For the second time since she arrived on the planet, Yuki had fallen asleep in a moving vehicle. The gentle swaying and the sound of her mom’s voice had made keeping her eyes open difficult. Her mom, noticing her head drop forward for the umpteenth time, had finally insisted she go to bed. Yuki was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
The next morning, Yuki slowly opened her eyes and tried hard to remember where she was. She was facing a blank wall that she didn’t exactly remember. She rolled over and saw her mom cooking something on a hot plate Okay, now I remember. She threw the blankets off, swung her legs out of bed, sat up and clunked her head on the bed frame above her.
The motion must have caught her mother’s attention because she looked up from her cooking and said, “Watch your head when you get up!”
Yuki rubbed the sore spot. “Gee, mom, thanks for the warning.”
She pointed with the spatula. “The bathroom’s over there.”
Yuki’s genetic changes allowed her body to process waste differently than other people but, she always liked to take advantage of using the toilet whenever the opportunity arose. She carefully stood up and looked around for her glasses.
“If you’re looking for your glasses, they’re on the table (she motioned with her head) and there’s some clothes that might fit laying on the bed above you.”
Yuki, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, and wondered when her mom had gained the ability to read minds. She turned and saw a sweatshirt and a pair of worn jeans laying neatly across the bed. She gently picked up the corner of the sweatshirt and grimaced at the thought of how long it must had been lying on the floor before her mother had laid it up there.
“Don’t worry, they’re clean!”
How does she do that? Yuki grabbed the clothes, found her glasses then shuffled to the bathroom. After a couple of minutes, she came back out and headed for the kitchen. As she passed the bunk beds, she carefully placed her flight suit on the upper bunk then went and sat across from her mother at the small wooden table. In front of her was a plate of bacon, eggs, toast and a glass of water. “Mmm, I’m starving!”
“Good! Dig in! They both grabbed a fork and starting eating.
Um, Yuki, I was thinking of something while I was making cooking.”
Yuki finished what was in her mouth then said, “What was that?”
“This might sound silly, but do you have a lot of cooked food on the moon or is it all freeze dried?”
“We don’t have a lotta freeze dried stuff, it’s mostly pre-made food that’s warmed up in the microwave.” Yuki wiped her mouth with a worn cloth napkin. “But, if you consider that cooking then, yes, we have a lot of cooked food.” She smiled up at her.
Her mom chuckled, “I hate to tell you this but, that’s my usual go-to piece of kitchen equipment while I’m in the lab. This (she pointed at her plate) is a luxury!”
“Well, then it makes it that much better, thank you.”
Her mom reached for her water, accidentally knocking her napkin to the floor. When she bent down to pick it up, she saw that Yuki was wearing nothing on her feet. “Oh, for goodness sake child, where are your socks and shoes? Your feet will freeze.”
Yuki wiggled her toes. “Um, there kind of attached to the rest of the suit. It’s all one piece.”
“Goodness, let me find you something.”
“It’s fine, mom. It can wait.”
“No, it can’t.” She got up and went over to an old green filing cabinet that sat by the door to the bathroom, slid open the top drawer, reached in and pulled out a pair of neon green socks.
“You keep your socks in a file cabinet?”
Her mom shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sure, who doesn’t?” She tossed them to Yuki as she went over to the bunk beds then knelt on her knees to reach way under. She felt around a bit, then pulled out a shoe box. She stood back up, flipped off the lid, and pulled out a pair of bright pink sneakers, just like she had on. She threw the box on the floor and kicked it back under the bed before handing them to Yuki. “I hope they fit.”
“How do you know my size?”
Marie sat back down at the table. “I don’t.”
Yuki pulled the socks on over her feet and thought there was no way the sneakers were going to fit. What were the odds? She loosened the laces then slipped the right one, it fit perfectly! How does she do that?
She lifted her leg above the table so her mom could see. “Perfect!”
“See, Mom’s know.”
Yuki shook her head back and forth while she put the other shoe on.
