I, of the Storm
We are more inland than we realise. Deep within the forest.
And we are very hungry.
I rouse the little ones like I’m supposed to, as Father helps Mother up. My love awakens shortly afterwards, stretching out his limbs from a night of sleeping on the eelgrass. We sleep together, seeking comfort and warmth. I yawn and stretch out as well. My family is awake. We must prepare for the hunt. It has been raining for what seems like ages, so our food within the heart of the forest is scarce.
The creatures that rise during the day are settling down as I wait for Father’s commands. The Ukalliq bring their children home as they notice our presence. Run, little ones. I think to myself.
I mustn’t get distracted. I look at the little ones as they realise that we are reorienting ourselves, getting ready to cover quite a distance to get back to shore. The easiest meal would be to catch fish, but I secretly hope there’s a seal. The fatty flesh, our teeth tearing through it like butter. I salivate at the thought.
Father calls our attention. It is time.
We have overstayed our time in this place.
The pitter patter of my feet are muffled as I run through the forest, chasing after my family. The ground is moist here. It absorbs a lot of the sound. We’re running through the mists. The sunset only trickles through the dense forest, but I know that it’s getting darker by the minute. The spruce is thick, and I recall when I was a young one, scratching my back against them. The needles are drying out.
Winter is coming.
With each step, I smell the flowers I’m stepping. A delicate perfume. I hear the distant sound of the tuktu wallowing and we all stop for a moment. I look to Father. We confirm that he is no easy prey. His call was strong, most likely to his pack. We are significantly smaller, and even with Father, my brother, and my love, we would not be able to overcome the tuktu.
The little ones tousle with each other in a game of tag. The adults look on, slightly amused. Father barked a command and we fall back into our places as we move on, and I feel the ground, mixed with foliage. I can see my breath.
We continue running, my brother setting the pace for the crew. The trees are getting sparse now, the moss thick on the rocks of the stream we run along with. My feet dig in, comfortable in the rich soil interspersed with bugs and life matter. A new purchase created with each step, leaving prints behind as I run with my family. I hear the staccato reverberating through the trees, the thump thump of our feet as we seem to fly through the air.
In the distance, we see Kermode. We run from them. There is a treaty of sorts, and we’re close to their territory. Predators do not share territories. Father gestures to the left and we comply with the command immediately, the eight of us jumping over the stream to the other side. One of the little ones pauses for a minute for a sip of water, then catches up to us.
We continue running.
As the moon starts coming up, we reach the creek; our feeding ground. Today is the day that the little ones learn how to hunt. They have filled out, they’re anticipating the start. Mother rests on the shore, observing us quietly as the rest of us settle closer to the water. The little ones are antsy to dive in, but this requires a subtlety that they don’t possess.
I look at Father, then look pointedly at the little ones.
The little ones are slightly upset but they understand; this is a matter of life or death and the hunt is best left to the adults.
These creeks have never betrayed us. Salmon are creatures of instinct. It is their season and they are coming back to their ancestral home to lay eggs. This is when we catch them, when they fail at going upstream and they find themselves stranded on the shallow rocks in this creek.
I hesitate for a moment, dipping my feet into the water, then gently plunge into the waters. It is cold. There is a delicate way one has to enter the creek to make sure you don’t disturb the waters much. We shuffle our feet and then we stand still, as if our feet were rocks. My furs are saturated but it’ll take no time to dry once we’re done.
My brother lets out a warning note in the distance. He patrols the perimeter as we hunt, making sure that nobody approaches our territory.
We stand for a while and we see the faint glimmer of their scales, then my love lunges and grabs a salmon. Shortly afterwards, I succeed. This will be enough for a meal for all of us, I think.
We walk back with the salmon in our clutches. I am proud to be able to provide for my family.
On the shore, my family awaits.
I nudge Mother’s white hair aside, a slight caress in reassurance. I lay the salmon at her feet and settle down, waiting for her to eat first. She plunges into the head of the fish, tearing out flesh as she eats. We wait for her to get her fill, then Father nods at me to take the rest of the body to the little ones. My love waits for me so we can eat our portion. Food may be sparse, but we’re able to make certain that everyone is fed. We all walk back into the grassy areas to rest up. The little ones are curled up around Mother to keep her warm. My love awaits, so I settle down, patting the grass down to create a little bed.
I curl up to my family to prepare for sleep.
Winter is coming.
Mother can feel it in her bones. I can sense it. The damp soil, the smell of rain coming back in, the shift in the wind… We must prepare.