When the last of the sea ice disappears, Nattiq must decide whether her future lies in her seal skin … or in a different form entirely. [11 min]
The snows were few, and light. Nattiq clawed a hole in the ice and eased her nose above the surface of the water, whiskers trembling at the sky. She smelled for snow. She smelled for the white bear. She smelled neither, and bobbed in the breathing hole, languid motions of her back flippers keeping her afloat.
Her body told her the pup would come soon. She had seen the sun, though it stayed yet low in the sky. She should have been eating cod, building a burrow, preparing for her pup. But the ice didn’t carry enough snow to make a refuge from the white bear. She had tried, again and again. Her attempted burrows were so shallow she could barely turn around inside, and inevitably, they collapsed on her. The ice floes were no longer a safe place to birth a pup. Nor were the floating heaps of human garbage that accumulated in the gyre, full of metals and plastics–as much a death trap as the white bear.
Nattiq didn’t want to face the obvious answer. Land. As a pup, she herself had lived near the land, each year migrating farther north, chasing the ice. To go back now seemed impossibly far.
A ribbon of cold and salty water brushed her fur, and the pup bumped in her womb.