The Journey of Eleven Moons
Twentieth Anniversary Edition
by Bonnie Leon
A successful walrus hunt means Anna and her beloved Kinauquak will soon be joined in marriage. But before they can seal their promise to one another, a tsunami wipes their tribe from the rugged shore … everyone except Anna and her little sister, Iya, who are left alone to face the Alaskan wilderness.
A stranger, a Civil-War veteran with golden hair and blue eyes, wanders the untamed Aleutian Islands. He offers help, but can Anna trust him or his God? And if she doesn’t, how will she and Iya survive?
Anna’s hands stopped their rhythmic work of basket weaving and lay still in her lap as she gazed out at the frigid Bering Sea. Kinauquak had gone with the men, and this time he would be allowed to make a kill. Unable to concentrate, she looked around the circle of women.
Alulak met her gaze.
Under the old woman’s scrutiny, Anna lowered her eyes.
Alulak laughed and her eyes became half-moons, nearly disappearing into the folds of wrinkled, brown skin toughened from years of cold and wind. With a toothless grin, she boasted, “My grandson Kinauquak will return with a great walrus. Of this I am certain.” Eyes bright with anticipation, she said, “Tonight we will feast.”
The other Aleut women grinned and nodded, hands never ceasing to weave the unyielding Aleutian grasses. Each occasionally looked up from her work to scan the empty sea. As always, they waited, anxious for the men’s return, not knowing if her loved one had perished or would come back a successful hunter.
Yet this hunt was special. Custom dictated that when Kinauquak made his first kill, he would be counted among the men and ready to take a wife. Anna and Kinauquak had been promised to each other while still children. Once they had played together, but that time was past. Now, as was customary and acceptable, they loved each other as adults.
Still, Anna could not dwell in Kinauquak’s hut. Not until he came for her. Anna looked at her mother, Luba. “The men will come soon?”
Luba smiled softly. “Yes. Soon.”
Were there bobbing splotches of brown on the horizon? Anna stared at the vast ocean. None. She released a deep sigh.
Mind preoccupied, she ran the sharp edge of a blade of grass across her finger. “Ouch.”
Blood oozed from a small cut. A droplet fell upon the partially finished basket.
Anna put her finger to her mouth to stop the flow. This basket, now marked with a dark stain, would be the first she would bring into her new home. How fitting that it should contain her lifeblood.
Sixteen summers had passed since her birth, and she was ready to take her place as mate and mother. To have been chosen as Kinauquak’s partner was an honor. He was a brave and noble man. Her heart swelled with pride as she thought of him and how his eyes lit up when he looked at her. She only hoped she would be worthy of such a man.
Anna had worked hard to learn the skill of fleshing and softening hides, and her baskets were admired by even the old ones. She laid her hand across her abdomen and prayed the gods would favor her and Kinauquak with many children. Already she carried his child. At the time of their joining, she would tell him. Until then, she delighted in the certainty of his joy when he heard of it.
Iya and Inoki, her younger sister and brother, raced through the circle of women. Iya squealed with delight as Inoki sprinted behind her. Although the younger of the two, Iya was swifter and more agile and easily avoided her brother’s pursuit.
Alulak, the eldest of the women, stood. Stretching her four-foot, eleven-inch frame as tall as possible, she planted her hands on her hips. “You children go and play where you are not a nuisance.” She held her arms away from her body and scanned the sand around her. “Look what you have done. You have thrown sand over all our work.”
With no more than a glance, the children scurried off.
The women shook their heads, clucking their tongues, their irritation always more show than true annoyance. They tolerated childish behavior because, all too soon, the children would shoulder the burden of survival.
Anna’s gaze darted across the vast expanse of water as she twisted a strand of grass absentmindedly. When will they come?
The other women giggled knowingly.
Anna glanced about the circle as she felt blood rush to her face. She quickly looked down at her work. Has he killed a walrus yet? Would she have to wait much longer? Or would she be his wife today?
The bay remained empty except for the ever-present kelp floating aimlessly in the currents and the birds who squalled as they fought over tidbits in the surf. In the small cove, the sun reflected off quiet water, but beyond the bay, wind-whipped whitecaps danced across the tops of untamed waves.
