The Ending

Sep. 23rd, 2012 12:54 am
thulcandran: (Default)
[personal profile] thulcandran
Caddy of the PPC gave me the prompt, Penguin, Pumice, Shatter, and I... somehow... did this thing with them. I don't know where it came from - I started writing about a raft on the Pacific, the scenes of Kon-Tiki in my head, and then this just... happened. It might be the most bleak thing I've ever written.

Aiden leaned back against the tall mast and grinned into the open sky. The sun had stopped bothering him so much weeks ago; now he just lay and baked, some days.

"See? Aren't you glad I brought you out here?"

He opened his eyes a slit, and looked across the narrow deck, where Mira was standing, watching the horizon. She glanced back at him, and he laughed.

"I remember having to drag you off that dock, though," he said, opening an argument old and familiar as the logs beneath their feet. She shrugged, declining to dance the path with him. "How far south are we, anyway?"

She took a deep breath, thought a moment. "I took the bearings this morning, we'll have gone a bit farther by now. I couldn't tell you offhand."

He frowned in mock horror, his eyes still closed against the sun. "What kind of navigational officer are you, anyway?"

Mira rolled her eyes at him and sat down on the deck, letting one hand trail briefly in the surf beneath them. The current dragged, helped by the sails, and they slid along imperceptibly, between the two horizons. There were worse ways to spend the time.

"I figured we could maybe see penguins, if we managed to get far enough down."

She blinked at him. "...Penguins."

"Penguins! You know, flightless birds that swim really well, black and white, inherently silly, favorite snack of seals, more favorite target of photographers?"

"Penguins. Aiden, do you know how far south we'd have to go to see penguins? We'll never... ah, it's just too much time."

Shrugging, he settled against the mast again. "I suppose so. It'd be nice, though. There's supposed to be some farther north than Antarctica, I wish I remembered where."

Mira laughed, and stretched out on the deck. "Well, yes. But I think we're better off just heading aimlessly. I don't... want anything to happen. There was that guy who warned us, way back, about the volcanoes."

"Volcanoes?" Aiden blinked, held a hand to shadow his eyes. "I don't remember that, for some reason. Undersea?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "I still don't know if he was serious or not - volcanoes on the floor of the ocean, they'd spout lava, and it would float up to the top of the water as just massive stretches of pumice or something. Really weird."

He shrugged again. "Sounds like a tall tale. But then, a lot of the past few weeks have seemed like a tall tale, really."

"Hah." She snorted. "Weirdly enough, especially after we took to the ocean. I wouldn't have thought it. The other night, when that glow started up - I thought we were both losing it."

He laughed, nodding. "Like the sky was about to swallow us up - that was stronger the first few nights, though. It's... the sky is so much deeper, now, since..."

Mira forbore to finish the thought, and the raft drifted on into silence. Their memories carried them back, perhaps simultaneously, to the nightmare they'd tried to forget: skies red and angry with foreign, searing smells, the explosions, the shattering sounds all around in the city streets, the screaming... the screaming was the worst. The smell of blood, so thick in the air you could almost taste it. And the air had filled with clouds, something worse than any of them had imagined. She and Aiden had been on the very edge of it, and they'd fled quickly, to higher ground; the worst of it had escaped them. But the survivors they found had all breathed, as well; there were varying theories that circulated about what, and who, and why, but the fact of it was, symptoms began to appear, and then there was a countdown, inexorably, unchangeably. It was exactly the same for every one of them. Six months in, they'd both woken up with the same fever, and they'd decided not to spend the rest of their fleeting lives shivering on the shore as they wondered what had happened to their world, and who mwas coming after them.

The raft was waiting on the beach, as if made specifically for them. A few days preparing, and they were off - south, out of what had been the famed Californian west coast. The trip was worth it; beautiful, soothing, like balm to their eyes, lungs, souls. They had about three weeks left, she estimated. They were both trying not to count, but it was almost impossible to avoid.

"Was that a tortoise?"

She started, at Aiden's voice, and followed his gaze out to the water, where a greenish shape about the size of their raft kept pace.

"Hah! It is! That's incredible!"

He stood up, and moved across the desk to sit down next to her, and they watched the beautiful beast swim in companionable silence as the sun set on the Pacific once again.
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