There was a brief moment of silence as they both attacked the food on their plates. When they were done, Yuki got up and brought the dirty dishes over to the sink. She was about to start rinsing them when, suddenly, the lights around the perimeter of the vehicle started to flash.
Yuki looked over at her mom and saw that she seemed to be very excited. She quickly pushed herself up from the table knocking the chair over then ran to the front of the vehicle and threw herself into the driver’s seat. “It’s them, they’re here!” She quickly punched coordinates into the GPS computer.
Yuki, unsure whether to be excited or concerned, picked up the chair and pushed it under the table then went and sat in the passenger seat. She noticed a red light blinking above one of the screens. She looked closer and saw that the screen was displaying a map; four green dots were moving toward them. Pointing at the green dots. Yuki asked, “What are those?”
Her mom flipped a couple of switches on the console turning the interior lights out. “Those are the they in they’re here, duh!”
Yuki stared out into the surrounding landscape then back to the map to get a better idea of where to look. Looking back out the window she noticed that the surrounding area was largely flat with short grasses and a few plants; whatever was coming should be easy to see. A movement in the distance caught her eye, she reached up to her glasses to magnify the image but felt her mom’s hand rest on her arm. Confused, she looked over at her. She was shaking her head no and pointing at her glasses. “You won’t need them, okay?”
Yuki paused for a second, then said okay. She took them off and laid them carefully on the console. Looking back out the windshield to where the movement had been, she was able to make out four distinct shapes, heading toward them at a steady pace.
Yuki asked They’re huge! What are they?
A family of polar bears; a grandmother, her daughter and her daughter’s two cubs.
Yuki watched, mesmerized as the group of bears came so close that she could make out every hair on their bodies. She had never seen anything so big and so beautiful! The lead bear walked with confidence but was constantly sniffing the air and looking all around. She was followed by two cubs who looked like they were more intent on playing than following; they would run off, knock each other down, then roll around on the ground. The last bear in line was slightly different than the others. Her hair, instead of being snow-white, was darker. She walked with a limp and looked tired; her head was down.
This is a family that I’ve been tracking for a long time. Up front is the mother of the two cubs. The last one is her mother, she’s very old, this is probably going to be her last time through the Pass.
Pass? asked Yuki.
We’re at Polar Bear Pass. It’s where all the migrating bears funnel into each year in search of food under the broken up pack ice.
The group was right in front of the vehicle now, the mother turned and looked toward them as she walked past. Yuki could have sworn she felt something inside of her as she walked by. As they continued around to the side of the vehicle, one of the young cubs accidently bumped into the old female, who let out a howl as she fell to the ground. The mother turned and ran back to her, growling at the guilty cub as she ran past it. When she reached her mother, she put her head down next to hers.
Are you alright?
No, it’s my leg, again.
Can you continue?
No, I don’t think I can, but you need to keep moving.
I can’t do that.
You must! I’m tired and I hurt. You need to get to the ice with the cubs.
Something caused the mother to suddenly jump up and look skyward.
The lights inside the vehicle started to flash. Marie quickly reached up to hit a switch, turning them off. Another green light, flashing on the map, caught Yuki’s attention. What’s that?
I can’t be sure, but I think it’s probably Shedu.
Yuki quickly looked back outside. Concentrating on the mother, Yuki could sense fear and worry.
The mother pleaded There’s still time, get up, please!
The old bear made no attempt to get up No daughter, go. Take the young ones and go. Keep them safe. This is what is meant to be. Don’t fear, go!
Yuki saw a giant shadow quickly move across the two bears.
The daughter nuzzled her head into her mother’s then quickly turned and ran to her cubs who were sitting and watching quietly. Using her head, she gently pushed then until they stood. She ran ahead, leading the way. One of the cubs ran off to follow her but, the other one seemed confused, looking from its mother to its grandmother. It chose its grandmother.
It ran over to her. Why are you laying there? Come with us, there’s danger!
Yuki saw the shadow move across the bears again. Suddenly, the vehicle rock violently to one side. She looked above her as two enormous dents appeared in the roof above them.
