For the run up to Halloween 2017 one of the themes for October was Voice in the Dark, so I came up with this 13 part epic called,
A Call in the Dark.
The darkness was broken by the light on his camcorder. On the small screen he saw the image of his frozen face, the devastation of the last few hours making him almost unrecognisable. Snow and frost coated his skin and his breath was a thick cloud of steam.
As he spoke his lips could hardly move. “The… batteries about to die… my, last recording… everything lost in the avalanche… I think… I’m the only one left… for now… the storm hit hard… should have, stayed and sat it out…”
His tears froze on the way down his cheeks and his eyes could no longer focus. “I’m sorry Karen…”
The camcorder started bleeping as the battery was draining. “I love you and little Chelsea… Be good to your mother.” The camcorder turned itself off and he was again alone in the dark, stuck on the side of a mountain with no hope of rescue. He fumbled about to put it in his pocket ready to be discovered however many years later by another mountaineer.
Outside the rocky hole he’d found was the raging snowstorm, sealing him in without tools to dig him self out, howling winds, and a woman’s voice, calling from somewhere close by.
At first he dismissed it, making himself as comfortable as he could, prepared to accept his icy fate. Another loud gust of wind rushed past and again he heard it. It was impossible for anyone to be out there. Clearly his brain was playing tricks as the sub zero temperatures and low oxygen were beginning to take its toll on his battered body.
He focussed his thoughts on his wife and baby daughter. He wanted them to be the last things on his mind when the time came. He’d already lost feeling in his legs and his fingers could barely move in spite of the padded thermal gloves.
After a few minutes that felt more like hours, he was beginning to fall unconscious. The wind howled, and the voice called again, only this time much closer, broken as it was chopped up by the wind, only this time it continued calling.
As he listened, doubting there was anyone out there, he thought he could make out a word or two in German. Perhaps there was a German expedition on the other side of the mountain? Maybe the others were alive! With the last of his strength he struggled to move in the pitch darkness. Any chance of rescue was worth the risk.
Forcing his legs to work he stumbled towards the entrance of the rocky hole. It was clear from what he could feel it was plugged up with heavy snow and ice. Just trying to dig through it would mean certain death from exhaustion and exposure, but that woman was on the other side of it.
With lifeless fingers he clawed away at the snow with barely the strength to call out. The thought of seeing his wife and child again kept him going, and all the time she was calling, who ever she was.
His efforts were futile. Every scoop of snow he moved was quickly replaced as a rumbling sound came from above him. He threw himself back knowing that another avalanche had thundered past. The deafening roar went on for several minutes and his heart sank at the thought of losing his only hope of salvation. If there was a woman out there, no doubt she was swallowed up by the snow.
He didn’t have the strength to cry. This was it. The end. He lay back ready for the reaper to claim him. He could already feel its icy breath against his frozen face.
“Hier Druben!” came her voice again, riding on the wind.
He managed to lift his head. His blurry vision able to detect some form of dull light. The entrance to the rock hole was no longer blocked. “Hier Druben!… Eile!”
Sheer determination acting on behalf of his wasted strength he clambered towards the entrance. In the distance the evening sunset was peering through a thin gap in the storm clouds, being the only thing he could make out with his half frozen eyes, but he searched for any sign of the woman calling. Again the wind carried her voice, which seamed to come from everywhere. He took a deep breath and yelled with all he had and waited to hear her again.
“…Hier Druben!… Hier Druben!” This time she seamed closer than ever, just around the corner of a large chunk of rock that formed part of the hole he’d stumbled upon.
The gap in the clouds was closing; taking what little sunlight remained away as it got thinner. With limbs struggling to respond he dared to edge his way around the rock, fighting against the strong wind and sharp clumps of snow battering him from all sides.
Half way round he yelled again and waited. “…… Eileeee!…… Eileeee!” came the voice.
A strong wind hit him hard and he lost his footing.
The avalanche had stripped the rock face bare of nearly all the snow and Ice. He fell onto a ledge protruding out from a crack, cushioned by a lair of fresh snow from the avalanche. He lay still, partly due to exhaustion and to try to assess any damage he may have incurred from the fall.
