Mason woke up and took stock of the unfamiliar
surroundings he found himself in, a rough canvas shelter
darkened with soot. Over him was a dirty wool blanket.
Slowly, sounds and smells started to attract his senses
and then he remembered. After they had been found by
Denhard and his men, they were fed and then started on
the return trip to the camp. Mason had a vague
recollection of Denhard, telling him about the ship but he
wasn’t sure if he had dreamed it or not… so many things
he was unsure of… was this place even real? He dreamed.
He dreamed of Mai-Ling, of the child he had yet to see.
He dreamed of his parents, his memories intertwined.
The tent flap opened and Mason saw the blurred face of
an Eskimo woman. Seeing that he was awake she closed
the flap and returned in a short time with MacDonald
and something hot for Mason to put in his belly. The
ship’s captain took a gulp of hot soup and listened as
MacDonald filled him in on the loss of the ship and the
deaths they had suffered. He listened in silence.
“I failed you Jon, I’m sorry,” said the first mate.
Mason coughed and shook his head. “No, Aesop,” he
said, his voice straining. “You didn’t fail me. It was
karma, that’s all. A debt to be paid for a lifetime of sins.
I’m just sorry it was so costly. I should have listened to
you in the first place.”
“And the whale’s graveyard?” asked MacDonald with a
hint of hope.
“It doesn’t exist, there’s nothing up that way. What you
see here is there,” said Mason with some bitterness. “The
dreams of the ancients don’t appear so different from
modern man. Where’s Dunn and Hollister? How long
have we been here?”
“They’re here and ok. Hollister is still blind, he’s
resting. Dunn, he’s alright, probably in Ahnah’s shelter
now. You’ve been here ten days, you’ve been delirious
most of the time. Isaac filled us in on what happened
after you left.”
Mason nodded, “Where is here?”
“South, about 250 miles from the Lincoln Sea, roughly
90 miles east of Kane Basin.”
“I guess it’s as good a place as any,” sighed Mason.
“Any ideas on how we’re gonna get out of this one?”
MacDonald rubbed his bearded chin with the palm of
his hand. “I sent Oaks and Irwin further south with
some Eskimos for help. We might be able to send another
party but we’ve got to stock up on food. We’ve been
sending hunters out but the area is lean.”
Mason nodded, “I can see. Well, we’ll just have to make
do with what we got.”
“As always,” said MacDonald.
Over the next two weeks, Mason and the others slowly
recovered from their ordeal. Hollister didn’t say much of
anything. He spent most of his time contemplating a life
without sight and it frightened him. When he did leave
his shelter to walk about the camp, he was lead by one of
the giggling Inuit children, whose sounds partially lifted
the veil of darkness that the reporter found himself
Mason walked about the makeshift camp. There were
so few left. His ship was gone, most of his crew were dead,
so many of the Inuit as well. This shouldn’t have
happened, these people shouldn’t have suffered so. This
had been his responsibility, his fault.
“It’s over, Captain.” Mason turned to see Dunn
standing with Ahnah.
“I can’t argue that fact Isaac,” he shook his head “I
don’t think anybody would. Ahnah, I’m sorry about Peter
and Allawah I wanted to speak to you before…”
“Thank you Captain, I know… how difficult it has
“They were good people, I’m… sorry.” He felt awkward
and thought better to change the subject. “What do you
think Isaac? Do Oaks and Irwin have a chance?”
Dunn shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t know Captain.
They don’t have much experience but the Inuit know
what they’re doing. They’ll make it.”
“Have you thought about what you’re gonna do?”
Dunn nodded, “I’m staying with these people, Keelut’s
dead and with Peter gone they will need a new leader
and this is as good a place as any.”
“Are you sure that’s what you want Isaac? What about
your family in the states?”
Dunn grinned and shrugged his shoulders, “My sister
is taken care of, my father and brother aren’t in any
hurry to share my company. This is where I belong Jon,
it’s where I’m needed.”
“If that’s what you want Isaac, I won’t try to talk you
out of it.”
“Thanks. What about you, any plans?”
“For when I get back ya mean?”
“Spend time with Mai-Ling and the baby. Hell, beyond
that? I don’t know. I just wanna go home.”
“Captain, they killed a walrus this afternoon. Thought
maybe you and Aesop might share our dinner.”
Mason smiled, meat, fat and blood soup. “I’d like that
very much, Isaac. I’m sure Aesop won’t say no.”
“We’ll see ya then,” said Isaac and he and Ahnah
turned and walked away, a couple that deserved each
other. Well, at least some good came out of it all.
Mason saw his first mate, “Aesop, a word if you