A shadow lay across both bears, the cub looked up at whatever was up there. Yuki could feel the fear in the young bear.
The grandmother said Go Akia, run!
The cub took one last look at its grandmother then ran off in the direction of the others.
The old bear looked up What are you waiting for?
From above her, Yuki heard Not yet, I want to make sure they’re far enough away.
Yuki felt the vehicle dip down, move back slightly, then spring up. A blur of white filled the front window. She ducked down instinctively but quickly lifted her head back up, she didn’t want to miss anything.
Sitting by the head of the polar bear was a white lion, about three times larger than the bear. It had to be the most stunning animal she had ever seen. Its head had a massive mane of white hair and two large fangs extended from its closed mouth. Its body was covered in long white fur which swayed in the slight wind. Huge wings covered in white feathers were folded against its body.
Yuki looked at the old bear on the ground and tried to see if she could feel anything coming from her. She couldn’t sense any fear, instead, she felt something like…calm.
Without moving her head, the bear looked up at the lion, Hello my old friend, you look well.
Hello Ananaksaq, I wish I could say the same for you.
Ah, always with the humor.
Sorry, I can’t help it.
But it’s true, I’m tired and I hurt.
The Lion hesitated before it asked Do you think it’s time?
You wouldn’t be here if you thought it wasn’t.
Hmm, I guess telling you I just happened to be in the area wouldn’t work.
No, it wouldn’t, we’ve known each other for far too long time and shared in many memories for me to believe that.
We certainly have.
There was a short pause as the two of them avoided speaking about what would happen next.
Ya know Ana, you’ve done a good job raising your family.
Yes, I am. It’s not easy losing a good friend. I’ll miss you.
Me too… I’m glad it’s you who has come for me.
It’s an honor.
There was a pause. Yuki felt as if time itself had stopped.
The bear closed its eyes and said, I’m ready.
You will always be with me in my heart.
The lion circled around the bear, sniffing her every now and then. She stopped when she came around behind the bears head. The lion reared up on its hind legs and opened its mouth wide—
Fearing what would happen next, Yuki shut her eyes tight. She was about to open her eyes when, suddenly, there was a tremendous roar. Yuki threw her hands up to cover her ears, but it made no difference. After a second, she realized she wasn’t hearing the roar with her ears, it was in her head! It was flowing through her, filling her with a great sadness. It was like nothing she had felt before, she wanted to cry. But, just as soon as the feeling had come, it was gone, replaced by a feeling of…of…what? What was this new feeling? Then, she thought she recognized what is was, it was the feeling of pride! She felt her spirits lift! It was as if, in that single great roar, Yuki was allowed the privilege of sharing in all the past sadness and happiness experienced by the polar bear!
When the lion finished her proclamation, she lowered herself to the ground and grabbed the bear by the scruff of its neck, like a mother cat lifting her young. There was nothing grisly about what she did, instead it was an act of tenderness and care. She began to beat her giant wings, Yuki could feel the vehicle move, buffeted by the turbulence they created. Then the mighty lion leapt into the air, carrying the extra weight of the bear with ease.
Yuki and her mother pressed their faces against the window as they watched the giant snow colored beast disappear into the sky.
Yuki got up out her seat and walked over to the wooden table and slumped down into one of the chairs.
Oh my gosh! That roar! Did you feel that!
Her mother came over and sat in the other chair across from her. I did!
Yuki grasped the edge of the table, I never imagined it could be like that!
Her mother sat next to her. That was a pretty exceptional moment. It’s very rare to witness something like that let alone hear what’s being said.
It was amazing! Yuki ran the images through her head. She looked at her mom. The bear said that her and the lion have known each other for a while. Have you seen the lion before?
I have actually, many times. As a matter of fact, she has a special connection with our family.
Well, a long time ago—
Yuki slapped her hand down on the table Wait, the rock carving! There’s a winged lion carved into that rock! Is that the same one?
You’ve seen that? How?
