We Unearthed an Ancient Evil frozen in the Andes - Chap 4
As a scientist, there are moments in my life I can look back at and feel a swell of pride telling me that I did the right thing for the right reasons.
My time in the Andes is not one of them. As I think back to those dark days covered in ice and snow, and I remember what we found there; all I have is a heart full of regret.
Akeley insisted we contact the University immediately for authority to destroy the entire catacomb we had found.
Their response however was not what any of us expected.
“The site needs to be completely excavated. The historic value outweighs everything else. After all, it’s still frozen correct? As long as there is no change in temperature there should be no threat,” the Headmaster insisted.
I couldn’t believe the audacity they had to think this would be safe. But it was what I should have anticipated given our country’s responses with the Covid spread. None of them took this seriously or saw the danger. It was merely a discovery for them.
Unfortunately, now that they had orders I knew Akeley and his crew would follow through so my only option was to attempt to cause as much trouble for them as possible.
So I went to Norman.
The foreman had been drinking since Miguel’s death, hardly speaking to anyone or leaving his room. Given that we might all be facing similar deaths too, I hardly blamed him. The bizarre life form we had uncovered was growing by the hour and now we had no one to try to stop it.
No one except each other.
“What you’re asking to do would be considered treason, you know that right?” Norman asked once I laid the plan out to him.
In short, I knew that the digging crew had brought explosives that were meant to blast through more difficult parts of the rock. But that same explosion could also prevent them from ever being able to go any further. It was a risky gamble, especially because it could mean that more people might lose their life.
I truthfully didn’t know for sure which way Norman was going to swing, but after a few difficult seconds of silence he drank the last of the whiskey and tossed it down on the cold floor.
“Fuck it. I would rather die here than for the whole world to be infested with whatever the hell this,” he decided.
“Get as many of your men together. We’ll start in the middle of the dig tonight, all right?” I told him.
He promised to not speak a word of it to anyone else, and I went to my next obstacle. My father.
So far he had been quiet since Colonel Akeley’s arrival, but I could see he was equally concerned. I needed him on my side if this had a rat’s chance of actually working though.
I tapped on his room door and saw that he was looking at an old family photo, one that included my mother and he smiled at me in surprise.
“Angie, I’m sorry. I guess I should be out there with the others getting everything ready.”
“It’s fine. Akeley and his men have it all sorted out,” I said as I came in and sat down beside him.
“I wish she were still here,” he said, his eyes getting misty.
“What do you think she would do?” I whispered back to him.
He shrugged, placing the photograph down and looking at me. “I know she would be proud of the woman you have become. This expedition has shown me how strong you are.”
I smiled, my stomach inwardly twisting as I realized how implicitly he trusted me.
“Dad… this is bigger than we expected. I think we are in over our heads,” I said softly.
“Maybe. But it’s out of our hands,” he admitted.
I bit my lip and shook my head. “Not yet. I think we can still make a difference, but I may need your help.”
“Angi… I know you will do what you think is right, I know there is much you want to say. But I’m tired. Let’s wait until the morning after the next dig, hmm?” he commented.
I let out a sigh, not wanting to argue. We had too much at stake to do that. Instead I gave him a hug and went to my own quarters across the hall, trying to not think of what would happen in the morning. It wasn’t a pretty picture no matter how I painted it, but it would have to be done.
Sleep somehow found its way into my weary brain and got me through the cold night. I occasionally heard my dad make soft wheezing noises which frightened me to no end so the first thing I did when I woke up was check him for any signs of infection.
“It’s just old age,” he insisted as we traveled down to the dig site.
Already Akeley and his armed men were moving toward the mass grave we had come across, eager to go deeper into this hell. None of the soldiers showed any signs of wavering against their commander, but then again I wasn’t expecting them to. They would follow him into Hell itself if necessary, I thought as I saw Norman and his remaining crew arrive with their equipment. LeGray stood near the edge of the ice with his camera, watching it all unfold silently.
Norman gave me the slightest of nods, giving a soft reassurance that his men were on my side. But I was still on pins and needles as they got started, and reached for my dad’s hand, wondering how things would play out.
I didn’t have to wonder for very long.
Dad pulled his hand away and stepped toward the Colonel. At first I was confused, then I saw that stoic look he always gives when he wanted to lecture. My heart sank.
“Dad… what are you doing,” I said.
“Sir, I’m not quite sure what my daughter is planning but I believe that she means to sabotage this operation,” he said. Akeley immediately ordered two of his men to take me aside. I almost considered fighting them, but Akeley had a look that told me he wouldn’t flinch to put a bullet in me.
“Dad, don’t do this,” I begged him but my father had a resolute look that told me he couldn’t be listened to.
A moment later the armed soldiers started toward the crewmen, forcing them to turn on the equipment.
“Any false moves made will be considered your death sentence,” the Colonel said sternly as he gave out orders.
I watched as the massive drills poured through the ice, eager to conjure up more evil.
Had they learned nothing from the past 48 hours?
I shouted trying to get Norman’s attention as the drill went deeper. And I started to see dark liquid slime pour up from in between the cracks, it wasn’t oil. It was moving the way the corpse had.
