So, into the fire and into the fight we go.
[Genesis \\ Dance on a Volcano]
Barnacle Bill and the Night of Sighs
The Second Part of the Tale
There’s hardly anything better than waking at first light in a marina, and by that I of course mean first light on a sailboat. With coffee in hand you stub a toe at least twice on your way up the companionway to sit in the cockpit, and when you finally manage to sit, after rubbing your bruised and contused toe for a minute, you realize you’ve forgotten to wipe the morning dew from your sopping wet cockpit seats. And just about then your dog comes traipsing up the companionway steps, farting all the way – because this is his way of letting you know that just because you’ve done your morning business he hasn’t, not yet, and he’s ready – now. This means you put your coffee on the cockpit table and find your shoes and his leash then you hop down to the dock and water ski along behind your dog as he pulls you like a horse pulls a plow up to a patch of grass where he can squat and drop.
And by the time you return to your boat and climb back up into the cockpit, you invariably find that your coffee is now either ice old or that a passing seagull has used your favorite mug for dive-bombing practice. So off come the shoes and it’s back down the companionway to the galley, stubbing the same toe along the way, to wash and refill your mug. By the time you finally manage to sit several toes are now bleeding stumps and the last thing on your mind is coffee, yet somehow you manage to sit and enjoy what’s left of the moment. The mongrel who sleeps beside you settles in and sighs contentedly and for a few seconds you remember why you fell for this dream in the first place. Oh well, shit happens. Right?
But wait! That ever-growing to-do list beckons and the first five items absolutely have to be knocked-out today, so it’s down to the shower and then into some clean clothes we go and hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go…up to the car and into the fight…
But Max came with me that morning. It was his day to be washed and dried and to get his hair cut, so we hopped down and had just started up to the parking lot when Barnacle Bill – aka Patrick – came dragging along behind, and one look told me all I needed to know. The man was in pain and he needed help.
“You okay, Pat?” I asked, and this was met with a grimace and the slightest shake of the head you could imagine.
“No,” he hissed through gritted teeth, “I may need a hand this morning.”
And Max’s response was priceless. He sauntered over and leaned into Pat, in effect giving the Old Man something to lean on, and I came up along his free side and offered my arm, and between us we helped him up to my car, an ancient Chevy Blazer almost as old as I was. Max hopped in back and I helped Pat up into the passenger seat, and when he asked me to drive him over to the ER I knew we were in for a long morning.
But the woman I’d seen walking to and from Haiku was there waiting for us, and she took Patrick from me and escorted him inside.
“Thanks,” he said as the two of them walked inside. “So sorry to trouble you.”
And that was that.
Max and I weren’t even late for his day at the puppy spa, or whatever the hell you call such places. Once Max was inside all his attention went elsewhere, namely to the über cute girl with the clippers who was about to bathe him. Well hell, I’d have been smiling just like he was if that girl was about to give me a bath, but oh no, that’s not for us mere mortals, not these days, anyway. No, item two on the to-do list beckoned so I was off to another marine supply shop, this time in search of a hard plastic placard that had to be prominently posted in every head regarding the discharge of human waste into coastal waters. I shit you not. There’s a placard for every conceivable human activity these days, too. As I’m sure all methane emissions will soon become illegal I have to assume that farting while at sea will become a regulated activity requiring its very own placard, but where on earth will we post them? Over the crock pot in the galley, I have to assume? Before the kidney beans are so carelessly added?
After I picked up an oh-so-gorgeous Max we wound our way over to the gardens for his hours long walk, and he pranced about the park like a Viennese Lipizzaner, high-stepping his way from tree-to-tree, his golden plumage almost iridescent as he went about his business. Testosterone was in the air, too, and sure enough, soon the ladies came calling. Not canine, mind you. Human females. Each one prancing over to Max, their overt displays of affection no match for him, and soon he was rolling all over their feet as they rubbed his belly. And of course these interlopers would go back to their Chihuahuas and Dachshunds, leaving me to pick the grass off his fragrant back.
