Sunday, March 25, 2007

Even the Huskies Are Silent - Sailor

It is dark. Not the kind accented by twinkling star or waning moon. No. It is dark! Black! The kind of heavy dark that drugs the senses and brings disorientation and panic to even the stoutest soul.

January 18 in the Arctic. Outside our fragile trailer home the storm rages on, the relentless wind driving icy fingers of snow into cracks and windows, frosting the plug-ins, covering the frozen earth with endless white.

Inside we huddle ‘neath mounds of blankets, pillows stuffed at the headboard to ward off draft. The fire in the wood heater has died down, no longer roaring and crackling as the flames explode the spruce logs. All is the endless howl of the wind as it sweeps and swirls and threatens. Even the huskies are silent!

Suddenly the night is shattered by a piercing cry, “Let me out! Let me out! You’ve locked me in!”

We struggle to surface from deep sleep...heavy cover... total darkness. Where are we? Who could be calling? As consciousness slowly returns we recognize the voice of our houseguest. She had come the night before seeking sustenance and shelter.

Brenda had been a university student in Montreal. During her five years in the Yukon, she had become one of the back-to-the-earth people who frequented the wilderness. Most lived in tents in summer and worked at tourist-related jobs, then headed south for the winter. Brenda tented year round...usually with a dog or two and sometimes with a friend. Yukoners referred to the weather as being a one-dog or two-dog night depending on the number needed to keep one warm. She seldom came to our house without at least one dog; this time with a young female husky, who obviously had a batch of pups.

As we fumble to find a light, the frozen door releases. It closes and she is gone ...into the howling arctic storm. It is 4:00 a.m.

Sleep flees. Where would she go? Even the most rigorous party goers have packed it up. Houses are in darkness. Struggling into long johns, heavy socks and down-filled everything Jack determines to go after her.

Near the front door her winter boots and heavy arctic clothing lie in a heap on the floor. She is wearing only cotton slacks and a short-sleeved sweater. She will surely freeze to death! Slowly...the is her intent!!

I hear the sputter and complaint of the elderly van, White Thunder, as it coughs into life and is drowned by the storm. Then silence...except for the eerie howl of the wind.

As the heavy covers settle back around me, I lie...praying...thinking...remembering how we first met Brenda. It was our second summer in the Yukon. She had returned from a six-week trek in the wilderness. She looked hot, tired, and miserable as she sorted out her gear across the street. We chatted. It seemed right to invite her for a shower (the northern version of foot washing). She accepted readily, much to the chagrin of her male companion who adamantly refused.

Four years later she reappeared for Easter worship, then came to dinner. We visited long after the others had left. Her many questions revealed a searching and troubled mind. She knew there needed to be a sacrifice, but it was during the meal in our home that it came to her. She would be the hands of her friends.

My husband had spoken gently, assuring her that while she was right about the required sacrifice (for God demands a sacrifice for sin) nevertheless she was also mistaken. It had already been offered. God Himself had provided the sacrifice and Jesus Christ had paid the penalty for all who wish to be forgiven. Her troubled spirit seemed relieved. After accepting Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness, she went on her way rejoicing.

Over the next year she had come and gone. She had come when convinced that others were trying to poison her; our home was the only safe place. She dropped in one afternoon for lunch. While I made bacon, eggs and toast, she slipped into the shower, emerging with her dripping hair pulled into a bun. Seating herself at the table she looked at the food...then at me...back at the plate. Suddenly, she jumped up, grabbed her jacket, and yelled over her shoulder. “I have to get to the bank...I’ll be right back.” It seemed I had now joined the conspiracy...we were no longer a safe house.

We were pleased that she still stopped in to shower (one day she came twice). We didn’t realize she came only to wash off bad vibes. She wandered the frozen streets at night, hearing voices but seeing no one. She fancied that she and I communicated when she passed my home in the dead of night, and was devastated when I assured her we had not.

We tried to get help. Surely if the churches, social services, medical staff and police department would join forces, we could get help. Each in turn assured us that we could not violate her civil rights.

She was outraged when I asked for her parents’ phone number in Montreal.

We sought advice from a well-known psychiatrist in Vancouver. He explained the seriousness of chemical imbalance. The lack of sun in the winter exacerbated her problem...lack of Vitamin D hindered the absorption of calcium. The calcium-starved brain could not perform normally. Her prognosis was not good. She would probably her own hand. Was this now the time?

I pray, confident she really knows Christ as her Saviour and will go to be with him.

My vigil continues. Jack returns. His efforts are fruitless...her tracks have been obliterated by the wind.

A grey dawn. The RCMP join the search.

11:00 a.m.: The husky returns–crying, whining, hungry, cold. Brenda must be gone. The dog would leave her puppies, but she would never leave her companion and friend.

4:00 p.m.: The police find her body on the riverbank, her hands folded on her breast. The white cotton toque still covers her heavy dark hair. The drifting snow covers her body. Only her face reveals the location of her snowy tomb.

While an unsuspecting community sleeps, and the heavenly bodies hide their light, the City of Darkness claims another life!. And even the huskies are silent!

(This story is an excerpt from my latest manuscript, City of Darkness/City of Gold.)

Ella Sailor
Counsellor, Speaker, Author of A Time to Dance, Elusive Dream, Echo of a Dream


Deborah said...

Powerful story, Ella. Sad, too. Interesting as well about Vitamin D, calcium-starved brain. Many of us have vitamin D deficiencies without even knowing it.


Marci said...

Ella, I'm so excited to know that this book is coming! Blessings as you continue.

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