Still waters. Clear skies. High spirits.
She closed her eyes. Familiar red-tinged darkness. Entoptic larvae crawling in imaginary space, a spastic dance of perceived light. Her hands resting on the skin of her qayaq. The soft sound of water caressing its underbelly. She imagined the waters within. The ebbs and floes of her inner reservoir of H2O, the swirls, the eddies, the crushing waterfalls and deep, still ponds.
„I am a mirror“ she whispered, allowing her mind to float and dissolve into the vast ocean below. Picture: Her lines of thought as erratic strands of photons falling apart, dropping like fairy dust. Small submerged specks of energy interacting with the informational content of the liquid surrounding them. Becoming one with it. A somewhat guided vision, to be sure. Yet she also tried to stay open, to receive whatever intutive imagery that would come to her in this state. Every time she did this. Every day. There: A flash of darkness, something deep. And a lingering memory of too much death. Translated in her being as a tightness in the chest and a welling of the eyes.
Quickly now. Freeing pipette from breast pocket. Left brain concerned with taking a sample, right brain engorged in particulars of emotional state. Sample secured. The remainder of her tears soaking her cheeks. She bowed her head slightly to the side, letting the final drops return to the water. She didn’t know if it made any difference, but it felt right. Unclipping the twin-headed paddle, facing the setting sun, returning home. Her thoughts were her own again, contained. They centred round the angakok, the healer at the treshold. Was she close? Were her experiments something her ancestors could approve of? Maybe she would never know. All she had to go on was the eroded spaces left by generations of neglect. And a gentle murmur in her bones.
She paddled. Rippling wavelets in her wake, striped with dying light. Malina, the sun, dived below, soon replaced by her lustful brother Anningan, whose white, bright face was round and stuffed tonight. A bulge on the horizon. As she came closer, the top of the oceanscraper became clearly delineated in the hungry moonlight. The outline always seemed a bit unnerving at night, looking like the bell of a gargantuan jellyfish with an anachronistic cavity in the apex where the gardens and fields were kept, green hair rising. A cone of soft light suddenly shot from the dome, giving her an unwelcome spotlight. She gave the sign. Two sliding doors of hemp-plast opened, inviting her in.
The docks. Her qayaq dwarfed by fishing vessels and research craft. She kept on along the entire length of Pier C, then moored her boat with a bowline knot. Scaling the ladder in two swift leaps, approaching the door. Above it, embossed: „(New) Nuuk“. Under, like a tagline, a quote from J. Joyce, one of the great authors of the early Anthropocene: „Let the world be as it is and learn to rock with the waves. Remain radiant in the filth of the world.“
She made a motion to open the door, but someone on the other side beat her to it. It was Dawa, all arms and legs and green-striped hair. „Ínuina! Welcome back, sun sister.“ He touched his chest with both palms, briefly eclipsing the head of the Bhutanese dragon printed on his t-shirt, a nostalgic memory from the time of nation states and territorial pissing contests. „All thanks, moon brother.“ she replied, returning the gesture impatiently. „I must below.“ „Of course.“ He matched his steps with hers, accompanying her along the walkway towards the scraper’s central hub. „An update, though. Kay and Gerda have returned. With a major catch.“ „Good. I’ll pay them a visit.“
They entered the hub, cathedral-like in its vastness, high above them a 360 band of one-way windows, showcasing the hunting grounds of fat Anningan. In the center of it all, the stem of Nuuk, a massive hempplast pillar with 12 doors evenly spaced around its circumference, each of them leading to an elevator. Quickly, so as not to be mired in small-talk by other groups of brothers and sisters, Ínuina led Dawa inside one of them and told it to descend two floors.
As the door opened, they immediately saw Kay and his mischievous grin. He looked straight at them, bumping his nose light-heartedly against the glass. As if he knew that they would be coming right there, right then. Maybe he did. She went over to him, leaning her forehead against the transparent wall, filling her intentions and her thoughts with deep appreciation. She felt him, she was sure of it. As if she and him were of the same circuitry, a joined electron boogie. Then Gerda swam into view, slapping Kay playfully aside with her tailfin, demanding equal attention. Ínuina almost laughed out loud. They were so…human.
