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Short Stories

A Coho in Ontario

The night, cold and heavy, crushed his lungs; like being buried alive by a thousand wet blankets. Liam’s sweat froze on his face and in his hair. He had to get past the wall, and across the border before the drones made another round. The snow swallowed every footstep, and every sound was a possible death knell unless he blocked it from his mind. The burning wound in his side numbed, but that fact didn’t ease his worries. 

He had left a border officer for dead. He made it quick, it was quiet. For duty, the adrenaline told him, duty to country. As he choked out his last moments, Liam told the boy that he died so his country may live. He hoped the boy died with some solace.

The Americans had to know. If the U.S. mobilized in time, the world could stand a chance and Canada’s sacrifice would not be in vain. 

Ever since that group of Native dissidents returned up from Yellowknife, they merely thought the natives were restless. 

“Wechuge,” some said.

Others shook their heads and said, “Wendigos.” 

Everyone present dismissed as deranged. 

They were deranged, every one of them, Liam thought. But the one with eyes. 

The survivors returned in various states of distress. At the CSIS interrogations, their leader sat blind, and silent as the grave. Through the matted hair covering his face, Liam felt an icy gaze that cut through his own skin and stared into his very bones. Some truth lurked within those icy pits, those eyes compelled all the agents present to denial and nervous whispers.

He reached the bank of Lake Ontario. The soft ripples lapped against the shore, smacking rocks and sand, and dragging them back into the lake. Liam’s breath shivered in his lungs, his lungs thrashed against his ribs. A breeze from the other side carried a faint smell of oil to his nose. A few houses dotted the water’s edge.  had to move them back from the river a few years ago. The river swallowed the foundations of two blocks over the last twenty years. His legs shook. He was never cut out for field agent, not like Pop. His father always tried to toughen him up. His father would take him out on the pier to fish for Coho, and they often wrestled on the shore. Well, his father did the wrestling and no one’s seen the Coho salmon in the lake for years. He half-wanted to stop and let the lake claim him. Someday, he thought, it’ll claim us all. But the Saint Lawrence River was not more than a hundred yards. 

His legs ached too much and bright lights erupted from the trees. He dove into the icy water. I’ll swim, he thought, I was a pretty good swimmer. He kicked feebly. The waves pulled at his clothes. The lake and the night witnessed silently, punctuated by his shivers and sloshing hands. 

“Halt!” The metallic call ripped through the darkness and rang across the lake. 

Beacons flared and blinded him. He tried to shield his eyes but couldn’t tell which direction it came from. 

“Please,” Liam cried out. He kicked in circles furiously. His arms floated, numb. The cold lake yanked at his clothes and he swallowed what tasted like icy grease. The voice spoke again, and Liam felt his body vibrate in the water. He choked and threw his arms up to the surface. He coughed and sputtered on the way up.

“Pl- please,” he said again, his voice cracked, “We’re un-”

His head kicked back. The dark water cradled his face, crawled into his nose, and seeped into his mouth. The lights hovered above, burning. Like Pop’s eyes, he thought. His arms flew up towards his father, but a tug on his coat drew him backwards and downwards. Silver and red scales flashed by and the last Coho salmon disappeared into the inky black. His father moved on.

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