Excerpt for 12 Islands: Episode One: Get the Girl by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


12 Islands: Episode One: Get the Girl


By


Eric Scott Johnston


© 2017 Eric Scott Johnston

All Rights Reserved


For:

Avalon Johnston


Edited by:

Graham@fadingstreet


This is a work of fiction. Anything that seems real, is not. This includes the people you read about. That’s just coincidence.

PROLOGUE

Hans sat down. A microphone was attached to his blazer under the lapel. A make-up artist came up to him and brushed his face after the studio lights were turned on to reduce the glare from his high cheekbones. He was given an earpiece and he could hear the reporter talking off the air.

“Hi Hans, it’s Regina Voss with RNN,” the journalist said into his earpiece.

“Hello,” Hans replied in a German accent to the friendly voice.

“So, we’re on commercial break right now, and we should be on here in just a few moments. How do you feel?”

“Good,” he said then laughed nervously.

“So just try your best to answer my questions without using a lot of scientific jargon, okay?”

“Okay.”

Hans heard some introductory music play in his earpiece and the monitor in front of him showed an attractive woman sitting at a news desk, the screen split into two and now showed Hans beside the journalist.

“Welcome back,” Hans observed the woman say on the monitor in front of him, “our special coverage continues and with me is Doctor Hans Waltz to talk to us about what a special day it is for all of us, welcome to the program, Doctor Waltz.”

“Thank you, Regina.”

“Doctor Waltz, you’re the director of science for Ablative Dynamics, the company responsible for today’s,” she paused for dramatic effect, “monumental achievement. Can you tell us what it is you do for Ablative Dynamics?”

“Sure. So I am the science director and I am responsible for the development and oversight of all scientific projects for Ablative Dynamics.”

“And you have, in fact, had a personal hand in seeing this project to its fruition?”

“I did,” Hans began with an amused tone, “I did the initial calculations and determined the project was possible in the first place.”

“Walk us through, from your perspective, how this happened and what it took.”

“So the initial question was, it is possible to divert a near-earth-object-“ Hans was cut off.

“Near-earth-object, could you elaborate?”

“Yes,” Hans said after adjusting to his train of thought being interrupted, “a near-earth-object is a massive object that orbits close to our planet.”

“And the goal of the project was to bring a near-earth-object even closer than its natural course?” Regina asked with skepticism.

“The goal,” Hans began feeling the conversation moving toward unfriendliness, “was to bring a comet into a parallel lunar orbit to harvest its freshwater.”

“Doctor Waltz,” Regina started, “I have another guest joining us today who has been a public critic of the project, Congressman Dan Hanson, welcome to the program.”

Hans noticed the monitor split its screen again now showing himself, Regina and another man, which at the bottom read: R-Dan Hanson, Florida.

“Thank you, Regina it’s a pleasure to be here,” the Congressman replied in a southern accent.

“Congressman Hanson,” Regina began in a sympathetic tone, “you’ve been an outspoken critic of this project from day one, can you tell us why you’ve taken such a strong position against what could be deemed as humanity’s last hope?”

“Yes, Regina. First I don’t think bringing in a comet to harvest its water is humanity’s last hope. As I have tried to demonstrate to the public, desalinization initiatives should have been more thoroughly developed, which would have stopped the economic damage caused by this overzealous project.”

“In terms of economic damage,” Regina began, “what can you tell us has happened in your home state?”

“Regina, I can’t speak for my colleagues in the other costal states, but Florida has lost three-percent of its coastline because of the way the tides have changed. In terms of lost property value, that figure is in the billions of dollars.”

“Doctor Waltz,” Regina said, “can you comment on that?”

“If the congressman is reporting a three-percent coastline loss, than that’s good news as we estimated a five-percent loss of habitable coastal areas worldwide.”

“Congressman?” Regina asked.

“Regina, this is pure insanity. We now have what is essentially a second moon. Anyone who looks up into the sky can see just how unnatural this is.”

“Doctor Waltz?”

“In terms of sanity, I think our freshwater problem is more immediate, and even speaks to the congressman’s concerns about economic stability. In fact, water is our most expensive resource. Basic economic theory tells us that to bring the price down, we need to increase its supply, and the lower cost of water will increase the economic well-being of everyone.”

“Doctor Waltz,” the congressman said looking dejected, “can you tell me that it’s in everyone’s best interest for a single company to own what is now essentially the largest body of water?”

Hans paused and thought about the question. As a scientist, he privately agreed. But he was an employee of Ablative Dynamics.

“I think that the company who invested their time and resources in bringing us a solution should have a return on its investment.”

“These are both excellent, points. Thank you, congressman. We’ll be right back after a short break,” Regina said.

Some music played in Hans ear and the cameraman in front of him made a cutting gesture on his neck. The bright lights were turned off and the monitor in front of Hans played a commercial. He could still hear Regina in her earpiece.

“Sorry about the Congressman, it’s just internal politics here,” she said with the friendly tone she had earlier.

“Um, it’s okay,” Hans said unsure what else to say.

“You did well, he’s a tough one.”

“Thank you.”

“When we come back from commercial we’ll keep it strictly scientific, okay?”

“That would be good.”