Dad showed to me. He told me the whole story about the girl that wandered out into the snow.
That’s the connection we have with Shedu. Your grandmother was the little girl she saved.
Oya? She was the one. Oh my gosh, she never mentioned anything…
Yuki stopped talking as her mom’s eyes had grown large and her mouth dropped open. She pointed to the red light above the map screen on the console.
I think she’s coming back!
The lights in the vehicle started to blink.
Her mother ran to the console and checked the map. Yep, there’s a single green dot coming from the right direction. Yuki had come up to the console, she peered over her mom’s shoulder and saw what she was talking about. Her mom turned C’mon! She grabbed Yuki’s hand and pulled her to the door, yanked it open then led her outside.
Yuki was able to pull her hand free as they got outside. She waited by the door. Uh, don’t you think it’s better if we stay inside?
Her mom moved further away, looking up, scanning the sky. It’s got to be Shedu! She’s coming back! Her mother looked at Yuki and motioned frantically for her to come to her. Come on, it’s fine. She won’t hurt you!
How do you know!
Believe me, I know!
Yuki slowly walked over to her and looked up. They both spun in tight circles, seeing if they could locate her.
Her mom pointed. There! There she is!
Yuki looked to where she was pointing and saw her, the pure white lion was gliding in lazy circles. It reminded her of a buzzard circling a dead carcass. You’re sure about this, right?
Yes! Stop worrying!
Even though she wasn’t quite convinced, Yuki had to admit that Shedu was beautiful! Her flowing mane and fur reminded her of moving water. She watched, mesmerized as Shedu folded in her wings and dove for the ground. She was falling fast and heading right for them! Yuki was thinking it would probably be a good idea to move, but when Shedu was about twenty feet from the ground, she threw open her wings, using them to brake her descent. She stopped just short of the ground, hung in midair for a second, then dropped to the ground with barely a sound.
The giant lion shook itself, starting with her head and ending with her tail. Yuki thought it kind of looked like she did it in slow motion; the way her hair swung from one side to the other. It reminded her of a shampoo commercial she had seen on the internet. Shedu slowly sauntered over to Yuki. As she passed Marie, Yuki could have sworn she heard her mom say, Show off. Somehow, Shedu’s tail ended up swiping her mom across her face. She threw her hands up too late and ended up having to pull a long white hair from her mouth.
Yuki felt her muscles tense as Shedu came up so close to that she could feel her warm breath on her face. It smelt sweeter than she expected a carnivore’s breath to smell. Yuki wasn’t picking up anything from her in her head and was too intimidated by her to try connecting.
The giant lion seemed unimpressed with Yuki, she sniffed her once, then turned to her mother.
This is your cub?
Yuki wasn’t sure if it was a statement or a question.
Her mom smiled, pulled her shoulders back proudly and said, Yes, yes she is.
Shedu walked around Yuki, sniffing every now and then. She’s different.
Yes, I suppose so, she didn’t grow up around here.
I didn’t think so…mmm, there’s something else as well. I can’t seem to… She came back around to stare into Yuki’s eyes. Where are you from?
Yuki felt as if the air had been taken from her lungs. She found that that no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get any words out.
Shedu’s nose was almost touching Yuki’s Well?
Yuki was getting frustrated with herself because all she could do was stare at her wide eyed. She finally found the ability to open her mouth, then realized she didn’t need to talk out loud, so she shut it, but then found that she was still too nervous to respond using her Keeper ability.
Shedu turned back to Marie. Is there something wrong with her?
Marie was still wiping the back of her hand across her mouth Give her a second, she’s nervous.
Shedu turned back to Yuki, sat downand asked What’s the matter child… cat got your tongue? Shedu burst out laughing at her own joke, spraying saliva in Yuki’s face.
Ohhh, man, sorry about that kid. She wiped Yuki’s face with the back of her paw, almost pushing her over.
Her mom shook her head and rolled her eyes Gee Shedu, that one never gets old.
