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Fantasy People of Color

    Sila called out the headline title, “The day the sun will no longer rise.” The first line dramatically read, “At 1:30 AKST this afternoon, the sun will set, and Barrow will enter a 65-day period of polar night. The sun will rise again on January 22 next year.” 

    It happened every year, but it never ceased to amaze him how the town reacted. It was like a scene out of Deep Impact where Morgan Freeman announces that the mission has failed. He gravely tells the people that they have a choice. He also says that they have been restoring a network of caves that will hold one million people for two years, so that they can arise and regenerate once more, after the danger has passed. Some gave way to full blown panic, others to crime, and some to the hope. The President in the movie announced that acts of crimes against persons and property would be dealt with swiftly and harshly. Likewise, the mayor of Barrow gave similar warnings. Violence would not be tolerated! Most of the time these warnings worked.

Most people, knowing the seasons, spent the year preparing for the inevitable. These people remained philosophical and hopeful, knowing that this too would eventually pass. But there were always those who procrastinated, the ones that panicked once the moment was there. It was those few that failed to adapt, failed to cope. Some issues were small, some large.

    The town had been renamed Utquigvik several years before, but Sila and many of the old-timers still preferred to call it Barrow. It is now pronounced oot-kay-ahg-vik and only won the town vote by a slim margin, 381-375, on December 1, 2007, to be exact. Some say the whole issue was partly due to the craziness since most of those voting didn’t even understand the issues. That’s what they called it these days, the craziness. Many voted simply because of whatever passion was being displayed by those standing closest to them. Others such as Qaiyaan Harcharek, both a city council member and avid hunter and whaler, argued that for him the traditional places have a significant meaning to their culture. Arguments about the meaning of the new name ranged from ‘high place for viewing’ to ‘edible roots’ to ‘place to hunt snowy owls’. Those in favor no longer wanted their town named after a civil servant of the British Royal Navy, who had never stepped foot in Alaska.

     Others understood that it was a movement towards re-establishing language and culture. But they also understood that while they could read and write a small portion of Inupiaq, they certainly weren’t fluent in it. Besides, they were used to the name Barrow. The mayor could only hope that this year’s issues would remain as civil as this one had been.

    “So, what do you think will happen this year?’

    “Oh, the usual,” Sila looked at the banker who liked to discuss Sila’s views on the current events. He thought Sila always told a savvier perspective than the paper. Some wondered it was always more accurate. But none doubted that it was plausible, and certainly more entertaining.

   Jack and Timmy, Sila’s friends and comrades in arms, looked up at him in anticipation. While not so creative themselves, they had learned a lot from Sila about selling papers. Their father was certainly appreciative of the extra income they brought in. That is after he had lectured them sternly on the value of honesty, when he found out about Timmy’s little coughing trick to induce sympathy. He had no problems with a little creative storytelling if it was honest.

    Knowing he had a captive audience, “As usual we’ll have our share of the craziness. I suspect the mayor will have another go around with the town council on proper severity of punishments. And everyone knows that Tokio has been sniffing around Mrs. Yazzie for years. Since Mr. Yazzie is going south for hunting for the next couple of months, everyone predicts Mrs. Yazzie will baking a whole lot more pies.”

    The banker smiled for he knew that Tokio was particularly fond of Mrs. Yazzi’s pies. He just wasn’t sure what else he was fond of. And he certainly didn’t know how Sila would know of such things. Politely changing the subject, “How many windows do you think will get knocked out this season?”

     “Oh, at least 10. Yeah, at least that.”

    The banker didn’t doubt him for a second…on any of the subjects.

    The Dark One loved these months. Months where he could create his greatest havoc amongst the good people of Barrow. He had created such misery that they had made a movie of the tragedies that occur there each year, called 30 Days of Night. People think it was just a fictional movie, unfortunately parts of it was real. The vampires of course were not real, but the endless nights of darkness were as real as Sila’s cold bed upon his ship. That is before Father came into their lives and helped to spruce the place up a bit.

    This was Yanti’s first Alaskan winter. She had experienced the shortened days and the bitter cold that led up to this period, but she had not experienced the never-ending darkness that prevailed for 65 days each year. She had never experienced the madness that permeated some of the citizens minds, like an overripe rotting muskmelon. She had never witnessed the sweet, flowering behavior of her neighbors turning nasty and sour. The tension bubbling up within them like the fermentation of rotting fruit. 