She looked down. Her inadvertent anthropocentrism had produced a sharp sting of shame. She looked up again, only to find that they in turn were bobbing their heads up and down, mirroring her consternation with what felt like mirth. „Do you want to see what they found?“ Dawa snapped her out of it, and she smiled. To the dolphins. To him. To the world. „Yes. Please.“
A huge square of grey-blue polytarp, maybe ten by ten metres, was laid out on a table before them, sea water still drip-drip-dripping on the floor. Its edges frayed and torn, a semi-legible logo in its center „Wrestle__nia LI“. „Sedna below…they managed to retrieve this tupilak all by themselves?“ Dawa beamed. „Impressive, isn’t it? I don’t think we’ve had a specimen this big before.“ She looked at him. „I’m worried, that’s all. That they will get entangled or…swallow something or…“ „Ínuina, it is their calling. Our calling. They’re two and very well trained.“ He pointed both thumbs towards himself, winking. She sighed. „You’re right. Of course. So, what’s this bastard made of?“ „Well…it’s a monster, all right. Polyester weave with a PVC coating.“ „Tiaavuluk!“ Her nose wrinkled in disgust. „Do you want to save it, sun sister? We could send it to the Memorial, I doubt they have a piece like this.“ „No.“ She turned away from that..thing, that abomination. „Don’t even log it. Just feed it to the mushrooms.“ Then: a thought. New pipette in hand. She turned back to the polytarp, lowering her instrument into the small pool of seawater that had gathered in the blank space of the printed logo, where the material had wrinkled up. Sample secured. „Ok, Dawa. All thanks.“ She went back to the elevator and said „Adilvun“. She went down. Way down.
This time, the door opened on a goddess. Adilvun was just above the ocean floor, the 360 windows of this level a direct conduit to the deep, dark underworld. Yet the attention-grabber of the lower hub was the statue, 9 metres tall, of a nude Inuit woman sitting on a rock in a posture reminiscent of The Lost Mermaid of Copenhagen. Her naked body semi-covered by the enormity of her billowing hair, tangled locks reaching down to the floor and spreading out across it in all directions, an artistic choice which made traversing the space slightly challenging. Ínuina had to step across several of the thick tendrils of faux hair, in one particular case she had to use the stairs that had been built into the big black tress blocking her way. Finally arriving at the base of the statue, she reached up and touched the maimed hand at the end of one trailing arm, fingerless stumps pointing downwards. „Mother“ she whispered. „I am your servant.“
She looked up at Sedna’s face, always amazed at how the artist had managed to imbue her eyes with both a sense of wild rage and still calm. In the old days, there was an annual ceremony where the angakok of her people went into a trance and travelled to Adilvun to appease the Sea Mother by combing her hair and removing accumulated trash and debris. If this tradition wasn’t honored, fierce and terrible storms would rise. Just like the one that had laid waste to Old Nuuk in the final days of the Anthropocene. People had forgotten, and in their folly they had paid the price. Ínuina wanted to do her part in making sure noone ever forgot again. Yet her idea of serving as angakok had a certain modern approach. Her own fingers, roughened by toil and weather, touched the stumps of Sedna’s digits, feeling the rough granular make-up of the material. Sedna was composed entirely of microplastic filtered from the sea by the Decontamination Platforms all across the Atlantic. A fitting tribute. A fitting memory. What wasn’t used for symbolic purposes like this, was given to the plastic-eating fungi grown in all the remaining civilization centres of the world, creating both energy and an edible mush as byproducts. With those efforts and the alliances humankind had made with the dolphins and the crows, maybe the Earth would be free of poison in a few hundred years. Maybe.
She bade her farewells to Sedna and pressed on. Hallways. Right. Doors. Left. Her lab. Her sanctuary. Once inside, she finally took off her jacket, first making sure to carefully take out the two filled pipettes and placed them next to the microscope camera. Two drops side by side on a glass plate. Two pictures, magnified and superimposed on the wall. The left one a teardrop of pain and release. The right one a drop in direct contact with one of the greatest evils humanity had created. Two circles in black and white. The right drop seemed…broken. Hollow. Split strands towards the outer membrane, a certain uncohesiveness. Like looking into a black hole suffering from apathy. The left one was a marvel. Its core was light, vibrant and flaring with energetic outgrowths, a microcosm of vitality and fiery bursts of visual song. Just like Sedna’s gaze – a vision of beautiful terror, of terrible beauty, a door to the numinous. Two eyes were looking down at Ínuina, one eye representing entropy, one eye representing life. Yet could she trust this? All the newest research on quantum superposition told her that the preconceived notions of the experimenter could adversely affect the objectivity of the results. The chips fell where they were expected to fall when observed. And within that skeptical line of inquiry she also saw a solution. Because if every observer could affect their surroundings by attuning with it with their intention and expectations, then surely this was an avenue for accelerated healing of the biosphere, if used correctly. Her predecessors, the angakut of old, spoke of curing ills through pain and true tears. If there was a way to copy the information of her own tears and broadcast their frequency to the broken waters of the Earth, then…then…but how?
