We were told to not get our hopes up when embarking on the old vessel that should take us to the lands beyond. Only a few are able and capable enough to even consider the journey we had planned for years and even fewer actually crazy enough to do so. Mother, for the first time, called me a lunatic and as her hand burned my cheek red hot, I saw the tears she was holding back.
I am sorry.
As if to laugh at us, a school of humpbacks tagged alongside the vessel for a few miles. They inspected the ship very closely and we enjoyed their company for they would be the last mammals we would see on our way north.
(66°21’29.9″N 23°04’28.3″W. Sept. 05)
Smooth waters are a blessing they say but not in this case. For we know exactly what handed them over to this ghostlike stillness. There was the very real possibility or, almost the certainty, that we would become ghosts here as well. My fellow crew members faces told of the same grim thoughts. With the air this cold and nothing but white and ice surrounding you, those thoughts emerge and one wishes to be one of those stupid birds we saw screaming and sitting on an iceberg some days ago.
It feels like a lifetime ago.
I had my fair share of controlled detonations during my time in the troops so I was used to abrupt and loud sounds. Or at least I thought I was. All the blown up bridges, roadblocks and bunkers will do nothing to prepare one for the sound of a collapsing glacier. It feels like a deafening earthquake with you right at the epicenter. The polar ice soon proved too dangerous for the vessel to go further so we had to anchor at a safe bay, scanning the surrounding area with our drones and then zodiacs. I was on one when it happened. In all of a sudden, a colossal slab of blue ice detached itself from the glacier and sailed into the calm waters. Surrendering to the tidal violence of years. The north grinds you down. The waves threw the small boat against the wall of ice and I do not recall how I made it back onto the vessel. But I was very lucky. Five went, three made it.
(68°30’08.0″N 32°29’46.5″W. Sept. 19)
III: GIVEN UP
Somehow we made it inland. The last few days, maybe weeks, were flashing moments and whiteouts. I was not sure anymore whether it snowed or I finally lost my sight and I always hoped for the latter so I would be allowed to stay at the small camp we set up with our resources quickly dwindling.
My luck would not be enough for a second favor since I used it all on the boat, so I went out. Our expeditions showed that we have not, by far not, been the first ones trying to reach out north. Given up settlements and salvaged wrecks told foolish stories of humanity and spirit of adventure. We were connected through experience as our gear, as well as theirs, started to set off false alarms and compasses would never come to a halt. Restless. The north grinds you down. The withered stone and skeletons of steel were mere markers on our journey but to be honest, I was never sure if I was not looking at a polar Fata Morgana. Mother, I should not have left you.
(coordinates illegible. Sept. 27)
IIII: WORLD’S END
We failed. No one said the words but we all knew that this expedition had turned into a fight for survival days ago. We tried to keep ourselves organized but in reality, we had no idea where we were going. My compass is spinning and spinning. Or not. I threw it away as hard as I could after its spinning would not let me sleep. Now it spins until some other fool finds it.
If it was really the noise or something in my head, I will never know. Not that I care anymore. Everything here moves so slow.
Yesterday, we had a distant sunrise. For a few moments, everything was illuminated and I saw shadows again for the first time in forever. Almost hopeful for a mere moment. My spirit lifted. There is no food.
The north did grind us down.
On my guard duty, I took our vehicle and left. Leaving the others with a fate I cannot bring myself to realize. What are one or two days more anyway in this forsaken white hell?
Then, in between episodes of driving and shaking and trying to assure myself they would be alright somehow,
I found it.
I will not come back. Mother, do not shed tears over me for I was lost at birth.