Come Alive (21.8)

Chapter 21.8

She saw him falling, but he was still too far away – she was concentrating on his head and the way it bounced off an exposed tree root – and she winced as she watched his head bounce.

She was by his side within moments, feeling for a carotid pulse. Checking his neck, then pupil responsiveness. Getting him onto his left side, putting her jacket under his head while she watched his breathing

Then Anton was there by her side, though clearly now more confused than ever. “Where is boy?” he asked in his heavily accented English.

But she was looking past the burly Russian, looking for Mike – and she spotted him running off the boat with her ‘go-bag’ – which contained everything she might need to treat Henry in a crisis just like this – and he was by her side in seconds. She opened the bag and handed Mike a pack of alcohol swabs while she asked him to clean up the skin around his port. She took out an IV bag and handed this to Anton, and she told him to, above all else, hold it above Henry’s head. She hooked the line to the port and then set the flow-rate, checking his heart rate from time to time while the fluid stabilized his electrolytes.

“Okay, let’s get him to the boat,” she said after a few minutes, and both Anton and Mike helped lift and start to carry Henry back to Time Bandits.

Only now there was a small band of thugs on deck, and it appeared that several had already been below – ransacking the interior by the looks of things scattered around the deck.

“We need to get this man below,” she said to one of the man-boys standing by the gate in the lifelines.

“Mange moi, beetch!” he replied as two other hoods came over to join their leader. “Dees ees my boat now, so fuck off!”

Taggart’s eyes flickered a little, but they did not open…


He was sprawled out on the white road, staring up at the ringed blue planet as his fingers clawed into the fine sandy soil…

“Why…why am I here again – now?”

He pushed himself up to a sitting position and looked around, fighting off nausea and disorientation as he looked around these now almost familiar surroundings. 

‘Yes, there they are. The shadows. The shadows and that brilliant white place in the forest…’

He heard cries in the air now, almost like birds but more like feral cats…weird, screeching calls – that seemed to be reacting to his return to this place.

Then one of the shadows was over him, holding him fast to the sandy dirt, yet as he looked through the spectral form he saw that this shadow had substance. 

Almost humanoid, yet the skin was an iridescent matrix of textures that might have been scales, possibly even feathers, and while the creature within at first seemed more or less androgynous he began to make out a startling pinkness to the iridescent shimmer along the edges of the creatures’ scales/feathers.

“Pinky?” he asked as he looked the creature in the eyes.

The creature reached inside his mind: “Yes.”

“Is this you? What you really look like?”

“There is trouble. I feel I must intervene, but to do so I must use your form once again.”

“Okay – what’s the problem?”

“There is great danger to you if I do. You may not survive, Henry.”

“I understand,” he said as she sent images spiraling into his mind, images of thugs and of a terrified Dina. “We must do what we can do.”

“I will do what I can for you after, but it may not be enough. I wanted you to be prepared for what may happen.”

He reached up and put his hand on the side of her face – but then she seemed to physically swoon from his touch, rocking from side to side and the iridescent edges of her scales/feathers began pulsing brightly in concert with the movements of his fingers. Her androgyny melted into pure femininity and what he felt was unmistakable; he took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. “I understand, my friend. Let’s go…”


Dina was by his side again. He was resting on the bench, his breathing ragged, his flesh a waxy-sallowed sheen when the change began.

Muscles redefined before her eyes, the pinkish aura began pouring from his skin again.

Anton shook his head: “This too fucking weird,” he muttered as Mike stepped back and Dina placed her fingertips on Henry’s carotids. Moments later Henry was sitting up and looking at the rag-tag assortment of trash on his boat.

“Take this thing out of my chest,” he said to Dina, his voice now an odd, almost synthetic version of the original. She struggled to remove the line even as Henry stood and began walking towards Time Bandits…

One of the thugs pointed at Henry as he approached and the leader returned to the gate in the lifelines, this time pulling a small pistol from his coat pocket, letting it dangle by his side as Henry came close.

“Leave now,” Henry said, “and I will allow you to live. Remain here and you will cease to exist.”

