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Back You are here: Home Stories Words for the People Short Stories Blood Falls
Tuesday, 29 May 2012 01:24

Blood Falls

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Selection from AP Photo Selection from AP Photo /The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck

The whiteness of my skin scares me, pallor like that of an albino. Looking down, his black pupils absorbing all light. All life. Seeing through me as I lay on my back, the sad obsidian mist splashing my face keeping me half conscious. I blink hard and cough, clear my throat. The tics stop.

Attaching my gaiters to my boots and exiting the station, the dogs bark in anticipation of another trek into the cold, ceaseless twilight This time with a purpose of finding, not just evading. I brush the hair from my eyes with the back of my hand and assemble the team.

The air avoiding the ruff of my parka, bites as if frozen itself, pelting my cheekbones with icy molecules. My lungs burn with every blast of breath. Eyes watering for survival like a Minnesota stream in February. I blink hard, scrunch my nose up against the cold and look up for the first time in hundreds of meters. Through my tears I see a photo; a blood-black effluent snaking across anemic Taylor Glacier to Lake Bonney.

The dogs drive on avoiding pristine crevasses of pending death. I feel the urge. Blink hard again. Better. The crevasse falls away like bleached lava as the sled passes. Snow crunching under the runners, the rails slide to the right and I heave my weight to the polar opposite to counter balance, to cling on to life. The sled sliding further, deeper. The right rail catches ice and corrects itself as the dogs extract us from the deepening void. Continuing on. “Hent, Hent” I shout.

The black stream gushes primitive life from the bowels of the glacier across undulations of virgin snow, Europa-like. Life. Death.


McMurdo station is located nearly 4,000 kilometers from the nearest permanent city. An international city in it’s own right, consisting of Americans, Kiwis, Aussies and Russians, the research station houses 250 year-round with another 1000 scientists swelling the ranks during the summer months. The land furthest from civilization yet sometimes one still cannot get away. I often take long treks into the vastness. Trying to escape.

Long hours confined in our Houdini-esque lab coats surrounded by ice. Ice. The white ice in my tumbler barely melting in the rotgut. I drink harder when the urge strengthens. Sometimes it even helps. Sometimes I feel blind. The foreshot brings the tics to a screeching halt but that is just once per batch.

“Hent” as I clear my throat. “Hent, Hent” and throw back the tumbler. The ice clatter at the bottom of the glass placing it on the nightstand next to my bunk as I rise, down a Zoloft, and blink hard.

Six months of darkness. I make just about enough rotgut during the summer to get me through the blackness. Enough to see the white light creep over the glacier walls. Blinding.


Dr. Rice has been studying the microscopic ecosystems of Antarctica for these past eight years. Protozoans>Fairy Shrimp>Penguins/Seals. That’s about it. A simple circle. The microscope examines life’s limits, all in the expanse of a few micrometers. I’ve been doing the same.

“Hey Cole! Come take a look. What do you think?” calls Rice

“Looks the same as last time” blinking my right eye hard as I detach from the microscope.

“What do you mean ‘same as last time’? These are totally new species!”

“New species? They’ve been around for millenia, Hent, Hent!” clearing my throat.

Contention between us for new discoveries never abating since leaving Dartmouth. I pour another rotgut. Throw it back. Burning.

“A fucking millennia” to no one in particular.


My mom is gone, been dead for over 20 years. Died when I was twelve in a car accident outside of Hibbing. Coming around a corner on Rt 169 , her white Pinto losing control on an early morning run back home. Black ice they said but I don’t believe them. I can still see her pale, freckled face and wry smile. My dad. “Hent, Hent”. My dad never recovered of course. Never sure where she’d been anyway. Miscegenation.

My dad raised me since I was 12. He and me. My blinking began at that time. I blink like Polaris on a cold winter night, makes me feel better. The urge something like just before a sneeze. Relief.


White on white I can barely see him as he emerges from the sastruga and upsets the sledge with the bar. One dog falls and the others follow like pearls on a string. Grappling with the ice, the bar, and Rice all at once I begin to fall as well. His face scratched, parka torn. Snow swirling so fast and outrageous I don’t know which way is up. My gaiter catches on a hunk of ice causing me to descend head first to the base of Taylor Glacier adjacent to the falls.

If Rice would only look down, he would see the blood fall. Blood running down my cheek from my nose forming a blotch on the snow. Blood gushing down the glacier from the mouth forming a slick on Lake Bonney. The tics stop as blood falls.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 01:44
Christian Williams

Christian Williams lives in Hyde Park, NY with his wife and three children and sells plants for a living. This is his debut online publication.

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