by Perry McDaid

The ice seemed to pulse as it melted: a mimicry of life which mocked the slow death illustrated by Garf’s black skin gradually eclipsing the degrading coat which had once been his pride and joy. His prey was lighter than he and the thinning ice plains allowed them more mobility than it did to his hulking mass. Hunger gnawed.

He sniffed, detecting the thin ice ahead by virtue of the scent of the sea through the tiny perforations which made all the difference in density. He roared his frustration, scattering in slow motion a harem of seals. The bull was the last to disappear beneath the heaving ocean, having bestowed a derisory snort.

Garf swayed this way and that, before flipping like a pup and thundering off in the direction he had sensed a stable route. He could feel the floe move beneath his muscular legs. The polar bear raced, desperate to reach some sanctuary before the bergs parted company again.

He startled an Arctic fox in his run, but could not spare the time to strike and eat. He maintained his pace, giant paws cracking the surface at the weaker spots. Then he was on the more solid ice. He stopped, panting from the exertion.

There was a low, thunderous crack and a terrifying grinding. He shied and leapt away from its source and toward the central pinnacle. The berg parted company with the rest of the blinding landscape as the prodigious current hauled it around and away.

There was no hint of a calving: the joyous and natural process he’d observed among the seals when his mate took his cubs on their first kill. No, rather it was the insidious collapse associated with its namesake in the Celiac disease among the humans: a terrible cataclysmic collapse from the inside. There was no rightness, no continuity, no going back.

He thought about swimming the gap, but saw no purpose. He had been trapped by a border of wedged giants as the ice had been thrust upwards by some undersea tsunami, the volcanic source concurrently heating the waters beneath to gradually thin the ice beneath his feet.

That was how Nesh, his mate, had been taken by the Great Bear Spirit: trying to rescue the heedless cubs. He regretted killing the survivor out of grief and anger now. Corralling food would likely have been more productive than his wary chases.

He pawed the snow into a cosy depression, expanded it with a few tired rolls, and settled down for the night. The thing in his ear beeped. It annoyed him. Dormant for so long, it had chosen a poor time to begin its chirruping. He disciplined himself to ignore it and closed his eyes.

His first feeling was one of being trapped. His senses began to resolve. His nose recognized the familiar constriction as a net-cradle slung beneath what humans called a helicopter. A half-open eye saw the hateful prison he had escaped. He heard a voice through the wooziness and over the roar of the engine.

“Here we go, big fellah.  Can’t have you wandering into Churchill again. Bet it will be good to be home.”

At least his weakness had been temporarily assuaged.

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Perry McDaid

Irish writer, Perry McDaid, lives in Derry under the brooding brows of Donegal hills which he occasionally hikes in search of druidic inspiration. His diverse creative writing appears internationally in the like of Quantum; Runtzine; Amsterdam Quarterly; Everyday Fiction; Bewildering Stories; Flash Fiction Magazine; Bunbury and others.

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