But when we finally made our way back to the marina, I was surprised to see the woman from the ER waiting for me in the parking lot. It must’ve looked as though I was expecting bad news, as she walked right up to me and said that everything was okay, and that Patrick would only be staying overnight, but he’d wanted her to make sure I knew how much our help that morning had been appreciated.
“So,” I asked, “do you work for Pat?”
“It’s just that I’ve seen you coming and going a few times?”
But she just smiled.
“Do I need to check on the boat while he’s away?”
“It’s not really necessary,” she replied. “Anyway, I think he’ll be discharged by midday tomorrow.”
“He seemed like he was in a good deal of pain. Is he alright?” I asked.
“You know as much as I do, I’m afraid. He doesn’t tell me about these things.”
“I’m sorry, but could I at least know your name?”
“Ah, sorry. Yes, I’m Carolyn. And you’re…the Spud?”
“Neal Harrington,” I said, trying to break the ice.
But no such luck. “Nice to meet you,” she said, taking my hand. Then: “Well, perhaps we’ll see you tomorrow,” she said as she turned and walked back to her car.
Funny, but what I remember most about Carolyn was her hands. They were like ice, her skin cold and almost hard, like she lived in air conditioning and the temperature was set very low indeed. And as she’d failed to lavish either attention or praise on Max, he wasn’t exactly sorry to see her go. Yet what was funny, but no, odd would be a much better word to use here, was my immediate reaction to her leaving. I realized it had been months since I’d touched another human being. Even the times I could remember shaking someone’s hand seemed like a far distant memory, like something from another era, because maybe it was. Once the virus hit, all that stuff seemed to be one of the first casualties of this new war, and yet now that mask mandates and social distancing had been consigned to some vast collective unconscious I was beginning to realize that we’d all gotten a little too used to a new kind of distancing. We weren’t coming together to celebrate surviving a pandemic; no, here in America we were shooting one another in record numbers. And even in the moribund old world people were going around killing each other like it was some new form of sport.
The net result of all this was a sudden and instant realization that I had grown far too used to a profound lack of human touch in my life, and that I really didn’t like the feeling. I was in my fifties now, though just barely, but I still ran five miles three times a week and still had the same waist size I’d had in college. I had most of my hair, too. And while no one would mistake me for Robert Redford, women had told me I wasn’t ugly.
And I had another problem, a fairly big one. Recruiters.
Someone at Delta Airlines had found out I had retired and had more than eight thousand hours of flight time. I’d received a letter from them while still in Santa Barbara, and I’d even read through it once, scoffing at the starting salary they’d quoted, and I never replied or answered the calls that followed. Now, even though I’d only been in Seattle a month, I’d received another letter from them, and the salary quoted was nothing to laugh at or about. Pilot shortage was mentioned more than once for their change of position, and in just a few months I could living the dream and getting paid real money, too.
And I wondered. Was that what had happened to dad? Had someone dangled enough money in front of him to make it impossible to follow his dreams? Because isn’t that what always happens?
But I actually didn’t need the money. Sure, working for a few more years would just be, literally more money in the bank, but what else could happen during those “few more years?” Get sick? How about a car accident? Either could certainly ruin your rainy day and all those dreams would get flushed down the very same storm drain that had swallowed my father’s dreams.
There comes a point where you have to decide what kind of importance you attach to your dreams. Were your dreams ever worth anything in the first place, or were they really, really important to your conception of yourself? Were your dreams worth living right now, or were they worth so little that they could be pushed aside with ease – for what? For a few more years? Ten? Even more?
As far as I could tell, my father had spent the last few years of his non-working life on his knees tending tulips and nurturing blue hasta plants. His lawn had been the stuff of every gardener’s dreams, until drought and water restrictions brought all that to a screeching halt. Then he’d bought a recliner and parked it in front of a 65 inch screen and watched other peoples’ dreams until Alzheimer’s came calling, and all those dreams faded right alongside all his dwindling horizons. What would I be like in ten years? Ready to cross the Pacific? Was I willing to put up or shut up, to get back in the saddle again and go to work for 12 more years, or cast off my lines and head south tomorrow?
