Midwinter Miracle – III

Midwinter Miracle by E.M. Swift-Hook is a Fortune’s Fools short story.

III.

It was two days later as Gernie was still familiarising himself with the incredibly unsophisticated technology that enabled the spaceport to operate, and wondering just what he had taken on in coming to this hellish backwater, when he heard the sobbing. It sounded so close that, for a time, he thought he had to be hallucinating as he could think of nowhere it could come from.

Except he was not the only one who heard it.

It stopped around early afternoon, but they kept searching even as the huge red sun began to vanish behind the horizon. When it was gone completely, the ground would turn to rock in the cold of the night and their task would be harder if not impossible.

They found the body first, lying in the small gap that went under the ledge at the bottom of the wall, where there was an overhang to allow for venting and drainage. Drum had used a simple heat detection probe from the belt he wore, sensitive enough to tell the difference between solid snow and freezing flesh. He was red faced, he had been digging along with the rest.

“She must have dropped down the side and pulled herself along so the snow would fall back over and cover the way in. She’d be getting air and water melted down from the venting brick to your control room, Tavi.”

Then, as they moved the body, there was blood red shimmering in the white, like the gash of an open wound. Drum grunted something short and abrasive in the language Gernie knew he must soon begin the struggle to learn, the only language most spoke here on Temsevar.

“What is it?” Gernie asked. At least Micha spoke Standard.

But the bearded man ignored him and bent down again, pulling at something that the ice did not want to release. Then he drew an energy snub from his belt and used it to melt the frozen edges away from what they could see, his aim careful and precise. More red emerged. Then he stopped and clipped the snub back before leaning in to try and lift it free.

Gernie was sure he recognised the red now.

“That’s your coat, but how -?”

“Don’t stand there gawping, lad, give me a bloody hand here.”

The thermal-release coat was slightly warm on the inside and wrapped around something bulky. Gernie brushed the snow away as the bearded man pulled and lifted the entire bundle free from the snow. A small chubby hand, flesh pale and blue, emerged limp and lifeless from the folds and the bearded man held the wrist for a moment then tucked the arm back.

“Is it -?”

“Aye,” there was a sadness in his voice and he caught on the words. “We were too slow. It took just – just a bit too bloody long, the poor mite.”

Then the bundle moved in his arms.

If you would like your own copy of A Midwinter Miracle, it is available on Audible,  as an ebook and paperback and can be purchased from AmazonKoboiTunes and Googleplay. This special edition has typographic art and cover design by Zora Marie.

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