The Walk

by Aralez
I wrote a short story which is basícally a "The Thing/UFOAM" crossover. Have fun!

The Walk
A short story

He was still running. No, that's not right, he was staggering, slowly making step after step on the icy and snowy surface, feeling the weakness grow bigger and bigger. Two days ago, than he had been running, his legs still fresh and unhurting. But now...

He didn't dare to look behind him, he knew it was there, he could feel it and hear it's thoughts. "No! That's crap." he whispered to himself. "I'm only weak and tired and start to see and hear things, that's only normal". He didn't feel content with his own explanation, but he didn't want to think about the voice in his head anymore.

"Normal... i would give a lot to return to that "normal" times again..."

-

Carlos Cortés was one of the descendants of the famous Hernán Cortes, the famous conquistador, the man that crushed the aztec empire and its king, the man that finally connected America and Europe, albeit in a way which was often reffered as gruesome and inhuman.

And this fact, albeit  almost 500 years later, was the reason for the trouble Carlos was in. That and the frightening Pedro, that teached him how to run.

-

When Carlos was a small boy, he had a long way to his school, 5 times a week, 5 kilometres to the school and 5 kilometres back. And as the Cortés family wasn't rich enough for a busticket for him, or even a small bike, he had to walk the way. But that was no problem for Carlos, he even started to like the long ways, the people he met and the landscape he saw.

That was, until his father opened the small bar. Then the trouble begun. And his way became dangerous for a while...

His father had opened a small bar, or better "drinking place" in one of his attempts of getting some money for his huge family, 5 kids and a wife, not to think of the two dogs that ate like a bunch of werewolves, like he always said when he was kidding. That wasn't a bad idea at a first glance, as there were a lot of thirsty souls in Merida.

But it was. Senior Cortazar had a huge chain of restaurants all over the town and Carlos' father was starting to attract lots of his customers with his bar as he had cheaper prices and you didn't need a smoking to be allowed to enter.

Pedro Cortazar, the son of the restaurant chain owner was three years older and about double the size of Carlos. And when Carlos met him on his way home from school for the first time he thought "Luckily i don't have to know that evil looking dirtbag". That was seconds before Pedro did beat him right in the face.

When Carlos returned home that day, bleeding and beaten all over, his father went out to search the boy that had done this. He returned half an hour later with a sinister face and only said "He will leave you in peace from now on".

But he didn't. Carlos learned Pedros name, but never was told by his father about his whereabouts. And so he lived without understanding why he was beat up several times by Pedro and sometimes even some of his comerades. Everytime his father went out to search them, but he always returned with a depressed look on his face. But one day this changed.

-

One day Carlos was again on his way back from school when he saw the well known sillhouette of Pedro and one of his friends standing around a corner of the street he was walking in. And instead of giving in and standing still when beaten, he decided to try something else. He ran. And to his big surprise Pedro and his friends couldn't keep up with him! Carlos' heart almost bursted with joy and as a final triumph he made some insulting gestures towards his hunters.

From this day on he no longer had any bruises when he arrived at home. He still was hunted unsuccessfully by Pedro on some days, but after a certain time even that stopped.

-

"I have to be thankful to Pedro" he thought sarcastically. It was very cold, but he didn't feel it, simply because his movement on the frozen ground created enough temperature to keep him warm. "I've read somewhere that you feel warm even in the cold shortly before you die. Must be the body getting numb..." He found a bit of energy to fasten his step, to reassure him he wasn't dieing. Yet.

-

Years after his fathers bar and Pedro and most of his youth, Carlos was an excellent runner. He used to win severeal Marathons over a year, and almost came close to world record standards, he was a good enough to develop a fateful idea.

He had done some Ultra-Marathons whith a length of several hundred kilometres, had taken part on some 24hours-running-contests as well and he mastered them with no problem. Than he had the idea of the "tribute walk". That name was his idea and the whole project as well.

Seeking an ultimate target and seeing the attraction his name and ancestor developed, he decided to do a peaceful expedition to the south pole by foot. He would show that the name Cortés didn't have to be feared. It should be kept in good memory.

