“Under the Snow”

I swung my bag onto the hook on the wall. My nose was a pale red, runny from the cold weather outside, while my toes and fingers felt frostbitten. Although I wore three layers of socks, the cold still managed to somehow penetrate my boots, freezing my feet. 

Days like this in the Arctic made me regret my decision of choosing to go on this expedition. Lonely, tired, and regretful perfectly described my pathetic life in isolation. 

I looked over to my calendar sitting on my desk. Twenty-one out of the thirty days of November had been crossed out in red pen. “November 22nd, 2037,” I read out loud, sighing as I crossed out today’s date in the same red ink. “I can’t believe it’s been four years already.”

The Great Sinkage, or at least that’s what I called it, took place four years ago on this very same day. Barometers had picked up the high temperatures of that day. The seismograph installed in this bunker had received reports of great activity under the tectonic plates of Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, the Americas, and Antarctica. As a scientist, I had deduced the sinking of the continents was just one of the terrible consequences of global warming. Mother nature was clearly crying and I was too late to make the connection.

While the continents were sinking, I slept soundly in the comfort of this bunker, completely unaware of the events going on around me. In a matter of hours, the continents were gone. Memories of the distress calls, map changes, and tectonic activity warnings flooded my mind. I dreaded this day more than any of the others, my guilty conscience reminding me of how I undeservingly survived. I didn’t know how many people, if any, had survived the sinking. Calculations and estimations I had made determined that it would be less than 1% of the human population. There was no way of knowing, though.

I sat down at my desk and put on my headphones. Clicking on the transmitter, I took a sip of my stale coffee. The bitterness slid down my throat, not warming up my freezing body at all.

I brought the mic closer to my mouth. “Is there anyone out there? This is Luna from station X05.” I said. No response. “Is anyone out there at all?!” I repeated, enunciating every syllable of each word. I waited for what seemed like hours. No response.

Argh! There’s no point in doing this!” I violently pushed the mic back. It wasn’t like this disappointment was new to me. For the past four years, I had been using a transmitter to send out radio waves, hoping someone from the Polynesian islands would pick it up. Other than the Arctic, those were the only pieces of land along with some small islands that had not sunk. The lights flickered on and off until they also accepted defeat. I sighed once more. Do I really have to go outside to fix the generator?

. . . . .

Individual snowflakes danced gracefully, twirling elegantly like ballerinas. I approached the generator. It let out a loud clamor as gray smoke popped out of it. “Damn it!” I said, kicking the object roughly. The generator let out even more smoke before buzzing. Its light turned on and the fans activated. “Stupid machine,” I murmured before turning around to head back inside.

Daytime came quickly, although it was still dark outside. I looked out the window at the moon standing alone. There were stars near it, ones that had just appeared. Four years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to see them. “I guess a few good things came out of the near extinction of humans,” I sighed. “At least it wasn’t a meteor that took us all out.”

My room shook slightly as stuff fell from my bed onto the ground. I grabbed my pillow, also attempting to catch my glass mug. The tremor grew harsher and rougher, but it was gone in an instant. “What was that all about?”

. . . . .

Slowly, the world grew silent as the snow fell with the sound of soft hail disrupting the complete peace. My eyes grew heavy as I fell into a quick slumber before waking up to a loud sound.

A loud beeping sound rang throughout my bunker, coming from my desk. It disturbed my well-deserved sleep. “Shut off the alarm!” I shouted, shutting my eyes. “Hold it— I’m the only one here.” I pushed my covers off as I jerked up with force.

I rushed to my desk, looking through my stuff to find what was ringing. My desk was messy like before. “Where’d I put that receiver?!” I said stressfully, digging through the giant pile of devices that had accumulated.

I pulled out a glistening old-style receiver. I could feel it vibrating. Sounds were coming from it. There was a muffled voice that echoed from it. I hastily placed it on my desk.

