The Igloo in the Desert // a (scrabbled) short story

I love letters. I love words. I love putting letters together to form words. So naturally, I’m a huge fan of Scrabble.

On one game night with my family, as I was staring at the board and waiting for my turn, I had a sudden thought. What if I put the words on the board in a story? A story where I use all the words we form in the game, regardless of how ridiculous or unrelated they are?

Well folks, I did just that. It was hard. It was painful. So painful that I felt stupid subjecting myself to it. But just like the last writing experiment I did, it was incredibly fun.

Here is that game, so you can verify I used all the words:

Scrabbled Stories | The Voyaging Storyteller

(actually, that’s a lie. I used all the words except for three: ta, ti, and pi. No matter how hard I banged my head on the table, I could not figure out a way to logically insert those three ridiculous words in this story. But the letters t and a, t and i, and p and i are in there, just next to each other and in bigger words like important, identical, and tripping.)

(also, I took the liberty of changing the tenses of some of the words, because I can.)

Alright, enough with the disclaimers. Enjoy the story!

The Igloo in the Desert | The Voyaging Storyteller

Rocks crumble into the canyon as Suerte nears the rim. His dark eyes shimmer with the jubilation of having proven me wrong.

As his sandaled foot slips on a piece of red gravel, my arm instinctively shoots out and yanks him back. I don’t stop dragging him until we are a safe few steps away from the ledge. “Are you crazy? You could’ve fallen in!”

Suerte flashes me a grin, his white teeth far too bright compared to his face, which is baked from spending his days fishing under the hot sun. “You worry too much, ero.”

I clench my teeth. “Don’t call me that. I’m not your brother anymore. Not after last week.”

“Nonsense! We are twins, Suerte and Etreus. Identical in every way.”

I glare at him. “Not every way. I would never steal from you. And I would never get near to falling off a cliff.” I turn to head back. “I am going. I have humored you long enough. It is clear there is nothing here.”

“You are wrong!” he yells. “I swear it, there is an igloo down there in the canyon!”

I shut my eyes and exhale slowly. “Suerte…”

“Come on, ero, I know I’ve let you down on occasion, but –“

“More like every single day since I was born first,” I mutter, opening my eyes and turning back to face him.

“Well, maybe, but – hey, that’s not true! I was born first!”

I glare at him. “We are not getting into this. Again.”

“Come on, ero, that is not fair. You started it.”

I don’t loosen my glare until he finally waves a hand. “Well, anyway, that’s not important. You have to believe me. There is an igloo down there! I swear it!”

I hesitate for a moment before remembering that if I left now, a pile of nets were waiting to be mended. So I decide to humor him for what I determine to be the very last time.

“That is not possible, Suerte,” I say in the same voice I would use for a little child. “We live in the desert. Remember?”

Suerte excitedly bobs his head up and down. “I know! It’s not possible! That’s why I want you to see it!”

I roll my eyes. “Suerte –“

“Come on, I know why you hesitate. You’re afraid of heights.”

Heat rushes to my face. “I am not.”

Suerte grins. “You are. Everyone knows it. Especially after Mendulo last month. Do I have to remind you how you, an honored guest, was the only young man in all of Aran who didn’t climb the rapala tree? Hmm? And that was in front of Mosa too, how embarrassing!”

As he doubles over with laughter, I resist the urge to pull him up and slap his ridiculous face. “I am not afraid of heights, and I will prove it to you now, on two conditions.”

Suerte stands back up, his eyes glimmering with curiosity. “Yes?”

“You never breathe a word to anyone about me being a coward ever again.” My mouth is thick and I feel like I am going to be sick. “And…you give me forty oroks right after you finish the meeting.”

Suerte raises his eyebrows. “The first one I can do, easily, but what do you need forty oroks for?”

I look at him stonily. “Not telling.”

He crosses his arms. “That is not fair. Forty oroks is a large sum of money. Of our father’s money. I can’t just give it away without knowing why. Especially if you’re just going to waste it on a silly bet in the gambling dens.”

