Sotto Voce


Beneath the surface, deep inside the ice, Antartica is a menagerie of sound. The glacier crackles and shivers and pops. Hollow, glottal thuds shamble in from uncertain distances and painful shrieks caused by the release of extreme pressures drill your ears. It is constant. You might think that this cacophony is the voice of Antarctica, but you’d be wrong. This is just the rattling of the engine. Its true voice is found between all that noise, haunting the negative space, betwixt the mindless crackling, thudding, and shrieking, formed in those brief pauses where the sounds aren’t. What resolves is a monstrous, sunken voice—an old, haunting sort of awareness.

And it is angry: despising the spoiling heat from above and below and hateful of any life within.

The continent had accepted me at first. It’s true voice expressed its love, time and time again. Epochs lumbered past. We were the same. We are the same. But although time moves slowly down in the ice, time does move. And it was only a matter of time before the continent learned of the tiny passenger coiled around my heart.

It cannot abide this burning life. It tells me this. It is wrong. It is opposite. The claws and teeth of the continent try their best to get to it, but I am stronger, even this deep in the glass. I have lived more recently, my will remains fierce, and I repudiate the continent with all that I am worth.

It does not go quietly. Thick layers of ice shift over the Earth’s crust. Loud, baleful pops and hollow thuds slam into my head. Cracks and furrows gouge the ice, searching, seeking, like semi-conscious knives that have somehow caught the scent of my heart. Somewhere, far off, something huge is collapsing, exploding. Stentorian demands in Antarctica’s ancient, ragged tongue shiver through the ice.

Rend that foul thing from your chest

I push back. I form a pocket of air around me, hurling tens of thousands of miles of ice away from the pole. The continent groans, cries out in pain, as if I’ve broken its back.

But it can’t last. Levered against the planet’s iron core, the continent hauls back, closing the gap with one powerful, authoritative strike.

I am crushed. Flat. My mind, slow. I can’t protect it anymore. I can’t… think. I feel the glacier’s hands working on me, clawing, despoiling. It is impossible to resist.