One thing you learn pretty quickly at the South Pole, especially after coming inside from the outside, is to reduce your static charge as you walk around the station. If you don’t regularly touch something metal, the next door knob you grab will give you a serious, painful shock.
Then there’s the other kind of shock: the one when you turn a corner and see two people embracing who you never could’ve imagined doing so.
I slowed myself to all but motionless when I saw Thomas, of all people, hesitantly hugging the sobbing sea hag, Ina, in the hallway outside the communications room — one of several places Willem had denied us Martian trainees/abductees access to for obvious reasons.
“What happened?” I asked.
“ISIS,” Thomas said, barely even looking at me as Ina stepped back from him and wiped her wrinkled face with a shriveled-up tissue.
It was just stunning for me to see her show a vulnerable side for once.
“What about ISIS?” I asked.
“Double suicide bombings in Berlin and D.C. at the same time,” Thomas said.
Ina resumed sobbing and stumbled down the hall, her normally sturdy frame crushed inward from grief.
“Her twin brother got killed in Berlin,” Thomas added when she was out of earshot. “She said Peter emailed the station to let her know.”
“And she turned to you for comfort?”
He shrugged and looked down. He seemed embarrassed, an equally rare sight.
“She was just bawling and I was the first person she ran into. I asked her what was wrong and she told me. It’s hard to understand her, but I’m pretty sure she said thousands killed.”
I shook my head and tried to reconcile the irony of a former wannabe mass killer being the messenger at a time like this, but I could not.
With or without us, the cruel world we left behind carried on just the same. More senseless killing, every minute of every day, somewhere.
For a brief moment, I appreciated the isolation of Antarctica, even beside the likes of Thomas.
“And what do you think of ISIS?” I heard myself ask him without thinking.
He smirked, like he knew something no normal person could appreciate.
“Today is 02-20-2020 … that ain’t no coincidence. What’s your twenty? Two twenty — two locations they bombed at the same time. Fucking towel heads got a way with numbers and shit,” Thomas said before walking down the hall and leaving my head spinning.
I guess all killers think alike.