Beaufort Sea, Arctic Ocean
Emmett squirmed free of his bedding and pushed himself to a seated position. Greasy sweat slicked his brow. His head throbbed so hard he feared it would split in two. Waves of heat radiated off him. He fumbled at the zipper at his neck and yanked it down, baring the skin of his upper chest to the frigid air. There he sat, hunched over, eyes squeezed shut, taking short, sharp breaths, praying to a god he didn’t believe in to forestall the queasiness burbling in his gut.
It didn’t work.
A vicious cramp bent him double, overwhelming the flimsy bulwarks he had constructed against getting ill. The next thing he knew, the contents of his stomach were erupting from his mouth in a firehose blast of alcohol-infused bile, coating everything within arm’s distance in a foul brew. He retched until he had nothing left, then toppled on his side and curled into a fetal ball. He lay there whimpering, alternating between fits of profuse sweating and furious shivering, as his body exacted its revenge for his over-indulgence the night before.
After a seeming eternity of misery in which Emmett became convinced he would die, the battle raging inside him finally began to subside. Once he was sure the slightest movement wouldn’t trigger more vomiting, he took a bottle of water from his stache beside his sleeping bag, and spun the cap free. A few sips went down his throat. The rest he used to scrub the puke from his beard and his chest. When he was done, he crumpled the empty and tossed it away into the darkness. He probed the nearby floor until his fingers closed around the neck of the whiskey bottle, which was somehow right where he expected it to be. His spirits soared when he detected liquid sloshing inside. Working from time-honed instincts, he spun the cap loose with his thumb and forefinger and brought the bottle to his lips. His tastebuds exploded in ecstasy as the liquor splashed across his tongue. He finished the last of the booze in two gulps, then tilted his head back and held the bottle up to catch the last few drops.
The alcohol went to work right away, blunting the throbbing in his head and filling him with a numbing warmth. For the moment at least, Emmett felt like a human being again. Fortified, he zipped his fleece closed and gathered his vomit-soaked blanket around his shoulders. He climbed to his feet and shuffled across the room to the door leading to the main living quarters. He stopped with his hand on the door lever. Cocked his head.
A low howl called from the next room. He hadn’t been able to hear it from his position between the shipping crates, but the source of the sound was impossible to mistake. His shoulders sagged in defeat as he pictured his pathetic repairs being carried away into the night. He tried to recall if he had left anything he needed on the other side. He hoped not.
He cursed himself for not listening to Kelvin and abandoning the station sooner. Help wasn’t coming—not now. Not ever. The only thing he had gained through his self-imposed deadline had been to give the sea and the cold more time to kill him.
It was time to leave.