Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chapter Five: Liberating Ladies

Once Upon a Fjord was funded, in part, through a Kickstarter campaign. This chapter has been sponsored by Steve and Dona Reeder. From Steve:

“Thomas Jefferson said, ‘I cannot live without books.’ As I go to the homes of the children of Steve and Dona Reeder, I see evidence of this quote in each family. I have pondered how that has happened, and I realize that the ‘reader’ in our family is the mother (and she's an Anderson). I can't think of too many things more important to pass on to the next generation. So bring on the next chapter and let's read.”

Sponsor had no editorial control over the chapter content. The author maintains full responsibility for content.

©2012 by Marty Reeder

Chapter 5: Liberating Ladies

The situation had the strange ring of familiarity. Though this time when Daniel and Grandma Grizzly heard the commotion from the bridge, there was no rain. Hours earlier, there would have been. Plenty of it.

“Don’t tell me Leeraw’s upset at Captin Isak fer the rain stoppin’!” Grandma Grizzly glanced backward.

“I don’t think he ever wanted the storm,” Daniel said thoughtfully, “I think he saw the same thing we saw in Oslo and hoped to chase it, storm or no, so he convinced Captain Isak to get under way immediately.”

“Well, we’re fair gallopin’ towards America now. I cain’t see why the fello’s bein’ ornery.”

Daniel monitored the retreating storm to the east, then checked straight upwards again. “Maybe we can go ‘translate’ again.”

Grandma Grizzly nodded, patting her side. “You bring yer translator an’ I’ll bring mine.”

While the commotion from the bridge may have been the same as a few days ago, the scene played out with at least one variant. LeRoi brought his own translator—Snorre.

“Don’t like how old Spainyerd there is chummin’ up with yer thief friend,” Grandma Grizzly retorted, her falcon eyes squinting disapproval.

Daniel did find it odd that the man rescued his satchel and apprehended the thief, but then took pains in Oslo to pull some of the few strings he had left to keep the man, named Snorre apparently, under his care. Suspicious, he listened in from a distance, hearing Snorre pass along LeRoi’s insistence that the boat be brought to a halt.

Captain Isak, exasperated, explained that it was LeRoi himself that insisted that they leave Oslo at once a day ago.

Snorre transferred this to LeRoi, whose impassive face disguised the bite in his voice. “Ask him why he’ll stop for a journalist one time but not a distinguished Frenchman another.”

“’Cause there ain’t nothin’ distingwished ‘bout a man hoofin’ ‘round with thieves,” Grandma Grizzly stepped under the bridge’s roof as soon as she could understand a sentence.

LeRoi’s perfect form altered for a moment as he faced Grandma Grizzly. “I suppose I should have recognized your presence by the pungent odor that precedes you.”

“An’ I s’pose you’ll also recognize ma punchin’ arm about to preeseed yer next words.” Grandma Grizzly started to push up her deerskin sleeves.

Daniel finally felt it necessary to step in, grabbing Grandma Grizzly’s arm and pulling her gently back. “LeRoi, I’ll save you a sound beating this once as thanks for the gentlemanly act of saving my satchel. Of course, I did give you a thief to act as your translator, so maybe we were already even.”

“I’ve no need for you here, Mr. Rudiger. This business is between Captain Isak and me.”

“I just thought I would clarify. My ticket last passage was paid to Mangekilder Fjord, which is why Captain Isak was justified in stopping there. Your ticket is to New York, I assume, or maybe you can prove me wrong by showing me that it is, in fact, to the middle of the North Sea.”

LeRoi smoldered while Snorre shrunk back behind him.

Daniel continued, “However, LeRoi, I believe I know why you are demanding a halt, and I’m curious to know what you will do after you’ve convinced Captain Isak to stop. Do you have wings under that fancy suit of yours so as to fly up to the object of your interest?”

LeRoi’s eyebrow now lowered. “You’ve seen it too?” Daniel nodded. “Excuse us from the captain,” he snapped at Snorre, then strolled out onto the deck with Daniel and Grandma Grizzly in tow.

