The lights of the camp faded the further I walked from them. Even “camp” is too strong a word. A smattering of tents, half belonging to the natives, and half to researchers like me. The distinction grew smaller each day.
I would never have expected Climate Science to take me to the great white North, but that’s where I ended up. Even more unexpected was how much I’d liked it. Growing up, I was a child of the Summer, used to long days and warm nights.
Turns out the days are longest the further North you get. Not now, of course. We wouldn’t see the Sun for another 30 days at least. It went from dark to darker.
At least it was mild this season. I came up here to investigate the rate of snowmelt, the warming temperatures, all the things we were supposed to forget. I never forget. All my trouble stemmed back to this essential fact.
The first stint had been a slog. After the first week, I was crying for an escape. My journal entries from those days are somber and pathetic. I look at them every once and a while to remind myself what how spoiled I still am.
If humans can do one thing, it’s adapt. It’s one thing to move up here from the American mainland, but seeing the natives around here is magical. They have built their whole lives around the snow, around the whims of the weather, around the endless nights and everlasting days. And now all that was threatened. I guess that was true for everyone, but these people were on the bleeding edge.
It was through the kindness of the natives I was here at all. It’s a bit of a stereotype, but us researchers can be a bit cold. The arctic climate doesn’t help that any either.
I had a hard time adapting to the isolation up here, and when I would go over to a neighboring building, my peers would be too involved in their work to even say hello to me. That’s understandable when you’ve been there for years, but as a recent migrant, I wanted to ease the transition. They would offer no such comfort.
It was a native girl that had given me her. Her name was Miki. She still plays around my cabin sometimes, and I give her sweets. Her husky had had puppies, and she could not take them all. She was going around the village to give them away, and she came to me, a foreigner, to see if I wanted one. And I did.
My sweet Aila. A dark Husky puppy, black as coal, she never got lost in the snow. She was always a puppy to me, even as she got older, and the years came and went. No matter what, I could always count on her to brighten my day. We cuddled by the fire, and she protested loudly when she wanted more affection. I swear we could read each other’s minds.
And now she was gone.
That’s the way the world works, right? We are here on this rock for a fleeting moment before being thrust back into the void. I went to Miki right away when it happened. I must’ve been such a mess. But she knew right away, and held me tight.
She said I was to trek North, only a mile or two, to a small lake over the ridge. That is where I would lay Aila to rest. She would run among the snow and ice as long as there was snow and ice to run through.
I was getting close now. My sled dragged behind me. The hill grew above, but got less steep as I went. I trudged my way up the ridge, and for one moment almost lost the grasp on my rope through my thick mittens.
I paused for a moment at the peak. Never would I have looked back years ago, but now seemed like the time for introspection. The lights from the camp spread out over the horizon, bleeding like paint in water, casting a bronze glow to the heavens. The town looked so much bigger from up here. You never get the full scope when you’re in the thick of it.
I turned around and saw the lake at the base of the ridge, on the other side of the town. Icebergs floated in the water. I watched them drift back and forth in the gentle wind.
Hoping to see the stars, I looked towards the sky. Just over the horizon, glowing faint green, the Northern Lights crept into view. I stood for a long time and watched it march overhead. The solar winds blew on. Soon it would be day.