-

After two  years of training in the cold winters of Norway and other scandinavian countries, he decided that the time was here. His small team was sponsored by a huge spanish corporation, that provided Carlos and his two comerades with everything they needed for the project. They would make sure the company's name was mentioned when they arrived at their target, but that was just fair, Carlos thought, seeing the excellent quality of the equipment. And he was in the best shape of his life...

-

"Please stop. We have to know the location, we mean no harm to you." It was Pamelas voice. But he knew it wasn't Pamela. Or at least, no longer. "Please Carlos, stop, i need to talk to you." Now the voice had changed to Marks tone. Carlos managed to go a bit faster. When the voices were this clear the being was getting nearer. He had to go faster, no matter the cost...

-

When the project team arrived at Outpost 32, they had a several thousand mile ship-travel  behind them. And after seeing the tiny crew of the base and the small dots of his team before the huge icy landscape, Carlos felt an undefined fear in his stomache. He fought back  that feeling like he had fought his fear of Pedro back in his youth. And soon he had trust in his abilities again.

The team.
There was him, the world-famous runner. He was trained, equipped and had the will to complete his mission.
The documentation, be it photos or videos, should be done by Pamela Seltzer, a famous british photograph. She was well known for her phantastic landscape photos and had experience in cold enviroments, as she had lived for several years in Greenland.
The driver and mechanic of the team, Mark Collini, was a real wizard, he could repair engines or vehicles that other mechanics would have given up already, in no time. He had been a member of the italian army, he had been stationed in the Alps and the cold of the Antarctica was no problem for him, either.

The plan was that he was walking towards the southpole, starting from the Outpost at the Weddell Sea. Pam and Mark would follow in their snowcat, provided with a huge tank that was on a huge sled, dragged by the small Snowcat vehicle. In the nights they would rest in small tents.

In case something went wrong, the Outpost would send his helicopter, a russian Mil-8 especially equipped for the harsh environment. The Outpost was only used seldom and had only place for six people: the three members of the "tribute walk" team, two pilots (Sergeij and  Pjotr Rugatzki, two brothers) and another engineer, Dimitrij Sakhalin.

The russians were choosen as they had years of experiences in the Antarctica and, the main factor, they were way "cheaper" than workers of other countries. No other pilot would have worked under this circumstances for so little money. Still it was a small fortune for those ex-soldiers that once had lived from one euro per month.

-

The night was gone and Carlos dared to stop a moment and turned around to look for his "companion". First he thought he had managed to loose it, but after some few seconds he saw the brown and black point at the horizon that moved slowly in his direction. He couldn't make out any specific shape. "It seems to loose its consistancy. It looses energy, like i do" he thought. When the thing had started chasing him it had looked like a huge dog with very long legs, but later it changed its form into something humanlike with monstrous tumours growing out of his head.

" I think it depleted a lot of his energy in the dog state and then turned into something more "economic" to keep up following me" Carlos thought about this. Back then in the night when  his team died he managed to flee with the snowcat, the dog-being chasing him. Then it had to slow down and changed it's shape.

Unluckily the snowcat ceased to work only a few minutes after that.

And now, two days and nights were gone and the thing still followed him. It had "evolved" into several creatures during the hunt, from a large floating gelee like thing to a huge blob that tried to spit at him, into some increasingly wild shapes.

"I must not let it reach me. I don't know exactly what it plans arenow, but i can feel it will be nothing good."
Without hesitating he turned around and started walking again, eating a handful of snow to fight his hunger and thirst.

-

Everything had started really well, the weather forecasts were good and they had begun the "walk" for the pole. There had been a small problem with the snowcat on the first day, the ice and snow somehow managed to block the steering and Carlos had to walk several hours alone before Pam and Mark caught up again. Mark had managed to turn an empty tincan into a plate that kept the snow and ice outside the steering parts. Carlos was really lucky to have chosen him as an engineer at that moment.

