Cold Digs: Chapter Two

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You shake your head to clear it. A metric ton of emotions (fear chief among them) run across your mind. You take a deep breath watching it turn to fog as you exhale. Calming your nerves, you respond with what you know is the right decision. You know it’s the right decision, because it’s not the one you want to make at all.
“We have no way to get up to that hatch.” You jut your chin upward, trying to tell yourself that the banging up there hasn’t gotten less emphatic. “And frankly, I’m not optimistic that we could find another way out. There’s no guarantee there’s another door out of this room, and if there is, going through it could just get us locked behind something else the team would need to pry us out of.” You shake your head. “No, I don’t think the two of could get out of here, so what we need to do is examine our surroundings. This could be the biggest discovery in the history of mankind, but we have to be careful. The more we mess around with this place, the more likely we could contaminate the data.”
“So look, but don’t touch.” She stares ruefully at her injured wrist. Not touching something doesn’t seem like it will be a problem.
“Or at least, don’t touch much. Remember, King Tut’s tomb was important precisely because it wasn’t disturbed for so long.”
“I’m a paleontologist, not an archaeologist.”
You shrug. “Hopefully the skills transfer. Besides, we don’t know for certain this wasn’t made by really smart dinosaurs. Let’s start with a cursory examination.”
You begin on the closest wall. Some of the frozen soil on which you stood struck this wall on it’s way down. There’s less dust than might have been if the soil wasn’t mostly frozen, but enough of it struck the wall to leave a mess.
“So, first observation, the walls are not perpendicular to the ground, though they do appear to be square with each other. This room, or whatever, looks roughly like a cube, except that curved wall on the far side.”
Kim nods. “So not being square with the ground is what? A strange architectural choice?”
“Maybe. Can’t rule it out.”
“Or everything could have been level at one point and it was swallowed into a sink hole.”
You nod. Now she’s getting into the spirit of things. “Or, something in the sky crashed into the earth and buried itself in here.”
Kim squeezes her injured wrist to her chest and turns to face you. “Are we both trying not to say this is an alien spaceship?”
“It’s not the bottom of my list of possibilities, but the origin is unknown. I can’t prove it’s not extra-terrestrial, but I also can’t prove this isn’t an antechamber to the lost city of Atlantis. Or maybe someone with a lot of money tried to build a nuclear bunker and just did a great job of hiding the fact that they did it in Antarctica.”
“We didn’t see any evidence the ground had been disturbed in the last century or two,” Kim points out.
“True, but we assumed it couldn’t have been, so we might have been discounting any such evidence we did notice.”
She rolls her eyes at you, then goes back to looking at the wall. “This surface is different than the rest of the walls. I’m not sure what . . .” She stops abruptly. “What do those look like to you?”
You follow where she’s pointing with her good hand. “Those are a couple of dirt spots on the wall.”
“Yes, but what do they LOOK like?” She looks in your direction, telling you with a glance not to insist on empirical data. “If you saw these in a Rorschach test, what would you say they were?”
“Muddy footprints which have dried out a long time ago.” You could argue against the likelihood of it, but you’re walking a fine line between not jumping to conclusions and being willfully obtuse.
“So perhaps what’s now the wall was meant to be the floor?” She gestures to the top. “If that’s the case, it appears there is a passageway turning off to the left if we wanted to climb up there and take a look. The hallway, or whatever, would lead down to where we’re standing, and there’s about a ton of frozen soil between us and wherever that would lead. Maybe a door? Maybe a dead end? No way to know.” She shrugs. “Or perhaps it’s not the floor and I’m just wrong about that.”
“I can buy the floor idea. That makes the hatch we came through part of the wall, and it explains the curve on that wall on the opposite side. If that was originally a ceiling, no need to make it flat.” You turn slowly in place.
“There are more lights over there near what’s now the ground. Maybe that’s another hatch which was meant to be on the far wall?”
Kim frowns as she looks at the light. “It’s amazing to me that any light source still has power under any circumstances. Even a nuclear power source would have run through its half life if this is dated to anywhere near what the surrounding materials would seem to indicate.” She takes a step forward to look more closely, then stops, cocking her head to the side. “Do you hear that?”
You swallow past the dryness suddenly in your mouth. “Yes. It could just be some weird acoustics making the banging from the hatch sound like it’s coming from somewhere else.”
You can tell Kim is getting a little frustrated with you. “Okay, fine. Sure, that’s what it could be. Does it sound like that’s the case?”
You shake your head.
“What would you say it sounds like if you had to guess?” She focuses on you with a grim set to her face. “And you do have to guess, because I’m going to punch you in the throat if you try playing devil’s advocate here.”
You nod to indicate the point is taken. “If I had to guess, I’d say it sounds like there is some knocking and banging that’s coming from somewhere else, somewhere other than from the hatch above us. And I would further say …”
Kim waits for a full ten seconds before helping out. “You would further say what? That the rhythm of that banging sounds way too much like ‘Shave and a Haircut’ to be, I don’t know, anything other than that?”
You dearly wish you could say she doesn’t have this pegged on the nose. The problem is, in this hollow environment, there are so many echoes you’re not sure where that sound could be coming from.
What do you choose?
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