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"Shamanic" by Karen Arnold

Static. Hissing, voices just out of reach. No contact with the mainland for weeks now. I try every day

to tune in to the base camp, but no one answers. There is only the crackle and whispering of

atmospherics. It never stops. This landscape is never silent.

Cold blue light blinks from the radio console, northern lights dance green across the night sky. It has

been dark for months.

Wind moans and howls outside the weather station. Sometimes it sounds like singing. The ice floe

groans, floorboards creak. The bears are moving again downstairs.

When the first paw prints appeared in the snow no one was concerned, of course we were curious, just

take care, carry the flare gun outside with you. We set out wires to trigger an alarm if they came too

close. Continued with the science, the collection of data, study of the weather. Just one set of paw

prints. One wire sheared through.

I look at my desk, the detritus that has collected over the months, like flotsam drifting through

the ocean onto the seabed. Notebooks, cigarette ends, the tiny carved bear I use as a paper weight.

There are claws scratching at the wood of the stairs.

Michael disappeared first. The next day there were two sets of prints. The rest of the team lasted for

a week. The last skein of geese passed over head days ago, a grey and black arrowhead, their inconsolable cry fading into silence. Just me now up here in this tiny room, looking out over the bone white landscape.

The bears leave things on the landing. Gifts? Offerings? Seal carcasses mainly. The sweet, fishy smell

of decay has started to fill the house. I am hungry.

I see them coming and going from the ground floor. Yesterday the smallest one turned, stared at

me, its eyes black as chips of jet. I looked away first.

At night I hear them pushing at the furniture, grumbling, and muttering. I imagine them conversing,

deciding what to do with me.

I am so hungry. It never gets light, and the wind will not stop. Today they left a quivering reddish-

brown lump of meat outside the door. Seal liver, I think, still warm and steaming.

I am so hungry. In the dim indoor light, I see that my nails have become thick and overgrown.

Perhaps it is a vitamin deficiency. The seal liver looks delicious.

I venture onto the landing, pushing my hair back from my face, fingers caught in its tangles, I catch

my own scent rising from it, salty and sour. At the foot of the stairs, the bears are silent, watching

me. Blood hot bear breath hangs in the cold dry air, and the wild, musky scent of animal fur rises like

incense, heady and intoxicating.

I crawl on all fours towards the gleaming meat and plunge my hands into it. I feel a roar building in

my chest.

I am so hungry.

Karen Arnold is a writer and psychotherapist living in Worcestershire.

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