Gillivray is on a rant again. His anger, like an icicle of acid, rotates around his place at the head of the boardroom table. It burns Atkins, to your right, who "apparently forgot to evolve from the apes," then swings mercifully past you, to smite Carter, to your left, who isn't even "up to the level of apes, that antediluvian amoeba!"

Gillivray's attention swings back to the middle to focus on you. So he didn't forget you after all: "And you, Norton, you're a man, by species at least. Which makes your manifold failures all the more despicable! Would you like to know the very definition of a shit-eating grin? Look in a mirror, Norton. Furthermore--"

There is no mirror. But, with an inward glance, at this moment of overwhelming stress, thought twists, buckles. Decades of mental training slough away. You do see something, behind your fixed grin. There's that caustic crystal in your skull: the dire compulsion of the family curse. For the last century, once the curse is activated, where it commands, your family must obey: GO NORTH.

You've been lucky your whole life, but no longer.

The Northnorth Passage

An Interactive Fiction by Snowball Ice


A high-ceilinged cell of pale polished birch. Hanging on either side of the room are portraits of the Walsingham brothers; Robert, with a dot-eyed face that glistens like polished agate, and pale, rough-skinned Alfred, whose eyes in contrast shine like lamps that seep hypnotic poison.

The oval table is crowded with all the senior employees; foam-flecked Gillivray at the head, and moving clockwise, Mockerby, Shardlow, Ferne, Williams, Ford, Atkins, you (Norton), Carter, Patson, Ripon, Goodenough, and Clevars.

A large doorway heads south into main lobby. A small door leads east to a washroom. A smaller back door, to the north, leads outside.