Copyright (c) 2015 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
“Sequel to the 2013 short story A FEAR of REINDEER”
Sam Otto Bird lifted the flap on the snow covered wigwam and stepped out. Days were less than an hour long at this time of year and the Inuit village in northern Alaska was crowded with frightened children from the abandoned orphanage eating and warming themselves by seal-fat fires. Eddie Stowell brushed past the Indian youth and came inside the skin-covered shelter. The smiling fourteen-year old handed Tim a hot bowl of soup made from Sculpin (fish), spring beauty roots, and seaweed. “This Ujuk (meat) will warm you. The bannock (flatbread) is all gone but the village women are baking more …,” he said, “this tribe isn’t used to feeding so many.”
Tim remembered the betrayal of Yoskolo James, the Regional Social Services Director from Barrow, and others. They had planned to turn more than forty orphans over to alien creatures called Conke’la in return for their alien technology. The Conke’la resembled Caribou (reindeer) that walked on two legs and had a taste for human meat, especially the flesh of children.
Tim still wondered about Eddie. The fourteen year old had a limp when they first met, but it was gone now. The Conke’la often gave miraculous health benefits as incentives to those who served them. It was Eddie who brought Yoskolo and men with guns back to the orphanage. The children had been rescued by Sam Otto Bird, his trapper father and a pack of wolves who chased away the armed-men doing the bidding of evil creatures.
“Sam and his father are holding council with the other elders of the village,” Eddie said. “It sounds like we may have to go back to the orphanage.”
“How can they send us back there when the Conke’la might return at any time?” Tim stammered.
“They might not have a choice.” Eddie said. “Yoskolo James is said to be headed this way with a group of soldiers. Apparently he’s claiming Sam’s tribe kidnapped all of us orphanage children and they are now holding us for ransom.”
“Won’t they listen when we tell them what Mr. James and the Conke’la had planned for us?”
“They will probably laugh and say we’re all suffering from over-active imaginations and cabin-fever. Who ever heard of a group of reindeer that walk upright and eat children?”
Tim and Eddie didn’t have to wait long for Sam Otto Bird to return. “The village elders have decided that you all must return to the orphanage,” Sam said. “My father and two of my uncles have the frozen body of a Conke’la and they will ship it to Fairbanks by dog-sled and convince the officials there that our words on the radio are true. I’m sorry but it will take them almost a month to get arrive. Until then, you and the other children must find a way to survive.”
A gust of cold wind blew snow around the fires as Tim and Eddie walked outside. It was already growing dark. The northern lights seemed to surround them. “Is it true that we have to go back?” Bonnie Cromwell was crying.
“Only until Sam’s father and others bring back help, “Benny Jackson told her.
“I will be coming with you,” Sam Otto Bird said loading bullets into a Marlin 30-30 rifle. He cocked the lever to place a shell into the firing chamber. “And this time we will have at least ten guns and we will be ready.”
Tim watched as the Aurora Borealis turned the horizon pink and then shades of blue green. ‘I hope it’s not an evening meal for the Conke’la that they are ready to attend.” He thought about the twenty-two caliber revolver Eddie had given him before the first attacked. Killing, even flesh eating reindeer, was never an easy thing.
The abandoned airplane-hanger used for an orphanage looked deserted when the group of orphans arrived. Sam Otto Bird had led them a mile north to avoid Yoskolo James and his armed men. “We have a well inside the main building and our own generator,” Eddie said. “And plenty of food. With the extra guns we should be able to hold off a small army.”
Tim noticed the dead reindeer had been moved from the drifts in front of the hanger. Several bullet holes in other buildings had been repaired. “They must have others with them,” Sam Otto Bird said. “Ones who are not working with the Conke’la.”
The inside of the hanger was cold and Eddie went to start the generators. Tim climbed into the rafters and had Sam hand him up three boxes of shells. He sat near a window where he could watch for any approaching enemies. “They won’t attack us today; they’ll come back at night once they figure out what we are up to.” Sam slid heavy crates beside the man door. “Once Eddie gets the lights and heat running and I leave, block the door and do not allow anyone in or out until I return.”
