Anuniaq and the Storm Tossed Sea

When Anuniaq was only just become a man and had not yet taken a wife from among his people, his mother, Nauja said to his father, Chulyin, “Why will my son not take a wife?  Husband, speak to Anuniaq, else our family will end with him and we will have no daughter-in-law to care for us in our old age.”

“Fine, fine, I will speak to the boy,” said Chulyin and he went out to his son so he would not have to hear Nauja’s complaints against the boy.

Far out on the sea, Anuniaq was trying out his fine new tanned hide sail on his kayak.  Chulyin looked at the low gloomy sky and left his son to his foolishness and went to sit by his friend Oogrooq’s fire.”  I will talk to the boy when he returns,” He thought.

The fire was fragrant and the talk was good, so Chulyin sat long with his friend Oogrooq discussing this and that.  The crackling fire and their laughter drowned out the beginnings of rain on the sides of Oogrooq’s tent.  It was a gust of wind that reminded Chulyin of his mission.  “I beg your pardon Oogrooq, I was to talk to my son about a wife. . .”

Oogroo, knowing both Chulyin and Nauja, commented, “Are you sure you are the one to advise him, Chulyin?”

“Probably not,” said Chulyin as he climbed to his feet, “But how could I tell Nauja that?”

“Mmmm,” said Oogrooq.

When Chulyin staggered out of Oogrooq’s tent, the wind was howling and driving the rain into his face.  He turned his back to the gale and looked out to sea.  Annuniaq’s kayak was nowhere to be found.  Chulyin looked up and down the slippery pebble beach.  There was no sign of the boy.  “Anuniaq!” he shouted.  The storm grew worse until he could only return to his tent and collapse by the fire.

           *  *  *

Anuniaq did not realize his danger until a great gust of wind nearly tore his sail from his grasp.  Only then did he look toward where the shore had been and see nothing but sheets of driving rain.  “Uh oh, here comes a storm.” he thought.

Anuniaq was very proud of his sail, the great drum that catches the wind, that he had fashioned.  So before he tried to paddle home he took the time to carefully collapse and tie down his sail.  Then, taking up his paddle, Anuniaq pulled hard into the wind and rain where he thought his village would be.

Soon the sea was a frothy confused range of colliding mountains tossing him about like a seal float.  Up he rose on the crest of a storm torn wave only to fall into the trough between white capped breakers trying to bury him in the deep.  The hope of home faded to be replaced by a terrorized fight to survive the ravening sea.

At some point, imminent danger became so incessant that thought was buried in instinct.  Anuniaq reacted to each new threat and without thought survived it.  Pain had no more meaning to him than did the past he could not then remember or a future he could not imagine.  And then when instinct told him his life was not threatened, he collapsed across his paddle and slept.

When he woke, stiff and cold, his kayak rocked upon an undulating sea beneath a gray sky.  The water was smooth, but rose and fell, and every new glass mountain peak showed nothing, but a world of other such mountains off to the gray horizon, unbroken and lonely.

There was a dim gloaming lightening the overcast, so with only a very general idea of direction Anuniaq began to paddle northward where he hoped to find land.  It was torturous at first, but as time passed his body warmed and with that his spirits rose.  As dim glowing light only just lightened the the overcast to his left Anuniaq continued to use the waves to surf him forward.

Anuniaq prepared for another night on the sea.  With his sail and provisions from his kayak he prepared shelter and a meager meal.  He hoped the morning would reveal land.  By now he was worried that the storm had driven him farther than he could have imagined, but worry pushed him no nearer to home and weariness made his kayak and the rocking of the waves a good enough bed.

A strong breeze ruffling his tented sail woke him.  The world was still gray, but the morning sun seemed brighter and the wind made him hope that he might sail more than paddle and so rest while he travelled more than his weary body would allow on its own.

So it was that Anuniaq nearly forgot his plight while he danced between wind and wave.  It was nearing mid-day with holes burned through the overcast that Anuniaq saw a dark blue serration along the horizon when he rose upon a swell.  The breeze bore him toward land he had never seen.

His people lived on the ice and, in summer, gravel beaches, sometimes there would be a low cinder cone peak above the shingle, but this land was stony peaks rising from the sea.  “This must be the iron mountains of the Rus of which the whale-talkers sang,” He thought.

There was a darkening threat, fearsome looking clouds to the West so Anuniaq feared another storm.  What approached on the wind he knew he could not bear again, so he rode the wind and the waves toward a new land.  Anuniaq began to realize that he may have traded one danger for another, but his fate was settled and he must go onward.

*  *  *

Chulyin sat by Oogrooq’s fire and thought more than he talked.  It seemed that Anuniaq was gone.  As a father he felt sad for the loss, but as a husband of a quarrelsome wife he felt a much worse.  Nauja had not taken the loss of her son, her only means of procuring a daughter-in-law, at all well.  It was Chulyin’s fault, of that she was sure, Nauja missed no opportunity to remind him, so he hid here with his friend.

Chulyin sighed loud enough to stop Oogrooq in the midst of a tale, meant to cheer him up.  Oogrooq commented, “I would not be surprised to find out that Anuniaq is fine, somewhere.  A very resourceful boy that son of yours.”

“I think so too.  I should be mourning him, but I don’t feel that he is dead, just gone and I miss him.  It was nice when there was someone else for Nauja to talk to.”

“Be careful what you wish for, eh Chulyin?  Every boy in the village was in love with your Nauja once.”

“Yes, and it was my good fortune to win her,”  Chulyin sighed, “I’m a lucky man.”

Oogrooq pondered awhile and then spoke, “Cheer up my friend, you don’t really need a son, you need a daughter.”

“Oh aye, but Nauja is not going to give me one of those, more like she’ll give me a knot on the head or poison.  Besides, she is passed the years of life giving.  Besides, we tried, but Anuniaq was very hard on her.”

“Look on the bright side, Winter is coming, someone always dies.  Maybe you can take in an orphan to care for you when you are old.”

Chulyin grinned, “You know, I’m sure you are right.  Someone is bound to die and leave a nice girl child for Nauja.  All I have to do is survive the Summer.”

“Perhaps we are not too old to go whaling?”

“Maybe.  More like we are not too old to go camping and watch the young men do the whaling.  Let’s get everything ready and I’ll tell Nauja when we are ready to shove off,” said Chulyin.

The men started their preparations in silence, but after a time Oogrooq spoke up, “You know Chulyin, I was one of the boys who loved Nauja. . .”

“I know my friend.  Once every boy in the village wanted Nauja.”