Short Story: Anchorage


Alaskan twin brothers Harry and Irwin were always competitive, if Harry bought a mule then Irwin would have to get a horse and cart, if Irwin had a horse and cart then Harry would ditch his mule and get a carriage with elliptical spring suspension, seating for four with storage for drinks and, as they became older, so it went on.

By the time they had reached their 26th birthdays, the slight differences between them had grown into advantages to be used against each other. Harry was the better looking of the two and so would attract the ladies that Irwin could only dream of. He did, however have one leg shorter than his other, resulting in Harry having to wear specially made (and especially heavy) shoes slowing him down to a level that Irwin was always first on the train for the window seats and first to the bar when getting the drinks.

Despite their differences, the twins eventually moved into a cabin built precariously on the icy slopes of the wrong side of the mountains overlooking Anchorage. From there, they would wander into the forests, hunt moose and bears to sell to furriers in the town before stopping at their bar halfway home. Invariably their arrival home would be accompanied by a slurred argument about half forgotten grievances of the past, but would end, thankfully, with them falling into a drunken stupour and their memories the next morning being wiped clean by the rising sun. And so, their lives carried on predictably the same way for a good many years.

On one particularly normal day, the boys had successfully slaughtered a family of bears, cubs n’all, and were now in their regular drinking hole enjoying their favourite past-times of shooting whiskey, playing billiards, and arguing the toss about any subject that came to mind. Once they were just about to lose their eyesight to the local booze, the door opened and in walked a dark figure covered in fur. The boys and the barman looked on as it dragged itself to the bar and flung off the coat to reveal a buxom yet weathered female (not a lady, even in Alaska…) who was now demanding whiskey based service.

This was a triple wammy, someone new in the bar, someone female and new in the bar, someone female, new and who clearly enjoyed a good drink. While Harry was style spittling down his eyebrows, Irwin was already sliding up to the bar and slurring sweet nothings to the stranger, apparently called Emmy, and was soon joined by his clumping brother now fighting for her attention on her other side.

As one jigged for her amusement, the other would give tales of manliness and daring. Stories of surviving avalanches would be part told before being interrupted by balancing acts with shot glasses piled on noses. It might be known that a great deal of women would find this sort of attention seeking barriage to be an annoyance but Emmy was happy for the entertainment and, besides, she found the two to be appealing in their own ways (an appeal that grew with each drink they bought for her, coincidentally).

Bottles later and the three of them were soon trudging their way through the snow towards the cabin for post-bar merriments.

Unknown to the boys, Emmy was not one for remembering a face and, as Irwin went to write his name in the snow, Harry tried his luck with the lady and on Irwin’s return and Harry’s search in the store room for more drink, Irwin would equally throw his hat in the ring by, as far as Emmy was concerned, the same devilishly handsome man.

Hearing the giggling and sweet nothings from the other room, Harry stormed in with his hunting rifle and loudly voiced his objections to his apparently wayward brother. Now, little known to the boys but as Irwin and Harry were chasing each other around the room shouting perceived injustices and with Emmy laughing loudly between slurps of whiskey, the ice-based cabin was now becoming somewhat unstable and, as Irwin ducked and Harry fired his weapon out the window to the mountain side, the shock was all that was needed to finally dislodge the cabin and send it sliding towards the bay below.

Irwin panicked, Harry checked his image in the mirror lest he leave a badly styled corpse, Emmy drank in between screams and panicked giggles. With a slap and a slide, they hit and flew across the ice below, eventually spinning to an uneasy stop. Silence, then a creack, and then an audible cracking. Even with the high blood alcohol limit, the boys knew that this was not a good place to be in.

First priority to be dealt with: Slowly, Irwin made his way towards the door, carefully slid it open and, beckoning to Harry, gently picked up the whiskey and slid it towards the shore, case by case. Then the next priority: Emmy tiptoed and wobbled toward the door, the cabin creaking with every third step. A final leap for safety and she slapped face down into the ice, the final straw. The ice cracks shot like lightning under the cabin and, as Emmy scrabbled for safety, the cabin cracked and started sliding under the collapsing ice. A last bottle shot out of the cabin door as the air escaped gushing upwards and, as Emmy drank from the welcome gift, she peered down into the water, her whiskey fuelled cheeks making her oblivious to the searing cold. As the cabin sank slowly downwards, Emmy dragged herself off to a soft snow pile and rank herself into a stupour. Irwin scrambled clawing his way up the floor as the cabin rapidly filled with water, with his final exhausted grab he tok hold of the entrance frame and almost tasted freedom until he looked over his shoulder to see Harry, weighed down with his heavy shoes, blubbing and bubbling under the rising waters. A feeling of duty briefly washed over him as icily as the waters he was perhaps going to drown in, he remembered the girls he’d lost, the bike he’d bought, the life he could have had without his brother and, squinting his eyes with curses, made one final pull to jettison himself out of the cabin and towards the surface.

The edge of the ice hole he dragged himself on to was a sorry sight with a slumped and possibly dead Emmy lying in the snow pile a short distance away, her apaprent corpse comforted by only a whiskey bottle for a friend. He wondered how it might look to the authorities to find him, his cabin, his brother and perhaps this woman now gone. He’d hang for sure. Convincing himself it was for better reasons, Harry turned and, with a scream of “Irwin!” dove into the dark, icy waters, never to reappear.

The local wildlife rejoiced.

Unlike the local distillery…


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