Hans sat quietly in the darkened ad hoc studio, which was actually the conference room at the research and operations center in San Diego, for Ablative Dynamics. Two minutes passed quickly and the lights turned back on. The camera operator pointed at Hans and the monitor showed a very strange picture. It was the moon rising over the horizon, at night, then another spherical object to the left of the moon rose with it. Regina’s voice could be heard over the video footage.

“Doctor, Waltz, can you tell us what we are seeing here?”

“So, this is the rise of the moon and near-earth-object 1147B.”

“How big is 1147B?”

“In terms of mass it’s roughly equivalent to one-third the size of the moon.”

“And right now, it’s completely ice, correct?”

“Yes,”

“So how do we now harvest the water?”

“So Regina, from a scientific perspective, it is quite exciting. To get the water here we now use some old science and new science.”

“Tell us about the old science.”

“Perhaps you are familiar with Archimedes and his mirror?”

“Wasn’t his mirror just a myth?”

“Perhaps,” Hans said chuckling, “no one is sure if his mirror could concentrate the sun enough to burn the Roman ships.”

“How does Archimedes play into this?”

“So Archimedes developed the math and engineered a shape called the parabola.”

“Which is essentially a curved mirror?”

“Correct,” its shape is designed to take light in from many angles and return that light, or energy, in a straight, but very concentrated line.”

“And that’s what you’ve done?”

“Yes. So we’ve repurposed the lunar crater known as the Aitken basin to become our Archimedes mirror.”

“The mirror concentrates the light from the sun I assume?”

“Yes, which then sublimates-” Hans started but was cut off again.

“Sorry, sublimate?”

“We turn the ice into steam, from the suns energy, which changes the velocity of the mass. The steam then turns back into tiny ice particles as they become exposed to the vacuum of space then those ice particles will form a river of ice and will collide with the atmosphere.”

“And then what happens?”

“The ice particles hit the atmosphere, vaporizing them, then the atmosphere becomes supersaturated with moisture and then,” Hans paused for dramatic effect, “it rains.”

“What are the potential risks associated with this project?”

Hans paused and thought about the question. He opened his mouth to answer but closed it and thought some more. There were too many risks, he thought to himself as he stared into the camera then he knew what to say.

“Right now, fourteen out of fifty states have succeeded from the Union. Twelve-years ago we called ourselves, “The United States.” Hans cleared his throat then went on, “Now, we call ourselves a Union, like the forefathers did.”

“I don’t think that answers the question, Doctor Waltz.”

“The risk, is if we don’t do something to bring down the price of water, who knows?”

“Regarding the Ablative Dynamics Corporation, can you elaborate on their contracts with the White House?”

“I thought you told me we were going to keep this strictly scientific, Regina?”

“Excuse me, Doctor Waltz,” the reporter said, then a technician came into view on Hans’ monitor. He whispered into the journalist’s ear, then she mouthed the word, ‘really?’

“Regina?” Hans said with perplexment, then the lights went off and the cameraman removed his headphones and shook his head in frustration.

“I’m so sorry, Doctor Waltz it happens every now and again,” the reporter said into his earpiece.

“What happens?”

“Sometimes solar flares interrupt our broadcasts, it should be resolved momentarily.”

“Solar flare?”

“Yes. I’m very sorry, most of our interview was not aired.”

Hans felt a wave of heat rise underneath the skin on his face. He ripped the mic from his lapel and left the conference room. He made his way down a corridor then pushed a button on an elevator marked ‘Restricted.’ The chime of its arrival signaled and the doors opened. Hans walked in, inserted a key and the doors closed. Several laser scanners fanned out over his body and confirmed his identity. The elevator descended.

The doors opened and Hans ran down a long corridor with a large steel door at the end with another biometric security device. This scanned his retina, and just as the bright but harmless scanning laser became blinding it stopped, and with a loud clang, the door unlocked. Hans entered.

The room was large and windowless. Forty-people sat at various workstations and every square inch of the walls was taken up by a display. On two of the displays was a filtered view of the sun’s photosphere, or the visible surface of the sun. One of those displays had an overlay of graphic data that showed the trajectory lines of the solar flares. Both displays showed the sun spewing reddish-yellow plumes into and beyond the corona. Jason DeWalt, noticing Hans entering the room, immediately approached.

“Doctor Waltz, we have an unscheduled coronal event.”

“I know, Jason. Why is this happening during solar minimum?”

“We don’t know sir”

“Bring up Aitken two, or whichever lunar satellite has eyes on 1147B.”

Jason ran to his workstation and with a few mouse clicks one of the large displays showed a closeup view of 1147B. Its surface appeared solid, cold, and appeared deep blue the way an ancient glacier’s deep ice appears blue. Hans relaxed at the sight of the ice.

“Okay, has there been any solar ejection interaction with Archimedes?”

“No, Doctor Waltz,” Charlotte Greer, a recent MIT graduate, announced from another workstation.

“Give me eyes on Archimedes,” Doctor Waltz ordered.

The remaining display showed a view of the Aitken Basin, at the solar polar region of the moon. The camera zoomed in until several million mirrors could be seen.

“Diagnostics?” Doctor Waltz asked Charlotte.

“No system faults are reported,” she stated without looking up from her workstation.