My jaw tightens and I grow very close to hurling him into the canyon. “They are for gold earring hoops.”

A grin stretches Suerte’s lips. “Ah, so you are committing after all! Very proud of you, ero. Mosa’s going to be so happy.”

I glare at him. “Do you agree?”

“Of course I agree! You have my word.”

I bite my lip before taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly. Then I start inching forward, eyes fixed on the ground strewn in red gravel. Up ahead, the ragged rim of the canyon creeps closer and closer and –

“Any slower and you’ll be going backwards,” Suerte groans. “Come on, ero, pick up the speed a little bit. We don’t have all day. I have an appointment at sundown with the city officials.”

I clench my teeth at the memory. “I know.”

Narrowing my eyes and inhaling another deep breath, I take a large step forward. Two more and I’m at the edge.

I peer down. Glazed in the golden light of the sun, ribbons of red, orange, and purple ripple along the jagged walls of the canyon. According to legend, in the ancient days the walls were smooth and a brilliant purple, like amethyst jewels. Now there are only occasional streaks of its former glory.

I gaze at it in awe, an unconscious smile tugging at my lips. I’ve never gotten close enough to see the canyon in all of its splendor before. I’m almost glad Suerte dragged me all the way up there to see it, even though I can’t see any igloos.

“Do you see it?” he asks eagerly.

His voice breaks me out of my trance and I turn to him with a glare. But he is standing far closer to me than I anticipated. I instinctively take a step back and my foot doesn’t touch the ground.

I shriek as my body topples over the rim and straight into the gaping mouth of the canyon. Air whooshes past my face. My stomach rockets up several hundred feet above me. I’m screaming. I squeeze my eyes shut and four words pound through my head.

I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to…

My back slams against something. The wind is knocked out of me. Coughing and choking, I feel myself sliding off of something firm and smooth until my body rolls onto rocky ground.

Coughs still wrack my body as I open my eyes just in time to see Suerte plummeting from above. He suddenly smashes face-first into an invisible surface several dozen feet off the ground, eliciting a scream from me that comes out more like a choke.

I watch with wide eyes as he appears to float to the ground until he finally lands next to me. I wait for a long moment, but he doesn’t move. He just lies there among the red rocks, still and motionless.

I cough one last time and frown deeply. My heart is pounding, but no longer from the fall or whatever invisible force saved my life. I scoot towards Suerte an inch before I stop. What am I doing? After he took what was rightfully mine and doomed me to the life of an outcast, I’d been wishing he was dead.

I ball up my fists. Then why did I pull him back from the edge just a short while ago? It was the perfect chance. No, that would’ve made me a murderer. I stare at Suerte as he lies lifeless. At the bottom of a canyon that only he visited. My thoughts whir until I feel as if I’m in a haze. I could leave him and figure out a way to get back to the city. I could tell everyone that his fall was an accident, which was mostly true. They would believe me. I could attend that appointment with the city officials and get my inheritance back.

My stomach roils with nausea as I rapidly shake my head and start crawling towards him. Maybe I am a coward, but I could never abandon him. He’s my brother, my twin, even after what he did.

Kneeling, I look him over. His eyes are shut and his face is moist with sweat. It looks paler than usual, but it’s hard to tell because of how tanned his skin is. After a moment of hesitation and words of prayer on my lips, I lean my head over his chest. I exhale in relief when I hear his heartbeat. Thank Davatel, he’s alive.

I lift my head and fix my gaze on his face. It’s exactly like my own, especially now that his eyes are shut, hiding that spark of life that I quenched long ago. I feel a prick of sadness. I miss that energy already, no matter how insufferable and taunting and even cruel he could be to me.

Suddenly Suerte’s eyes pop open and he lunges up with a yell. “Boo!”

I scream and fall backwards onto a particularly sharp rock as laughing fills my ears.

“I can’t believe you fell for it! Get it? Fell?”

As he almost chokes himself from laughing so hard, I sit up and scowl. “You are hilarious.” Still, I can’t help a grin from pulling at my mouth.

