Sock Puppet Theatre

October 11, 2006

Picture Prompt

Filed under: Excercises,Fiction — thepuppet @ 10:08 pm

From Absolute Write exercise thread:

Boxhouses

Artwork by Jacek Yerka

“Hello?” called Sasha, his voice echoing off the walls.

“Keep it down boy, we don’t know who runs this one,” mumbled Grampa, squinting at the windows and leaning on the wheel.

His navigation was off again. There was not supposed to be an island here, none at all, but this one appeared out of the fog silently, as if it arose straight out of the ocean. Grampa glanced down at the mouldy chart folded in his hand and shot another look at the apartment block drawing closer, just off The Caliope’s starboard bow.

“Get the guns lad, we need to land.”

Sasha smiled and bolted for the cabin. Grampa shuffled to the rail and cocked his right ear to the fog bank.

Nothing. A breeze humming through the driftwood plants on the block and the creaking of the boat under his feet. The bonfires crackling, now only 10 meters from where he stood.

But no voices, no calls of anger or joy, no pleading for help. Nothing.

Grampa frowned.

“Where is everybody, Gramps?” whispered Sasha, creeping in under his grandfathers arm and holding up sawed-off pump action.”I thought we weren’t gonna see anyone on this run?”

Grampa slowly reached out and grabbed the gun and, without taking his eyes of the building, moved slowly to the bow.

“Wind must have changed on us, we aren’t supposed to be anywhere near the New York islands…but that is certainly one of them. Might be one of the old Lower East ones, but the shape.”

He gripped the rail and readied himself for the jump.

“They’re in there, lad. Beach fires don’t light themselves, even in this unholy place.” He turned and looked at Sasha, his wrinkled grey eyes stern and serious “You ready to use that thing if you need ta? No more cardboard cuts-outs boy, this will be the real deal.”

Sasha’s excited smile melted away and he turned to look the rusting silver Glauck in his hand.

“Sure Gramps, I guess..but where are they?”

Grampa struggled over, holding the rail in his left hand and clutching the shotgun in his right, white-knuckled and still looking at the windows, now looming high above them. He splashed into the water and leaned toward the shore and the roaring fire just beyond the water’s edge.

“Get that sail down boy and help…help me get The Caliope to shore,” he grunted, weezing against the weight of the boat as he spoke.

Sasha jammed the gun in his belt and lowered the stained canvas tarp that served as the boats main sail, scurrying across the deck, shooting looks alternatively between the apartment block and his grandfather hanging off the rail. He ran to the front, grabbed the rope and lept into the water on the port side and pulled until he reached the fence.

The Caliope was tied off.

Sasha moved around and joined Grampa next to the fire. Grampa was crouching with the shotgun cradled across his thighs, while he warmed his hands and looked from window to window.

“Who are they, Gramps?” asked Sasha, still whispering.

“Survivors, Sasha, the Left-Behinds. Not much different than us, except they couldn’t get out when the sea came in.”

He swept his left hand behind him, toward the open fog enclosed ocean from where they had just come.

“This whole place, as far as the eye could see was a city, boy. As far as the eye could see. Each of the shoals we navigate around is a roof, each island the top of building that was tall enough not to get covered. There aren’t many of them.”

He stood and gripped the gun in both hands, ready to pump, his eyes still locked on the buidling and the doorway.

“When the caps melted and the floods came, thousands were trapped. Most didn’t make it, but a few survived. Of course there was no help for them. The whole damn world had gone to hell by then. I heard tell that whenever a boat came close, the Left-Behinds would call out for help, only to be killed, or worse, by the mauraders. Went on for years before they figured it out. Been about 50 years now and they just as soon kill yas as look at ya. They know there’s no resuce and no help.”

“But they lit the signal fires. They must want to get help, or call us in even to trade”

Again Grampas eyes filled with concern and seriousness turned to Sasha. “They aren’t signal fires boy, they’re to keep the crocs away. That’s why each doorway and beach has one. That’s why the fences go out into the ocean. They don’t want those ocean crocs coming for them.”

Sasha spun and for the first time turned his back to the apartment block. To him, every wisp and wave looked like the eyes of a creeping reptilian death coming for him. Grampa never moved, never turned.

Sasha jerked his head to the left when he felt his grandfather’s hand on his shoulder. He was looking at Grampa’s left ear for over 10 seconds before he caught what he was looking at in his peripheral vision. He slowly turned to his left until he was facing the same direction as his grandfather, pulling the gun from his belt and dropping it to his side as he moved.

In a darkened window on the second floor, the red orange heater of a cigarette glowed and faded and the smoke drifted up into the light of the window above it.

“Ready boy?”

Grampa pumped the shot gun and stepped forward.

“We’re here to trade,” he shouted to the cigarette “We don’t want no trouble.”

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