“Sir!” Jason Briggs called out loudly, “Unscheduled coronal mass ejection,” he paused then checked something on his computer, then looked at Doctor Waltz, “Archimedes bound,” he finished softly then he and the rest of the technicians looked up at the moniter and watched as the sun erupted and ejected it’s energy into space.

“Intensity?”

“Our instruments are unable to measure, but I am guessing it’s X-Class,” Jason reported. He sat down at his workstation. The color in his face drained and his eyes scanned his workstation monitors in disbelief.

Hans picked up the nearest phone. He dialed a number. It rang twice.

“Jim Pratt’s office,” the secretary said warmly.

“Hans Waltz for Jim Pratt,” Hans said quickly.

“I’m sorry, Doctor Waltz, Mr. Pratt is unavailable. Can I leave a message for him?”

“No, it’s an emergency.”

“I’m sorry but Mr. Pratt is on vacation with his family. He’s unreachable at this time.”

“There’s no way of getting ahold of him?”

“I’m sorry Doctor-“ she started saying.

“Look, I need to find out who and where the team is located that’s handling the magnetic shield operations for the Archimedes project.”

“Um,” the secretary began with an air of disturbance in her voice, “Doctor Waltz, I’m sure you of all people are fully aware about our protocols and rules about departments cooperating-,” she was cut off again.

“In less then eight minutes, my project is about to go down the tubes, and when my project goes down the tubes, we all die.”

“Doctor Waltz, this is,” she paused, “You cannot speak to people like this.”

Hans hung up the phone. His heated conversation had caught the attention of those around him. He took a breath and looked around the room. He brought his hands together.

“Alright, may I have your attention,” he started then started examining the workers around the room, “I know that some of you may have lied about it, to get this job, but right now, I need this room’s best hacker.”

The room was quiet and the workers looked at Hans then at each other. Some of the technicians started looking at Charlotte, then felt they were giving her up and looked away quickly. Hans noticed this.

“Charlotte?”

“Yes, sir?”

“In less than six minutes that flare is going to hit Archimedes. The artificial magnetic shield is not scheduled to turn on until next week. You know how this company is. I have no idea where the operations room is that manages that side of the project. I imagine it’s a room like this one. I need to make a phone call, can you help me find out the number to call?”

“Sir, can’t we just polarize the array?”

“That will stop the array from reflecting light, but it will do nothing for the other radiation that coming at us.”

Charlotte was motionless then nodded quickly. She started typing at her workstation. Hans stood behind her and watched her manipulate her login screen in a way he had never seen before. The screen then displayed the project managers for every project Ablative Dynamics ran. Hans scanned the roster. His eyes stopped on a line that read: 1147B-Magnetic Ablation.

“There,” he said and picked up the phone at Charlotte’s workstation. He dialed the number and the phone rang twice. It rang two more times. Then two more times. It rang in total twenty times. Hans hung up the receiver. He looked at the room location on Charlotte’. “Bring your tablet and come with me,” he said to Charlotte then left the room.

They walked together toward the elevator. Hans inserted his key then turned it to indicate the floor he wanted to go to. The lasers fanned out again. An electronic grating sound was heard. An electronic voice came over a speaker: “Authorization denied.”

Hans nodded at Charlotte who started working on the issue from her tablet. “Okay, turn the key again,” she said nervously.

He did and the lasers fanned out again then the elevator started moving.

“What did you do?”

“The elevator thinks your Jim Pratt,” she said with a hint of pride.

“How did you even get this job?”

“Jim Junior,” she said referring to Jim Pratt’s only son, also known affectionately as JJ.

“We’re very thorough in weeding out hackers.”

“I hate to say it sir, but that’s why Jim Junior wanted me here.”

Hans was too focused on his current task to be appalled. He filed that under; to be appalled later.

“Well, Jim Junior doesn’t work for this company anymore, and for good reason. You know about what he did, right?”

“Yes, sir,” she said then, “Doctor Waltz, I don’t understand what the issue is. If the solar flare hits the array wont it just turn the entirety 1147B into tiny ice particles?”

“Aside from adding that amount of water to our planet at one time, which will cover every continent, the added mass will change the gravity of the planet. The moon would eventually collide with us.”

Charlotte turned away in shock as she thought about what it might look like for it to rain until the earth is covered in water then visualize the moon plowing into the watery surface.

“I don’t understand how that could happen.”

“I wish I had time to explain it, but right now, the only thing that matters is getting the shield up.”

“You should tell me about the shield,” she started then worried she was sounding like she was just asking questions to understand what was going on then, “because I need to know if I need to hack another system.”

“Right, of course,” Hans began, “so the earth has a natural defense against this sort of solar activity, which is its magnetic poles. It’s almost like the earth channels the solar radiation around its magnetic fields, and deposits that energy into the polar regions. And you’ve probably seen the aurora borealis, right?”

“Yes, the northern lights.”

“That’s our sun attacking us.”

“They’re beautiful.”

“If we didn’t have a magnetic defense, every single soul on this planet would vaporize with the amount of radiation our sun sends us.”

Hans looked down at his young colleague. If she only knew, he thought. It’s not beautiful, it’s brutal. The amount of energy from the latest flare traveling towards Archimedes and earth, Hans speculated to himself, would probably knock out the power grid as far south as Wyoming, or maybe even Nevada.

