Below the ice of Antarctica

Everything below the ice of Antarctica is perfectly normal.

Glacial effigies burst from the ground, and the circle they ringed around crumbled into a deep nothing. Each of the eight totems bore a distinct shape, heretofore unseen, not even in thought or nightmare. Some were stout, others slendering, one went against the very concept of size and form. But all were deep in kowtow, a desperate prostration to the snow they had risen from. They appeared homesick. Their arms were of a familiar wood covered in icy muscles, stretched out across the blind crater, overlapping, entwining. And one for one, they tumbled into that pit. It was serene, graceful, terrifying.

It was later discovered by a group of scientists that a waddle of nomadic penguins were responsible for building these cold idols, after they came across a youngling chiseling a happy face into a piece of wood. This did raise some questions: how had they survived so far inland, where did they get the materials from, and to where does that hole lead?

Why, the underdwellers helped them, of course! This, however, came as quite the surprise, the frozen continent turning out to be hollow. Even more puzzling was the discovery that its insides are hospitable to life as we know it, but inhabited by life we do not. Here is where we give a slight, appreciative nod to the scientists for their hard work and also kiss our farewells. But their research papers are a far cry from the truth of which not even the echoes are heard; they are merely a desired reality. They aim to explain their findings, but empiricism prerequisites an inexplicable: something inconsistent and abnormal, something magical and unscientific.

As we descend – figuratively, of course; this is all a description – we see the azure sinew pulsating meekly and glowing softly, all the way through the pitfall. Antarctica is alive, didn’t you know that? Through the transparent skin you can see the remnantal chunks of primordial totems, a bit more familiar in shape. You’ve dreamt of these at one point, I assure you. At the bottom of the hole, lumps of the ones you’re familiarly unfamiliar with are stacked in a perfect pyramid.

Look around; notice the elderly iceberg surrounded by fantastic creatures. He’s humming a pleasant, warm tune as only grandpas can do. The heat of his melodies attracts floatfish, and once opa has gathered enough, he may be lifted back into the ceiling by the flock of his newfound friends. It’s not a terribly uncommon occurence. Ancient ice like him has trouble remaining a member of the arctic mass – arthritis, you see. The fish get a nutritious nibble for their troubles, and they glide their own paths to the next berg.

You must be thinking: what a beautiful symbiosis this is! No? How am I able to see beneath a pack of ice and earth? That’s what the limn flowers are for! The most precious plants in the royal gardens. Their seeds are pure light and lighter than air. Think of them as streetlights, except for the ice floes. Luminence as well as heat are scarce and therefore valuable. Troublesome parasites have the audacity to siphon them without providing anything in return!

One notorious predator, the only of its kind, mimicks a fire’s scent, luring creatures into its lair with a promise of the warmth they desperately seek. Siphonophoric colonies of leech ice, shaped like veiny hands, latch onto a careless animal, sucking its warmflesh dry until its frozen body shatters into icicle spores. Each spore is a zooid to form a new colony. Near the palace you will find an old device that looks metallic, but is made from soft materials. It reluctantly saps nearby warmth to prolong its frustrating existence; it does not know of an alternative.

Right, I mentioned the palace, didn’t I? Below the ice is technically a monarchy, I suppose. The ruler and sole member of the royal family is the ageless princess. She sits upon a pedestal of snows. She sings gentle songs for dying blizzards, who make the long trek to her palace when it’s time to pass. The seat of her power hides a second hole, one that leads even farther below the ice – but I never told you this. The sage, the first overdweller to come here, brought with her: trees. Plain, simple trees. Trees as you know them, as you need them, as you take them for granted. Their roots reach into the nothingness neath the castle, acting as ladders for that which should never be seen. The royal guard, bless their souls, die to their blazing furies to keep these monsters to their volcanic confines. What about the sage? She spends her time in the glass library, rereading records and compendia in the futile hope she may finally remember how to die.

But not all is tragic and morose! Warmth does not come naturally, but from happiness. Selflessness and care are traits all denizenss share. For instance, there are these adorable formless creatures that hop blindly through the spaciousness. When they meet another of their kind, they hop into each other to form a happier version of themselves. Sometimes, a hoplet becomes so big it can no longer move on its own. Then it simply kicks back with a smile to provide everyone, everything with the heat, shelter, food of its body. And ever since the roof opened up, more of your kind have moved in here. They wander the crackling wastes with a smile on their face. Alone, transformed, more ancient, but happier than they’ve ever been.

I promise you, everything below the ice is perfectly normal. It just might not be for you.