    She carried out a piece of her hot cocoa cake to Mrs. Begay. Mrs. Begay took one look at the tempting, delicious dessert and promptly turned it upside down on the table. A crazed look in her eyes, slowly taking her hands and smearing it on the table, her left lip turned up. “The ice cream was melted.”

    “It’s supposed to be melted a little bit. That’s the glory of the hot cake.”

    “It was melted.”

    Yanti picked up the plate, carefully eyeing Mrs. Begay. “I’ll be back in a minute with a towel to clean….err…this up. And I’ll bring you another piece of cake.”

    She rushed back to the kitchen, grabbed a cold piece of cake from the refrigerator. Ms. Mable looked at her oddly as Yanti put the ice cream on top of it. “I think you forgot to warm up the cake. We have some fresh hot cake here.”

    “No, I didn’t forget. Mrs. Begay just upended her hot dessert and complained that the ice cream was melted,” she sighed.

    “It’s the craziness starting!”

    “What?”

    “Sila didn’t tell you about the craziness?” Mrs. Mable quickly explained how some people couldn’t take the endless darkness. 

    “Ah, that explains it. She has always been nice.”  Yanti cautiously wiped the table clean and handed Mrs. Begay the cold dessert.

    “It’s cold!”

    “Yes, you said you didn’t want the ice cream melted.”

    “It’s cold!”

    Yanti sighed, “We’ll try something in between,” as she carried the dessert back to the kitchen. The Dark One looked on…if she thinks this is hard, wait to see what else I have in store for her.

    Being her normal optimistic self, she quoted Mehmet Murat ildan to Sila, after telling her of the days events. “He says that as long as the sun does not set in your mind, darkness will be nothing but a weak shadow in your life!” 

    “I wish it were that easy. If they were only willing to change. My people believe that each person possesses 6-7 souls. These souls take the form of tiny people scattered throughout the body. All these souls live in you at the same time, each trying to tell you what to do. Which soul the person allows to dominate, determines his character.”

    “My mother used to say something similar. She used to say there are many sides to each of us. These different sides appear depending on the role we are playing. We act differently as a daughter, vs a sister, vs a friend.”

    “Yes, but it goes even deeper than that. Some people are quite nice, if they are not stressed. But they can become monsters when they feel threatened.”

    “That is so sad.”

    “We have an old saying, that unless you’re the lead sled dog, the view is pretty much the same all the time. People get a different view once they are challenged by an Alaskan winter. That’s when you truly learn what they are made of.”

    “Why do people choose to live here? Why do they not leave?”

   “Just as your people did not leave when they had their mudslides, it is their home. They learn to deal with the tragedies and embrace the blessings. Remember that the caribou feeds the wolf. However, it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong.”

    “But they are taking advantage of one another.”

    “Perhaps, but once you have been bitten by a bear, life is never again so sweet. Those who know how to play, can easily leap over the adversities of life. And those who know how to sing and laugh never brew mischief.”

    What a strange place this is, she thought to herself. But not so different from her own distant home. “I guess there are some out there that we will have to teach how to sing and laugh.”

    “Good luck with that,” whispered the Dark One to himself as he listened to them. “They are already mine. And what is mine, I keep.”

    The next day at the restaurant, “It’s time to hang the happy lights,” Ms. Mable huffed as she tried to carry a large box into the kitchen.

    “What are happy lights?” Yanti pulled warm fragrant bread from the oven.

    “What are happy lights? My dear child, happy lights are about the only thing that can save this town. If it weren’t for them, we would all go into a major depression. We must snap people out of this funk. And if they’re not getting it at home, they’ll certainly get it here. Yutu,” Ms. Mable called to the kitchen boy, “Come help me dust these things off.”

    Those who had sketchy electricity during the storms, relished their time at the diner. Happy lights and hot cocoa cake, what more could a soul ask for.

    Day 21, the new headline read, “In the House of the Setting Sun.” Crime had risen 20-fold and was still climbing. Neighbors argued, enemies sought revenge.  

   “Why are your huskies barking all night long?”

    “Because there is no moon to howl at.”

    “Build them a pen with a fake moon…or else.”

    “Or else what?”

    Husbands and wives argued, children were defiant. 

    “You’re spending too much time at the pub. I told you before I married you, after that one awful weekend, that I would not tolerate that. And you know you ended up with that woman.”

