The second 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.
. . .
They reached the shoreline to the east of the harbour where the seals commonly nested. There they were, big pieces of blubber with beating hearts. Nifi felt sorry for them when he plunged his harpoon into their neck whilst they were flailing about on land, so helpless, desperately trying to reach the glacial sea water where they could turn the tide. In those waters they were in their element and Nifi was the helpless one. His father’s one rule had always been: “don’t follow them in, or I’ll be swimming in to get you, and I’d be pulling out a dead body.”
“There’s a few stragglers separate from the main bulk, we’ll go for those,” Flynn whispered.
Nifi nodded a short nod of acknowledgment. They edged closer in a crouched position to some seals to the left of the main pack that lay asleep or dormant. The aim was to shoot a dart tipped with a sleeping potion made from the Dormante Flower into the seals neck that would put it to sleep within seconds. They shot the darts using blowpipes they had fastened with a piece of string to the neckline of their furs. The harpoons were simply for protection in case in the seals two seconds of blind panic before it passed out it decided to make a flopping charge for them or to plunge into any stragglers that took too long to make it to the water. They finished the seals with a knife to the throat so as to not damage the skins. The plan was the same this morning, although Nifi’s enthusiasm to carry it out was at a new low.
Before they got within range, Flynn lined their darts with the potion and they loaded them into their pipes ready for shooting. They edged silently into range and Flynn counted down with his fingers, three…two…one. With a nod he ushered to let fire. Flynn’s dart hit its target square in the neck and the thing let out an alarmed groan that echoed through the pure, crisp air, alerting the rest of its pack. Nifi’s shot however went straight over the resting head of its target and dropped pathetically into the sea.
“Forget it and reload,” his father barked, by this time having already reloaded and taken aim at another seal flailing its way to the sea. Despite its flailing he hit the back of its neck. Nifi lazily reloaded his blowpipe and shot again hitting the original seal his father had already put to sleep. By this time Flynn had hit another target.
“Have mercy, Nifi! Where is your mind?!” His father’s face was a fierce red underneath his pale brown beard that had begun to gather icicles. His eyes were wide with rage and confusion as he stared at his son’s nonchalant expression looking back at him. In that moment Nifi saw an air of desperate realisation cloud his father’s eyes. He had realised that Nifi’s fire was no longer burning, or at least the fire was off burning somewhere else, in some land away from Glaceport and its seals. Flynn looked out to sea, discouragingly watching the seals merge into their element and transform into beauties of the water, dancing away underneath the crystal-clear rippling field of sky blue towards safety.
“Get your knife and finish the job,” Flynn finally said with a sigh and Nifi obeyed, walking away from him shoulders hunched and feet dragging. Nifi felt no point in feigning enthusiasm anymore.
Nifi and his father were back at the cabin with the three seal skins they scavenged and as much meat as they could carry from them for their stew in the evening. Nifi hated that stew. They sat by the fire of their cabin cleaning the booty they had seized from the carcass of the slain seals. They did this in silence, the tension from Nifi’s poor performance and the unspoken realisation that had just occurred hanging heavy in the air. Flynn would occasionally look across to his son to judge the mood painted on his face. Each time it was a canvas sprayed with a sulky boredom. Flynn’s heart drooped each time, as he hoped once he would look and the painting would have turned to one portraying contentedness or even fulfilment. No such luck.
“This is our life,” Flynn stated. “You’ve known that since you first had thoughts. It might not be perfect, but it’s a life. I grew up without even this wooden hut. We’ve risen in the world more than you can imagine.”
Nifi looked at his father to contemplate his expression. It didn’t look angry, it looked more concerned, with a vulnerable sadness in his eye. His father deserved to know exactly how he felt and he might not get a better chance than this. “I want more,” he responded, assertively. “Part of me is empty…confused. My place in the world feels bigger than this.”
“And what is that place?”
“I…I don’t know. Something that isn’t this.”
His father’s reaction took him by surprise, Flynn’s lower lip trembled and he was forced to bite it. Moisture gathered in the corner of his eyes and a tear gently rolled down his cheek. It took Nifi a moment to realise what was taking place in front of him. His father was crying, he was actively and openly showing sadness right before him. Something that in Nifi’s fifteen years on earth he had never seen. Flynn wiped the tear away, “I saw that fire burning elsewhere in your eyes down by the sea. I’ve seen it for a while. I just couldn’t tell myself it was true, I figured you were missing your mother or something.”
“I do. She always used to tell me to dream bigger, to look beyond the walls and the harbour of Glaceport.”
“I know she did.”
“Do you want the same for me? Am allowed to want that?”
“You pain me Nifi, what kind of a question is that?” Flynn bellowed. He calmed and looked into the fire. “I just hoped I’d get a few more years with you. That’s not a guilt trip, it’s the truth. But like I said before, I tried my utmost to give myself and you and your mother a better life. I always believed you’d want the same. It’s all just happened so fast.” He looked into the fire. “Damn time flies.”
“Never have I doubted that, father. You gave me a life.” He looked at his father with a soft smile. He saw a vulnerability in him that he never had before. “Without that I would not be sitting here thinking these thoughts. But you did, and I am more than grateful.” They embraced for the first time since Nifi was a babe in arms.
Nifi slept restlessly that night. He dreamed of his mother. She pushed him away, his father behind her pleading the opposite. She turned her back on him and dragged his father away, they drifted off into a huge ball of fire in the air. He then walked out into the world alone and afraid. He took this dream to mean that his mother would have wanted more for him, for him to explore the world and find his calling but it nonetheless scared him. He’d never thought about the difficulty of leaving his home and being left to face the world alone.