She looked over her shoulder at her Hey, I’m just trying to break the ice. The kids got a sense of humor, right? She turned back to Yuki, You do have a sense of humor, eh Yuki?
Yuki yelled at herself to stop being so pathetic and snap out of it. She slammed her hand against her thigh and was finally able to concentrate enough to respond. Yes ma’am, I do!
Excellent! Shedu gave her a shove in the shoulder, almost knocking her over, again. There’s the fearless Yuki I’ve been told about! Hey, I understand you’ve got a message for me?
Yuki wasn’t expecting that! Confused, she said A message? What message?
When you met your mom for the first time, someone gave you a message, remember?
She looked down trying to remember, then it hit her! Kit! Kit told me to tell you he says hello!
Shedu laughed. Kit and I go a long way back and he’s never once failed to make me laugh! Ahh, good times…anyway, how’s he getting along with your grandmother?
Yuki smiled. Okay, I guess. As long as she doesn’t give him any walrus!
Shedu roared with laughter. Haaaaa! I never get tired of that story. She turned to Marie, See Marie, she does have a sense of humor!
Yes, Shedu. I know that, but can we get back to why we’re all here? I mean, your sort of taking the whole mystical (she waved her hands in front of her) magical vibe out of a visit from a legendary flying beast that’s come to give my daughter valuable information that may very well change her life! This is supposed to be a defining moment in Yuki’s life!
Shedu sat back on her hind legs Okay, okay, Marie, I’m sorry, you’re right, I’ll get serious. She turned to Yuki, lifted her right front leg with the paw tightly closed and turned up In my right hand is a glass slipper, I need to see if it fits your foot…
Marie threw her arms up in the air. Shedu! Enough!
Sorry, sorry, I couldn’t resist. Shedu winked at Yuki.
Marie looked at her sternly and put her hands on her hips.
Shedu sighed, I’m sorry, no more fooling around, I promise, really.
Yuki stood there with her eyes wide open. She couldn’t believe her mom was getting mad at a huge flying lion that could take them both out with one swipe of her paw. And to top it off, the lion was apologizing to her!
Shedu lowered her paws to the ground and looked at Yuki then cleared her throat. Before, when I was with the polar bear, I roared, what did you hear?
Yuki sensed the sudden seriousness in Shedu’s voice and knew all the kidding was over. It wasn’t so much that I heard anything, it was more like I felt something.
Shedu nodded Hm, that’s good. What did you feel?
Yuki looked at the ground and kicked a small pebble with her toe. First, it was sadness, intense sadness, (Yuki clenched her fists at her sides) I’ve never felt such sadness before.
It took me a couple of seconds to figure it out, but I think it might have been pride.
Shedu nodded again. Excellent, it was pride, now…
Yuki quickly added, I saw something too!
Both her mother and Shedu exchanged glances.
Shedu leaned in closer and asked What did you see?
Yuki looked down as she recalled the memories in her head. There were quick images of a young polar bear cub, it was catching a fish. Then there was another one with what looked like the same cub, only older, watching her own cub play in the snow. The last thing I saw was her watching her grown daughter playing with cubs of her own. It was like I was seeing glimpses of the polar bears life, moments when she felt the proudest.
Shedu took a step back and looked at Marie again. Her mom stepped close What does it mean? She said she saw those things! I’ve never seen anything before! What’s that mean?
Shedu replied Hmm, I’m not sure. I think I’m going to need a second to talk with Yuki, one on one.
Oh…okay, I understand. Marie folded her arms across her chest and walked a few steps away.
Shedu stepped back up to Yuki, raised her paw and said, In order for only you and I to speak, I need to place my paw over your face.
Really? Yuki thought for a second, You’re not making that up, are you?
No, no, it’s for real.
Well, okay, if you have to.
Shedu gently placed her paw on Yuki’s face, covering it from ear to ear and forehead to chin, and then some.
