Black Bubble [The Dread of the Yukon]

Dennis L. Siluk

1 The Decision And the Journey

[September, l909] I'm over fifty, and Shauna, over forty, she's more of the order of being, so-so in her ways than I, so-so meaning, you never know, and can be very stern if not given her way. My illness is of a peculiar order—I've thought possible she gave it to me, if one can give illnesses to another, I'd not put it past her; and the question is: could I go there without becoming fragmented and hurting someone in a panic state as I now often get: she thought I'd be fine; should I become panic or hurt myself then what? or even die of a hundred different reason. Again I repeat myself, she was indifferent to these worries of mine. My work used to be rather trying, as I spent much time in the Yukon years ago, now a professor at the University, with cross-cultural clients from every walk of life. I teach psychology.

"Robert doesn't mention any one but you, Lowell," was Shauna's rejoinder.

"I gather he's lonely for travel, or so I expect?" said I in return.

Incidentally, she looked at me as if I was out of my mind, turning toward the window; it was obvious she was dumbfounded in my lack of interest in joining him again on a surprise journey to the Yukon—it was fifteen-years since we had last been there. She didn't push the menu, I might add, but she wanted me to take the invitation, she was acting timid, and that is not her statuette. Robert has what I would call a not worth mentioning, personality. But he has money, influence, and it pays the bills; or used to. He also has blood shot eyes most of the time, likes to drink; his expression is dull, dim and flat, and he's 61, too old for such nonsense.

I think of the barren, spacious Yukon, its cold roomy country, a wing of the devils where you can't find much to eat, hard to sleep, and it does not have hot baths. I've been in the Yukon, as well as the far Arctic, it is no dream trip at our ages, or so I feel.

Wealth flashed across my wife's face, to entice: the fine things of life it would buy; after the expedition that is; and the truth of the matter is, I could rest for a year or two, in a quiet work-room and just write poetry, a perfect cup of coffee, or tea each day, instead of the same old, same old crap. Sure, there is a good point about his, I admit, and not many people would be demanding my every minute once I got back, and it would be only a four month endeavor, but again I say, it is to demanding; and so the Professor asked to me to go along with him, Professor Robert Spellvice; 'why?' to look for old bones, old mammal bones in the Yukon, this is not my cup of tea at 57-years old; not anymore anyway. But if I stay around here, it will be a long winter with my wife, and I can tell you, short in days can be long in months with her, if she'd doesn't make me into a toad. Like I said, there are points to this, I admit.

"I spoke with him yesterday, and he really wants you Lowell, he said he wanted your answer today, and not a 'no,' informing me he'd give you three times your wages than the university, along with a big bonus once completed, and acquire a leave of absence for you…?" I found myself gazing in the dullness of my library: eyes in a pause, looking at my wife, but not saying a word.

I spoke at length with her about how long we'd be gone—feeling it was a long time, and exactly how much was he was offering was not worth it, and the books that would be written thereafter, and the royalties, was still more work, and I wanted to retire for the most part, I had written 29-books, for god sake how many more must a man write to prove his worth. Shauna did not budge from her insistence in that I should go, nor move from the archway of our library, as I expected. She kept her dark eyes on me, a mist formed around her, like a black bubble; it was her compilation of hidden knowledge in witchcraft I was witnessing, and skeptical about: should I not agree to do it, I might end up doing it anyhow as it may appear to me—with her art of magic—I wanted to in the first place, and by the time the spell would fade, I'd be in the Yukon anyhow. I didn't know she was a witch when I married her; it came out when she healed me with some stupid shrub, of scurvy or whatever I had back then. I fought it, but it didn't' do much good until I returned and she hurled her magic on me. Oh, that isn't all, in the Yukon, there are deep dizzy mountains, deathlike, and graves here and there of those before you that tired to find their fortune in it. I scrabbled and mucked like a slave them days. It is the cruelest land that I know. Yes, there is beauty also, the big husky sun, the stars tumble about at night; the caribou run in the wild, it is fresh, silent, a stillness to it also, a good portion of it unpeopled; but there are hardships that nobody reckons.

Instead of me inviting it hopefully, as an alternative, I told her I'd try to look forward to it, but I only did in depression, a kind of creeping one at that. Here I was to enter a world of fog and slush, gloom and cold; these melancholy thoughts I must put aside. Now she went into her room, with that impassive face, an evil woman at times.

2 The Yukon And the Lake

For the first few weeks nobody spoke unless there was an absolute need to, and Lowell chopped ice as they shifted through the waters, his ores heavy with ice, cliffs all about him. Lowell wanted to turn about a hundred times, but his will refused his mind and bodies better judgment. And Professor Spellvice, whom never swore, learned how to somehow this time, as the river become more dangerous, and he become more exhausted. Lowell got thing about this time: '…for some odd reason, it would seem each man wants to prove something in his life before he dies, and thus, puts life and limb in harms way if need be, heart and soul into it, even if he puts others in harms way, and this was one of those times for the professor.' It seemed that, each man had reached his breaking-point during this journey, but jerked back from pulling their revolvers out and shooting the other.

