We (A. & I) think that we catch a girl in A.’s class cheating and plagiarizing. It was something off-hand like a comment or a note scribbled on the side of one of her exams. I don’t think much of it when I mention it — the mention comes as a joke almost — but A. takes it very seriously and the next thing anyone knows, the campus security is trying to bring her in for questioning. The girl manages to escape and somehow I am now under scrutiny. I go through hundreds of pages of notes and exams and term papers trying to find the evidence that I (we?) had seen before. A couple of the notes suggest that she might be considering cheating but there is nothing definitive. In fact, most of the comments are about how much she loves the class and how close it ties in with her true academic love — fjords.
Campus security puts the investigation now squarely on my shoulders. They uncover evidence that the girl has fled to the south pole. I go into pursuit, sailing in a fast ship south through the Atlantic to the Antarctic. When we reach the ice shelf, I suit up and set out across the barren, frozen landscape searching for her. And I find nothing but more wind, more ice, more snow, more of that huge empty sky that stretches on infinitely north, always north, nowhere to go but north. After a couple days of this I start to panic, to give up; the ice is thin beneath me and keeps cracking. I keep slipping underneath that surface. The continent has eroded away and the ocean is freezing beneath. The cracks get larger and I slip into the depths over and over, pulling myself up onto bits of floating ice, half-choked to death on the impossible flavor of frozen brine. All this for some stupid exam cheater? The water starts to turn a red around me as bits of my skin freeze and break off. Finally, the support crew takes pity on me and the submarine emerges just beneath me. They maneuver toward me and I try to squeeze myself through that absurdly small hatch in the top of the vessel, the whole time mumbling (my mouth full of brine) about how all I want is a blanket, a bourbon, and a hot chocolate.