"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 54 Survival p569~578

They had been on the move for eight days, it seemed
like an eternity and there were times MacDonald
wondered how the exodus would end. Dying, freezing in
the cold or safe and well fed near warm fires. There were
times when he would have welcomed either.
Two days before, the two men left behind as a sort of
distant rear guard returned and informed MacDonald of
the explosion they had witnessed. The SHY LADY was
gone, the trap MacDonald and McKee had thought up
had worked. Wooden matches rigged to strike and ignite
the alcohol fumes in the hold as well as dry gunpowder
they had stored there to ensure the job was complete.
Well it had worked, now the question was, how many of
the renegades their faithful old ship took with her when
she exploded. If Lak was dead, all the better but if not,
there would be hell to pay, of that he was sure.
Up ahead, a halt was called. One by one, the sleds all
moving in the same direction, though spaced out to
distribute the heavy weight of all the on the ice, came to
a stop. As they did, the Inuit and crew, out of habit
turned the sleds over on their sides and patiently waited.
Some took the opportunity to roll cigarettes, others, both
men and women relieved their bladders, while mothers’
breast fed hungry infants.
MacDonald, wondering what the problem was, turned
his sled over and began walking forward to meet the two
fur clad figures walking towards him, Denhard and
Ahnah.
“Well?” asked MacDonald.
“A bit of a problem,” said Denhard.
“I figured that,” said the black man, “what is it?”
“Uneven ice, sir, lots of it.”
Ahnah pointed. “The ice is high, Aesop,” said the young
woman. “It will take some time to find a way through it.”
Damned pressure ridges! Thought MacDonald. “Alright,
how long will that take?”
Denhard shrugged, “I don’t know sir. We sent two
teams out. They’ll let us know as soon as they find
something.”
MacDonald didn’t like it. The longer they waited, the
more chance the renegades had of catching up with them.
“Listen,” he said. “We’ve got some axes and saws on the
sleds. Break ‘em out and start chopping through the
ridge.”
“That’s gonna take some time, sir,” said the third mate.
“That’s right Denhard and the longer you wait the
longer its gonna take. Now get moving.”
“Aye, aye sir.”
“Get to it.” he turned to Ahnah. “Get some Eskimos to
help him.”
MacDonald walked to where the last group of sleds
were turned over and looked past the churned tracks
they had made. It was just a matter of time and that was
something they had very little of, between the ice and the
renegades. The cold endless expanse. Time stopped here.
It didn’t take much for MacDonald to imagine he was
that young cookboy aboard the SPIDER, all those years
past. He was frightened then, just he and Dunn against
the odds. He was frightened now, the lives of all these
people, his responsibility. The crew, the Inuit, the loss of
the ship. He didn’t know if the polar party had made it or
if they were still alive and the renegades… the final
ingredient to an otherwise fool proof recipe for disaster.
When this ended and it would end, of that he had no
doubt, in whose favor would it be?
“Aesop!” MacDonald turned and saw Ahnah.
“We found an opening, we’re moving the people
through.”
“Ok, let’s hurry,” he said. Man, let’s hurry.
Lak watched with a long glass and smiled. It was as if
these people, the crew and Inuit who had vexed him so,
we’re just being handed to him. He could see them
moving through the opening they had found. It was big
but not big enough. They were beginning to bottle neck.
Ogwah crouched nearby, he was ready to move. “Are we
going?”
Lak nodded. “We’re moving. Now is the time.”
Ogwah signaled Jenson, the renegades stood up and
ensured that their weapons were loaded and ready. They
thirsted for revenge for the loss they had suffered. This
would make it right or at least they believed it would.
“Let’s go!” shouted Lak. “Spare no one!” In a frenzied
mass, they moved.
They were not hard to see or hear, the angry group
descending upon them. They inspired fear and fear was a
hard thing to control. Those at the opening struggled.
Panic spread like a burning fire in dry grass. Women
wailed, men cursed and children cried and MacDonald,
he did what he did best in a crisis, he took charge.