During the evenings in camp, each would take their turns with some kind of hesitated and sort hysterical laugh, and a few hours later they'd both be fast asleep; a way of releasing the pressure of the long hatchet struggle in the Yukon. One blamed the other for whatever anguish had rested on his soul that day, but by nightfall it usually was forgotten, and by morning after a cup of coffee, it was time to loosen up the stiffen muscles and the ache of moving from the sleep of fatigue of the night before.

It was on the 21-day, they had woke up, finished with the coffee, it was dark yet, Lowell rolled up the sagging tent, said to Robert, "Come on, we got to get across the lake before it freezes up; it was thirty-below, and as they started to cross the lake the wind started to freeze up the Roberts cheeks and nose, when he touched them, they were froze hard like an ice cube. He stopped rowing, left the ore by itself as he pulled his gloves off to warm his face with his own fleshly hands. Thus, as they floated down the swift river, shore-ice extended out into the lake and it was hitting the boat as it broke from its main sheet. Lowell didn't see Robert, he was starting a fire in the little iron stove they had in the boat, for it was to be a six hour trip across the lake, and into the river; which would bring them a landing point, just before the water falls; consequently, his back was turned to him. The older man, Professor Spellvice, was beyond fatigue, and was now rubbing his face, it was dead tissue he was rubbing, tissue that was frost bitten: turning white; his ore had slipped gently into the lake, there was one left, it remained connected to the boat on the other side, then all movement ceased—they hit a big rock in the middle of the lake, the professor fell forward onto Lowell's back, sound like he was in extreme anxiety: "I'll sure go back now," his eyes bulging out of their sockets: then apologized for taking him into this 'forsaken land,' hunting for old bones; then like a sack of potatoes, he fell limp: dead to the world. What had come over him, Lowell didn't know, there were no real signs that had forecasted such a quick expiration.

Lowell had food, some gold-dust they had traded for dollars in Dawson, just incase they needed to buy some camp items along the way, should they find someone willing to sell them, along with meat or other needed items, hence, dollars would not hold the value as gold would. He knew he had flour, some beef-jerky, a few tin goods; as he looked about the boat; then he noticed he had one ore. The shore was about a mile away; he'd turn the boat that way, but didn't have it, it seemed somehow to turn by itself in that direction compelled to go that way he told himself—"Why?" He then pulled out a bottle of whiskey, took a few drinks, after thawing out his mustache to get the bottle into his mouth.

He looked at old Professor Spellvice, "So-long, old chap," he said with a regretful- ness, while his red-hot stove gave him new vitality. It was getting colder, for he spit in the air and it froze before it hit the ice in the lake. "It's getting colder all the time…" he told the stove, as if it had a mind of its own, rubbing his bare hands to the warmth of its flames, turning now and then to the back of the book looking at the Spellvice humped over like a lump of lard, chin on his chest.

"Ssh!" he said aloud. He heard a woman's voice from the shore; he could see the shore now. "Huh!" said he, in a whisper to himself. For some reason, Shauna did not occur to him that the voice coming from the shore was hers, or could be; it was some other woman's. As his boat oddly enough was being pulled to shore by some hidden force, the snow in this areas was feet thick, deep snow he noticed. 'Nobody could live up here,' he told himself, the stove now going out, '…only the devil,' he added to his monologue. He felt his legs and knees, he knew his muscles were still strong with warm circulating blood; hence, he could trudge along the snow for a few days once ashore, but he needed to find a log cabin—sooner or later—and wait out the winter. There was no way of going back. He'd bury the old professor in spring, when he'd make his way back across the lake; it would freeze over soon—the lake that is, if not this evening, surely tomorrow or the following day.

3 Reaching land

Fate beckoned Lowell McWilliams, one might say, for on the cold desert like sheet of ice came echoes sliding to his ears, echoes from a Polar Eskimo, in this geographical isolated land. Oaassaaluk, a seer of sort whose husband was an Eskimo like her, and hunter and the master seer, was now alone with her children by her side, all waiting along the coast with their traditional sledge of: whalebone joined together with sealskin, no rivets or nails. They had journeyed a long way. She was now moving briskly with her dogs along side her dogs which were restlessly guarding her. Now the shore passed quickly before Lowell's eyes, catching the glimpse of the female Eskimo. She had two young children by her side he noticed, yet she was small and pretty—an eye catcher. Build strong with a round face. She had willed the boat over, he could see the roof of her tent, plus she had been cooking something. The atmosphere looked good, he was hungry, starving, and he had a dead body to look at, which was becoming disheartening. Behind the tent was a small igloo, standing at the lips of a cliff, somewhat lost in the vastness of the snowy landscape. He had never used his ore once, it was all by the force that the boat found its way to the shoreline; some hidden force of this Eskimo woman he knew, whose name he'd fine out was Oaassaaluk: yes, the boat was brought to shore by her will.

