At The End Of The World – Snippet 27

So Willow had made her choice. And there was obviously no going back. She didn’t do it to try to get us to lift the quarantine; she did it to stay with Johnnie. Kind of the weirdest and scariest Adam and Eve reboot you could ever imagine. She knew the dangers. She knew that a balanced diet was going to be a big challenge for them. She knew all of it. But as she calmly, patiently explained through the door, she knew that we’d leave them a good supply, she knew which seaweed she could use to supplement their other nutrient needs, and she knew the wildlife of South Georgia well enough to help them get by. And with Johnnie, she certainly had a strong pair of arms to help her. And with all the diesel left in the ship, they’d have heat and electricity for a long time, as long as they only used it when they needed to.

“Besides,” she said in that eighteen-going-on-fifty-eight voice of hers, “if we don’t catch the virus, it means we’ve learned some important things about the vectors of contagion. And then if we wait for, say, a month or so, we can try going back aboard the ship, scout out more of the supplies. Also, it’s certainly got a better and more powerful radio than we have here. So, you see, if all of you find the world dead out there, you can always come back here. Because we’ll either be safely dead and frozen solid, or we’ll be alive and with plenty of room for all of you.”

I wanted to find a flaw in her reasoning, but I couldn’t. I also couldn’t help envying her for how much of an adult she already was. I suspect she was born that way.

So after pushing back the sense of loss, of how much our group had shrunk, we went back to the radio shed with the captain’s breakfast. Once again, he didn’t reply. We knocked hard. Still nothing. We pushed open the door with a flensing knife. He was in his bed, staring at the ceiling.

And beyond it into eternity, I guess.

September 6

It is still hard for me to write. I have to say the words first and then spell them one by one. But I like doing it. Because now I will not be “dum Chloe” any more.

Alvaro could’nt write today. He was so tired. He steered the ship out of the bay and far out into the ocean. He never took a brake.

It was hard waving good by to Willo and Jonny. I will miss them. But they are happy and I am glad for them.

And the five of us who are leaving have a new addvenchur. We are sailing to the Caribeen. The wether is good, we have enough suplies, and we are healthy. And I remember what the captain told me when Alvaro was first teaching me to write. That I shoud keep one eye on the weather, one eye on the radio, and both eyes on tomorrow.

I just never gessed I woud see tomorro whenever I looked at Alvaro and my frends. But now, that’s what I see.

Because they are all my tomorros. And I am theirs.

October 13

When we got hit by a storm on October 11, about nine hundred miles south of the Ivory Coast, somebody must not have secured the pilot house’s aft deck door. I suppose that “somebody” could have been me, but remembering routines (or anything else) isn’t usually one of my problems. On the other hand, after a month at sea on the same boat, the stuff you do lots of times every day begins to blur together.

None of this would even be worth mentioning if, toward the end of the storm, we hadn’t been hit by a following gust that whipped through and around the pilot house and scooped out a bunch of papers. We lost some charts, but fortunately, we have backups of all the working maps. But we have no way to replace the last twenty-seven days of my — well, our — journal.

Not that it was riveting reading or anything. But it’s kind of like having a hole gouged out of our story. I mean we still have the log book, although not everybody keeps the records of our course and speed as carefully as they might. And now that I’ve written that where everyone else can see it, I will stop grumbling about it. Well, I’ll try to stop grumbling about it.

Besides, it’s my fault for not making myself an even bigger pain in the ass by insisting that we never leave the journal topside. Meaning that losing it is on me as much or more than it is on anyone else. So it’s up to me to make good on that loss as best I can.

Here’s what I remember of the last five weeks:

Only two days out from South Georgia Island, our radio went dead, and none of us knew why. Captain was the expert and all he showed us was how to operate it. Hell, he barely had enough time to make us semi-competent sailors. So I took a dive into the user’s manual. I didn’t get very far.

Unfortunately, that was farther than anyone else got. As a result, our daily coded contact with Willow and Johnnie — timed and date-patterned squelch-breaks that we used to tell each other that we were okay — ended almost as soon as it began.

A difficult discussion followed: do we go back and see if we can repair the radio from spares at Husvik? Giselle wanted to tack back to South Georgia. Rod was unable to make up his mind. And so, for once, was Chloe. Whereas hers had always been the most ruthlessly practical voice, I think that after fighting the pirates at Husvik she had turned some kind of psychological corner. It’s as though she had adopted us — all of us — as surrogates for the family she’d never really had. And let me tell you, as I’ve learned many times since, Chloe doesn’t do anything half-assed. If she says she’s all in, she means she’s ALL in. And this choice damn near tore her apart. The practical side of her sided with me: we’d have to fight our way back against both wind and current and that meant more time before we reached our first destination — St. Helena — to replenish our slim supplies of food. Besides, the odds were poor that we’d find any spare parts for the radio at Husvik. Assuming we could figure out which ones we needed to fix it. 

On the other hand, Chloe nodded every time Jeeza (Chloe’s new, improved name for Giselle) insisted that we at least let Willow and Johnnie know that we hadn’t gone off the air because we’d died at sea. Jeeza got wet-eyed every time she reminded us that the two of them were all alone at the far end of the world. They needed to know that we were still out there, too. Which I sympathized with and felt like a bastard arguing against.

But in the end, it was Silent Steve who smacked the ass of the elephant in the room. “We can’t take the chance,” he said, not looking up from where he was sitting cross-legged on the crew deck that night. “They’ve been all over Husvik now. Including the radiohouse. And we don’t know how contagious the virus is or how long it stays that way. So we couldn’t even help them look for parts to fix the radio. All we could do is holler at them from the middle of the inlet, then turn around and sail back out. With less food and even less time to find more.” He looked at Jeeza. “I’m sorry.” He rose and went to the head.

No one said anything after that. No one had to. He was right.  The risks just didn’t justify whatever good we might do by letting them know we were still alive. One by one, everyone left our new crew commons: the Captain’s cluttered stateroom. We could have uncleaned it up, but it had already become a shrine. Leaving it as he’d had it made it a little bit like having the Captain there, listening in on our discussions.

It was lonely without him. And to be dead honest, it was terrifying. Don’t get me wrong; he’d trained us well. But damn it, four months and one whole world ago, our biggest worry had been meeting our new roommates at the freshman dorms we never got to.