She flicked the images away, sending them into storage together with her earlier results. A new hand movement decreased the opacity of the wall in front of her, giving her a vision of the deep sea. Just outside her newly formed window, the broken stone head of a pious man with shoulder-long hair peeked up from the silt. Hans Egede, the man who went to Greenland during the Enlightenment to preach Lutheranism to the forgotten Norse, only to make do with christening the Inuits he found living in their ruins. Now he was a ruin himself. So was the old city of Nuuk where he once stood, the one the Danes named Godt-Haab – Good Hope – reduced to a miniature Atlantis under the waves. Ínuina half-smiled. What was left of mainland Greenland was finally deserving of its name.
It had become colder. Everyone felt it. This spring even worse than the last. The crops were failing, and the day before yesterday his father had slaughtered one of the dogs for meat. Yet noone did anything. They just prayed and hoped and kept on working the land in the same, dogged fashion as their fathers and their fathers’ fathers had done, wishing the problems away. And when God didn’t intervene, they started blaming the Devil for the cold. After all, the priest had told his congregation that the northern part of the church nave was the one closest to the Prince of Darkness and his ilk. All evil comes from the North, he said. Which was probably why the women had to stand there. Havgrim Torsteinsson looked up at the white in the distance, those glaciers which seemed to inch closer and closer year by year. The stubbornness infuriated him. This unwillingness to take Fate in their own hands. To act. To prepare. Why would the Devil bother with tormenting them with something as petty as a drop in temperature? Why no lakes of fire? Or winters lasting three years, for that matter? Was he the only one with eyes to se…unghf!
That. Was. Cold. An icy burn on the nape of his neck. Brushing away the leftover snow from the folds of his hood, he turned around. He knew the identity of the culprit even before he set his eyes on her. Sedna, the short skraeling girl. With her free, strange spirit, her sealskin clothes and her healthy, fat cheeks. He felt like a scrawny underfed bird next to her. As if she read his mind, she walked up to him with a peace offering. A piece of prime seal meat.
They shared it on the rocky shore. Not much said. Single words from different languages. Giggles. Looks. This was their spot, in the limbo between their two encroaching settlements. He had visited them once, she had pulled him along, assured him of his safety with tugs and reassuring gestures. And contrary to what the priest insinuated during service, the Good Lord had not struck him down. And these so-called „Children of the Devil“ had not taken him captive, had not boiled the meat off his bones. His father had told him that he had killed a skraeling once when he was young, and that the blood that had gushed from the wound was unnatural and glacier white. Yet he found that hard to believe. They didn’t seem like trolls or ghosts, but men. Men who weren’t reliant on the yield of the fields, but who hunted, kept warm, stayed alive by rocking with the waves, not against them. He had tried telling his father what he had seen, what they could learn if they were willing. But he didn’t want to listen, hadn’t even accepted that his son had been at their camp. What could good Christians possibly learn from pagan stock? Finishing their meal, the two sat for awhile in silence. Suddenly she leant in and rubbed her nose against his. Heat rising. Hands numb. Then, just as quickly, she leapt up and returned home, flashing him the briefest of smiles.
That memory stayed with him for the next few days. Even in church, as the drone of a dead language washed over him. Sedna, her soft, sweet face, open and free of guile. Such a contrast to the sunken cheeks of his neighbours, the emaciated frame of his father. Each night he dreamt of seal meat, fat juices overflowing.
