Spirit of the Brown Bear
(Torar Angiyok Aklark)
As Utaq’s hunting party approached the shoreline
camp late in the day, dark clouds that had been hovering low, finally
unleashed what they carried. Snow
fell in huge flakes at first, drifting lazily down and coating the dirty
layers that had fallen and packed before.
Then the wind arrived and blew the snow in great anguished shrieks
that made talk nearly impossible.
The meat was quickly distributed among the hunting
party’s families. The dogs
were bedded down and fed, and then everyone headed for his own dwelling. When Utaq and Nelson ducked into their house, an older woman
was waiting for them. She had
put on a small pot of savory caribou stew and there were two blubber lamps
lit, their flames dancing merrily. Both
men reveled in the relative warmth of the tent and the smell of cooking
meat that made their stomachs rumble.
“Many thanks, Aanaruaba,”
Nelson said to the old woman, using the term ‘grandmother’ or ‘great
aunt’ that was given as a term of respect for all older women.
welcome, Aklark, but I am here for more than just making Utaq’s house
warm,” she said with a dry laugh. “And
be cautious of who you are calling aanaruaba.
I am not that much older than you, Taataruaba.”
blushed and chuckled. “My
apologies, I only meant respect.”
know,” the woman said with a merry twinkle in her eye.
“As do I.”
said you had another reason for being here?” Utaq prompted.
there is a white man in Kotik’s house.
He has been somewhat obnoxious when he has been awake.
Thankfully, he has been asleep most of the time since his
Utaq began, incredulous at there being another white man in the camp, and
then he thought. Aklark’s
yellow jet; his Flying Sub, as he called it.
woman, Mirok, nodded. “He
came in a strange and marvelous machine.”
Then she smirked. “But
first he sank the strange plane and then he managed to fall into the ocean
as he came ashore on the ice. Now that he is recovering, he insults the
young women who brought him back to life.”
what that meant, Utaq began laughing.
“And did the women approve of him?”
laughed with him. “For a
white man, he was not too bad, but he was too tall.”
been listening to the conversation with increased excitement.
“This machine—was it yellow?
A jet?” The last was
the English word.
Mirok said. “If not for the
storm, you might be able to see it from here, Aklark.”
had come that close? That
close and then crashed. Who
was the pilot? Was it one of
the men he kept seeing in his brief remembering dreams?
And if the Flying Sub had come here, would the giant submarine be
close behind, Nelson asked himself?
“You are remembering,” the old woman added
when she saw the concentration on his face.
a little.” Never enough, he
thought. Nevertheless, he was
excited. Someone who most
likely knew him was in the camp.
“When you remember all, do not forget us.”
Nelson shook his head.
“I won’t. But
please, can you describe the man?”
“No, not really.
I have not been to Kotik’s tent.
But when he was pulled off the ice, I could see he had dark hair
and was tall and thin.” She
gazed thoughtfully at him. “You
think this is someone you know. Or
someone who knows you.”
“Yes,” Nelson answered excitedly. It sounded like the man in his dreams. The one he had shot. If
The man has called for you, Utaq, when he has been awake, but more
often for someone called admiral.”
Nelson could feel his hands trembling and noticed
Utaq’s gaze on him. “That
is my . . . status. Yes, I
would like to see him.”
The snow was falling harder now, much like the
snow that he had remembered right after his encounter with the bear.
It was thick enough that even the outlines of the dwellings in the
hunting camp were obscured. Nelson stayed close behind the old woman, Utaq by his side.
She ducked through the canvas doorway and Nelson heard a voice
calling him. He recognized it
and thrilled at that recognition. Finally,
after all this time.
He followed the old woman.
Amoroq was sitting on one side of the tent. Kotik pointed to someone huddled beneath several layers of
furs. The voice was softer
now and Nelson crept closer to the still form.
The man was curled inside and almost indiscernible, but the admiral
could see the short black hair. Again
he felt the thrill of relief. If
this was Lee, then what he had seen in the dream had to have been false;
or rather, Lee had recovered. And
with that realization came more memories, some clear, most of them
disjointed, but making more sense. Lee
moaned and then rolled over, sticking his head out from under the covers
and opening his eyes.
