McAllen and Bernadette got out of the plane and squeezed into the front of the truck with Omar. He was a big guy, too tall for an Inuit. Bernadette figured from his features and long black hair he had to be of Cree like her.
“Hi, I’m Omar,” he said extending his hand across Bernadette to shake McAllen’s hand, and then shaking Bernadette’s hand. “I’m taking you to our uncle’s place tonight. He’s got one last Walrus pot roast from last spring’s hunt. We’ll be in for a good feed tonight.”
Bernadette put her head back on the seat. She tried to close her eyes. Tiredness washed over her. She had a feeling they were losing control, losing purpose. Dead bodies were piling up and answers were few.
They drove down the gravel roads of the town. A few streetlights shone revealing small dogs roaming the streets. The truck was of mild interest. The little house they arrived at was set back from the town. A few snowmobiles surrounded it. Some looked like they worked, some looked like they once had and were now parts for others.
It was evident that the lack of snow was causing a problem to the people of the north. There should be snow, and snow roads, and ice building up on the sea for the Polar Bears to climb on to hunt for seals. None of that was happening, winter was late. The late season hung like a question mark on the north. Without snow and cold, the people of the north did not function properly. Ice and snow were essential to their way of life.
Bernadette and McAllen followed Omar into the small house. The place was warm with a wonderful smell of cooking. Garlic, onion, and spices wafted into the air and made them all instantly ravenous.
Omar’s uncle, a squat little man with twinkling brown eyes and an easy smile motioned them to come into the house. “Welcome, Danny told me you’ve had a hell of a journey. Here, this will make you feel better.” He thrust two mugs of a frothy substance into their hands.
Omar smiled at them. “It’s Moose Milk, Uncle Peter makes it the best. He puts in lots of condensed milk, coffee, nutmeg and of course some good rum.” He introduced everyone to Uncle Peter and handed out the Moose Milk.
Bernadette took her first sip of the drink. The mixture of rum and sweetness first assaulted her tonsils with sugars then warmed her all the way down as the large portion of rum hit her stomach. A wave of tiredness swept over her. She found a chair in the kitchen and almost fell into it.
Uncle Peter put a plate in front of her with a large portion of Walrus pot-roast and a big piece of bannock bread. She loved bannock. It was something her grandmother always made for her. The stuff was made from sugar, salt, baking powder, flour and water, patted into a pancake mold and fried in about a ton of butter and oil. Bernadette dipped her bread into the juice of the walrus pot roast. Her mouth was assailed with a pleasant taste of butter and walrus fat. A little piece of heaven she thought, right here in a kitchen in the high Arctic.
“Hmm, Uncle Peter, you are the best,” Bernadette admitted.
Uncle Peter winked at her and refilled her mug of Moose Milk. “I’m always glad when people like to eat.”
McAllen put his face deep into the pot roast, breathed deeply and took a large forkful. He smiled up at Uncle Peter and gave him a nod and two thumbs up. McAllen and Bernadette let Peter and Omar talk while they ate. They were both too exhausted to respond. Peter spoke of how bad the Arctic had become with the late winter.
“Nobody understands how we need the snow. You know, the people in the south, they think it’s going to be all right having warm weather up here. But it’s not. It’s no good. The warm weather is bad for the fish; they don’t come towards the shore or the rivers. The same with the animals, I had to go a long way to get this walrus, the seals are going higher to colder weather. But if we lose the Arctic cold... then what’s going to happen?”
McAllen swallowed his last bite of walrus. “The Earth will lose its natural cooling properties. Both of the poles, the Arctic and the Antarctic are essential for the planet to have a stable temperature. We could be thrust back into an age where the Earth is tropical and the ocean covered much of the land. All of this, “McAllen waved his fork around, “was once a tropical forest.”
“See, there you go, I’m right,” Uncle Peter said. He brought over more walrus pot roast and bread for McAllen.
Bernadette put up a hand to signal she couldn’t take any more. The meal was great, but that much grease combined with the fried bread would set her stomach on a collision course with the toilet that she didn’t want to see happen.
She looked up at Peter and Omar. “I’m not sure if Danny told you, but we’re up here to try to find a way of stopping the earth from getting too warm. We’re trying to find an ancient underground river. Danny said he was working with a professor on some kind of a game that might show the whereabouts of this river.”
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