“The night grew dark, and I hatched too early. My body felt cooler than being frozen in ice.”
Chapter 1: How This Day Works
There I was. On the ice raft with Uncle Lee, Aunt Monica, and Jackie and Will, (my cousins). My parents died when I was still an egg. Soon afterward, my aunt and uncle came and saved me before I got too cold and died. Yeah, that’s my life. I never met my parents and never hoped to see them soon. I was shy but full of courage. So, back to my “family” and me.
The hot day was making my family boil up. They bathed by the shore, flipping and twisting in the icy water, but not me. I did not like to swim. I stood in the hot air, waiting and watching what was around me. All the other penguins were having fun and playing in the water while bathing.
I have never really been like all of the other penguins my age. I never seem to be satisfied with what I do. But I really like that about myself. I think if my parents were alive they would be proud to call me their penguin. My name is Mia Ottiline (but you can call me Otti or Mia for short) and I live in Antarctica. I don’t have much of a family, as I mentioned, but I do have a best friend and his name is Kevin. We have been friends since we were eggs, or at least that’s what his parents have always told me. We are inseparable. He doesn’t mind that I don’t like to swim because he doesn’t like to swim either.
However, one day Kevin and I wanted to take a dip in the water, but we knew if the other penguins saw us they would make a scene. It was Kevin’s idea to swim at night. Kevin has always been the bold one. He even looks different from the rest of us. He’s got polka dots on his white tummy, which he says are for good luck. And it has to be true, because he’s the smartest penguin in our grade. One day, when my instructor told me that I got a question wrong, I fumed inside. On the outside, however, I looked cheerful and happy. Kevin quietly turned to me and explained the answer and why it was so. I wrote it down.
Back to that life-changing day. I still felt hot so I was running back to the fish hunter lake when I heard a sound like a dying penguin. I was terrified, so I ran to the frozen river bank. But then I realized it wasn’t fair. I could never run away from my family, who had done so much for me. So I turned around and felt my mind boggle. A big structure was steaming in the water. Animals were standing on top holding big chunks of black ice, and surprisingly they were all the same size. Little pellet-like objects were being released out of them, striking the penguins. Honestly, it seemed kind of stupid. I ran back to my clan to see a sight I never could have imagined that I would see. Penguins, even the bravest of them, were scurrying all around. Did they know something I didn’t? Then I saw it. The blood as red as, well… blood. My heart was pounding. There were seals, sharks or even, wait — that was Kevin.
Chapter: 2 The Last
I was surprised. I never knew Kevin to kill a seal. Honestly, at first I thought the blood was his own. Even if it was a baby, that still was an accomplishment. That would make a good dinner for the clan. But then they ran away. The blood was spreading like water on the hard frozen ice. Some dove into the water while some were heading toward me. I felt a little scared. The animals started moving off the structure. They were jumping off of it, some of them not even surfacing. I was scared because some of the penguins were dropping dead. I mean, really scared. Aunt Monica was down and Will was too. There they were, over half of my family, my inspiration, gone. I had to waddle. Cliffs and cliffs. I was so confused until then… it hit me. I remember now. A twig sketch in class clearly described this situation. Men. Yes that’s what they’re called. On, oh, a boat. With — wait — guns. The killers of us. They wanted us. They were willing to… Ahhh. That was a horrible sound. I turned around to the boat. It crashed into the ice raft, killing all of the water bound penguins. There are hardly any left between the boat crash and and the shooting, but I know some have escaped. I also remember from the lesson where to go. The ugly penguin.
Chapter 3: Memories
Uncle Lee found me first. I was only two weeks old. He ran up to my nest. He is my mom’s brother. He wrapped his strong, loose wing around me. The icy wind was blowing against my bumpy shell and his slick wet fins. He just held me and gave me a sense of warmth. “Please don’t worry. We’ll take care of you. I’ll bring you back to your big cousin Jackie.”
The night grew dark, and I hatched too early. My body felt cooler than being frozen in ice. I looked up at my uncle. He ran me to the water and try to show me how to swim. Aunt Monica was back making a nest, preparing for Will. After my swimming lesson, he tried to throw me in the water. I was too small to refuse, so I gave in. I never came back up until my uncle dove in and saved me. He knew I wasn’t ready but he didn’t know I had no interest at all.