The leader was staring at the vibrant pink aura radiating from the few visible patches of Henry’s flesh, almost mesmerized by the sight – until Henry’s words registered – then the pistol began swinging up until the barrel was leveled at Henry’s face…

Dina saw the boy’s finger contracting on the trigger in slow motion, then primer detonation followed by a bright flash of light, then the pistol simply disappeared – and with it half of the boy’s right hand.

Henry raised his right hand and made as if to squeeze the air in front of his face – and in a mirror reaction the boy’s body began to implode in agonizing horror, his shattered body falling to the deck in sundered stillness. One of the other thugs took out a killing knife and dashed for Henry, raising the blade as he came: Henry raised a finger and lifted this assailant a hundred meters into the air, then slamming this body down onto the ancient stone tow-path – with gruesome results.

“Leave – now, and you will live,” this Henry said quietly to the remaining boarders, and no one doubted the wisdom of fleeing when they heard this last warning. “Leave everything,” he added, but one of the thugs kicked Clyde as he started to leave and Henry responded by sending this boy into the upper reaches of earth’s atmosphere, leaving the remains to burn-up on re-entry. He walked over to Clyde and placed his hand on the pup’s ribs, sending radiative warmth into the bruising bones, then Henry collapsed onto the deck beside Clyde…his eyes wide and his body now very still. Vast pink tendrils wrapped him inside a cocoon of swimming light as Dina rushed to his side…


He opened his eyes, looked up into Pinky’s.

“You know, for a benign alien you sure have a helluva a mean-streak.”

“I could not bear to watch them hurt you and your friends.”


“I am no longer an impartial observer, Henry Taggart. I have feelings for you I can no longer deny.”

“Feelings? What do you mean – like love?”

“I have known of this word, but the meaning was never clear to me until you reached out to me.”

“And now you understand?”

“I think so.”

“I see.”

“Does this trouble you?”

“No, not at all.”

“I know you can not love me,” she said quietly. “You do not know me. But perhaps one day this will change.”

“That is the nature of love.”

She felt urgent cries reach her and looked at Henry once again: “You must return now. Be strong, and know that I will be there with you.”

He nodded as pain washed through his body, then overwhelming weakness came for him…


Dina was kneeling over his inert body, hooking up the IV to the port once again then injecting adrenaline; she took her light and checked his pupils and shook his head.

“What do you need?” Mike asked.

“Bring a mattress up here, would you? I’m afraid to move him now.”


“Where is boy?” Anton asked – again, and Dina simply shook her head.

“I have no idea, but I suspect Henry knows…”

“What is going on here?” Anton sighed.

“You need to talk to Henry…”

Mike asked Anton for help getting a mattress set up on one of the cockpit seats, then they moved Henry, hanging the IV bag from the cockpit enclosure in the process…and a moment later Rolf reappeared in a blinding flash – sending Anton into another stumbling back-flip over the rail and into the canal…

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop soon.

Recommended side trip: Foo Fighters 2008

Come Alive (21.7)

(update: I won’t go into details (boring, to say the least), but the last week or so has not been fun. Worse, my left eye is once again totally out of commission so typing has slowed to a crawl. I seem to be, as well, crawling from one physician’s appointment to the next, but at least one of them is offering me a C19 vaccine next week – so hallelujah! Come Alive has dominated recent output, but as soon as Chapter 21 concludes my next efforts will swing back to the Eighty-eighth Key, because Harry’s story is far from over. Two chapters should close out 88, so CA ought to wrap up in short order after that. Still, I’m assuming progress is going to be slow. After CA wraps, I feel it’s time to return to my “cop” novel – which at 1500 pages already written ought to be considered finished. Yet…I’m going back to page one, aiming for a total rewrite and an attempt at publication – so I may post a chapter here and there but not the entire work. Other short stories will be posted, including revisions to existing works, while work on the novel rolls along. Anyway, fingers crossed here…that is the plan…)

Food for thought: The Raven That Refused to Sing

Chapter 21.7

Rolf was aft now, down on the swim platform helping a thoroughly flummoxed Anton back onboard, while both Mike and Dina stood, transfixed, after ‘Pinky’ merged with Henry. Moments later Anton and Rolf were back in the cockpit, Rolf’s face an open book full of questions, Anton’s a vivid mix of confusion and paranoid fury.

