Nov 13th – Pennies from Heaven

November 13th – Pennies from Heaven

10.40-10.50

They found him with his eyes frozen open.

It was cold, of course. It was always cold. A six month overwinter at the Antarctic research station meant that cold was just something you had to get used to, the ice, and the howling, biting wind that seemed a thing alive, with teeth, that wanted to strip the skin from your bones, given half a chance.

You didn’t go outside unless you had to. Unless you absolutely had to.

Lars had gone outside.

Sometimes it got to you, the isolation, the confines of the centrally heated huts. The vehicle hangar was larger, and still heated, in parts, but there was still nowhere really to go once you’d completed the checks, turned the engines over, let the Sno-cat and the truck and the skidoo engines run to warmth, morning and night. Just in case. But even though this brought variety, it was still inside, and in the darkness of the endless night the walls were always creeping in.

Outside was white, or dark. Outside was cold. You didn’t go outside unless you had to.

Lars had gone outside.

They noticed he was missing at breakfast. A check of the sleeping quarters revealed nothing, except a technical coat and fleece not where they should be, and a pair of boots missing from the boot shelf. The rest of the search revealed nothing. Lars was not inside, and had not been inside for some time.

Lars had gone outside.

That was their word for it among the overwinterers, those that knew what it was like to be marooned in frozen isolation, at the end of the earth. To go outside.

Going outside only ever meant one thing.

Lars had not got far. A first sweep of the perimeter showed a red shape in the lights, stretched out on the ice. A closer inspection revealed the body.

They had to chip at the ice underneath him to free his body. Ice crusted his beard and face, his eyes sealed by two perfect discs of ice. Winter coins, for the ferryman. Antarctic pennies, from an unforgiving heaven.

Inspired by a prompt from here

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