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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: January 4, 2021      Views: 24

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Ways of Remembering...
"The Walrus Skull" by AJ McCall



"It's happening tonight!"

Nanouk opened one eye, looked at me, then closed it again. And snored. 

"Nanouk!..." I grabbed half of his shoulder because it was soooo large and tried shaking him awake again, but he didn't even budge. I sat back on my heels. No wonder his name meant polar bear, I thought. Then an idea sparked. 

I crawled over to his head, my lips hovering right above his ear, whispering, "Nanouk? Nanouk? Can you hear me?"

He snored louder. So I whispered again.  "Your name....it's doesn't just mean polar bear, it means cute polar bear baby! And guess who I told?... Jissika."

My brother's snores hitched sharply; both of his eyes flew open.

"Aput!"

Too late, I scrambled to my feet away from him, pulling on my parka. 

"Aput! Come-"

The wind stole the words and my breath as I rushed out, greeted by a breeze that invaded my lungs with numbing air. My eyelashes were already laden with snow and I had to lick my lips to keep them from sticking. Frosty puffs of white escaped my lips, my boots crunching hard against the snow as I sprinted, pumping my legs and arms up and down.

A stretch of blinding white was all I could see - except for some trees, their spiny black branches bending under the weight of the snow.

I knew I wouldn't get far -- I could hear loud footsteps behind me. I'd probably make it only to the lake which I could see now:

A lucid layer of frozen ice, a lighter blue than the night sky, covered the lake, the edges lined with grey stones large and small. Usually, they'd be underwater but recently the water had gone down just before freezing. 

"Agh!" I tripped, barely catching myself before I went sliding down a small slope leading toward the pond. My heart was slamming against my ribs now -- dah-dum dah-dum dah-dum-- and I was going faster and faster and faster--

Thump!

I shoved both feet into the snow to slow myself down like I'd seen the polar bears do, succeeding with an excited yelp, and coming to a halt. 

The sky was now starting to lighten up, but not with more blue but a luminous green, joined by purple and blue until the colors swirled together, flooding the sky with a pulsing glow. I gasped in delight.  This only happened a couple of times throughout the year, and I had seen it before. Mostly with my grandmother. 

"Look," she'd say, pointing a wrinkled finger at the sky. "Those are spirits... they're playing ball... with a walrus skull."

"A what?" I'd answer, frowning, not seeing anything but the colors swooshing and swirling.

"Ah, in time you'll see." She'd shake her head. "One day I'll be up there. Playing with them." 


I wish I could've seen it then... I don't know why I didn't. All I knew was that I missed her.

Don't cry Aput, don't cry! I told myself. Your tears will freeze.

But I didn't care. I let them stream down my cheeks then felt them turn to ice against my skin. I wish she were here with me now--

Two giant arms suddenly grabbed me from behind, scaring me out of my sadness as a deep voice spoke.

"My name means polar bear! Not baby or cute! Nanouk means polar bear! And if you told Jissika..." My brother squeezed playfully but I didn't reply with a laugh or giggle, I just whimpered, and I felt his arms go slack around me. 

"Aput?" He leaned down and looked at me. "What's the matter?"

I sniffled and looked to the sky, muttering, "Nothing,"

He sat back up and stared at the sky too before I heard him gasp in realization. 

"It's Grandmother isn't it?"

I nodded. 

"Well... she's gone but not gone," he said with a sigh. 

I looked up at him. "What?"

"I mean..." Nanouk searched for the right words, opening his mouth to say them but then closed it again thinking them unfit.  

"Look," He suddenly pointed at the sky. "Can you see them?"

I glanced, frowned, and shook my head, but he pointed again. "Look closer Aput."

So I did, and I gasped. There they were. People! Spirits! Whatever they were, were dancing or swirling with the colors in the sky. And if I wasn't imagining it, I thought I could see a round shape with two long other shapes protruding from it, passing between their feet.  A walrus skull. This was what my grandmother had been talking about!

"I see it!" I yelled. 

"I can see that," Nanouk laughed. "Do you see something or someone else?"

I squinted, then my eyes widened. My grandmother's wrinkled face formed out of the swirls, smiling down at me. Her long plaited braid flowed in the wind behind her as she threw her head back and laughed. 

I could feel the warmth... not just from Nanouk who was hugging me now, but from my grandmother's laugh and smile. She had been here all along and I hadn't even realized it. I smiled, watching her kick the walrus skull. Even if she wasn't here with me, I knew she was somewhere better... and that she was always smiling down at me.
 

This Sentence Starts The Story contest entry

Author Notes
Thought this would be a fun entry! Hope you enjoy it!

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/aurora-borealis-aurora-69221/

Names Meaning:

Aput: snow

Nanouk: polar bear
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