“Denhard, Ahnah, get those people through! Rivers!
Irwin! Get these sleds turned over!”
Men, what was left of the crew and a number of Inuit,
rushed to the rear most sleds. There was no running
from this. They knew that if they didn’t fight, those
coming down on them would kill them. MacDonald was
more than surprised when he saw young Tim Reiner
among the defenders. Well, so be it, he thought. Now was
not the time to reprimand the boy or send him away. He
needed anyone that could be spared.
“Tim!” he shouted. “You feel confident with that rifle?”
The boy looked at MacDonald. He nodded but was
having trouble hiding his fear. “Yes…Captain. I can
handle it.”
“I know you can, stay focused lad. We’ll get through
this,” said MacDonald reassuringly. He looked back to
those ahead of them. Damn if things weren’t moving slow.
Come on Denhard! Get those people through!
Denhard pushed hard against one of the sleds. One of
its runners was wedged in the ice, it wouldn’t move.
Damn it! “Hey!” shouted the third mate. “Lighten the
sleds, Lighten ‘em. Take off the heavier loads, they’ll be
easier to get through!” He began to remove the heavier
items and others seeing what he was doing quickly
followed suit. “Hurry!” he said, “we’ll come back for it
later.” With the first sled lightened, they were able to
break it free and push it through. “Come on!” shouted
Denhard, “the next one.”
Ahnah was busy carrying children through and helping
the older people. A child cried in her arms. “Shhh, little
one. All will be well,” she said. Standing at the opening
she looked on both sides. Dogs barked and struggled in
their harnesses “We must hurry, we must move these
sleds!” Two men and three women grabbed rifles and
climbed to the top of the ridge to cover those still coming.
Walking through the opening, Ahnah saw her brother’s
wife. “Allawah,” she said handing a crying child to her.
“Get mother, the older people and children. Gather them
together and keep them safe.”
“But, Ahnah…” began the woman in a frightened tone.
“Allawah, do it! We’ve no time to argue!” She looked
around and seeing what she wanted took a pistol from
one of the sleds and loaded it. “Take this. If Lak or any of
his people get close, kill them!” Ahnah turned and went
back through the opening helping up some who had
stumbled and throwing her weight with others against a
sled coming through. She wondered how long it would
last, how soon it would be over.
The renegades moved with blinding speed. Lak could
see their prey setting up their defensive positions. Good!
A fight. That always makes a victory so much sweeter.
Lak didn’t really blame MacDonald. The man was no fool.
He had to do what he had to do, just as Lak had to do
what he had to do in order to maintain the respect of his
underlings and the others that lived in fear of him. When
the two groups were within range, the lead began to fly.
Jenson kneeled behind his overturned sled. His driver
was already dead, a bullet smashing into the throat of
the unfortunate man. Well, better him than me, thought
Jenson with little compassion. God damn it! This was his
chance, his big chance and now it was gone. Fuckin’
nigger, fuckin’ woman! Everything was gone because of
them. Selfish bastards they were! Poor losers was more
like it! Deny him, would they? He’d show ‘em, oh yes he
would! He’d make them suffer. He’d make the black man
beg for death and the woman? Well, when he was
finished with her, she’d really know what a rag doll felt
like, oh yes she would!
Ogwah laid in the snow and carefully chose his targets.
Though he liked to hunt with a lance, he was familiar
enough with firearms. He was a good shot and usually
hit at what he aimed at. Truth be known, he cared little
for the loss of the ship or the riches it had contained. It
was just that he had followed Lak for so long, he didn’t
really know what else he would do or where he would go,
for that matter. For him living or dying in this place was
as good as any other place. He sighted in a figure and
fired.
