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Liberties on Ice

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At this point, I can barely tell the difference between blood, sweat, and dirt. They're more than just mingling on my skin, they're reproducing. I'm so covered in filth, I swear the stuff's multiplying. The rest of my group is equally dirty.

We're part of a much bigger group, a sort of tribe founded in 1963. We're called the Liburtees, which is pronounced like Liberties. Our founders were moronic, and couldn't spell anything right. But they did make a pretty cool tribe.

The Liburtees are nomads, consisting of several smaller groups of wanderers. Traditionally, all Liburti wear belts of woven hair that wrap twice around our waists. That's where we keep small things like our crude hammers, and it's how you can identify us. The belts are made of the hair of our kills.

Of course, we don't kill animals. We're vegetarians, and respect animals. It's humans we kill. We may seem peaceful, but believe me, we're fierce when threatened. We kill humans at the slightest provocation, and collect their hair, which we weave into long belts that tie up in the back. One becomes a true warrior when his or her belt is finished.

My group of Liburtees warriors are called Carnatians – probably after the carnation flower, knowing our hippie roots – and we're the group no one remembers. We're not the weakest, or the strongest, or the least predictable. We're average, and forgettable. Not like the bloodthirsty Bellebottoms, or the flimsy Dafodiles.

At first it threw me off, the improper spelling, but I got used to it. I still disagree with the founders' ignorance, though.

The Bellebottoms attacked us – which is considered treason in our tribe. We do not seek to harm each other, or so our law dictates, but that's bullshit. The Bellebottoms think they're better than us. So we kicked their arrogant butts when they tried to kill us. But they sure did chase us far from our range.

That's how we ended up here. Bloody, bruised, filthy, and stuck on a glacier in unfamiliar territory. Some cows are stranded with us.

We continue walking, leading the cows south, in the hopes of finding grass, or at least familiar territory. We're lost right now, and it's terrifying.

“Aldo!” I hear my friend call.

I turn around just as I hear the cracking. There's a huge gap now, in the middle of the glacier. Clinging to the side of the chunk I'm on is my friend, but he's slipping. Icy conditions can be lethal, I guess.

I move over carefully, extending a hand. But when he tries to pull himself up with it, I start slipping. Even digging my toes in to the glacier does nothing. The ice is too hard, and too slick.

“We'll both fall!” I tell him, starting to panic.

He wears a pained expression and I know what it means. He doesn't want to die. He's scared. He needs help.

“Someone, help,” I beg of the others, but they shake their heads, afraid.

My friend waits until he has my attention again to act. He deliberately lets go, falling straight into the frigid depths. He doesn't surface.

I know my friend is dead - he could have died falling, it was probably a hundred foot drop, after all, and if that didn't finish him, the waters will, with their icy grip. I don't skip a beat, though. I just turn, and keep walking.

We find out the piece of ice we're on is small. At least above water level. There's the shelf we're standing on, and a higher, rounded part, then dark blue water everywhere else. We're trapped.

Siare, a pretty girl with high, prominent cheekbones and violet eyes, pulls a bucket out of her belt. She's only fifteen, but has her belt finished. I dislike her for that. I haven't had my belt a month, and I'm eighteen. Of course I'm going to bear her a little animosity.

“If we have rope, we can lower the bucket down for water,” she says in her gravelly voice.

I scowl at her. “Slow your roll. The ocean's waters cause delirium.”

She folds her arms, raising an eyebrow. Because she has little tolerance for the jealous jerk that treats her like dirt. “We'll need any water we can get, or we'll die.”

None of us want that, but no one has rope long enough. Even with all of them tied together, we can't reach the waters below. So I offer up my belt. The others follow suit, even Siare, and we finally reach the waters. It's tedious pulling it back up, oh, so carefully.

I don't drink any water. I don't trust it, and I'll take my chances with death.

We grow tired, and fall asleep close together. We'll need all the warmth we can get. But I make sure to stay far from Siare. I don't like that girl.

Morning doesn't bring the harmonious song of wildlife. It brings sounds of death. It brings heavy breathing and the sound of flesh being pierced.

I wake up to one of our number, Faurog, killing one of the cows. He methodically moves over to Siare, muttering about cows. He's obviously hallucinating. And she's obviously not going to die.

She isn't groggy, like I am upon waking. She grabs his legs, pulling them out from under him, then pushes him away, using her legs. Her legs are stronger than her arms, and the shove is a powerful one. I must admit it was a smart move.

He slides over to where the remaining cows stand, cowering in the corner. Siare follows him, giving him another kick. He slides down, slicing into one of the cows as he slides, and throwing the knife wildly as he begins to fall. Both cows are bleeding now, one with his knife sticking out of its flank. They panic, and slide over the edge, too.

There are four of us now.

“He was hallucinating,” I tell them smugly, “from the salt water.”

“Bullshit, you know he was crazy.”

I give Siare a narrow-eyed glare. “You're just sore because he called you a cow.”

She knees me in the gut, and I'm thankful the blow didn't hit any lower. We start fighting, and I don't feel bad about hitting a girl, because in my tribe, the females are as strong as the males. And this female has killed enough people to make her belt at fifteen years old.

“I could use a new belt,” she says, sounding childlike and mocking.

So, I punch her in the neck.

The other two have enough sense to pull us apart. It's necessary. If they don't, we'll keep going at it until one of us dies. And knowing Siare, she won't stop when I'm dead. She'll continue beating my lifeless corpse, to make a point. The point being her psychopathy.

The others continue drinking the water, and I know we're headed for hell. We're starving, I'm dehydrating, and there's no telling what I'll wake up to tomorrow. Or if I'll wake up tomorrow. The others will be losing their marbles before too long.

The sun sets and rises with no death or injury, and I begin to have hope for our survival. I have to hope, or I have nothing. A dead cow, two crazy Carnatians, and an even crazier than usual Siare? It's all nothing.

“Let's eat the cow,” one Carnatian announces abruptly. I wish I could remember his name.

Siare looks like she's been slapped, and I'm taken aback. Eat the cow? We're vegetarians, we've never eaten so much as a bite of meat before. Neither have our parents. Who's to say it wouldn't make us sick?

But the growling in our stomachs becomes too much and we know the cow won't keep too long. So we cut it up and eat it raw. I can honestly say it's the most revolting thing I've ever done, but it's amazing what a person will do when they have to. It's amazing what we'll do to survive.

After our meal, we sit back on the ledge, watching the waves. We're in the middle of the ocean now, or so I'd assume. We don't know anything of the world beyond our familiar territory. So everything's guess work now.

One of the nameless Carnatians gets to her feet slowly. I watch, confused, as she begins running. Her stride is long, sloping, and inhumanly fast. She bolts across the ledge, and jumps over the edge, twisting gracefully in the air before gravity takes her out of sight. She lets out a hollow sounding scream. It's haunting.

The next day the other one goes. He takes the knife and cuts open his stomach. He starts pulling out his guts, looking at them as if they're alien, and he's shocked at how they ended up inside him. He dies with his intestines in his hands.

Siare is shaking, holding her knees. She sits at the back of the shelf, face buried in her hair, while I dispose of his body. I curse at his corpse, cause the dumbass made my job hard, by pulling out half of his innards.

When I've kicked the last of him off the shelf, I try not to look at the blood smeared across the floor. I turn my focus to Siare.

“If you're going to kill yourself, don't make a mess,” I want to snap. But I don't say anything.

I just walk over and hold her while she rocks back and forth, slowly, like the waves so far beneath us.

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