Anna closed her eyes and lifted her chin toward the precious sun, delighting in its warmth. The sun’s rare appearance made it something of great value. Wind and rain were often relentless. Frequently Anna complained about the lack of sunshine. If only the weather were brighter and warmer.
Luba would gently correct her. “Life does not always give us what we want. We must cherish each day, no matter what it brings.”
Anna tried to do as her mother said, but some days were just too bleak.
She breathed in the briny odor of the sea and returned to her work. Finally the women accepted her, although she sometimes felt like a child looking in from the outside. Still, her mind was too full of Kinauquak to take in much of the women’s conversation.
Her mother watched her.
Anna smiled, and Luba returned the gesture, but her smile did not touch her eyes. “Is all well?” Anna asked.
Luba didn’t answer at first. Her chocolate-colored eyes settled squarely on Anna. “Life is good. The sea provides and our family is well.”
The women quieted.
“But … I feel your absence from our home even before you have gone. Soon, you will share the barabara of your husband.”
Tears pricked Anna’s eyes, and she managed a weak smile. When her mother learned of the baby, she would forget her sorrow. But life would not be the same after Anna left her family’s hut.
Luba had named her eldest daughter after a great Russian princess, telling Anna, “Your name will be a symbol of your heritage. You will always be special among our people.”
Her father, a visiting Russian sailor, had come and gone before knowing of her existence. Instead of the usual straight, coal-black hair of Aleutian women, she had dark brown waves. Her eyes, though almond in shape, were a vibrant gold rather than a dark brown. Her disposition, more than any other characteristic, set her apart. She was bold and determined, sometimes even argumentative—a trait considered unattractive among her people. The elders often chastised her for her stubbornness. Anna tried to follow the dictates of the village leaders but frequently failed. Still, she was accepted as one of them and deeply loved.
Anna held up her basket and studied her work. The grass she had twisted marred the design. Should she remove it? No, perfection was not always best.
“The hunters are coming!” Inoki yelled.
Dropping her basket, Anna turned to look for the approaching boats.
The other women set their work aside and rushed to the water’s edge. They shaded their eyes as they gazed out over the sea at the boats bobbing in the distance.
Anna trembled as she pushed to her feet. She stood, unable to move, heart hammering beneath her ribs. She held her breath as the baidarkas sliced through the water.
What if Kinauquak had failed?It was too awful to imagine. He would be disgraced.
I pray to you, god of the sea, do not let him be dishonored.
The villagers crowded about the boats as they came ashore. As the sealskin vessels scraped against the sand, men leapt into the shallows and, with the help of eager observers, dragged their crafts up the rocky beach.
Anna stood at a distance, hands clasped tightly together as she searched for Kinauquak. Then she saw him.
He smiled broadly as he emerged from his baidarka. He stood erect, spear in hand, and searched the landscape. As his eyes met Anna’s, he held his spear high in the air, a look of pride confirming his success.
With a small cheer, Anna ran toward him, but as she approached shyness slowed her pace. Eyes lowered, she quietly stopped next to him.
Kinauquak, with a shout of triumph, placed his hands around her small waist and lifted her into the air and spun about.
Unrestrained energy flowed from Kinauquak to Anna and all she knew was laughter and joy. Trembling with excitement, she wrapped her arms about his neck, looked into his eyes and, with voice shaking, said, “It is our time.”
Kinauquak answered by embracing her even more tightly.
Anna threw her head back and laughed.
Alulak shuffled through the loose sand and embraced the couple. When she stepped back she turned to Kinauquak and with a voice full of pride, said, “As your mother would have done, if her spirit had not departed this world, I will do. I will prepare a feast and we will celebrate.” With a wide, toothless smile, she added jubilantly, “Come, there is to be a joining.”
With the help of the other hunters, Kinauquak hauled the great walrus onto the shore. Like a strutting cock, he walked about the bloated animal, chanting a tune of triumph. He stopped, placed his spear squarely upon it, and pierced it once more before allowing the men to drag it to Alulak’s hut.
Anna turned to follow Alulak when an ominous rumbling emanated from deep within the earth.
The ground trembled.