“We built an artificial magnetic shield to protect 1147B and the Aitken Basin, but it isn’t turned on yet, so we’re going to get the operations team in there to turn it on whether they’re ready or not,” Hans said then checked his watch. He estimated they had less then three minutes before the solar flare would hit.

The doors opened and Hans found the same sort of corridor and large door at its end that led to his operations center. They hurried through and Hans started the retina scan process until Charlotte put her hand on his shoulder.

“Doctor Waltz, my hack in the elevator won’t work here.”

“Why not?”

“Because I had to trick the elevator into thinking that you were a threat before it would let me make that change to the system.”

“What?” Hans shouted.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think we needed to do another security check!”

“Wont it think my retina is Pratt’s?”

“No, this system uses dual retina authentication, it’s not like our entry process,” Charlotte said while tapping hard on her tablet to find a workaround.

“What are you going to do?”

Charlotte didn’t answer him.

“Charlotte?”

She still ignored him.

“Charlotte!”

“Got it,” she said then scanned her own eye, “I can’t replace your retina, but I can add a new team member’s retina,” she said while the scan took place. It finished then the sound of the large bolts sliding through the internal structure of the door was heard. Charlotte pulled it open. They both stood in awe.

It was like Hans’ operation’ room. It was a large room. But it was a large empty room. The walls were bare, the expected workstations with the expected technicians, absent. If Hans could describe an empty room, it would not describe how empty this room felt. A lone fluorescent light shone from above. Charlotte looked up at Hans who was still processing the shock. He looked down at her after a few moments.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “you should probably be with people you,” his voice started breaking, “that you love,” he finished then put his back against an empty wall and slid down until he was sitting on the ground.

“Doctor Waltz?”

“Doctor Waltz, indeed,” he said tragically.

CHAPTER ONE

The air felt easy. The same way the air is easy on the first day of fall, or the day after you fall in love. The afternoon sun was easy too and it bathed the short ripples of the Indian Ocean and its sinewy reflections danced alongside the hull of the small sloop Allison Pratt stood aboard where she watched the wreath she dropped, in memory of her family's murder, float away.

Allison turned and looked over the deck for any other chores she needed to do. Everything was in order except for a line that secured the mainsail to ensure it would stay tightly rolled when not in use. She wrapped the rest of the line in a figure-eight around the cleat, then jammed the line by threading the last bit under a loop that was tight. She gave the line a tug and the last of her chores was over. She drew the easy air deep into her chest. Satisfied with the ship's condition, she got on with the next task. I got this, she reassured herself several times while unsheathing her rigging knife.

With it held tightly in her right hand, she pierced her left arm deeply enough to puncture the vein. The dark redness beaded up behind the edge as she slid it down and away. When she sliced the blade down her forearm, it made a sound that reminded her of preparing food. When the blood ran, it turned brighter in the easy air. The vein opened wide. The released blood flowed up and out then over her arm and dribbled onto the deck in a scarlet pool, then made a small stream that coursed across the planking, bending over the gunwale and down the side of the pearl-white hull until the turquoise water of the Indian Ocean diluted the bright red liquid. She decided to lie down. The teak deck felt warm and good on her bare back and she stretched out.

The blood was beautiful, she thought, and it flowed well. It felt warm on her skin and looked bright as it puddled around her. The puddle became large and fed the small stream leading into the ocean. Why isn’t this scary? Allison asked herself. She lifted her head up then felt her hair weighed down by the blood. She set her head back down. How long will it take? Some images floated into her mind about her family. A smile. Then she wanted to back out. Yes, I will keep fighting, she said out loud. Remembering the food and water had all gone and there was no chance of getting more, she quit that thought. I could try though. Should I try? She asked out loud.

Five days ago, she tried to port. The images of what happened then replaced the nice images of her family. The angry images. The hands in the dark and cold. Her body feeling the warm and angry hands in the darkness. The gripping hands. The hands holding her down while other hands removed her clothing. The warm and angry hands hurting her. Other warm and angry parts hurting her. Then no hands and she was cold and crying in the darkness. She would not try. It was now the same everywhere, she thought. And she would die anyway. Probably brutally.

It was difficult to hold onto a thought, she noticed, and it was getting darker but the sun was still shining across the water. The blue sky was growing bluer. Her thoughts became quieter and she felt very aware and part of everything around her. The teak deck felt good and sturdy under her and she was part of that. The blood all around redder and the stream slower and she was part of that. The mast seemed to stretch taller into the rich blue sky. The rich blue sky was getting richer and darker and the sun was still shining and she was part of that too. It was all very beautiful to be part of that she felt. Very beautiful. It was darker. The sun shining across the water. Still very beautiful and everything getting darker. Everything was dark now and the sun still shining across the water.

There was no thinking. And it was dark. There were no images of angry hands. There were no images of family. There was no fear and there was no peace. There was nothing beautiful. There was no rich blue sky and there was no blood surrounding her. There was no part of anything. Allison Pratt did not know she was on the deck. She did not know she was no longer breathing the easy air. The blood was no longer flowing and her body grew cold and pale in the easy afternoon sun.

