Siri, lead me not into obsession. Ever since I set my recent short story “Fowl Play” in the fictional town of Nowhere, Alaska, I have been asking you to tell me when the sun rises and sets in the far north. Since you can’t find Nowhere on Google Maps (because it doesn’t exist) I’ve sent you off to Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in the United States. Why Barrow? Simply because when Yvette, my six foot two lesbian detective, discovered half the citizens of Nowhere had been rubbed out while eating their Thanksgiving turkeys, I had her say: “We need to contact Barrow and tell them to fly a forensic team in here asap!”
I picked Barrow off a map without knowing anything about it, but oh the courage of the people who live there! For weeks, Siri has faithfully told me the times the good citizens of Barrow see the sun and the times they say goodbye to it each day, and it isn’t a pretty picture for someone like me who loves the tropics. In fact, the darkness that is slowly creeping over Barrow has become my own personal obsession, not to mention my own private horror movie.
At first is wasn’t too bad. They were getting seven hours or so of light a day in Barrow. I could live with that. But then, something unexpected started to happen. Like a black freight train rolling out of the north, darkness began to hit Barrow earlier and earlier. On November 14, sunrise was at 11:42 am, sunset at 2:35. On November 16, only two days later, the sun was coming up at 12:04 and going down at 2:14. That meant that if you sat down for a long lunch, you could miss the whole thing.
I knew that sooner or later there would be no sunrise or sunset at all in Barrow, but the speed of that change was more than I could get my mind around. With your help, Siri, I had learned that for about 65 days there would be endless night. When I think of Barrow dark for weeks at a time, and not only the Barrow but the vast expanses of frozen tundra surrounding it also cloaked in darkness, it makes me want to climb into bed and pull the covers over my head. I could never live through 65 days of perpetual darkness. Heck, I get cranky in sunny California on cloudy days. Light! Light! Give me light!
On November 21, I stumbled out of bed, grabbed my iPhone, and summoned Siri for perhaps the 60th time. I’d missed a few days, so when I called up Siri, I wasn’t ready for her response. “Siri,” I said, “when does the sunrise today in Barrow, Alaska?” As usual, Siri dithered around a bit and then said: “Sorry, there is no weather today in Barrow, Alaska.” Thinking she may not have understood me–frankly she’s not all that bright sometimes–I tried again and got the same answer.
“No weather”? What did that mean? Had Siri had a nervous breakdown? Had my internet connection turned on me? Or had the sun finally stopped shining in Barrow? It had risen and stayed up for about two hours only a week ago. As I tried again and again to persuade Siri to feed my obsession with new data, I thought about Yvette, trapped in Nowhere with a 24 murders to solve and no daylight to solve them in. I worried that she’d develop a bad case of Seasonal Affective Disorder and take to drink. Then I remembered two things: Yvette already drinks like a fish, and she’s a fictional character. So now I’m worried about the people in Barrow. How do they get up in the morning when there’s no real morning to get up to? How are they going to make it through the next 65 sunless days?
I tried asking Siri, but instead of helping , she offered to search the Internet for wheelbarrows.
Don’t go into Thanksgiving cold turkey! Take a few minutes out to laugh and relax by reading a free sample of Mary Mackey’s comic Thanksgiving mystery story “Fowl Play” just published by Untreed Reads Press in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: Room For Thirds.
by Mary Mackey
You don’t expect mass murder in Nowhere, Alaska. That’s one of the reasons I moved up here from Oakland, California where homicide is so common there’s a Facebook Page for the victims. But mass murder it was, and not just mass murder committed by some guy who had come down with a bad case of cabin fever and shot his wife, kids, and the family dog. Three-quarters of the population of Nowhere had been systematically eliminated by someone who had caught his victims by surprise just as they were sitting down to their Thanksgiving dinners.
If three-quarters of the population of Oakland had their throats slit while they were heaping sweet potatoes topped with miniature marshmallows on their plates, you’d hear about it on CNN thirty seconds later. But Nowhere only has thirty-two residents tough enough to stay put in the fall when the big game hunters and Snow Geese fly back to the Lower Forty-Eight.
I say “fly” because the only way you can get in or out of this town is by plane. That had always suited me just fine since after I was fired from the Oakland Police Department for sexual harassment, I decided to become a hermit.
At the moment, however, I was doing some serious rethinking about that decision. One of the survivors of the Nowhere Thanksgiving Day Massacre had to be a homicidal maniac, and since no one in his or her right mind would voluntarily spend winter in a place where you have to wear a fleece facemask when you take out the garbage, that meant almost everyone in town but me was a suspect.
I first heard about the murders from my neighbor Moonfire Edithsdaughter. Moon is a self-styled witch who smokes herself into oblivion every night on homegrown weed when she isn’t out chanting at the aurora borealis. She is also a woman of substantial girth, which is a major advantage in cold weather, so despite the fact that the snow was thirteen feet deep and more was coming down so hard you’d smother in it if you opened your mouth, she showed up at my door like Paul Revere.
“They’re all dead,” she said as she stamped the ice off her boots. “Dead as the turkeys on their dining room tables.” Then she threw up her arms and began a witch-like shrieking that sounded like cats being trampled by cattle. . .
To read the rest of “Fowl Play” and buy The Killer Wore Cranberry: Room For Thirds from Untreed Reads Press, please click here
Thank you for visiting my Blog. You’re invited to come back next week for more. —Mary Mackey