Then I met the penguin.
I’d just awakened from a long, mid-afternoon nap. A sliver of blinding sunlight sliced into my cocoon; groggy, I stumbled to the window. At least in winter, a pall of blackness covered the continent, or so I’d heard. This time of year, though, visibility was so good I could see for miles across the ice shelf. With nothing to help gauge distance, perspective collapsed. I could reach out and touch it all. Only there was nothing to touch—just the emptiness of white spaces. Snow and ice and frosty mountain peaks, vacant sea and sky. It was all so much nothing. I rubbed my face, then reached to draw the curtains.
And that’s when I saw him. An emperor penguin, probably three-and-a-half or four feet tall. I squinted against the light. He stared in at me, unmoving.