“What the fuck is this shit?” the Russian aviator bellowed, pointing at the shimmering amber-pink aura pouring out of Taggart’s every pore – and by this point even a few passersby on the canal tow-path were stopping – and gaping – at the spectacle.

“Be quiet!” Dina snarled. “Don’t interfere – don’t say another word!”

Anton took the towel Rolf handed him and shook some stray water from his ears, all the while never taking his eyes off Henry Taggart – until, a few minutes later the swirling sphere emerged from Henry’s face and simply winked out of existence…

…and as suddenly Henry seemed to phase back into the present…

He saw Dina and reached out for her – and she intuited that Henry was now suddenly very unstable and about to pass out. “Mike! Help me!”

Yet it was Anton who reached out for Henry, Anton who caught him as he started to fall, and Anton who helped Henry onto the helmsman’s seat and held him there while Henry caught his breath and regained his bearings.

But even so, everyone could see the change that had come over Henry.

He seemed physically diminished, palpably weaker now, and Dina rushed to his side and began a quick assay of his vitals even as Henry seemed to wilt into her gathering strength. “Rolf, some water, please,” she said to her grandson.

“This is some seriously weird shit,” Anton muttered.

“You got that right,” Henry sighed.

“Henry,” Dina said, sudden concern clear in her voice now, “this must not happen again. Your pulse is now very low and you are as white as a sheet…”

“I didn’t exactly ask her to do this,” he sighed.

“What happened?” Mike asked. “Did she tell you why?”

“I’m not sure. She had a bunch of questions and she’s looking for answers…”

“Did she know how this would effect you?” Dina asked.

“I don’t know. Next time you see her why don’t you ask…?”

“What is this?” Anton asked. “You speak of woman, yet I saw no woman…?”

“Well, she’s a woman alright,” Henry smiled. “And she has an attitude, too.”

“But,” Anton barked, “what is she?”

Mike chimed in now: “She’s not from around here, Anton.”

“No shit she’s not from around here. The question is, does anyone know where this thing is from?”

Mike pointed at the sky, which caused an audible gasp from the startled crowd of onlookers still gathering on the tow-path…

…yet as if on cue a gust of hot wind blew threw the crowd, reminding everyone of the approaching danger, and even Henry sat up and took note of the change in the air.

“Rolf, let’s get the latest weather updates pulled, okay?” Henry said, ignoring the questions written all over Anton’s ruddy face and as he took the bottle of water from Rolf. Henry looked at the compass and then tried to visualize their physical orientation to the English Channel – and he figured they were almost bow-to the north, so tied-off to the west bank of this canal. So, they would be beam-to any gusts that came up the Channel and hit the Belgian coastline.

Not good.

And then fragments of the dream returned. The red skies, the coiling clouds and the rows of medieval buildings burning to ash and cinders…

‘Yes, just like those right over there,’ he said to himself as Rolf bent over the plotter and got to work.

He looked at the lines Rolf had set, and while most were well-placed he could see a few weak zones that would need reinforcing if the winds were truly apocalyptic. Then again, if the storm was packing both extreme heat and wind speeds probably nothing would save them – aside from fleeing to the south.

Pages started appearing on the plotter and he leaned forward, fought through the light-headedness and the pulsing light that rattled his vision; Epsilon’s eye was now in mid-channel, about halfway between Brighton and LeHavre and headed directly for Calais – and just beyond, Bruges. 

And he wondered then… ‘Should I send them away? Get them to the train station and send them to Geneva?’

“What are you thinking, Henry?” Anton asked. 

“It might not be safe here.”

“Da, no kidding. Maybe best we go south?”


“And what about you, Henry?” Dina asked. “You won’t leave, will you?”

Henry shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. There’s something I’ve got to see here.”

“Well,” Anton said quietly, “that is that. We stay, then.”

Henry looked at Rolf, then Dina…

“Don’t you dare say it, Henry Taggart!” Dina hissed before she turned and went below.

