Francois shifted the armload of firewood, gripping the door handle with his oversized leather mitts. The near ancient door swung in, blasting his face with welcome warm air, even as a fog of the frigid arctic pushed past his beaver skinned boots and billowed into the small cabin.
Pushing the door closed with a grunt, the trapper dropped the firewood next to the woodstove and stood for a minute, flapping his hands in the air, trying to get the blood moving again.
Three weeks of twenty below, he thought. This shit’s getting old. He gave the iron pot on the woodstove a stir, raising the spoon up for a good sniff. Yet another meal of moose “stew” – flank this time, with potatoes as usual. Warm and filling if nothing else.
His slender frame belied his strength. A robust 39, Francois had been trapping the Ugashik River Valley for damn near twenty years. His father’s trap line before him and he listened, watched and learned all his father had to teach him. Dead for a decade, and Francois still could feel his father’s presence all around him. He could hear his father whispering through the birch trees on the long trap line treks. When the wind whistled around the sturdy cabin, it brought the echoes of his father’s words.
Francois looked out the lone window. Not much to see, the frost and ice layered up along the edges of the glass and creeping towards the center, leaving a foot wide oval of the glass untouched. Though the sun had set early on this day in late January, there was still a brightness to the landscape from the full moon overhead. Alpenglow, they called it. Sometimes so bright a person could stand outside and read a book, if a person were inclined to do so.
As he turned away, he caught a glimpse of light. A bright, turquoise light in the sky, skimming along the top of the mountains on the other side of the river. A faint rumbling shook the cabin.
“I’ll be… What the hell?”
Grabbing his heavy coat that was still damp with melting frost, Francois threw open the door and craned his head to see the ball of light. It seemed to dance along the mountain tops, and then it abruptly stopped and hovered.
Francois stood motionless, his breath forming frigid clouds around his head. He blinked and was surprised to see the orb appearing to get bigger. It took a second to register. The damn thing was heading toward him!
The rumbling that had been faint, no more than a freight train passing in the distance, was now almost a roar. The turquoise orb streaked past Francois and disappeared over the trees. The rumbling stopped, leaving a deafening silence in its wake. He could see a very faint glow back-lighting the scrub pines that populated the eastern side of the cabin. He knew there was a bog about a half mile that direction, and it looked like that was where the glow was coming from.
Scurrying back into the cabin, he grabbed his mitts and his Remington. He stepped outside, clapped his snowshoes to release the frozen chunks from his walk earlier in the day, strapped the snowshoes on his boots with the weathered and yellowed rawhide straps and started toward the glow.
His mind wasn’t racing. He wasn’t designed that way. His mind was methodically working through all of the possibilities of what this thing could be. No plausible options revealed themselves as he trudged along, snowshoes crunching through the thin layer of crusted snow.
The night’s alpenglow provided plenty of light for him to see his way. Truth was, he was so familiar with this land that he could have navigated by mere starlight if needed.
Weaving his way through the birch and pine, Francois instinctively kept his head low and the barrel of his rifle high. He could see the faint glow ahead, tree shadows and branches blocking and bouncing the strange light as he approached.
Hunkering down, he slowed as he reached the edge line of the trees. The bog lay straight ahead. The orb lightly pulsed from where it had landed in the center of the long-frozen bog. He stopped and watched, his breath turning to frost on his beard. Whatever he was going to do, he best get on with it. Sub-zero temps had a way of sneaking up on your body. Toasty warm one minute and bitterly sharp cold shards invading your body the next.
The light pulsating from the globe quickened and Francois heard a distinct “crack!” like stepping on new ice on a lake in the fall. Immediately the glow started to fade.
Slowly, he stood and advanced toward the cracked orb. As he neared, he saw that it was no larger than an overinflated basketball. Perfectly round, its smooth sides translucent and somehow inviting. Then he saw what looked like letters on one side. The style was cryptic, blocky – yet ornate.
“Ordo ab chao” whispered Francois. The letters were distinct but the meaning was not.
Puzzled, Francois perched over the still glowing orb. He could see through the crack. There was something in there. Whatever it was…
“Aaahhh!” Francois startled and fell backward.
Scrambling to his feet, he automatically pointed the gun at the orb. He could hear his pulse thundering away in his ears and his hands shook, but not from the cold.
His unbelieving eyes recognized the shape of the object in the orb and he lowered his gun, partly because the strength had drained from his arms.
Dropping to his knees, Francois reached forward and grasped the two halves of the cracked orb, pulling them further apart.
Bathed in the soft turquoise glow was a human baby.
Well, almost human.
To be continued