Corporal Kit Thunder of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The Monster on the Tundra!

A 4-Part Eerie Adventure of the North

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Episode 1: Frozen Blood

He mushed his dog sled team through the winter night -- this far north, it was a night that would last months. Overhead the sky shimmered with weird reds and purples. The Aurora Borealis had been working overtime for days now, staging a spectacular celestial performance the likes of which even Inuk elders couldn't recall.

The black winter coat covered over the brown jacket and dark-blue britches with yellow side-stripes of his Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform and, this time of year, his Stetson had long since been replaced by a fur hat, but that didn't make him any less an officer of the law. Nor his mission any less grim. In his mind's eye he could still see Peter Qamaniq shivering at the detachment headquarters, a big man reduced to hysteria by what he had seen somewhere around here.

His detachment was eight hours to the south and he and his dogs had been driving themselves non-stop for most of that time.

His name was Cpl. Kit Thunder, and even here, in a land that was known to gather odd-balls and misfits like pockets would lint, he stood out in a crowd. He was a tall, broad-shouldered, ruggedly handsome man with hair the colour of old ivory -- belying his youth -- and a pale complexion that, admittedly, would not be altogether at odds with the environment. It was his pink eyes that gave his true nature away. He was an albino.

He frowned, the grim cast of his face becoming, if possible, even grimmer. He had thought he knew where he was -- hard enough to do in this landscape of icy desert plains and rolling hills, where dunes of brittle snow could shift overnight, changing the complexion of the land. Still, he thought he had known. But an inukshuk that should have been rearing up on a hill to his left -- wasn't. The inukshuks were the ancient stone edifices scattered throughout the North, erected in man-like dimensions by the forebearers of the Inuit people -- for what original purpose, even the elders couldn't say for sure.

They were just a mystery in a land that bred mysteries by the herd.

Some mysteries were more troubling than others.

Cursing, he called to his team, starting them to turn around. He hoped to back track to where he had become confused.

Suddenly his keen eyes spotted something. He was not sure what, but after a time in this land, even the subtlest signs become a blazing beacon. With renewed vigour, he mushed his dogs forward.

He reined them in at last, throwing out his anchor to keep the sled's momentum from running over the hindmost of the pack. He took a moment or two to secure his snowshoes that would keep him from sinking into the deep snow, then he grabbed up his Lee-Metford carbine and started away from the sled. The lead huskie started barking, loyally wanting to join him, and another of the dogs tossed back its head and howled. Moments later, a chorus of howls had started up, filling the ice-brittle night with an eerie, primordial wail. Many of the dogs had some wolf in them, and at times like this that primtive blood boiled close to the skin -- they sensed something was amiss.

Crunching across the snow, his breath materializing before his face in misty clouds, Kit came at last to an area marked by odd bumps in the otherwise smooth white ground. He knelt and ran a gloved hand through the top layer of snow. He recoiled as, in the shimmering glow of the Aurora Borealis, he made out an eerie swath of scarlet. Anywhere else, the flat board of crimson would have been hard to identify, but he instantly knew what it was -- he'd seen too much of it.

It was blood, frozen solid into a sheet of ice.

He scraped away some more of the upper layer of snow, and set his lips into an inexpressive line as he exposed a hand. Then an arm. Then, as Peter Qamaniq had chattered almost incoherently, nothing else. The arm lay alone.

It took him more than twenty minutes to expose the carnage. Bits and pieces of three men and their huskies -- Peter Qamaniq's uncle and two cousins. Qamaniq related how he had been foraging ahead, and when he returned, he found this.

Instantly, Kit knew that no man could have done this. Equally, he found it hard to credit one of the Great White Sharks of the tundra -- the polar bear -- was at fault. It seemed too destructive. It did not look as though anything had even been eaten.

Only Man was that wanton. But, again, he doubted a man could have done this physically.

More to the point, there were no tracks other than those that he could attribute to Peter Qamaniq.