They stared straight up into the sky, thousands of feet, seeing a dark silhouette framed as a large speck in the sky. “And you don’t believe the reports in Oslo about it being a stray cloud or huge flock of migrating birds?” Daniel asked.

LeRoi shook his head, not removing his eyes from the object. “You’re too smart to believe it either. No cloud moves like that in front of others. No flock of birds keeps that close together for that long without shifting shape. You’re a journalist. What information have you gotten?”

Daniel smiled thoughtfully. “I’m not a journalist. Not anymore.” But that doesn’t mean I don’t have an idea about it, he thought. Daniel did not have anything solid on the object in the air above him, but he did know that the island at Mangekilder was mysteriously missing, and he knew that the Finn saw and gave the boy from the island something before it disappeared, and he knew that the Finn also seemed to have strange powers. But how could he explain this to LeRoi?

“I will tell you this,” he finally determined. “For some reason, I suspect it is heading our same direction. There is no need for you to stop the ship.” Daniel could not know for certain, but he thought that if the Finn sent him to America, why not the island?

LeRoi said nothing more. He simply looked at Daniel, then up momentarily, and then motioned for Snorre to follow him as they made their way to the passenger berth. That evening, after cruising along an immense swath of ocean, Grandma Grizzly, her sharp eyes glinting, noted the silhouetted object on the move again—westward. To the back of the ship, Daniel saw LeRoi with a telescope observing the same thing. He folded the telescope, grabbed his cane, gave a meaning look back to Daniel and then disappeared below again.

For the rest of the several-day journey across the Atlantic, Daniel and Grandma Grizzly, LeRoi and Snorre took turns sighting the floating object as it appeared and disappeared zigzagging on the horizon behind them. “Funny,” Daniel noted at one time, “It flies like a sailing ship would navigate against a westerly wind.”

“Huh. Intr’estin’,” Grandma Grizzly remarked. “It ‘pears to eat a lot a fish too.”

Daniel looked at Grandma Grizzly, confused. “Come on, Cowboy,” she laughed. “You tellin’ me that whenever it’s bin closer, ya cain’t see birds droppin’ from it to the ocean and flyin’ back up loaded?”

Daniel shook his head. “Grandma Grizzly, the biggest mistake anyone could make would be to underestimate you.”

“Naw. The biggest is ta tickle a wolverine’s underbelly after makin’ fun o’ its mother. I’ve got the scar to prove it!” Grandma Grizzly started reaching for her waistband.

“No thank you, Grandma Grizzly. I’ve learned that I don’t need proof to believe you!”

Towards the end of a long day Captain Isak navigated the steamship into New York harbor. Daniel did not expect anyone to be waiting for him once they docked, but he heard a call to him from the pier as he and Grandma Grizzly portaged their luggage down the gangplank.

“Daniel Rudiger, I can’t believe you would drag me out to New York on the 4th of July, of all dates.”

“I didn’t think editors worked more than two days a week anyway,” Daniel fired back, “What possessed you to make one of those days a holiday?” Daniel finished his descent and gave the awaiting older man in a working suit with a bowler hat a brotherly hug. Then he stepped back and introduced Grandma Grizzly to William Harper, International Editor of the Baltimore Daily.

They soon convened in a restaurant, where William—eyeing Grandma Grizzly curiously—made his pitch, his bushy brown mustache twitching, “You know how I know you’re not done with journalism, Danny?”

“Because editors know everything,” Daniel quipped.

“Exactly,” William laughed. “And here’s the proof.” With that, he yanked out a large, yellow envelope packed with papers.

Daniel looked at the papers carefully, but refused to reach out and grab them. After waiting for a moment, William set them down on the table and said, “I don’t blame you for not wanting to look at them. Most of it is follow-up information to leads that you had me or Charlie track down for you. Charlie especially felt you were on to even more than you knew when you cabled him right before you hopped on the ship for America.”

Charlie Lexeter was the Daily’s foreign correspondent for Eastern Europe and Russia, based in Moscow. “Charlie and I both agree that if you were really serious about dropping the newspaper biz, then you wouldn’t have sent him all that information, or me that landslide article.” William, jammed a toothpick into his mouth. “The Daily is expecting a prize for that article, by the way. Superb reporting.”

