Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Story: The Storm World


The Storm World

by Floyd Looney

*Public domain image



The ship rose and fell as the waves became larger, flooding the top deck of the ship with freezing water and sometimes ice. The four deckhands grabbed onto something just before every hit by instinct. Even wearing several layers with a waterproof outer layer did not keep out the mind-numbing cold, only working did that.

Securing the stack of seven-hundred pound cages, call pots, meant climbing all over it, and hanging on for dear life when the ship hits one of the heaving waves of seawater. The radar and weather radio also indicated a storm was brewing and there was no way the Bravado was going to be able to avoid it. It had swelled up out of nowhere, Captain Harry Philman had been shocked to see how fast it developed.

He ordered the deckhands to secure everything and then get inside. They would have to ride out the storm. It looked strong on the LCD screen but thankfully also pretty small. The squall was going to pack a punch, no doubt, but they had made it through storms like this before.

When the four deckhands were off the deck and inside safely, Captain Philman said a silent thanks to God. The winds outside and the tides were throwing icy water over the deck at twelve second intervals, no one should have to go outside if it was not absolutely necessary.

Three days out of Dutch Harbor and the Bravado had caught no red king crabs on this run. The season for this delicacy would be over in less than a week. It was frustrating because the Captain was also the ship owner and it cost a lot of money to run. Money that came out of his pocket.

“Captain. Here's some coffee and grub.” The youngest of the crew aid handing over the meal and tankard of hot coffee. Jett Janson was the greenhorn and he was only looking to get about 2% of the haul after expenses and the Captain got his cut. It would really be less than 1% of the value of the catch. The young man had taken to the job like a professional and worked as hard as the other hands.

It was soon in the dead of night. The ships lights meant that much of the sea was obscured but once in a while, on calm nights, Philman would turn some of them off and look at the stars. He would look for the same stars that seamen had looked for ages ago.

This was not such a night. This night was a roller-coaster ride. He doubted any of his hands were getting much sleep. That meant they would be slower and less-aware tomorrow when they went back to work baiting and dropping the pots into the ocean. Sometimes he might asleep at the wheel but this night kept him on his toes.

The Bravado was trying to turn to port for some reason. Something might be affecting the rudder, he decided, but keeping the ship from being hit in the side was getting tougher. The weather radar showed they were at the center of the storm, this was the worst part. He felt like the entire ship was going airborne at the crest of every wave.

Suddenly the darkness outside was pierced by a purple light. This light grew larger and stronger. At first the Captain thought it might be another ship and was prepared to call them on the radio, but the radio did not work. He hadn't noticed when the radio chatter had died.

There right in front of the ship was a large bluish-purple ball of light, like a plasma. The Captain furiously tried to turn the ship to avoid it, but it seemed to be pulled toward the light. Philman had no idea what that was and he did not want to find out.

Suddenly the whole ship was surrounded and all he could see through his eyelids was that purple light, even with his hands over his face. Then it went away. The storm went away too, the boat was barely even creaking, there was no noise. The electronics were dead except for some lights. The sea outside seemed calm too.

At first Captain Harry Philman went back to the galley and sleepers to find all four hands sound asleep. He was confused how they could have slept through all of that. Then he opened the hatch and stepped outside. The clear night sky above was dark, but tinged maroon. The sea as calm as a mountain lake and to his right he saw land.

Impossible.

But there it was, all the same.

A large beach sloping out of the water and up towards something. It was dark but there could have been a forest up there. Closer to the ship, though, was a large rocky outcropping that must have went straight up more than fifty meters.

It was also not cold at all. There was no way they were still off the coast of the Aleutian Island chain of Alaska. There was also no way they could be anywhere else. A storm isn't going to push one across the Pacific ocean into Asia.

Philman went back inside. He could not comprehend what he had seen. It just didn't make any sense.

He started making breakfast. There was enough food to feed this motley army generously for several more days. He would have to think about cutting the rations after this meal if they could not figure out where they were. The radio, radar and GPS were totally out of order.