    “I am not spending the entire weekend. It’s a few hours with the guys. Why are you bringing up the past? We weren’t married then.”

    Voices carried through shut doors, carrying on the wind. Secrets were revealed to any close enough for the words to fall upon. “You don’t get to choose what you reveal. It is my life and my story to tell.”

    “But it is not just your life.” Soft-spoken women found their strength to yell, “Your miserable behavior is affecting us all.”

    Resentful husbands stormed off to the pub to stew over a brew. Who had the right to bring up the past? The past was in the past. But this is what they were arguing over. The men commiserated while they played poker. That is until one of them would accuse the other of cheating. 

    “I saw that ace earlier. And how are you getting so many pairs?”

    “Are you accusing me of cheating?”

   “If it looks like a caribou, and smells like a caribou, it just might be a caribou.”

    The women commiserated over quilting, that is until one of them commented on the other’s stitching. 

    “Are you saying my stitches are careless?”

    “Of course not. I’m just saying that maybe they could stand to be a little more uniform. After all, this quilt is for the Annual Moose Fundraiser, and we do want it to look good.”

    “My stitches are just fine.”

    “If you say so.”

    “If yours are so perfect, you can do it yourself.”

     And children commiserated over video games, until one of them lost once too many times. 

    “You win all the time. Why don’t I ever win?” Throwing down the controller.

    “Maybe because you’re a dodo.”

    Then and only then, did the men stomp home, the women huff off, and the children return to their rooms. 

    Neighbors, spouse, and children were not practiced in the types of soothing words that were needed to heal the wounds. That would come later, much later, like the slow resolution of the Barrow winter. Healing would not come until sequnniaq, the month when the sun appears, late January or early February. Until then, they could only endure.

    For some, healing would never come. Sila looked down the dark empty street. He saw no help coming. The wild mob stood on the sidewalks, throwing firebombs and bricks through the storefront windows. He surveyed the damage. The sad windows of the merchants on main street stood jagged like a jig-saw puzzle with many pieces missing. The only hope in the whole scene was the magnificent aurora borealis reigning over it all.

     He watched with frustration as sparks flew from the windows to float deceptively and gently up to the sky. He could not stand it any longer. With all the pent-up frustration of the last two months and with all the disgust he felt for their abominable behavior, he let it all go. He took a deep breath and with a power even he did not recognize, blew out a deep stream of wind. Windows shook, trees swayed, gutters blew off the buildings. The flames gave a valiant effort to survive, but the fire gave one last roar before succumbing and dying out. Those unfortunate to be in his way, also went flying. Like limp ragdolls, they lay on the ground, stunned at what had just happened.

    “What in the world was that?” They gave a frightened look at Sila. Spurred on by their terror, they regained their energy and ran off. The mayor, just arriving, took in the scene and gave a big smile. It seemed he would not have to give as harsh a punishment as he had anticipated. He felt these troublemakers would not be making any more trouble any time soon. For he also had been stunned by the power of Sila’s breath. Things quietened down significantly after that. He guessed they were having second thoughts to giving into their emotions.

    Day 66, the new headline read, “The Prodigal Sun Returns Home.” People all over Barrow rejoiced. They busied themselves, preparing for the celebration festival. And it would not just be a one-day event, it would go on for an entire week. For it was finally time to herald in the return of the famous midnight sun. There was music and dancing until the wee hours. There were chili cook-offs and pie bakes. The long-awaited sun was finally here. Hearts were uplifted. Neighbors apologized, spouses hugged, children did their chores. Words of reconciliation were freely given, balance once more restored. For when the sun comes out, everything feels warmer, even when it’s 20 degrees.

And everyone was happy. Everyone except the Dark One.

March 26, 2022 01:04

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4 comments

Yves. ♙
04:44 Aug 08, 2022

This story brought so many moments together with such intrigue. I've long been fascinated by polar knight, and was excited to see it in a Reedsy story! Thank you for sharing.

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12:55 Aug 09, 2022

Thank you for your kind remarks. I truly enjoyed writing this story.

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Leo Fall
14:57 Mar 26, 2022

Woah, this is really cool! I really love your take on this prompt! Most would make a universe, a travesty, or make it metaphorical(like I have). But you've done it on Alaska's no Sun in winter. That's really cool. I enjoyed this story, I can't wait to see what else you come up with.

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08:49 Apr 03, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind words. I am glad you enjoyed it.

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