On a clear night like that, millions of stars speckled the inky canvas above. Snow crunched beneath America’s boots as he walked to the edge of Little Diomede island. He looked out across expanse of the Bering Strait and felt small. The world was silent. No waves lapping, no boats or birds. There was just ice, in sheets and chunks, hiding in the dark.
He was just about to exhale into the frigid night air to pretend that he was vaping when his cellphone rang.
“Hey, Russia,” he said before she could make a sound, “I know this is supposed to be like, a beautiful moment–and don’t get me wrong, it is–but I’m freezing my balls off over here.”
“You still use them?”
The Bering Strait connected the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and separated Alaska from Siberia. Two islands found themselves right in the middle: Little Diomede, belonging to the United States, and Big Diomede, belonging to Russia. No matter how far apart ideological differences would push them, since 1867 Russia and America always been just 2 miles apart.
“I know that was supposed to be a joke, but it fell flat. You may have an icy, black soul, but I don’t. We couldn’t just do this in the summer or something?”
“The ice bridge comes in the winter.”
“Wait. Oh, you’re not–you’re seriously not going to cross from there to here, are you?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“Because there’s snow n’ shit.”
“That’s the point, America.”
“You’re really doing this?”
“Why don’t we both? We could meet in the middle.”
He sighed. “Alright. Sure. Let’s do this. We’re gonna do this.” He could hear the smile in her coaxing voice.
“That’s the spirit.”
And so he waded through the thick snow, flashlight aimed ahead of him and not at the frigid Bering Sea on his sides.
“I can hear you breathing,” she said.
“Why did you stay on the line?”
“Why did you?”
“It’s dark, freezing, and hearing your voice makes it easy for me to imagine we’re cuddling somewhere warm.”
Her pitched raised. “Cuddling?”
“Sorry, I meant, ‘discussing your aggression in Eastern Europe.'”
“I thought so.”
The silence that settled between them gave America time to really consider his surrounding, which he quickly realized were scary. Being alone in what felt like a vast tundra, no light but the moon and whatever his old flashlight could give, steadily approaching Russian territory. Nightmare fuel.
“Kinda spooky out here.”
“Why don’t we tell each other ghost stories?”
He wet his cracked lips and panned the black horizon with his light. “Hey, I got somethin’. Tell me about Devil’s Pass. Are you really operating a secret facility that researches teleportation and time travel?”
“Dyatlov Pass,” she said dryly. “And if I told you, I would have to kill you.”
“Like you killed those hikers?”
“America, you have always been so much more interested in vilifying me than in knowing the truth.”
“Well, every hero needs a villain.”
“You’re no hero. You have as much blood on your hands as I do.”
“Come on. You have like, a little more on your hands.”
“Killing is still killing, even if it’s for ‘democracy.'”
“Democracy? Try the greater good.”
“Is that how you get to sleep at night?”
“Yeah. How do you?”
“Heavy drinking, usually.”
“So predictable. You can’t see it right now, but I’m grinning.” She didn’t say anything, but he knew she was too.
Before long he spotted a little glow ahead. It swung from side to side, back and forth. He kept his eyes on the glow and steered toward it like it was a lighthouse.
“I think I see you. That’s you, right?”
“Don’t screw with me, man. I’m already freaked out thinking that any minute I’m gonna turn around and see some teleporting, little wendigo lookin’ bastard.”
She sucked her teeth. “You’re still on about that?”
“Unfortunately. Hey, how much longer?”
“Half a mile, maybe?”
He groaned and carried on. To keep himself busy, he tried debating in his head whether running through sand or through snow was worse. You know what? They both suck.
Then his eyes drifted up to the moon and stars. Looking up at space always gave him that stomach-turning excitement one might experience on an upward roller coaster climb. He said, “Space is supposed to be the final frontier, right? But we can’t even get our shit straight down here on earth. I’d hate to see how we fight over the universe.”
“Are you thinking of faking a Jupiter landing this time?”
He looked back to the little light. “Hey, can I be real with you?”
She hesitated. “Sure.”
“I know that I might talk a lot of shit about hating you–and just to be clear, I do hate you–but you were… really good in World War 2. I mean, you poured everything into that war. So many Russians died. You guys lost so much. And I’m not saying I condone everything you did before, during, or after, but… Fuck, we really couldn’t have won without you. You gave it your all. You could become the biggest democracy-hating commie in the world but I’d still respect you for that. Always.”
Several beats of silence made America wonder if she would hang up.
“Where the hell is this coming from?” Her voice wavered, almost like it would crack. “Did you drink before coming here?”
“I’m dying of hypothermia.”
“No you’re not.”
“I was debating whether I wanted my last words to be something meaningful or just, ‘See you in hell.'”
And he did. He let the sound of crunching draw closer and closer as his breathing relaxed. Then the crunching stopped.
He caught her in the light of phone.”‘Sup, Russia.”
She smiled gently. “Hello, America.”
Song to consider: You Don’t Get Me High Anymore by Phantogram
Remember the “I can see Russia from my house” thing? Yeah, Palin was apparently referring to the closeness of Alaska to Russia’s Big Diomede.
Devil’s Pass was an interesting movie. The real incident the film is based on is even better. I won’t spoil anything, but please give the Wiki page a read. If this is all true, it’s beyond creepy. Here’s a website detailing more of what might have happened.
I believe it is possible to travel between the two islands via some kind of snow bridge. I saw a video of someone doing it on a snowmobile. If the video is fake then, uh, I use fiction as my defense.
Disclaimer: The featured image is not of the Diomedes or the Bering Strait at all, but I could not find a single interesting picture of the islands so please have mercy.