With the freezing wind snatching his breath from his mouth he heard her once more, “Hier Druben!… Eileee!” Where could she be? Who was she? “Eileeeee!”
He couldn’t feel any broken bones, and forced himself up to crawl toward where the voice seamed to be coming from. Every few moments she called and he soldiered on to find her, trying to call back with nothing more than a grunt.
The ledge opened out and he rested against a square rock to catch his breath. As he fell against it, he noticed it made a hollow sound and the surface seamed somehow soft.
He turned to examine it, and found it to be an old large wooden crate. The base of it was smashed, clearly dropped from somewhere above. The ropes that were connected to a Para shoot were still attached. He scraped the snow away from a branded image on its side, and saw a swastika.
All the effort had got his blood flowing. Mild feeling was returning to his legs and his eyes were clearing slightly. He sat there staring at the nazi symbol on the crate and wondered why it was there. There was something silver at its base, a can, with several others peering from the ice. He prised it lose and saw it was a giant tin of baked beans. The crate was full of tinned food.
In the fading light he could see another crate several meters away with the remains of its para shoot draped over a third behind it. Beyond the crate was a dark void and from it he heard her voice once more, much fainter but most certainly coming from that darkness.
He crawled his way towards it and found it to be a small cave like opening in the rock. He tried to call to her as he dragged himself in out of the wind, but she didn’t respond.
Once inside he rested against the back wall. The sun made another brief appearance, sending a shard of golden light into the opening. He was shocked to see the mummified face of a long dead person slumped to his right.
He sat there frozen with fear; he didn’t have the strength to jump. The face was looking straight at him, the eyes still in the sockets, the lips stretched over the teeth. The body was half buried in ice and clearly the remains of a man. His clothing seamed to date from the great war; and as the light quickly faded he saw a rook sack by the bodies side.
In the sack that practically fell apart as he fumbled to open it, was a collection of useful items that could help him survive for a short while, including a old fashioned can opener and a bunch of flair sticks.
For two days he managed to hold out. Using parts of the crates to burn with a box of matches that miraculously still struck after all the years that had passed. He had food, warmth and a gruesome companion for company, but no medication to aid his frost bitten limbs. Of course he was delighted to be alive, but for how long he wondered. Without rescue, he’ll soon be joining his new friend.
For those two days he didn’t hear the woman calling, instead, another sound came that raised his spirits.
The storm had passed but the wind remained relentless in its ferocity, but just like the mysterious voice calling him to safety, the wind carried with it another delightfully familiar sound, that of an engine close by.
He grabbed one of the flair sticks he’d carefully been drying out by the fires he’d kept going, and tentatively held the end into a flame. As the airplane grew louder he begged for the flair to still have a spark before it was too late.
He heard the plain fly overhead, willing the flair to light up. Finally, a spark, and the end erupted into life. He staggered to the ledge holding the flair up, his legs in agony and weak. He could hear the plain circling round as the wind picked up in strength, and just as the fire in his hand began to die he watched as the plain manoeuvred round to take a closer look.
He collapsed, exhausted and weary. This ordeal was finally over. As everything went black the sound of that engine rushing past overhead was the most glorious sound in creation. He thought of his wife, her sweet smile, hazel eyes; her childish giggle. The others didn’t make it, but he at least was going home.
His eyes ached as they tried to open. The first thing he became aware of was the sensation of lying on a warm soft bed. The relative silence enhanced the tinitus ringing constantly in his ears that felt like they were on fire. His body was stiff but eager with the need to move and stretch like waking from a deep sleep a thousand years long. His lower legs also felt like they were burning hot, then his hands and finally his nose. He could only breathe via his dry thirst stricken mouth, and from somewhere an echo of a woman’s voice was talking, gradually becoming clearer until he could hear her plainly. “I repeat, can Dr Forrester please report to the Dispensary immediately. Thank you.”
