For some reason Judy Garland was the first thing he thought of. Dorothy and Toto, running for home as that writhing black twister came for them out of the clouds. And the really scary thing about that moment caught in the flickering light? Dorothy’s celluloid storm wasn’t an abstract weather formation, it was a living beast full of malicious intent – and that too ran through Henry Taggart’s mind as he stared at the writhing black snakes coming up the canal.
“Get below. Now,” he growled as the snakes’ menacing hiss became apparent.
No one argued, and Dina led the way down.
“Where’s Clyde?” he called out.
“He’s not down here!” Rolf answered from the galley, then Henry heard the boy running up the companionway.
Yet Henry was already off the boat and running for Clyde’s tree by the time Rolf was back on deck, and he saw the pup squatting and doing the deed right in the middle of the tow path as he ran up.
“Way to go, butthead!” Henry said, leaning over to rub the pup’s ears.
Rolf ran up – carrying Clyde’s leash – and he snapped it on. “Sorry. I forgot the poop-bags…”
Henry laughed at that – hard and loud. “Yeah? Me too. Time to beat feet,” he said, scooping up Clyde and dashing back to the boat.
“You were so weak earlier today,” Rolf said. “How are you doing this?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with a tornado crawling up our ass…”
“Ah yes, I see.”
Which made Henry laugh again, even as they climbed on board and hopped into the cockpit. “You go first and I’ll hand him down to you.” And after he passed Clyde down through the hatch he went to the helm and looked at the display one more time before he powered everything down; the storm’s eye was visible on the radar now – though still just offshore, but it was headed their way and he wondered what that might lead to…
Then he made his way down the companionway steps and into the galley just as a colossal gust tore through the boats moored in the canal. He heard a few shrieks and screams, then people struggling with boats that had come undone; he heard what sounded like a high-pitched freight train coming close and that reality pushed everything else from his mind. Looking through trees and houses, he saw the twister scything its way through boats moored a few hundred feet aft of Time Bandits, followed by more screams and several small explosions as bottled propane tanks ruptured and ignited. He ran up the steps and into the night, Rolf and Anton right behind him…
Then an overwhelming wall of scalding rain hit, and the pain was shattering…
She could hardly stand it.
The orcas were still out there, still motionless, still silent in the night – yet – she could sense they were calling out to her. Reaching. Reaching out to her. For her.
Then…puzzlement? Why wasn’t she answering?
Can she not hear us?
Yet no matter what she did, what she tried, she couldn’t make the connection.
She looked at Eva – still sleeping on the sofa, cut-off from her frustration, her fear a dissolute reminder of that other life. That life before all this happened. Life before Henry Taggart came into their lives. Her life. And now something was growing inside her womb. Something – human? Or…?
She stood and cinched up her bathrobe, then walked out onto the balcony.
And still they looked at her.
She went back inside and put on her clothes then walked down to the water’s edge – oblivious to the world around her. Heedless of the several biologists gathered on the rocks monitoring the orcas, or of the harbor police still in their boats searching for two missing swimmers. Now everyone was gathered, watching this woman swim out to the orcas.
Curious. Unsure what they were witnessing.
“That’s Dr Bauer,” one of the police officers said over the radio net. “She hasn’t been seen at the clinic for days…!”
“Those are wild orcas,” one of the biologists yelled into her radio. “They’ll kill her!”
Police jumped into their Zodiacs and rushed across the water, men gathered on bow platforms with heavy rifles at the ready. The inherent confusion of adrenaline and testosterone taking on a certain mindless momentum all too familiar to her.
She was overhead now, looking down at the all the pieces moving on the board, moving to take the White Queen.
Would they listen to her now?
Their foul weather coats offered some protection – but not to the people fleeing the carnage as several tornados tore through the boats lining the canal – and the result were predictably catastrophic. Anton collected a pregnant woman and tossed her across his shoulders, then sprinted back to Dina – waiting on Time Bandits to take care of the injured; Mike dove into the canal and plucked two drowning children from the inky water – just before fuel arrived on the flooding tide. He passed them up to Rolf, then he carried more injured back to Dina.
Henry was first to smell the fuel arriving on the tide, and at the same time he saw flames spreading inland from the port area, heading for Brugge, heading for their stretch of the canal. It was, he figured, only a matter of minutes before the fuel ignited, turning the canal into a miles long inferno…like a torch in the night…and he thought of a certain boatman ferrying lost souls across the Styx in another endless night.
Then some sort of environmental protection vessel appeared, stringing booms across the canal, booms meant to arrest the flow of contaminated water into the ancient city, then several brigades of fire services arrived – apparently setting up some kind of fire line here on the western edge of the city. Would it be enough, Henry wondered?
Then Epsilon hit in all her fury.
Scorching winds blasted through the region, winds so hot they literally fried everything they touched. “Get down!” Dina yelled. “Cover your face!”
Trees ignited. An ancient row of medieval townhouses went next, and Henry knew then that his nightmare had been a window to the future – and he wondered what that meant.
The grass along both sides of the canal withered under the onslaught, then sparks began raining down from the sky, and as Henry looked on helplessly the water in the canal turned to fire.
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop soon.