“How deep to the next pocket?” Akeley shouted over the crowd.
Norman wasn’t listening though, he kept drilling. He had this look of determination in his eyes. And then I realized his plan. He knew that he wasn’t going to survive.
I held my tongue and my breath at the same time as he pressed a sequence on his equipment and then closed his eyes. I knew it was coming, but the detonation was deafening.
A few of the soldiers were thrown back by the impact. But it was the ones nearest to the blast that faced real horror.
From the impact site, I saw what looked like more of the strange fungus emerging, just barely with enough cohesiveness to be a life form though, scrambling for anything to consume. It was screaming, the way a vicious bird of prey might when scooping up a victim.
The second detonation just barely buried out the shrieks of the creature as the equipment fell into the hole. I saw Norman’s crane fall head first into the pit and made a gasp but it was already too late. I saw LeGray fall into the maw of this monster and I knew it was over.
Soon the other heavy machinery followed with him as the cave began to crumble. Akeley shouted orders, telling everyone to fall back. I could see the fungus desperately trying to advance toward us, to infect us and spread. I ran like the devil himself was chasing me.
The ground beneath me shook like the ocean as I scrambled to find a way out, the soldiers also screaming and running as the diseased creature burst apart and pushed millions of spores into the air.
We barely made it back to the next tunnel in time as the whole ceiling began to fall and I felt my body go numb. This was exactly how mom died. Was history repeating itself. My life felt chaotic and frozen all in a single moment as the rocks began to surround me.
Then I felt a sharp tug. Akeley was there, risking everything to save me from the cave in.
At last as we made it back up to the main facility, the rumbling appeared to stop and we took stock of how many of us had survived. Besides myself and Akeley, only three soldiers and my father still remained. All of them looked like they had just made it by the skin of their teeth too.
“Report, are there any injuries?” The Colonel asked.
I got up on my feet, grabbing my father and shoving him against the wall. “There will be soon unless he can explain what the hell he was thinking trying to go deeper!”
I love my dad. But in that moment all I felt was blind rage. How could he be this reckless?
“Angelia… I only wanted your mother’s legacy to be remembered. I didn’t want… any of this,” he muttered.
I saw regret in his eyes combine with shock. He was telling me the truth. So I let him go and turned toward the soldiers. “We need to get out of here, before the rest of the chamber collapses.”
Akeley was trying his best to not wince in pain from the blast as he checked his men and then nodded grimly.
“The site itself has been severely compromised. Any remaining components of the life form could be so far into the mantle of the earth that it would be too difficult to reach. Plus without the equipment it would be impossible.”
I was actually surprised to hear him sound so reasonable. But the losses we had sustained were too great, no matter how amazing the discovery. We simply had to leave.
“Let’s move to the observation deck, it’s the closest to the surface and we should be safe there while we radio for a transport,” Akeley suggested.
His soldiers obeyed. And dad reluctantly followed.
Akeley reported that it would be morning when help arrived. The cold air that swept through the observation deck was just another grim reminder of the destruction caused by our disturbing this ancient tomb. My mind was still reeling from everything that had happened below, but there was one last obstacle I needed to overcome before we returned to civilization.
I went toward where my dad was staying and heard this strange wheezing, the same kind I had heard when the corpse reanimated. It made me bolt to save him.
I knocked on the half beaten down door that separated my dad and I and saw that he had just finished coughing up blood. It made me pale as I rushed to his side and said, “Did you get infected? Let me check you.”
“Angelia, I’m fine. It’s just old age,” he insisted as he tried to push me away.
I shook my head and insisted that he sit down as I grabbed a first aid kit.
“You won’t go anywhere until I’m sure you have a clean bill of health,” I said.
Reluctantly he agreed, doing his best to stifle another cough.
Using a stethoscope I listened to his lungs and what I heard frightened me. This was worse than I expected.
I pulled back and looked at my father in disgust. “You are sick and you are trying to hide it. Why. Is it the virus we found?”
He shook his head, trying to hide it. “You don’t understand Angie! This is what your mother would have wanted. This can change the world!”
I stood up and snapped, “You can’t leave here infected! You could kill billions! Just look at what is happening right now in the world! What you are thinking of doing would be genocide.”
“We don’t get to dictate what nature has in store for us!” he snapped back.
I saw fear and frustration in his eyes, and I saw denial. He believed what he was saying.
And I knew what I had to do.
I wrapped my hands around his throat and pressed him against the wall. Tightening.
I saw him struggle. But I couldn’t risk another nightmare. I cried and wept as I kept pressing my fingers against his windpipe.
Then it was over. And in that last moment of his life I saw spores beginning to push out of his throat and I knew that I had done the right thing.
Standing there in shock as my father’s corpse fell to my feet, I gathered my things and made for my room.
When the morning sun arrived and Akeley told me rescue was here, I left the Andes alone.
I do not want to know what we left behind here, or if it will ever be found again. But I pray that it is gone for good. And if you believe in any higher power protecting us, I ask you to do the same.