Suerte wipes tears from his eyes and dusts off his worn tunic. “You know, five more seconds and I would’ve gotten up. You were taking forever.” He perks up. “Oh, ho! Did you see the igloo?”

I’d forgotten all about it, but when I look up, I hardly believe how I’d missed it. Nestled up against the canyon walls is an giant igloo. The entrance is a short, narrow tunnel of ice that leads into darkness. The spherical globe of ice and snow sits behind the tunnel, sparkling in defiance at the desert sun above.

I’d only seen an igloo once, in a children’s painting book, but the concept had stuck in my head because of how funny the word sounded. I never thought I’d see a real one, much less at the bottom of a desert canyon.

“I told you!” Suerte cries with delight, jumping on me and shaking my shoulders.

I brush him off and head forward to the igloo. Cold air pulses from the ice as if its breathing. Suerte stands next to me, quiet and still for once, as we slowly stretch out our hands. Our fingertips graze the ice at the same time. It’s both rough and smooth, somehow, and unbelievably cold.

I pull my hand back quickly, my fingers red and burning. I shake my hand in the air and stare at it in confusion. How could touching something so cold make it burn just as if I’d touched the desert sands?

“Ai, ai!” Suerte shrieks. “Etreus, it’s shaking!”

I look up with a start to see the igloo rumbling and rocks sliding down from above. We rapidly back up, tripping over stones but unwilling to turn our backs on the igloo.

All at once, a giant white horse taller than the two of us combined bursts out of the icy entrance and rears up on his hind legs. With a mighty roar, the ground shakes and Suerte and I scream as we fall backwards against the rocks.

The horse thunders up to us in two strides. We clutch each other in terror as it rears up again to trample us. Time seems to slow as I stare at its wide eyes bloodshot with rage and its frothing mouth. Then I squeeze my eyes shut as hooves plummet down.

They never land.

A cracking whoosh fills my ears. My eyes fly open and I see a pair of hooves inches from my face, frozen in midair. I roll to my right and shakily rise to my feet. From the other side, Suerte does the same. He gasps at the same time as I do.

The horse is frozen, literally frozen, just as the igloo. It’s like a sculpture made of ice, every last detail preserved, from its eyelashes down to the toes of its hoofs. And though the sun beats down on it, not a single drop of water melts.

“Sorry for that,” a female voice suddenly says. We both jump and whirl towards the igloo, in front of which a woman is standing.

She’s dressed in a thick fur coat that reaches down to the ground and has her hands in its pockets. But besides that, she looks just like many other Aranol women, with tanned skin and dark curly hair and even darker eyes.

The woman smiles apologetically. “My aide is young and inexperienced. He’s never seen identical twins before. He took you as a prime threat.”

“Ah.” Suerte swallows. “So that’s why he was so angry.”

“Angry? Oh, no. He was probably angry because I freed a dog that he’d befriended. I’ll find a better one for him.”

I stare at her. “But…isn’t he…frozen?”

The woman tilts her head. “Yes?”

“Then how –“

“Oh, terribly rude of me.” The woman chuckles. “Of course you don’t know. You’re Aranols.”

Suerte and I exchange frowns. As if she wasn’t?

The woman takes something out of her pocket, a small globe with many colorful sparkling gemstones. She presses an orange one and a thud shakes the earth. I start and whirl around, to see the horse…unfrozen. It’s as full of life and energy as ever, its strong muscles rippling and its mane blowing in the slight sunset breeze.

The horse snorts and turns around. When it sees Suerte and me, it roars and rears up on its hind legs again. The woman presses a purple gem and ice explodes over the horse, freezing it instantly.

She grins and tucks the globe back in her pocket. “So now you understand.”

“I don’t think I’d go quite as far as to say understand,” Suerte says. “But I think I get the overall concept. You have a magic ball. Very impressive.”

The woman dips her head.

I frown. “Could you freeze us too?”

“I could, if you turned out to be a threat.” She grins. “But you two look harmless enough.”

