Kari’s life in Alaska is peaceful, until her village is turned upside down by the arrival of foreigners from London. To make matters worse, the fuel she collects every day to power the shield around her community is disappearing. When the foreigners demand a hot air balloon to take them back to their homeland, Kari gets an idea that could save her entire village. More
A polar bear, a little on the skinny side, made her way across the snow. She was female, I could tell: they were smaller than males. Her hunting had not been good. She rolled along with an easy grace. It was remarkable how well her coat blended in with her background. If she had been lying down, I might have tripped over her despite her size. Perhaps she had cubs nearby. I slid my pack off my shoulders, and she raised her head to look around. I shaded my eyes with my hands to make scanning the area easier. No cubs were visible, but they may have been playing over the next hill. I turned my attention back to the bear, who stood, blinking, in the snow. She scratched the ground with her paw. Then she started walking. Toward me.
I had a deep, abiding respect for all animals, polar bears in particular. Generally, I gave them a wide berth: I did not enjoy having things with such big teeth close to me. But what could I do? She could run faster than I could. If I did run, she would pursue me, thinking I was food. So I stayed put. She ambled closer to me. I sank behind the rock so my head was covered. Maybe she would go away if she couldn’t see me. She didn’t. She just kept advancing. I searched my mind for what could be driving her this way. Nothing but a snowy hill was behind me. No seals, no caribou, not even a bird. No prey at all. Except me.
I remembered the rabbit I'd skinned two weeks before, whose scent might have still lingered in my pack. My heart dropped into my stomach. I slid farther down behind the boulder, hoping the bear did not hear my parka scratch against the rocks. My breath rose up in fog. I covered my mouth with my hand to try to dissipate it, but white mist still rose up around it. I pulled the neck of my parka over my mouth. The giant bear lifted her head to sniff, a loud snorting noise. I watched her obsidian nostrils flare open as she inhaled the scent of the rabbit. I could see each strand of fur on her snout. Unconsciously, I slid my hand into my pocket. I didn't realize I'd done so until my hand was wrapped around the handle of my knife. The bear shuffled closer to my hiding place until I felt her breath on my ear. She still snorted, searching for the rabbit. It sounded like a wind storm. I'd seen polar bear teeth made into tools back at camp, even as decorations, but never attached to a live bear. Now they were close enough to tear apart my throat. Musty wetness seeped from her fur. Bloody-smelling salt water came off her breath. She had just eaten a seal, but she was still hungry. Go for the pack, I thought. You don't want me, go for the pack. There was no way I could fight off a polar bear alone. I would die. Even my spear, if I could maneuver it in this tight space behind the rock, would afford me little benefit if it came to fighting this behemoth. Still, I kept my hand clenched on the knife.
Available ebook formats: