By Tim Goldstone
As always, I had done my research meticulously. Gold fever or not, it had quickly become apparent that no one in 1896 could live long enough on that inhospitable Alaskan shoreline to find it. Even 120 years later the highly educated vanguard of an exploratory engineering project abandoned their failing hi-tech equipment and fled for home. All except for Paddy and Kellan, whose refusal to leave was causing concern. Officially, I was sent to check what was happening. Millions in future funding could be at stake. Ridiculous rumours of hauntings, of spirits, and even of possession, infuriated my clear, analytical mind, as did all excuses for incompetence. Facts, figures, statistics, logic. That’s real. That’s truth. That’s progress. Unofficially, I was confident that with my expertise at least some of the expensive instrumentation could be salvaged, some software retrieved. I was wrong.
When I finally got there they were inhabiting an old cabin where the only surviving prospector had gone mad from loneliness and finally walked out into the sea of 1896 just as the water was beginning to freeze.
For the entire 48 hours I had there, all Kellan would talk about was Paddy. How that dog would disappear for days and nights on end into the interior, returning in a filthy state, eyes wild, fur matted, barely recognizable as a dog.
“I reckon he just gets sick of eating fish,” Kellan said seriously. “Goes on a hunt. Came back with a wolf bite one time. Another time, brought a moose back. A moose. Must have weighed over a thousand pounds. Just herded it, herded it right back into this shack. You ever heard of such a thing? Ridiculous dog just sat on that porch, right there, just watching the chaos. Don’t you tell me dogs don’t laugh. Look, he’s out there now again, somewhere in all that. Useless mangy mutt. You know what else he does? That mist comes down an’ he paddles out to sea until I can’t see him. One day I know he’s just gonna keep on paddlin’ an’ paddlin’…and he ain’t never comin’ back, that no-good critter,” and he turned towards the driftwood drying by the fireplace so I couldn’t see his face. Flame and candlelight caught in the tangles of long hair that hung down his back. Tears began to drip from his cheeks onto the dirty floor. I tried my best to persuade him to leave. He couldn’t.
A year later I’ve been drawn back to this wild shoreline by the unceasing dreams I have of the cabin, of waves swollen with ice shards, of Kellan, and of Paddy, the dog I never saw. I need them to stop so I can think clearly again. I need them to stop.
I’ve found Kellan’s skeleton on the shoreline. I’m waiting here with him until Paddy returns.
Wind whistles through the bones.
The waves begin to clink.