PART 5: “THE ELLENOR”
When they ventured out of the trench, they were confronted with a setting that had gone from resembling a scene from the 1969 moon landing to looking like something beamed back by the Mars Rover. Craters of all different shapes and sizes pockmarked the desert plain; the ash-drizzle had thinned to a grey-amber fog.
Renaldo looked at Luke, his eyes dull with hopelessness. "Where to?"
Luke motioned toward the curl of dark smoke, which had become a constant feature in an otherwise featureless backdrop. It was still the only real option. Amie sat high on Luke's shoulders, like an exotic princes seated atop her litter. Given that Renaldo had carried her last, it was now Luke’s turn to do the honours. She held him firmly around the ears with clammy fingers.
The trio set off, leaving the safetey of the shelter behind them, and weaved their way between the basins of each impact zone. Renaldo wore Luke’s backpack, using it as a shield, much as Luke had done the previous day, against the gusts of icy wind that battered them from all directions.
A few hundred feet into their journey, Renaldo bent down to pick up what looked like a hefty lump of blackened rock, which stood out against the dirty but lighter sand. Smaller pieces of the same dark-coloured stone peppered the whole area.
“Chunks of meteorite,” Luke confirmed. He thought back to the documentary he had watched with his dad. “I think this is what geologists would call a strewnfield.”
“Cool! It's still warm.” Renaldo hefted the stone up and down in one hand. “A piece of rock from outer space. These might be worth something.”
“Sure,” Luke said, “if there were people around to sell them to.”
Renaldo surveyed the barren plain surrounding them. Point made. He allowed the rock to fall to the ground.
They continued their march in the direction of the column of smoke, like the three wise men (well, technically in this case it was two wise men and one not very talkative girl with spooky eyes) following the star over Bethlehem. There was no sense of time or distance; they could have been walking in circles for all they knew. The hunger in Luke’s belly was now superseded by his thirst.
Finally, the spiral of black smoke grew fat before them and they could see large tendrils of flame just beyond the crest of the next sandbank.
The opaque, ginger-coloured drape that hung over the sky was starting to ripen back to crimson. They would need to find shelter again soon.
Luke paused for a moment to catch his breath. His tongue felt gritty and pasty in his mouth. He put Amie down and she quickly found a new home on Renaldo's back. The muscles in Luke's neck were knotted and tense.
A strange object caught the corner of his eye. It lay on the ground about five feet in front of him. At first he thought that his mind was playing tricks on him, a mirage brought on by a hunger-induced delirium.
It was a fish.
A stinky dead one, but a fish just the same.
Renaldo noticed it also. “What the...”
Luke picked it up by the tail and held it in wonder. There was simply no explanation for this. A fish! Here, in the middle of nowhere!
Luke sniffed at it. Pew! It was at least a couple of days dead, but the lack of sun had slowed the decomposition process.
"What are you thinking?" Renaldo asked.
“I'm thinking we're going to eat it.” Luke waved the fish in front of the pitcher's nose.
"Ergh!.” Renaldo pushed it away. "Not me."
“Do you see any Seven Eleven stores around?”
“Fishy,” Amie said, lifting her head up listlessly from Renaldo's back and then resting it again, as though finding a fish in the middle of what looked like the Sahara desert was the most normal thing in the world. Renaldo smiled. Luke had told him about his conversation with Amie during the morning, and while Renaldo had not indicated any doubt, seeing (or in this case, hearing) is believing.
Luke opened the backpack, took out his math book, and tore a number of pages from it. He wrapped these around the fish. He’d always dreamed about shredding his school books, but not like this. He tucked both the fish and what was left of his math book into his bag.
Once their luch was safely tucked away, they set off again, scalling the tall crest in front of them. When they got to the top the first thing Luke felt was a blast of heat, and what he saw on the other side made his jaw drop.
It was a huge ship -- a freighter judging by the size of it -- slumped on its side like a fallen giant and engulfed in flames, a juggernaut, roughly a football field in length. The ship lay in a massive pool of oil that seemed to be seeping from a gash in its hull. And it was encircled by sand on all sides as far as the eye could see.
Another object lay half-buried in the sand. Luke pulled it loose. This time it was a red and white life saver, with the words THE ELLENOR printed on it. What was this colossus doing here?
So much for the plume of smoke. Luke turned and looked back in the direction they had come from. Thick cords of fog twisted and boiled on the horizon, limiting visibility to a few hundred feet. But for a brief second he thought he had caught a glimpse of something before the clouds quickly swallowed it. There it was again! A tall obelisk in the far distance: the unmistakable silhouette of a skyscraper.
Huge drops of water began splattering at their feat (not ash-drizzle this time, but real rain).
The city was in the opposite direction, Luke realised. They had been walking away from it ever since they had escaped from the tunnel. All this could only mean one thing...
That they were standing in the middle of what was once Boston Harbour.
(c) Copyright Eugene Gramelis, 2012