Taggart nodded and looked at Rolf: “Get some line, son. We’ve got some work to do…”


The large female was with Eva when she felt the disturbance growing along the shore across the bay. Men were gathering in the water and in the air and in an instant she knew who the men were looking for. She reached out to Eva and passed along images of her concerns…

As Eva processed these warnings she reached out to Henry, but she felt danger gathering all around him and pulled back. Not knowing what else to do, she wondered what would happen if she reached out to one of Them.

And a moment later a pinkish orb appeared in front of her, a fiercely glowing shimmer perhaps a foot beneath the water’s surface. She ducked under the water and almost instinctively placed her hands on the sides of the sphere, and in the next instant she felt Pinky probing the deepest reaches of her mind.

And when she felt traces of Henry in this new place she closed her eyes as his warmth enveloped her.

She turned and looked around, saw that both she and Britt were no longer in the sea. Then she realized she had been holding her breath, so she inhaled – slowly – until she relaxed as fresh air washed through her lungs. 

And then she turned to Britt…

…who was clearly not amused…

“What happened?” Britt cried as she struggled with the idea his new place, then she was screaming: “Where are we?” over and over

Eva went to her, reached into her mind, let her feel Henry all around this place until she too relaxed.

“Do you know where we are?” Britt finally whispered.

“No, but I think Henry does.”

“I don’t know if I can do this anymore, Eva,” Britt said to Eva while clutching frantically at her belly. “I don’t understand what’s happening to us…”

Eva grabbed Britt, pulled her close and told her everything would be fine, but she could feel Britt’s trembling uncertainty. “You have to trust Henry. You know he won’t let anything bad happen to us. Trust him, trust him…”

She felt Henry just then, felt his probing thoughts, then he felt her moving-on to Britt, then Britt growing warm and soft again as his thoughts caressed her…

…and only then did Eva pull back and look at her surroundings…

They were in a tank of some sort; huge, smooth and cylindrical, made of some kind of black resinous material, but one area was full of viewing ports. She focused there, tried to move but found she couldn’t, then realized they were weightless and had nothing to push against.

Then the cylinder began spinning, very slowly at first, until gravity began to assert itself and they both began drifting to what must have been purposed as a floor. Once she felt something solid underfoot, Eva walked over to the viewing ports…

…in the space beyond the ports she saw dozens of glowing orbs moving about some sort of control room, all heedless of her presence – aside from one pinkish orb spinning there just on the other side of the port.

Then she felt Britt standing by her side.

“I’m okay now,” she said.

“I know. How is Henry?”

“Worried. That storm, Epsilon. It’s coming right at them…”


Henry and Rolf stood on the tow-path looking over the web of lines they had wrapped around Time Bandits, hoping they would be enough to secure her to the canal. Both banks were lined with small craft now, and crews were frantically running lines to every available tree or bollard in sight. Henry looked at the mess and shook his head, knowing that if even one or two boats broke loose the end results would be ugly.

“I wonder how my mother is doing?” Rolf asked.

“She’s fine.”

“How do you know that, Henry?”

“Good question.”


Taggart looked around, saw a bench in the shade of an old Linden so he walked over and sat there; not knowing what else to do, Rolf followed and sat beside him.

“Do you think we’ve done all that we can do to secure the boat to the tow-path?” Henry asked.

“I think so…yes.”

“So, your mind can be at ease about that. Is that right?”

“I suppose so.”

“Fair enough. With your mind at ease, can you imagine going to a place where you think of nothing at all?”

“Nothing? No, not really.”

“Close your eyes, Rolf.”


“Concentrate on the blackness you see now, and only on that.”


“Just listen now. Don’t think, don’t even try to answer me. If you feel something strange, just concentrate on the blackness and ignore everything else.”

And just as Winky had shown him once, he reached inside Rolf’s mind until he could feel the uncertainty gathering all around him…

“Listen to the wind in the trees. To the sound of my breathing, to the earth, breathing.”

He could feel Rolf relaxing, letting go.