One morning he woke to a wail. Outside he found his mother, kneeling in the fields, digging away at the fresh layer of snow that had fallen during the night. „Why, Heavenly Father!? Why!?“ He ran to to help, so did father. But his sister stayed in bed. As she’d done yesterday. And the day before. When the fields were cleared, Havgrim’s hands were so cold it felt like the fingers would snap off if he weren’t careful. He warmed them by the pitiful fire made from the few remaining pieces of driftwood in the house. „Father. We should hunt. The seals. They can show us. They have these spears…“ He was cut off by a slap in the face. „Not. Another. Word. We are men. We do not seek the help of beasts. We suffer the Lord’s will. We prevail. And we do not give in to the lures of Beelzebub and his succubi.“ Then he rose and left the house. A yelp from their last dog, dragged towards the butcher’s block. Face still stinging, Havgrim looked at his sister. The blood was drained from her cheeks, her breathing ragged. Enough. He was not going to stay put, folding his hands and accepting each and every stone thrown at him. He had no intention of playing the part of Job. Kissing his sister’s forehead, he left the house, left the village, headed west.
What are memories? Ínuina couldn’t sleep. Still in the lab in the early hours of the morning, sifting through her water photos. Some of them showed crystalline structures of varying complexities and states of cohesion – those instances when she had experimented with freezing her samples. Just at the cusp of the Time of Storms, at the verge of the collapse of nation state capitalism, scientists were beginning to discuss theories of water’s inherent memory. A tear of joy looked different than a tear of grief. And water that came in contact with, say, tears of joy, was slightly transformed. Their informational content changed, was rewritten, updated. She had tried the classical Emoto-procedure, wherein she focused on a particular emotion while concentrating on a source of water. And „Anger“ did look different than „Love“. Again, her expectations might have influenced the result, but again, that just meant that placebo could be used as a powerful force of harmony in the world. And vice versa, for that matter. The arrogance of the Anthropocene, the ravaging of the planet, it could be seen as nothing more than unbearable pain lashing out. A global civilization of oppressors and self-mutilators removed from their own nature without a mediator to bridge the gap. Without an angakok. Thus enabling the destruction of the world because they were destroyed within, refusing to change their ways because they couldn’t bear the pain of truly facing what they had done, what they had become. She could feel it then, an echo of that pain, a frosty block deep in her chest, a memory? She cried, overcome with sadness not and still her own. And completely forgot to get a sample.
<Thump><Thump>. She wiped her face and looked around. Still alone. What…?<Thump>. The wall? She moved her hand, increasing the transparency, and there, instead of Hans Egede’s face she looked straight at Kay, prodding insistently. She reached out to him in her mind, and felt…cold? Kay gave her a look, made a flip and started swimming due east, urging her to follow him. She wished she could just dive after him through the lab walls, but no matter her intention, no amount of placebo would help her alter the standard rules of physical reality. Filled with a sudden, strong sense of urgency she ran towards the elevator. Dawa met her on the main floor. Throngs of people were about, all chattering excitedly. pointing and hooting at a huge live image screen on the wall. Dawa pointed too. At first she didn’t understand what she was seeing, her brain had trouble processing the visuals into a recognizable concept. But slowly it dawned on her. „An iceberg?! An actual iceberg??“ „Don’t know if it should qualify as a berg, or a hill, or a block.“ Dawa didn’t look at her, but kept his gaze fixed on the live feed. „But it’s a sizable quantity of H2O in a frozen state, allright, slowly disintegrating not too far away from us.“ Wild. Just wild. She started shaking him. „How is that even possible?!“ „I“ „Don’t“ „Know“. She let go, ran off. Walkway. Docks. Qajaq. Not even dressed properly. Splash. Paddling away through the opening doors of the scraper. And there it was, just on the horizon, a silent giant, softly bleeding. Kay appeared on her right. Then Gerda. They seemed excited. She didn’t know how she felt. But she let them lead her. Towards the ice.
She was waiting for him. As if she knew he’d be coming at that exact moment. Maybe she did. Havgrim felt a wave of joy rush through him. He was on the right path, he was sure of it. With Sedna’s help, with the help of her people, they could bridge their differences, feed his village, heal his sister, his father be damned. He grinned like a fool and started running towards her. They met. He leant in.
