Antarctic Circle
by ArabMiriam

It was cold, still, deathly quiet. The sun was beginning to set, slowly, dissolving into the freezing-sharp air. In a small, isolated igloo, a small animated penguin was staring, horrified, at the static on a cold cold television made of ice cubes. Frozen with fear as well as cold, he could feel his heart pounding in time with the atmospheric soundtrack. His already impossibly stylised wide eyes were staring hugely like that bloody kid who sees dead people, and tension vibrated in his wingblades and down his back.

'Seven... days...'

There had been a circle, shimmering at the edges, like a lunar eclipse in monochrome. He thought of it as 'the ring', because that sounds better than 'the circle'. He had been uncertain whether the terrifying discords had been part of the video or merely more soundtrack, but they had been scary and oddly lo-fi all the same. And the array of images, rendered nightmarish by monochrome and ponderous cinematography, were burnt into his mind like the overly goth clutch of hand on wing.

'Seven... days...'

That night, he barely slept. He lay in his plasticine bed made of ice cubes covered with his jolly plasticine blankets, replaying in his mind a terrifying, disjointed rendering of -- no, actually, an entirely accurate rendering of the terrifying, disjointed arty hell he had witnessed. It was agony distilled, a symphony of pain on one long searing note resonating with the discords of a shattered consciousness, yet beneath it all a single-minded, burning hatred...

'Seven... days...'

And yet not hatred. Not so specific, so limited. It was more a reaching out, a hurling outward of this concentration of anguish. If it hated, it was so universal as to go beyond it, all-encompassing, impersonal. It pressed down on him, crushing, suffocating, and yet seemed unaware of his existence. Unaware, and yet desperately, desperately wanting to be heard, to be known.

'Seven... days...'

After a while it had stopped being fear. He was barely there any more. There is only so long the fear can last. An absence sets in. His mother noticed it, worried, was anxious about the morbid crayon drawings he so prolifically produced without any opposable thumbs. She had to buy him a new black crayon twice in five days. The white bits of his penguin face were pale, drawn. The black bits were grey, faded. He was a mere shadow of a penguin. Haunted.

'Seven... days...'

When it came, he almost wanted it. His life was no longer a life. His mind was cracked beyond redemption. His jolly penguin antics were no longer remotely acceptable pre-school viewing.

All the same, he hadn't been prepared for... that.

When his mother found him he was lying sprawled on the floor, pathetic flightless wings all the more pathetic in death, his face as distorted as that time the animator trod on his head.


It would never be over.


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