In the early part of the twentieth century the Beresovka mammoth carcass was discovered in Siberia. Nearly intact, the animal was found buried in silty gravel sitting in an upright position. The mammoth had a broken foreleg, evidently caused by a fall from a nearby cliff ten thousand years ago. The remains of its stomach were intact and there were grasses and buttercups lodged between its teeth. The flesh was still edible, but reportedly not tasty.
No one has ever satisfactorily explained how the Beresovka mammoth and other animals found frozen in the subarctic could have been frozen before being con sumed by predators of the time.
– J. Holland, AlaskaScience Forum
As Terminal Freeze made the long journey from concept to printed reality, many people generously lent their time and expertise. J. Bret Bennington, PhD, of the Department of Geology at Hofstra University, helped me gain a better understanding of paleoecological
field-work and principles. Timothy Robbins provided a window onto the nuts-and-bolts details of documentary filmmaking. (I hasten to add that the particular peccadilloes of Terra Prime, Emilio Conti, et al. are completely of my own devising.) William Cors, MD, assisted with several medical aspects of the story. My father, William Child, PhD, former chemistry professor and associate dean of Carleton College, offered invaluable insight into crystalline structures and other chemical matters. Special Agent Douglas Margini once again helped with firearms details. And my cousin Greg Tear listened patiently and offered his usual excellent advice.
I would also like to thank my editor and friend, Jason Kaufman, for as always being an essential guiding light through the composition of this novel, as well as Rob Bloom and the many others at Doubleday for taking such good care of me. Thanks also to my agents, Eric Simonoff and Matthew Snyder, for fighting the good fight. Thanks to Claudia Rülke, Nadine Waddell, and Diane Matson for their various ministrations. An ice-cold Beefeater martini, extra dry, straight up, with a twist, to my writing partner, Doug Preston, for his many years of comradeship. His daughter Aletheia suggested a great twist. And last but most certainly not least, my thanks and gratitude to my family for their love and support.
At dusk, when the stars rose one by one into a frozen sky, Usuguk approached the snowhouse as silently as a fox. There had been a fresh snowfall that morning, and the village elder stared across the gray-white arctic desolation that ran away endlessly on all sides to a bleak and empty ice horizon. Here and there, ribs of dark permafrost jutted out of the snow cover like the bones of prehistoric beasts. The wind was picking up, and ice crystals stung his cheeks and worried at the fur of his parka hood. A scattering of surrounding igloos stood unlit, dark as tombs.
Usuguk paid no attention to any of this. He was aware only of an overwhelming sense of dread, of the rapid pounding of his heart.
As he entered the snowhouse, the small band of women gathered around the moss fire looked up at him quickly, their expressions tense, worried.
“Moktok e inkarrtok,” he said. “It is time.”
Wordlessly, they gathered up their meager tools with trembling fingers. Bone needles were returned to needle cases; skin scrapers and flensing ulus were slipped inside parkas. One woman, who had been chewing sealskin boots to soften them, bundled the boots up carefully in a threadbare cloth.