Funny, too, how odd moments come together in our lives. I think of synergy when I manage to think about such things. The synergy of souls.
Max was sitting there beside me in the cockpit later that evening and he put his muzzle on my thigh again, just as he had countless times over the last year or so, and he sighed contentedly while I rubbed his head and I could feel all the cares of our world slip away from us both.
And if I gave up this life, this dream, I’d have been throwing all these precious moments right out into a rubbish heap of broken promises, not to mention that all our broken dreams reside in the very same landfill. I’d be gone days at a time, and who would take care of Max while I was away? More to the point, what kind of life would Max enjoy if I was home two nights a week? Would it even be worth it, to put him through that kind of emotional abuse. He’d known no one else for the first two years of his life, and wasn’t abandoning him now no different than abandoning a child? Sure, I’ve heard people respond to that line of reasoning…as in: “get a life, it’s just a goddamn dog…” But when you get to know a pup like I knew Max, you begin to realize just how hollow some people really are, and how mean. Duty is duty, and I’ll make no apologies here – love is love. When you love someone you don’t abandon them, and so yeah, I loved Max and I wasn’t about to put him through that.
So there I was sitting somewhere on the edge of forever wondering what to do while I’d already, when you got right down to it, made up my mind. I was casting off my lines, casting my fate to the wind – or so the song goes – and so it was going to be me and Max, off to see the world, together.
There’s another funny thought I have about dogs from time to time. Do we choose them, or do they somehow choose us? And don’t answer that one, okay? Just think about it, especially the next time you run across a starving stray somewhere along your beaten path. Just look that soul in the eyes and think about the choices you make.
Running my fingers through his fur, feeling the pure simplicity of love and trust, movement once again caught my eye and I saw the very same snowy white owl land on Tiki’s lower mast spreaders, and it hooted once as our eyes met. Completely unafraid, too. Huge amber eyes, and the only word that came to mind was penetrating. Maybe kinda sorta like he was not simply looking at me; no, he seemed to be staring right inside me, to a place I rarely go and seldom think about. A gray place between night and day, a hidden space halfway between fear and hope. And he was right there, taking a slow walk around my deepest, darkest secrets, taking a casual look – at me.
Looking back on the encounter I feel pretty sure the owl was looking at my hands running through Max’s golden fur, and yet he wasn’t simply watching me, he was looking for the true measure of my feelings. And sure, I get it, it’s easy to say I was projecting, that I was anthropomorphizing out of misplaced emotions brought about by too many years in relative isolation. Sure. Understood. I get it. But, then again, you weren’t there. You weren’t staring into a wild raptor’s eyes. You weren’t feeling exactly what I felt, were you?
And after a minute or so of this the white owl jumped off the spreaders and took wing into the night; he flew off across the black water perhaps a foot or so over the mirror smooth surface – and then he was gone.
Max and I walked down the companionway into the aft cabin and curled up on the bed, and we fell into the deepest sleep as the boat rocked ever so gently, and as little wavelets slapped against the side of the hull the dream began. Gently, like the coming of a sigh…
A medieval castle in snow, then the coming of spring and with it the endless pink blossomings of cherry trees, yet in the distance the same castle. A tree just above, low hanging branches brushing a small, meandering brook. The castle is nestled into the side of a hill, and the castle’s structure is long and low – the antithesis of the European form. The castle’s wings spread out like the roots of a vast tree, and manicured gardens are spread out among the various wings like emeralds cast about carelessly on snow.
And the man in the dream sees a girl, her black hair pulled up tight, and yet her back is to him.
