Arctic Tale: Part 1

written by Iloti Mutoka 20th October 2017

Welcome to the first installment of the Kenyan Writers’ Fiction corner, courtesy of Dormans’ Coffee, a proud supporter of budding Kenyan talent. This is part one of a serialised story which sees Yummy Contributor Iloti Mutoka imagining himself en route to the North Pole, driven by demons he neither wants or is able to face.

Resolute. Qausuittuq, the Innuit call it the ‘Land of no Dawn’. The irony was that I had been here four days and I had not seen the dusk yet. It was mid June and, for an African who had never seen snow before, this was shockingly cold. Erik Jaspersen, my tough-as-boiled leather Swedish guide, merely smirked at me whenever I’d succumb to the shivers beneath my five layers of clothing.

My only luxury was the coffee. We were at the jump off point, a bright orange building on the outskirts of the compact town. The cold was indefatigable and as constant as the blinding whiteness of a Diani beach. I was lost in my thoughts, the percolator bubbling earnestly, the soundtrack to my thoughts. I smacked my blistered lips as the aroma of the Arabica filled the air.

I looked up at the map on the wall as I took my first sip; the next stop was Bathurst Island. I wanted this, didn’t I? My plan had always been to get away as far away as possible and was there anywhere further than the North Pole?

We set off near midnight, the sky as bright blue as any afternoon in the savannah. I had never been on a sledge before and it was not as easy as they make it look on TV. Erik and Amaruq, the lead dog, had a near telepathic understanding that the other canines had a healthy respect for.

The ride was bumpy and imitated the nauseating sway of a yacht on a gently rolling sea. I sat in the sledge as Erik barked orders at the dogs and ran alongside, a picture of fitness and focus. I didn’t say much, I was lost in my own thoughts, wondering why I thought this was something I could do when I signed up. I kept my thoughts focused on the reason I couldn’t be in Kenya any more. I was so foolish, thinking I could reboot my life, start all over again, if I just shook the dust off and got back up.

As if on cue, there was a judder and I was snapped out of my reverie by my momentum. I rolled forward and off the sledge, mushing supplies as I tumbled on to steaming piles of dog excrement. I looked up, Erik was holding his hunting rifle, a serious look on his face. I almost smiled at the absurdity of it all. After all, polar bears could hardly be a threat when I could still see Resolute in the far distance south-east of us. The silence of the dogs slammed the situation home. Erik had the barrel pointed at something, my heart fluttered as he cocked the hammer.

There was an explosion of sound. The wind seemed eager not to miss out on the party, howling as the shot went off. The barking, vehement and agitated, the agonised growling of a severely wounded bear drowned out the second shot despite my being so close to it.

“Well at least if we die out here we know we will not rot!” Erik blurted out, my ears still ringing. I wasn’t sure I appreciated the humour. I was risking my life here and was counting on him to keep me alive, his flippant attitude toward our lives was disconcerting. Before I could say anything, his face darkened into the same scowl it had when he killed the bear. My words caught in my throat as he locked eyes with mine…

To be continued…


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