Tanjoubi

This afternoon Spegg took me down into the valley and several kilometers further to the cold shore of the Southern Ocean where we had stowed the egg a few days before. His mood had changed since the morning. He smiled as we walked, his jagged teeth stacked like white razors behind his lips, his lanky gait easily managing the rugged desert terrain. There was a bounce in his step and he whistled a high-pitched tune—full of sharp corners and feverish, screeching arpeggios. I did not recognize the song, nor the style, and the high notes stung my ears, though I did not reveal my distress.

I kept my eyes low, struggling to maintain Spegg's pace as I sank into the crusty, old snow, my ankles wrenching with each step. We crossed the foothills and descended into the flats which stretched for a few hundred meters and ultimately gave way to the icy chop and towering, pointed bergs far out into the sea. As we neared the coast, I saw what I thought to be a wide swath of black sea trash littering the shoreline.

We continued to walk, and as we got closer it slowly became clear that the mess was not rubbish, but instead hundreds of penguin corpses, rent and scattered in heaps of red and black all along the icy shore. They had been savaged—their bodies, their heads, their bones torn asunder, some partially eaten, and others merely destroyed—as if whatever predator had gotten its fill, and murdered the rest of the birds for sport.

I held my mouth.

Spegg grinned broadly and patted me on the head. "Chikushou," he said. "You are a father."