By Rachel Ann Michael Harris
“Dad! Dad? You have to come see this. It’s like the Northern Lights but better.” Deedee ran into the bunker, snow spilling behind her as she whipped off her hat.
Cyclopes raised his head and wiggled his nose as he took in her lilac scent. The only flowers this side of the galaxy.
She glanced around the empty room. “Dad?” Sighing, she turned to Cyclopes lying on the couch. “Hey, Frankenstein. Seen Dad?”
He sneezed and laid his head on his paws.
He didn’t know why she called him that. One time he overheard her video chatting with a friend and describing his polar bear/husky DNA mix as a freakish lab experiment. The result was an extra-large body and feet with thick, white fur. And a nose that allowed him to smell ore and other minerals deep beneath the ice like a polar bear hunting seal. Cyclopes liked seals too but not in the same way.
Deedee had a lot of interesting names for him. Like dire wolf. Wolf he understood. But dire? Well, things could get difficult sometimes but not dire.
Thinking his sneeze was a response, she rolled her eyes and strolled across the room to a hatch that led into an office.
But it was empty.
Deedee huffed and closed the door. Stomping to the couch, she flopped onto the only open cushion. Cyclopes hated seeing her antsy and disappointed, so he dropped his head onto her chest and chuffed to cheer her up. When he wasn’t traversing the ice flows, it was his job to keep her smiling.
What he got was a grimace and a push.
“Get off, you mutt.”
He hung his head off the couch’s edge and glanced at her from the corner of his eye. After a moment of avoiding his gaze, she sighed and scratched behind his ears. Pinching the tip of his ear, she flipped it back and forth and chuckled.
“These things are huge.” She got a strange, wide-eyed look on her face, leaned into him, and said with a scratchy voice, “Better to hear you with, my dear.”
As she rubbed his ears, she leaned back and stared out the window. A moment later, she jumped to her feet.
“I’m not wasting this opportunity.” Zipping up her coat, she added a few more layers and pulled her hat back on before opening the door.
Cyclopes lifted his head and barked. Her father always said not to go out alone. There were alien animals, sub-zero temperatures, not to mention the shifting ice. One wrong step and you’re kaput. It was too dangerous. But when was the last time Deedee listened to reason?
“Sh,” she hissed and stepped out the door.
He jumped off the couch and walked halfway to her. Plopping down on his haunches, Cyclopes threw his head back until he was almost bending backward and release a howl his ancestors could have only dreamed of.
She ran back and clamped her hands around his snout.
“Okay, okay.” Deedee grabbed his collar and led him outside.
Deedee hadn’t been kidding about the lights. The sky was truly spectacular, coloring the white landscape and the glacier to his left like a kaleidoscope with shifting blues, greens, and purples as the beams waved among the stars and Kapacoon’s two moons. He bounded into the streaming colors, trying to capture some to keep forever, but all he got was flakes of crisp, cool snow up his nose.
“Want to see it from the top of the world?” Deedee rubbed his head, tapped her boots together to activate the built-in spikes, and started up the glacier.
They only made it halfway before she had to stop at an outcropping, but it was still beautiful. Below them was a snowy, white canvas and the glowing, abstract jumble of ribbons of various hues.
Deedee sighed. “This doesn’t happen every day.” She brought up the camera function on her wrist computer and started taking pictures.
Crick. Cyclopes pricked his ears forward.
Crack. He wiggled his nose. New scents of metallic ore and frosty, hundreds-of-years-old ice pricked and tingled his nose. Nothing had been there before. It was like when someone opened the peanut butter jar. But if someone opened a jar, that meant…
“Arf,” he barked.
Crack! Deedee fell with a scream as the outcropping gave way. Snow and ice trailed like a tidal wave as she slid down the glacier before it wafted over her. A second later, everything was quiet.
Cyclopes barked and jumped down after her, sliding on his belly. Digging his feet into the fresh, packed snow, he stopped and whipped his nose back and forth across the powder. It had to be here. There was only one scent like it in all the galaxy. A hint of it tugged at him. Lilac.
He trailed it slowly down the glacier, muscles tight from trying not to run after the scent. But how long could she survive under the snow? Things were officially dire. Good thing he was her dire wolf.
With each step, the scent of lilacs grew. Thirty feet from where he started, the smell of the flower consumed his nose, reminding him of the tree on Earth where he and Deedee had tea parties.
Ripping into the ice with his claws, Cyclopes dug a foot down before he found a nylon hood. He clamped his mouth down on the fabric and pulled. A hand waved through the snow, pushing it back and smacking him in the face, but he didn’t back off. Then Deedee’s head popped up and she gasped in air. In another minute, she crawled out of the hole and lay down.
He nuzzled her face until she started stroking his head. Smiling up at him, she said, “Good boy.”
He licked her nose. He always liked it when she called him that.