„Son!“ And froze. Harsh fatherly tones like pick axe cuts along his spine. „I know what this is. Stay away from that she-demon.“ Havgrim turned, puffing up his narrow chest in an attempt to seem big and protective. But his father was not alone. Three other men were with him, strange fires in their eyes. Father’s next line was addressed to them. „This witch has beguiled my flesh and blood. It must be her spells and curses that afflict us. Why else would snow fall in spring, and illness spread like wildfire?“ Pausing for breath, he loosened a knife from his belt and pointed it at Sedna.“Look at her plump, bloodshot cheeks! She must feed on our young at night, sucking the marrow from their bones while they are still alive! What do we do with such devil’s spawn?“ „Burn her!“ „Set things right!“ „Lord, thy will be done!“ All four had knives in their hands now. They crept closer. Havgrim watched them, mesmerized. They were mad. Crazy with hunger. Then he broke out of the daze, grabbed Sedna by the hand and said „Run“. She understood. Quick steps over cold ground. But no. A twist. He fell. She turned. „No“ he said. But she went back to help. Too late. They were upon her. She squealed, innocence rapidly draining from her face. She tried to get away, but then his father plunged. Between her ribs. A thunk. And what came out wasn’t white at all, but red. Bright as the morning sun. The pain. He couldn’t bear it. No. Shouts from the west. A party clad in sealskin, spears aready. Call of rage. And in the middle – him. His eyes locked with hers, they were beautiful and horrible in equal measure. They told him to run. So he did. Away from it all. Upwards. Towards the ice.
Oh. Ínuina came to a rest, forehead gleaming with sweat. Up close. It was a thing of majesty. Flat-topped with a crowning peak towards one end. Shot with light blue veins like beauty scars, sparkling in the sun. An ancient Leviathan creaking its own enchanting dirge. Impossible possibility. The ice cap, what was left of it, she would’ve thought no piece this big could survive all the way down to the sea. Yet here it was, defying her by its very presence. Rivulets of water were rushing down its sides. It seemed to be crying. Were they tears of release or pain? Or both? A piece at the back broke off, landing in the ocean with a massive splash, big waves thundering towards her, almost toppling her qayaq. Kay and Gerda made chittering sounds, checking to see if she was allright. She gently touched their noses on each side of her boat with her paddle, reassuring them. And kept on. Closer. Until she was just next to it. A large indentation in the ice towards the bottom seemed a promising spot. She disembarked and half-climbed, half-stumbled onto what would have to serve as a landing, trying to ignore the protesting reverberating creaks from the unstable ground. Dragging the qayaq with her, she settled it in ice. Close by, there was a small horizontal cavity in the wall, just big enough for her if she laid herself down. She felt drawn towards it, as if the ice had known she was coming, and had created this counter-relief just for her to complete. Maybe it had. She didn’t resist the impulse. It was more comfortable than she had imagined. Her fingers traced the low ice ceiling of her little bunk. Small pieces of it came off in her hands. What memories might these crystals hold? Yet she had no pipettes, no tubes or jars. She could only imagine. So she closed her eyes. Familiar red-tinged darkness. Shapes and squiggles, everchanging sketches, itinerant models of realities. „I am a mirror“ she whispered. She let her mind become fuzzy, lose its edge. Picture: Her thought patterns a concentric cobweb of bluish light, unravelling and melding with the ice, creating new veins of understanding, of dialogue with a long-forgotten past. Allowing anything to rise to the surface. There: A sensation of falling.
When it happened, he had lost track of time and space. He had run away from that which he couldn’t face and keep on living. Yet death was everywhere in these icy wastes. The ground was white, as was the sky. He was just putting one foot in front of the other, silently praying for deliverance. It came, just not the way he had expected it to. One crack, and the ground yawned a gaping blue. He fell, but didn’t feel a thing, limbs already numbed by cold. He lay there, wheezing, looking at the sidewalls of his crystal grave. And allowed himself to cry. Tears of grief for all he’d lost. Tears of joy for that which was. Tears for those who failed to see. Tears of letting go. They pooled around his twisted neck and froze, an ice cushion of terrible beauty and beautiful terror.
She gasped and turned her head. A dark outline in the wall next to her. Encased, unclear. She reached out.
He felt something. So close, so clear. Had she come for him? He smiled, reached out. „Sedna“.
Sweet Malina sank, fierce Anningan appeared. And the ice melted, freeing its tears to the world.