He knows this is a dream but he’s never experienced anything like it before. He can feel a cool breeze running through his hair, and as he turns into the breeze he is aware of the sea and pines and he thinks that strange. He’d never caught the scent of things in a dream, not once, so why now? He looks around and realizes he is on a sailing ship, not a yacht or a boat but a ship, something like a cargo carrying sailing vessel. He sees cannons and barrels lashed on deck and the ship is sailing purposefully towards the castle just ahead and finally he realizes that he is the only soul onboard and that there is no helmsman and no one tending the trim of the sails and he runs to the bow and looks ahead. The ship is sailing fast and there are rows and rows of amber-rust colored rocks dead ahead and he looks down into the sea and he can see more rocks as the ship closes on the rocky shore under the craggy cliffs just ahead.
And at the top of the cliffs he can still just make out the castle, and the woman standing there, as the ship’s keel begins grinding into the sloping seabed below. She turns to the noise and he sees that she has the face of the white owl, her amber eyes ablaze in orange light as the ship begins disintegrating under his feet…
Barnacle Bill, or Patrick, didn’t return the next day, or even the day after that, but when he did come shuffling out the dock towards Haiku the woman was with him. Carolyn, he remembered, and there was a man with her carrying a bag of clothes and all the ancillary garbage the discharge nurse typically sends home with you from the hospital.
And Patrick seemed at once revived and yet a little more frail than he had been before the episode. His skin tones were healthier, a little more pinkish, a little less waxy, and he seemed a bit more clear-eyed, maybe even more alert than he had that morning.
And Max was happy to see his friend again, too. Pat was in a wheelchair now, and he had no salmon to give Max, but that didn’t seem to matter in the least. Max came up beside the wheelchair and when Carolyn stopped Max gently jumped up and put his hands on Pat’s and then Max licked his chin and the Old Man smiled – and all was once again right in our little world. A boarding ramp had been put in place and Carolyn pushed his wheelchair out to Haiku and up the gently inclined ramp, and after a few twists and bumps they disappeared down below and Max looked up at me, perhaps a little confused. Pat looked different now, after all, and he wasn’t walking, so Max’s confusion was, I think, only natural.
I had been programming the VHF radio all morning, and was planning on tackling the Single Sideband radio later that afternoon, but now it was time for our walk so Max was leashed-up and off we went, heading to the doggie park above the marina. Clouds were rolling in off Puget Sound and it was getting cool out, too cool for shirtsleeves and cargo shorts, so I ran with Max through the parking lot past the boat ramp, but today we sprinted out onto the sand, running down the beach and out to the pond at the north end of the park. We were winded so I sat on a log that had drifted ashore and Max roamed around, fresh on a new scent, then he turned and bonded down to the water’s edge and started barking.
He does that from time to time, usually when an orca or a dolphin cruises by, so I scanned the water – looking – but after a moment he came back to me and we walked back to the marina and, after I brushed the sand from our lower legs, we boarded Tiki. I freshened the water in Max’s bowl and I ate a few cherries just in from the eastern slopes of the Cascades, and just when I was about to tear into the Single Sideband I heard a knock on the side of the hull. I left the chart table and went topsides, halfway expecting to find Pat or even Carolyn waiting there, but no, I found nothing. And then I heard the knock again and jumped down to the dock to look at Tiki’s waterline. And again, nothing, not even a random bit of driftwood.
Another mystery, I thought as I returned to the chart table.
A few hours later, with my days as a radio technician now behind me, I showered and was dressing again when the knocking resumed, this time more urgently. Max sat up and growled, so I knew then that these weren’t simply the imaginary knockings of a delusional mind, and he led the way up the companionway and out onto deck. Once again I hopped down onto the dock and made my circuit around the hull and again I saw nothing, as in not one thing. I did catch a slight swirling in the water aft, under the Zodiac, something like the minor disturbance a fish near the surface might make. And then Max looked over at me and sneezed in consternation, and he tossed in a low growl just for good measure.
So, mystery still unresolved.