I blink. “Thank you?”

The woman laughs.

Suerte speaks eagerly. “I’ve been dying to ask. Who are you? Where are you from? Do you live in that igloo? How can it exist in the desert? Is it magic too?”

I elbow my brother, but he just looks at me incredulously. “What?”

“Slow down! Do you expect her to answer all of them at once?”

The woman waves a hand. “No worries, I am used to it. I am called Salota, from Catharan.”

I frown. I’ve never heard of such a place. Perhaps it is a remote province.

“And I do not live in the igloo. No one does. It’s the entrance and exit of a gateway between worlds.

“Between worlds?” Suerte and I ask simultaneously.

“Yes indeed.” Salota smiles. “Between Catharan and your land, Aran.”

Suerte frowns. “We don’t get it.”

“It’s quite simple, actually.” A faraway expression dawns in Salota’s eyes. “Long ago, Catharan was one nation. A civil war divided it into two peoples, the Catharani and the Aranols. The Catharani wanted to spread out and trade with other nations, while the Aranols wanted to close its borders and live on its own resources. Eventually a solution was discovered where both sides could win. The wasteland at the very north of Catharan was allotted for the Aranols and was concealed from the rest of the world with a neviditel dome.”

Suerte blinks. “A what dome?”

Salota laughs. “A neviditel dome. Basically, that means the dome is invisible and makes everything inside of it invisible as well. It also  prevents anyone from entering or exiting. This was exactly what the Aranols wanted, even when, unexpectedly, the dome changed the climate, from the bitter cold of Catharan to a hot desert.”

I frown. “So…the igloo is some sort of a…gate?”

“Yes indeed. The only way to pass between the two lands, should Aranol ever need to escape into the wider world.”

Questions spin my head as I stare at the igloo. The entrance is as high as my waist, which meant I’d have to crawl in order to get inside. Hardly an effective escape route for a whole nation. And how were we supposed to get down from the canyon in the first place? Hurl ourselves down?

Then I remembered the invisible surface that had softened Suerte’s and my fall. Maybe that was another type of nevi-whatever-it-was-called.

Salota suddenly looks perplexed. “But usually the gateway remains invisible as well. Yet both of you, presumably, saw it from the canyon rim.”

“I did not see it,” I say. “And I didn’t believe my brother until we fell  and the igloo was right in front of me.”

Salota nods. “That’s normal. You’re not supposed to be able to see it until you land on the neviyalo.”

“The invisible thing floating in the air?” Suerte guesses.

“Yes, that. Oh!” The woman slaps her forehead. “How could I have forgotten?”

She faces Suerte with sparkling eyes. “When I was trained for this job, the task of guarding the gateway, I was told what to do if an Aranol saw the igloo and got close enough to touch it.”

My brother raises an skeptical eyebrow. “Was it to get trampled by a horse?”

Salota laughs. “No, no! You’re supposed to come with me, back to Catharan, to see the king!”

A sick feeling lurches in my stomach.

“King?” Suerte frowns. “Why would a king need to see me?”

“I don’t know exactly. It’s a well-kept secret. But I do know that it doesn’t happen often, and that when it does, when an Aranol crosses the border, things happen that are more wonderful than any of your wildest dreams. You have to believe me. And you have to come.”

“Any negatives?”

Salota grows serious. “One. It is unlikely you will ever come back home.”

My sick feeling grows, especially when Suerte looks at me and I see a familiar gleam of ambition and thirst for adventure in his eyes.

“Suerte,” I say, my voice cracking more than I would like. “I-I don’t want to be separated from you. Forever. You can’t go.”

“I can to. You can’t stop me.”

I’m about to protest when Salota adds, “You really can’t. Even if he agreed and refused to go, I would just freeze him and drag him back, then unfreeze him. I would freeze you too if you tried to stop me.”

I look at Suerte, but he only shrugs. “See? There’s nothing I can do, even if I wanted to.”

I look back at Salota and glares at her. “Who are you to be given so much power? You look as old as we are.”

