The truck came to a halt and we rolled out the vehicle and into the frigid air. I was breathing in the chill air some 50 degrees lower than Anchor-town, now far, far behind.
David, the manager was like a high altitude mountaineer, forced his way through snow piled high snow and up a ramp. At the top he kicked open the door to a wooden house. Inside was lit by the sinister light of a flickering torch. Sinister shadows were cast, showing a frozen, almost polar world. Gloves twiddled at some electrical box hammered into the log wall.
“Seems we’ve got a malfunction here, George.” We moved on, each step brought down clouds of ancient carcinogenic dust from rafters high above. The floor ahead was a sheet of thick ice. In its midst stood a solitary bathtub. So satanic did it appear, that it could have been a scene from the awful movie ‘Saw.’ A frozen pipe stood out. It’s pre-freeze up drip had created a huge ice pan of fetid water, a huge black stain covered half of the tub like lung cancer.
“Well then, George,” David greeted though his facemask. “Welcome to your new home!” I vaguely waved a bleak acknowledgement. “We’ll fix it up for you, nice and dandy, just like Boston.”
We were back … back twiddling wall electrics while unseen, off someplace, there was the muffled roar like that of a banshee. David kicked a second door, and then a third. There it was -- the furnace. The flames could be seen through a tiny window, leaping about utterly uncontrolled. What with its strange hissing noises it looked ready to explode.
What was that I’d heard? Six Alaskans had been found dead, poisoned by their furnaces, had said the wireless. No problem, the door was cracked open a little, allowing in a blast of the super sub-zero temperatures of the outside. air. That done, there was nothing more.
I was left sitting alone in the semi-darkness on a semi-broken chair. A form had been left for me to sign. The Company needed to know if their policy on settling me in had been fulfilled. With this was $100 of mandated arrival gifts;- 2-pounds of hard tack Pilot bread, apparently a local specialty since the late 19th century, a Gideon bible, and a water treatment machine (also broken).
I was in need of liquid drinking water, apparently no easy thing in Bethel. I spied a light through the frosted window and so ventured forth into the crystal clear of a star-studded night. I bashed on the neighbor’s door. Sincerely, I hoped somebody would hear me … Already I was freezing down. A 6foot 8 giant manifested in the doorway. I vaguely waved to the cement-like sacks stacked up. “The water,” was all he said.
I stumbled back to my new home, took a swig of the slightly-off water, and for a moment felt a modicum of peace. Then the furnace, instead of blowing me to kingdom come, did something even more unnerving -- It stopped. The only other sound was the alarm of an electric dog collar, which had screeching throughout, but unheard in the broader chaos. The temperature of home quickly plummeted. I placed my Chinese sub-zero sleeping bag onto one of the bald, filthy mattresses lying about, and thus took my fitful sleep of many dreams.