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So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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Zanzibar's Reading Room

by: Zanzibar

When he awoke he was facing a wall of blank blue ice. The half of the room where Dakar had been hours ago was gone. The ceiling had changed from a low, dusty white and bluish warp to a dome 20ft above Jasper’s head, frosted with a thousand icy white crystals like a polar chandelier. Had he been moved? Was he in a different place? He thought he saw the top of the ladder they had used to ascend into the cavity. It was now trapped several inches into the blue ice wall, leading nowhere. His eyes reluctantly moved to the far corner. The skeleton was still there. Now only one foot was visible and the skull… still cocked crookedly as if he were welcoming someone into his abode. The eye cavities were filled with frost. They looked like they were shining.

Jasper took a sharp breath. Why did he feel so dizzy? He heard a faint sound, like a whisper. The skeleton? No... it came from a small crack in the floor. It was leaking up into the ice from the bowels of the volcano below his feet. Gas.

Frenzied, he began tapping the walls of the ice cave, looking for weakness. There was nothing- solid blue ice on one side and an opaque stucco of packed snow-ice and rock on the other. The ceiling was too high to reach. The floor seemed to be the only weakness. If the gas was any indication, it led straight into the volcano's fiery vent.

“Dakar!” he shouted. There was more fear in his voice than he had hoped. “Dakar where are you?” With each shout there had to be a sharp breath that followed. Each one made Jasper feel like an invisible hand was reaching into his lungs and pulling them inside out. Emptying them of air.
The ice muffled his cries and returned only muted echoes. He collapsed back onto the cool ice wall where Dakar used to be. His body sank into the snow. He was sitting across from the skeleton. Over its face, slender, geometric ice crystals had begun to form. A wide smile spread over Jasper's face.

"Welcome," whispered the skeleton. Or was it the vent? It came from the whole chamber.
"Welcome to Erebus."

Jasper's eyes were blurring. Or was that just the frost, blurring the harsh contours of the skeleton's face? His eyes looked out of the side of his head at his hands. They were very far away. There were slivers of frost growing there, as well. How did he get here? He seemed to remember that it was important for him to return home for some reason. He couldn't remember why. His head was so fuzzy. He turned away from the skeleton, pressing his face against the hoary frost. If only he could extract the clean oxygen from this pure frost! Was he gasping? Was that him or the skeleton? It filled his ears and his mind. Maybe it was laughing?

"Jasper." It was the volcano whispering now. "Jasper.... I'm coming for you, Jasper. Are you ready?"

A sudden convulsion shook Jasper's haze. Such heat! His mind faded to black. The floor collapsed beneath him. He tumbled toward the heart of the volcano.

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