Thursday, April 14, 2011



"I don't think I can go any further."

Luke gazed over his shoulder and saw that Renaldo had come to a dead stop about fifteen feet behind him; the girl had fallen asleep on Renaldo's shoulders. Their conjoined silhouettes resembled that of a tall, humanoid squid monster emerging from the haze that seemed to ouze from the sky and trickle down the walls of the Earth like an eerie, dark-purple drape.

"Here, I'll take her," Luke offered.

"It's not that," Renaldo said, his voice thinned out by the wind. "I can't go any further." He had threatened to stop before, but this time there seemed to be an air of finality in the tone of his voice.

Luke raised an arm to shield his eyes from the flying grit and ash. This wind had teeth, and they were snapping at his face. The screen on his wrist watch was cracked. It wasn't working. Hadn't since the accident. And Renaldo didn't wear one.

It felt like they'd been trudging through this quagmire for something like five or six hours. That would put the time somewhere between 8 and 9 p.m. No wonder his legs were turning to jello. And to top things off, he was wet, cold to the bone and hungry. Really hungry. This was as far as they would be going for now.

Fighting the sludge, Luke ambled back to where Renaldo was standing; he took long deliberate strides as if he were wearing snow shoes instead of Nikes. Renaldo had gone from star pitcher of the East Boston Catholic Boys sophomore baseball team to a haggard old man in the space of a few hours.

Luke shrugged his backpack off his shoulders and allowed it to fall to the ground then reached up and gently took the girl from her perch. They didn't know her name. She hadn't spoken since they'd found her. Grey ash powdered her wet golden hair, like snow on the hood of a car. The girl awoke at Luke's touch and blinked her strange lilac eyes. She looked around her for a moment as if hopeful that she had woken up to a bad dream and that whatever she had been dreaming about moments earlier was the true reality. The girl went willingly into Luke's arms.

An instant look of relief washed over Renaldo as he fell to his knees.

Luke sat the girl on the backpack. "Stay here for a bit," he said. She was reluctant at first, and it took more than one attempt to get her to unlace her small hands from around his neck. "I'm going to have a quick look around," Luke said to Renaldo.

Panic flared in Renaldo's eyes. "In this visibility? You'll get lost!"

"I won't go far. Just up to that dune. If we lose sight of each other, call out. I'll follow your voice back. See? All those years of boy scouts are finally paying off. My dad would be proud." The thought of his dad brought a painful twang to his stomach. He was probably dead, too. He quickly pushed the thought away.

Renaldo nodded. A bruise had developed on his brow where his head had struck the seat in front of him when the bus had flipped. As Luke trudged off Renaldo lay down, his body making a snow angel in the wet ash.


From his vantage point atop of the dune Luke made a mental note of what he could make out of the topography. Thanks to the perpetual darkness and ash-blizzard, that wasn't much. It was the same story in every direction. Except for the ribbon of smoke, which stood out as a curly black smear against the magenta-coloured horizon. It seemed a little closer now but sill hopelessly out of reach. On his way back, Luke almost fell over a long rusty sheet of corrugated iron roofing, half-burried in sand and ash. It was too heavy for Luke to carry on his own, so he pulled it out and poked it into the ground like a post, where it flapped in the wind and made a sound not unlike a traditional country instrument Luke had once heard accompanied by a banjo. That would make it easier to spot.


When Luke got back to Renaldo and the girl he told them about a natural trench-like depression he had come across at the foot of the dune. They managed to find it again, thanks to Luke's musical sign post, and used the sheet of corrugated iron to hole themselves up for the night. The sheet had a fair-sized hole in one end, and their makshift shelter was open on two sides, but it held the wind at bay and kept most of the horrid ash-rain out.


They passed around the last of Luke's Gatorade and the half packet of Memento Mints Luke found at the bottom of his backpack then huddled together, sharing body heat. They listened to each other's breathing and to the low whine of the wind outside the trench. No one spoke about what they would do come morning. Maybe because they were too exhausted. Maybe because they didn't have a clue. Luke's eyelids began to sag. His bones ached. He had never felt this tired and this hungry before in all his life. He wanted to sleep. He wanted the weirdness to go away. He wanted his old life back. He wanted to wake up in his warm bed, to see the jasmine vines growing along his bedroom window instead of the starless, oily plum of a canopy that was visible through the rusty hole in the iron sheet.

Ronaldo was snoring now. The girl had curled up into a ball between them and had fallen asleep with her thumb in her mouth. Luke was also starting to drift off when a burst of green light erupted overhead.

Suddenly, the night sky was alight with strange fire.

(c) Copyright Eugene Gramelis, 2011


Hope you enjoyed the long-awaited second instalment of my "King of Tides" series. I apologies to my readers for taking so long to put it up. Hope it was worth the wait, and I will do my best to make sure Part 3 doesn't take as long. Feedback and comments are appreciated.


  1. Quotes on the end of the world: "Civilisation is only a pretense. In crisis we have become mere apes again, forgetting the rational biped of our pretensions and instead becoming the hairy primate at the mouth of the cave, screeching at the enemy wishing it would go away, fingering the heavy stone we will use the moment it comes close enough" - Orson Scott Card, Xenocide

  2. "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." - Martin Luther King, Jr.