Contributor: Katherine J Parker

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Dead, but perfect.

Amelia didn’t recognize the face inside the ice, that's how long it had been. She'd only been two or three when he had taken off, the red and white aircraft carrying him away. She remembered that, the aircraft. She had a wooden model that was identical until her brother had lost it. That's the only way she remembered it; as a toy.

The pieces of the real thing were still encased in the polar ice, she imagined, as perfectly preserved as her father. Everyone assumed that it had crashed, anyway. Why else would all communications have gone silent within 24 hours of the team's departure? Amelia imagined the brightly colored tail of the plane sticking out of the ice somewhere, a silent grave marker for as many as 20 men and women. A beacon in whitewashed desolation.

This body was alone, though. Blue beneath the layers of ice, his face was surrounded by white fluff and feathers. His parka was in perfect condition, from what she could see. It was the green of a perfectly manicured yard, the one he mowed every Sunday. She hadn't remembered that until now. The scent of fresh cut grass wafted through the room, a figment of her imagination.

"How long will it take to thaw?" It, not he. Just a body lost to time with the chance of answering questions that had only grown larger with the years.

"A few hours, a day at most," the doctor who would be performing the autopsy dried wet hands on a dark brown towel, the same color as the gloves that encased the corpse's hands. The boots matched. They also matched the old pine workbench where her father had carved and painted the model plane in the year leading up to the expedition. After that the workbench sat forgotten in the shed until her brother had taken up woodworking in high school. He'd taken it with him when he'd married and moved on, leaving the shed as empty as it felt.

"Not such a long time to wait after all of these years," Amelia looked up as the team's tech specialist toggled one heater on and another off.

"I guess not." Her hands rubbed against her violet snow pants, building up heat in her palms. He kept touching the ice. No one said anything, but now and then she caught the team lead watching her. I'm not doing anything, she thought.

He looked like he had fallen asleep clutching his flashlight, its body as blue as the clear sky outside the window. Such a sharp difference. She wondered if the light was as bright as the sun was, if it looked just as warm and felt just as cold. She felt cold, down into her bones. The room was hot, everyone else had peeled put of any unnecessary work clothes. The tech, standing just under the warming lights, was sleeveless. Even the team lead, who was in the furthest corner of the mobile had pulled on a sacred pair of jeans, and was only wearing a single pair of socks. The "on" light was still flashing on the coffee pot. It was growing stronger by the hour, but no one had touched it in hours.

Amelia pulled a cup from the cabinet and watched the pitch-black liquid fill it. He had always put sugar and cream in his, chocolate when he was feeling seasonal. For an instant she saw a candy cane sticking out of her cup, but then she blinked and it was gone. There hadn't been any candy canes in the last supply drop.

She wondered if he had taken any candy canes with him. If he had put them in his coffee the day he died, if he had coffee in the stainless steel thermos shining against his hip, or if it was empty.

More questions. Just a little longer.

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A passionate writer since the day she discovered pen and paper, Katherine spends most of her time exploring new avenues for the creative use of words.
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