My feet don’t hurt so much any more, and I’m feeling warm. Warm like ice on an arctic bed. Ice in all directions. That speck on the horizon, is that Tulugaq coming back? I’ll sleep now.
A mosquito whines and disturbs. A mosquito? On this frozen ocean? An engine.
Tulugaq is prodding.
“Go away,” I slur with a tongue like dead meat.
Tulugaq shouts and punches.
When Tulugaq gives up and walks away, I sink gratefully back toward oblivion.
Tulugaq is kicking now and he’s holding the rifle. He levers a shell into the chamber. Is there a bear? He points the muzzle at me. I am not a bear, Tulugaq. Am I?
Flash-crash, Tulugaq fires, and I scramble up on my wooden blocks and run.
Crash, again. The snow puffs at my frozen feet, and I run harder.
I’m still running when I hear the mosquito whine of the engine and turn to see Tulugaq, pacing alongside me on his snow machine. He’s holding the rifle and laughing. In Frobisher Jenny said, “Tulugaq’s eyes crinkle at the corners when he laughs, you know? And I trust him.” What was Jenny telling me?
“Wake up, Slim,” Tulugaq shouts.
We started from Frobisher with two snow machines. Jenny introduced us. Somewhere past Pangnirtung, while we waited out a three-day storm in a tiny snow-house, Tulugaq said, “Slim, you thrash around like a seal stuck on a harpoon.” When we dug our machines out of the snow, mine wouldn’t start. Tulugaq said, “You treat her bad.” I had to ride on the qamutik, holding onto the wooden slats with frozen fingers while Tulugaq slammed over the hummocks.
I must have fallen asleep. I woke up rolling on the ice. I jumped up and ran. Then I walked. It was mild for February, thirty-five below. I sat. Tulugaq would notice eventually. He’d come back. When we left Frobisher, Jenny said, “Are you two trying to kill each other?”
Tulugaq is pacing alongside on his snow machine and laughing.
“You shot at me … you asshole … you could’ve … killed me.”
“You were already dead.” Tulugaq raises the rifle over his head. “I resurrected you.”
Tulugaq learned his English from the priests. They gave him a number, but he had to make up his own name.
I writhe on my hospital bed. My throat is torn. My skull is crushed. Knives pierce my belly. My feet are a torment. I want an end; I want death, but every time I slip away, flash-crash, Tulugaq’s gun kicks my heart awake and it flutters in panic, beats and refuses to fail.
The nurse leans over to reinsert a tube. Tulugaq died before we reached Pond Inlet. That was fifty years ago, before Pond was renamed Mittimatalik. It was an accident. “It wasn’t my fault,” I try to tell the nurse through a mouth full of tubes. Tubes in every orifice. I want to die, but Tulugaq paces alongside the bed, holding the rifle. He’s laughing, but his eyes aren’t crinkled at the corners.