He realised he was in hospital with no recollection of how he got there. He fully expected to find himself stuck on the mountainside. A rush of excitement overwhelmed him and he fort hard to sit up. He took one look around the room, down upon himself, and lay back choked with shock and sorrow. As soon as he was able to take a breath he yelled, venting his anger and frustration into the air.
Half his legs were missing.
“Your extremely lucky to be alive,” said Doctor Conley. “You’ve been in and out of a coma for the past two months. You’ve lost four fingers and your nose to frost bite, and I’m sorry, but we had no choice but to amputate your legs from the knees. Your eyes are permanently damaged but you’ll manage, and we’ll need to keep an eye on you for long-term effects of oxygen depravation. Otherwise, your fighting fit.”
“Will I go blind?”
“There is the possibility.”
He held his sleeping baby daughter more snugly while observing every detail through the bandages around his face. “As for your face,” said Dr Conley, “I’ll put you in touch with a surgery who can help reconstruct your features.”
The Doctor left and his wife gave him a reassuring hug.
“I’m so sorry Karen,” he said with a whimper.
“Its ok Darren. You’re here that’s all I need.”
“Did they find the others?”
“…No…but, I was talking to the man who lead the team to rescue you, they found some pretty amazing things on the mountain where you were.”
He looked up to her with teary eyes. “Like what?”
“Things from the second world war, and a whole host of old bodies”
“I need to know,” she said, “how did you survive?” He was silent as he found the courage to recall. “First,” he said, “we were one and a half days ahead of schedule and they wanted to continue to the summit. We would have broken the world record but the storm hit. I argued we should sit it out but Luke was adamant we push on… The avalanche came from nowhere. It was dark. I have no idea how but I found a hole in the rock and was sealed in… I was going to freeze to death, then,…”
“…A woman, calling to me.”
“I have no idea, but she kept calling and, I tried to find her. If I didn’t, I’d be dead.”
“Where was she?”
“All I had was her voice. She guided me to the cave that was recently buried under the ice. There was a body, and crates full of supplies.”
“Darren, the team who found you, also found a forgotten chapter of World War 2. It seams the nazi’s were thinking of building a base up there, as mad as it seams. Clearly the mission failed, but they did make an important discovery. A woman’s body of an X German spy.”
Darren could clearly remember that ghostly voice carried on the wind. Could it be her? Karen took some paper from her bag. “Her name was Gretta Von Howgsen. In 1940 she defected from the nazi party and joined the British war effort. She was on the mountain in 1942 to collect intelligence on what they were doing up there. To cut it short, she was captured then escaped when an avalanche wiped out the mission. She lost her supplies and died of exposure very close to where you were found.” She gave him a moment to take it all in. “With her body they found a diary. This is a translated transcript of her last two entries. Would you like to read them?”
“Read it for me. My eyes aren’t up to it yet.”
“October 30th 1942. I’ve managed to evade capture but I fear I may never make it back to the main land. It seams my fate is sealed. The bunker project was destroyed by the snowfall, but they may try once more. I have no means to deliver my intelligence to British HQ, so it must die with me. It seams the legend of this mountain is true, it is a monster that takes lives.”
Karen continued to read. “The bunker is a pivotal part of the Fuhrer’s nuclear project, the cavern providing perfect protection from the explosion. I can only hope and prey to the mighty lord that the allies put a stop to the plan.
If the lord is graceful may he send me rescue, or else may my knowledge be found and delivered in good time.”
“…She saved me.” He said, and Karen smiled as little Chelsea stirred and settled back to sleep. “According to the rescue team,” said Karen, “they think if she did make it back, we’d have won the war three years sooner.”
“Read the last entry,” he said.
“Death, it seams, can be cruel to those he is about to reap, and often takes the fancy to play games. I know there are no survivors from the bunker; such was the violence of the snowfall. I know there is little oxygen up here, yet clearly, as I would hear my own, a caller is somewhere close by.” Darren looked up as she continued to read.
“How can it be for a woman to be calling for me to follow her? My fate is sealed, but my imminent doom if I leave this rocky hole…”