She moved toward Kinauquak, but the earth’s violent pitching threw her to the ground. As she fought to regain her footing, the land rose beneath her, making it impossible to stand. Helplessly sprawled on the writhing sand, she screamed, “Kinauquak!”
He battled the quaking ground as he tried to run to her.
A hut of mud and rocks collapsed, nearly burying him.
Others fell, helpless against the powerful, convulsing beach. Cries for loved ones pierced the air. The earth swallowed bushes and scrub trees, then spewed them out as though they were bitter to the taste.
Anna tried again to stand, but the ground continued to heave and she could only watch as the village crumbled.
A rack, draped with drying salmon, toppled, sending fish sprawling across the vibrating sand. A kayak tumbled from its stand. Alulak picked up a crying child, then stumbled.
Anna’s heart raced and she gulped for air. Although the ground had trembled many times before, she had never felt it move with such power. She couldn’t fight the undulating motion any longer. She sat, clasped her hands tightly about her legs, and pulled herself into a ball with her head tucked close into her knees. All she could do was wait and pray the earth would stop its violent pitching.
Kinauquak tried to get to Anna, but was thrown to the ground again and again.
The roar from inside the earth grew louder.
Anna covered her ears. How long could it last? She closed her eyes and squeezed them tightly shut, blocking out the nightmarish scene.
It could not be banished.
As quickly as it had started, the rumbling ceased, and the land ended its distorted dance. All was silent.
Heart still pounding, Anna lifted her head and looked about, afraid of what she would find. The village was all askew. Rocks, mud, and grass were mounded where homes had stood minutes before. Huts tipped at odd angles. Trees and bushes no longer stood erect; some still swayed.
Whimpering came from some of the villagers. Others stood mute and stunned.
Anna tried to stand, but her legs would not hold her. She remained huddled on the ground. She wanted to weep, needed to weep, but there was no time for that now. She blinked back tears and dredged up practicality.
Kinauquak suddenly appeared beside her, grabbing her hands. “Are you all right?”
She looked down at herself. Everything seemed fine. She nodded, still feeling dazed.
Kinauquak pulled her to her feet.
“It is so still,” she whispered. “Even the birds have stopped complaining.”
Blood fell from Kinauquak’s arm, trickled down his wrist, and dripped from his hand.
“You are hurt!”
Kinauquak glanced at his wound. “It is nothing.” He brushed at the blood.
Anna ignored his indifference, led him to the surf, and knelt in the water, pulling Kinauquak down beside her. She washed a deep gash on his arm, then waded a little farther out into the surf and fished out a piece of seaweed. “Here, this will help.” She wrapped the seaweed about his wound. When it was in place, she patted it gently.
Anna’s mother wailed. “Iya! I can’t find Iya!”
Anna scanned the beach, but there was no sign of her sister.
“Help me!” Luba pleaded, voice on the edge of hysteria.
The people of the village quickly set out to search for the missing girl.
Anna ran to her mother. “Where was she before the ground shook?”
Luba looked about frantically. “I do not know.”
“We will find her,” Anna said with a confidence she didn’t feel. As she scanned the village, her gaze fell upon the family’s partially destroyed home. Iya might be inside. She sprinted across the sand toward the tilted structure, fighting the impulse to rush inside. Instead, she peered through the door, then patted the walls.
Sturdy enough to stand.
She stepped inside. As her eyes adjusted to the half-light, she gasped. The hut was in shambles, nearly unrecognizable. Everything had fallen from the walls and lay scattered about the dirt floor. Their table was tipped on its side, and the furs looked as if someone had tossed them about. A seal-oil lamp had landed on the floor, its light extinguished. The morning fire still smoldered beneath the debris.
Anna turned to leave.
Soft sobs came from beneath a pile of skins.
She hurried across the room, searched through the hides, and found Iya hiding from an unseen foe at the bottom of the heap.
Eyes shut tightly and face streaked with tears, she trembled convulsively.
Anna gently lifted the little girl and held her close. “Iya, all is well. The earth has stopped moving. You do not need to be afraid.” She kissed the little girl’s cheek, stroked her straight black hair, and carried the frightened child out of the hut.
“Oh, my sweet Iya. Here you are.” Anna’s mother gathered her into her arms and cradled her.
