Epsilon’s first band washed over the central Belgian coast a little after 2100 hrs, and this first brush with the storm worried Henry Taggart – and absolutely terrified Dina.
The outside air temperature had been holding steady at 105 degrees Fahrenheit through the early evening when suddenly the barometer dropped and the temperature jumped ten degrees; moments later a 90 knot gust raged over the Brugge region and older trees began snapping and tumbling away in the wind. The sound made by the snapping trees, Anton said, reminded him of distant cannon fire.
Yet Time Bandits hardly budged under the force of this first onslaught. She leaned a bit, perhaps two to three degrees off-plumb, then shrugged-off the impact and stood resolutely upright, and Henry was pleased.
Pinky was secreted below, her massive frame curled up on Henry’s berth in the aft cabin; Dina remained in the galley working on a fresh batch of bread but every now and then she looked in on Pinky to see how she was doing.
After Epsilon’s first band passed a pale blue orb appeared at the top of Time Bandit’s mast; the slowly spinning orb simply fixed itself there, an inert, watchful presence that was simply impossible to ignore. People on nearby boats stared and pointed, yet by now nothing seemed to surprise these people after a day of watching the antics on the American’s boat.
Clyde seemed to be in a little too much pain after the thug’s kick and Henry looked at his urine after each walk to the bushes, but it was still running clear so he resolved to simply keep a watchful eye on the old boy for a few more days – or until they could find an open veterinary clinic.
He looked up at the masthead from time to time, at the baleful eye lingering up there, and at one point he saw stars and moon glow through an opening in the scudding clouds. He could just make out Orion up there, and even the pink glow under the belt was faintly visible – yet the overwhelming mood of the moment was how utterly surreal this bizarre heat made everything feel. It was autumn in northern Europe coming up on 2200 hours and it was now 120 degrees Fahrenheit on deck.
The BBCs 2200 broadcast was rife with vivid images of British seaports along the southern coast all ablaze. Cathedrals from Canterbury to Salisbury had lost their roofs, and there were reports of airports closed after fuel storage facilities ‘cooked off’ as the storm hit. Taggart and Anton looked up at that, if only because the various tank farms in Zeebrugge were less than ten miles away, and Rolf intuitively switched to the weather overlay function when he heard that, and they all gathered around the display to look.
“The next band will hit in less than an hour,” Henry said, “and it won’t let up until the storm moves out of the area. If anyone is still hungry, now’s the time to do something about it…”
He felt Winky probing his mind then and didn’t even try to resist.
‘Is she with you?’
‘Yes. She’s below and quite afraid.’
‘When she moved inside me I resisted, but with her strength I was able to strike out at the intruders.’
‘So…you are saying it was not her actions that resulted in those three deaths, and that they were the result of yours?’
‘I see. I had no idea you’d grown so attached to her.’
‘Nor had I.’
‘I was being sarcastic, Henry.’
‘I know,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t.’
‘She must answer for what she has done.’
‘She didn’t do anything.’
‘I am sorry, but she will not be allowed to hide behind your denials.’
And with that, Winky disappeared. Taggart stood and steadied himself as he grew light-headed, a wave of nausea washing over him, then he went below to check-in on Dina, then Pinky.
“You look pale…” Dina said as he came down the companionway. “Sit down. Let me take your blood pressure.”
He sat and she put a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice down on the table in front of him, then she hooked up the cuff and pumped it up.
“100 over 40. Drink your juice, then go lay down for an hour.”
He nodded. “How’s she doing?”
“Sleeping, as far as I can tell.”
“Sleeping?” Henry asked. “Or simply depressed?”
Dina shrugged. “Beats me. I’ve never treated an angel before.”
“An angel? Dina, are you serious?”
“What would you call her?”
“I don’t know; a species that evolved on a low gravity planet?”
“Oh, Henry, you are such a romantic.”
“What kind of bread are you baking? It smells outrageous!”
“Walnut and black olive. It will be ready in a half hour or so.”