-

Days had passed and the distance to the pole decreased slowly. Wind came up, nothing serious, but enough to wipe out all the tracks he and the snowcat made. They doublechecked all GPS-units and the radioequipments they had, each night and each morning. A failure here could cost their lives, so they worked with extreme caution. Each night they radioed the Outpost,  most of the times they got an answer, sometimes the connection was too weak to understand the answers, though.

After a  week the helicopter met them at a fixed position and brought fresh food and equipment. The Rugatzki brothers tried to make Carlos drink some Vodka, but he gently refused. He needed a clear head.

"We had some problems, we couldn't receive the last two daily radio reports you did send, so we flew here as promised without knowing if you would be here in time. It seems the wind somehow troubles our antennas." Sergeij told that with  the voice of a man who had seen this a lot of times. "Another thing: Did you leave some of the equipment behind? We saw a small dark spot some kilometres ago..."

Carlos looked at Pam and Mark. They both shook their heads. He answered "Well, it seems that is none of our stuff there, maybe you can check it out on your way back? It could be a historic piece of an old expedition or maybe a small meteroid, they are found very often at the poles."

Pjotr looked suddenly very awake. "Do you think it is valuable?" Sergeij looked very interested now, too.

Carlos thought about the small amount of money they get and felt that it would be a good thing for his conscience if the russian Outpost team would get something from this tour as well. "Yes, it could be of value. You really should check it out."

-

It was some hours later when the helicopter landed at a small ice-plateau. Pjotr and Sergeij had to walk some hundred meters to the dark spot they had seen from above. "Looks like the ground has been burned, it's a small crater" "Yes Pjotr, if it is a huge meteroid we are rich" They both went for the middle of the flat crater. The crater itself wasn't very huge, only about 10 meters in diameter, but there were sharp pieces of broken ice, so it took some time to reach the centre. "Hey look, Sergeij, it's metallic" Pjotr pointed at a small metallic shape. It was about a half meter large and had the shape of a small disc, a crossshaped piece of metal on it's top.

"I think it's a piece of a satelite. I'm not sure if we get any money for it, Sergeij" "Well let's see if we can free it of the ice cover, we should take it with us anyway, maybe Dimitrij can tell us if it is of worth."

-

As it was still early enough and the pilot brothers wanted to know if they had found something expensive really urgently, they decided to fly to the position where Mark was. They wanted to ask him, the closest man with technical abilities, about their object.

Carlos and Pam were making some photos of the small camp, the team would not travel today, this day was meant for rest. The voyage should continue tomorrow.

Suddenly Mark shouted: "Hey listen, i think our friends come back" He pointed to the horizon.

-

The helicopter was still some kilometres from the small camp, when the pilots suddenly heared a hissing sound out of the back-cabin. "What the hell..." Brown smoke filled the helicopter. "Quick, land" Sergeij shouted. Pjotr tried to, but somehow couldn't move. The brown smoke somehow had taken some shape and where it touched his skin it burned like fire. "Sergeij! Help me.." Sergeij didn't answer. Pjotr could take a look at the reflection in the front-windows glass. He saw Sergeij in heavy spasms, he somehow seemed to melt. "Bu..." He couldn't finish his thought. The helicopter crashed into the ground and exploded.

-

The team looked with eyes and mouths wide open in the direction of the explosion. They stood there for some seconds, simply unable to comprehend what had happened. Mark was the first to react. "Quick we have to go there" They packed all things together in a hurry and drove off. They woud need at least an hour to arrive at the rests of the helicopter.

-

"If we hadn't gone there everything would have been better" Carlos thought about the memories from that day. "I mean what did we hope to find at the crash site anyway. They were dead when we saw the explosion, they couldn't have survived that. And that thing would have been frozen and dead now."

His legs were starting to feel numb and this time he felt they would not recover as usually when he slowed down. "Damnit, it must be tired, too. Let's see." He looked over his shoulder. In the same distance as last time a small black spot that tumbled through the night.

