Short Story – The Endless Sea
This week’s story is very clearly the beginning of something longer. It didn’t start that way.
I was doing an improv set this past weekend and it involved the idea of a free floating fresh water island in the Pacific Ocean. It was pretty silly but got me thinking about a world where all of the islands floated.
Not realistic, perhaps, but fairly interesting to think about.
So I started writing a story and I quickly realized that the ending of the story is really just the end of Chapter 1. I might have to return to this one day and see where everything goes from here.
As always, please enjoy, comment, share, or go on with you day!
Trant waited anxiously to catch the cable that was traveling in a graceful arc from the island of Horche. This was her first solo catch and while very little could go wrong, she wanted to make a good impression.
“Just hold steady. Let the basket do the work. If the guy on the other side is any good at all, you won’t have to move it more than the length of your arm.”
Her older brother Braxit had been a cable retriever for years. He made it sound simple but Trant wondered if he’d been so calm for his first solo catch.
The cable was headed almost directly for the basket but Trant could see it drifting with the wind just a little bit. She shifted to compensate and the cable landed right in the center. The clamps locked down and she could hear the machinery on Horche whine into action.
The two islands were drawn closer together and merchants lined up on the beaches to start trading. It had been months since any island had drifted close enough to trade with Nebi. The lack of exotic goods had resulted in something of an economic crisis.
“Well done,” Braxit clapped his younger sister on the back, “it’s like you’ve been doing it all your life!”
Now all she had to do was keep an eye on the skies. If a storm hit an island as it drifted across the endless sea, the damage would be little more than a few fallen branches.
When two islands were lashed together, however, they could capsize. If one island was larger than the other, as Horche was larger than Nebi, the smaller island could be drawn underneath.
The seers had predicted no storms for the next week but Trant didn’t trust the seers. They were right as often as they were wrong. Their claim was that the gods were fickle.
Trant suspected that the seers knew no more about the plans of the gods than she. So she watched the skies.
On the beaches, trading commenced. Nebi was volcanic, connected by a long, flexible lava tube to the bottom of the sea. She drifted, as all islands did, but unlike most, she was tethered and could drift only so far.
She also had valuable stone that replenished itself. Lava flowed and cooled and could be quarried. Other islands had no renewable source of rock and that meant the small nation typically enjoyed considerable wealth.
The combination of a relatively small area in which she could be found and a valuable resource meant inhabitants of other islands sought her out regularly. A trade draught of several months was unusual. In fact, it had never happened before.
Representatives from the leadership councils of both islands were meeting to exchange news. Because her resources were in such high demand, the news travelled to and from Nabi all over the endless sea. Now, the leaders of Horche knew everything and were most likely demanding a favorable exchange rate in return for that knowledge.
“Do you suppose they know why it’s been so long since we’ve seen another island?” Trant asked her brother.
“Maybe. But I’ll bet they’re going to gouge us whether they do or not.”
Trant continued to scan the skies. Storms arose so quickly, you might have no more than a few minutes to react.
Seer Vanche was watching the exchanges on the beach when he noticed Trant scanning the skies. He walked over to the siblings and smiled.
“Looking for storms, Trant?”
Of course she was looking for storms. Vanche knew she was looking for storms. But you didn’t question the Seers. Even when they were wrong.
Most of them turned a blind eye to this kind of behavior because they knew their island needed to be kept safe. Vanche was young and he never much liked Trant. He seemed more interested in making threats than the safety of his people.
“No Vanche,” Braxit responded, “you personally assured us today would be free of storms.”
“Then why is your sister looking at the sky?”
“Looking for birds. We need to catalog if any birds cross from one island to the other.”
That was one of their jobs, true enough. It was a decent lie. One Braxit had used many times before.
Vanche wasn’t convinced.
“That is probably what you are doing, Braxit. But your sister is looking to the west. Does she not trust what the Seers have predicted?”
“Of course she does,” Braxit tried to assure Vanche, “she’s just…”
“No I don’t,” Trant interrupted.
“Vanche knows as well as both of us that the predictions of the Seers are not reliable and he knows that we have to watch for storms or hundreds of people will die. If he wants me to face public shaming for doing my job, he’s going to find an excuse to do it anyway.”
Trant looked Vanche in the eye, challenging him to disagree with anything she’d said. She knew she’d crossed a line. You didn’t doubt the Seers. Not to their faces, anyway.
Vanche held her gaze for a moment but she knew him. He was a coward. He turned towards Braxit, who was trying to stammer out an excuse for his sister’s behavior.
“The elder Seers will hear of this,” he sputtered angrily.
Trant grabbed his wrist tightly so he would turn to look at her again “you make sure you get my name right. I don’t want my brother paying for something I said.”
She let him go and watched him run towards the beach to tattle. Most likely the other Seers would ignore her show of disobedience because she expected they had as much respect for Vanche as her. If she was to face punishment for her acts, so be it. She had little patience for such nonsense.
“Trant! Why did you do that?”
“Because he’s a bully, Brexit. He’s so enamored with his own importance. He’s been a Seer for what – three months?”
“So what? He’s a Seer! You don’t challenge them. The law is very clear.”
“The law is very stupid. The Seers have been predicting trade for weeks. Today they happen to be right and we’re supposed to thank them?”
