Maybe the hell was real, after all. Only that it was not a burning lake where the soul was cooked in endless, scorching torments; but a horrifying peak crowded by gelid blizzards, in a planet frozen as the most portentous glacier, crystalizing under the unbearable coldness of the universe. With scarcely a mere possibility of opening your mouth in order to breathe, for the breath could get freeze in less than a second.
Welcome to Mars, little darling, he congratulated himself in his mind. Or the remains of it. And he prepared to open the intercom for the first report. What implied to emit a phrase as clear and short as possible, because there were not many chances to be understood among the devil blizzard, nor air enough for recovering the breath wasted speaking. Hanging over a precipice a thousand miles high, clinging to a cliff made of sharp and frosty black rock, trying to avoid being tumbled as a mosquito struggling for making a move in the middle of a fierce storm, that, that was a Christmas box.
― 13.1 –he let out in a quick gasp, pushing and freeing the device button just as quickly.
He perceived a deaf creak, almost inaudible, after the brief red blinking of the switching-on. Maybe they got the massage, maybe they not. Now his problem was to reach the point 14.6 uneventfully. That meant before the real storm was unleashed, and the really raw temperatures dropped down to the minimum. Beyond imagination.
Once there, he would take visual record of whatever was possible of capturing among the Dantesque thickness of those gusts, and of some scraps probably non-existent by then. After ten years of leaving what once was the splendid red planet, the only thing remained was a vast and cold darkness lording over its surface, sweeping away any human trace. Just a few reinstallations of the last mining settlements were lingered, raised by expeditions sent in the last decade for extracting the aresite, a rare Martian mineral that was a pot of gold for the fat cats on Earth. Finishing freezing the scorching Martian deserts was not enough. They had to inflict the deathblow gnawing its cold entrails.
Or as in his case, taking advantage of the inconsolable loss of a multimillionaire old man, who refused to give up and swallow the final abandonment, vanishing and death of a loved one on those forgotten glacial steppes. That an eccentric tycoon squandered his fortune hoping to find some sign of a relative that never returned to Earth after the massive evacuation of Mars, performed in the last lustrum, it was not his business. As long as his services were paid according to what they were worth. And they were worth a lot. None ordinary person dared to leave an inhabited and safe planet, crossed the deep space through years, and landed on another one, deserted and hellish, taking the risk of dying frozen and snatched by the winds as soon as it was stepped on.
Not to mention climbing a crag 14.6 levels high with that climate forecast. It was insane. As the amount of money he would get when he came back with the evidence that in that place there was nothing at all. A shame. Although lot of people claimed that the evacuation of the red planet had not been as diligent as it should, and that many people was left behind or remained hidden between its rocky folds, nobody had ever a single reliable proof about that fact. Not even a crazy multimillionaire.
― 14.6 –he panted finally.
There he was. Although he had not any clue about what “there” was exactly. It was impossible get through the blizzard, neither with his sight, nor with his body. He required all his skills as climber and explorer to avoid being rejected out of the edge on that not anticipated plain coming across out of the blue. So the old crazy man was not that crazy after all. Just right at the agreed point.
Now the good part came. With a monumental effort he had managed to use the crossed winds barrier, in the precise moment, to anchor himself into the stiff ground beneath his feet. Now he just had to place the high technology tele-range of his goggles among that berserk gale made of frosty shavings, aiming and registering the whole plain, if it really was worthy of its name and not just a brief landing before the next wall of sharp and endless stones.
Whatever the case, that was the arriving point established, so he would took the record and would send the last message: “Done”, and he would go down to the camp settled miles away beneath him, on the nearest plain they found; there they would gather all the stuff, keeping going down until the base camp, being transported to the ship and preparing the trip back.
Piece of cake, he thought, activating the goggles at last, which opened the blind barrier raised by the winds, going through it with its powerful eye, to see how an inconceivable sight was unfolded before him. So inconceivable that he had no time for any reaction. It would not have been possible in that freezing swirl of howling darkness either, anyway. The goggles emitted two flashes for recording before the semi-human shadows moved and fell over him. Not even in the last moment his mind could figure out the source of the dreadful bellow that filled with horror his ears: if from the wind, from those bestial forms or from himself.
The only thing captured for the monitors in the camp, would be a doubtful register of dark and blur figures on a rocky background almost indiscernible. Nothing more. Not enough to any meaningful statement about something completely unthinkable in a place like that.
About the sound of bones and tendons shattering and tearing, followed by the deranged scratching of teeth on the flesh and maws devouring, there would be no record at all.