Oovie Dunnak, Anna’s stepfather, assembled the family outside the damaged hut. The stocky, powerfully built man quickly took command, barking orders at Anna and her brothers. He instructed the two older boys to rebuild the fish rack and told a younger brother to clean the partially dried fish and rehang them. The oldest son joined his father, and the two began repairs on the wounded hut.
Anna worked inside with her mother, and Iya was told to stay out of trouble.
Shaking dust from the seal pelts used for bedding, Anna put them back in place while her mother removed the debris from the fire pit.
Luba hummed an ancient chant of good fortune as they worked inside the dark, musty house.
Anna’s sweet, clear voice blended with her mother’s.
They smiled at each other. Singing always brought them comfort.
Her tiny mother tried to lift the driftwood table, but faltered. “Anna, could you help me?”
Anna quickly grabbed the other side of the table and together they managed to lift it and set it against the back wall.
The promised joining … A sharp pang of disappointment seized Anna’s stomach. There would be no celebration tonight. She swallowed her grief, chiding herself for such selfish thoughts. Now was not the time to think of her needs. There would be plenty of time for Kinauquak and her. They had a lifetime.
Luba surveyed the room, which looked much as it had before the quake except for the partially crumbled wall. She placed her arm about Anna’s shoulders and pulled her close. “That is better.” She stopped and faced her oldest child. “You have always been a faithful daughter, bringing me great joy.” She reached out and took a strand of Anna’s silky brown hair between her fingers then tenderly smoothed it back. She leveled tear-filled eyes on Anna and her voice quavered. “I will miss you.”
Anna lay her hand over her mother’s, unable to keep the regret out of her words. “There will be no joining today.”
“No. But tomorrow, or the next. Your time is soon.”
“I know I will be Kinauquak’s wife, but I had hoped it would be today.”
Luba’s expression turned soft, understanding passing between the two.
“What more can I do to help?” Anna asked. It was time to leave regrets behind.
Luba thought for a moment before a smile brightened her face. “There are blueberries ripening on the bluff. Your father enjoys them very much. Would you take Iya and pick some to celebrate our good fortune?”
Anna’s eyes widened. “Good fortune? Everything has fallen down around us.”
Luba cupped Anna’s face between her hands. “The ground shook in a way I have never known, yet we live.” She looked toward the heavens and whispered with passion, “God has protected us. Tomorrow will come.”
Anna said nothing. She had never trusted the God the Russian priest, Father Ermelov, spoke of. She believed in the ancient gods of her people—the creator god, god of the sea, and god of the moon. She turned away. “There are not many berries ripe yet, but I think there are enough for one meal.”
Luba said nothing more about God, but reminded Anna, “Do not forget Iya.”
She would rather go by herself and spend time on the high bluffs that overlooked the beach. It was the perfect place to be alone. But she smiled and said, “I will not forget. We will bring back many berries.” She slipped a leather pouch over her shoulder, picked up two baskets, and went to look for her sister.
Iya’s chatter gave away her location before Anna rounded the house. The little girl sat on a rock, watching her father and brothers work. “It was dark inside the hut. I heard a great roar and the world tipped from side to side. Is that how it always is when the earth shakes? Will it come again?”
There would be more quaking. It could go on for many days.She cut into the little girl’s prattle. “No, Iya, it has gone. Would you like to come pick berries?”
Iya jumped to her feet. “Yes.” She raced across the sand toward her sister.
Anna’s father stopped his labor to look at his two daughters. “Berries will taste good. Thank you, Anna.”
“We will return soon,” Anna said, taking Iya’s hand. She led her sister to the trail that led up the steep cliffs above the beach. After helping Iya over the large rocks at the bottom of the winding path, Anna stopped and looked out over the village.
A cloud moved across the sun, casting a shadow on the beach.
A vague sense of unease fell over Anna. Unable to explain
the feeling, she shrugged it off and followed Iya up the cliffs.
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Anna gazed at the stunning tapestry of color and texture that crowned her island. The contrast between this place and her beach home never failed to inspire her. She soaked in the artistry, memorizing every detail so she could take it back to the beach with her.
Iya fidgeted and tugged on Anna’s hand.
