It’s a diner at the end of the world. Music plays loudly over the speakers. Men and women dance and do the limbo. The pictures taken that night will be developed sometime after the apocalypse. Backgrounds will be lost in a dark-grey haze. Faces will be unrecognizable, lost in shadow, perhaps not even facing the camera. Caught by the camera flash: naked limbs, skirts, wrists and fingers spread wide in the air. All is in constant motion.
In the corner Dorset is eating dinner with Thule Inuit and Eric the Red is watching them from a nearby table, ignoring his date, talking continuously, keeping his mouth moving to hide his awkwardness and shame. He mentions fjords, whale meat, the price of ivory in Europe and how it is much higher than what they are forced to accept at the dockyards. Across from Thule Inuit, Dorset is looking a little embarrassed. She blushes when Thule Inuit touches her hand, pinching her lanky knees together underneath the table. Thule Inuit strokes her fingers gently, tells her a story. He’s a scientist. Dorset is fascinated, but she doesn’t understand anything he says. Instead she concentrates on the charming way his face moves and bobs underneath his shock of jet-black hair.
“When the results of the study were published, it provoked a strong reaction. It was well received by the majority of the medical community, but according to certain experts it seems that we overlooked phenomena having to do with RNA and the structure of atomic molecules… we are not especially well-versed in physics, we’re just biologists. But it got me thinking—perhaps that means we should change our focus? After all, aren’t they all part of the same system? …I’m sorry: you don’t really understand me, do you?”
Thule keeps interrupting his stories and asking her this question, over and over again.
“I’m sorry: you don’t really understand me, do you?”
It’s polite but the way the words hit Dorset in the chest and set her heart beating fast and irregularly it seems insulting, almost menacing. Dorset assumes the problem has to do with her. She’s encouraging.
“No, no, it’s very interesting,” she says, “please, please continue.” She flips her hair back over her shoulder and laughs hesitatingly. “In fact, I was just getting into it.”
Thule smiles. “Very good,” he says. He strokes her hand once more and continues with his story, while Dorset feels flush, goose bumps are creeping up her arm, she can’t seem to focus on what Thule is saying, and Eric the Red is watching them both from his own table, nervous and desperate. In Eric’s mind he is watching something terrible and devastating. He pays no attention to his date and can think only that he is observing murder, genocide, the worst of all atrocities.