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The Crypt


By Tom McmulkinPublished 3 years ago 6 min read

‘The Crypt’

The kiss of cold air woke Jago from his restless sleep, his eyes creaked open to the dull light that seeped into his cell. Blinking, Jago wiped the sleep and frosty gunk from the corners of his eyes. Looking up from his awkward foetal position at the figure looming over him, Jago saw a hooded person, wearing a thick, weathered brown coat and worn-out gloves. Was it an uncanny skill and awareness that alerted him to the presence, or simply his unconscious mind warning him of danger, the question was mute as the figure, looming near the doorway, was seemingly the exact match of presence and stature as his friend North. Taking a second to listen closely, Jago focused on this new arrival, feeling for anything awry, he sniffed the air for familiar scents, a few quick glances from head to toe completed his rudimentary assessment. Deciding finally that it was his friend, Jago took his hand of the knife under his pillow as he swung both legs out from under the thermo-blanket that barely covered him. He rubbed the remaining sleep from his tired eyes, and slapped his cheeks with both hands to shake off the lingering grip that was the comfort and warmth of his slab-like cot. When in reality, the sleep he had just had was one of the worst of his life, they all were, every single one. Jago’s room lacked any homeliness or comfort, as there was no comfort down here to speak of, the only wares, or memorabilia he held onto were the knives he honed most waking hours, extra scraps of leather, blankets, some food and a tiny heart-shaped locket that belonged to his daughter. A picture folded up inside, framed a younger version of himself, his wife and their daughter, both of them remained trapped in the locket, and in the sweet ignorance of time.

Standing up, Jago shuffled across the tiny room to the wash basin near the foot of his bed. The handle of the tap turned begrudgingly as the familiar sound of pipes gurgled and shook in the effort to bring water up from the underground cache. The guttering pipes finally spat out freezing water into his cupped hands. Jago Splashed the icy liquid quickly onto his face, he gasped in response, his hands feeling the cold sting, his chest heaving with the sudden alertness and clarity the water gave. He quickly turned the taps off, drying his callused hands with a soiled rag that barely warmed them. Jago slowly turned to face his friend, now impatiently leaning against the door of the cell. North was a shorter man than Jago, about 5’9, sturdy with broad shoulders and arms like tree roots. He wore his hood up, shrouding his face in the shadow from the dim light in the ceiling of the cell. “Let’s go” Jago grumbled, grabbing his heavy, ragged coat from the makeshift hook welded hastily onto the bars. They left Jago’s cell, locking it behind them and began walking through the long winding corridors of ‘D-Block’ in their semi-underground prison. Passing by fellow prisoners in their cells, each of them stirring from their own bed, the light of a new day barely creeping down into the depths of The Crypt. Jago’s thoughts ever wandered whilst he navigated through the cold, familiar place he had made his home these last 3 years.

Had it already been 3 years? Jago pondered, Damn this impenetrable cloud. The only real way of measuring time down in The Crypt was found in the coming and going of the supply drops, and even then, the days weren’t like they used to be. They were longer, colder, bitter and depressing. Every single person down here could attest to that. Jago’s boots found stairs and began to climb, his gloves finding fresh snow on the rails, as his thoughts drifted ever backward into the past.

20 years ago, a civil war erupted between the two floating cities of Liber and Nona. Extremists from Liber sabotaged the engines of Nona in a bid for more power and resources, the extremists penetrated the very heart of the floating city, resulting in Nona falling out of the sky in a matter of minutes. The city crashed to earth, making a crater a kilometre wide in the thick ice and killing every single citizen living in the city. It was genocide on a scale never seen before, and the extremists payed dearly.

Jago bumped into a fellow prisoner by accident, jotting him back to the present, he grumbling something apologetic without thinking and moved to go around the figure, who Jago just recognized as the crazy old man who wandered alone beyond the crater. The white bearded, wrinkle-faced man mumbled something nonsensical in return and kept shuffling on past. Old man made no sense at the best of times to Jago, but North, who was fond of him had just started a conversation with the old codger in the same puzzling gruff speech they always conversed in. Jago’s thoughts then shifted back into the past, as he looked out past his comrade to the opposite side of the crater, where he could just make out through the falling snow, other occupants moving in a slow uniform pattern, up the stairs and through the twists and turns of the metallic labyrinth.

The Emperor of Sky State had sent workers down to build this prison out of the bones and twisted metal of the fallen city of Nona, reviving only a portion of it. And so, The Crypt was built, with no locks, with no doors, and no guards, Earth itself and its harsh, impossible environment was their prison. With no way off and temperatures fluctuating between -20 to -5 degrees in the lower and warmer depths of The Crypt, and reaching almost -50 degrees outside. Endless storms and blizzards swept the icy plains searching for warm bodies to wrap their cold teeth around. It was hell on Earth. One caveat, the leaders did not condemn the prisoners sent down here to death, only the very likely hood of it. As such, basic supplies were dropped off for those who remained, but over 20 years, the population that started in the thousands, mostly extremists from Liber, had now dwindled down to just over a hundred, bodies were easy to bury out here in the snow, and Jago had buried more than his share.

North placed a hand on Jago’s shoulder, jostling him for the second time that morning from his distant mind, “Apologies North, I’m not yet fully awake my friend, what news from the old man?”

“He feels a storm brewing Jago, but something fell is on the wind, from what he can make out, this one is going to be bad, and long, perhaps weeks” North finished.

“Feels it in his bones does he?”, “Aye, he does”.

Jago looked back at the old man now descending some stairs down the corridor a ways, “any idea when it will hit?” he probed, North shrugged in reply. “The supply drop is supposed to be tomorrow, if we’re lucky” Jago replied worryingly, looking to his friend again, North giving a brief nod, “We need to leave within the hour then, is everyone ready?”

“About as ready as we’ll ever be” North replied, feeling a shudder of cold hit him, he pulled his coat closer as the rogue breeze flew by.

“The drop zone is 20 kilometres away,” Jago commented “I hope you are as confident in everyone else, as you are of yourself, they haven’t made the journey as much as you or I” Jago stated.

“It usually goes smoothly Jago” spluttered North, “Let’s just hope for a better outcome then last month. We still meeting Lorcan and his cronies at the first waypoint?”

“Unfortunately, yes. C’mon, let’s go meet the others”. North and Jago made their way through the last few levels of the haphazardly designed prison. They walked up Catwalks, past pulleys, and ropes strung down lengths and lengths, none making the bottom. Flights of frozen stairs passed under foot, the likes of which had broken more necks than any food dispute or gang brawl down here. The grey sky above floated snowflakes down in slow arcs, the unique patterns swaying side to side as they escaped the westerly winds above. Jago and North left fresh footprints in the now centimetres of snow, joining a few other shoe prints. Early risers, no doubt their companions making their way to the dugout. The two figures hunched further into the coats as they make their way up the last level, the air growing colder with each step. They donned their goggles, poking their heads hesitantly out of the semi protected shelter like meerkats. The blank horizon and the emptiness beyond was daunting, were it not for the ceaseless glacial winds biting at every pore, on top of deadly crevasses littering the icefield in all directions, it might have made for a nice view.

Sci Fi

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    Tom McmulkinWritten by Tom Mcmulkin

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