We come here to discover our origins. Outside, snow glitters to the end of the world. We join Xavier and Lucien in the concrete pod perched on the South Pole. Two years to melt and analyze ice, breathe recycled air, eat dried fish and tinned vegetables. Never going outside. I am not sure I can do this. But our grant ran out. And I love you.
Years of study in musty stacks bound us together, years of long nights in the laboratory posing hypotheses that disintegrated to dust. Love for truth turned into love for each other.
Today you sketched me a rose.
We perfect the mechanical thaw.
We analyze the first melted ice core. One litre of potential life. We scan the water millimeter by millimeter, seeking life invisible at 10,000X.
You sight it first, the fragile twisting helix. Xavier takes over, you withdraw in a sulk. We melt ice, faster.
The fever melts Xavier’s eyes. We slide him out the door and onto the ice.
Lucien succumbs. We keep melting ice, catalogueing nothing. The air hangs heavy.
Tonight you shake me awake. “Amalie, come,” you say, your eyes like embers. You pull me to the microscope. “See?”
The field glares white.
“Yes,” and I cry.
I find you slumped over your papers, laptop humming. I remove your watch, the amber bead hanging around your neck. I pocket your wedding band.
I can see the white mound of you.
12/25/2009Without you, without the others, there is more room to breathe. I power down the microscope, the freezer, remove my jacket and boots. Later, I will open the chute. The air will liven me: ice crystals will embroider my eyelashes. I will walk into the desert, breathing at last.
My contribution to FLASHMOB2013, the international flash fiction blog carnival and contest extraordinaire. A non-competing entry, as I am one of the organizers, along with the brilliant Michelle Elvy and equally genius Christopher Allen. Over 100 authors from around the world. Check it out. Winners announced June 22. Peace...