Anna ignored her and took a long, deep breath, inhaling the fresh scent of grass that mingled with the sweet fragrance of blueberries and wildflowers. “This is where I want to live.”
“Me, too,” Iya said. “Why do we not?”
Anna looked at her younger sister’s sweet face and gently brushed a strand of black hair out of her eyes. “It is beautiful now, but when the storms come there is no protection from the pounding rains and wind. And we would always be climbing down the cliffs to hunt and gather food. And our wood comes from the beach.” She shook her head. “To visit will have to be enough.” Her gaze roamed over the meadows and warmed her insides.
“I like our visits.”
A sudden urge to romp swept over Anna and she dashed across the open ground. “Catch me if you can,” she called over her shoulder.
Iya charged after her sister, feet dashing over the brush and digging into patches of sand.
Anna darted back and forth through the bushes, avoiding her sister’s grasp.
Though Anna was older, Iya was a fleet-footed five-year-old, and she soon threw her arms about Anna’s waist, capturing her. The two of them tumbled to the ground, giggling their delight.
Breathlessly, Anna conceded. “You have won.” She rolled to her back, looked up at the brilliant blue sky, and ruffled her sister’s hair. “You are too fast for me.”
Iya grinned impishly. “You are getting too old and—” A look of fear overtook her smile. Peering at something beyond Anna, she raised up on her arms as if ready to flee.
Pushing to her feet, Anna turned to look and drew in a sharp breath.
On the ridge behind them stood a man, an outsider. Where had he come from? She hadn’t seen anyone from the outside for a long while and had heard nothing from the people in the village about such a visitor.
The man was tall with a full beard and wavy blond hair that blew wildly in the wind. He held his slender frame stiff and straight, legs slightly parted. A rifle was slung casually over one shoulder. Silently he watched them, but he made no threats.
Anna placed herself between Iya and the stranger and slowly backed away. “Say nothing and stay close to me,” she whispered.
Outsiders had traveled to the village many times before and rarely brought anything of value with them. On the contrary, they were often cruel and treated Anna’s people with less respect than they would an animal.
First the Russians came, ruthless in their desire for furs and riches. They enslaved her people, using them to hunt the sea otter and great whales. Those who resisted were killed. Men were forced to leave their households and serve the fur-greedy Russians. Without hunters, entire villages perished.
The intruders also brought diseases and many Aleuts died. Anna had heard stories of a time when there were many thousands of her people, but now only small bands lived on the islands that stood between the Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.
Others brought strange ways and new religions. Anna shunned their God. The intruders acted like devils; therefore, their God must be evil.
As she studied the man, her mouth went dry and her heart leapt inside her chest. The urge to flee overpowered her resolve to hold her ground. She took Iya’s hand and bolted through the brush as though pursued by demons. She glanced over her shoulder. Did he follow them?
He had turned and moved the other way.
Anna stopped and pulled Iya close as the stranger disappeared behind a small rise. “He is not interested in us,” Anna said, gasping for breath. “Good.” She waited a few minutes longer to assure he would not sneak back and seize them. When he didn’t return, Anna dropped to the soft earth. She patted the ground next to her and motioned for Iya to join her.
The bushes had scratched their unprotected calves and ankles. Anna doctored Iya’s legs with leaves and dirt, wiping away blood that trickled down her ankles, then she did the same for her own damaged limbs.
She leaned back on her elbows, closed her eyes, and tilted her head, allowing the breeze and warm sun to calm her anxiety. “We can rest for a while before we pick berries.”
Iya glanced nervously in the direction the stranger had gone. “What about the man?”
“He is no danger to us.”
Iya’s face held uncertainty and she shivered in the cool breeze as she snuggled close to Anna.
She stared at the sky. “We cannot trust those from the outside. They care only about themselves and bring nothing but pain and suffering to us.”
“Father Ermelov is not from here, and he is always kind,” Iya said, coming to the defense of the Russian priest who often visited their village.
“He is different. I do not believe in his God, but he is kind. I think he hates evil and mistrusts the outsiders just as we do.”
“Where did he come from?”
“Father Ermelov? He is from Unalaska. He has a meeting house there.”
“No. The stranger.”
