The Aberdeen Kayak

by Michael Bloor

(first published in Breve New Stories, Vol 1, Issue 1, January 2016)


Sometime between 1700 and 1720 (accounts vary) an Inuit man landed in a kayak near the
mouth of the River Don in Aberdeenshire. The fishermen who found him put him in a cart
and took him to a nearby cottage, where he was cared for, but he nevertheless died three
days later. His kayak, of an antique Greenlandic design, can be seen in the Aberdeen
University Anthropological Museum.

I saw the nauja wheeling overhead and then I saw the breaking line of the waves.
The strange men found me, their words made no sense. I was weary and I slept.
This igloo is built of great stones, shaped like cut ice. Lumps of earth glow with
terrible heat in the centre of the igloo, even though there is neither snow nor ice outside. I
do not lie on warm, friendly skins, but on a structure made of very fine driftwood and filled
with dried tussocks. The entrance is blocked by a huge slab of driftwood. Outside the
entrance there are abominations.
The men and the women are kind, but they are ugly, with huge noses. The men have
hair all over their faces; one of them is an anik – when he enters the igloo, he stands over
me, clasps his hands together and chants. He shows me many small, thin pieces of skin,
bound together and covered with tiny marks. He smiles; I think he has taken my kayak.
The food they give me is fearsomely hot. It burns my mouth. These people crave
heat: some of the men draw heat into their mouths by sucking on hollow bones. All I can eat are the eggs of the nauja.
I cannot return. I do not have my kayak and I do not know the way.

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