CODE #C41\14D4

This alarm is sounded when the Canadian Prime Minister initiates Code Omega-Zed-Eh, the long-gestating Canadian plan for world domination.

A Canada Alert requires swift action to defeat the invaders. Recommended precautions include:
– Adding “kilometres” to road signs to confuse the distances between landmarks
– Brandish a private medical insurance form
– Releasing greenhouse gasses to melt the Arctic and unleash a plague of mosquitoes
– Creating roadblocks or protective circles with American beers

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Cam led the old man aside, doing his best not to wrinkle his nose at the stench or stare at the tattered shirt and furs that passed for his clothing.

“How long have you been out here? It’s 200 kilometers to the nearest settlement.”

“Was a part of the Church of Peace,” the old man said in a voice creaking but understandable. “Moved up north to Alaska to get away from the violence and practice our ways. During the war, when I heard there’d be forced conscription, I took to the wilderness with my wife.”

“The war? Which war?”

“The great war, with the Kaiser,” said the old man. “A people what never done anything to harm us, and there was a chance we’d have to betray our sacred vows to the Lord. Lived up here ever since.”

Cam took a step backwards, supporting himself on one of the great pine trees. If the old man was telling the truth, he’d been living along in the taiga for over fifty years. “You don’t even know that you’ve crossed the border?”

“Reckoned I might have, but the Canadians was conscriptin’ too so I figured it didn’t much matter.” A sigh. “My wife’d often say she thought we were movin’ toward the Canada aide before she died.”

“Hey, what’s the holdup?” Jeanette from Cam’s crew called from behind him.

Cam waved her off with a curt gesture. “That’s a long time to be alone,” he said.

“Alone? No, I ain’t alone. I got the Lord, son. The lord and six children.”

Inspired by this story.

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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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