Then there was pain. It moved up along her back and burrowed inside her head. There was coldness running into her arm. There was darkness and thinking. Allison’s eyes snapped open. She felt restricted and did not know where she was. She felt the cold teak deck under her and she felt a salty breeze across her face. Her left arm felt heavy and she touched it. It was inside something soft. There was a plastic tube with a needle taped to her right arm. She traced the tube to a plastic bag filled with liquid that had been hung from a boom above her. She removed the bag from the boom and rolled over onto her stomach. She felt hungry and hollow from which a pounding came up and into her throat. There was not enough light to see the deck of her ship and she tried standing but fell. She crawled to the hatch at the rear of the ship and hurt her knees going down into the cabin. Once inside, she flipped on a light switch. Her left arm bandaged and she was clean. Her clothing was different. Her shirt had a note pinned to it. She tore it off and read: ‘Not Yet.’

CHAPTER TWO

She grabbed hold of a rail near her and with her unrestrained arm pulled herself to her feet. She climbed the narrow and steep stairs onto the deck. The plastic bag filled with blood dragged behind her. The wind caught her hair and she listened. She wasn’t sure what she was listening for. The water was dark and calm and the only sound was the lapping water against the hull. A sensation of panic set in and made her stomach feel hollow again and she felt as if she was going to vomit.

Accompanied by the sensation of panic, she felt alone. She touched the bandage on her arm again. She dropped the note, picked up the blood bag and the inside of her head swirled. Her consciousness drained, her hands trying to grab hold of something to steady herself but a moment later she felt herself go limp, hit the deck, and everything became dark again.

When she woke, there was something soft wrapped around her legs. She forced her eyelids open and focused her vision on the quilt around her limbs. When she could look around the room was bright with dried flowers hung in various places. The bag of blood was above her dangling from a small shelf and it was empty.

The hollowness was still in her stomach, like before, but it was now hunger. She was curious about her whereabouts but the hunger-weakness dominated her thoughts. They kept turning on finding a meal and she hoped that whoever was caring for her, a feeling she had not experienced since her family was alive, would offer food.

Then the door to the room opened slightly and Allison saw the face of a woman. Her brown eyes were large and round, set in a kind visage that appeared sun and wind worn. When the woman saw Allison was awake she shut the door.

Allison struggled to her feet.

“Hey!” Allison said to the closed door.

“One moment, dear!” the woman said.

After a few moments passed, Allison heard footsteps walking back toward the closed door.

“Dear?” the woman said, “would you mind?”

Unsure what to do, Allison stood and stared at the closed door. The thought then occurred to her to open it. The woman this time was holding a tray with a steaming pot of tea and two small cups. Several small slices of bread had been placed on a small plate next to the tea kettle.

“We don’t have any milk, dear,” the woman said, while setting the tray on a small table near the bed Allison woke from. The woman seemed genuinely sad at the thought of not having any milk then added, “Sorry.”

The aroma from the tea was unlike anything Allison had ever experienced. It had a hint of wet alfalfa mixed with a spice she had no comparison for. She approached the woman who was pouring the tea into one of the cups. The woman handed the cup to Allison who took it, examined it, then with both hands wrapped around the cup, downed the contents.

“Careful, dear, it’s hot!”

Allison barely felt the burning sensation which was good going down her throat. Allison held her cup out and the woman obliged. Allison drank that cup slower.

“Where am I?” Allison said, wiping away some of the tea that had dribbled down her chin.

The woman opened her mouth, then stopped before she said anything. She took a breath as if she was unsure of what she was about to say.

“We call it”—she paused and looked out the window—“Ara. It’s short for Ararat,” she said. Her voice sounded hopeful to Allison.

“Ara?”

“Yes, dear.” The woman sat down on the bed. “Let me take that needle out of your arm and I will answer any questions you have as best I can.”

Allison sat next to the woman and she gently pulled the needle from her vein. Both women looked at Allison’s left arm that was that appeared to be rebandaged.

“My name is Margret, dear,” she said, “did you,” she paused, uncertain how to broach the subject, “did you try to hurt yourself, dear?”

“I, um.” Allison pulled her arm away, she felt it better to evade the question. “Um, where is Ara, exactly?”

“Well that would be a better question for Bill Tanner, he’s our chief elder.”

“Elder?” Allison said tersely.

“Yes, dear, we all thought it best after God flooded the world again to keep our leadership system as biblical as possible.”

“God”—Allison paused, trying to eliminate the contemptuous feeling—“flooded the world?”

“Most of us believe this.” She looked out the window again. “But some think the icecaps melted because of global warming, others think it was a comet, you know, too much ice melting.”

Allison felt strengthened by the tea and what she thought was bread. She drank another cup and ate the bread.

“But their ideas don’t explain how bountiful this island is, how else could you explain how the fruit trees give fruit all year and how a tomato vine grows in a week?”

Allison had finished the tea and the bread was dry in her mouth. It was hard to swallow without liquid but she managed to get the lump down her throat. She thought the woman was nice, but obviously disconnected from reality. She wondered where she really was and who could give her an answer. She also wondered where her boat was. And while Margret seemed nice, she also wondered who else lived here, and if it became necessary, how to escape?

“Do you know where my boat is?”

“Oh yes, your boat is at the dock. Very curious how you came into possession of a boat like that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, dear, no one has seen a ship on the seas for,” she paused then looked up trying to recall the last time, “twenty-years.”

“What?”

