Author: Tom Prentice

I shuffle onward, clutching my side. Blood splatters the snow and the ice. Red, white and blue.

They’ll be coming. They could follow a blood trail blindfolded if they had to. It’s how they were made.

It was Russia that made them, to fight their arctic war. Mountains of unadulterated dread, veiled head to toe in thick white fur. We stopped short of calling them werewolves. We’ve never had a sense of humor about them at all.

Snegs was the name that stuck. From the Russian for snowman.

The pain is dull, thanks to the cold. I stumble into the grotto, back the way I came. But I won’t reach help before they’re on me.

Damned Russians. They won their war but their toys refused to go back in the box. Snegs turned on their masters and then the rest of us. They nuked Greenland to alter the Atlantic currents. The ice is returning. Earth is theirs now, and they’ve taken control of the thermostat.

It’s funny. Mankind, just like these snegs, was born in the ice. I read about it, before all this. Before everyone’s career became war. A huge volcanic eruption, eons ago, triggered an encore of the ice age that wiped out all but a hardy handful of us: the cunning, bloodthirsty lunatics who would go on to annihilate all the other human species and dominate the planet, all the while fighting among ourselves.

Kindness had no place in the ice.

You can never hear them until they’re right on you. They stalk so silently in the snow. But I know they’re there. Call it instinct.

We’ve been searching for that lost kindness, I think, all this time. We built cultures that rewarded it, told stories that sanctified it, to remind ourselves each day to be kind.

Violence, though, has never needed a story. We’ve been writing that one every day, in blood and bone. It’s our nature.

The opening ekes into view. I fall to a crawl and scrape my face through the blown-in snow. Their coded chirps and whistles bounce around the walls like the soundtrack to a nightmare.

I wonder what we were like, before that long winter hewed us into the vicious beasts we became.

Out in the frigid sun, I slump against the snow dunes. Snegs spill from the mouth in swift soundless bounds and fix their rifles on their prize.

Boom. I detonate the charges. The fissure collapses, swallowing up the entire patrol like the Pharaoh’s army.

Deception, too, was something we learned in the ice, a thousand centuries ago.

The dust clears. Just one sneg this side of the rubble, whimpering pathetically. I yank up its bloody mane and slit its leathery throat.

They’ll inherit the Earth eventually, but not today.

When they do, I wonder if they’ll think about us. What we were like. Their forefathers that perished in the ice.

If we were kinder.