Saturday, June 19, 2010




"The heart of a man to the heart of a maid,

Light of my tents be fleet,

Morning awaits at the end of the world,

And the world is all at our feet."

-Rudyard Kipling (1885-1936)



Luke lifted his heavy sneaker out of the muddy sand and sunk it back into the bog in front of the other. With every step the sludge held onto his foot tightly, releasing it only after a game of tug-of-war. It had been like that for hours (thwump! as he pulled his waterlogged boot out and shlump! as he stuck it back in). He'd lost all feeling in his toes. And now his legs felt like they were dragging boulders.

The letters spelling out Luke's last name--Wakefield--on the back of his baseball jersey were barely visible through the grime and layers of ash. He wore his backpack over his front torso to shield him from the oncoming rush of wind. His sneakers had been blue once. They were Nikes. Top of the range. His Mom had given them to him on his sixteenth birthday, last April. The boots would have set her back about four hundred bucks. Luke was pretty sure she'd be dead -- or gone -- like the rest of them. He wanted to cry, but his face was too numb.

A sharp, stinging gust tugged at his wet hair and clothes. He was surrounded by a nightmare. No skyline. No buildings. No people. Nothing. Just a ghostly darkness and soggy, blackened earth shrouded in a grey-purple haze as far as the eye could see. And looming in the distance, barely visible, was their only beacon of hope, the only discernible landmark: a long, black plume of smoke extending high into the bleak stratosphere like the funnel of a tornado.

A mixture of cold rain and powdery ash sheeted from the sky. It was everywhere: in his hair, on his clothes, up his nostrils. Something caught Luke's attention. He kneeled and pulled an object out of the ash. It was a brown beer bottle. When he tipped it, sand, gravel and green sludge dripped out. He let the bottle fall back to the ground.

They had been making their way towards the plume since it had happened. But the darn thing never seemed to get any closer.

Renaldo thought this was a bad idea, but was too claustrophic to stay in the tunnel. Luke wasn't exactly sure this was a good idea, either, but right now there seemed to be a shortage of good ideas.

The game had been called in the seventh inning thanks to the mercy rule, sending the team back to the awaiting busses early.

It had been just before noon when all hell broke loose.

After they had forced open the back window of the wrecked bus, their only other option had been to stay at the scene with their team mates until help arrived. They had waited for about two hours, but there hadn't been any sirens or flashing lights. Not even an automated emergency broadcast over the PA system. No one seemed interested -- or able -- to come to their rescue. Luke had felt like a trapped rat in that tunnel and hadn't been keen on staying holed up in that tomb any longer than he had to. The Coach had warned them not to go, but his leg had been broken, and there wasn't much he could do to stop them. That was when the realisation had set in that he would have to resort to self help if he wanted to see daylight again; Luke had been prepared to take his chances with whatever awaited him on the outside.

When they had crawled out of the escape hatch leading from the tunnel they'd been met by a fierce wind and an otherwordly darkness. There had been so much dust in the air that they could scarcely take a breath. Then the dreaded ash-rain had started to fall.

They had found the little girl in the Boston Tunnel while they were searching for a way out. She had been alone in the dark, sitting on the blacktop beside an abandoned Chrysler. They had heard her soft whimpering. Luke, Renaldo and Gerald -- who was also affectionately known among the team as the Fat Kid -- had been taking turns giving the girl piggy-backs since they'd crawled out of the manhole. But now it was just Renaldo and Luke doing the carrying (currently it was Renaldo's turn) because the Fat Kid had given up. They had left him laying in the mud about eight or nine miles back. They had refused to leave him behind at first, and they'd dragged him by the feet while he pleaded with them to just let him be. So, reluctantly, they had left him behind, promising to send someone to get him when they found help. If they found help, Luke now thought. The Fat Kid's whining was still buzzing in Luke's ear: My shoe's stuck! My back hurts! I have a stitch! I'm hungry! I'm dizzy! I'm going to faint! That was all they'd heard since finding their way out of the tunnel, and Luke was horrified to find that a part of him was glad for the relief. Luke knew that the odds were the Fat Kid wasn't going to make it, but would their own fate be all that different?

Now Luke, Renaldo and the girl settled back into silence. And Luke welcomed it; mostly because he was afraid to talk. Conversations led to questions. Questions with no answers were frightening--especially the one weighing most heavily on his mind:

Where in God's sweet name had the world gone?!

So instead of talking Luke continued to trudge through the mud, his sole focus: putting one foot in front of the other.

Thwump! and shlump!

Perhaps they had made a mistake leaving the bus. But he needed to know what was going on. The world he had known had disappeared. And so had the people who had been living in it. They had all simply... vaporized. Bafflingly, the sun, too, had vanished, plunging them into an unnatural gloom. Boston was gone, the great city and its suburbs replaced by the charred wasteland that now encircled them.

The mysterious column of smoke was still an unfathomable distance away.

Each step was bringing them closer to answers.

Thwump! and shlump!

Each step was probably also bringing them closer to death. But Luke figured they were dead anyway if they stayed here in the freezing mud. So they might as well keep moving.

Here there was nothing, but towards the plume there was fire.

And where there is fire, Luke reasoned, there is something for it to consume.

(c) Copyright Eugene Gramelis, 2010


I hope you enjoyed the first instalment of "King of Tides". This is a work-in-progress. New posts will appear periodically. So please feel free to let me know what you think of each piece as I put it up.Your comments are highly valued and much appreciated.


  1. Hey Gramelis,
    Love the feel of the King of Tides: dark and forboding with so many questions raised but unanswered. Echos of the Stand, The Gunslinger series and so much more - the Stephen King for the next generation. Can't wait to see next intalment!

  2. Scintillating so far...hinting at much post-apocalyptic drama!