“Yes, and your ship is like the ones before the flood.” The woman stood up and looked out the window, then directly at Allison, “what’s your name, dear?”

“Allison.”

The woman’s expression changed suddenly. The skin around her eyes grew tight and the corners of her mouth pointed down.

“You’re not from the evil waters, are you?” the woman said with great suspicion.

“I’m sorry?” Allison was unsure if she heard Margret correctly, then decided it best to not have her elaborate. “Look, I really appreciate you taking me in, but I just need to get back to my boat and be on my way. Perhaps you could point me to someone I can get supplies from?”

Margret did not answer but snorted at what she perceived Allison to be, whatever that was. Allison watched the expression Margret wore grow into outright suspicion, no, hatred, Allison observed. And fear.

“I think you’re from the evil waters,” Margret said while picking up the tray, “like the other one.”

Allison began to follow Margret out of the room but stopped when she closed it behind her. Allison figured she was to stay put here until this chief elder could examine her.

She went to the window and examined it to decide if she could leave by breaking it. It was set crudely in the wall and she thought it would be easy enough to escape. But what then? She wondered if her boat was under guard, and she had no real chance of overpowering anyone, or sneaking aboard in her current physical state.

And the strange things Margret was saying. Twenty-years? It made no sense. Maybe this chief elder would be a person who was reasonable, but then again maybe he wouldn’t.

“Hey!” Allison called out then banged on the door, “You can’t keep me in here!”

A moment later the door opened.

“Dear,” Margret said in an unsympathetic tone, “you’re free to come and go as you please.” She pointed her arm down the hall.

It took Allison a moment to realize that she might be wrong about Margret, but there was still something odd about her. She took another moment to decide what to do. Allison walked past Margret, holding eye-contact with her while she moved past and down the hall. The hallway was short and connected to a large room, which adjoined another room. On the far side of the smaller room, Allison spotted a door she guessed led outside and hoped would have answers, especially the location of her boat.


CHAPTER THREE

There was a main road. It ran directly from the sea. She turned around and the road continued over a slope. On each side of the road were small structures, like the one she had just left. She guessed Margret’s house was about half-way along the road.

A complex and pleasant scent hung thinly in the air that reminded her of lavender and citrus. A cloud layer masked the sun making the light soft causing everything to appear flatter without the strong shadows a clear-sky sun produces. Allison watched several people folding a fishing net down where the road ended by the sea, while others were walking up and down the road carried large baskets, some overflowing with produce and fruit.

She made her way down the road. As she walked, she noticed two more roads that ran up and down from the sea, and three other roads running perpendicular. There were many more structures, some larger, some smaller. The whole organization of the village reminded her of a resort she had visited as a child. The people she passed seemed friendly, but cautious. Everyone said hello, but was quick to break eye contact.

Allison arrived at the end of the road and looked across the beachfront for any sign of a dock. There was no sign. A young woman, an old woman, and a teenage boy stood waist-high in the water throwing nets, then pulled them back. Allison watched this process several times and if there was a fish, the boy would take it and put it in a basket he wore slung around one shoulder by a wide strap. They did not seem to notice Allison. She thought about interrupting them when a voice came from behind her.

“Excuse me,” the voice of a young boy said.

Allison spun around quickly. Her not hearing the boys approach alarmed her. Their clothing appeared hand-made and they both seemed timid but trying to overcome it the way she always noticed young boys do at a certain age.

“Yes?” Allison said.

“Were you on the water?” The boy with short dark hair asked.

“I was on a boat,” Allison said.

“Where are you from?” the boy with reddish-blonde hair asked.

“I’m from San Diego. Do either of you know where the dock is?”

“Everything was destroyed in the flood. What island have you been on?” the dark-haired boy asked.

“Island?”

“Everyone knows there are only islands now,” the other boy said contemptuously.

“I didn’t,” Allison said growing alarmed at the hostile tone.

While Allison was answering, the two women and the boy that were fishing in the water approached. Everyone had formed a semi-circle around Allison.

“Listen, I just need to know where the dock is. I need to make sure my boat is okay,” she said to the crowd.

“Are you here to collect your own?” the young woman asked Allison.

“I, uh,” Allison started to respond, but did not know what she meant, “just someone tell me where my boat is and I’ll be happy to leave.”

“Is she from the evil waters?” the old woman said to the younger.

“Is who from the evil waters?” Allison said taking a step back as the crowd had begun to envelop her.

“The same place you’re from!” the dark haired boy said, yelling the words.

Allison felt the crowd had turned into a mob and she decided it best to leave. There was a gap between the women and she started out of the circle when the dark-haired boy pushed on her back with his foot sending Allison’s face into the sand. While she was clearing the sand from her eyes she heard another voice.

“Hey!” he called out, “get away from her!”

Allison felt hands helping her up. These hands were kind and large. Allison turned around and found a man with twinkling blue eyes. His hair and beard was grey and the tips of his moustache stained yellow, covering his upper lip. He was tall and built like a wrestler, but she sensed he had no inclination toward violence. His clothing appeared hand made as well.

“Are you okay?” he said.

“I’m fine,” Allison said brushing the sand off. She looked around and noticed the crowd had dispersed. The boys were walking back up the road, occasionally glancing back, and the others returning to their fishing.

