The roar of the crowd on the deck of the carrier filled my ears, punctuated by the pounding of my stubborn heart as it struggled to compensate for the new gravity on the cross. I hung upside down, sweat and blood stinging my eyes, as inverted icebergs slid into view on a canopy of broken ice, as if all the sky had frozen over.
The crowd’s voices carried deep into my mind, rapidly changing pitch and forming into colorful shapes, as if I were slipping headlong into a fugue or some heavy, unkind drug. The sound of Michael Telder’s voice, as he spoke to his people, suddenly reminded me of my place:
“To ‘reckon,’ means to understand,” he said, his voice sputtering and curling around my mind. “And on this day, we come to a mutual understanding. Not simply that we are sending this savage to a rightful death, but that because of his atrocities, we have become a family. An unlikely family. A family born of tragedy and heartbreak. But a family that represents the remaining few of a once great human civilization. A family who will rekindle our civilization at the very bottom of the Earth, on the glacial ice of Antarctica.
This will not be an easy transition. We will endure hardship. Many of us will fall. But in the end we will persevere. We have no other choice. We are humanity’s last hope.”
Shades of Michael Telders danced to the beat of my thumping heart, green and blue Telders, pink and orange Telders, his Telders face weirdly stretching over mine, his words slipping from his mouth into my mine, then somehow backward through my ears like a oily, feverish sickness.
My heart thumped louder and louder. Telders was fading, breaking. His words sputtered and crackled.
“…stand in judgment of Wayne James Robertson, and let suffer… our sufferings… let his pain be our pain… let his blood be our blood. Let his death… a cleansing. And afterward, he… plummets… this frigid ocean, we will… forward. To… future… humanity. Not looking back… never forget….”
The deck whorled, pulsing, flashing, strobing, tinged by things (colors?) I no longer could identify. Was I the Wayne James Robertson? Was I suffering the sufferings that he spoke into my mouth? All those eyeballs and fingers and mouths dancing around. Each glance, each little gesture, or tiny judgment, was I?
“They want you dead,” a voice hissed. It was new. A brand new voice. Like a snake—if a snake could have a voice—coiling, twisting, slithering around my ear. Or was it my own? Was I thinking myself?
“It won’t be long now,” it said. “Not too much longer.”
“WHO—!” I screamed.
Michael’s voice had become hollow and unreal, a thumping, distant drum. But this new voice was clear, and sinister… and true.
“Please help muh—,” I told it.
A roar. A lot of voices. Thousands… of far away voices. And shattering, crackling. Howling wind. Splash. And then cold, cold, cold, cold, cold….