Arctic Summer

by The Cowl Editor on November 1, 2019


A person scaling. mountain against a blue winter backdrop
Photo courtesy of

by Jay Willett ’20

Picks dug into the transparent ice, deep enough for the burly man to gain a footing with his spiked heel. Void of upper body strength, Daniel heaved hard, chuckling at his own physique and exhaustion. It had been Danielle who convinced him. Think about it, she said, the Inner Arctic Circle: uncharted land that not even the great explorers like Amundsen could find. Daniel had reached the edge of the mid cliff, the horizon a mixed magenta and green.

“Wait up!” Danielle’s laugh echoed up the frozen wall. Daniel sighed; his breath misted and fell in front of him. It had been his sister’s idea, yet she couldn’t keep up. Two days of climbing, sliding, camping, and crouching from the occasional polar bear. Daniel had preferred to watch them gallop on National Geographic, safely in the comfort of his own flat in Nova Scotia. That was his problem, Danielle always lectured; Daniel was too comfortable. He was unemployed and she had been traveling across Siberia working in the Peace Corps.

“Cliff bar?” she waved it towards Daniel’s beard.

“I guess there wouldn’t be a time more appropriate than now, eh?”

“I guess not,” Danielle grinned. “Sun’s going down, wanna call it?”

Daniel smirked, and bit into the granola.

“Why? You tired?”

“As if!” Danielle nudged him. “You’re the one panting like a dog; I could hear it all the way back there!”

Daniel nodded. This was his punishment for neglecting the gym for years.

“Better than home though, right? I’m glad we could do this,” Danielle said.

Dusk began to blanket the sun. Night was rare and sparse at the beginning of the summer season. There would only be an hour or two of darkness. Danielle pulled out a flare, Daniel reached for it.

“No, not that—here, use this.” He handed her a firestarter, coated in sap. He always wondered how she got this far in her career despite being so clueless. Sparks feebly flickered in and out with the heavy northern winds. Danielle frowned and spun the lighter in frustration. She had always been determined, Daniel thought. Without her, he probably never would have left the house.

“UrGh – gzzzzzzt” a growl hissed from the ice ceiling on the cliffside. Danielle recoiled, Daniel grabbed his flashlight.

“What was that?!” Danielle whispered. Daniel held his hand up. Cracking sounds boomed on the lake below, audible even from hundreds of feet up. There was no light now; Daniel’s beam was all that was left. He angled it towards the sky.

Ripping sublevels of concrete ice, an arm glimmered through the reflection of the natural mirror. Daniel could see the metal drilling underneath
the surface.