 “The reason I sent Charlie that info,” Daniel replied, “was more curiosity than anything else. And as for the landslide article, well, I already had it mainly written before I decided to come back home.” William watched Daniel with interest, but said nothing while Daniel continued. “I don’t expect you’d understand why I am leaving journalism behind, so I won’t try to explain, but I will say that it is for a good cause and there is no point in trying to convince me otherwise.”

William nodded. “Oh, I know exactly why. I even know her name.” Daniel started as William drew a folded piece of paper out of his inside suit pocket. “Three months ago you wrote that piece for us featuring homesteading immigrants. Did you ever read over the finished piece before you cabled it across the ocean?”

Daniel shook his head. William smiled. “You are an excellent reporter, but this one was not your best piece. It wrote like poetry instead of reporting.”

Grandma Grizzly snatched at the paper. “I gotta see this!”

Daniel said dryly, “I wouldn’t expect an editor to be a romantic.”

Grandma Grizzly’s eyes jerked through the article and she vocalized a couple choice lines as she came across them, “’The young woman’s optimism filled the consulate in a way that competed with the bright sunshine from the windows’ … ‘her deep, sapphire eyes sparkled as she spoke of the excitement of new opportunities in the American continent’ … Yeesh, Cowboy, I think Romeo mighta used less fancy language wooin’ Juliet!”

Daniel blushed, and William jumped in, “My wife will be the first to agree with you that I am no romantic. However, I do know that even if you win over this Nordic wonder, you’ll need to provide for her some way. I think Madam Grizzly here will agree with me that it won’t be through herding cattle.”

Grandma Grizzly, giddy to be involved in the conversation, piped out, “I may call him ‘cowboy,’ but he couldn’t keep a stand o’ trees herded, let alone a group o’ cattle.”

“You think I don’t know it’s crazy, William?” Daniel burst out. “It’s not logical, it makes no sense, and I don’t even know if I can find her or if she’ll return my feelings that I have …” Daniel started breathing more slowly, “But I feel trapped every time I think of that interview, and her radiance, and how we just looked at each other afterwards, and I should have said something—we both felt it, I think—but I didn’t. And I left. I’m trapped in that memory, William, and going to search her out is the only thing that can set me free. I don’t know why I feel that way, but if I don’t try to find her …”

“Then you’re stuck not having followed the lead of the ultimate story: your own; and you are the ultimate journalist, Danny. You won’t rest until you’ve followed every lead,” William granted, “And I wouldn’t think a thing of you if you didn’t try.”

“You wouldn’t?”

“I wouldn’t,” William shook his head. “And you’ll notice that I never intended to keep you from it.”

“But you said you thought I wasn’t done with journalism.”

“Right,” William agreed, “That’s why I’m granting you a month long vacation, and then expecting you to chime in as our new intermountain west correspondent.”

Daniel exhaled. “Intermountain west? Does the Daily even have one of those?”

William slapped his hand on the table. “Didn’t before, but these blasted New York papers are trying to undermine our national and international coverage in order to kill our circulation. The New York Observer just got the scoop on a big railroad development out in the Rockies and all the financiers are dropping Daily papers and hunting up Observers. The thing is the article was shoddy at best,” the editor put on his best show of bravado while huffing and looking around as if every New Yorker was to blame for the incident.

Daniel sat for a minute. “You’re too kind, William. You’ve always looked out for me.”

“Ahh,” he swiped the air with his hand, “You’ve looked out for yourself with good writing. I’m just desperate to keep you with us.”

“Well, I can’t make any promises, since I don’t know what to expect, but I’d … well, I’d be most grateful for the opportunity, Will.”

“My pleasure. Now let’s get out of here so that we can at least catch a few of the fireworks out in the harbor before I go to Baltimore and you go West.”

As they navigated the now darkened New York streets to catch a vista of the harbor where the fireworks had already commenced, Grandma Grizzly used the occasional street light to read more snippets of the article: “’The compassion showed in determining to take her father with her after her mother died, demonstrates a heart far greater than all the acres of any homestead. Norway’s loss will be America’s gain for generations to come.’”