In a way, I was shunned by my community. They blamed my parents’ deaths on me. They said my parents never wanted children and they abandoned me for that reason. I was the unwanted child of one of the most important people in the community. When I was one, my cousin Will hatched. His body was big and powerful, yet his head was small and simple. He was too different from me. As soon as his father threw him in the water, his dives were so elegant, yet powerful. He went on to become the most well known adolescent swimmer in all of the ice raft.
Jackie is somewhat like me. She isn’t the most powerful swimmer in the flock. But she has a hook for the boys. That’s why she’s allowed to be the pretty one on the sideline. Uncle Lee said she must get married soon, the day before the attack, for she’s going to be nearly eighteen. But now, that can never happen, at least not now.
Now me. Who was I? Who am I? I’m the orphan penguin that no one would ever dare to talk to. No one will tell me about my cadaverous parents whom I never met. I can only assume that they died hunting, but how would I know if no one would ever tell me? Legend has it that they disappeared like melting ice. Wow, that’s helpful. Sorry, sometimes I lose my temper. Well, years later, here I am.
Chapter 4: Making Memories
Here I am, by the frozen river bank. I dive into the deep line and through the hole to the safety under the frozen ice. I scurry around some more to find my part of the den until I reach it — a map I drew of the ice raft when I was seven, on my journey with Will and Uncle Lee when we went on an exploration of the entire thing. That’s one thing I like about the boys in my family. They don’t mind taking me on all of their boyish trips. I know my way around but it can still be very dangerous. Suddenly, I hear men’s voices.
“Hey, boys. Look at this. Looks some little ice friend of ours calls this miniature canyon home. It ain’t nothing like the Grand Canyon back at home, is it boys? Why, just look at that little hole. Looks penguin-sized, don’ it? Any of you fit through there? Hey Luke. You’re slim, ain’t ya?”
“Sir, I’m only your personal servant. I don’t have the skill to do any of the dirty work. I’m only fourteen.”
My heart is pounding so loudly, I am surprised that they can’t hear me through the ice.
“Get down there, boy. It’s an order.”
So then I hear him jump into the “canyon” with a thump. He reaches inside the hole. I place myself against the wall. I know I am never going to make it to the ugly penguin. I try to burrow myself into a hole, but the ice is rock solid. This is the end.
“Nothing in here, boss.”
“How do you know when you wiggle your finger around like a little princess? Now, tell me.”
“Sorry sir. I’ll go in.”
I think that I am safe. But of course I’m not. He comes in feet first, which I guess is better. Next his body. Then his arms. Then his head. I am peeking around the corner from my room. He crawls around. Then he sees the tiny opening to my room that he could never possibly fit through. He turns his head into the hole and notices me. I just close my eyes and wait for the blow.
“Awww. I can’t kill you, little thing. Wait ten minutes after I leave to go.”
I felt like crying. This young boy just saved my life! He crawls out and yelled:
“Nothing, Boss, and that’s final.”
“If you say so. Let’s go.”
I hear their feet clamber away. I look at the map one last time to create the perfect mental picture. I’m not good at drawing so here’s what it looked like:
Shore=flat plains=thin ice=hills=the climb
I packed some food and began.
Chapter 5: Journey
I’m on the flat plains close to the thin ice but close to the edge/wall of the ice raft. I feel the earth turning colder and colder on me. The sun’s setting and the worlds in the sky come out. I have to find shelter. My back is aching. I am freezing. This bright sunny day has turned into a harsh unforgiving night. I know I have to still believe in myself and keep going. I have a quick feeling overcome me that I know I am going to be the hero. I am going to win this time. All my life I have lost and lost. I can’t bear to fail again.
As soon as I find some cave in the wall, I’ll eat and go to sleep. That’s what I think, at least. There’s a giant hole in the wall that I am approaching. When I reach it, Jackie and Kevin are in there talking!
“You guys! I missed you! Thank you for making it out alive!”
And before they can answer I run up to them and hug them. I don’t remember much after that, but that sure was a good night.
Chapter 6: Finally
Can I get things straight here? Because I don’t think I’ve been very clear on the ugly penguin. He’s a penguin. And a very ugly one. He smells like old fish and his hair bristles are all knotted. He doesn’t believe in royalty or fineries. Everyone thinks that he’s the wisest penguin of all time, but of course he doesn’t believe that. He’ll help you in any situation and tell you what to do. I feel amazed to talk about him now and I feel a sense of confidence.
I really feel that way when I wake up this morning on top of the ice raft with the wind blowing on my face. Jackie is to my left and Kevin is to my right, and in front of me, with his subtle grin, is the ugly penguin, and he speaks to me.
“Hello, my precious daughter.”