The kitchen floor hatch opens. Igor Ivanovich climbs out first, makes room for his feet amongst the dead bodies, and lends a hand to a dazed Svetlana.
“Oh Igor! Look at them all. The poor darlings.” She proceeds to bend over to pick one up when her husband stops her. There is blood oozing from underneath the victim. In fact, there is blood everywhere.
The couple survey the main floor in despair. A hurricane would have left their home cleaner than this but that’s not the worst of it. The stench will linger for months no matter how much scrubbing they do. The newlyweds gaze out at the calm ocean through the hole where their front window used to be. The only evidence of the mass hysteria that pummeled their ocean farmhouse lies pasted on its walls, ceilings, and floors.
Svetlana hops over the dead arctic terns on the staircase holding her nose and her stomach. She rushes the toilet just in time, not that it would have made much of a difference whether she had exploded on the way up. She splashes some water on her face and her reflection in the mirror mourns the carnage on the bed behind her. “And now this?” she grumbles.
The Ivanoviches purchased their ocean farm less than three months ago for a great price and they have had nothing but bad luck ever since. Their first halibut harvest was modest (much less than historical figures predicted) and their second harvest even smaller. Just as their stock dwindled the factory farm trawling barely 1 kilometre away were having higher than normal catches. When they approached the previous owner with their complaints, he could offer no explanation and certainly did not offer any compensation.
“We regret but it is no longer our responsibility,” he responded. Svetlana couldn’t help but feel cheated and contracted a lawyer to look into the matter.
“Could today’s catastrophe also be related?” she mumbles to herself as she struggles to stem a deluge of self-pity bubbling up inside her. Fortunately, a megaphone calling out her husband’s name does the deed on her behalf. Her attention snaps to the bedroom window. She steps onto the second-floor balcony to witness the coast guard mopping up the dead bird carcasses strewn across their seascape as they make their approach.
“How much will that cost us?” she yells down to her husband on the front deck.
Igor looks up at her, shrugs, and signals her to come join him. They have quite the story to report.
The coast guard vessel sends a raft over to their house with three officers. The captain and his assisting officer step off the boat and onto the deck. “Igor Ivanovich?” Igor nods. The officer checks his name off a list on her tablet and double taps to bring up his profile. Svetlana shifts her eyes over the data on the device.
“Captain Petrovich,” he declares as he walks straight past the couple into the house. Clearing his throat in an attempt to maintain his authoritative flatness he continues: “Hmmm. Expecting some dinner guests?” He points to the mess of dead birds in the living room. Svetlana is about to pipe in when the captain raises a flat hand to her face and moves to the kitchen. The assisting officer starts counting the terns.
Once in the kitchen, Captain Petrovich takes a few shallow breathes to test the air. “And Schchi?” He nudges a few birds on the floor with his feet, glances at the hatch in the flooring, looks up at the make-shift shutters, and radios for another lifeboat.
Svetlana finds the captain’s dry wit quite offensive considering her and her husband barely escaped with their lives but she bites her tongue. At this point, she just wants to get back to Murmansk. She hears the second boat pull up and breathes a sign of relief until the assisting officer enters the kitchen mumbling: “156, 157,…” Svetlana gasps and looks at Igor teary-eyed.
“That’s a lot of tern pelmeni.” Captain Petrovich turns to Igor. “Tell me, Mr. Ivanovich. Does it taste better made with endangered wildlife?”
“That’s not funny!” Svetlana blurts out on the verge of a fit as the counting officer continues up the staircase: “295, 296, …”
Two armed militia appear at the kitchen entrance and await instruction.
Captain Petrovich responds: “Svetlana Ivanovich, poaching is no laughing matter.” He flicks his hand towards the officers. They take the couple into custody and back to Russia for processing.
… to be continued in More Pancakes?