Carolyn and her man-friend came down the ramp and walked past us without so much as a word, and I shrugged away the slight as I ducked below for shoes and a leash. After that chore was done I made a salad for us both, though I’m careful to avoid onions on Max’s, and he sneers at my salad dressings, and we ate in the cockpit while the last of the midday clouds dissipated and a vast crimson sunset beyond the Olympics burst into view. I read for a while, until it became too chilly for us both, and as I was gathering my book and blanket we heard a thrashing in the water just aft of the stern and I rushed over just in time to see a sea otter land on the swim platform. The creature looked up at me for a while, and even Max stood transfixed as he eyed the creature, though the hair on the top of his neck was now standing on end, and then the furry thing simply turned away and slid noiselessly into the inky black water.
“Well, Max,” I recall saying, “that’s not something you see every day.”
But he stepped close and then leaned into me, and I’m still not sure who was holding whom up at that point; I think we were both in a mild state of shock…
“Next time he comes,” Barnacle Bill said, his disjointed voice drifting over us from nearby shadows, “have a few slices of salmon ready. He loves his salmon.”
“Don’t we all,” I sighed. “So, you’re up and about?”
“Well, I’m not dead yet.” When I turned I saw he was dressed all in black. Like a running suit, with black sneakers tossed into the mix just for consistency’s sake.
“Going on a mission tonight?” I asked, admiring his choice of clothes – though I wondered where he was hiding his Uzi.
“No, just dinner. You two care to join me?”
Max was all-in. He hopped down to the dock and sat at Pat’s feet, his tail swishing in mad love; his hopes for more fresh salmon apparently knew no bounds, and then Pat rubbed his ears and Max drifted into that place he goes when just the right spot gets the attention it deserves. “Let me grab a few things,” I said as went below for car keys and shoes, and a few minutes later we were sitting on the narrowest of patios overlooking the water at Ray’s Boathouse. Slices of salmon magically appeared as soon as we were seated and so Max was on his best behavior; Pat, on the other hand, produced a pair of binoculars and trained them on a house down closer to Ballard locks. He fiddled with the focus and then put them away when our dinner appeared.
“Know someone down there,” I asked, “or are you just a run-of-the-mill peeping Tom?”
“You could say I know someone, yes,” Pat said as he carved a razor thin slice of salmon for himself – and a two ounce slab for Max. Pat actually managed to take in a few leafy sprigs of arugula and kale, too, before he pushed the plate away. Max eyed the remaining salmon dolefully, until Pat relented and started carving several slices for him, leaving me to shake my head in wonder. He kept a few slices in reserve, however, placing them in a zip-loc baggie and then in a jacket pocket.
“How was your stay in the hospital?” I asked, hoping beyond all reason to get him talking.
“All things considered, it could have been worse.”
“I assume you don’t really want to talk about it?”
“You assume correctly.”
Pat looked away, then down at the remains on his plate. “It seems that I am a fine candidate for dialysis, Spud. Yet let me be the first to tell you that I have no intention of subjecting myself to such torture.”
“Isn’t that a fatal course of action, Patrick?”
“So they tell me.”
“I see. Well, Max will certainly miss you.”
“He’s a remarkable fellow, you know? Especially his eyes. He seems to see things I can’t.”
“Oh? Like what?”
“I think he can see into my soul, Spud. But isn’t that silly?”
I shook my head. “No, not at all. I’ve felt that too. More than once, too.”
“Do you think it’s just him? Or are all dogs like this?”
“I’m not altogether sure, but I’d like to think they all can.”
“Terrible if that’s true. So many of them are treated so cruelly.”
“Oh, well,” I sighed, “we tend to treat everything and everyone with casual cruelty, at least when the situation warrants.”
“The situation warrants?”
“When the mood strikes,” I added.
“Ah, yes. We are such noble creatures.”
“We can be.”
“When the situation warrants?” he replied, smiling. “‘Oh, what a piece of work is man?’ Are we as simple as that?”