“I do not know. He comes from a place I have not seen.” Anna shrugged. “There are many lands far from here.” She smiled at Iya. “But it is too beautiful a day to worry about that man. He is gone.” She rolled to her side, closed her eyes, and rested her head in the crook of her arm.
Iya leaned against Anna’s back, and the two lay in the summer sun a little longer. The cliffs muffled the rhythmic pounding of the sea, and the cry of irritable seabirds seemed far away.
The sound of the wind rustling through the grasses quieted Anna’s spirit. Even the pungent odor of the nearby ocean seemed less potent. Anna’s eyelids drooped and she was tempted to stretch out on the soft earth to nap in the afternoon sun. Instead, she stretched her arms above her head and yawned, then forced herself to her feet. The breeze blew her hair into a soft tangle. She brushed at it with her hands, trying to keep the wispy strands out of her eyes, but no matter how hard she tried, they eluded her efforts. She finally gave up and allowed it to do as it wanted.
Iya squinted up at Anna. “Can’t we sleep?”
“I wish we could lie here all day, but Mother’s expecting berries. Come on, they’re waiting to be picked.” She handed a basket to Iya. Still feeling drowsy, she strolled across the field to the berry bushes.
The season for picking had only just begun, and there was very little ripe fruit. The baskets filled slowly.
Iya looked into hers. “It will take forever to fill this basket. I wish I’d made a smaller one.”
“If more berries went into your basket instead of your mouth, it would not take so long.” Anna grinned. “And if you had made a smaller one, you would need to carry two.”
Iya held up her basket, proudly displaying her work. “It is beautiful, is it not?”
“Yes, you did well. It is very pretty. When you are grown, you will make fine baskets like our mother’s.”
Iya examined her work, a pout replacing her smile. “Do you think it is crooked? Inoki said it is, and he said I would never be a good weaver—that no one would marry someone who made crooked baskets.”
That Inoki, always teasing. Anna knelt in front of Iya and looked squarely into her eyes. “You’re a good weaver. Your basket is only a little crooked. This is your first and you can be proud of your work. When Inoki teases, you must not listen.”
Iya nodded and her smile returned.
They went back to work, and the berries mounded. Anna glanced at Iya just as she was about to drop another berry into her mouth. “Iya, no more.” She did her best to look stern, though she wasn’t really angry.
Iya quickly rerouted the fruit and dropped it into her basket.
Anna was tempted by the juicy fruit as well, and a while later she sneaked a berry to her lips.
Iya glanced up just at the right moment. “Anna, do not eat any berries. They go into your basket.” She tried to sound firm, but her little-girl voice only seemed more charming.
They laughed and each popped a small tangy berry into her mouth.
After Anna filled her basket, she helped Iya finish hers. She held a large berry up to the sunlight. “Beautiful.”
Iya nodded and stuffed another into her mouth. “They taste even better.”
“I think we have enough.” Their father would bestow much praise upon them when they returned with their precious offering. Mother also would be pleased and reward them each with an extra portion. “Our father will be happy to have so many.”
Without warning, a low rumble came from beneath their feet, and the ground shook for a moment. A small aftershock, but a reminder they might be needed at home.
Iya gripped Anna’s arm. “Is it going to happen again?”
“No. Only like this—small. It is normal after the earth moves. The ground will shake but not so bad as before.”
Iya looked at her with suspicion, but didn’t argue.
High spirits deflated, Anna said, “Time to go.” She turned back toward the bluffs.
When they reached the trail that led to the beach Iya said, “We hurried so fast I’m tired. Can I rest?”
Anna nodded. “We will rest here, but only for a few minutes.” They sat in the deep grass and Anna set her basket on the ground beside her.
They watched the activity on the beach below. People fixed their homes and assessed other damaged possessions. Many huts were beyond repair and would have to be rebuilt, but they would not be homeless. Other natives would welcome people without shelter into their homes.
“Look, there.” Anna pointed at Inoki as he dashed across the sand.
One of his favorite games was to tease the waves. He tramped carefully toward the breaking surf as the sea washed up the beach, then raced ahead of the water, just out of reach of the white foam. The object was to remain dry, although he rarely did. Inoki enjoyed the surf and often gave into the temptation to dive into the frothy breakers.