“They will try to sneak up on us in the night,” Sam said. “I want to be ready for them.”
Eddie returned from outside and he and some of the older children blocked the door after Sam left. Tim shivered as he watched the Indian boy disappear into a clump of trees. It was not just a lack of heat that made him shake.
Yoskolo James and twenty-three others including sixteen soldiers thundered into the Inuit village on a dozen rumbling snow-machines. “We know you took the children,” James told Atiqtalik the village chief as she and many others came to meet him. “A snow has fallen, but I have men in my employ who can track as well as your hunters.”
“Then you will also know that the children have returned to their lodge without mothers,” Atiqtalik which means Polar Bear Mother loomed over the armed men without fear.
“We don’t want trouble we only want the children’s safe return.” James looked around the camp nervously. This was not what he expected.
“And we don’t need our ears to tell us what you want.” Atiqtalik smiled. “The children were chased here by a large pack of starving Amaruq (wolves). We have given them an escort back to their homes.”
A woman dressed in a billowing parka with the emblem of Alaskan Social Services sewn on the back, and two other civilians approached the domineering matron. “Then you’re not going to tell us some wild story about creatures from outer space coming to devour the children? She gave Yoskolo James a dirty look.
“Of course not,” Atiqtalik laughed. “We’ll save those silly entertainments for the long weeks when the deep-snow keeps us from hunting. We don’t receive television signals here.”
Several of the younger men crowded around the chief as they watched the snow machines depart.
“You didn’t tell the woman about James and his connection to the Conke’la,” one of the younger men accused.
“Yoskolo James expected me to,” Atiqtalik said. “I’m sure he had a story and proof ready that would make me look foolish.” She looked at the boy who would go on his first hunt this season and smiled. “I think maybe … he is the one who looks foolish; and perhaps the woman will wonder where his story came from.”
Night came quickly to a sky already dimmed. Tim squinted his eyes to stare into the areas where the yard lights reached into the icy gloom. He agreed with Eddy that the attack would most likely come in the early morning hours when almost everyone was asleep. Tim didn’t relax until Sam Otto Bird returned to the hanger. Sam’s pants and shirt were coated with a black powder almost like graphite but Tim was so relieved to have him back, he didn’t ask him how he got so dirty.
After the smaller children were fed, Sam climbed into the rafters to spell-off Tim. “Try to get some sleep,” he said as he loaded his rifle. “My guess is the attack will come about three a.m. We’ll need all the guns at every window when it happens.”
Tim had just begun to climb down an extension ladder when he heard Sam’s cry. “Oh my God! I was wrong!” he screamed.
Tim heard the roar of a diesel engine seconds before a wall exploded and a military vehicle burst into the airplane-hanger. His hands were frozen on the ladder rungs. Sam’s rifle shots behind him bounced off the armor plating. Bits of corrugated metal siding, insulation and splintered two by sixes littered the floor. The steel-tracked Army LAV slid to a stop as Tim dropped to the floor between him and forty terrified children trying to crawl under two long tables. Tim could see a dozen rifles pointed at him and at Sam as the dust cleared. “Come down out of those rafters and leave your gun behind or else we start shooting a few of the smaller ones right now!” Yoskolo James looked at Tim and smiled. Sam cursed as he climbed down the ladder. He had no choice.
George Otto Bird was driving the first sleigh when they came to several trees lying across the trail. “We’ll have to saw our way through,” he said. “It will take too much time to go around.”
One of George’s nephews took a bow saw from his sleigh and approached a fallen trunk. “Look at this,’ Tom Black Wolf said. His brother Dave was searching through a heavy pack. “These trees were cut on purpose.”
A wedge near the top of a stump showed he was correct. The dogs from all three sleighs began to growl. Jimmy Rance, Maxwell Stark and four armed soldiers stepped from behind snow covered evergreens leveling automatic rifles at the three Inuit.
“You shouldn’t have interfered with our plans,” Stark said as they shoved the three men into a tight group. All six rifles were pointed at them. “The Conke’la are very appreciative if you do their will … but deadly if you don’t cooperate.”
“These Caribou with Devils in them will fix all of your health problems as long as you keep bringing them human flesh,” George spat on the ground. “Is that it? But what about when the food runs out … are you going to be next on the menu?”