Quickly, I turned the buttons. A static voice came out of the receiver. I kept turning the buttons, trying to adjust it so the voice would become audible. The voice was cutting every second. I was afraid if I took too long, the signal would be gone. “Hang on! Don’t go just yet!” I shouted, hoping that somehow my voice would reach the person on the other side.

“H—el—lo?” a soft and distorted voice said. I gasped. No way— Someone reached my signal?! I’m not the only human left… There are more?

The voice became clearer as I turned the buttons more and finally, I could perfectly hear the voice. The skips and distortions had stopped. “Hello? Can you hear me?” I said eagerly, breathing heavily. It felt like I had just been rescued although I was still here in the frozen Arctic. I pinched myself once—I needed to make sure this was actually happening.

“Yes. This is Kapi speaking. Is this Luna?” a deep voice said.

“Yes, yes! It’s me. I’m Luna. I’ve been sending signals.” I said without taking a breath. “I didn’t think there was anyone else alive… Does this mean there are more survivors?”

“Of the sinking of the continents?”

“Yes,” I said impatiently.

“Yes, although there aren’t that many.”

“How did you pick up my signal?” I asked. I had many more questions and I knew I had bombarded the person with a lot already. But I couldn’t help it. I was trembling from hope. From happiness. It was another human. I wasn’t alone anymore. My isolation could end. I could be saved.

“I picked up your signal since I’m in a close radius to the Arctic. I’m the radio station manager on the ship I’m aboard.”

I smiled, holding my hand over my heart. It thudded against my ribs as I felt my anticipation. Close to the Arctic… This means… This means I can be taken back to civilization.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear this…” I said, tears streaming down my face. “Please… can you come here and take me back… I don’t want to be here forever.” I requested, crying harder. For the first time in four years, I saw a ray of hope.  

“Yes, we can come to the Arctic and take you back with us.”

I wiped my tears, smiling brightly. “I… I can’t thank you enough.”

. . . . .

A week had passed since that first call. Every day, I would get radio signals from Kapi. I couldn’t help but admire him. Although he was dry at first, he had become more friendly and social as time went by. Each day, we would talk of trivial things to pass time as his ship neared the Arctic.

I couldn’t stop myself from taking a liking to him. He was the first human I had talked to in years so of course, I would feel some sort of connection. Alas, I knew these feelings weren’t real. I wasn’t Juliet after all.

I packed only a few essential things into a small suitcase. The only special thing I had was my lab coat. Although, it probably didn’t mean anything in this world now.

I stuffed those clothes into my bag along with a few cans of food. After everything was ready, I sat at my desk as I eagerly awaited his connection. I looked at the calendar I had. The one that would cause me to lament how much time had passed by. But this time, I looked at it happily as I crossed out the thirtieth day of November.

The walls and floor beneath me began to shake. I gripped the table for support. It disappeared again. I didn’t think too much about it, though.

I continued, waiting for Kapi’s message. And finally, my receiver picked up a signal.

“Hey, Luna.” he greeted me as I beamed.

“Hi,” I said excitedly, although I tried to contain it. I hadn’t been this cheery in years.

“Hope you’re hanging on alright. We should be there in the next two hours.”

“I can’t wait!”

We passed time together, talking and distracting each other from our disease-ridden world.

Two hours easily passed and his ship was already here. He told me to come to the Northern port. It was less than a 20-minute walk. 

I walked in the Arctic snow, one foot sinking into the many inches of snow. I took big leaps, trying to avoid the ice shock and blisters that would come from the snow.

I was wearing a light backpack. I placed my hands over the two straps, holding onto them with force.

Again, I felt a slight tremor come from the ground. It was stronger than before. I fell back onto the ground. The snow cushioned me, breaking my fall.

I pulled myself back up, dusting off the snow before persevering. “It’s nothing. This is normal…” I muttered, continuing to walk.

