ISBN (ebook only): 978-1-907623-36-3
Kindle ASIN: B0083V968U
Also available in print, in Black Ice: collected stories.
Length: 7800 words ( 16 .pdf pages) / Short Fiction
cover art by Anna Reith
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Rookie trucker Jack is stoked for his first solo trip on the Arctic Road. But, out there on the ice, there are things that shouldn’t exist outside of stories.
An Excerpt from:
© Anna Reith. All rights reserved.
SO NOW, ON HIS FIRST SOLO RUN and with his first paid load, Jack found himself alone with nothing but the world inside his truck to protect him from the world outside it. Behind his cab, echoing gloomily, sat the empty barrel of the truck’s massive vacuum tank, ready to be filled when he reached his destination. That destination was the Nordschatz barge, a huge vessel that—for five months of the year—stopped being a floating research lab and became a kind of oasis of the ice. Trapped in the big freeze, she couldn’t move or fend for herself and, dependent on supplies, she was forced to just wait, dormant with her crew still on board, until the thaw.
Jack’s job would be to take care of what, as he understood, bilge pumps usually did. He’d have to get the vac truck up there—effectively out into the middle of the goddamned water—pump out who knew how many hundreds of gallons of shit, and cart it back to the treatment plant another hundred and fifty miles away. The thought that stayed with him was that, if something went wrong, he would most likely die sitting on top of several tons of crap. He’d said as much to Lenny, who’d laughed and told him rookies always got the shit jobs… literally.
Thing was, that wasn’t strictly true. Jack knew this particular job came as a measure of Lenny’s trust in him. Handling what could only be described with any delicacy as a liquid load wasn’t going to be easy. The added movement of everything sloshing around in there would make the rig wallow and pitch if he wasn’t careful, turning an already tricky drive into something truly treacherous. Lenny believed him capable of managing it, though, and that counted for a lot. Jack wasn’t about to let him down, so he knuckled under, concentrated on the symphony of noises the truck made—the rattle of the heater, the whirs, clicks and fizzes on the radio, and the idiosyncratic little clatters of her engine—and just focused on the job in hand.
He found it easier once he got away from the last edges of town and struck the road itself, where he knew he had to think of the ice, to be alert the whole time, but where there were fewer distractions from it. No more hesitation, no more psyching himself up, just going. There was nothing around him but white, the boundaries of the road marked out by snow banks, fresh-turned every night by the maintenance crews who raked up and down stretches of the ice, repairing the surface, eternally testing and checking for fissures and weaknesses.
Jack had talked to one of those guys at the bar back in town. He said you saw weird shit up on the ice at night. Jack reckoned that would be pretty logical; the snow ate up all the normal distinctions between ground and sky, horizon and perspective. You had nothing but the distant treelines beyond the frozen river to say what could be real, and what was just your eyes trying to make sense out of the wilderness. Sometimes the Northern Lights danced across the sky, adding to the weirdness with their sinuous shapes and eerie colours. It wasn’t surprising there were stories. When all guys saw for nights on end was different shades of snow and the occasional headlight… well, anyone would start to people this wasteland with things from their own imagination. And that was probably all it had ever been, Jack felt sure.
This title was previously published under the pen name M. King, in the Wild Child Publishing anthology Weirdly: Volume III and is presented here in a revised and expanded edition.