I step toward the doorway and cease before the threshold of an unknown journey. I stand frightened at the door, a stark interior lightly illuminated by small windows within. The looming figure behind me pushing me forward with infinitesimal consistent pressure.
“Keep moving,” the figure orders.
I swallow with trepidation as I take my first step forward. My deer-hide mukluks move soundlessly over the timber floor, as if the walls of the hallway before me were a void, draining the sounds children make from the world. I look around at the timber floors and timber walls imagining the forest far beyond the boundaries of this place, the forest they found me in, and feel a creeping sense of fear at the foreshadowing of the dead wood around me. The timbers represent a life that is lost to me know, deadened, waiting for rot.
Like the children taken to Residential Schools. Like I will be soon.
“Hurry up,” the figure increases the pressure on my back using two hands now, as I lean backwards into the darkness of the presence behind me. As if to prolong my decent into hell, a notion my mother learned from her time at St. Anne’s.
Then I see them. Beyond a corner hidden from sight I see faces, the faces of ghosts-once-children cleaning along a corridor only now within view. I see their eyes, empty of all emotion, absent of any light.
The void must have stolen their light, hidden within the walls of this place.
I take another step forward but this time I hear sure steady steps down another corridor of the hallway, coming closer I fear. Coming closer. Closer still.
I hold my breath and wait. As he turns the corner I hold my breath. I feel myself becoming warm with fear, my hands begin to tremble so I close them tightly.
“Hello son. I’m Father Isaac.” He extends his hand in a white-man’s greeting, “It is nice to have you with us.” His sickly pale skin frozen in a smile that looks more a threat than a welcome.
He doesn’t know that I see. I see him. I know what he is, and as the Wendigo smiles behind the mans face I stare back in defiance. I am Nanook, I will not show fear. I will not be taken silently, I will not be devoured by the Wendigo before me wearing the skin of a man. My father taught me better.
I refuse to touch the creature before me, yet I find myself nodding in silent greeting. As he turns, expecting me to follow, I take a moment to look back on the journey I have taken to get here. I look at the forest beyond the door, the threshold, and acknowledge that as I follow the foul creature I will never be the same. I will never be the boy found in the woods again. I will never know the freedom of the forest nor the teachings of my people.
My light, like the other ghost-children, will also be taken from me. Removed without my consent, beyond my will, that I will never know light again.
I turn back towards the Wendigo and follow listlessly. I count each slow steady step as I enter the room at the end of my treacherous journey.
I look at the Wendigo as he says, “Take a seat.” Gesturing to a chair.
I say nothing as I step within the room, closing the door behind me, shutting me off from the outside world with a sound reminiscent of acceptance.