We’re thrilled to offer an exclusive excerpt from Christie Golden’s short story ARKTIKA.1, an immersive introduction to the dystopian world of the upcoming VR videogame from the developers of Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light, Metro Redux, and the upcoming Metro Exodus.
You can pre-order the game here!
Viktoria can barely remember life before 2081. It’s painful to think of the time before the Great Freeze, when humanity finally paid its due for plundering the earth, plunging the world into frigid cold, scarcity, and decay.
Yet humanity has found a way to carry on. The remnants of civilization persist in settlements like ARKTIKA.1, where Vika tends to survivors with her Mamochka and Papochka, protecting their fledgling colony from the threat that lurks in the snows. The yaga—vicious, deformed cannibals made monstrous by disease—prey on the surviving communities, spreading their affliction as they go. And Vika’s parents are the only scientists left who can stop the contagion.
Called upon by the Citadel Security defense corporation, Vika’s family makes their way to a research facility near the Equator. Only there, with mercenary protection and superior laboratory equipment, can the two scientists hope to make the discoveries that might protect ARKTIKA.1. But when shots ring out through the cold, their research expedition becomes a mad dash for survival. Because saving the world means nothing if they can’t save their daughter.
Read the chilling excerpt below:
We all were very well aware that we were not supposed to wander too far from the central living areas. The problem was that we had already exhausted all the good hiding places in the area. So this time, I went down the escalator from the living space in the subway area…and took the elevator down into the parking garage.
It was very exciting. The area was full of old, abandoned vehicles. Our friend Petya said that he used to go out there a lot at first, and he would come back with all kinds of trinkets that people had left in their cars. Money—useless now, of course—toys, letters, tissues, and so on. Early on, one might be able to find snacks or mints, but the rats got to most of that before we did.
It was so dark in the garage…and so cold, too. I looked around at some of the cars, wondering which one I would pick. I knew better than to get into an old car’s trunk, of course, but it was colder outside than I had expected it to be. Even in a garage, my coat was not enough protection. So instead of hiding under a car, or between them, I found one that was open and crawled inside, shivering. I curled myself as best I could into the backseat footwell and waited.
Time passed, and I began to rethink my decision. Would someone even come after me here? Would they know to look outside for me? That was not a comforting thought, but I could always go inside and find another spot if no one came. I decided to give it another few minutes.
Just then, I heard someone pounding on the car window. For the first time ever, I was glad I had been found. I looked up, relieved, to see who it was.
And I screamed.
I was staring directly into a gray face. It had a huge, open mouth crammed with sharp teeth. If it had eyes, I could not see them. It was hairless, and only vaguely resembled a human. It began to make this awful, gurgling, snarling sound and pounded on the window. Its fingers were fused into only a few instead of the normal five; this detail stands out to me even now, almost more frightening, more inhuman, than the fangs and the horrible, wet sound of its shrieking.
For a second, I was paralyzed with absolute terror. Then, shaking so very badly, I reach up, opening the door on the other side, and tumbled out onto the pavement.
The monster leaped over the car, but by then I had scrambled beneath it. I lay there, my cheek pressed to the concrete, trembling, trying not to sob, certain that any second it would figure out where I was, and one of those horrifying, fused-finger hands would seize me and drag me out to become its dinner—or worse, just to bite me, and then I would become like it.
But it did not discover me there, right in front of it. I watched its feet shuffle as it looked uncertainly one way and then another, and its snarling turned to confused grunts. Then it sprinted off, convinced that I had somehow eluded its grasp.
Tears warmed my face as I wept, biting hard on my lower lip to hold back my cries. When the ugly thing’s dreadful noises faded, I dragged myself to the edge of the car, where I could peer out. I forced my heart to slow, told my brain to think, and tried to recall where I was, how far away from the safety of the elevator I had wandered. Carefully, I crawled out from beneath my shelter and looked around. Hoping that it had left the area.
But it had not.
It was on top of a car, only ten yards away from me, turning its head one way and then the other, its face crumpling as it sniffed.
I started to run. My footfalls rang out in that awful place. Even my breathing sounded loud to me. And then I heard it. The slobbering, hungry, horrifying sound of a whole group of them who wanted to feed.
I sobbed then, and increased my speed, running as fast as I possibly could. Sheer terror gave my feet wings as I wove my way through the cars, wondering what had possessed me to pick a car that was so far away from safety, why I had even wanted to go into the parking garage in the first place. Even as I reached the closed elevator door, I could hear them coming.
They are… so fast. You will see. So unnaturally, horribly fast.
It seemed to me that I stood in front of the closed elevator door for years, stupidly hitting the button over and over again, tears pouring down my face. When it finally opened, I stumbled inside and slammed the “close door” button frantically, screaming in terror as three of them raced up.
For an awful second, I thought the door would close on their arms and they would be able to force their way inside. But they hurled themselves forward as the door closed, striking with a thump just as the elevator started to ascend. I flung myself in a corner, sobbing uncontrollably, holding myself and shaking.
When the doors opened onto safety, I was in a panic and screaming for my mother and father. The first thing my mother did when she found me, even before she hugged me, was to look at the places where my skin had been broken. I knew what she was looking for.
She was looking for bite or scratch marks.
You see, one did not have to eat human flesh to contract the disease. It is blood borne. Something as simple as a bite, or even a scratch that breaks the skin, could transmit it.
I had plenty of scrapes and cuts, but thankfully nothing from the creatures. Even so, Mamochka drew some blood and tested, just to be certain. After that, they doubled the security on all of the exits and we moved back further from the garage areas, yielding them to the creatures… and the bandits who were already starting to make their presence known.