Fiction: North, and Ever North! by N.C. Krueger
How can I describe such things to you? Words bend under the weight of wonder. We traveled North, across lands of endless ice, past forests of frost-tipped pine: Greenland, I think it was. What our intention was, I can only remember as if from a dream that, on waking, is only a flicker (though in sleep it seemed a lifetime!).
A meteor, I believe, had landed at an uncommonly high latitude, and we sought to study it. We went first on deserted roads, then on horses, and then we hired a dog-sled and guide when it became too snowy. Already the land had stretched miles beyond where our maps marked its borders; we assumed our instruments were broken. We could only guess our guide’s thoughts (he spoke little English), but the dogs were strangely excited—they sniffed the air, barked joyous barks at nothing at all, and stayed awake all night, blue eyes shining in the winter black.
Around this time we came to a sod house, abandoned. Low on supplies, we investigated, and found firewood and smoked meat. We set a fire burning. Little light came through the stretched-hide windows, but flame-light danced inside; we were in the heart of a burning ember. I remember feeling a terrible melancholy that night—we all did. It was bittersweet: the end of something, the beginning of something else. We were all soon to wake from the long dream, and though we did not know it, we felt it.
It was not long before I woke. A part of the roof must have opened, because a tingling cold had blown inside. The fire was out; all was spare, dark, sharp, and lucid. I looked at the hide window, and it had become clear as glass. The shadows that had moved on it—behind it—were visible now; they were figures at the end of a long, white expanse, and they were beckoning. They must have been very, very large, because even so far away I saw them with otherworldly clarity: silver wings, pale fairy-faces, and dark crystalline eyes.
The dogs began to bark wildly. If they hadn’t, I would have woken everyone up regardless. “Hurry!” I cried to my bleary-eyed companions. “Hurry, we have to go; we have to follow them—”
I pointed to the window. The dogs barked and barked and licked our faces. We all looked at each other, wondering, laughing—for we all saw the thing. We all knew it was real, and more real than anything we had known before. We ran out into the dark winter and hitched up the sled—we seemed to understand our guide perfectly now, though I don’t think it was either English or Inuit we were speaking.
And then we went, snow flying up behind us, our faces flushed and bright; the dogs barked and howled and sometimes we howled, too, or ran along beside the sled, and never were tired. We rode the sled a hundred days, a thousand. We did not sleep except for fun. We ran and ran and ran across that vast plain of white, and saw at the corners of our glass-clear vision other things and places that winked in and out without a thought—great forests that swayed and sang, and black mountains howling with caverns, and castles white as ice springing up at our side.
And then, one day, we came to the edge of the world. The edge! where the winter peeled back into a void of stars, and the crystal-snow-dust dropped off into blackness, and the pines stirred their frosty tips in airlessness, and the wind stopped and was no more—at the edge of a world, we stopped and caught our laughing breath.
“Where, now?” we asked, and laughed because it was so beautiful.
The Northern lights flew past, a waterfall flowing upwards into glory. “North,” I said. “And ever North!”
About the author
N. C. Krueger is an author/artist hailing from the Twin Cities whose work has been published or is forthcoming in Better Than Starbucks, Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine, and Prehistoric Magazine. When she’s not writing or working on her geoengineering degree, she’s playing with polymer clay or creating poetry videos for her YouTube channel. She derives joy from black metal, earthworms, and the Book of Revelation.
YouTube channel (Anonymous Witness)