Yuki thought it would be heavier than it actually was. She could feel the coldness of the soft pads on her cheeks. Sheheard Shedu say I know, you know, you’re a Keeper, but you’re not just any Keeper. Sure, you have the normal abilities of silent communication and you can feel what another animal feels, but it appears you also have the very rare ability to see what they see. I’m the only other animal, that I know of, that can do that. I’m not sure what that means. Do you understand?
I’m not sure. I mean, why me?
To be honest, I don’t really know, and this is going to sound corny and all, but I get the feeling it’s tied to your destiny and to why you’ve been brought here.
Yuki sighed, Yeah, my mom keeps talking top me about this destiny stuff. She was quiet for a few seconds, thinking. Before, you said we both have the ability to see what another sees but, how come I can’t see what you see right now?
It’s not something that can be controlled very well. It kind of depends on the circumstances so don’t be surprised if you try and nothing happens.
Do you see anything when you look at me?
No, not right now I don’t. However, when you first arrived on the island and met your grandmother, I saw something.
You knew I was here!
Yep, I’ve known you were coming for some time now.
Tuki made a face under Shedu’s paw. Let me guess, Qbit!
Boy, he really gets around! What was it you saw?
I saw the beginnings of something, but, as I said, it wasn’t clear. I took it to mean that what I saw was the beginnings of something that may happen and not something from your past. Maybe we need to wait for you to catch up to the vision or something like that. If that’s the case, then maybe, I’ll be able to see it more clearly. (She shrugged her shoulders) Who knows, there’s no handbook on how this all works?
This is all very confusing.
I’m sure it is, and I wish I could tell you more. Do you have any other questions?
There was a few more seconds of silence between them as Yuki thought.
My leg’s starting to go numb.
Oh my gosh, sorry, I didn’t realize.
That’s okay. One last thing, remember what your mom said about this is supposed to be all mystical and feely, feely like?
Well, I need you do to something nice when I take my paw away. It’ll make her happy.
Nice? Like what?
Um, how about you thank me for bestowing upon you many ancient secrets. Something like that!
Oh, okay, I understand. I think I know what I’ll do.
Good girl. Um, one more last thing.
Your mom farts in her sleep.
Yuki burst out laughing, luckily Shedu’s paw kept Yuki’s laugh from coming out.
How in the world do you know that and why do you think I needed to know it!
She came to visit me once and had to stay overnight because of the weather…
Okayyy…what’s the why part?
Life can be way too serious and sometimes you need to remember that there are times you need to laugh. Don’t let your fears and anxiety eat away at you. Put them in the proper perspective then find something to laugh about.
Well, I’m sure that image is going to keep me laughing for a while!
Good… I’m going to pull my paw away now.
Shedu lifted her paw. Yuki bent down on one knee, took the same paw and pressed it to her forehead and held it there for a few seconds then lowered it and kissed the back of it. She released it and stood back up, bowing deeply.
Oh, my, that was perfect!
Yuki looked over at her mom and could see tears in her eyes.
She said Oh. My. Goodness. That was beautiful!
Shedu took a step back from Yuki and said to her mother She is indeed special; you must be very proud.
She turned to Yuki and pulled her close. Yes, I am.
Okay, you two, I’m sure you both have some talking to do. But, for me, I have to get back to my family. The cubs have probably torn the cave to pieces by now.
She unfolded her wings. Yuki, it’s been very nice meeting you.
Thank you Shedu, it was nice meeting you too!
She flapped her wings and started to lift from the ground. See you later, Marie
Shedu was over their heads when Yuki yelled Wait, I have a riddle for you!
Shedu slowly kept rising. A riddle! I love a riddle, what is it?
Yuki cupped her hands to her mouth and yelled How do you get down off an elephant?
Shedu looked confused. Get down off an elephant?… How do you get down off an elephant? She thought for a moment then replied. I don’t know…for me I could just fly off but…I don’t know…I guess you could use a ladder.
Yuki yelled No! You can’t get down off an elephant, you get down off a duck!
Shedu looked down at her with a puzzled look on her face. What? That doesn’t even make any sense!
Yuki, on her toes, yelled,Think about it!
Shedu shook her head then disappeared into the clouds.