Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022 (Now available for pre-order from Amazon)
Aunix Cobick tucked her hands into her pockets and stared at the stretch of ice that was her runway. It was, she decided as she walked the length of it from the propellers of her little canary plane to the point where she anticipated lifting off the ground, perfect. As perfect as a makeshift and somewhat urgently needed runway in the far north of Greenland might be.
“Now,” she said, breath misting in front of her face, “if I could just get a little wind under my sails, so to speak, it really would be perfect.”
She turned around to look at her plane. At this distance she could barely see the tiny wind traps she had arranged on all sides of the aircraft. Three in total, with a fourth she was assembling from old parts of this and forgotten scraps of that. But she didn’t need to see the traps to know they weren’t producing any power. And neither did she want to see them. She had stared at the red wink of the power-up lamp for almost three days, waiting for it to blink, or, better yet, to change to amber, or, if she dared hope, to see the amber light turn green.
“Amber I can work with,” she said. “Amber is getting off the ground and into the air.”
Once airborne, with favourable winds – that is, none – Aunix knew she could risk a little unconventional aerodynamics and fix a small wind trap on each wing. Balanced, of course, but feeding off the flow of air as Aunix flew south. She’d done it before, knowing it was risky, but just possible to get enough charge into the canary’s batteries before they were depleted. Of course, she also knew that the slightest wind or turbulence might knock the wind traps off the wings or force her to make an emergency landing when the wind traps’ disruption to the airflow around her plane would change the aerodynamics – possible in fair weather, lethal when it was less fair. But then, wind of any kind would fill the traps, charge the battery, and, with a decent window, allow her to fly.
But the lamp wasn’t amber.
It was red.
“Red is as good as dead – grounded. Out of the air, out of the fight, and,” she said, turning around to look south once more, “unlikely to be home by Christmas.”
It had a nice ring to it, and Aunix allowed herself a smile, despite her predicament. Luui had needed something after abandoning Aurora Station, and, when Aunix thought she was open to a little gentle advice from a slightly older woman, she told Luui it was no good for a young woman to spend her years alone in the north.
“But I’m not alone,” Luui had said, protesting just a little, although not as much as she perhaps thought she was.
“Spirits and creatures don’t count,” Aunix had said, choosing a moment when she was sure the Qamaarlutik were not around. There was no telling what a statement like that from one of the big folk might inspire or even enrage the small folk to do.
“Especially the sister,” Aunix thought, as she returned to the present and thought of Naaluk and her magic – darker than Luui’s, or at least more unfathomable for big folk such as Aunix Cobick.
And then, blinking to get rid of what felt like a permanent prick of red in her vision, Aunix stared at something moving in the distance, across the ice, ducking between and behind jagged boulders of ice poking out of the sea. While the sea was almost ice free, the coastline, she smaller inlets, and narrower fjords, still froze each winter, providing some respite for the few remaining mammals in the north, and the occasional marooned pilot.
But whatever was moving between the bits and bergs locked in the ice, it wasn’t a bear – which allowed Aunix a sigh of relief. But neither did it move with a natural gait – which encouraged a sudden surge of adrenaline through Aunix’ body.
She caught the movement again – a body, hunched, almost crablike, with elbows pointed out at right angles, forearms hanging straight down like limbs, plus two legs at the rear. It had a human form, albeit an oversized one. And, when Aunix took out the monocular she kept in the pocket of her quilted flight jacket, she caught a glimpse of a skeletal face, a bunch of dark hair – scraggly, the bun skewered with something bone-white – the strands of which tickled saggy breasts and something man-like between the creature’s legs.
Aunix lowered the monocular, at once curious, repulsed, and suddenly very aware of her situation – exposed and alone in the far north.
“With no power, and,” she patted her hips as she searched for imaginary pistols she might once have thought about wearing on a belt, only to leave them behind as too much unnecessary weight, “no guns.”
The flight north was meant to be a quick recce – north and back again – not a prolonged stay. But the beast between the bergs, even a glimpse of it, was enough to give Aunix pause. Then, calming herself, she thought of one of her aviation heroes, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, defending his downed aircraft from mountain bandits with a rifle, while his mechanic worked feverishly to make repairs.
“I wanted this,” Aunix said, nodding as she tried to convince herself that this – following in Saint-Ex’ footsteps – was what she had always dreamed off. “Although I have to say, a big hermaphrodite crab that looks hungry as all hell was not quite what I imagined.”
A stray thought passed through her mind, reminding her that she might never have imagined such a thing, or even accepted the sight of the same, had it not been for Luui and the strange company she kept.
Which only made her wish she was airborne, flying south – with or without sufficient power for long hops – and landing on the ice close to the cabin Luui had made her own in the Svartenhuk Mountains north of Uummannaq.
That Luui had chosen a spot that was still remote and relatively far from humans was by the by. It was a cabin. It would be warm, and, “Far away from that thing,” Aunix said as the creature scuttled behind another berg. “And it’s getting closer.”
Aunix looked over her shoulder at the little canary parked on the ice. She twisted her lips to one side, wondering if she had just enough juice to get airborne, and what she could leave behind to lighten the load if she didn’t.
She turned back to look for the creature, glimpsed it once again, closer than before, and then turned around to walk back to her plane.
Aunix convinced herself she was walking, that it was the right thing to do – a show of strength in the face on uncertain danger. But with no wind to mask the thump of her boots on the ice, Aunix couldn’t hide it any longer.
“No shame in running,” she said, heart thumping as she ran even faster.
The creature hiding behind the bergs ran too.
To be continued on December 14
Northwind © Christoffer Petersen 2022
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