~ Into The White ~
by Diane Cline

e-mail comments to: TheDestind@Aol.com

     Heather stood at the deserted bow of the huge ship. The only sound that could be heard, was that of the ship's hull creaking as the waves splashed against it. A lone, cold breeze blew her red-blond hair back from her face, and she could have tasted the salty breeze. However, her mist green eyes were focused not on the crystalline blue waters of the north Pacific Ocean, but on events of nearly half-a-year ago...

     It was an evening, only a few months after Heather's sister, Lisa, died of a fever. The then fifteen year-old Heather had just come back from visiting her best friend Susie's house. The sun was just sinking below the horizon, bathing the city of New York with a red-orange light, when Heather entered her parent's house. "Heather where have you been?!" Bellowed her father.
     "I was at Susie's house." Heather replied, confused as to her father's anger.
     "I swear you're at that little twit's house more than you are here!" it was then that Heather saw her father's bloodshot eyes. He had been drinking. She winced involuntarily, knowing her father's attitude when he was drunk. Heather tried to explain, "Me and Susie--"
      "Susie and I" her mother corrected, in an annoyed fashion. Heather refrained from rolling her eyes and restarted. "Susie and I," Heather paused chancing a sidelong glance at her mother, "were looking through her father's medical journals in his library. 'Cause we want to be doctors--"
      "Doctors?!" Her father exclaimed.
     "Yeah," Heather replied, not recognizing her father's tone. She went on in an excited rush of words. "Me and her are gonna set up our own practice in this town, so we can help sick people get better..." She trailed off as she noticed the less-than-thrilled looks of her parents. "What? I thought it was a good idea..."
      "Young women," her mother paused to give emphasis, "do not become doctors!" Heather then realized, that her mother was acting like all the other upper class parents of her time. The late nineteenth century, what a laugh. However, Heather had read enough books about women doctors to know that view would soon change.
      "And," her father added, "in a few weeks, you will no longer live here. We are going to Alaska, where your Uncle Tim has found you a nice young man to marry."
      "Marry?! I...I'm only fifteen!!" Heather exclaimed. She kept running over in her mind, images of her and some man, with ten children climbing all over her. She wanted to scream. She had wanted to make a difference in the world before she settled down. She wanted to become a master of medicine, so that no one she loved would ever die of anything other than old age -- her vows could be put to the test sooner than she thought.
      "Oh, don't worry dear, you'll be 16 or even 17 before you actually marry him!" her mother attempted to console her. But Heather would not except it. "But I don't even know him! What if I don't like him?! Aren't arranged marriages illegal in this country?!"
      "In most cases yes." Her father agreed. "But this boy's family owns a gold mine about 400 miles north of Anchorage. The boy saw a picture of you, and wishes to marry you. If you don't marry him I am prepared to disown you."
      "Paul! After Lisa?!" Paul angered even Heather's timid mother with his cruel statement. "Yes honey, but at least Lisa was a good young woman! Unlike this little harlot..."
      At this point Heather was out of the house and running to Susie's, in spite of the darkness. The cold and wind caused tears to stream down Heather's face, although she was not yet crying.
     As she ran, Heather remembered that her father had not always been so cruel. He was once the nicest father a girl could wish for. He had supported Heather's dream to become a doctor. However, while Lisa's death only rejuvenated Heather's desire to help people, it caused her father to start drinking. When Paul drank, he became rude and irrational. Even so, he carried out his drunken threats later. Heather it seemed was the only one to notice these changes; her mother was in denial that her family could be falling apart. Heather knew with a certainty, that in a few weeks, she would never see her childhood home again.
     So, when Heather entered through the window into Susie's room, real tears streamed down her face. "Oh Heather" Susie whispered, taking Heather into her arms and holding her, and stroking the red-blonde hair, while she waited for Heather's tears so subside. It was nearly an hour later when Susie felt Heather's tears start to subside. "Oh Susie," Heather said with a cracking voice, "they're making me leave!" Then, with Susie's prompting, Heather told Susie about the man and Alaska. She also told Susie how long it would take for their huge ship to travel all the way around South America, and back up toward Alaska. Even if she did write it would take months before she could actually send any of her letters. Susie cried with her, and they fell asleep in each other's arms on Susie's bed.

