Feathers ~ Chapter 1

“Is it gone yet?”

Miss Grubenfall glared at Clay, the scruffy 11-year-old boy. “No. The signal has not sounded and most likely will not sound for a while!”

The entirety of The West City Home for Young Minds was in the Central Pillar- the secure, windowless room at the centre of our floor. The Pillar stretched out through the entire building, from the Flats at the top right down to the Rooms and the Sties at the very bottom.

“What is it again?” I inquired. I knew already- it was a Flying Beast, of the larger, black variety that sometimes attempts to enter the City- but as the Central Pillar is so excruciatingly boring to spend time in, I decided I might as well ask.

Miss Grubenfall groaned. “You know quite well, Rayven. Three people have asked before you. Stop pretending to forget. And all of you- sit in silence until we hear the signal!”

All was quiet. The twenty-odd residents of the home knew exactly how much Miss Grubenfall hated people breaking the silence and were not planning to annoy her after she had said that we had to be quiet. In fact, the only sounds were the muffled shouts of the Beast Killers, attempting to destroy the creature before it could destroy the City.

After a while, I noticed they were getting closer. It was hard, as the walls of the Pillar were so thick, but the sounds were getting distinctly louder. Louder. It seemed like they were right over us. I couldn’t hear anything other than that. I felt dizzy. My eyesight was blurring around the outside.

Everything went black.

***

“Rayven?”

What..? Who am I? Was that Clay..? No, that wasn’t Clay…

“Rayven?!”

Now THAT was Clay.

“Mmm…?” I groaned, trying to sit up. I felt a searing pain go through my head and stopped.

What happened again?

“Are you alright?”

The realisation that I just fainted came with another surge of pain. “N-no…”

“Rayven, open your eyes immediately!”

I reluctantly and painfully opened my eyes to see- well, nothing really. Everything was a blurred mass of colours. I blinked a few times and my eyes cleared enough for me to be able to make out that I was a) on the floor, b) still in the bunker and c) with everyone leaning over me.

“Where are my g-lasses..?” I said, turning my head slightly and instantly regretting it. Someone shoved them onto my face- presumably Pepper, knowing how cold his hands are- and everything became much sharper. I blinked a few times. My head felt like someone was digging knives into my brain. My back hurt from where I landed in it. But at least I was still breathing.

“I’m alive!” I said, smiling painfully.

Immediately, I was swamped with questions.

“Are you OK?”

“What happened to you?”

“Did you just black out?”

“Does anything hurt?”

“What did you do to yourself?!”

Miss Grubenfall pushed into the circle of faces that was surrounding me.

“Get up this instant, young lady!” she snarled.

I slowly clambered up, trying not to move my head too quickly, as although my head had almost stopped hurting by then- it was just a dull pain- it still hurt when I jolted it.

At that moment, the alarm rang to tell the City that the Beast Killers had succeeded and that the creature had been destroyed.

Finally.

***

I woke up at 5:30 a.m., half an hour before the auto-wake up is set to wake everyone at the Home.

It was the next day- a Monday. The school rush had started again for another 5 days and I was not looking forward to it. Partly because I never am and never will be, but mostly because I hadn’t done my IPC homework.

IPC, or Inter-Personal Communications, was my worst subject. And as the homework was always along the lines of “Talk to and record three different people, then analyse the subject of your conversation and how it changed.” or “Write an essay explaining the six types of conversation.”, I did so terribly at IPC that the teacher was considering making me take extra lessons with her after school.

I sighed and covered my head with my covers, trying desperately to block out the City’s sounds and to go back to sleep. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

“Rayven, get up, I need you to help me with my IPC homework,” demanded Amber. “Did you actually do it?”

“No…” I groaned, covering my head with my duvet.

“All the more reason for you to help me,” said Amber. “Come on!”

Amber was my best friend and roommate. I was lucky- roommates are assigned randomly when you arrive at the Home, however tiny you may be. I was 6, the minimum age, when I was assigned to come here. I had to share a room with a girl called Juniper, the younger sister of twins. She hated me, I hated her, and next year the next batch of children came along and I was told to share with Amber, 6 months younger.

5 years later, we are the best of friends. And we’re in the same class at school, which means we have all the same homework.

“Right,” said Amber, when I had finally staggered out of bed. “The homework is to answer the questions about your best friend, then in the lesson we have to ask the above mentioned best friend the questions. The more we get right, the higher the mark.”

“Who even comes UP with this homework?” I complained, getting out my sheet.

“THEY do, I suspect,” said Amber, picking up a pen. “Right, we have half an hour. What’s your name, Rayven?”

“Who knows?” I reply. “What’s yours, Amber?”

“You know quite well,” Amber scribbled both our names on her sheet. “Favourite colour?”

“Dark blue, you?”

“Emerald green. You know that!”

“I could have sworn it was orange,” I groaned. “I’m so hopeless at remembering things, I suppose it’s just as well that we’re cheating, isn’t it?”

Amber laughed. “Yeah, I suppose it is. Now, what’s your eye colour?”

“Grey. You have green eyes, I remember that.”

At six o’clock, the auto-wake up forced everyone else to wake up. Amber and I put our homework in our bags and went to have breakfast.

2017 Trip – Day 8

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
13,2 km 13.5 km/h 25.7 km/h

Just time for a short run before going for the bus. Managed to leave by about 0945 and headed N up old Marco route to forest road, then back to main trail and S via Finn-Jann laavu.

Dogs seemed a bit reluctant, particularly Max who kept stopping and trying to turn back and I didn’t take Selimo as she had not been running too well yesterday. I think they definitely need a couple of days rest to get back into top form.

