“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it,” taunted Nootiakok as he prodded Nanurjuk’s upper back with a bony pointer finger. Nanurjuk whipped around, toying with the idea of breaking off the antagonizing appendage, but he decided not to expose his wrist to the frigid air.
Their bodies, clad with Caribou hide and fox fur, were dark against the vast white ice sheets and snowy dunes, as if a white washer had missed two spots on an old teak fence.
“What is it?”
“I fetched it from the fishing village just east of here,” he smirked while Nanurjuk looked stupidly in that direction- he couldn’t possibly make out any sense of civilization in all that white.
Although two years his elder, Nootaikok’s eyes pierced through him with a kind of dependency, immediately twitching when he lost the boy’s attention. I swear his irises were yellow in the late afternoon sun.
But Nanurjuk couldn’t help but look back at the enigmatic runt. His hunched frame was snake-like. Much too heavy for his weak arms, his furs could molt off at any moment. He wobbled atop the land, unsure of his gaunt knees and the distorted curvature of his mukluks. Scraped up and loosely attached with twine, they seemed worn, but not from the likes of his feet.
They had been trekking for miles, yet Nootaikok had just decided to reveal his possession. With an incomplete smile, he vacillated between keeping the prize and flaunting it.
“It’s a lure!” he hollered.
“I heard the men just west caught a white skate a week ago. I plan on catching the second.”
“Let me see!” screeched Nanurjuk as he lunged forward to touch the scrimshaw bait.
But Nootaikok leapt backwards, ripping the lure’s hook right through Nanurjuk’s hand, carving a moat of blood and muscle through his palm. Staring protectively at his lure, Nootaikok barely noticed the reddish snow beneath his brother.
Nootiakok scoped up a handful of freshly fallen powder and clenched his hand, creating water and pouring it over the bloody blade, while an engorged vein pulsed at Nanurjuk’s jugular, synchronized with the throbbing now running up his elbow. The spotted snow resembled the bloodied hide the boy was gifted that morning.
With a hasteful gate, Nootaikok disturbed the snowfall with each step westward, tucking his lure safely in his pocket. The wounded Nanurjuk lay twitching until Nootaikok was completely out of sight, swallowed by the flurry of snowfall and breadth.
Holding his mealy hand above his furs, he slid back to camp, propelled by one flexed forearm. Sliding quickly across the snow, he hoped the constant precipitation might mask the metallic smell filling the air.
Before nightfall, Nanurjuk reached camp and was immediately hoisted off the ground by the two midwives of the village. There would be no question of Nootaikok’s whereabouts until dawn, when their mother figured it safe for the men to track him. When the snowfall had died down.
By the time the news crew arrived, the stained snow where the brothers had fought was hidden by a new skin, the blizzard much too efficient in covering.
Dressed in all white, the team aimed for invisibility amongst the Inuit tribe, just to record their actions and leave. It was an added bonus that the rare skate was discovered in the region seven days prior.
Yet, they traveled in packs, carving treads in the Earth. The disturbance of their snow-mobiles caused an avalanche three miles over, killing three inuit children and scaring off a white skate that was particularly interested in a motionless lure.
But an arctic fox continued to follow a trail north. It was a fine male- one to skin for the winter.