—Lowell had learned as he met young Oaassaaluk, and her two children, that she was from an Inuit tribe from Greenland, a Thule tribe. When she scented the dead man in the boat, she was a bit fearful, hoping he was not ill-treated during his life, lest he come back and haunt them. She spoke the language of the Inuit's from Greenland, and thus, performed a ritual that evening for the dead man. She circled him like a wolf, wondering if he was going to come back and haunt them, then like thunder in the middle of the night, as the fire was going down, only flickers left, she ran outside of the tent she had, with a sharp bone for a knife, a bone from a bear, and stabbed him again and again through the heart, to insure he was dead, and would not come back and haunt her children and her; Lowell saw it all, as he had stayed by the fire, and the children in the igloo saw nothing.

She was well understood to Lowell, he didn't' know why or how, but it seemed she had some supernatural power to make it so. As he looked at his friends body, she had scalped him, turned his eyes, mouth, ears and genitals inside out, saying, "…it is better my new friend, to kill him once and for all, than to have him follow us at night." Lowell said not a word. He had thought his wife was dangerous, but Oaassaaluk was far more vicious should she want to be, more than Shauna had ever thought of being.

As the weeks passed, they both slept together in the tent and become as one, and he learned many things of her, and she of him. They even taught each other songs. She explained, Perlussuaq was their evil spirit, who could wish living creatures ill, and she beloved his friend had met the evil spirit, and thus, he was doomed. Had Lowell continued down the river, his fate would have been the same she explained, but the sprit was lazy, and did not think she was close by and had time to squander, for the spirit was looking for her but her magic created kind of black bubble around her so he could not smell, or see her. But once she had used her powers, she'd had to come out of that safety zone, thus was open to his wickedness, it was why she hand to insure the man was dead.

She had taught Lowell by this time, spoken charms, and to chant them softly. And about the taboos of food, and eating of meat: basically, the age mattered as did the kind of animal, and sex. Should he eat the heart, his vitality would diminish. He'd explain to her of his wife whom would use her skills in black magic to insure he'd do as she wanted. But Oaassaaluk never said a word bad about his wife; she turned out to be a good listener. And as the days passed they become not only lovers, but soul mates. In the morning she'd cook eggs, and have meat, coffee made, where she got them, he never knew nor asked, but his supplies were almost depleted, and so he was thankful she had a resource whatever it was. In her beliefs, she knew she had a soul [her breath], she told Lowell, she had three 'breaths,' if not more, and life was everlasting. She wore amulets, the skin of the upper jaw of a bear her recent husband was killed by, she endowed with pride and courage. And she had in her tent, and in the igloo, skulls of foxes.

4 Evil Spirits

It was in January, of the year of l910; Lowell had been missing for months without any word to civilization he was alive. And suddenly when Oaassaaluk had returned one morning back to the camp, she was ill, very ill. Oaassaaluk's husband had been an 'angakkoq,' shaman, or priest, and she had learned much from him. He was the interpreter of the signs, and he was her precedence, and the evil spirit was mad at Oaassaaluk for saving the white man, taking Lowell away from him. As he was angry at Oaassaaluk's husband previously; for they had been escaping, running away from it, as to not have to give it respect, it wanted, worship it pleaded for, and swore it would get revenge should they not give it. In consequence, in fear and faith they had run a thousand miles, and then of course the evil spirit sent the bear to kill the husband, and she had been lonely and would not sleep with the evil spirit and hid from it; out of loneliness, isolation, and knowing the evil spirit was on a rampage, she helped Lowell, his unknowing it, evade his fate of death, whom she took as her mate now. She sang 'ajajas,' calling on the good spirits to help her. Her illness was unceasing though; she became mute and extremely violent at times, then gentile as lamb and held on to Lowell as if he was her breath, or part of one. As she lay dying day after day, Lowell had found himself much in love with her; he loved her dearly, so much so, he stayed there night and day without eating, only preparing food for the children. He had also found out he did not want to return to his home in the lower states to face his bewitched wife whom kept him as a slave.

It was a deadly night when he sat in the igloo by her side as she was dying when all of a sudden out of nowhere, people he had never met seemed to come in and out to the igloo, he knew they were ghost's form he sky, but he said nothing. They were having a feast of some kind, laughter, drums sounded, in the space of a few days, it looked like a village outside the igloo, it had become over populated, fifty people maybe. Despite the influx, the snow did not stop them or the cold, or the small igloo, the guests were puckered eyed, and talked in her concise language.

In the summer of l910, the bodies of Oaassaaluk and Lowell were found, side by side, ugly in the sun, skin rotting as if they were a black bubble of flesh, harnessed to one another like a team of dogs. He had tied himself to her, and ordered the ghosts to tie him tighter, so tight, he'd not be able to get out; for it was said no one could have done it alone. And so as he had wished, they died together, arms and body entangled around one anther. From the edge of the cliff, where the igloo was, the two children were gone.

Note: original idea came from a dream; I called "The Prize," 3/24/05, which was in a few fragments. I had written about 50-words of the dream down. Ten I wrote out the first part of the four part story on 3/28/05, it was only of a witch for a wife, I had no ending, and I like starting with an ending. On the 29th I had another idea in the middle of the night for the ending, so I wrote down five ideas on a napkin. Then I wrote parts two and three out. On 3/30/05, as I was going in to the forth part, it came to me the ending. I had the ending originally form the 5-part napkin, but changed it thirty minutes before I had written the last words to the story [completed 12:4

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