Monday, December 21, 2015

Searcher

SearcherMalek opened his eyes again and stared at the dust motes playing through the warm ray of morning sunlight, swirling like microscopic leaves in a river current. "Why are we here? I mean seriously, how did we get so far away from home? From things familiar? And you know I'm not just talking about what we've just eaten for breakfast!"

"I think I want to tell you a story," Alani said, sipping her tea with a distant look in her eyes as if she hadn't even heard him.

Malek chuckled. "Yeah okay, sure; as long as it isn't one I've heard a dozen times already!"

"There was a man once," she continued, nearly interrupting him. "I shouldn't mention his name, especially not here. Let's just call him 'Searcher' for now. He was everywhere, in mind, and he always was looking for something... though he didn't quite know what that was. But he ventured to all the faraway places in search of it: Mountains, valleys, cities, fields, islands, rivers...."

Intrigued by this change of mood in his ordinarily blunt and not-so-reflective sister, Malek poured more water into both their cups, kicked his feet up on the wooden table, and sat back to listen.

"As this Searcher traveled, he got better at knowing where to look; he became more and more aware of life. As for why he was searching, all he knew was that the longing came from deep within him. Like a hunger it ate at him, burned him to go on. Any mode of travel would do... and he found that there are lots of them."

Outside the inn, a horse plodded down the muddy lane, its belled harness jingling in lazy rhythm with the occasional shouts of an old woman hawking her wares in an unintelligible dialect.

"Like traveling whilst smashed in-between a couple of crates and the edge of a cart that's been tied way too close to the stinky ass of the ox that's drawing it!"

This comment caused a corner of Alani's mouth to turn slowly upward. "Yes," she shuddered, "Like that. Anyway, as I was saying before you so rudely interrupted--"

"I was just--"

"Shush."

"Fine," he smirked, picking a piece of tea leaf from his teeth.

"So this Searcher traveled the world using every means imaginable. He explored for years, decades even, until his whiskers grew grey and his back bent crooked. Still, in the end he found nothing. Nothing at all."

Malek squinted, waiting for the punch line. His sister lit her pipe and gazed pensively out the window. "And?" he finally asked.

"And what? That's the end of the story."

"Well that's stupid."

"I know you are but what am I."

He let out an exaggerated guffaw. But the story had unnerved Malek, and unbidden thoughts were flooding his mind. Of screams in the dark, of those words their father had forced them to memorize before he would let them flee that final, fateful night....

Malek placed his mug down on the table, nearly knocking it over, and strode abruptly toward the door. He paused before walking out. "You're wrong, you know."

"Am I?" His sister said.

"This is different. We'll find her."

"Am I?" She mocked, a dark look in her eyes.

"Shut up. And yes, you are. I know we'll find her."

"...am I?"

On his way out, Malek slammed the door shut a lot harder than he'd meant to.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Gyreshark

Gyreshark by Gaines PostA muffled series of thumps resounded from the north wall. Heath's pulse quickened. The ship must be entering the gyre already.

Hastily he wrapped his sleeves up to the armpits with nylo wire and then tied it off. Removing the helmet, he squirmed into the jumpers, one layer after another. They felt tight around his muscles. He flexed his elbows until the coils loosened a little, then put on the gloves and helmet and picked up his spear. More thumps were coming from the hull, with increasing frequency. It was now or never. Or at least not until next pass around Littlerock.

No one was around to watch the boy in his ridiculous garb as he went up the access ladder to the broken old ceiling lock, climbed inside, and began cycling open the hatch to the sky.

An alarm sounded. Heath did not hesitate. He had been expecting it, and the adults were all too afraid to do anything about it anyway. Pushing up on the hatch, he stuck his head into the wind and peered around him.

The surface of Littlerock lay several kilom'ers below the ship, appearing a hazy purple through the thick atmosphere. All that solid earth, Heath thought. But even more on Bigrock.

The rush of air against the helmet was deafening. The ship was deep in the gyre already, and the sargaca clouds were all around, whipping along the air currents in blurs of dark green. One ripped past his head close enough to make him flinch. He heard the thumps and scrapes against the hull as the ship plowed into cloud after cloud of the moss-like substance. The plant matter slid across the solar panels spanning the craft's mighty wings, and made a staccato pinging sound where it was getting trapped in the forward food grills.

Gyres were regions of rotating wind currents created by the complex system of coriolises around Littlerock. Most were semi-permanent eddy zones chocked full of snared sargaca, as well as the myriad flora and fauna that used the stuff for food and cover. Long ago, the crew had realized that the only way to sustainably feed themselves was to steer the ship through the gyres and collect what biomass they could scoop up. Once clear, they would retrieve the captured sargaca from the food grills, and then process it in the lab to extract proteins, gases, trace minerals, and so on.

Heath scanned the gyre, on the lookout for sudden movement. Humans were not the only creatures feeding here.... 

(To be continued.)