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Then I laid my brother down on the jagged ice at its base. I took a few steps back and looked up at the frozen wall. It shone so brightly in the moonlight; it almost seemed to give off its own glow. The air around me was silent. Too silent. And that’s when I realized the glacier wasn’t breathing anymore.
No, I told myself. No. It’s just holding its breath. It’s waiting. It’s waiting for me.
“You know me!” I called to the glacier—because it did. I had played in its shadow all my life. I had picnicked there and read my favorite books, feeling its breath numbing my neck. It watched as Rav gave me my first kiss, and I remember feeling the glacier smile as it breathed in, as it breathed out. We were connected. I had always felt peace in the glacier’s presence, and although I felt anything but peaceful now, I knew I could recapture that feeling if I tried.
“I understand now,” I told it. “All those lives you took. The jealousy you must have felt—to be near us, yet apart. With us, but not among us. But you’re not taking lives anymore, are you? Because you found a way to see through our eyes. You found a way to be human.”
Still nothing from the glacier. Nothing at all.
“You know me!” I screamed. “I’ve never asked anything from you all these years. But I’m asking now. Please . . . if there’s any life left in you, set it free. Set it free, and give me back my brother. Become my brother.”
The ice was silent and still. How big was the spirit of a glacier? Into how many pieces could it divide itself? Even if it had brought back everyone in that graveyard, there still had to be a spark of life deep within its ancient heart. There had to be!
“Please . . . ” I begged.
And then I heard something—felt something resonating in my bones. An icy breeze flowed over me, smelling fresh and crisp . . . and the glacier began to move.
I felt the calving of ice, and instinctively I jumped back. The glacier surged—a sudden lurch—and rolled forward just a few feet. Ice plunged and frost filled the air, settling on my hair like snow. Once it was done and the wall of ice had fallen silent again, Sammy was gone. He had been taken under the ice.
The glacier then breathed one last time—a slow wheeze of icy air that faded into nothing. I knew it was truly dead now. Whatever life force had been inside, it was gone.
Now Exit Glacier, like so many glaciers, would wither, melting back year after year, until it was gone completely. The glacier was dead. It had spilled out the last of its spirit.
And Sammy was beneath the ice.
I don’t remember walking home that night, but when I got there, Dad was furious. “Where were you? Do you know how worried I was? Where’s Sammy?”
“I was with Rav,” I told him. “And Sammy. . . Sammy’s with a friend.”
And since it wasn’t really a lie, he couldn’t read any deception on my face. He told me we’d talk about my punishment in the morning. Then he told me to lock up.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I unlocked every door, every window in the house; and even though I went into my bedroom, I didn’t go to sleep. I just sat on my bed forcing my eyes to stay open, holding a vigil.
At three in the morning, I heard the faint creak of door hinges, and I bolted upright in bed. Had I really heard it, or was it just my imagination? Slowly, I went out of my room, down the hallway, and into the living room. The front door was open just a crack. There was a chill in the house now, and it wasn’t hard to find the source. Frost spilled out like smoke from Sammy’s open bedroom door.
Fighting the shivers that threatened to overtake me, I crept toward Sammy’s room and peered in. Sammy was sitting on his bed, looking out of the window at the setting moon.
He slowly turned to me. His skin was pale and blue, and his eyes were as dark as a glacier crevasse.
“Can’t sleep,” he said in a voice both gruff yet gentle, childlike yet ancient. “Why can’t I sleep?”
“It’s all right, Sammy. Don’t worry about that.”
Then I went to the front closet to get my heaviest winter parka and my best fur-lined gloves, and put them on. Back in Sammy’s room, I sat down next to him and reached out to touch his frozen face with my gloved hand.
“I’m scared,” he said, with ice-crystal tears falling from his eyes.
“Don’t be,” I told him. “You’re home now.” Then I took him into my thickly padded arms to comfort him. And I comfort him still.
Dad will have to face this. He will somehow have to come to terms with it, making peace with this new reality. And once he does, the three of us will leave Resurrection Bay, because although winter is long here, it’s not long enough. We’ll have to go someplace that’s always cold. I’ll bet they could use a good helicopter pilot way up north, in Prudhoe Bay.
But for now, I hold Sammy, gently rocking him back and forth, feeling his breath numbing my neck. Warm air flowing in, cold air flowing out.
“I know you . . . ,” Sammy says.
It only makes me hold him tighter, closer. “Yes you do, Sammy,” I whisper, ignoring the chill that pierces all my layers of protection. “And I know you.”