The engines of the plane groaned in a tangible, though nearly inaudible rumbling. The noise wormed its way to dwell in the innermost ear and brain, making them simmer and pop. Occasional gusts of strong wind rattled the metal walls like a demand for freedom from within a jailor's cage. It was bright, horribly, artificially bright inside. No window could let in air, or even the plastic pretence of daylight caught at a strange angle peculiar to aeroplanes. Just huge expanses of white; padded walls and a hard grey floor made up the entire interior. The cleanliness, the motion and the air were all oppressive, depressive, nauseating.
Guy was not directly bothered by any of these circumstances. His concentration was within. It must be so, if a political prisoner is not to run mad. With the utmost exertion of willpower, he tried to ignore the sickening wedge in his mouth. The astringent taste and ceaseless pressure reminded him of a dentist mercilessly taking impressions of his teeth for a brace as a boy. Condemned to a dentists chair for the ten, or a million hours it felt he was doomed to spend in this plane. Those captors really knew what they were doing.
No less torturous were the cord bindings around his hands. Guy could feel them cutting ruts into his tender skin. He could not move his hands for fear of embedding the ties deeper, and a strange and painful numbness had taken over his two arms.
Singularly, Guy could possibly endure either of his trials, but for a recent addition to his luxury cabin. Admittedly it was a novelty, but it was not one which stood in danger of amusing him for long. Pleasure in gaining something to look at rapidly ebbed away as it scuttled closer and closer. A whopping great spider. Christ, it was ugly; all made of black sinewy gunge. Guy's hunger flew out with the wind sailing past the plane to see eight hideous arched legs moving in a frenzied, clicking little dance across the floor.
This companion was not assigned to him by his friendly neighbourhood captors. It was not launched upon him from a trapdoor, but oozed out of a minuscule crack between him and the cargo. A stowaway. See, this is what these guys should be worrying about, thought Guy. Look at that thing! It had green hair, like mould had set in upon its repulsive back, probably had fangs too, and reproduced like a rabbit on speed. How many crops could that thing infect, devastate with the hard to pronounce foreign disease it was sure to smuggle in? That bugger would kill. Instead they were bearing down upon him: a harmless, though intelligent guy, not strong, or rich, or with anything to his name but a Maths and Astrophysics degree. It made him sick. As sick as the increasingly erratic bumping of the plane, and gag in his mouth taking away his freedom of speech.
But the gag was the least of his worries now. Guy's skin itched with the proximity of the spider as it edged its way like an alien craft near his leg. There were fangs. Guy saw them glint in the light. A sudden buffet of wind bounced it within an centimetre of him. A shudder of horror rippled all through Guy. Unable to move at all, he closed his eyes tight and braced himself.
But the bite never came. Something major was happening to the aircraft, for the next thing Guy felt was the impact of his head against one of the walls. A bang of sound burst in his eardrum with such painful ferocity the whole of his head was set ringing. A sting of cool, sharp air pushed against his face. Bright, blinding light exploded before his eyes, and then he saw no more.
When Guy awoke, the only sensation he could feel was cold. One entire half of his face was numbed solid by cold. It was pressed against something very wet with pointed, icicle fingers. An arctic breeze was ravishing his back, and the hands caught up upon it.
But the gag was out of his mouth. He could taste a crystal liquid inside it, and feel something wet trickling out of the corner of it. Slowly he raised his pounding head.
White. Another expanse of white, this time on a grander scale, ranging further than the eye could see, pure, virginal, natural white. None of your false neon lights here. This was the grandeur of nature; cobalt blue water, rolls upon rolls of a winter wonderland, magnificent mountains of an odd gnarled shape. And it was bloody cold.
Though he could not think through the fog in his head, he obeyed the single instinct which took possession of him: run. Stumbling to his knees, then with difficulty to his feet, he ran. He ached with cold. Every joint had stiffened and protested against movement. His legs dragged along, crunching and squelching in the snow. Had he possessed all his usual strength, he would not get along much faster. Each step plunged deep in snow, or slid in ice beneath him. He was hurdling, not walking. And all the while he could hear the grunting, mournful squeal of aircraft wheeling round in the white spotted air.
Where to hide on a stretch of cotton landscape, where he was a dot of ink on a white shirt? He, Guy, an innocent man, a man of genius! He did not deserve such an end. What kind of uncultured, savage people would deprive the world of a brain like his?
His barbaric jailers were upon him once more. A smudging shadow trickled towards him over the ice. Guy, half falling, half sinking, struggled onwards. The hum of the planes grew louder and louder until it suddenly burst forth in a whine and a thud. Close by him a shower of snow splintered upwards in the air. Another to his left. Another far in front. Bullets.
The last shot was aimed ridiculously wide of him. Guy almost laughed at the aim until a jolt beneath his feet made him stop dead and raise his eyes. The ridge before him was trembling, disintegrating in a sharp quiver under his nose. An avalanche. He stood, awe-struck to see what one bullet could do to this strong, compact snow. Bloody Global Warming.
Quick as a deer Guy turned and darted in a desperate bid to escape the powder descending upon him. It did not matter if he died. He had what they wanted, not just caught in the intricate maze of his mind, but on paper. They did not know he had the papers someone, someday, could find.
Falling off his feet, Guy reached the edge of his slab of ice. An immense cliff, sparkling and brilliant reached down into dazzlingly blue water. It was like a huge magical swimming pool, winking to him from far below. Guy paused for a moment, and jumped.
He fell in a great splash into the freezing water just as half of the iceberg collapsed. Mini-earthquakes cracked along it, and the heap of sliding snow came crashing down in a crescendo. He did not emerge from the wreckage.
Yet later, out in the ocean, a package of paper bobbed its way to the surface: his precious plans. His plans for an atomic rocket which could cause similar devastation not just to this planet, but to the Universe.
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