“Alright, William, you gave her the article, it’s your job to retrieve it. I don’t want my words thrown back at me for the whole trip West.”

William seemed about to respond when he stopped as they rounded a corner, fully facing the harbor and the bright explosions bursting above it.

“William,” Daniel saw his editor’s mouth wide open. “You act like you’ve never seen fireworks before.”

At first, William did not respond. Instead, he brought his arm up and pointed across the waters of the harbor. Finally, he said, “What is that?” Daniel squinted and saw nothing but bursts of red and green. “Behind the Statue of Liberty,” William prompted further.

Daniel readjusted his vision and then, in the darkness, occasionally lighted by the staccato beams from streaming rockets, he thought he saw cliffs rising up into the black night just behind the silhouetted Statue of Liberty.

Grandma Grizzly spit nonchalantly, “Well, Cowboy, I think we found that missin’ island a yers again.”


Snorre looked up at the Statue of Liberty, surprised by how ominous it appeared as soon as the sunlight left it. There was something peculiar about it that he just could not put a finger on. As a younger sailor, he had come to New York working on various ships seeking his fortune, and he had always been inspired by the gleaming entrance to Manhattan. Now, though, the sight made him shudder.

He shuddered a lot lately, actually. His current company did not help.

LeRoi acted the gentleman, yes, but his ruthlessness in pursuing his plans surprised even a hardy sailor like Snorre. Still, in spite of this, Snorre needed to leave Mangekilder, for various reasons, and the Frenchman seemed willing to foot his bill in the interim. Besides, while the journalist and LeRoi both seemed the most openly interested in the whole island thing, neither knew that Snorre felt connected to it in ways that even he did not wholly understand.

So he put up with LeRoi. He even put up with the accursed lack of alcohol on the trip across the Atlantic, though it left his memories harrowingly uncensored. He even put up with LeRoi’s ceaseless ordering around, because he suspected it might actually lead to finding the island.

When they landed at the dock in New York, and the journalist—with that crazy old lady who nearly took out half his face with her reckless shooting—went off after some guy calling them from the pier, LeRoi excitedly called for Snorre to get a hold of some kind of boat. When Snorre asked why, LeRoi, his eyes still glued to the sky to the east and an approaching black smear there, said, “Because I have a feeling it’s going to land when it gets to America. When it does, we’re not getting to it without a boat. And I intend on getting that island, Snorre.”

Snorre shook his head, watching LeRoi silently row their boat to the shore of the familiar Norwegian island, only a couple hundred yards away from the island with the Statue of Liberty.

Whatever Snorre might feel about the man personally, he had to admit that the Frenchman was cunning. They had gone into the harbor and watched the island approach in the deepening twilight. When it finally set down, quietly, right in front of the Statue of Liberty’s eyes, LeRoi’s instructions ensured that they were only minutes away from meeting it.

Fortunately, the Statue of Liberty island had most its occupants on the opposite end, away from the Statue of Liberty itself, though Snorre could not tell why. Still, if those on the island were aware of Snorre and LeRoi, or even the immense flying island landing behind them in the dark, there was nothing to show for it. All remained spectrally hushed where they had come ashore.

LeRoi left Snorre on the Statue of Liberty island, just in case anyone coming from the Norwegian island slipped past him. A couple minutes later, Snorre saw that LeRoi’s cunning paid off again. Just down from where LeRoi disembarked, a small raft pulled up on the Statue of Liberty’s island, and a form peeled off from it.

Snorre’s hand slipped into his shirt, gripping the handle of the knife that LeRoi arranged to be returned to him. Snorre was not proud of the action he considered next, but if that form turned out to be the person he expected, then tonight he would soon seal both of their fates.

Moments later, Snorre held the knife up to the throat of the little boy, Alfred, whose look of surprise and fear took even Snorre aback. The knife drifted slowly away until Alfred spoke with a catching voice, “Do you speak Norwegian?”

Snorre needed no response. By that time, Alfred had seen and recognized him. “Snorre?”

He nodded. It was difficult for Snorre to look into the face of this boy. He hated him, yes, but not for anything the kid had personally done to him.