“Your mother is here, Rolf, in this place, in this darkness. Imagine reaching out for someone in the dark, someone you know is there, only use your mind to reach out, not your hands.”

He felt an image of Britt forming in Rolf’s mind, watched the image resolve and grow.

“There she is. Keep reaching, reaching until she is close enough to hear you…”

He could feel Eva with him now, and then Britt and Pinky were there too – all of them watching Rolf, willing him on.


“I’m here. Come to me, my boy.”

Dozens of wildly spinning orbs were gathered at the viewing ports now, watching this next most important phase of the experiment as it unfolded.

“Where are you?”

“I’m with you, my son. You’ve made it to me and we are together now!”

“How is this so?”

“Take my hand. See? I’m here with you…”

He watched as Rolf reached out for his mother’s hand, then he opened his eyes.

Even before he heard Dina’s screams he knew Rolf was gone, then he took a few deep breaths before he tried to stand. He pushed himself up from the bench, then the earth started spinning wildly and he fell to the ground, grabbing at the earth with his fingers to slow the nauseous gyrations.

He heard them running for him even as the darkness came for him again, then he was under the cool blue light of the vast ringed planet, but this time everything felt different…and very dangerous.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next chapter will drop as and when circumstances allow.

Come Alive (21.6)

Chapter 21.6

Henry Taggart had been the first human to reach out so far.

And ‘Pinky’ had been the first to feel Henry’s tentative probes. The first to feel a human’s thoughts, the first to – in a very real sense – make contact.

His thoughts were anything but focused, but they were sentient so she took note and followed protocol. Within hours her team was preparing to respond and evaluate this new contact.

Pinky’s people were children of the mind and as such they relied less on physical instrumentalities than their most distant ancestors ever had, and while not strictly speaking immortal their lifespans were by human standards ridiculously long. There had been no discussions of this between humans and Andromedans because there had been no common frame of reference, and for a time Pinky had simply felt the matter irrelevant.

Until now.

Now – after her fusion with Henry Taggart – death was everywhere: an omnipresent awareness locked-up in a tight, hot place somewhere between cold dread and pounding fear. When she felt Taggart’s compounding diseases the first thing she wanted to to do was run – anywhere – to get away from this hostile, unfamiliar feeling.

But as suddenly she had wanted to know how he coexisted with such an intimate cascade of negative emotions, and, because she had been studying humans for several years now, she wanted to reconcile her understanding of human support systems – like religion and medicine – with what she was now experiencing for herself – through Henry.

‘This is terrifying,’ she said to Henry as she settled in next to him.

‘You’re telling me. Now I know what schizophrenia feels like.’

‘Death is everywhere. How do you not think about it all the time?’

‘Oh, I think we do, especially as we get older. Probably ninety percent of the time, anyway. But whenever we’re not thinking about death we’re thinking about getting laid.’

‘So…you think of death – or procreation?’

‘Yup, pretty much. So, how long do y’all live?’

‘That is a question, Henry Taggart, for which I have no easy answers.’

‘Okay, but I’m curious. Why now?’

‘Do you mean why have I come to you now – in this way?’

‘Yeah, I think that about sums it up.’

‘Your systems are failing rapidly. We need to know more about this process.’

‘You asking about me, or about civilization in general?”


‘So, you’re asking me about death and dying? Why?’

‘Because we do not understand how this process affects you.’

‘Most directly, I think I can safely say.’

‘But…where do you go?’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Where do your thoughts go – after?’

‘I don’t understand. Our thoughts don’t go anywhere, because when we die we stop thinking.’

He could feel her puzzlement, an almost paralyzed sense of incomprehension as she stumbled in the dark for the truth of the matter: ‘What do you mean…you stop?’

‘I mean when our bodies stop functioning everything ceases. Including thoughts and feelings.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘No, of course not. As far as I know, no one really understands what happens after we die – beyond the very certain biological processes of decay which begin at that time.’

‘So much uncertainty. It is no wonder your kind is consumed with matters concerning spirituality and an afterlife.’

‘Your kind is not, I take it?’

‘No, we are focused on other things.’

‘What about getting…uh, procreation?’

