The third in a seven part series, Nifi, a short story, follows the character of Nifidorian Feltwood, who lost his mother when he was just a boy, and now at the age of fifteen has to deal with the potential loss of his father. He embarks on a search but along the way encounters interesting characters and creatures whilst also having to deal with not having the very person he is searching for beside him. A desire for wanting to explore the world in search of a purpose outside of seal hunting turns into him having no choice but to do so. All of this is intertwined within a fantasy backdrop within the port town of Glaceport.
. . .
Nifi and his father awoke the next day in the usual fashion, dressing for the cold glacial air, watching the sunrise with the usual, “there’s no greater sight in the world” and heading down to the shore to do their daily hunt. The actions were usual however, the slight tension that floated around them was not. Despite this, Nifi walked through Glaceport with a more positive demeanour, he owed his father this after his poor showing yesterday and their discussion. Today would be different. Whilst he was still here he would help supply for his father, he owed him that much. The darts hit the seals and they fell into their last slumber, Flynn made three out of his three shots, Nifi missed one but connected with his other two. His anger boiled at this miss. He drew his knife and ran after his intended target which at this point was flapping its way to the sea. His father swiped his hand at Nifi but missed shouting after him, “No Nifi! Leave it!”
He sprinted after his son, a mere five metres in front he could see him with the knife drawn above his head as he sprinted. Nifi dived for the seal as it began to swim, plunging his knife into its back and being taken off into the water. He looked to the left and his father was holding onto the side of the same seal, a look of panic in his eyes. That was the last thing Nifi saw before the glacial water hit him square in the face and seized his body to the cold. As the icy blast hit him he was smashed loose of the seal, his knife, his father and all that ensued was an icy, salty, blurry, swirling hell that culminated in his body resting frozen and sodden on the rocky shore and darkness.
He opened his eyes to the clear blue sky that he knew so well. He had a second to admire it before the agonizing numbness of his body hit him. It took all his strength to sit up, but once he did he came to his senses and from his upright position scoured the beach for his father. There was a dead seal washed up onto shore to his right, or what he thought was a seal, it could easily have been a boulder glimmering where the sea had left its mark. To his left he saw a fur, similar to the one he was wearing and his father was wearing before it happened. Suddenly the pain and the numbness left him and adrenaline rushed to take its place as he picked himself up and sprinted over to the fur. He half expected to find his father in it, hopefully alive, but the cynicism in him would not allow him to cling to that. He found the fur empty, to his relief. If his father was not in his fur the chances were he was still in the sea as Nifi could not see him along the shore line. He looked out to sea and saw only the perfect blue overshadowed by the godlike glaciers that encapsulated his world, now alien without the presence of his father. Panic took him.
Nifi paced up and down the shoreline, playing various scenarios in his head. One contained his father bobbing out in the ocean beyond Glaceport having lost his fight with the seal, his body and soul no longer together. The other was his father coming up behind him simply soaked from the sea but unhurt. The former was the scenario he believed, however, and it made his insides turn, like they were swirling around and shifting positions with each other. He knew it was his fault his father wasn’t stood there next to him any longer. There was no one there to reassure him it wasn’t, thus the feeling swallowed him. Numbness, guilt, unimaginable sadness and the pain of the altercation with the seal all flowed through him and mixed into a darkness that welcomed thoughts of his own soul leaving his body. Maybe that was the escape from Glaceport he wanted. He could end it now and he’d be rid of the place, and the pain it now held for him. He was scared of death though. His father’s death scared him to his very core, let alone his own. He returned to reality and attempted to think straight. He couldn’t give up on father’s life whilst there was still the possibility he was alive. He owed his father that much. He picked up his father’s fur, faced back towards Glaceport and made for the docks.
Nifi had never made the walk to the docks from this direction, usually from the shore he would head to his home back in land and go to the docks to man the market stall with his father. From this direction the walk felt strange and uncomfortable, it was such a simple thing but made it all the more real that his father was not shoulder to shoulder with him. He approached the docks from the Eastern side and saw his stall. Nifi could not face the memories of his father stored in his mind from that stall because of the fear that the darkness would consume him again. He shrugged it off, “find somewhere else, he’s not dead yet,” he whispered to that darkness as he passed the stall.
The docks were beginning to develop the morning bustle with various merchants, sailors and consumers passing Nifi in their tranced state. The job at hand or the next stall dominating their minds. He reached the harbour where there were hundreds of ships docked all awaiting their captains ready for their daily fishing voyage. If there was anything Glaceport excelled at, it was fishing vessels. These vessels would be Nifi’s best bet at finding his father. They would be leaving soon and would return before dark. What was one more crew member to them? Nifi looked around the harbour for a friendly faced captain who might be understanding of his plight, but the more he looked the more he realised that was easier said than done. Most looked scruffy, with murderous sentiments deep in their eyes and it unnerved Nifi to think of sharing a boat with one. He didn’t fancy discovering that the murderous sentiment wasn’t so deep down as first thought.
