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An Excerpt from The Reegiad

Chapter Two: The Tears of God

 
 

From the Diary of Artemis Wilde

Sweltering. Hungry. What I wouldn’t give for a glass of water.

Okay. So now the batteries are dead. I’m dead in the water and I’ve missed my chance to call for help. The smartglass hull is permanently opaque now. Just enough juice to get me through the atmosphere and into the biggest mess of my life. And now I’ll probably die. Daddy, I’m so sorry.

My head hurts. Getting cramps in my belly.

A little while ago I climbed out onto the flotation collar and sat in the shade of the lifeboat. With afternoon coming on, the breeze had picked up. I knew it would take hours for this floating steam bath to cool off inside, and I was so damned hot. I stripped to the waist and the air felt so good against my breasts and belly. I lifted my hair so the breeze could cool the back of my neck.

Watching documentaries doesn’t prepare you for the reality. Even virtual realities are lacking some fundamental aspect of the actuality. I guess that goes without saying, doesn’t it? For one thing, VRs can’t kill you.

Anyway, I finally saw something alive out here. I was sitting on the collar when I spotted what I thought was an island in the distance. Then I noticed that the island was bobbing up and down ever so slightly. As it drifted nearer I noticed striations on its flanks, and of course the overall shape was much too regular for an island, and islands are rarely the color of orange sherbet. It drifted within fifty meters of me, bobbing like a cork, and shaped like the nose of a bullet. If most of it was under water (as I suspect it was) then the whole thing must have been the size of an upended ocean liner. It didn’t do anything, just bobbed and turned while water trickled down the corrugations in its hide. It towered over my lifeboat like a small mountain.

Now, here’s where it gets weird. I was desperately thirsty, and the sight of that floating mountain with water trickling down its sides triggered a hunger in me I just couldn’t shake off. I had no rationale for it, no reason to think those streams were fresh, or that they weren’t composed of alien piss. Reason dictated it had to be piss. Who among us hasn’t urinated in the bathtub? Yet the look and sound of it drove me batty.

I remembered the water bottle I kept in my duffel bag, scrambled inside and dug it out. Outside again, I slipped feet-first into the briny water using the bottle as a cut-rate flotation device. Not much help there, but it was something. Treading water the temperature of my own blood, I hesitated and considered the probability that I was committing suicide. Then I swam like hell.

I dog-paddled. Moby Sherbet grew ever closer, and bigger, bigger, bigger. I got scared and stopped, looked back at the lifeboat wishing I had a tether; wishing I was home in bed. I turned again and dunked my head for a look around under the waves. The water was clear and bright with refracted sunlight. There was no sign of tentacles poised to pull me under. The flanks of the creature plunged down and down into darkness, its only distinguishing feature those parallel corrugations in its tangerine hide.

Swimming was slow going for I was weak and scared shitless. But I finally reached it and stopped close enough to touch it, out of breath. The ridges were half a meter deep and as thick as my thigh. I grabbed one and found the flesh warm and eerily plaint. The creature didn’t seem to react to my touch. I reached into a groove and fingered the running water, itself as warm as the ocean and utterly colorless. I let it stream across the palm of my hand and detected no visible impurities. It smelled fresh. Then I licked my fingers.

What an intoxicating taste that was. Heedlessly I wedged myself into the groove and drank, breathless and high on alien piss.

I filled my bottle and headed back. Reaching the stupid lifeboat was the hardest part, for now the bottle was full. But I held onto it like life itself. I was too exhausted to pull myself onto the flotation collar. But I managed to toss the bottle through the hatch and hung on while I rested and caught my breath. That’s when a flock of fish flew by.

They scared the bejeezus out of me. The haunting silence was shattered by the sound of a thousand little hands slapping the water behind me. I whirled, nearly losing my grip, and caught sight of motion just above the choppy waves. Adrenaline levitated me. I scrambled onto the flotation collar and looked more closely.

Hundreds of flying fish broke the surface and flew like little airplanes, sky blue underneath with silvery top sides. They made an odd whirring sound. Not until one bungled onto my raft did I understand why.

I pitched myself through the hatch and away from its mad thrashing. It looked like no fish I had ever seen. Its rearward half was covered in a bright shell, its front end fleshy and more fishlike. Stubby wings looked like those of a pterodactyl. I was startled to see a pair of propellers attached to the shell at the rear. A pair of valve-like organs in the forward end of the shell opened and closed, and seemed to gasp for air. Each inhalation was followed by the whirring of its rotors. It was air powered.

It was mad as hell. It gasped and thrashed and whirred until it had wiggled itself back into the water and out of sight. In the distance more broke the surface, in and out. They flocked around the upended whale, circled it like a whirligig of gnats. I guess they liked whale piss too.

 

 
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