‘The process is known to us.’

‘You are evasive, I’ll give you that much. But why? Why conceal so much from us?’

‘I think it is simply a question of frames of reference.’

‘So, you think I can’t understand. Is that your frame of reference?’

‘In a way, yes. What is that noise you have been making today?’


‘Yes, almost melodic, but it almost seems to come from deep inside your body.’

‘Ah. Humming. As in humming a musical tune.’

‘How does this differ from singing?’

‘Humming is more of an approximation of the original…’

‘Is this approximation subliminal?’

‘I suppose it could be. What are you getting at?’

‘Is it possible the source could be external?’

‘External? You mean like sent from someone else?’

‘Yes. Is that possible?’

‘I don’t think so. At least, not in any way I know of.’

‘This is strange. When humans gather and listen to music many tend to become one with the structures within the music, and it is here that we have experienced many encounters recently.’

‘Encounters? You mean, as in reaching out?’


‘So, you think it is people changing, or something within the structure of the music?’

‘We are uncertain.”

“I see,’ Taggart said knowingly. ‘And so you think you have discovered something…’

‘Yes, Henry. Something new, but also something quite unexpected.’


He saw the women one morning while out walking his two pups; he watched them walk to the water’s edge and disrobe, then most surprisingly, the two women stepped into the icy water and disappeared. Not at all sure what to do, he grew concerned when they did not reappear after several minutes, so he pulled out his phone and called the rescue services.

Within minutes divers and helicopters were scouring the waters north of Bergen.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next chapter will drop as and when circumstances allow.

Come Alive (21.5)

Chapter 21.5

The sky was red – blood red – everywhere he looked.

Red satanic mills lighting the way ahead, roiling black spires of writhing cloud overhead, and trees on both sides of a blood-soaked canal reduced to glowing embers as, not so far away now, walls of orange flame moved through a row of medieval buildings – those ancient timbers adding their cry to the night.

And then there was the music. 

A dark lament, yet he heard sublime chords weaving new tapestries into and out of the licking flames. Timbers consumed by the roving fires split and burst howling into the night, coming together in the music before lifting away into the night – embers to stars – pitiless onlookers all as they rose from the earth.

First there was the fire and the music – coming together as yellow lightning moved across the charred prairie beyond the canal – then the smoke. Suffocating smoke and gritty remains started falling from the clouds, the soot smothering flames as the tarry remnants of human agony covered the earth and finally lay still…

He was coughing now, coughing and hardly able to breathe, Clyde’s eyes were full of panic as he too coughed and gasped. Then a voice, faraway and cool:

“Take a deep breath…

“That’s it, take another…”

He felt cool plastic around his mouth and nose, could just hear the hiss of oxygen beneath her voice as he opened his eyes…

Two IV bags were hanging from one of the hand-holds on the ceiling and he knew they were connected to the port in his chest. Some sort of glucose solution in one; the other a vampire’s brew of platelets and plasma, and he reached out – feeling his body in this world once again, wondering how much more he could take.

A pulse oximeter on his index finger, a BP cuff on his right arm, and there was Rolf pumping up the cuff as Dina passed along another of the dark arts; she was even now teaching him, training him, and he could see budding interest everywhere the boy’s eyes scanned.

He took a deep breath and the cool oxygen felt good inside his nose – but – ‘What is that I smell? Honeysuckle?’

He looked up through the overhead hatch and could see a Linden tree wrapped in autumnal reds and golds, a coppery-blue sky beyond, and there was a gentle weight on his chest: Clyde – his muzzle resting lightly in the last fading shade of the dream.

The dream?

‘Not Rotterdam. Not even earth – I feel sure of that. But…where were we this time…?”

“Ah, Henry! You are awake!” 

“I’ll have to take your word for it, Dina. And is that a tree I see up there?” Taggart asked, pointing at the Linden. “Because, and this is important, I don’t remember trees growing in the ocean.”

“We are moored outside of Bruges, warped off to several stout trees.”

“The storm. Epsilon, right? Rolf, where is it now?”