Recognition gleamed in the dark hazel eyes and Lee
jerked upright in shock, then realized where he was and what condition of
dress he was in, pulled the blankets closer to his body.
Nelson noticed he was still shivering.
still alive! Thank God,
Harriman nodded, gazing hungrily at his link to
the past and then could only say, “You are, too.”
Lee’s joy and amazement showed some puzzlement.
“Yes, Lee,” Nelson began, sitting closer to
his captain, friend, protégé. For he knew that Lee Crane was all of the
above without knowing exactly why. “The
only memory I had of you for the past couple of weeks was of me shooting
“Only . . . memory?
Nelson nodded again.
“A great deal has returned, but not everything.
“What do you remember first?” Lee asked, his
concern evident on his face. The
others in this cramped tent were temporarily forgotten.
“Smell of destruction, a bear, pain and cold,”
“Your plane was shot down,” Lee replied.
He looked around and finally saw the others.
“Utaq?” he asked the man sitting nearby.
“You were to meet the admiral,” Lee continued.
“Yes, I was, when the pilot, Roger Simkiss
landed. I had been asked to
let the admiral see the people this project would impact and then come to
his own conclusions. It was a
good thing Maria found me at the outpost or I would have had no idea who
Aklark, or rather Admiral Nelson was when he walked into the forest with
the bear’s skin wrapped around him.
Not that it would have mattered.
I would have helped him anyway, and I would have still seen his
arrival as something of an omen.” He paused and smiled softly.
“My cousin seemed confident that the admiral could come up with
something that would be mutually beneficial to all interests.
The spirits wanted it done in a way somewhat different than anyone
had planned.” Utaq
“Or some enemy did,” Crane said sardonically.
“It would seem,” he added as he gazed back at the admiral,
“that someone tried to use this to attempt an assassination of you,
“Yes, the People’s Republic,” Nelson
replied. At Lee’s puzzled
look, he sighed. “I’ll
explain later, when you feel a bit better.”
Kotik handed Crane a cup with something warm in
it. “Thank you.
And my thanks to what all of you did to save me.”
She nodded and ladled some of the warm liquid into cups for the
others. At first all Lee did
was hold his against his cheeks and sigh lustily at its warmth.
“From what I have been told, you would be
feeling better if you had allowed the women to stay under the blankets
with you a while longer,” Utaq said with a smile.
The admiral chuckled.
Lee blushed as Kotik also smiled at the hunter’s
joke. She said nothing,
though, and he hid his embarrassment by taking a drink of the concoction. It was surprisingly good and he complimented the woman.
She only nodded and reached for her baby, who had begun to fuss.
They continued to talk during supper, a little
about the admiral’s adventures, but mostly about the events of
Nelson’s dream about him. While
it was painful to both men, it gave rest to the admiral’s feelings of
guilt. When Crane’s clothes were finally dry, he quickly pulled
them on and came out from under his fur cocoon.
Amoroq handed him a parka to replace his lost flight jacket and Lee
accompanied the admiral and Utaq to the hunter’s tent as the storm raged
around them. He was shivering
violently by the time they reached it and Nelson wrapped him in the
bearskin that he had brought with him.
“I’m not . . . usually this . . .
cold-blooded,” Lee complained.
“You don’t usually take a swim in near
freezing oceans without protective gear either, do you?” Utaq asked with
a wry smile. “We will sleep
soon and you will sleep between us.”
Crane looked sharply at the Eskimo.
“No, not naked . . .”
Then Utaq stopped suddenly. “I
know you have Naval rank, but neither of you have told me what it is,”
am Commander Lee Crane, captain of the admiral’s submarine.”
“I am glad you are here and in one piece,”
Utaq said with a slight smile. “You
must tell us how you figured out where we were.”
He noticed the captain’s increasing difficulty in staying awake. “But after we get some rest.”
Crane nodded and looked around. “Where do I sleep?”
“Anywhere there’s a space.”
“Good,” Lee said and promptly rolled himself
in the bearskin and lay down. He
was almost instantly asleep.
“Must be the hypothermia,” Nelson said with a
wry smile. “I somehow
don’t remember him sleeping that well before.”
Aklark threw another blanket on the sleeping man, one that was
large enough for all three of them to crawl under.