He tossed down his juice then stood, holding onto the table until the light-headedness passed, then he shook his head and walked back to the ten foot tall winged creature asleep on his bunk…
She knew the dream was over yet it felt so good to simply sleep…
Eva sat up in the darkness expecting to feel the harsh contours of the tank, but groping around she felt a mattress underneath and then something that seemed to imply she had returned to normal gravity. She swung her legs out of bed and felt carpet underfoot and knew she was back in Britt’s house, so she walked to the kitchen and found the light switch, then she found a clean glass and filled it with water.
And there was Britt on the sofa in the living room, apparently wide awake and staring out the windows that overlooked the bay. She filled a second glass and went to the sofa…
“Here. Drink this.”
But Britt appeared to be in some sort of trance-like state. Britt was rigid, quiet, and unresponsive, so Eva looked out the window too.
The female orcas were out there, not a hundred meters away from what she could tell, and they were perfectly still, too. Shaking her head, her thoughts reached out for Henry – yet she was shocked to find her way blocked. She’d not experienced this before, and she wondered what it meant.
As he lay down on the bed her eyes opened, then she smiled.
And as soon he looked into her eyes he smiled too – because he’d never felt anything quite like what he was feeling inside that moment. It was reminiscent of the first time he’d looked at a girl back in grade school and felt a funny stirring in the pit of his belly – a funny, timeless stirring both within and beyond the moment. Yet different.
Her eyes were larger than his, but otherwise her face was in proportion almost human. Still, her eyes were silver-gray and flecked with specks of pinkish amber; the skin on her face was silver-gray too, and almost pinkishly iridescent. Yet almost everything else he saw was covered in whitish feathers; white with amber roots and faintly pink ends.
Then she folded one of her wings over the bed, covering his entire body – and affording an unusual layer of privacy. Then she pulled him closer, her eyes taking on an almost laser-like intensity, and whatever else it might have been all he could feel was an overwhelming wave of love washing over him.
“What is this?” he whispered.
“My feelings for you, Henry Taggart. This is what it feels like when you reach for me, and it is now for you as it has been for me – from the beginning.” Her hand came up and caressed the side of his face, and when her skin touched his another overwhelming wave of love crashed over him. “Do you feel how it is for me now?”
She was, he decided then and there, something like love-heroin. Her feelings, her touch, the look in her eyes. Could he live without these feelings?
He instantly doubted he could.
“What would be the point?” he said to the universe.
“What do you mean?”
“What would be the point of life without you?”
The smile in her eyes left him breathless and he felt himself drifting away into timelessness.
Then Rolf was reaching into his mind –
‘Henry? We need you up here. Can you come now?’
Then Eva was there –
‘I couldn’t reach you. What happened?’
She cupped his face in her hands and strength poured into his parched body, then she nodded. “Go to them. There will be time for us.”
“I’m not sure I can now…”
“Yet you must, for you are their strength now, and this is your time.”
She then placed a hand on his chest and warmth poured into him, and with the warmth a kind of strength. He inhaled deeply and seemed to grow into the moment…
When he stood this time there was no light-headedness, only resolve to get through the growing storm, but when he turned to thank her she was gone.
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop soon.
Music Matters: I mention Steven Wilson here from time to time as I’ve found his work to be, well, somewhat meaningful (to me). Anyway, new works these days are few and far between but Wilson released a new album last Friday (29 Jan ’21) and there are a few tracks worth a listen to. The album is called The Future Bites, and the title was born of what I can only call a deep existential despair; apparently sometime in 2017 (ahem, cough-cough) Wilson kind of came to the conclusion that the future doesn’t necessarily have to be all bright and shiny and full of warm fuzzies. The future can be full of dark nasty things that go bump in the night (think: “Iceberg, dead ahead…!”), and The Future Bites is full of all kinds of twisted irony. My choice to share with you this week is Man Of The People, and ode to orange haired tyrants everywhere. Enjoy.