“‘And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?’ Is that what you’re saying?”
“And the pilot quotes Shakespeare!” Barnacle Bill cried. “What have we here?”
“I don’t buy it, Pat. Dialysis can’t be as bad as the big sleep.”
He looked at me cautiously, yet almost sardonically: “And I pray you never have to confront the choice. The two look equally bad to me, at least from where I sit.”
“Are they telling you how long you’ve got? Before your kidneys fail completely?”
“No, of course not. Vague rumblings of a month or two, that’s all.”
“A lot can happen in a month or two, Pat. Can you think of anything you’d like to do?”
“No, not especially, but thanks for the thought. I am enjoying my time with Max, however.”
Our waitress came and despite my protests he picked up the tab, then we moseyed through the restaurant and back out into the night – and then it was as if every bird in Seattle took flight all at once. The air above us was, in an instant, full of birds flying out over the sound, and the hair on the top of Max’s neck stood on end again…
“What the…” I had just started to say when the earth beneath our feet fell out from underfoot and then started sliding sideways, and it all happened so fast that the three of us were quite literally almost suspended in the air above the sidewalk for a split second – and then gravity reasserted itself and we tumbled roughly to the pavement…just as Puget Sound came rushing in, covering us completely. Now, instead of standing up and brushing ourselves off we were treading in water too deep to stand in.
And then the sirens started wailing.
“What the hell is that?” I wondered aloud.
“Tsunami warning,” Pat sighed, just as the restaurant behind us began creaking and moaning as twisting lumber gave way.
“We’ve got to get to the boats!” I said, grabbing a clearly terrified Max and an equally mortified Barnacle Bill and pulling them into shallower water. When I found solid footing I picked up Max and put him around my neck, then I helped Pat climb out of the water.
And when he was free and standing on a tilted slab of sundered asphalt he turned and looked towards Ballard locks, then to me. “Can you get your Zodiac in the water – fast?”
“My Zodiac? Why?”
“I’ve got to get over there,” he said, pointing to the house he’d been looking at through his binoculars.
And then the earth heaved again, only this time in earnest. We turned to the southeast as a vast rending of the earth unfolded in a sharp series of wrenching, grinding shrieks, this followed by a terrifying blast that once again knocked us off our feet. We couldn’t see the horizon now, just immense reddish-orange plumes of lava arcing into the sky, coming from the general direction of Mt Rainier, and now it appeared as though dozens of houses and businesses in the immediate neighborhood were on fire.
Once again I picked up Max, and after I helped Pat back to his feet we took off through the maze of jumbled asphalt back to the marina. I lowered my Zodiac RIB then my outboard, and after securing it to the little transom and hooking up the fuel line, I pulled the starter lanyard and the Yamaha sputtered to life. I tossed the lines to Pat on the dock and Max jumped in, and I helped Pat step in and sit.
“Where to?” I shouted over the sound of sirens going off all over the city.
“Towards the locks, right before the railway bridge, a house, a grey house, just on the south side…”
And as we spoke all the lights in the area simply went dark.
I twisted the throttle and off we went, and for a split second I could see Rainier. Lava was boiling down her flanks into the forests below and now everywhere we looked we saw two and three story condominium buildings that had been flattened under the concussive hammer blows of the Cascadia subduction zone giving way.
I had a small handheld ICOM radio in pouch near the fuel tank and turned on the WX band, and the warnings now were loud and clear. “Expect a large tsunami within 45 minutes. Seek higher ground now. All air traffic grounded.”
“Can you handle Haiku by yourself?” I asked Patrick as the meaning of the words sunk in.
And he nodded. “As long as I don’t have to set sail, yes.”
“If you’ve got a countdown timer on that watch, set it now.”
“Right. Good idea.”
Then he pointed to an area in the darkness. “Head there,” he said, pointing to a row of houses that lined the entrance channel to Ballard locks. The water level appeared to be six, maybe eight feet higher than normal, and as we drew near it was apparent that some of these homes were now awash, but not the house Patrick was pointing to.