      And that was the last time she had really gotten to speak to Susie in person. Both had promised to write, but knew that writing wouldn't be the same. Heather realized with a certainty, that she had loved Susie with an intensity she could never love this man she was to marry. "Oh, Susie" Heather whispered to the sea, "How could I not have known?" With that, Heather turned away from the ship railing, and returned to the main room where she, her parents, and the hundred or so other passengers were to eat dinner.
      After dinner she pulled out her diary and pen, which her father had given her last week for her sixteenth birthday, and began to write.

     Dear Susie,

      I miss you, more than I ever thought possible. Today I realized something that neither of us ever did. I loved you. No not the way a friend loves a friend. But the way a man and a woman love each other. I wish you were here, I need you. Well, I need to get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow.


     Heather reread what she had written. She hadn't thought about it, but now, as she read, it seemed so true. She felt a twinge of sadness knowing that it was just her diary she was writing to, and not Susie. Then she got, what she thought, her best idea ever. She would send Susie the diary when she finally reached her destination, and could get to a post office. A little voice told her that it was wrong for her to feel these things, but she pushed it aside. She put her diary in her bag with the rest of her belongings. Then she rose to turn off up the kerosene lamp. The tiny cabin was plunged into darkness and silence, save for the eerie creaking of the hull as the waves rocked the ship back and forth. Heather crawled into bed, and was at first kept awake by the sounds that she still hadn't grown accustomed to. However, after a while, those same sounds lulled her into a deep, dreamless sleep.