I sighed a breath of relief as I saw a ship come into view. It was stationed by the old rusty port that had been built years ago. The port hadn’t been refurbished in years, so it was on the edge of breaking. Even from the distance I was at, I could see the unsteadiness of the wooden planks.

At the port stood a man who was waiting beside the ship. I held onto my backpack before racing towards him. The deep snow hardly deterred me. I couldn’t wait any longer. Four years had gone by and it was finally time to be taken out of this terrible living condition.

I got even closer, adrenaline flowing through my veins. I’m almost there. I could almost hear the creeks of the planks he stood on. 

I ran to him, jumping up and landing in a hug. I wrapped my arms around him. Human touch after so many years… I smiled lightly, crying once again. The man didn’t question my eagerness.

I broke away from the hug, realizing that I may have been too forward or intruding. “Sorry about that…” I said, rubbing my neck. “It’s just… It’s been way too long since I saw another human.”

“I understand,” he replied. “You must be Luna.”  I recognized his voice. It was Kapi.

I nodded. “Obviously. I’m the only human in the Arctic. You’re Kapi, right?”

“That’s right,” he said. My grin grew wider as I hugged him once again.

“I’m sorry. I just can’t contain myself.” I said energetically.

“There’s no reason to. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you out here all alone.” He motioned for me to hand my bag to him. I gave it to him. He held it by the strap with one hand. “Let’s go.”

I followed his lead, walking behind him. The ship had a name imprinted on it with faded red paint. “The Red Spider Lily 13,” I read aloud. It was a strange name for a ship. Who names ships after flowers?

Instead of a traditional staircase that led up to the ship, there was a rope ladder. I hated climbing.

“Ladies first,” Kapi said, moving aside and waiting for me to climb. I grabbed the rope with my hand. It grated against my fragile skin. I was about to begin climbing before I felt a tremor again.

The ship rocked back and forth. My hand slipped from the rope and I fell onto the port. I wasn’t the only one who had felt it. Kapi was trying to maintain his balance behind me.

The waves became rougher. This time, the tremor or shaking didn’t die down. It persisted. The Earth beneath us shivered. It grew rapidly and worse than before. The aged port began to crack and break apart, the planks snapping as tiny twigs came out of them.

The cold icy water was visible beneath my feet. The ship moved away involuntarily. I ran towards it and completely disregarded Kapi. I needed to get on that ship.

I reached out and grabbed the rope. I climbed again as the port came crashing down. Kapi plunged into the ice water as the planks fell atop him. He struggled, his arms reaching out everywhere. I looked back once. 

I turned around and continued to climb. I can’t fall in. Not now. I can’t even swim.

The ship kept rocking. It was unsteady and I was barely holding on. The tremors became even worse.

The ship suddenly jerked back in my direction. The rope ladder I was holding onto flung. The rope kept rubbing against my burning palms.

The waves crashed into me, soaking me with shockingly cold water. The ropes became even more slippery. I grasped even more tightly and it hurt even more.

The ship rocked so badly that it was crashing into nearby icebergs. What I knew as the Arctic came apart, the giant ice island breaking into multiple pieces.

Kapi wasn’t anywhere in sight.

I could barely breathe or see at the moment. All I was relying on was the sense of my touch. And even that I couldn’t completely trust.

The rope slid through my fingers in the frenzy. I gritted my teeth. There was a split second of me falling through the air, looking at the sky. No… please no…

I crashed into the water as a loud aftershock filled the air, the water making a smacking sound. I moved rapidly, moving my arms and legs in a way to act as a propeller. But, I couldn’t maintain it. The waves crashed against each other as they swept me in a sort of whirlpool.

I struggled to breathe. I tried to scream. But my head was underwater. “Help!”

The water came together and soon, I lost my breath.

I sank into the water just like the Titanic. It was only a matter of time.

I closed my eyes as I took my last breath. This was reality. There was no such thing as luck. Only consequences of our terrible treatment of the Earth.

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