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Anirniq: An Inuit Ghost Story (Part Two)

The boy's suspicions were quickly affirmed: no one had lived in these tents for a long time. How strange, he thought, that tools and skins had been left, as though the people had moved in a great hurry. But he was in no mood to complain. It was getting colder, and he was glad to have an abandoned tent ? weathered or not ? to shelter in.

He unloaded the kamotik, noting while he did so that the dogs would have to go hungry, since he had failed to catch anything since leaving camp. As he unpacked it and the numbing wind began to rise, he became aware of just how poor he really was ? the only things he owned were his dishevelled clothes. Everything else, sled, dogs, tools, had been loaned to him by the angakoq (shaman) to whom he was apprenticed. He stared, for a moment, at the fine pualuuk (mitts) he was wearing, trimmed with luxuriant, tawny wolverine fur. They, too, belonged to his mentor. He no longer owned pualuu of his own. He felt at their odd insides, which had tiny talismans sewn into them. Turning one inside out, he could see a yellowed, ivory kanayuq (sculpin), a weasel adjacent to that. While he examined them, he remembered what his angakoq had told him: these objects held great power, especially when one spoke at them, "Help me, my pup."

It was all too bizarre to think about over long, so the boy trudged off to his chosen tent. There was a fair bit of snow piled up against its sides, and a lot of old, hanging skins inside. He had no idea how to build a snow shelter, and he doubted if this snow was of the right consistency, anyway. And the tent was here.

Soon, he was fast asleep.

"Boy ... boy ... go out quickly ... the ghost is going to seize you ... boy ... boy ... go out quickly ... the ghost is going to seize you ..."

The tent was shaking violently, and the boy was shocked to horrified wakefulness by it and the mournful voice that warned him over and over to leave.

Then that voice, so like the soughing of wind, was suddenly shattered by a hideous wail from afar, a wail that crested and died in a snarl of rage. Whatever was happening outside, the boy could now hear the panicked cries of his dogs. They formed a chorus of terrified yips and whines, over which resounded a single voice ? something that gibbered and panted, but in a horribly human tone. It was a thing at once filled with malice and hunger.

The boy required no further warning. Too terrified to flee through the front of the tent, he instead dug frantically at the back, barging his way past rocks and ice to emerge like a lemming from the rear. With all the speed he could muster, he plunged into another tent and covered himself in whatever tattered skins he could find.

Yet, despite his trembling, he found himself desperately curious. After a minute or so, he lowered his covering so that one eye could peer over it. The entrance of this tent was still open, flapping in the wind, and through it he could see the back of the tent he had just fled. There was a sickly green light in there, illuminating the tent like a great, dying lamp. As he watched, it seemed to move about the tent, side to side, as though searching for something. He suspected it was searching for him. And all the while, he could hear it talking to itself in that loathsome voice, saying something like,

"Where, oh where, is the skin and fat I'd like to taste?"

He covered himself again for a time, until the voice seemed to fade. Then there were the sounds of terrified dogs again, and at last silence. After a small eternity of listening, the boy once more peered out from under the skins. The light was gone. After some hesitation, he roused himself, and leaned out of the tent.

There, far in the distance, over a shallow mound that he had not noticed until now, hovered a tiny ball of light. Twisting and writhing in the air, it exuded its evil, viridian glow.

(Continued in Part Three at http://indiancountry.com/?1029252699 )

(Back to Part One at http://indiancountry.com/?1028048589 )