Abruptly, he stopped and stared down at the sand. He bent to pick up something. He’d found a large shell, and after examining it carefully, called to their mother. From the way he raised his prize above his head, it was clear he was proud of his find.
Luba looked up from her work and, wearing a smile, waved at her son.
“We’d better get back.” Anna stood and brushed sand from her skirt.
Iya pushed up off the ground and, with her basket of berries tucked under one arm, started down the path.
Anna scanned the beach once more. Something was wrong. The cove looked odd. Trying to clear her vision, she blinked her eyes.
The water in the small bay rushed out to sea. Fish flopped on the wet sand, large, ugly mouths gasping for air. Long-submerged rocks and boats covered with barnacles and other crustaceans were suddenly exposed to the air.
Anna felt horror in the pit of her stomach. “The sea withdraws from the land!”
Iya edged back toward Anna, eyes trained on the beach. She fumbled for her sister’s hand and grasped it.
Inoki, who only moments earlier had frolicked in the surf, fled toward the village, fear etched across his boyish features. In his haste, he fell and peered over his shoulder at the apparition.
Anna willed Inoki back to his feet. “Run!” she screamed. There was nothing she could do.
The villagers wailed. The old ones cried an alarm, urging everyone to flee to the cliffs. They knew what was coming. Terror was written upon their faces.
The bay emptied, as if the god of the sea had gulped down the waters.
Anna couldn’t believe what her eyes told her. She squeezed Iya’s hand hard and pulled her close. Her mind screamed that she must help, but she could do nothing more than stand and watch.
A thunderous sound came from the ocean as a monstrous swell converged with the receding water. With terrifying speed and power, it approached the beach, growing larger as it advanced. The merciless mountain of water viciously bore down on the small village.
Panicked villagers screamed and scrambled for safety, but the wave was too swift. Mothers picked up crying infants and dragged older children behind, while the old hobbled toward promised safety.
Alulak didn’t run but stood facing the coming water.
“Kinauquak! Where is Kinauquak?” Anna cried as she searched the beach. Then she saw him.
He had turned back to his grandmother and now tugged on her arm, but she wouldn’t take her eyes from the sea. Finally he fled, leaving the old woman to face the ocean’s wrath.
No one could escape its fury. As it hit the beach, the wall of water grew taller. It scooped up Inoki, tossed him effortlessly into the air, then pulled the helpless young boy into the seething flood. Next the umiaks and baidarkas on the beach vanished in the tide. Relentlessly, the churning mass of seawater, sand, and vegetation moved up the beach. It slammed into the village. Alulak never moved, disappearing under the roar of water, meeting her death honorably.
Anna watched in horror as the water engulfed her home and swooped down upon her family. A scream wrenched itself from her throat as her mother vanished beneath the rogue wave. She couldn’t bear to watch but was unable to look away.
The slayer moved inland and, unbelievably, grew in size and intensity as it advanced, destroying everything in its path. Villagers scrambling for the rocks, trying to escape the giant wall of water, disappeared one by one into the foaming, muddy flood.
Kinauquak, clinging to the cliff, tried to pull himself out of reach of the killer, but was plucked from the rocks.
The wave rammed into the sheer rock face and threatened to reach beyond the cliffs, to snatch Anna and Iya from their perch. Paralyzed, she watched in revulsion as the mountain of water smashed against the cliffs with a thunderous roar, hungering for more victims.
Another wave followed the first, and another, but finally, its energy spent, the water receded and slowly retreated to the sea. It left quietly, as though it had never visited, but its spoils could not be ignored. It had come, devouring their home, their people, their life.
Anna’s legs crumpled beneath her, and she slumped to the ground.
Iya mutely climbed into her arms. Once safely tucked within her sister’s embrace, she whimpered quietly.
Anna clung to Iya, comforting and seeking comfort. Eyes unseeing, she rocked the little girl and chanted a mournful tune.
There were no tears as dusk settled over the island. The two orphans silently held each other and finally slept. But even in sleep, Anna could not escape the nightmare of the giant waves. Distorted images and pictures of death filled her dreams. There would be no one else to bring comfort; they had only each other.
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