The boy, Alfred, watched the knife warily. Snorre could almost see the kid processing whether he should be more or less worried now that he knew his assailant.

“What are you doing here, Alfred?” Snorre hissed.

Alfred’s eyes teared up. “What about you, Snorre? I thought you were home. But if not, I guess you should know that Mangekilder had … an accident, and I had to leave because … because my mother, she …” the boy could not finish his sentence. Snorre did not want him to.

“Quiet,” he growled, uneasy suddenly. “Come with me. Not a word, or I will kill you!” They traveled to Snorre’s original post in silence. As they did, the boy kept glancing up at the Statue of Liberty’s face.

Snorre kept thinking how he had not expected this when he first went to investigate the form leaving the raft. Even if he had expected it to be Alfred, he could not have anticipated how difficult it would be to sit next to the boy, each minute dragging on interminably. Finally, the boy, still looking up into the face of the Statue of Liberty, whispered, “She reminds me of Mother.  Not the clothes or crown or anything, but the face is so—”

“I warned you,” Snorre snapped, “not to talk …!” And with a black determination that worried even Snorre, the knifepoint started sliding towards Alfred’s chest.

“Snorre!” The voice came not from the boy, but from the shore.

It was LeRoi. “Snorre, I need you to come back with me and translate!” he said, while securing the boat he just finished rowing back from the other island.

LeRoi walked up to Snorre, his breathing ragged. “I found a cabin and within it, a man. But the idiot could only point to the fire and—”

Snorre did not wait for LeRoi’s inevitable question when the Frenchman saw the kid. “He came off the island. He’s the bloke’s son you just saw. Lives there, ‘e does. Name’s …” he paused, like it was a curse word, “Name’s Alfred.”

LeRoi’s eyes widened. “This might save us some time. See what he knows.”

Snorre deftly lowered his knife, though Alfred never took his eyes off it. Then—in Norwegian considerably more refined than his English—he said, “This man is named LeRoi. He wants to know about the island.”

Reluctantly, Alfred looked at LeRoi, his voice indicating his fright. “What does he know?”

Snorre replied, “Enough. He knows the island came from Mangekilder … tracked it here.”

Alfred turned back to the Statue of Liberty. “Can he tell me how to get to the Rocky Mountains? Am I close? I know this is America, I just don’t know where to go from here.”

Snorre translated and LeRoi listened with interest. “Tell Alfred that I am happy to help him get to the Rocky Mountains. If he takes us with him, I will be his and his father’s guide there.” Snorre recognized LeRoi’s current voice as the one that once tried to charm information out of him.

“What does he get out of it?” Alfred replied, suspicious but still intimidated.

LeRoi eyed the boy carefully. “On the way to the Rocky Mountains, tell him that I hoped he might stop with me at the Panama Isthmus.”

“The way to the Rocky Mountains? More like on the way to Cape Horn,” Snorre almost smiled, even if his mood did not permit it.

“Just tell him,” came LeRoi’s icy response.

Alfred looked from Snorre to LeRoi after hearing the proposition. They all heard a popping sound coming from beyond the other side of the island. Glancing that way, they spied the streaming of a preliminary firework over the harbor.

LeRoi muttered, “4th of July. Of course.”

The firework seemed to awaken something in Alfred, and Snorre saw the boy overcome his silence. Timidly, he said, “Tell the man, no thank you.”

Snorre waited to turn to LeRoi, “He won’t like your answer. You sure you won’t reconsider?”

“Snorre, why are you with this man? What is going on? We were all going through difficult times, but we … my family always cared about you, and I’m scared, lost, and Father is—”

“I am not your friend, Alfred!” Snorre barked, “I thought I’d made that clear by now!” The knife came up again, stopping level with his chest. Snorre looked back to LeRoi and grunted in English, “Ferget it! He ain’t ‘elpin’. Should I carve ‘im?”

Impassionately, LeRoi gauged the situation. He sighed. “No. We’ll take him back with us to the island and use him to blackmail his father or mother. Is his mother around, did he say?”

Snorre averted his eyes. “He didn’t. He doesn’t, er, I don’t think his mother—”

Another boom from city’s direction. Then more, signaling that the show now began in earnest. Snorre and LeRoi both looked that way briefly, and that is when Alfred made his break.