Vanche was on the beach gesturing wildly at the other Seers and pointing to where Braxit and Trant continued to watch the skies. In truth, Trant was watching the skies. Braxit was watching the Seers.
“Damn it,” he said, “they are coming over.”
“Let them come.”
Vanche wore a self-satisfied grin as the elder Seers approached Trant. The High Seer, Unitark, was a kindly gentleman who looked like the favorite grandfather of every islander. Every public shaming had to be approved by him so Trant knew his sweetness was a facade. He was as ruthless as any of them.
“Good morning Trant. Braxit. I wonder if you might be willing to clear up something for me?”
Braxit bowed his head as Unitark spoke, careful not to make eye contact. “What can we help you with?”
Trant continued to look at the sky.
“I wonder if you could tell me what you are doing, Trant?”
Braxit did his best to speak first. “She’s just…”
“Watching the sky for storms,” Trant confidently responded.
The High Seer chuckled just a little. “I’m sure what you mean is you are scanning the sky for birds.”
Braxit was about to say something but Trant glared at him to make it clear he was not to make excuses.
“I meant nothing of the sort. My job is to look for storms. That is what I am doing.”
Unitark’s kindly face hardened for just a moment. He was not used to this kind of blatant challenge from a girl just barely old enough to be considered an adult. It was clear he didn’t care for it.
“I’m sure you understand there are consequences for challenging the prediction of the Seers,” he began.
“The consequences for failing to spot a storm are far greater.”
“But there will be no storm. We have forseen nothing of the sort. You are expected to trust in our word.”
Vanche jumped forward to make sure his voice was heard.
“That’s the law!” he cried.
Unitark put his hand on Vanche’s shoulder and pushed him back ever so gently.
“Insolence of this kind cannot be tolerated, Trant. You understand that order must be maintained and laws must be followed.”
“I understand that storms happen whether you predict them or not and I’d rather be responsible for saving lives than obeying a useless law.”
Any attempt the High Seer may have been making to control his anger now disappeared. She had gone too far and for a moment, she regretted doing so.
“Because you insist on questioning our predictions, I have little choice but to…”
“Shhh,” Trant cut him off, “did you hear that?”
A low rumble rolled over the island.
“High Seer,” Vanche shouted, “the gods tell me a storm is coming!”
“Indeed, they are telling me the same thing,” Unitark agreed.
Trant rolled her eyes. If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny.
She looked at Braxit and mumbled under her breath “that wasn’t thunder.”
He frowned. “I know.”
They heard it again. It was closer.
“The gods send a storm,” called the High Seer, “we must sever the cable immediately!”
Trant looked at the old man, whose voice was trembling with panic, and shook her head.
“You know less about my job than you do about the future. The mechanism has a quick release. We have to wait until just before the storm hits. Now get out of my way and let me do my job.”
Unitark was equal parts terrified and furious. “You dare…”
“Yes. I dare. Now which would you prefer, living to punish me or…”
Vanche pushed to the front again “Braxit can do her job! She should do nothing but be taken to the holding pit!”
The noise again. It was louder still.
Braxit was scanning the western skies as he talked to himself. “Where it that coming from? I don’t see any signs of a storm.”
Vanche ran up and grabbed Trant’s arms. He was carrying a rope and he fumbled to bind her arms. He was as incompetent at tying a knot as he was at everything else. She thought about stopping him but instead let him grapple with her wrists while she watched the sky.
The skies were normal. But there was that sound again. Closer. The skies were clear.
She had an idea. She looked at the sea.
She yanked her arm away from Vanche and pointed to the side of the island of Horche. “There!”
The sea churned violently as what looked to be another island closed in at unbelievable speed.
Before it reached Horche, it lifted itself up from the water and a mouth of impossible size opened.
On the beach, traders and dignitaries were running inland as quickly as possible.
Trant shoved Vanche off of her and ran to the controls. She had to release the cable before…
The creatures mouth closed around Horche, almost removing half of the island. It thrashed it’s head around as it tried to pull the two sections of the island apart.
A creature that large couldn’t move it’s head very fast but each motion whipped both islands through the water. Trant fell multiple times as she worked her way to the release lever.
With half of Horche still in it’s mouth and the other still partially attached, the creature decided to submerge, pulling Horche with it. Nebi would follow if Trant wasn’t quick enough.
The shore began to submerge as the Nebi titled. Those near the beach began to slide towards the water. Trant clawed her way to the release. The High Seer grabbed for something to keep himself from falling towards the endless sea but there was nothing.
In a final act of desperation, he grabbed Braxit, who had managed to hold on to a piece of machinery. He tried to climb over the young man in an attempt to save himself.
Instead, he killed them both when his desperate flailing jarred Braxit’s hold loose. Trant couldn’t even make out her brother’s screams among those of all the others.
Her hands finally reached the release lever and she pulled as hard as she could. The cable broke free and slid down the beach while Nebi slowly righted herself.
When Trant was finally able to look out to sea, there was no sign of the island of Horst except the footprint where it had been. A few bodies were floating in the water. Some moved but most did not.
Vanche was next to her starting at the aftermath but saying nothing. She vaguely remembered grabbing his hand and pulling helping get a grip on something solid before he could meet the same end as her brother.
She grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him angrily, wordlessly screaming at him until her throat was sore. Then she let him go and he dropped to the ground.
She stared at him for a long time before speaking.
“Did you see that coming?”