The smell of coffee, biscuits, bacon and eggs woke up the weary crew. He knew they probably hadn't got enough sleep, but they would all have to go to shore and investigate. The Captain waited until everyone was at the table and eating before he told them anything.

“It is dark as night out there but I have to assume that daylight will be here soon.” He said, Derrick looked at his watch and looked confused. The Captain continued, “The GPS, radio and radar are all out and we aren't in Alaskan waters any more.”

They looked at each other. Joshua, with the bushy beard spoke up. “What do you mean we aren't in Alaska?”

Jett Janson ran onto the bridge and looked outside. He slowly walked back to the table like he had seen a ghost. “It's warm in there and the sky is red. Where are we?”

The last comment was directed at the Captain, who answered. “That is what we need to determine. We're going to take the dinghy to that island or whatever, where we will try and find any house or clue as to our location.”

There are many islands off Alaska that are not populated. The older deckhands knew there was a good chance they would find nothing, or maybe an abandoned camp. They still thought they were in or near Alaska. The Captain then motioned for them to follow and led them outside.

“Where in the name of hell are we?” Derrick asked, forgetting that he held a mug of coffee. In front of them was a red sky, it was getting brighter and brighter red. There was an island and there seemed to be vegetation of some type on the horizon but it was too far to be distinguished. The rock outcrop looked alien, almost too sheer. They had all seen ice a bit like that, but this was rock.

“There was a bright blue and purple light, it surrounded the ship. Then we were here.” Captain Harry Philman told them.

Derrick, Joshua and Cory started walking all the way around the ship, taking stock of everything they saw in different directions. The Captain and Jett Janson followed them at a slower pace.

“I wonder where we are?” The greenhorn asked, rubbing his hairless chin.

“Not in Alaska or Kansas, any more, Toto.” The Captain joked.

The three other men came back to them.

“We should go and check it out, you two should stay here.” Foreman Derrick said.

The Captain shook his head. “I'm not sure we should split up.”

Derrick wasn't going to listen. He pointed at the possible vegetation.“Someone is staying with the ship but not alone. The three of us will go up there and look around and come back. Then we can decide what to do next.”

The dinghy was lowered to the water from the Bravado. Derrick, Joshua and Cory climbed aboard and tried to start the engine but failed. They used the two oars inside to paddle their way to the huge beach, maybe a hundred yards from the boat. Once they arrived they pulled it ashore and began walking up the slight incline toward the distant horizon under the red sky.

Jett had fetched his binoculars and he watched the men walk. He had a bad feeling. Philman had the young man also go and get two rifles, one for each of them. The sky was still red. A morning reddish sky shouldn't be so uniformly red and it should not last so long. The thought that the sky might really be red was likely the cause of his bad feeling.

Soon enough the men were on the horizon. They were outlined in the red sky, the vegetation he thought he had seen was no more than knee-high. Not a forest after all. The three men just stood there, they were talking to each other. He wished the walkie talkies had worked, he wanted to know what they were seeing.

When the three men returned and got their dinghy into the water, he breathed a deep sigh of relief, they hadn't been eaten or anything. By what, he had no idea. When they reached the boat they tied the dinghy to the ladder and climbed back on board.

“Well? What did you see?” he asked. The three kept looking at each other until Derrick finally said something.

“We saw domes. Many domes, made of red-packed dirt,. A whole village down in a small valley and we saw the locals.” Derrick explained.

“People. So we can find out where we are and get home.” The Captain replied, clearly relieved. He didn't understand the calm sea and the red sky, but it could all be a fluke if they could get home.

Joshua shook his head and said, “They aren't human.”

“They looked like ants.” Cory said, “Segmented bodies and everything.”

“Except they are obviously a sentient civilization. They have houses, stoves, we saw them using nets in a small river to catch fish.” Derrick was telling them. “This is not Earth.”

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I have no idea if there will be a part 2.

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