Art Pact 260 - Plane in the Ice
We carefully retreated across the ice and viewed the scene from a distance. The "plane" was stuck at a forty-five degree angle, its tail about twenty feet in the air. It looked like a whale that had breached the surface and then become stuck somehow.
"I don't think it's a plane," said the older of the two women.
"Of course it's a plane," I told them. "It was flying."
"It was flying alright, but that doesn't make it a plane. Birds fly."
"Superman flies," said the younger woman, giggling.
"Well it's no bird, and it's no superman. So that only leaves a plane."
"No, boy," said the older woman harshly. "There's all sorts of other things. Especially up here in the north."
"But it's a plane," I said. "Just look at it! It's made of metal and everything."
"Funny looking plane, though."
She was right. It was funny-looking. It was more of a cigar-shape than the usual tube of a plane, and the wings were strange. Rather than sticking out they were just curved stubs. Perhaps there had been larger parts to the wings that had broken off.
"That's an American plane, then," I concluded. "Their planes are all strange shapes. They got them stealth bombers, you ever seen one of them?"
The younger woman nodded, the older one shook her head.
"Well they're about as strange as anything. No knowing what an American plane might look like. It might look like a whale, or a robot, or a spaceship."
"Hmmm. Might look like a spaceship," said the older woman. "But I think that actually is a spaceship."
"Don't be crazy. That looks nothing like a spaceship. Where's its rockets?"
"Ugh," said the older woman, rolling her eyes. She stood up, leant into the wind, pulled her hood down and began to trek back towards the crash site.
"Hey! Where are you going?"
"Back to take a closer look."
"It could be dangerous!"
"It could explode!" called the younger one, who'd stayed back with me. The older woman stopped in her tracks, turned round, and yelled as hard as she could - just hard enough that we could hear most of what she said before the wind whipped the sound away.
"...already have explod... ...plane, there will... ...survivors!"
"She's right," said the younger woman, after a few seconds of thought. "We should see if anyone's survived." She clambered to her feet and set out after her companion, leaving me in the lee of the huge block of ice. I hesitated. There was no-one around to see, and since our meeting had been by accident there was no likelihood of me ever bumping into the two women again, but rumours have a nasty way of flying around and finding their intended target no matter how little information they contain about him. If I let them go off and stayed behind myself, people would assume that I was some sort of coward. I could talk about explosions and ice cracking and other dangers until I ran out of words, but the fact of the matter was that the two women had gone back to the crash without so much as a second thought, and if I wasn't brave enough to go with them I was going to look bad. I pushed up against the ice and stepped out into the wind.
It had got worse during the few minutes we'd been talking. It came in powerful gusts that were heralded by a sort of low whistling from the edge of the ice, so that every twenty or thirty steps I had to stop and brace myself when I heard that alarm. When the sound stopped I had maybe a second before a big gust of wind hit me like a wave, stripping the warmth out of me in an instant.
The wind was too strong for them to hear me - with them moving away, at any rate. The old woman must have had lungs like a whale to have been able to shout back to us. I was catching up with them, but not nearly fast enough to get to them before they reached the plane, and sure enough the old woman reached the crashed machine before I was even halfway there.
The wind was too strong for me to keep my eyes on them while I struggled across the open waste of the ice, but I found them sheltering in the lee of the crashed plane, the older woman running her gloves hands over the surface of it while the younger one stood back a little, a nervous look on her face.
"It's warm!" the old woman shouted at me as I got out of the direct blast of the wind.
"Warm like it's on fire?"
"No, just warm like a person! Here, feel!"
Quick as a flash she grabbed my left hand, dragging it onto the surface of the plane before I could resist. She was stronger than I'd expected, too - even when I was touching the metal I couldn't pull away with the effort I was willing to put in (by which I mean I could probably have got away by throwing myself backwards, but that would have looked a bit desperate).
To my surprise, though, she was right. It wasn't freezing cold, like metal should be after being out in this weather for quarter of an hour. But it also wasn't burning, as I'd expected it to be if it was one fire inside. It was, like she said, the same temperature as me - well, as I was inside my furs. My fingers were cold, even inside my gloves, and they could feel the comfortable warmth of the plane.
"Strange," I said.
"Could be radioactive," said the younger woman. We both turned to look at her. "You said it was American, right? Could be radioactive. They use that in their submarines-"
"This isn't a submarine," said her companion.
"I was going to say in their submarines and their spaceships."
"They've got atomic spaceships?"
"No, no. Listen. The radioactive rocks give off heat, like warm heat. Then they've got machines that turn that into electricity. This could be the same thing."
The older woman looked dubious, but she let go of my hand and took her own hand off the shiny metal surface.
"Why hasn't it got any writing on it?" she said.
"No writing. Planes have got writing all over them, even the secret ones. I've seen them at the base."
"They've all got writing all over them. This doesn't have any writing."
It was true. Now that we were at a better angle, I could see that the plane's silver surface was unblemished. It was shiny - not mirror-like, but more like brushed metal. From this angle I could also see that the wings were sort of like chunks of a circle. In fact, the wings were just the right size that if they were one solid block that went through the fuselage it would almost certainly have been a perfect circle.
"Do you still think this is just an ordinary plane?" asked the older woman.
"I never said it was ordinary."
"You know what I mean," she said. "Do you think this is an American plane, or do you think it might be something else?"
I stared at the shiny metal object. I couldn't see any evidence of engines, yet it had clearly not just been thrown - before it crashed, it had definitely been flying.
"Maybe," I said cautiously. "Maybe something else."