It caught Snorre off guard at first because the boy ran, not for the island, but away from it. As he and LeRoi both started after him, Snorre realized why. Even if the boy could have made it back to the island without being caught, there was no way for him to get the thing in the air before LeRoi and Snorre followed onto it. Then it would only be a matter of time before they grabbed the kid and had their way with him.

So instead, the boy sprinted off towards the Statue of Liberty itself. LeRoi, formal and dignified took a few steps before swinging his cane at Snorre’s back and snarling, “Grab him. Injure him if you have to.”

Snorre charged up the hill leading to the giant pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty posed. While he covered more ground with his adult legs than the wiry boy in front of him, Alfred raced with the fear of death behind him. By the time Snorre reached the door in the base of the pedestal, the boy had already scrambled inside seconds ahead of him.

The inside revealed only inky darkness, so Snorre tried to find his way towards the boy by the shuffling sound of feet ahead of him. The distant thudding of fireworks outside made this more difficult, so that by the time the boy hit the stairs, Snorre had lost more ground. Once his sailor hands gripped the metal railing of the stairs, however, he used his large gait to his advantage, clearing several stairs at a time.

Soon, he could hear the boy’s breathing in front of him, and he took a second to release the knife from inside his shirt, where he placed it at the beginning of their footrace. LeRoi had told him to injure if necessary, and Snorre’s building rage felt that more and more necessary.

Closing in on his prey, he leaped up several steps at a time to put himself in striking distance. But the boy, sensing Snorre behind him, redoubled his efforts, managing to stay just out of reach.

The stairs continued. Snorre gasped, used to the hard labor of ships over the years, but also worn down through the constant reliance on alcohol for over a decade. Still, his determination to not let the day pass without an end to his current state drove him upwards.

By the time Alfred reached the room in the Statue of Liberty’s head, Snorre was physically exhausted and in a mental frenzy. His knife plowed before him as if it had a mind of its own, searching for the boy’s flesh.

Lit by occasional flashes from fireworks, Snorre noticed that Alfred had been wildly tugging at a door, which must have, at one time, led up to the torch but had long ago been blocked off. Alfred’s desperation drove him to near hysterics as he turned, his eyes rolling in fear at the approaching Snorre.

“Why?” he screamed, “Why are you doing this?!”

Snorre could barely recognize his own, possessed voice. “Because,” he replied, “I am a horrible person. I’ve betrayed my employers, my friends. I’ve betrayed even those that … I’ve loved. And now, I need to destroy every shred of memory of what I’ve done. That means,” Snorre suddenly came to the realization even as he spoke it, “that I have to kill you, Alfred.”

Snorre closed in on the trapped Alfred, his body working almost separately from his mind, witnessing with horrible fascination the scene as it unfolded. And then suddenly, Alfred stopped showing panic. In fact, he had a look that almost seemed like, what was it?… pity.

Snorre paused. No, he thought. That is the worst thing someone could do. Nobody should be fool enough to pity another person as repulsive as me! Now the frenzy in his mind joined with a black resolve, and he had murder both in his heart and mind.

But Alfred had something else in his mind, because the boy took a passing glance through the windows of the Statue of Liberty’s crown. Without thinking, he bolted up some stairs towards them. In a moment, he grabbed the sides of one and scaled out of it into the black night.

The surprised Snorre barely digested the scene before following to the window and seeing, astonished, the determined eleven-year-old gripping the burnished copper of the exterior of the statue, ascending the arm towards the torch.

“There’s no where to go, Alfred!” he called out, his voice frosty in the hot July air. “I will follow you. Then I will kill you.”

With the will of someone who now had nothing, morally, to lose, Snorre placed the knife in his mouth and found himself on the exterior of the statue as well.

His experience as a sailor taught him to deal with heights, but the combination of the wind and booming fireworks forced him to use all his concentration to not tumble from the statue. Ever so meticulously, he crawled after Alfred, using the seams in the plates of copper to give him a dubious grip. Not long after Snorre started his ascent, Alfred successfully arrived at the bottom of the torch, made the precarious reach around the overhang of its crow’s nest, and climbed up the outside of the balustrade.

