|We were completely unaffected by the plague that came around in 2020. In fact, all of Greenland went free of the virus without a single casualty. Most scientists chalk this up to an early warning and excellent response. As soon as Disko Islanders heard about it, they just shut down the ferries. Most of us are self-sufficient by nature, but in a place with only about a thousand souls, we would all manage. The rest of the world wasn’t so fortunate. By the time it had fully run its course, it was said to be the deadliest pandemics in recorded history. Most of the people in our tiny village were North American ex-pats, and we’d never been more glad of it. The virus had finally petered out and gone away nearly a year ago, and everyone thought that was the end of it. We all did. Turns out we were wrong.
I won't say why I ended up here, in a frigid land with thermal springs, strange flora, and brightly painted houses. It really doesn’t matter, but even though some of my friends and neighbors were running from something, I wasn’t. When I was younger, traveling about and seeing new places and meeting people was a joy. Something changed in me, though, and now I wanted to mostly be alone. Greenland is a very sparsely populated place, and where I landed, the edge of an island of the coast, was nearly desolate. The best part of the tiny hamlet was no one asked questions about personal history. That was fine with me.
Sam was Inuit, and looked it. He was dark-skinned with dark features and spoke about as much of my native tongue as I did his. When it came to vision, though, he could see better than anyone I’d ever met. The three of us had wandered down near the bay to see what had washed up, and Sam looked out over the water.
“Ship,” He said without any inflection.
“What?” Max queried after he looked. He was a tall, and thin, man from Maine. “Nothing out there but ‘bergs!”
I squinted hard and looked over the water. “Huh. Might be something out there. Can't swear it by me.”
We watched the shape off in the distance as we walked along the rocky shoreline. It seemed to be moving toward us, almost on a zig-zag pattern. Growlers and bergy bits were around all year, but it wasn’t the best time of year to be tooling around Baffin Bay.
“You think they’re okay?” I asked, assuming it was a ship by mow.
“Who knows? I’m not going out to check.” Max replied. Sam just shrugged.
I had a thought, “I’ll bet that kid with the drone could get a look at it.”
When our stroll got close, I headed up to one of our newest resident’s home and knocked. The young teen answered the door and asked him about the drone flight. He was intrigued by the idea, and while he was getting set up, I borrowed a pair of binoculars and went back to the shoreline. It was a large yacht, and it was clear why it was moving so oddly. It was bumping into small icebergs now and again. I mentioned it to Sam and Max.
“That can’t be good for the boat,” I said.
“They have to be under power, eh? Otherwise, they’d drifted south on the west side of the bay.” Max responded.
“Don’t like it.” We both looked at Sam.
Under maritime law, a ship with no crew was abandoned. I won’t lie, that piece of luxury looked just fine, even banged up a little. My concern wasn’t that the crew was dead, because then it was fair game. I was worried someone might be sick and dying. But sometimes you take the risk to get the reward. Even before the drone was scooting along at 100’ over the white-crested sea, I was in motion. Sam had a boat, but it was too small, and I finally convinced Max to go with me. His ride wasn’t going to get swamped if the weather turned on us. He tried to back out when we saw the video, but he’d promised.
“Holy crap!” The young gangly drone pilot exclaimed.
“What?” Three others sain in unison.
“This… this… is grisly!”
The playback showed two people, a man and woman, apparently dead on the aft deck. No, they were certainly dead, and even from 25’ up, it was clear to see. Sea birds have to eat, too. I weighed the odds and decided I wanted to go. We packed some gear, for weather and protection, and boarded with three other men. I didn’t mind sharing a little, but I didn’t really know what was out there.
We tried to raise them by radio on all the proper frequencies, but no one responded. One of the hired hands even fired a flare. For what, I couldn’t say. We pulled alongside the yacht and called loudly, but all we got back was the dead silence of the bay. If the engines had been running, they had quit. The air tasted of salt, even more so than on a normal day ashore, but my spirit was buoyed by the lack of motor noise... and people noise. The easiest access was the middle of the boat on the port side, so at least we wouldn’t see the dead right away.
A man stayed with the smaller boat, two went west toward the back, and Max and I headed for the helm. It’s not a rule, but most sailors would tell you when in that kind of situation, the man at the wheel is in charge. Greedy, perhaps, but practical, too. It was a fine thing, and I owned nothing on the water. We moved slowly, and armed, toward the front, and Max stopped at a door to go below. He gasped, probably in a way he'd never before, and froze. A dead man was on the stairs. In his mottled hand, there was a briefcase., and once the shock wore off, Max went to get it.
I entered the bridge to find two bodies that had left the mortal coil at least a week before. One of them held the throttle, which gave me a short pause before Max thundered into the room.
“Jimmy. Look!” He opened the metal case and held it in front of me. It was cash. In one hundred dollar bills.
“Max,” I whispered. “Is anyone alive down there?” I asked/ He shook his head in the negative.
“One of you...”
I heard it, and I’d swear to it again. But not only had Max not uttered a sound, but he also said he didn’t hear a thing. The next few minutes got busy, and I didn’t think anything about it. One of the three hired hands, one we knew well, was going to take the case back to his house. We wanted to search this ship. We wanted to know what other treasures it might hold. As I was assigning duties, we held a sloppy wet noise. Everyone knew what it was even before the radio squawked.
“Guys!” The drone pilot on the radio yelled, “Someone hit ice!”
I didn’t press to answer. “We have to get him.” Then I spoke into the mic, “Find out how long.”
“They’ll be a damn hour!” He came back with two minutes later.
I nodded. “Yeah, so let’s go get him. I headed back to the bridge.
I ran forward and got to the controls. I barely noticed there was no hand on the throttle, because I went to check gauges and start the engines. Nothing. One of the men aboard was a mechanic, and after ten minutes, he found nothing as well. Watching our neighbor die wasn’t an option, so we found the life raft. It had a small motor that started on the first pull. They headed out at a pace slower than they wanted, but it wouldn’t matter. Our mate slipped below the water and drown before they could get going. We all knew the bay could be harsh.
“One of you will…”
I looked behind me when I heard it that time, and it cost them. I missed their line when they tossed it, and they didn’t secure to the gunwale Their last moments were in terror as a wave pushed the enormous yacht over them. The raft popped to the surface, but two men were lost to the deep cold waters. Two men who were my friends.
Max had been looking in the cabins, and dragged a duffle bag onto the deck. The contents were bright and shiny even on a cloudy day. Neither of us had seen anything like it except in movies. Gold bars look different than anything Hollywood can sell. I told Max what had happened, and we looked over the side at the rubber dinghy.
“I can get to the island with the bag,” He told me.
“Not a chance. That thing won’t make it.” I responded. “Even if you could, where does that leave me!?”
“I’ll grab a boat and come right back! What’s that, three or four hours?”
“Well, I’m not comfortable with that!”
“Relax, big baby. I'll go without it. You think I’m going to leave you with that?” He pointed to a bag.
He pushed off and headed east toward Disko Bay. He wasn’t far off the bow when he held up a couple of gold bars with middle fingers displayed. I just shook my head, because I’d been tricked. I figured we were all just pirates at heart, but not all of us got to live it. Then the ship farted. It’s the only way to describe it, a giant output of air with a foul smell. Max gripped the gold in his fand with ferocity, and his whole body tensed. Soon, and slowly, he toppled into the water, rigid. That gold would take him to the bottom.
The engines started, and I wasn’t surprised. The turn of the vessel toward the frigid north didn’t raise a wonder, In fact, it probably didn’t even register for quite some time that the little voice in my head said,
“One of you will stay with us…”