This way, she says, and I follow.
There was no real direction, of course. The surface had been frozen beneath a mile of ice long before humans evolved, but still, I follow. Two hours after we lost our way in the snowstorm, all directions have become meaningless.
When I was a child I read a story about an oceanaut who followed a rope to the bottom of the sea. That was how they did it, then: you held on to the rope, buried beneath suits of rubber and glass to hold off the thickest weight of the ocean, and when you were ready to surface, you followed it. Anyhow, he somehow lost his grip at the blackened base of the sea, where the heaviness of water prevented anyone from floating to the top. Down was up, up was down. So he chose a direction and swam.
Obviously, the guy survived to tell the tale. If you listen to it like that, it’s not even a very good story, but here’s what I remember: as he was moving, having committed to the direction with the last of his oxygen, the light of his helmet revealed small bubbles. They were moving quickly over the glass, and when he saw them, he knew. He was moving up. He was moving in the same direction as the air.
Here, though, that’s irrelevant. There are no air bubbles, and there’s no way to tell left from right. The needle of the compass has frozen in place and the horizon is a blinding blur of white and silver, so pale that I can’t tell the ground from the air. The sun pours over the atmosphere without revealing its position. Her body, coated in thick rubber and plastic and thrown blackly against the endless white, continues on. It leaves unshadowed footsteps in her wake. She says nothing further, though it’s possible that our communicators have frozen. They weren’t designed to stand cold for this long.
She keeps walking, as if she knows where she’s going. I follow, because that’s all I can do.