Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun

A Story by Jennifer Lynne Roberts

A train ride I took.



There’s one road from Anchorage south to Seward. The train parallels part of the way, sea-level, eye-level. Salt-petrified trees haunt the marshes; a wave long ago had sucked their bones dry. Sap-blood steeped with saline, they stand embalmed at the entrance to the incline, a reminder of what lay ahead: wild, untamed fury.


We’d purchased our tickets and packed our backpacks. We’d slid local books on folklore under our arms and all day we rode. The train chugged up the hills dotted with Dal sheep who stood precariously on hooved feet on thin edges—a magic trick. North we passed Eagle River and Chugiak, south we headed to Kenai and Seward—until milky blue ice parted the rock hills, broke through the thin treed woods, emerging out in front of us like rivers of cold stone.


The conductor called out the names of each glacier. Spencer! Bartlett! Burns! Byron! Glaciers named for the dead. Each day he cuts through this rock cliff, with the smoke of the train trailing behind like a black veil, and each day he ticks off their names in memoriam.


“Spencer,” he said, “slipped down into an infinite split among sharp pillars of creamy blue never to be found.”


But now, in the Midnight Sun, we alternate between watching the scenery and reading Into the Wild, haunted by the isolation of both. We look for bears and moose. We look for an end to ice, we look for an old bus to ride out from the edges of the horizon carrying Spencer, Bartlett, Burns and Byron… McCandless at the wheel. Their blood turned salt silt long ago.

© 2008 Jennifer Lynne Roberts

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Added on February 12, 2008