-

They arrived at the wreck when the night already had begun, still there was a small fire visible over a large distance, the helicopter had carried excessive amounts of fuel and they took a long time to burn. About 100 metres from the burning pieces Mark stopped. He and Pam walked slowly towards what had once been the cockpit. They were shocked by the totalness of the destruction. Carlos' head had sunken down. He sat silently on the snowcat, waiting for Pams and Marks return. He didn't need to go closer to know that there wasn't one thing to save, not to speak of survivors.

"Hey look! There is something moving! " Pam shouted surprised and maybe a bit hopefully. She held Marcs arm with one hand and pointed over at the burned corpses of the pilots, that were amazingly still sitting in their chairs, albeit both the chairs and pilots were nothing more than black pieces and pointing in awkward directions.

"You have to be kidding me" Mark said, but then he saw the movement, too.

Carlos looked up. "That can't be" he muttered. Just when he wanted to stand up and walk over to the others,as he heard a insanely loud shrieking scream, a scream, not comparable to anything he ever heard. A huge shape with lots of arms and tentacles caught Mark and Pamela and drew them towards its center.

Carlos was mesmerized. He didn't know what to do. Mark and Pam screamed and struggled to free themselves, but their efforts were in vain. They dissapeared into the dark mass.

The mass itself was looking like it searched through something, Carlos could actually feel that it was that way, it searched the two bodies for something. Suddenly the feeling changed, the mass hadn't found what it looked for and simply absorbed the bodies it had swallowed. Then it saw Carlos. Or better, Carlos felt that it saw him.

He heard someone talking in his head with a voice he hadn't heard for years, Pedros voice! "Where is the Outpost? Give me the coordinates"

He refused to answer.

Carlos felt that the mass was getting angry and that it changed it's shape. He started the snowcats engine and drove off as fast as he could. A giant dog on long legs ran after him with a frightening speed and even more frightening screams.

Carlos drove some hundred meters when he realized that the dog was slowly closing up on him. "I have to loose weight". He released the tank sled from the snowcat with a small push on a button in the cockpit.

The snowcat gained speed. Carlos looked back. The dog-thing had arrived at the sled and created several tentacles and arms and searched it. Again, Carlos could feel the search in  rather than seeing it.

Again, Pedros voice said something "Where are the GeePeeEs ?"

GeePeeEs? Damnit that's what it wanted, the GPS-devices! Luckily they were in the snowcat, here with him.

The dogthing turned around and chased after the snowcat again.

-

The being had hunted him for several more minutes before it started to fall back and change its shape. Carlos cheered. That thing will freeze to death now! Soon it was only a dark spot on the horizon. He tried to focus on what to do next. But before he managed to make a plan, the engine started to stutter and stopped. "The fuel"

The being suddenly began to speed up again, but it had changed into another shape and wasn't as fast as before. It somehow had changed into a more human-like form.
Carlos didn't hesitate, he grabbed the three GPS devices and ran off. He could keep a distance between himself and the being. He suddenly realized that he would most probably not survive this.

-

The being screamed in agony, when Carlos destroyed two of the GPS decvices during his walk. He had no tools , so he smashed them against each other in his hands, the LCDs were destroyed easily, but the rest of the electronics were harder. Still he managed to destroy even them. "Where is the Outpost?" It hammered in his head. He somehow could block those thoughts if he concentrated hard. He increased his speed a bit. To weaken the voices.

-

Now two days later the being was weak and desperate, he could feel that, but so was he. It hadn't even screamed when he destroyed the last GPS device, destroying the last chance of survival of both  the creature and him. Nonetheless it still followed him. Maybe it thought he would lead him to the Outpost, or maybe it wanted him as food? He suddenly realized, that he couldn't hear the thought of the dark mass anymore and stopped. He was so terribly weak, that it took him several seconds to turn around.

He saw a dark spot on the ground very far behind him. It was dead. He felt this with every part of his body. He smiled and made small insulting gesture towards the black point, the same gesture he had used for Pedro back then in his youth.

He sat himself down and then fell on his back. And slowly he was beginning to feel warm.

The End

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