Blood and Ice
I was swimming leisurely toward the ice when it happened, following the patterns in the cracks with my eyes and spinning myself in dizzy circles with my tail. Breaking season wasn’t far off; soon the ice would be patchy, and mothers would surface with their new calves for a first breath.
I kept an eye out for shadows above and a surfacing hole. It had been about eight hours since I’d come up for breath, and I didn’t want to waste energy breaking a new hole. Surfacing holes were also dangerous places: Sometimes birds dove in for fish, or seals or bears lunged through. I had seen my wakefriend, Nela, attacked by a bear when we were just outgrowing the pup stage. She had scars that ran like ice fissures from her shoulder to her belly and across her face, leaving her blind in one eye and a lopsided swimmer.
As I gazed at the blue and green ice above, the hollows where mosaics of bubbles gathered, I saw odd shadows. I flipped onto my back and paddled my fins so that I could get a better look, stifling an exhale that would send up a new stream of bubbles.
The shadows moved slowly, like a stalking bear moved. But there were only two dark spots, oblong in shape, instead of four round ones. And the creature making them was nearing a seam in the ice.
There was a groaning sound as the creature’s weight caused the ice to shift. I bit my lip, and a gush of bubbles drifted up. My dense down hair stood on end as they came to rest with soft noises against the ice.
The shadows stilled, then grew into one hazy shape which lengthened and solidified as the creature spread itself across the slab. It was nearly as long as me.