Thursday, January 19, 2012

Apocalypse River 003

This is one of those of those stories that I come back to as the mood takes me, so my progress is infrequent and irregular. The rest of it can be read here, if you want to start at the beginning or just refresh your memory.

The edge of the river was a dangerous place to be. Tammon stayed a few feet back, watching for sudden breaks in the irregular edge that dropped away into the water. He ran half-crouched, trying to keep his profile low. It was probably a wasted effort: movement would make him far more obvious than his height ever would. River to the left, Forsters to the right. I should have stayed in the trees.

He couldn't do that, of course. Not with the village itself in danger. His presence might call attention to the evacuation, but it might also provide the evacuees with a hunter to support them. So he ran, following the edge of the river until he neared the boathouse and the skeletal remains of the docks. He glanced back up at the village, in time to see one of the Forsters lift Old Man Gaston and bring him down across its knee. A flick of his eyes caught another Forster falling from the warning tower. That one smashed into the sandy soil of the flood plain and did not move again.

Nobody seemed to be watching the river; nobody seemed to be looking at him. He paused to catch his breath. Then he sprinted for the boat house. When he reached the corner of the building, he paused; but nobody seemed to have seen him. He gave the battle a fierce grin, called out softly, and ducked inside.

The boats were relics from the old day, preserved by regular care and shelter from the elements. They were made from that rarest of materials: true metal. The boathouses were wooden reliquaries, sealed with whatever seemed to work. Since things began to change, the sealants and roofing materials had become unreliable. Nobody knew what would work, or how long it would last. That was just the nature of things in this changed and changing world.

Shannan was standing just inside the door, with a dagger raised in a fighting position. She would have killed him if he hadn't announced himself. The children were huddled behind one of the boats, which had been taken down and leaned against the wall. It was shelter of a sort, but not enough to keep them truly hidden.

We have to hurry. Tammon slid past Shannan and over to the boat. Belinda, who was Old Man Gaston's daughter and very nearly old enough to remember the world as it had once been, was standing beside it. She studied him warily.

Tammon gripped the edge of the boat and pulled it over until it was right side up. Shannan watched aghast as he edged it carefully into the water, but Belinda was grinning and nodding at him. The coarse hairs on her cheeks flexed with the movement of her head. They watched for a moment, but nothing stirred; nothing reached up to take the boat.

"In," said Tammon softly, gesturing to Shannan.

She shook her head, looking at the water. He looked at the water, saw nothing, and climbed in himself. He had to shift his grip carefully to keep the boat from drifting away, but he managed it.

Belinda was already whispering to the children. One by one, they climbed into the boat. It rocked unsteadily, but it held them and Tammon could see no sign of leakage.

When the last of the children was inside, old Belinda climbed in behind them. It was crowded, now, and the boat was lower in the water than Tammon would have liked, but he gestured for Shannan to join them. She shook her head, still afraid of the river. And rightly so, he thought, but we have no time for that.

A low grumble reached his ears. There were voices outside the boathouse, deep rumbling voices backed by Forster lungs. Shannan raised her head, looking panicked. Then she closed her eyes, and held out a hand.

Tammon pulled her onto the boat.

Her arrival was enough to set them drifting towards the open river. Tammon looked for a way to speed their escape, and saw the old wooden sticks hanging on the walls - oars, he thought they were called - but they were too far to reach and it was too late to go back for them.


  1. I think that is interesting.Especially descriptions of the river.

  2. Thank you. It's a slow project, but I keep coming back to it. Maybe "fun" isn't the right word for it, but it's satisfying.


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