It was that kind of night. The kind when you couldn’t sleep even if you wanted to. The electricity prickled around you, an invisible spirit running scratchy fingers along your spine.
Nothing worked properly in the pod on nights like this. The communications equipment, temperamental at the best of times, had been reduced to making a whistling noise. Not that Adrian cared now; who did he need to talk to at this point? He did mind that the kettle wasn’t working. And, of course, there was the heating. Some days it barely reached two degrees inside the research station.
The radio crackled into life.
‘Adrian. Are you there?’
He ignored it and walked over to the door. Behind him it began whistling again. He moved into the next room, closing the door behind him.
The corridor was in darkness. Another malfunction. Adrian walked the length of the facility in total blackness, until he reached the observation module. There he sat, wrapped in blankets, and watched.
It was the sort of beauty he had come here for in the first place; a harsh loveliness which spoke of solitude, and death. The thick snow drifts left by yesterday’s blizzard appeared green beneath the aurora, giving the landscape an alien aspect.
He remained there for a few hours, staring, waiting. Where are you? When he finally gave up his hands and feet ached from cold and lack of movement.
He walked back to the first pod, to his last box of food supplies. He opened a tin of beef stew and ate it cold. The radio buzzed.
‘Adrian. Please answer. Are you there?’
He put down the tin and went over to the communicator.
‘Adrian. Thank God. I thought … never mind. We can send the plane back tomorrow afternoon.’
‘It could be our only window, Adrian. We have to move quickly before the next storm.’
‘No. I’m not leaving.’
There was silence at the other end. Then:
‘We’re coming for you Adrian. We’ll be there tomorrow afternoon. Be ready.’
Adrian pulled the radio out of its housing. He opened the outer door and was surprised, as he always was, by the blast of icy air which hit him. He threw the radio out into the snow and sealed the door again.
He took his food back to the observation area and sat down again, pulling the blanket around him. He finished eating and resumed his vigil. After an hour or so he fell asleep.
A loud bang awoke him. He looked up and saw her, pressed against the glass, watching him. He leapt up and ran back to the outer door, pausing only briefly to dress himself for the outside world. He hurried out into the snow, leaving the door wide open in his haste.
‘Are you there?’ he called. But the snow seemed to absorb his words; he felt suddenly quite alone and useless.
Then he heard it. The same as last time, haunting and ethereal; music which sang of a life spent entirely alone at the end of the earth. It came from a place ancient and unknown. The notes entered his bloodstream and saturated his body like a drug.
‘I’m coming,’ he shouted into the wind. ‘Please don’t go.’
The music stopped. He hurried around to the other side of the station, where the observation pod was. She had gone. He slumped to the floor, exhausted, and buried his face in his hands.
The touch on his arm was so light that he barely noticed it. When he looked up she was beside him and she began to sing again. She sang to him of longing, and loneliness, as she led him away into the icy wilderness.