Rivers ducked as a hail of bullets came his way. “Shit!”
he yelled and poked his head around his cover to look for
a target. He could see for men down, maybe there were
more, he didn’t know. This was certainly a pickle that
was damn for sure and if they ever got out of this one…
Irwin was afraid, probably more afraid than he’d ever
been and he didn’t care who knew it. Be that as it may,
he wouldn’t let MacDonald down, he had believed in him
when no one else did. He would do what he had to do.
Tim Reiner was also afraid and if he had learned
anything at all since he had left New Bedford, it was that
no one was immune to fear. He was becoming a man. He
took careful aim as he had been taught at one of the
renegades and squeezed the trigger. The man he had
shot fell clutching his stomach and twitching. It was the
first time he had ever shot a living thing. He watched the
man struggling on the ice until he stopped doing so.
“Come on Tim!” shouted Denhard, “quit fucking around
and shoot!”
Reiner nodded, Mr. Denhard was right, he had to tend
to business at hand. And the people coming at them
meant business, he knew that. “Aye, aye Mr. Denhard,”
said the young man taking aim at another target.
MacDonald looked to his crew and the Inuit. They were
fortunate in one aspect, they weren’t as exposed as Lak’s
people. They had better protection from their sleds and
snow and more people. It was apparent that the
explosion aboard the SHY LADY had decreased Lak’s
people by quite a bit. MacDonald counted twenty-five
people total. MacDonald smiled. Good you son of a bitch,
let’s see if we can thin that out some. He aimed and fired.
Ten of the renegades approached deep from the right of
the SHY LADY survivors and made towards the sleds at
the ridge opening. Immediately those armed positioned
themselves and began shooting. Ahnah did her best to
move the people faster. “People!” she called. “Move those
sleds, we’ve got to make space!”
Shots rang out and people fell on both sides. The crew
and the Inuit from the SHY LADY were at least partially
comforted that their cover was better and their losses so
far had been less than that of their attackers. In
frustration, Lak’s men rushed towards the seemingly
helpless women and children only to be cut down by well
aimed volleys.
Jenson laid in the snow bleeding from bullets to his
midsection. He could hear the firing but no longer cared.
Through a sidelong glance, he could see what appeared
to be Ogwah, facing him, blood running from the side of
his mouth, his eyes staring into nothingness. The dream,
if it could ever be called that was finished. He would die
alone, cold and forgotten in this nameless place. With
tears in his eyes, he begged God for forgiveness, to be
absolved of all the wrongs and sins he had committed
against others. And remembering some words from his
long distant past, he began to recite that which he had so
often mocked. “Our Father, who art in heaven…”
Lak looked about, his men we’re dead or soon would be,
others had ran when the opportunity presented itself. He
was alone. He stood up and began walking toward the
hastily made lines of those he had come after. He would
not die like a dog.
“MacDonald!” he yelled. “MacDonald!”
MacDonald saw Lak walk between the lines of fire and
signaled for his people to cease firing.
“MacDonald!”
“What do you want Lak?” called the black man.
Lak didn’t understand the words but it didn’t matter.
Very calmly he continued walking toward those he had
come after, pulling the trigger of his rifle with every step.
He fired four shots before a volley brought him down.
As he laid in the snow, his last thoughts we’re of his
wife and young son from so long ago and he smiled before
he died. It was over.
MacDonald walked over and stood above the dead
leader. His eyes saw the still forms in the snow and he
shook his head. It was all for nothing. Ahnah and
Denhard joined him.
“Report, Mr. Denhard,” said MacDonald.
The third mate looked at the dead and quickly
regained his senses. “Ahh, yes sir. Three of our people
are dead and two injured. Of the Eskimos we count four
dead.”
“Ahnah, how many did we lose going through?”
“None, Aesop. We got everyone through.”
MacDonald nodded. “Good. Let’s get the rest of our
sleds and gear through.”
Denhard gestured with his head toward the dead and
dying on the ice. “What about them?”
MacDonald looked at the carnage. “Leave ‘em.” he said,
his voice as cold as the ice they stood on.

コメントを残す


%d人のブロガーが「いいね」をつけました。