Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022
The wind rattled the panes in the window, turning Luui’s head as she prepared breakfast. Living as she did far from the small town of Uummannaq and a long, cold boat ride from the nearest settlement, the only light to push back the winter dark was what Luui herself provided. She moved the church candle closer to the pan of oats she stirred on top of the wood burning stove, turning her head in between at another round of knocking or the scratch of snow across the glass.
“Hush now,” she said with a pointed look at swirl of snow twisting back and forth outside the cabin. And again, “Hush.”
Kalaagi was the first of the Qamaarlutik to arrive, lifting the trapdoor Luui had cut into the cabin floor. A gust of cool air tickled his heels and leaked into the cabin as he climbed out of the tunnel he had dug with Naaluk. He closed the trapdoor, brushed the snow to one side, and then climbed onto Luui’s bed. She acknowledged him with a soft smile and a nod at the pot of oats bubbling with plops and gentle belches of steam on the stove.
“It’s getting worse,” Kalaagi said.
Luui brushed a lock of greasy hair to one side and nodded. “I know.”
“Even Naaluk says so.”
Luui nodded again as Kalaagi fidgeted into a more comfortable position.
“You’ll have to talk to her,” he said.
“Naamik.” Kalaagi’s fur hood wobbled as he shook his tiny head. He pulled it down, and Luui smiled at the tangles of thick and knotted black hair on his head. “Not Naaluk,” he said. “Her.”
“Oh,” Luui said. She turned back to the oats, stirring them quietly as Kalaagi continued.
“She’s doing this on purpose,” he said. “She’s making a fuss because you’re not listening to her.”
“I don’t talk to the wind, Kalaagi.”
“Maybe you should.”
Luui set the wooden spoon on a small plate beside the stove and then lifted the pan off the heat. “We’ll let it cool for a minute,” she said.
Kalaagi fidgeted again.
“Luui,” he said.
Kalaagi studied the young Greenlandic woman’s face. It was just as he had described it to Naaluk as they whispered through the night – Luui’s soft skin was pale, stretched in places, as if she was haunted by something. He knew she worried about Aunix, but there was something else, as the Luui he knew of old, would not be content with daily walks up the side of the mountain to stare out into the black night sky, searching, hoping, for a glimpse of Aunix’ tiny yellow plane, or the soft burr of the propellers.
“Something is wrong with her,” he told Naaluk.
“Then you must find out what it is.”
Naaluk said nothing for half the night, and then, when her brother nudged her, she said, “I know how. But you won’t like it.”
“What won’t I like?”
“It’s best I don’t tell you,” she said. “Now go to sleep, brother.”
Kalaagi waited for his sister to say more, and, when she didn’t, he tried to sleep. It was hard won, but at last the warmth of his furs beat back the chill of the cave, and he fell into slumber, so deep he never heard Naaluk stir and leave the cave, and in the morning, she was gone.
“Luui,” he said again, as she boiled water for tea.
“Christmas tea,” she said, avoiding Kalaagi’s question. “Ataata’s favourite.”
Kalaagi let out a soft sigh at the mention of Luui’s father, long dead, but with brief visits as he returned from the spirit world when Luui needed him most. She missed him, Kalaagi knew as much, and understood it.
Ah, he thought, as it suddenly became clear.
“It’s been nearly a year,” Luui said, head bowed as the water boiled. The steam broke softly upon her forehead as it escaped from the sides of the pan, lifting the lid with a tap tap tap. “And nothing…”
“He’s busy, Luui.”
“With what?” she said, turning to look at the tiny Qamaarlutik sitting on the end of her bed. “He’s dead, Kalaagi. What is he so busy with?”
“The spirits,” Kalaagi said with a gentle shrug.
“Busy with them? Doing what?”
“He’s…” Kalaagi scratched his head. The big folk could be difficult at times, and as much as he loved Luui, she was the most difficult of them all. “Busy,” he said.
“Too busy for his own daughter.”
Luui took the pan off the boil. She set it to one side, heaped the porridge oats into three small bowls, and then poured three mugs of tea.
“It’s ready,” she said, with a nod at the bowls. She glanced at the trapdoor, and said, “Where’s Naaluk?”
“Ah…” Kalaagi gave another shrug. “Busy?” he said.
“Everyone’s busy,” Luui said. She handed Kalaagi one of the bowls and then took her breakfast and tea to the bench with the thick cushion she had built beneath the window. In winter, it was the coldest seat in the cabin, but it had the best view, and Luui kept he gaze fixed on the black sky, staring through the swirl of snow as she ate.
The Christmas tea filled the cabin with the scent of cinnamon and cardamom. The driftwood inside the stove crackled and spat, with wisps of green and flares of white as the flames licked at a rusty nail hidden in the wood Luui collected from the beach below the cabin. They ate in silence as Kalaagi wondered what he could say to console or, better yet, to spur the young Greenlander into action. But the words failed him, and he sank into the silence with a weight upon his shoulders that pressed him down into the winter depths, as deep as, perhaps even deeper than, Luui.
And then, in the deepest and darkest depths of the winter sinkhole that threatened to swallow Luui and the Qamaarlutik, Naaluk arrived, popping out of the trapdoor with a flurry of snow at her heels. She shushed it away, scowling as she spun on her heels to close the trapdoor.
“Help me, brother,” she said, as the trapdoor shook in the wind.
Luui turned her head as the Qamaarlutik struggled with the trapdoor, voices raised as they cursed the wind until Kalaagi climbed on top of the trapdoor and Naaluk stamped it shut. She threw the bolt and slapped the snow from her hands and knees.
“What’s got into you?” Luui said as the wind cast another fistful of snow at the window and the panes rattled again, louder than before.
“I’ve done it, brother,” Naaluk whispered, as Luui struggled with a pane that threatened to come loose in the wind.
“You’ve done what?” Kalaagi asked.
“You’ll see,” Naaluk said, as Luui grabbed a roll of duct tape from the shelf above the cabin door. “Just wait and see.”
“Naaluk? Tell me.”
But Naaluk said nothing, and the wind shrieked around the cabin, shaking the very walls and tugging at the roof.
“It’s getting worse,” Luui said, raising her voice. “If it’s like this further north, Aunix won’t get very far.” Luui ripped a length of tape from the roll and secured it around the windowpane. “Something’s got to be done,” she said, as she turned to look at the Qamaarlutik. “Someone’s going to have to talk to her.”
Kalaagi glanced at his sister.
“Aap,” she whispered, with a twitch of her bushy black brows. And then louder, for Luui, “It has to be you,” she said. “She won’t listen to anyone else. If you want Aunix to come home safely…”
Naaluk left the last words unspoken as Luui turned to stare out of the window.
“Oh, Naaluk,” Kalaagi said. “What have you done?”
To be continued on December 5
Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022
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