Soon two boats were between Britt and the orcas; men warned her to turn around and return to shore, so she dove under the boats and continued swimming to the largest female –
Who remained resolutely still.
Even as one of the policeman chambered a round and took careful aim.
Evan as Britt swam up to the large female and rested there in the water beside her.
The female turned and looked at the man on the boat pointing at her with the oddly formed stick, and centuries of instinct told her to be very careful now.
Britt swam into her pectoral and was wrapped inside a protective embrace, then one by one the orcas slipped under the surface and were gone.
Firefighters sprayed some kind of foam on the water; others sprayed water on the grass, halting the fire’s spread – for the time being, anyway.
But now Henry noticed that the wind was so hot, and so strong, that the hot rain had simply stopped. Evaporated – before the water made it back to the earth’s fulsome embrace? Was that what the future held? Wasn’t that the route Venus had taken on her way to the runaway greenhouse that defined the planet’s atmosphere now?
But…why here, and why now? Wasn’t something like this supposed to be decades away – if it ever happened at all? What had changed?
With his back to the wind he looked up at the sky.
Yes. Two of them were up there, two wildly spinning orbs so easily mistaken for bright stars.
‘Have you given up on us?’ he asked the sky. ‘Did we disappoint you so deeply?’
Two more orbs joined the first two – but Henry could see no sign of Pinky.
But worse still, they were all simply ignoring him. Or at least they seemed to be…
Another shattering explosion from the port and the sky turned red; roiling black clouds twisted and climbed into the night, their twisting red bellies full of embers just waiting to fall back to earth.
Eva woke to the sounds of a furious commotion out on the water, so she went to the balcony to see what was happening. Little red boats a few yards off the rocks were turning in frantic circles in the night, while a helicopter fluttered overhead, a white hot spotlight pointing down into the sea, and there were hundreds of people on the rocks lining the shore. These people were pointing and seemed agitated – but what about?
“Britt? Have you seen this? When did it start?”
Then the silence of no reply hit her. Icy fear reached out into the night, grabbed her by the gut.
A discarded robe in Britt’s bedroom; her running shoes gone. An impossible chain of events unspooled in her mind’s eye.
She closed her eyes and reached out for Henry.
‘What’s happened?’ he said.
‘Britt has returned to the sea, there are police looking for her in boats and helicopters.’
Then…Pinky’s spinning orb was there beside Henry…
‘She is with me,’ she sighed. ‘Do not worry.’
‘Pinky?’ Henry almost screamed. ‘Where have you been?’
‘There are many difficulties I must attend to now, Henry.’
‘And Britt is with you? This is supposed to put me at ease?’
‘They will not hurt me,’ Britt said.
‘And they won’t hurt Pinky – as long as you’re there with her,’ he thought – but as with all such unfiltered thoughts, off it went, reeling away into the infinite.
‘They will not hurt us, Henry.’
His mind filled with images of orcas and babies coming into the world and he tried not to jump to unwarranted conclusions. ‘Pinky, do you know what you’re doing?’
‘Of course. How is the storm?’
‘Be careful, Henry. The others know what has happened, so I do not think they will help you again.’
‘I’ve figured that out already. Where’s Eva?’
‘She will be here soon.’
Henry tried to clear his mind. ‘Alright. You be careful too.’ He could just make out the faintest contours of her smile, then she was gone – leaving him to worry about Dinky and the others. Were factions forming? Were The Others split by unseen differences? If so, dare he even consider trying to meddle in their affairs?
“No,” he said aloud.
“What?” Dina asked, still treating the injuries of one of the people pulled from the canal.
“Oh…nothing. I was just thinking…”
“Henry,” Rolf called out from the tow path – now pointing towards Brugge, “look at the fire!”
Henry turned, watched helplessly as another cluster of medieval buildings disappeared behind another gout of towering red flames – even as fire services tried to quench this latest rampage. “Why does if feel like our history is being devoured?” he muttered.
“Maybe because we are tired of this past,” Dina replied wearily, wiping away sweat and soot from her forehead. “Maybe we have grown tired of hauling around all these ancient ideas. Or maybe we simply always lust for the new and are ready to burn away our past when the weight of her burdens become too much.”
Henry shook his head. “Like reinventing the wheel or squirrels in a cage running round and round. We’re going nowhere, fast.”
“I need more gauze pads. Do you know where they are?”
Henry nodded and went below – and he found Dinky waiting for him.
He was a pale blue version of Pinky, only taller, so he found Dinky sprawled out on the sofa in a futile effort to fit into the cramped space.
“Well, long time no see,” Taggart said – a little too sarcastically. “To whom do we owe this pleasure?”
Dinky ignored the jab. “We will be leaving soon…”
“And what? You won’t be coming back?”
“No, we will not.”
“And Pinky? Will she be going, too?”
“No, she will not.”
Henry tried to digest that one, but he found the idea unsettling. “Okay. What else are you not telling me?”
“Eva and Britt. They will be going with us.”
“And they will not return to this place.”
“You can’t do that.”
“We must. And you know this must be.”
Henry looked away, but even so he nodded understanding – Pinky was trying to stop this from happening. “Why so fast?”
“We do not understand the process,” Dinky said, and Taggart could feel the creatures apparent confusion.
“When will you leave?”
“Very soon. We will be gone within days. Nothing of our presence will remain.”
“Aside from Pinky, you mean.”
Dinky just looked at Henry, as if his silence alone could explain the lingering ambivalence he felt.
“Will you remain closed off to me?” Henry added.
“No. But there will be little I can do to assist you.”
“So…alone again, naturally.”
Dinky shook his head. “Such a sad song. Why do you still like it so?”
“You never cease to amaze, Dink. Is there anything about me you don’t know?”
“I will miss you, Henry, if that’s what you mean. I will miss our talks on the beach most of all, but perhaps they didn’t mean all that much to you.”
“Perhaps,” Henry sighed, looking at his old friend. “Anyway, I’ll miss you, as well.”
“Britt is with us now. Eva will be soon, but please don’t interfere.”
Henry hadn’t expected this power play, yet he’d never really thought they’d actually try something so overtly disruptive, let alone put such a plan into effect. Still, he shook his head before he spoke: “This is a mistake, and you know it. Why?”
“Perhaps someday you will understand.”
“I’m thinking about Dina and Rolf. They’ll never understand.”
Dinky sighed. “Yes, that is true, yet it must be.”
“Will they be closed to me?”
“For a while. We will allow the boy a certain amount of contact after that.”
“His name is Rolf, and you will be hurting him terribly.”
“It is regrettable.”
“Regrettable?” Henry sighed. “My coming into their lives will be the darkest moment of his life. You’ll undo everything I’ve tried to build.”
“You know, the shittiest thing I ever did was to teach you the fine art of playing poker.”
“That depends on your point of view, Henry Taggart.” Dinky smiled a little, his deep blue eyes twinkling in the cabin-light. “Again, my friend, I will miss you.”
And with that he was gone, leaving Henry dazed and confused. “Gauze pads. I came down for supplies, for Dina. What do I tell her? How do I…?”
He heard another cannon-shot crack as thunder and lightning erupted from the storm in the same instant, then Dina was screaming and running from the boat…
He ran topsides and saw Dina running in circles, screaming, while Mike and Anton appeared to be searching for…
“Rolf,” he whispered. “Where’s Rolf?”
But he already knew the answer to that, didn’t he. Dink had turned out to be a master at the bluff after all. But…who had taken him? He didn’t know, and that bothered him. He walked over to Dina, intent on explaining what he knew – until he saw the anger in her eyes.
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop soon.