Found his final resting spot, Snorre thought, shimmying up another plate.

Suddenly, he heard Alfred cry out, not to him for mercy, but towards his island home. And he cried out the most insane thing Snorre would ever have imagined for the circumstances.

“Raise anchor, Skipper! Raise sails to get under way!”

Snorre peered around his shoulder and saw the island sitting far below both of them. In size, the land mass sat many times bigger than the island they currently found themselves, but in elevation it lay far below the Statue of Liberty’s highest point.

As Snorre reached past the half way point, he thought he could hear the fluttering of bird wings just out from where they sat. He ignored the sound, but he could not ignore the rushing of water below that overcame the cracking fireworks behind him. He watched, amazed, as the island started to pick itself out of the water.

The boy is going to try to slip onto the island as it is raising up, Snorre realized. He watched the island rising and then looked at how close he was to the torch. But he won’t make it!

Snorre renewed his efforts to reach the railing of the torch when he heard Alfred screaming, “Skipper! Send the jib sail to where I am! Hurry!”

The fluttering that Snorre heard before increased. But before the island could even rise past the height of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, Snorre gripped the railing of the torch and threw himself over to the other side of it. On the opposite end stood Alfred, turning to face him.

Snorre released the knife from his mouth, and it fell to his hand. “Too late, Alfred. There’s no where else to go. Not an inch further to the West and your Rocky Mountains. Not back to your home, Mangekilder. Not even to LeRoi’s isthmus down south.” Snorre’s emotions now overwhelmed him until misery and euphoria became the same thing. He concluded as he stepped forward, “And there’s nothing left to stop me from killing you tonight.”

“Wrong, Snorre. You can stop yourself,” Alfred said, somehow no longer afraid, “My mother always saw that side to you, and I will to.”

Snorre snarled in pain at this statement. He coiled up, ready to strike, and then Alfred said as a couple small birds suddenly hovered above him, “And there is something else stopping you from killing me:” Alfred’s eyes drifted to something immediately off the edge of the torch, “This.”

Snorre leapt forward, but Alfred first performed the impossible. He climbed the railing and hopped off.

Snorre burst to the railing. Dumbfounded, he witnessed Alfred, not falling to his death, but sliding at a downward angle in a leisurely pace towards the cliffs of his raising island, his arms outstretched above him, grasping at some unseen something. Snorre’s eyes erratically went up and then down again. He saw the two birds drawing away from him, seeming to pull on something, something he thought he could almost see.

Before he could investigate any closer, the excited booming of the fireworks show revealed the island now almost level with him. He stared across the flaring abyss and saw Alfred, small in the distance, standing on the tallest point of cliffs and gripping the wheel of a ship, one that looked oddly familiar. A large bird sat to the side of the wheel, and both he and Alfred seemed to be looking right at Snorre as the island started to pull both up and away.

“You should see her from this view, Snorre. She’s beautiful. She really does look like Mother.” Alfred swung the wheel and the island veered towards the darkness. “I have to go. And thanks to you, I now know to go farther west!”

Snorre slumped back against the railing and let the finishing fireworks show him the last of the island’s retreat to the night sky. He dropped the knife, which clattered on the metal decking, and he wept. He wept first because Alfred got away. But next he wept because of what he did back at Mangekilder. He wept for the monster he had become this night, for what he had almost done.

Then Snorre wept, wailed, sobbed like a wounded animal, because he knew Alfred was right. The statue he sat on really did resemble Alfred’s mother.

©2012 by Marty Reeder

Once Upon a Fjord was funded, in part, through a Kickstarter campaign. This chapter has been sponsored by Steve and Dona Reeder. From Steve:

“Thomas Jefferson said, ‘I cannot live without books.’ As I go to the homes of the children of Steve and Dona Reeder, I see evidence of this quote in each family. I have pondered how that has happened, and I realize that the ‘reader’ in our family is the mother (and she's an Anderson). I can't think of too many things more important to pass on to the next generation. So bring on the next chapter and let's read.”

Sponsor had no editorial control over the chapter content. The author maintains full responsibility for content.