“…Seven, eight, nine, ten,” Qatiichii said as she put the bowls into a sack.
“Momma, what is daddy doing?” asked her daughter, Panik.
Qatiichii looked over at the group of men who were standing at the ocean edge.
“He is talking, little one.”
“About what, momma?”
“They are talking to the men who crossed the land bridge.”
Nukilik turned from the wood he was chopping. “Momma, are we going to cross the land bridge?”
Qatiichii gazed at the rolling waves. She could see rain clouds forming far over the water. “Do you want to cross it?” she asked Nukilik.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “I like this land, but I wonder what is on the other side.”
“I want to go,” said Panik. Panik stood up and brushed biscuit crumbs of her dress. Qatiichii wiped Panik’s mouth with a cloth.
“Where do you want to go, little one?”
“I want to go to the other land. I watched a momma deer and her babies cross it yesterday. I want to find them on the other side.”
Qatiichii, Nukilik and Panik paused and watched as the group of men broke up. One of the men walked toward them.
“Daddy’s coming!” squealed Panik.
Nuklik looked at Qatiichii and swung the ax back and forth.
When the man drew closer, Qatiichii called out, “Shtiya, what was decided?”
Shtiya swung Qatiichii into the air, “Gather supplies for seven days, we leave in three!”
Nuklik and Panik yelled, “Yeah!” and grabbed hands and jumped around the tree stump together.
Qatiichii looked at the sky and was reminded of the rain clouds she had observed four days before. If only they were that far away now. The ocean wind whipped across the land bridge and caused the rain to pierce even the thickest skin cloak. She looked down to check on Panik. Panik drooped under the weight of the bundle she carried.
“How are you little one?” Qatiichii asked.
“Momma, do you think those poor baby deer are cold and wet?”
“I don’t know, little one. Why?”
“I’m cold and wet and I have three skin shirts on. The poor baby deer only have one.”
Shtiya chuckled. “I am sure the baby deer are on the other side, little one. They left five days ago and Tuwawi said it takes three days to cross. The deer are quicker with their four feet.”
“Shtiya, where is Nukulik?” asked Qatiichii.
Shtiya looked around, “Nukulik!” he called.
“He ran ahead with Pakak,” said the man walking behind Shtiya.
“Thank you, Sitiyok,” said Shtiya.
A shout from ahead came to them before the wind snatched it away.
“What was that?” Qatiichii asked Shtiya.
Shtiya looked at her eyes. “I will go find out.”
He handed her the animals’ rope and ran forward.
Another shout echoed back to Qatiichii. She strained to see through the rain. People stood to one side and looked toward the water. As they drew closer she could hear splashing. Sitiyok dropped his bundle and ran forward. Just as he disappeared into the crowd she saw Shtiya walk toward her holding Nukulik’s hand.
“What is it? What happened?” she asked Shtiya.
“Pakak decided to ride Suka’s horse and was thrown into the water.”
“Is he all right?” asked Qatiichii.
“He’s fine. The water level is closer than it was yesterday. He did not have far to fall. But it will be hard to get him warm and dry again.”
“Will we get across before the water floods the land bridge?” asked Qatiichii.
“We have traveled quickly because of the cold. No one wants to stay still long,” said Shtiya. I think we will cross in time.”
Two days later Qatiichii turned with Shtiya and looked back at the land bridge they had been crossing for four days. The tops of the grasses could be seen just above the water.
“We crossed just in time. Didn’t we, father?” Nukulik said.
“Yes, we did,” said Shtiya as he put his hand on Nukulik’s shoulder.
“Daddy, what if we want to go back?” asked Panik.
“We will have to build a boat,” replied Shtiya.
Qatiichii looked over her shoulder. Grasses blew in the breeze. Trees waved their limbs. Shtiya followed her gaze.
“A new land, Qatiichi. If the Creator had not pulled back the water for a little while, no one would have known it existed!”
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