     The tall, dark clothed, figure was practically a shadow in the pale moon light. A furry-four-legged white creature at the figure's feet whimpered up. The tall figure leaned over to rub the young wolf-dog's head. She looked up at the moonless sky, it was so dark. It was on nights like these when she felt the world was dark enough for remembering everything. All the events that had gotten her here, in the middle of the cold dark woods on a late winter night. She hardly noticed the cold though, she had survived temperatures much colder. This was her twenty-second winter in Alaska, and it had been a mild one at that.
      She remembered the story of that fateful mid-winter night, she had heard it as many times as anyone. Her mother was nearly three seasons pregnant with her, and would give birth soon. She and her husband had sent for the local Inuit shaman. They were inquiring what the name of their child should be. The shaman's face was disdainful as he looked up from touching the pregnant woman's swollen belly. "The child is a daughter, she is descended directly from Revakiena." In the Inuit religion, Revakiena is the great raven who created the universe, and would destroy it in the end. The shaman was of the opinion that this child would be the Destroyer. Her parents named her Zuelkiena, carrier of darkness, as a reminder to them.
     Zuelkiena was born a healthy baby. However, the parents were not encouraged. Their daughter was unusually large, and had ice blue eyes instead of the usual brown. Zuelkiena grew tall and strong quickly, and though an intelligent child, did not speak much.
     At the beginning of her seventh year, her family forced her to stay out in the cold at night with the dogs. They were fearful of the prophecies, of the darkness they knew was inside their daughter. Of the entire family group, she loved and was loved only by her brother, Lyskinio. Lyskinio, of all she knew, thought that Zuelkiena was stronger than what ever darkness was inside her.
     It was one event during her twelfth summer that was the most important of her childhood. She had followed the hunting party for the first time. On this particular day, her brother, was trapped up a tree by a huge bear, which none of the other hunters would get near. Zuelkiena, scared for her brother, picked up a near by rock and threw it. The rock hit the bear in the forehead, killing it instantly. Zuelkiena was then taken back to the main hut in glory. A party was held in her honor, and she was given the bear skin and the teeth and claws. She had the tribe tanner make her bear skin pants and a jacket from the skin. With this kill, she became the most powerful person her age. She was allowed to attend all local parties and meetings. She was not however, allowed to sleep inside. Though, even if she was not allowed in, she was given plenty of blankets to prevent her anger. She wasn't angry though, she just thought that her people were superstitious.
     By the beginning of her twentieth year, people began to doubt the prophesies. Zuelkiena had certainly proven herself a great hunter, and very honorable. She was for the first time in over a decade, allowed to spend a night inside a building other than the dog shelter. She was treated as a goddess.
      That summer however, on a whaling expedition, her brother Lyskinio was killed by a Y'teri hunting party. Despite their pleas that it was an accident, Zuelkiena killed them all. Then as she killed the last one, Zuelkiena felt a rush of power that felt destined. This was who she was! She was the carrier of darkness. In a frenzy, she killed the members of her own hunting party, and their blood ran black on the wildflower covered ground. At that time, she dedicated herself to killing all of the Y'teri for the death of her brother. During the next two-and-a-half years she killed more than two-hundred Y'teri men, women and children. She raised and trained a pack of wolves to assist her in the slayings.
      On a mid-winter raid, twenty two years after her birth, Zuelkiena was defeated. This particularly large village was ready, and killed all but Zuelkiena, and one young white wolf. Her birthday brought no celebration, just bitter defeat. However, before Zuelkiena left her home in Kanata, she went to see her parents. "My brother, did not die in vain. I will return when I find the reason for his death." Her parents, prayed to the spirits that Zuelkiena would find her own death.
     Zuelkiena, and her white wolf wandered the wilderness for many weeks. The sun began to show itself above the horizon, if only for a few minutes a day. One day, as the sky began to lighten in the east, Zuelkiena happened upon a shack. She signaled her wolf to heal, and crept towards it, hiding behind trees as she went.
     "I've been expecting you." Zuelkiena started at the sudden and unexpected voice. The initial shock passed quickly, as she spun around and pinned the owner of the voice to the rickety wall of the shack.
     "How did you sneak up on me?!" she demanded, her voice dripping acid. The voice's owner turned out to be a slight elderly woman. Zuelkiena could not tell what tribe this woman was from, but she could tell that this woman had spiritual power: she wore the clothing of a shaman.
     "My name, is Shakalah, I did not mean to scare you, but you didn't hear me."
     "How did you know I was coming?" Zuelkiena was still suspicious.
     "I had a dream last night. Come in, let me get you something warm to drink; you need some rest."
     The young huntress and elderly shaman entered the small hut, followed by a white wolf. Zuelkiena looked around the single room. There was a fire in the center, below an opening in the ceiling to let out the smoke. In one corner there was a bear skin bed roll, and in another there were clay pots and bowls for cooking. There was nothing unusual that would indicate this woman was a shaman. Perhaps, Zuelkiena thought, this woman tribe used different markings than her own. But, that would not explain the dream.
     Sitting on the floor, Zuelkiena excepted the tea the woman gave her. Her wolf lay down beside her, letting out a sigh at being in such a warm place. Zuelkiena was wondering why she felt she could trust Shakalah. After she had drank the tea, she felt tired. She wondered if she had been poisoned, but she could not think of any poison with such symptoms coming so quickly. She yawned. "Here, lay down over on that bed roll. You look as though you could use some rest." Shakalah joked kindly.
     Zuelkiena found herself too tired to resist. She went over to the bed roll, and was asleep as soon as she put her head down.

     The little Y'teri boy woke from his sleep, but his nightmare had just begun. He was contious for only a few moments when he smelled smoke. He looked around, and saw the flames, the temperature in the room was very hot. The room was, oddly, completely silent. He looked for his parents, but they were nowhere to be seen. As the fire grew and the heat rose, a very soft sound could be heard. The little boy recognized it as laughing. A woman's laughter, low alto and full of acid. The boy cringed at the sound, it was scarier than the growing flames. Then the boy wondered if it was, as the flames started to close in on him. He could feel the horrible pain of his skin burning, until he could feel no more. The laughter got louder as he screamed. The louder he screamed, the louder the laughing got. Louder and Louder, he fell on the floor, making feeble attempts to cover his ears, but his arms wouldnt respond. Finally, finally, he stopped moving, and all noises stopped for the little boy. He began to rise out from the flames, soon joined by other spirits, and they went together away from the earth forever...

     Zuelkiena woke with a start to see the faces of Shakalah, and her wolf staring down at her. "You're Awake!" Shakalah exclaimed. "We thought you would never wake up!"


To Be Continued...

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