He rose, trying hard to keep his stomach steady. He dragged off his fur hat and, in denial of the cold, wiped at the sweat forming on his brow. Then he stopped, squinting at the horizon.

Was it just a trick of the frenzied Northern Lights, or were there lights in the distance? he wondered. He hesitated only a moment, then raced back to his sled and, in moments, the huskies were off, yapping happily -- glad to be away from the site of the unnatural mayhem.

The sled skimmed over the unblemished snow like riding air, the pack gobbling the distance hungrily, till at last the source of the light manifested itself. It was a town. Not a big town, to be sure, no more than a dozen buildings, but a town nonetheless. And the architecture was clearly of southern origin -- this was unlikely an Inuit settlement.

Suddenly a chill settled in his spine, despite the satisfactory warmth of his coat. He knew where he was. He had not become turned around after all, like he thought.

If the town ahead had ever had a name, no one living knew it. It was a ghost town, a dead town. A vanished town. There were stories of places like this in the North. Mysterious communities that appear and vanish literally overnight, leaving only questions. And not just towns, either.

About 90 years before, the most advanced scientific expedition in the history of the world had been mounted, outfitted with state-of-the-art ships, supplies, and an experienced crew numbering more than a hundred men, with the sole intention of exploring the Arctic seas. But Sir John Franklin's expedition had vanished, practically without a trace, never to be seen again.

As such, swallowimg a few sorry settlers was nothing to the mysterious forces at work in the Northern nights.

But the ghost town was considered cursed by the Inuit, and given a wide berth. Hunting must have been bad to have brought Peter Qamaniq and his doomed kin even as close as they had come. As such, it was unlikely it was local natives who were now the cause of the lights twinkling from behind dirt-crusted glass.

He reined in his team, then crunched across the snow on his snowshoes, Lee-Metford in hand. Reaching the edge of the community, he kicked off his snowshoes and started stealthily forward through the thinner layers of snow that had accumulated in the shadows of the buildigs. The avenues between the old buildings were silent and deserted, but that was hardly curious given the temperature and the hour. He inched up to the nearest building and peered in through the window. An electric lamp blazed in a sparsely furnished room beyond, but there was no sign of an inhabitant.

Something crunched behind him. Cat-like, he ducked and turned in one motion, even as a rifle butt cracked against the wood shingle where his head had been a moment before. Beneath his coat and uniform, Kit's muscles were like steel cables. He dropped his carbine and slammed one fist into his would-be assailant's mid-section, followed up by two more quick jabs just to be sure. His attacker groaned and stumbled back, trigger finger sending a shot off into the sky. Kit grabbed the hot barrel of the rifle, twisted it free with a savage wrench, then fell back against the building, using it for leverage as he kicked out, sending the man tumbling into the snow.

Suddenly light flooded out onto the streets of the town as a door was flung wide.

Kit whirled, only to see a doughy-faced man in glasses and a sweater standing in the doorway, some others crowding around him, trying to see out. "What's going on out here?"

Kit, still holding the rifle, said, "I'm Kit Thunder, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and I think that's my question." He cast a glance at the man still sprawled on the ground.

"Why, I'm Broderick Tate -- perhaps you've heard of me?"

Kit stared at him blankly.

"No?" The doughy-faced man looked genuinely crestfallen. "Are you sure? I became rather famous a few years back when I predicted the coming of the Great War."

"Come now, Brody," chided an elderly lady behind him. "You predicted Archduke Ferdinand's death, but I don't recall anything about..."

"Now, Mrs. Carrington, fair's fair, I said it would precede a great storm, which..."

"What the hell are you people talking about?" interrupted Kit, exasperatedly.

Shouldering past Broderick Tate, a beautiful, chestnut haired woman grinned at the mountie sardonically. "Soldier, you're looking at the assembled members of the Mississauga Society of Spiritualists -- we're here for a seance."

Kit could only gawk...

On to Part 2

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The Monster on the Tundra! is copyright 2000 by D.K. Latta. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)