“The Conke’la are migrating across the galaxy,” Stark said. “They’ve been on Earth a little more than three-hundred years storing fresh meat in cryonic chambers aboard their spaceship. Any human meat will do, even a tough old-administrator like me, but they have limited space and exquisite taste. I promised them enough tender meat from live children to fill their larders for the long voyage ahead.”
“Let’s kill them now!” Jimmy Rance was almost dancing as he clutched the military issue M-16 assault rifle. The growling half-wolf sled dogs were making him nervous. “I hear these guns can cut a man in half.” He was giggling. “I want to find out if that’s true.”
“Not here,” Stark said. “It’s not likely that someone else will come along … but things like that happen.” He pointed toward the trees. “Take them at least a hundred yards off the trail and then cover the bodies with snow. The wolves will clean the ground before spring I’m sure.”
Dave Black Wolf glanced quickly at the sleigh he’d been driving as the soldiers pushed them into the trees. Heavy animal hide covered packs filled the sled. He thought he saw movement under the furs. It wasn’t much hope but it was something.
Blue and green lights made the icy ground look like it was covered in moss. Tim had never been this scared before. The alien craft hovered in the air about thirty feet in the air. It looked much closer to the ground because of its enormous size. When you got close you realized it was as large as a fishing cannery. Most of the smaller children were too terrified to cry. An elderly woman Tim recognized as the librarian from Barrow and another lady who looked to be in her seventies were urging the children toward a beam of light with promises of hot cookies and milk. He didn’t think any of the young ones, even the smallest, believed what they were told; they just didn’t know what else they could do. The light beam lifted the children and moved them sideways at the same time, like being on an invisible escalator. The stunned children began to disappear into an open hatch on the hovering craft.
“You’ll go up too,” Yoskolo James pointed his gun at Tim, Sam and Eddie. “You might be a little tough chewing compared to the babies, but maybe the Conke’la will swap you for some of the meat they’ve had for centuries.”
Tim knew they had to follow if only to calm the other children before the end came. He noticed Bonnie Cromwell’s terrified face staring at him as he stepped into the beam of light. Pulses of heat swept up and down his body lingering on his muscles like invisible hands. Tim decided since they were considered food, it was probably some kind of measuring device for protein and fat content.
He rose in the air along with Sam and Eddie. The vast arctic tundra glowed with a strange light. Tim realized the ship was the light source. Beams of rainbow illumination spread outward in all directions. People always thought this was a natural phenomenon, Tim sighed. How wrong we all were.
For the first second they were pulled into the alien craft Tim could see only darkness and feel a strange, humid warmth. Suddenly there was light and what looked like hundreds of soap bubbles moving across a vast round chamber. Eddie and Sam were beside him inside one large bubble seemingly trapped. Sam beat his fists against a transparent membrane that matched force for force any pressure applied against it.
Minutes later the bubble seemed to settle and Tim, Sam and Eddie found themselves on a floating platform with Yoskolo James, the two women and a dozen horribly deformed reindeer walking erect like men. Several of the aliens were licking puffy lips with swollen tongues.
Yoskolo was lying on a table while two of the Conke’la vacuumed blemishes from his hairy legs with some kind of laser apparatus and made them look young again. The two old women were having all the wrinkles removed from their faces. “I confess I was wrong,” James said. “Our reindeer friend’s fresh meat containers are not quite full,” he said. “We will need at least a dozen more humans, preferably younger than six, to fill up the largest cryonic freezers.”
The Conke’la spoke to him in a language that sounded like various sizes of symphony horns blowing underwater. “East,” James told them. “I’m sure there are more children in Prudhoe Bay. It’s almost two hundred miles, but I understand at least half of the more than one-thousand oil workers from Canada bring their families along when they are working during the winter.”
“We have to convince them to travel west,” Sam whispered to Tim. “But it’s important that this not seem to be my idea.”
“There is an Inuit village less than sixty miles to the west of us,” Tim told the man getting his youth restored. “There are many young children there. Most of them are only three or four years old. I can show you how to get there if you promise to let us three go.”