“The weather does it, too, Aklark,” Utaq said,
lying down next to Crane. Nelson
suddenly found himself yawning and followed suit.
Soon all three were sleeping through the howling of the storm.
As soon as the storm had blown itself out, they
set out with Utaq to the nearest coastal town, where Crane happily
contacted Chip with the good news. He
was unduly satisfied at the shouts he heard in the background of the radio
shack. After Utaq had
made his sales and picked up the supplies he needed, they returned to the
village to await not only the submarine, but also Porter, who was coming
with a government agent via bush plane.
The captain was also very satisfied that the intelligence Maria
Machetanz had given him had led to a renewed investigation of
circumstances surrounding the admiral’s disappearance.
The so-called environmentalist from Idaho had actually been a
phony; someone hired, apparently by the People’s Republic, to kill the
admiral and cause even more turmoil over the pipeline.
Still, though, even after a week of Lee telling of
their adventures together on and off the Seaview, Nelson felt
restless. There were still
chunks of memory missing. He
knew Lee was being truthful in everything he said and felt the rightness
of his words, but it simply wasn’t his memories yet.
Finally on a bright, relatively warm sunlit day, Seaview
arrived, surfacing at a low angle, but still dramatically enough to
cause the villagers to gape in awe. It
was like some monstrous metal whale surfacing.
The Eskimos pulled off their parkas in the fifty-degree heat and
continued to gape as the sub settled on the ocean and men showed
themselves on the conning tower and waved.
Nelson stood entranced, but in a way different
from the villagers. He was
seeing the object of some of his memories/dreams clothed in steel and
spray, beautiful, powerful and inviting.
She came closer to shore and he knew she was working at recovering
the Flying Sub that Lee had crash-landed.
“Captain Crane said you built this.”
“I designed her,” Harriman said and knew the
rightness of his words. He
saw the memories of the years before Seaview starting to make a
more cohesive pattern. It was
not complete, but something becoming very recognizable.
After a short time, more men appeared on her conning tower and deck
and then a skiff was launched.
“I am never going to hear the end of it,” Lee
“What?” Nelson asked.
“That I had to ditch the Flying Sub.”
The admiral smiled and continued watching.
The skiff came closer and closer.
He felt Lee and Porter’s presence at his side, but said nothing.
“I expect you’d like to go aboard, Admiral,”
Crane said in a half question, half statement.
answer was simple but loaded with expectation and hope.
“May I see this marvelous vessel as well?”
Nelson turned to him and nodded. “Of course. Would
I say no to the man who saved my life?”
The young seaman steered the skiff right up on
shore, leaped out and happily saluted.
“Welcome back, Admiral,” he said exuberantly.
Nelson recognized the young man, but couldn’t
remember the name.
“Kowalski,” Lee muttered softly.
Harriman smiled, grateful for the prompt.
“Thanks, Kowalski. It’s good to be back.”
Porter and the government agent waited while
Nelson, Crane and Utaq got in the skiff and were ferried to the giant
submarine. Nelson watched his
creation grow larger and larger in eager anticipation.
When he stepped on board he felt more memories slide into place.
He remembered the first time he stepped on board, when the Gray
Lady was only a shell. Then
he remembered each stage of her progress until the day of her
to come aboard,” he said formally to the executive officer.
“Permission granted,” Morton said happily.
Harriman remembered the day the sub first sank and
how a piece of his heart remained with her until the Seaview had
been raised and refitted.
As he and Lee took Utaq on what he remembered
being called the dime tour he remembered every nook and cranny of her.
At the end of the tour Harriman realized that there were still a
few gaps in his remembrances, but all in all he felt the rightness of
The rest would come.
Tonight, maybe, or tomorrow or next month, but it would come.
He turned to Utaq. “I remember why Maria wanted me to come and I will turn my
efforts to solving the problems so that everyone can feel at least some
satisfaction,” he said in IñupiaQ.
Utaq nodded, “That is all any person can ask of
“Thank you, Utaq.”
“I thank you, Aklark.
You truly have the soul of the bear within,” the Eskimo hunter
Nelson nodded as he gazed out of the observation
windows in the bow. A bear
back in his den—home.
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