I pulled the Zodiac up onto a small patch of green lawn and then both Patrick and Max jumped out and dashed inside the house. A small house down the hill towards the locks then burst into flames and I guessed that gas lines were venting and sparking off now, finishing the job that nature had just set in motion, but then the entire area was suffused in a garishly bright orange glow.
I saw Carolyn run out of the house, then her friend came out with Patrick, and between them they were helping another woman out of the house. Max sprinted out just before a gas line in the kitchen let go, and in the next instant the house went up in flames. The water level was receding fast now, and I pushed the Zodiac into deeper water to keep her prop clear, then I helped everyone get aboard and seated.
As we motored away, now grossly overloaded, houses started popping off like bursting kernels of popcorn, and the sulfurous odor of rotting eggs floated in the air above Elliot Bay.
“How much time?” I asked Patrick, and he checked his wrist.
“Call it 20 minutes,” he sighed, because he was doing the same math in his head that I was. Five minutes to the docks, perhaps ten to cast off lines and warm up engines, then the balance to get out into the bay and to get our bows pointed into the tsunami. My only real concern was that the tsunami’s wave might prove too tall, but it would take a mighty wave indeed to take out Haiku.
When we made the docks I didn’t need to tell Patrick what he needed to do; he was, as was I, in the middle of a monumental adrenaline rush, and I think even poor Max was as well, and as Patrick and his group ran for Haiku I secured the Zodiac to the davits then went aboard to start the diesel. About a quarter of the boats in the marina were liveaboards and these were streaming out the breakwaters as fast as their motors would carry them, and after I cast off our lines I slipped the transmission into reverse and began backing out of my slip, trying to keep an eye on all the boats cascading towards the south breakwater while I also looked at Haiku. Her engines were running, lines were being cast off, then her bow-thruster kicked in and her bow began to swing away from the dock…
And I turned on my main VHF and selected the WX channel, and the computer generated voice came through loud and clear once again: “Tsunami imminent, seek shelter on higher ground,” was repeating over and over again. More sirens began wailing and as Haiku and Tiki rounded the breakwater I turned, hoping to see Mount Rainier in all her tortured glory.
But the main axis of her pyroclastic flow had been directed at Renton, and now the southeast horizon was a wall of blackish grey cloud that seemed to be alive with flickering arcs of lightning. The Space Needle was leaning drunkenly, and it must’ve been equipped with emergency generators or batteries as red lights still flashed on her uppermost rooftop, but everywhere else I looked all I could see was a darkened city dotted with spreading islands of fire. Helicopters were in the air, but that was about the only other activity I could see from my vantage point.
Then I heard a chorus of horns, yacht horns and small boat horns playing a shrill symphony of terror and I turned to face the music.
The tsunami must’ve dissipated some of it’s energy on it’s way past Whidbey Island, but now all that spreading energy was meeting the three-mile constriction between Edmonds and Kingston, and the tsunami’s wave was building again – but critically, for us anyway – it wasn’t breaking, yet.
Haiku was ahead and to our left, and I could see Patrick at her helm – steering not by hand but by autopilot inputs – and despite myself I had to laugh.
As the onrushing wave came at us, it’s speed surreal, everyone out there on the sound pointed their bows directly into the wave, but not Patrick. He was approaching about twenty degrees off axis, correctly, so he could control his ship’s speed on the backside of the wave. Boats behind us began to alter their course as well…
…and then the tsunami was on us…
…and it was then that I saw the woman we had rescued from the house by the locks, and at first I didn’t recognize her. But now I was staring at her from behind, her kimono aglow in the orange light coming from the city burning in our wake…
…she was the woman from my dream. The woman with eyes of amber standing among the trees and the castle, and I followed her up the face of the wave – and then into the unknown on the far side of the night.
(c) adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, plain and simple
[Yes \\ I’ve Seen All Good People]