“You are scum!” Sam wailed at Tim. Eddie made a show of holding him back. “You would sell out helpless children to save your own skin?”
“Show us where the best meat is,” Yoskolo James smiled like a crocodile, “and I will show you mercy.”
As soon as the men with guns pointed at George Otto Bird and her two brothers vanished into the trees, Ena Black Wolf crawled out from under the piled firs on the last sleigh and began to unharness the dogs. “Wait and be silent,” she whispered to the half-wolves in the Inuit tongue as she unhooked each leather strap. She worked swiftly to release all twenty four dogs. “We must be swift and take them by surprise if we are to survive.”
“I think we’ve gone far enough,” Jimmy Rance said. “Let’s have a contest to see who the best dancer is as I shoot at their legs.” He grinned. “Kind of a last man standing type of thing.”
“We haven’t got time for your foolish games,” Maxwell Stark told him. “Shoot them now and we’ll return to the Conke’la for our reward.”
Just then a loud whistle broke the stillness of the night. Sturdy half-wolves used to pulling loaded sleighs for hours upon hours leaped at the six men from eight different directions. There were four gnashing animals on each member of Starks’ gang. The men didn’t have a chance.
“I think this whole night has been one big deception,” George Auto Bird said as the last soldier was torn to bits. “I fear for my son and the other children. If only we knew what the Conke’la were up to.”
“We don’t know exactly what they are doing but we know where they are doing it at,” George Black Wolf pointed toward the sky. “I’ve never seen the Aurora Borealis move east to west across the horizon like that,” he said. “That must be the Conke’la spaceship and I’ll bet a winter of furs that all the orphan children are inside.”
“What are we waiting for,” Ena Black Wolf said. “We must do all we can to save them.”
“Why haven’t we seen the lights of this Indian village yet?” Yoskolo James was staring at a monitoring screen that showed the ground below. He was getting angry. Sam Otto Bird nudged Tim from inside a bubble and glanced to the left. “A little farther south,” Tim suggested. “I think we’re almost there.”
The humming sound that always surrounded the spacecraft when it was in operation, raised at least an octave and tripled in volume just before the entire vessel began to shake with increasingly violent tremors. “What the hell is going on?” James thundered. “We’re coming down too fast!”
The Conke’la were racing toward protective bubbles when the huge ship crashed onto the frozen tundra in a ball of multicolored fire and flame. The Northern Lights blazed the brightest in history just before they went out for good.
George Otto Bird and the Black Wolfs saw the ball of fire when they were still a mile away. By the time they reached the crash site the huge spaceship was nothing more than a honeycomb turned to soot and ash. The shimmering bubbles that held Tim, Sam, Eddie and the other children acted as protective spheres and the bubbles opened when they touched the ground.
“We were lucky the ship crashed when it did,” Tim gushed.
“Luck had nothing to do with it,” Sam told them. “When I left the orphanage yesterday I gathered Lodestones from all of the Inuit villages in the area and placed them in a circle at this spot.” He kicked a large black magnetic rock with his boot. “The Inuit have known for centuries that the magnetic properties of this stone destroy the control functions of the alien ships … that’s why the Conke’la don’t just float over a village and suck up children.”
The fire died down. They stared in awe at more than three-hundred frozen balls hanging in the charred ruins of the ship. Tim and Eddie helped Sam and they climbed into the wreckage and released the cryonic storage containers one by one.
Most of the icy balls contained frozen Eskimo children, some missing for many years who miraculously came back to life once the balls touched the ground and were opened. The group was most astonished when Englishman John Franklin and over one-hundred members of his ill-fated Northwest Passage Expedition Party appeared not a day older than they were when they disappeared in 1845. “Have you seen the Pacific Ocean?” Sir Franklin asked George Otto Bird. “Yes, and you and your men will too,” George assured him.
Do you think we’ve seen the last of the Conke’la?” Tim asked Eddie as they walked the children toward the old airplane hangar.
“I don’t know,” Eddie said looking up at the stars. They seemed brighter without the strange lights. “Space is an awful big place.”
“But not this year, not before Christmas,” Tim said hopefully.
“No, not before Christmas,” Eddie agreed.