The entire surface of the crater was slathered in some kind of translucent orange and red flecked goo, almost exactly the color and consistency of orange marmalade, and the ice beneath it was packed incredibly dense and perfectly smooth, as if it had been exposed to  serious, unearthly pressures—perhaps tens of thousands of atmospheres. I’d never seen anything like it. It was slippery as hell, but oddly, the goo added some traction as I inched down the slope.

As I descended, I focused on the gray hulk in the center of the crater. From what I could tell, the object was about 10 or 15 feet in length and the surface was lumpy and indistinct. I could feel my heart beating a little faster as I got closer and  I unconsciously hastened my pace. Further into the hole it was noticeably warmer and more comfortable, and the air was thicker, like it was hugging me as I moved. I picked up speed, and before I knew it I was sliding in the goo, skiing it it, and suddenly I felt I could breathe easier and deeper than ever before, and with each inhalation I felt lighter and more energetic, and the next thing I knew I was laughing and sprinting down the slope, running, sliding, slipping, my arms pinwheeling… and then without warning I reached the floor of the crater, slipped backward, and watched in slow motion as one of my legs whipped up in front of me, and then the other, followed by a brief moment of weightless bliss… and then I collapsed neck first on top of myself.

However, instead of shattering my spine, or cracking my skull open, or suffering any kind of pain or discomfort in the least, the marmalade goo grabbed me, hugged me, fully absorbing the shock in a warm, delightful embrace, then let go and my body came to rest against the floor without a scratch.

I laid there for a while, as the strange high wore off, then propped myself up, sat up, covered with the goop, and shook my hands and bushed it from my arms and legs; it sloughed off easily. I poked at the goo, and smacked it with an open hand. It absorbed the blow, then relaxed. I punched it a few times, harder and harder, and felt nothing more than the wind on my fist, then the grip of the slime as it somehow obviated the force. Weird.

I got to my feet and crossed the distance of the crater to the center, my head still very muddled, and without thinking, reached up laid my hands on the gray hulk. Suddenly, the surface immediately below my palms cracked and spidered, and before I could even shift my weight, a massive explosion blew me backward into darkness.