“Don’t mind them, some of us don’t know how to handle unexpected situations very well,” he said then held his palm up, “I’m not excusing their behavior, mind you.”

“Thanks, um…” she said, but suddenly realized she didn’t know his name.

“My name is Henry,” he said, “Margret told me you were out and about.”

“Henry, do you think you could show me where my boat is?” she asked in earnest.

“Of course,” he said, “and afterwards, I was hoping you would let me take you on a brief tour of our island.”

Something in his tone, and that he had asked her if it was okay, was an unfamiliar experience to her. Pleasant, but unfamiliar. Her experience over the past year, especially with men, was anything but pleasant. Most of the men she knew, even the ones she trusted, would never ask for her consent. A test of his sincerity was in order.

“Would you let me decide after I see my boat?”

“Of course I will.”

“Will you let me leave if I want?”

“Allison,” he started, “it is not my place to let you do anything,” he said, with a chuckle, then started walking down the beach, “come on, young lady.

Allison watched him walk away for a few moments. She saw his crudely made shoes and the footprints in the sand they made. She decided it was okay to follow him.

The dock was a short walk from where they began. The sand on the beachfront had gradually changed from fine particles into pebbles. The dock stretched out two-hundred feet into the water and at the end was her sloop, gently rocking with the waves of the water. She stepped on the dock and walked across its planks. She went aboard her boat and looked around. Everything seemed to be in order. She made her way down into her cabin. There, too, everything seemed to be okay. She went above and found Henry standing on the edge of the dock.

“Everything ship-shape?” he asked hoping his nautical term would elicit some amusement. It didn’t.

“It seems to be fine,” she said while giving the boat another look, “do you know where I can get some food and water to take with me?”

“I do,” he said, “do you have something to trade?”

Allison thought about what she had available. Then she thought about what they might want. She realized that she didn’t really have anything of value.

“Is there any work that I might do?”

Henry appeared to consider Allison’s request. His eyes searched around, then met Allison’s.

“I will give you supplies in exchange for information,” he said.

“What kind of information?” Allison wasn’t sure she liked his proposal.

“The kind of information that will help me convince these weirdos that God did not flood the world,” he said, with a contemptuous laugh.

“I don’t know if I can help you with that,” Allison said. She didn’t know what information she could pass on that might help Henry.

“Probably not. How about that tour?”

Allison nodded and Henry held out his arm as if he was going to escort her to some function where a gentleman was obliged to make such gestures.

“Are you serious?” she asked, stepping off her boat.

“Oh, why not?” he asked optimistically, “let an old man give you a proper escort,” he said as if he had every right.

“Alright, Henry,” she said then took his arm.

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-one.”

“Hmmm. Too old.”

“Too old for what?” she said, taking offense then realizing he was trying to keep the situation light-hearted. He did make her feel better. “Henry?”

“Yes?”

“Is that Margret woman crazy?”

“Very nearly.”

“She said she hasn’t seen a boat like mine for twenty-years.”

“Nobody has.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I.”

“Where is this place, Henry?”

They arrived at the end of the dock. Allison turned as if they would backtrack the way they arrived. Henry gently stopped her.

“This way,” he said, then let go of her.

Henry led her up and off the beach. After a few minutes the pebbly shore changed into short grass. Allison noticed the terrain turn rocky. The smaller rocks turned into boulders the further inland they traversed. Soon the boulders were large boulders and Allison felt as if she were in some sort of labyrinth. Several times Henry had to come back for Allison after she couldn’t figure out which boulder Henry had walked around.

Then after a few more minutes of making their way inland Allison noticed the natural shape of the boulders begin to change. Their bulbous shapes gradually became shallower curves and soon the boulders became large blocks of stone. She really felt as if she was in a maze. She took another wrong turn. Henry took her hand this time and continued to lead her.

“Henry?”

“Just a few more yards,” he said. Allison assumed he was trying to reassure her.

“Where are we, Henry?”

“That’s what I am hoping you can help me with,” he said while leading her around another large block of stone many feet higher than the top of their heads.

Soon, Allison noticed, the stone began to have designs cut into their sides. They were simple at first. Then as they moved toward, whatever Henry was leading her toward, the designs became more complex. Allison thought the stone carvings were beautiful.

“How can I help you?”

“Before all this,” he said as if he was referring to some unknown event, “I was an Astro-physicist.”

“Is that like a person who looks in telescopes?”

“Don’t be coy, Allison,” he said not buying her act.

“Sorry. I’ve just gotten in the habit of playing stupid. It’s helped.”

“You asked me a few moments ago, where we are?”

“Where are we?”

“I don’t know. For the past twenty-years there has been this cloud cover.” He pointed up at the sky. “Day and night. If I could see the stars I could tell you where on the planet we are, but I can’t.”

The designs carved into the boulders took on even greater complexity and shape. Soon the shapes took on the shape of people in action, like hieroglyphics, but more complex.

“This place seems ancient.” Allison said out loud.

“It’s not,” Henry said while ascending a stone step.

“How much further, Henry?”

“We’re here,” he said while letting go of her hand.

They were standing on the edge of what appeared to be a circle of large stone blocks. They were the most massive yet. On the inward facing side, the carvings were the most complex. In the center was a stone pillar. It had large holes and other shapes carved into to it but it’s carvings did not seem complex or sophisticated. In fact, to Allison, it appeared to be a misguided attempt at art.

