by Graham Cotter
Kevin woke suddenly, cold, and went to the bathroom. Though the days were hot now, the nights were still cold enough for pajamas and a blanket. But he felt strangely chilled as he snuggled down in the covers again. There was no wind, just a thin light like moonlight coming in the window. He could hear Brian’s harsh breathing and could see just the outline of his head on the pillow in the next bed. To go back to sleep, he began to think of all the favorite places he had around the farm and the things he especially liked to do. His mind was relaxed. His thoughts slipped back to when he had been younger and had begun to build the toy village. How pleasant his hours and days there, playing away. He was even at peace enough to admit that there was something to being a girl if you could go on playing with things like that long after boys had to stop. Or did they?
Suddenly, Kevin was entirely awake again, and it was not that prevailing chill which had awakened him. It was a rending cracking sound outside, and a rush of water and stones. He sat up. For a minute he could hear nothing. Then he heard it again, felt the floor tremble under him, and wondered that the whole house was not up to see what happened. Up on the hill they were far from streams, so such a noise was unusual without rain. He stood up and looked out the window.
At first sight, he could just make out the lights of the prison and the few dotted lights south around Morganston. Then they disappeared as fog swirled over the hillside. The driveway was barely visible, and the swing on the old tree, touched by some motion of the fog, came slowly into sight and then swung back again into nothingness.
Again the noise came, and this time the sound of rushing water did not stop. It was as though all the stones in the gravel pit were rattling against each other, and being pushed through some great pipe or culvert. And the cracking continued, like lightning, in that it seemed to start away up in the sky and come towards the ground.
Brian stirred in his sleep, and Kevin shook his shoulder “Come Brian, outside! There’s an earthquake or something: follow me!” Without waiting for Brian to get up, he ran downstairs, making an effort to be quiet. His steps could not be heard above the uproar outside, and he expected his father to come shortly to back him up, whatever he might discover.
Out the door he went, swinging on a thick branch of vine as he went down the porch step, and ran to the hillside. As he reached the road, he heard the house door bang, and turned in time to see Brian’s thin figure follow him. Then as he reached the swing, he was shaken, as though by a wet wind.
The fog was all around him. It swirled in all directions, just visible by a thin light which didn’t seem to come from anywhere but the fog itself. He noticed, too, that it was not like cotton wool, the way fog and mist generally are, but thicker in some places and thinner in others. It was white, or almost blue, the way florescent lights are, and it was transparent: you could see more fog through it. And it did not swirl like mist – it leaped and danced like water.
Water! That was it! That was why he was cold. He was wet through. Brian should go in, he couldn’t take getting wet.
“Brian!” he called.
“Over here Kev!” a small distant voice replied.
Kevin pushed his way through the thick wetness in the direction of the voice, it was along the edge of the hill, and he realized now that the house, the driveway, and every familiar sight had entirely disappeared. He was not even sure of his footing. Instead of the grass, he seemed to touch only loose pebbles and pasty mud. He was unsure whether there was more water around his feet than his face. He was not afraid of water, but he wasn’t sure how much of this kind of thing he could take before finding home again. And Brian would not be able to breathe in this.
“Breathe in this,” thought Kevin. “But I am not breathing! not through my nose and throat! They’re full of foggy water!”
Brian’s voice was close now, but sounding more like an echo than a voice. And then he felt his hand taken, and realized Brian was there.
“Brian, can you breathe?”
“I feel just great! How about you?”
“I’m all right, I was worried about you.”
“What do you suppose it is, Kev?”
“Some kind of flood or earthquake.”
“Feels more like a seaquake. Do you hear the noise?”
“I can hardly hear anything else. First I thought it was lightning coming from up in the sky, but now I hear it far off to one side, and then the other, and when the noise hits us all this water or whatever it is bunches together an I start to feel pressed in like when all you guys pile up on me at school.”
Kevin still could not see his brother, but they kept hold of each other’s hands, and kept talking. Now they had no footing at all, but seemed to be borne up on a wave of fog and pebbles. Then they came into the air.
They were in a kind of bubble, above them were glistening walls and a roof, with jagged edges here and there, and they were clearly in a cave of ice. The light was thin and blue as it had been before, and they could see that far above the ice there must be sunshine, and that was the source of the faint light that they had. They could not tell how thick the ice was, but once they knew it was ice, they realized what the noises were. The ice was cracking; along with one peal of shattering noise they would see a crack appear in the wall of ice, and the two jagged edges grin against each other.
There were several such cracks, but they were mostly on the one side of the bubble, from which the flow of water seemed to be coming. The water was really mud, with some quite large rocks as well as pebbles. Kevin and his brother were fortunate that they had seemed to be in protected part of the liquid, as though surrounded by oil. They could also see that much of the ice wall was itself full of pebbles and mud, and that sometimes parts of this would break off and float away.
