Irene Keruk Qikiqtagruk was seated in a rocking chair, wrapped in a shawl and threadbare quilts. She smiled at the guests, bright eyes shining behind thick glasses seeming to belong to a woman much younger than 101.

“I’ll put some tea on,” her granddaughter said. “Give you a moment alone. But like I told you, she doesn’t speak much anymore. And never of the…unpleasantness.”

Adrienne sat down on the couch nearby and gestured for the others to find seats. “That’s a lovely quilt you’ve got there,” she said, gesturing to Irene’s wrappings. “Did you make that?”

“It is kind of you to pretend to care about my old sewing.” Irene’s voice was soft but surprisingly deep, issuing from some great well in her weak frame. “You hope to get me talking and turn things to the unpleasantness. It is the way of all the more considerate people who come to visit.”

The reporter’s face fell. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I suppose there’s not much I can say to change your mind, is there?”

Irene’s expression turned thoughtful. “When I walked however many miles it was over the ice, after everyone had died, I promised myself that I would never speak of what had happened as long as I lived.” She laughed. “I did not expect it to be so long. It’s been almost ten years since the last person came to ask, and somehow I do not think I will last another ten. Tell me what you know, and I will think about filling in some of the blank spots.”

“You, your parents, and your uncle were recruited by a Canadian man to participate in the Imperial Arctic Expedition of 1914,” Adrienne said carefully. “Your ship was trapped in ice, drifted into Russian waters, and crushed. There was…unpleasantness…among the expedition members, and you and your parents followed a group to Kellett Island while the others made for Tikegen Island. You walked nearly fifty miles to Tikegen, alone, nearly a year later to find the others just before they were rescued by an American icebreaker, and you refused to discuss what had happened.”

Irene laughed. “You are too kind in leaving out the juiciest part,” she said over the whistle of a teakettle in the kitchen. “When they searched Kellett Island, they found what was left of the people who I had departed with. All dead, even though they had shelter and supplies enough to last a whole year.”

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