“The eye is between Brest and Exeter, almost exactly in the middle of the Channel, but Henry, the surrounding weather is beginning to behave in a most peculiar manner.” 

“Define peculiar?”

“Water temps now over a hundred, winds in the outer bands now in excess of 250 knots…”

Taggart sat up, rubbed his eyes while he tried to get those numbers to make some sort of sense. “Did you say 250 – as in knots?”

“Yes, and the northeast quadrant of the eye wall is over 320 knots.”

“That’s not possible.”

“That’s exactly what Anton said,” Dina added, scowling.

“Anton? Who the hell is Anton?”

“The Russian pilot. Do you not remember all that?”

“Vaguely. Something to do with World War Three, right?”

Dina shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“How are our supplies holding out?” Taggart asked.

“Fine now. We went into town and bought enough to stock a small hospital…”

“And I have more rope, too,” Rolf added. “Right now the storm is tracking a little to the north…”

“What? You mean north, as in towards London?”

“Maybe, yes.”

“So, assuming it…”

“Precisely,” Rolf added. “If it tracks just a little south landfall could occur somewhere along this coast tomorrow morning.”

“Dina, you were saying? What about supplies for Mike’s burns?”

She nodded, smiling a little once again, if only because even after fifty years she still had to hold her tongue when men, and even boys, talked over her. “We are good now, and we were lucky with food supplies here. Apparently many stores in Brussels are quite bare.”

“Salmon for Clyde?”

“Yes, and very fresh, too.”

“So, how bad is it out there?”

She nodded. “Better that expected. People still using cash and electronic money equally well. ATMs seemed to have enough cash on hand, too.”

“How’s our fuel, Rolf?”

“We beat the rush into Zeebrugge last night and we have full tanks now, plus the four five-gallon jugs still in the garage.”

“What do you need help with?”

“Nothing, really. Like I said, I have extra rope ready to deploy if needed.”

Henry smiled and nodded, then Clyde looked at him and sighed. “And what do you need, Amigo? Besides some fresh salmon?”


“Any good bushes around here?” he asked, looking to Dina.

“He just went, Henry,” Dina sighed.

“And how are you doing?” he asked – finally engaging her eyes.

“I’m scared – and a little lonely.”

“Understandable. Not many people had a ringside seat at armageddon and managed to survive the night to talk about it.”

She slipped onto the berth and under his arm, pushing Clyde out of the way as she rested the side of her face on Henry’s chest, listening to his breathing and his beating heart in a decidedly non-clinical way, and feeling now more than anything just happy that he was still here. And Rolf had the good sense to get up and leave them alone, too.

“I have never been so frightened in my life,” she sighed, suddenly trembling as memories of their night came back to her. “The wind has been out of the west ever since, so fallout is spreading inland; there are reports it is very bad near Hamburg and Berlin, Copenhagen also.”

“What about us?”

“I suspect low level radiation exposure for all of us, but I have no idea how much that Russian was exposed to.”

He heard the venom in her voice and tried to ignore it – for now. “You think there are food shortages?”

“Yes, but this is to be expected. Aid convoys from the United States are being loaded now and should be here early next week, and the Chinese have been flying in field hospitals and medical supplies.”

“How did the boy take it?”

“Better than I expected, Henry. In fact, he seemed most concerned that he get things done in a way that you would approve. Dedicated, I think, is the word that comes to mind…”

“For a teenager that’s kind of a miracle, don’t you think?”

She shrugged. “Perhaps, but he has seen what the Time Bandits are capable of, and I think he appreciates what they mean to our future.”

“I wonder how much damage radiation did to her hull?”

“The stern took the worst of it, but the mast, too…”

“Yup, probably a new mast and, well, a couple of new sails are a given, but stripping off the gelcoat to see how deep the damage goes inside the hull…you’ll need to do that next spring, by the way…so that will be your number one priority. I’m in the process of writing it all out, by the way.”

“Good. Have you been getting hungry at all?”

“No, not really.”

“How about some soup?”


“I have bread in the oven now, too.”

“I know – I think that’s what woke me up. Best smell in the world, isn’t it?”

She smiled. “That…and a strong brew of coffee. Together those create a magic all their own.”