“Over here,” he said motioning for her to join him.

She walked over to Henry who was watching the stone pillar.

“It only happens once per day,” he said.

And within a minute there was a clearing in the cloud layer and the brilliance of the sunlight came through. Its angle was right for the rays to shine through the top of the pillar where the light channeled through the various holes and began to cast the directed light onto the carvings in the stone block encircling the pillar. The way the light moved around was like an animation.

First it lit up what appeared to be a semi-circle. Then human figures held hammers on it. The mound grew larger. The semi-circle emerged from a horizontal line as Allison’s eyes followed it around the circle. The human figures now stood upon it and stacked blocks upon it.

“What is this, Henry?” she said in astonishment.

“Just wait,” he said while pointing his finger.

The human figures continued to light up like they were building something. Then the human figures disappeared. The channeled sunlight continued to shine on the next block as the angle of the sun shifted across the sky.

A topographical map began to draw itself in light. It appeared to be a series of islands. Twelve of them. Each one lighting up in a certain order. Then they disappeared as the sun continued to shift across the sky. Then, on the last block an image appeared. The image made Allison tremble. It was the logo of a company she knew well: The Pratt Shipbuilding Company. The company her father started. Allison looked at Henry who was looking at her studying her reaction. She looked back at the logo, which was now disappearing as the angle of the sun continued to shift.

“I met you once,” Henry said, “when you were a very little girl,” he paused and cleared his throat, “I worked for your father, Allison.”

“You worked for my dad?” Allison asked not knowing what else to say.

“Your father was a visionary,” Henry said in the tone a zealot talks about religion, “I think he figured out a way to save us, save the planet.”

“What did you do for my father?”

“I worked in a laboratory. Doing experiments. Now I see how those experiments are relevant to what’s happening right now.”

“How so?” Allison said, now afraid of Henry, but in a different way.

“Your father built this island.”

That thought made Allison shudder. Not because it was ridiculous. But because it was well within her father’s capability. Anything was, she thought. She now understood Henry’s behavior.

“What do you want from me, Henry?”

Henry looked away.

“What do I want?” he said as if he offended her, “I don’t want anything. But maybe you could tell me where your father is?”

“He’s dead, Henry. My whole family is.” Allison responded as if he should have known this already.

“Dead?” Henry seemed visibly disturbed.

“Dead.” Allison repeated the word by way of affirmation.

Henry’s legs seemed to give out on him, like a man who realizes his religion is false. He steadied himself by gripping his fingers in one of the carvings on the stone blocks but Allison watched his breathing change, drawing deep breaths that made his stomach cave in. He started weeping.

“Henry!” she said, moving over to him and bracing his arm over her shoulders.

“I’m okay, it’s okay,” he said, seeming to his outburst embarrassing.

“Let’s go back, Henry, okay?”

“Your dad, he was a good man.” Henry continued to speak with the weight of his arm around Allison’s shoulders.

She didn’t want to answer him. She wasn’t sure if that was a true statement. Her father was many things, but good? She knew who was good and who was not. The way a man is, is always an indicator to that effect. And besides, she acquired the experiences of her mother and grandmother to the same through a series of childhood experiences. Men always know how to behave, it is programmed into them. All men have a moral code. And when they don’t follow it they’re not right, she thought; without excuse and no need for further consideration. She never felt love from her father.

They were outside the square-cut boulders and making their way onto the beach front. It did not take them long until they were back out onto the beach. From there Henry and Allison made their way back up the main road to Margret’s home. When she crossed the first perpendicular road she noticed a building, unlike the others. It had small windows, barred by large wooden dowels set vertically, like bars on a jail door. In the window, furthest from her, she saw a face appear then disappear. She held her gaze until the face reappeared. It was the head and eyes of a child, of a young girl. Allison stopped. She made her way to the window.

“Allison!” Henry said in a tone of dissuasion, “don’t worry about that right now.”

She ignored him and went to the window. It was lower than her height so she knelt. It was dark inside the room. “Hello?”

“Allison?” said a voice from a place in the room.

It was dark and Allison could not see into it.

“Who’s there?”

“Allison?” the voice said again.

“Who are you?” Allison said, feeling very disturbed.

“Am I a mistake?” said the voice from the darkness.

The question sent her mind spinning and it sounded very familiar.

“Allison!” Henry called out, still standing at the corner.

Allison looked over at Henry who seemed ready to collapse to the ground. She forgot about the voice and went to help him. She braced his arm around her shoulders and they continued up the road. The villagers looked on but did not interfere with them. They walked past Margret’s house, where Margret stood outside with her arms crossed, watching the duo make their way up the hill. Soon, Henry pointed.

“This is my house,” he said.

Allison helped him inside. It seemed to be the same layout as Margret’s house except the furniture and the interior smell was different. She helped Henry to a chair.

“Thank you, Allison. Will you stay for a while?”

“What about those supplies?”

“I was hoping we could get to know each other,” Henry said while trying to ease some of the pain in his knee, “if you want, then I can get you anything you need.”

“Do you have anything to eat?”

There was a knock at the door. Allison looked at the door which opened and Margret stepped through. She wore the same look of suspicion and fear she did before.

“Hello, Margret,” Henry said flatly.


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