerful. The swirling snow impaired his vision; nonetheless, he never lost sight of the thing in front of him. It looked like a massive rock formation, covered in ice and snow, reaching forlorn into the sky. The magnitude of that ice block was beyond impressive, and its weird vertical shape reminded him of some prehistoric monster described in one of those attention-seeking novels everybody had been so crazy about these days. The whole form displayed an odd bend to its right, and several gigantic branches shot from its trunk into the air. Dusk fell, yet with each approaching step, Kayden became more sure about the true nature of his mysterious discovery. It was not an ice block at all. Nor a prehistoric monster, lurking for its prey in this utter solitude.
It was an abandoned ship.