Arrived back at farm just as dogs were being harnessed for day trip. Packed, stuff, tried to pay Timo (card failed, will try again via bank transfer from home) and made it to the bus stop in plenty of time.

In Oulu, experimented with getting number 9 bus to airport rather than taxi. It departed a few minutes late and took quite a while to get there due to circuitous route via suburbs, but was quite a bit cheaper at €5.80.

2017 Trip – Day 7

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
42.2 km 12.4 km/h 25.4 km/h

The day started early when I was woken at 0400 by strange noises coming from the veranda.  I tried to solve this problem by hiding inside my sleeping bag, but when this didn’t work I was forced to get up and investigate. It seemed unlikely that it was a wild animal as the dogs would have been going wild and indeed it turned out to be the very un-wild form Max who had managed to get off his chain!  In my bleary state I couldn’t work out how and just put him in another kennel, but in the cold light of day I discovered that the coupling on the end of the chain had somehow come unscrewed.

During his freedom he had found the feeding bucket containing two scoops of dried food ready for the morning.  How much he ate and how much fell through the gaps in the floor is not clear. In addition, the scoop was nowhere to be seen.  When Timo arrived at about 0930 with his tractor and snow plough he immediately located it in Max’s kennel!

A Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus) photographed at Kÿlkeinen

Left at about 1045 and headed across lake to Hämeenvaara then up Tilsa road and around Romevaara before arriving at Tilsa for lunch. Many trees have been cut on Romevaara since I was last there (at least four years ago) and there are now some excellent views from the top.

After lunch went up Tilsa road and left at power lines along track next to canyon. Joined Koivuvaara road and then turned N across top of hill to Kortesuo swamps. Headed E and crossed Lohilampi which was not looking quite as open as I remember. Perhaps it is starting to silt up a bit.

Back along Koivuvaara road and then via normal tracks to farm.

2017 Trip – Day 6

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
43.4 km 12.4 km/h 25.7 km/h

Noticed strange object on trail leading from hut where it passes in front of sauna. Turned out to be a wooly hat presumably dropped by a guest as they were starting. Hung it up in hut and sent text to inform guides. After starting got a reply asking if I could take it with me, so collected it at lunchtime.

Dogs definitely a bit tired after two very long days and didn’t start with quite a much vigour.

Headed N from Jänisvaara road to North Road and from there too track N towards swamp trail. Found it OK, but took wrong turning and ended up next to main road. No obvious route away from road and Max keen to get onto road. Fortunately there was a bit of a bank to climb and after managing to stop team I removed Max and led him into the forest. Got rest of team to go the same way and finally managed to retrace my steps. Found better route which eventually emerged near junction of main trail and North Road.

Then took loop to West which turned out to be the same one I took on Tuesday. Returned to Jänisvaara for lunch.

After lunch tried to head for Lohilampi but must have taken a wrong turn as I eventually hit the snowmobile trail. However, on the way I crossed a swamp with many picturesque frost coated trees so stopped to take some photos.

Made my way to and then down canyon, crossed Tilsa road and headed for Kÿlkeinen. Arrived a little earlier than yesterday, but it took quite a while to get the new fire going. Perhaps there is a knack. As an added problem I had run out of new batteries for the lanterns.

Weather now much warmer and around -4°C most of day with cloud and no wind.

2017 Trip – Day 5

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
65.2 km 13.9 km/h 29.4 km/h

Slept in a little later and managed to get away from Saija by 1030. Headed N to Kylmaluomajarvi. Met Saija guide from yesterday at snowmobile trail  junction at W end of lake. Followed trail as far E as the edge of the map before returning to kota for lunch. Direct route from trail to kota not open down steep slope so had to continue to adjacent laavu and then back along lake.

The kota at Kylmaluomajarvi

 

 

 

 

The kota was a delightful as always, it being one of those with a chimney suspended over the fire for you to bash your head on (as I did, just as every previous visit). Unfortunately the wood supply seemed to consist almost entirely of tree trunks.

After lunch drove length of lake and then followed snow mobile trail all the way back to Jänisvaara. Last few km along power lines and then through  little used forest track to Jänisvaara road. Light almost gone by the time I reached the hut.

Whilst feeding dogs, five snowmobiles appeared on road. They stopped and the drivers started shining torches in my direction. Phoned guides and was told that they were probably police on a training exercise. Apparently one of the guides met a group of 20 of them yesterday. May have heard something which sounded like a police radio, so this theory has merit.

Weather today a little warmer at around -7°C. Some light snow towards the end.

2017 Trip – Day 4

Distance Average Speed Max Speed
61.8 km 14.1 km/h 31.0 km/h

A very long run from Jänisvaara to Saija partly due to wrong turnings.

Weather excellent with clear skies and trees very picturesque with frost on them.

Started OK on snowmobile trail and followed ski track S from power lines towards Hella and then on to army road.  Got confused by trail near bottom of army road and turned back N.  Eventually, after another couple of wrong turnings ended up at road crossing where trail runs beside road and eventually to Harjajärvi kota for a late lunch.

Lunch break at Harjajärvi kota

Decided to proceed to Saija by shortest route and fortunately met two Saija guides.  Headed back across road and then E towards top of lake.  Trail seemed much more open and couldn’t find the power lines I used to follow.  Fortunately trail of Saija dogs was clear and my dogs found their way.

Subsequently discovered that power lines have been buried and forest was opened up at the same time!

Weather was generally good and skies clear, but as a result much colder. Temperature on lakes dropped to about -20°C towards end of day.