Cold Mornings
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Cold Mornings

The cold is perhaps the most dedicated of man’s enemies. You can shut him out, shoo him away, and bar your doors to him. In the end, though, he always returns. Cold has taken the lives of more explorers, adventurers, and prospectors than anyone could count, each one perishing in some unfathomably agonizing experience. On this day, the cold had his eyes on one man in particular.

As this man crossed the ridge, he strained to look through his ice-encrusted goggles at how much further he still had left to climb. After eight days in the mountain range, he felt he must have been nearing his destination. This observation was, however, a futile gesture, as the roaring winds and ice obscured all vision more than an arm’s length away. Each step taken was one step further into an unknown and hostile world, made only of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. The howl of the wind almost completely defeaned the man, and he could no longer hear the sound of his boots crunching through the snow. Though the cold cut through his parka like a sabre, and the flying ice spalled across his goggles, creating a dizzying sparkle of light in front of his eyes, the man persevered. This was not the worst storm he had weathered in his career. What kept him going was Valentina Eckhart's small leather-bound notebook held tightly within his parka, and his thirst for the knowledge of how this came to be.

Heavy gloved hands struggled with the internal ribbings of a tent. The wanderer removed the tent from its pack, and the blowing wind caught the tent like a parachute. Only the man's sheer size prevented him from being lifted off his feet and tossed haphazardly into the surrounding snowdrifts. With great skill, the man plunged stakes deep into the icy ground, and secured the fluttering tent to the earth. Though he was battered by the wind, and exhausted from his climb, he assembled the tent quickly, with the dexterity and sureness of well-practiced hands. The man stepped into the tent, shaking his boots free of snow on the ground. With each passing moment, the wind threatened to tear the tent free, surely spelling death for the man. Nonetheless, he rested, and the tent held firm. As the slipped into his sleeping bag, the wear of the journey could be seen in his face. His features appeared gaunt and pale, and his beard was now permanently coated in a frosting of ice. His eyes, however, shone with the same determination he had always expressed in his dealings with the elements. It would have been obvious to anyone who could have seen him: he would not be beaten today.

He removed his own notebook from his pocket and began to write, his head filled with ideas and theories on what he could discover at his destination. He wrote until the small oil lamp he had brought with him began to dim, and the encroaching darkness persuaded him to pack up his gear.

The howling wind outside gave the man company as he drifted to sleep in this arctic wasteland.

When the morning sun shone in through the battered tent, the winds had ceased. A fresh coating of ice and snow laid peacefully on the ground, undisturbed by footsteps. The fragile silence, betraying nothing of the howling storm that had preceded it, was broken by the crunching of snow beneath a large boot.

C. L. Atlas positioned himself upon a rock, holding his hands to a worn copper teapot, feeling the water heat itself and boil from the minor thaumaturgic ritual. Above him, the azure sky stretched into infinity, cloudless and clear. Below him, past miles of snow-covered mountain slopes, the bones of some titanic and unimaginably ancient creature lay in a basin. Towers and factories reached towards the same sky the mountains grazed, supported by the enormous ribs of the colossal wreck.

While one could come to some conclusion musing about the tenacity of humanity or immortality through legacy while looking upon such a scene, Atlas was not the man to do so. Instead, he simply sat and enjoyed his tea.

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