She smiles mysteriously. “Looks do not determine age. And as for why I am in this position, I was chosen by a council of elders out of thousands of competitors. It’s a highly sought-after position.”

I raise a skeptical eyebrow. Being a guard didn’t seem very desirable to me.

Suerte glances at me before turning to Salota. “Can he come with me?”

She nods. “I think it can be arranged.”

My brother turns to me with arms spread open and a grin on his face. “See? There we have it! You can come! We won’t be separated!”

My head spins. So many decisions, dumped on me so quickly. “But, but our lives! Our homes! Our families! Are we just going to…walk away from all of it, just like that?”

He tilts his head. “Yes. So?”

I stare at him until he grabs my shoulders and gives me a penetrating look more serious than I’d ever seen him.

“Listen, Etreus. If you don’t want to go with me, you don’t have to. You can stay. You can attend the meeting with the city officials and get the inheritance. You can marry Mosa, have little Etreus-es, and spend the rest of your life in happiness.”

A vision flashes through my mind. Of giving golden hoop earrings to Mosa. Of seeing her beautiful face after she takes off her veil after our wedding. Of my children, teaching them how to fish. Of watching them grow up while I grow old with Mosa.

While I spend the rest of my days without my brother, without my children meeting their uncle, their father’s twin.

Suerte’s eyes deepen. “But I have to go. You must understand.”

I stare at him for a long moment. My thoughts race and whirl and mix. I look at every angle I can think of, follow each possibility down its path, weigh all the risks.

Just when it starts to feel incredibly awkward and Suerte’s understanding smile starts to waver, I raise my arm and grip his shoulder.

“I’m going with you, ero.”

15 thoughts on “The Igloo in the Desert // a (scrabbled) short story

  1. Great story! For some reason the names remind me of Frozen 2. Aran- Arandelle and Catharan- notholdrian. (Did I spell those right?) Some things match up with Frozen 2. Maybe that’s just me, or maybe…..
    Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Haha, I didn’t realize it, but that’s an interesting observation! It must be a coincidence though because I made up the names on the spur of a moment. 😂 But they are pronounced differently. Aran is Aah-raahn with a rolled r, as opposed to the Air-uhn in Arandelle.
      Hope you have a great day as well! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. o.O First of all, Scrabble is a lovely game but I would never have thought of making a story out of the words and I am IMPRESSED. That’s such a cool idea. I feel like it would be a really good writing exercise, honestly. I want to try it sometime.
    And SECOND OF ALL, I really like this story. Like, I REALLY like it. I wish there was more of it. The description of the desert canyon was so vivid? It made me think of that one time I saw the Badlands… And the brothers!!! I love Suerte AND Etreus, different as they are. They’re…they’re just…I don’t know! They are hilarious! And I have feelings about them! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thank you!!! Yes, it’s such a good exercise. Do try it, and let me know how it goes! 😉

      And AAAH, thank you SO MUCH! This made my week and I’m so ridiculously happy you like it and want to read more. ❤️ I’ve actually been thinking of expanding this story into a full-length novel…we’ll see if that happens. *smiles mysteriously* Oh, I’ve just looked up the Badlands, and they’re so beautiful and so close to what I imagined the canyon to look like and the fact that you pictured them that way…aaah, my words escape me. And I’m so glad you like the brothers! They were extremely fun to write. YAY for hilarity and feelings! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I shall do that. 😀

        Wait…really??? REALLY!??! Oh YES! I sooo hope you turn it into a full-length novel; that would be absolutely the best thing ever. (And no, I am not prone to overstating things. Why dost thou ask?)
        The Badlands are indeed gorgeous. I must say pictures don’t do them justice at all, and reading your story reminded me more strongly of them than any picture I’ve ever seen, haha!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha, I’m so glad you’re excited for it! I’ll have to let you know when I draft it. 😉 And lol, you’re not alone. I overstate things all. the. time. 😂
          Wow, that…that is such an honor. Thank you so much!!

          Liked by 1 person

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