“This is for my father, I can’t leave him out there to die,” Nifi thought and so he pinpointed his gaze to the scruffiest looking captain he could see. He chose said captain as he had a brown leather eyepatch over his left eye. This made Nifi feel slightly less apprehensive about approaching him because simple maths would suggest that the captain could only express such murderous sentiment fifty percent as much. Or so he thought, his father had taught him about numbers, it was important when trading.
Nifi rigidly moved his way across the harbour towards the one-eyed captain. Steps had never come so unwillingly to him than they had at that moment. His body screamed to be turned back around and to make its way to his cabin, to lock the door, turn off the lights and be shut off from the world. Nifi’s mind, however, stayed strong. He was surprised by the strength of his mind when it had something to hold on to. He had to find his father, his body would just have to deal with it. This was not to say his mind was looking forward to the impending conversation it was about to have, but there was no other choice. Well, there was, but those hundred other choices came in the form of captains just as scary and with considerably better eyesight.
His steps continued until he got within range of the captains one eye and it fixed on him. A dirty, pale brown colour. Nifi’s sheepish look and unnaturally uncomfortable walk made him look out of place along the wooden footpaths of the harbour, sitting above the glacial waters, and hence once the eye was fixed, it did not let go. To Nifi’s surprise, despite the captain’s gaze, he stuck to his route until he stopped a meter in front of him looking into his one eye. His eye did not hold such murderous sentiment as Nifi had believed it would, it contained an element that he could not read, perhaps boredom? Nifi was pondering how he was to open a dialogue between himself and the captain whilst quickly realising he should have pondered this during the walk to his target. This pondering was displayed to those outside of the confines of Nifi’s mind as a vacant stare and this stare had been pointed at the one-eyed captain for what was nearing five seconds.
“What?” was the response Nifi got, in a blunt and rugged voice. A voice that had certainly had its use. “Why don’t ya paint a picture, it’d be quicker.” This startled Nifi and he had to think on the spot.
“Um…Father, my father is missing,” Nifi stuttered.
“I fail to see what that ‘as to do wi’ me.”
It was at this point Nifi realised the thoughts of his father being taken out to sea and Nifi’s need for a boat to go and look for him had stayed within his head and had not been stuttered out within his opening sentence. As he thought of the words to say the captain’s expression grew more tiresome and Nifi could see his attention slipping away. “Start talking or you’ll lose him,” he thought to himself, and so he did.
“He got taken out to sea by a seal. We hunt them you see…e…every morning and this morning went badly and I’ve lost him. I came to the harbour in search of a boat…and a captain that might be willing to let me come on board and perhaps help me search for him.” “That almost came out like a sentence,” Nifi thought to himself.
The captain and his one dirty eye resumed looking straight into Nifi’s without ushering a word. His one eye did not give much away regarding what was going on behind it.
“I was hoping that captain might, possibly, be you?” Nifi realised his words, and particularly that final question, were coming out awfully nervous and timid. This made him blush, like that was going to help the situation. He was increasingly realising perhaps he wasn’t so cut out for the world outside of Glaceport, granted he was struggling to deal with the world within it. His father did the talking. He used to, anyway.
“Four skins,” the response came back.
“I want four seal skins. Ya can get o’board for four skins.”
The realisation hit Nifi and although he made it look as though he was thinking about it, he really didn’t have to. However, before he agreed, he thought about what his father would do now. His father would not have merely accept an initial offer, and he certainly did not teach Nifi to do so. “Always feel out the edges of a deal before agreeing anything,” he used to say. Nifi despised himself for thinking about what his father “used” to say and not what he does say.
“Two,” Nifi threw back.
The captain looked at him, as if measuring him up, “I need four, I have four crewmen who’ere freezing their arses off last trip an’ I can’t afford t’ have a crew who can’t work at their maximum. I ‘ave a quota to meet and I could be doin’ you a favour ‘ere laddy, I didn’t ask for ya to come over.”
Nifi smirked, the captain should not have told him that. This was no longer a one-way negotiation. This captain needed what Nifi had and he could use that to his advantage. “Three.”
“Three. You need what I have.”
“You’ve got awful cocky all a sudden,” he looked Nifi up and down. “Fine,” and the captain spat on his hand and stuck it out, dirty stubby nails and a palm that now glistened. Nifi did the same and shook the captain’s hand as tightly as he could but nonetheless he finished the handshake with a crushing pain through his hand. This was a worse deal than his father would have got but nevertheless he’d bartered the price down, and it felt good. Nifi did not feel quite so meek for a few seconds. But his situation hit him again and his stomach turned, the darkness trying to sneak in. He tried to force it away.