Kevin and Brian could now see each other. What had become of their pajamas was a mystery, for they were naked, and very pink. Neither felt cold, considering that they were waterlogged and surrounded by ice, and neither seemed to have any difficulty breathing. This was remarkable for Brian, and Kevin looked at his brother to make sure. Then he realized that although he was quite sure it was Brian, there was little resemblance to the everyday Brian he had always known. There was a reddish tinge to his hair, but his hair was everywhere. Kevin had just looked down at himself long enough to realize that he also was quite changed in appearance.
Then there was a roar of water, a crack to end all cracks in the ice, and in the midst of mud stones, water and chunks of ice the brothers were swept out a narrow low crevice, and found themselves struggling to sit up on a muddy beach in brilliant sunshine.
The sun was not only shining brightly in the sky, from a height that made Kevin realize that it was a summer and not a winter sun, but it was blindingly reflected from a great wall of ice and snow which was in front of them, and stretched as far as they could see both north and south. It was jagged, and to their left there was a gully of ice itself, with water rushing down it. The roar and cracking continued, and they saw water and mud and ice coming from under the glacier. From a hole in its foot they had themselves just been hurled, like babies born full grown from an inhuman womb.
The `beach’ they were on was all along the foot of the glacier, jagged too, receding where the ice stuck out, a regular river ran coming from the hills. About twenty yards back there were green things, grasses and mosses, and higher up the hill just behind them low shrubs. The plants were strange, not like those Kevin knew on the farm, but tropical, like queer things seen with his school class in Allen Gardens in Toronto. There were even flowers among the shrubs, bright and lurid in the sunshine.
By now the boys had stood and shaken off the water. The sunshine did not dazzle them, for their eyes were narrow slits with hair growing right up to the lashes, and a matted forelock hung over each boys brow. Kevin was trying to get used to himself in this new body when he begun to notice the smell.
“Brian, you poohed yourself.”
That at least was what he thought he was saying, but it didn’t sound right. Brian said something that sounded like a squeak. Kevin looked at Brian’s rear end; matted hair, like the rest of him, but clean from their recent washing in the glacier. Now it was getting quite dry in the sun. He felt himself. He was equally clean. But the smell wasn’t like human waste, not like the manure heaped at the Cart’s. It was an animal smell, heavy, stinking, coming from inside the body, coming with the breath, and coming from his fur. It was like dead things, body odour, skunks and freshly torn dead animals buzzed by flies. Kevin reeled and choked as he realized the smell came from himself.
The glacier was now separated from the dry land by a lake a quarter of a mile across. In the land there was a broad bluff curved sharply to the west. South, quite close to the edge of the ice, there was an island, with green growth on it. The mainland itself was by now forested thickly, right down the white sandy beach at the water’s edge. Down at the water a family of strange manlike creatures were both bathing and sunning themselves, except for the male. He stood well up into the branches of the middle sized trees, and was breaking off branches, and chewing the leaves. He must have been seven or eight feet tall, his face more ape-like than human, with a little point to the back of his head, narrow at the hips and great flat feet. Like one of the young males, his hair, while blackish brown on his body, had a reddish tinge on his head.
The female was resting in the water. Her head hair was much longer, and the baby at her breast — a baby about the size of a six-year-old human child — had one hand twined in this hair, and with the other squeezed the teat as she tried to get more milk. The mother had a very content look about her, though it was hard to report human expression in that furry face. She sang a little song with a rising lilt “Ook-gook, ook-ook-gook”.
The two young males had caught some water animal, about the size of a beaver. They had torn it apart and were now eating it raw and bloody, with delight, grunting and squeaking as they did so. The male stepped over from the trees and tossed some leafy branches to them. They grabbed the leaves for their salad course. The father picked up the animal’s backbone and began to chew the flesh, crunching the vertebra as he did so.
Suddenly there was a scream from further along the beach. The mother leaped up from the water and ran towards a little stream which came out of the hill from the lake. As she ran, her one free hand hung at her side, and her body bent slightly forward, her jaw out thrust, making a whining noise at each step. The three males followed more slowly.
By the river’s edge there was a great glacial boulder, smooth and shining, with saplings sprouting to one side of it. Her one foot caught between two of these, a young female, smaller than the males but larger than the nursing baby, lay her body half in the water, her mouth and nose just above the torrent, screaming between gulps of river water. The mother hastened to lift the child from the water, while her mate broke off the six-inch diameter tree at the base, with a single movement of his hands.
The female fussed over her cub, rubbing the sore ankle and licking the child, and the same time still holding the nursing child in the other hand. The rescued creature had a reddish tinge to her hair, much like the father and the younger of the two immature males. There followed a family conclave, with much squeaking and rumbling, and the older of the two young males then went to the remaining sapling, pulled at it violently, till a rending crack signalled that it was broken though not snapped. Then he turned in vengeance on the rock and seizing a smaller stone, struck at it repeatedly, scoring it in deep parallel lines, as he spent his rage on it.