“Yeah. We have our flaws, but we manage to pull a few rabbits out of our hats every now and then, too.”

“Are you worried about…them?”

“Them? No, not really. What’s done is done, at least as far as they are concerned.”

“And what about Eva, and Britt? What is happening to them?”

“You probably shouldn’t worry too much about them, Dina…”

She seemed taken aback by that, and sat up – her eyes flaring in anger; “That is the most terrifying thing you have ever said to me, Henry. Just what am I supposed to make of a statement like that.”

“I understand.”

“Indeed? Do you really?”

“Of course, but the truth of the matter is I trust – them – a lot more than you do.”

“They could be…”

“Not harmed. Not ever. In fact, they are safer now than they’ve ever been.”

“I see. Will I see my daughter again?”

He nodded. “As soon as we get to Paris you will go pick her up.”

“What?! You mean, I will be leaving you again?”

“Just for a few hours – and because you are the only one here who knows where to look.”

“Look? Look…where?”

He sat up, coughing now as fluids pushed against his lungs – then an arrhythmia shook his heart and he closed his eyes until it too passed – then he took a couple of deep breaths and tried to concentrate.

“I must find an aircraft, one that the Russian knows how to fly, and you must go to Bergen. I will write down what you need to do, who you need to see once you get there…”

“The Russian? You trust this man?”

Henry shrugged: “Everything seems to be happening for a reason right now, Dina. Please try to remember that every time you find yourself confronting the new and the unknown.”

Yet even as he spoke those words he could feel Eva probing his thoughts, then Britt was there too. He closed his eyes and felt them coiling around his thoughts, smiling as he basked in their warmth. Reaching out now, he could feel the warm water, almost feel the rough skin as orcas slid alongside the girls…

Then a gust of hot wind slammed into Time Bandits, knocking her into the muddy banks of the canal. He heard Rolf running up the companionway, then he was talking to Mike, deciding what needed to be done as Epsilon’s steamy tendrils started to reach out for them.

‘Was that a dream?’ he wondered. Or would this storm bring red skies and burning timbers to the coming night?

He tried to sit up – but couldn’t – and the feeling of helplessness that came next only made him angrier.

He took several deep breaths and willed himself to stand – and Dina was right there with him, removing the IVs from the port and swabbing his chest with alcohol.

“Do you want to go topsides?” she asked.

He nodded and held onto her as she led him up the companionway steps into the cockpit – and the change was so startling it left him feeling even more breathless.

Time Bandits was no longer a creature of the open sea; here she was, now – bound to the earth in places, to trees in others, and in a canal perhaps 20 meters wide – surrounded by trees and medieval buildings…in short, all the ingredients to make his last dream come true.

He turned and looked up at the sky and the old Russian was by his side in an instant.

“Sky not look right,” the old bear grumbled. “Too hot. No clouds.”

Taggart nodded. “Do you know how to fly any business jets?”

“737 smallest thing I fly long time.”

“I need you to go up to Bergen, get some people and bring them to France.”

“Okay, can do.”

“Rolf? Pull up the Metars page, would you?”

The weather page filled the plotter’s display and Henry bent over and scanned the isobars over the Channel. “Okay, hit the 24 hour forecast.”

The page froze and an error message popped up.

“Try backing out to the main page again…”

Dina saw it first, and she gasped before she jumped back and away.

A swirling pink sphere not a half-meter in diameter was up by the masthead, and when Henry stopped talking and looked up Pinky fell quickly and stopped right in front of his face. This was of course Anton’s first meeting and he back-peddled with flailing arms until he launched into a sputtering back-flip, landing in the canal like a small whale…

But then Pinky did something she had never done before.

She slipped inside Henry Taggart – until her soul rested beside his.


© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next chapter will drop as and when circumstances allow.

[a wee update: words like pulmonary thrombosis and pericardial effusion entered my lexicon this past week, two liters of fluid around the left lung that had to be drained (very un-fun) in the process with more coming up next week; I am ‘out of the woods’ once again and sitting at the iMac, catching up with emails as best I can. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all the love and support.]