Indigo On The West Coast - Part 1
Sometimes things aren't where they're supposed to be.
It's not a well-formed thought, but as I behold the long-abandoned boat on a still-chilly morning in California, something more incisive and definite eludes me.
It's August 2008. I'm on holiday with the caffeine-stunted Eolist Petite in beautiful Marin County to the North of San Francisco. I've recently completed a training course in the city by the bay, and the dinky dynamo has flown across the States from her East Coast home to hang out for a few days.
Eolist sips an industrial sized cup of joe, and contemplates the boat thoughtfully.
One of these things is not like the others, one of these things is not the same, she sings quietly, absently. And she's right. It's hard to explain why, but the presence of the marooned ship feels wrong somehow. It's too old, too battered, and too close to the water to have been marooned here for all these years.
It's almost cinematic, eerily beautiful and incongruous. Unusually, I'm lost for words.
Can you hear it?
Twenty minutes ago, my first task for the day is to drive us into the rustic bayside town of Inverness, in search of coffee. I'd say we were in search of coffee, but Eolist sits pouting in the passenger seat, barely able to see over the dashboard of the black Ford Mustang. Which is a shame, as the seemingly endless woods on one side, and the frankly awesome Tomales Bay on the other, are worth every admiring glance I offer them.
Are we there yet? she grumbles, folding her arms for extra poutiness.
As I take a corner at a sedate pace (I'm still getting used to the left-hand-drive car), the wide front porch of The Inverness Store swings into view in the distance.
Yes, almost there.
Five minutes ago, armed with a cup of coffee that could have given night terrors to Rip Van Winkle, Eolist is happier and more communicative. We chat happily outside the roadside grocery store as I wrestle my way into a bag of beef jerky. So far, the bag is winning.
I'm talking about what we might do today, and my desire to go see the Point Reyes Lighthouse, when I notice that I'm talking to myself. My companion has drifted away along the front of the store and is gazing round the corner. I stand to follow, figuring I missed a cue to head back to the car, and restart my tourist monologue. But again, she walks out of earshot along the side of the store.
By the time I catch up with Eolist, my lazy shuffling kicking up dust in the dry car park, she's poised at the rear edge of the property, gazing out across the bay at low tide; sand, reeds, gorse, and salt tidal pools, all framed quietly beneath the purple glare of distant hills.
And there's a ship. An old, stranded ship.
Can you hear it? she whispers for the first time.
Back in the now, I can hear it. Or feel it. Or something. It reminds me of a feeling I had the first time I went to Stonehenge, an enormous sense of presence. I step down from the car park and offer Eolist my hand to assist her descent, before we slowly cross the fifty yards of puddled scrub in silence, dodging small pools and mud slicks.
I stop at a sudden flashing image crosses my brain. Actually, it's more like a tenth-of-a-second of video. It's cold and wet, and someone is shouting. I think it's me.
Slightly ahead of me, Eolist slowly raises her hand towards the boat, but then suddenly starts and sneezes.
Excuse me. Rain up my nose, she mutters, somewhat confused. And there's no need to shout.
You felt it too? Was it deja vu? I venture. She shakes her head.
No. It's more like an adventure...
... we've not had yet? I leave the thought hanging; we both know what I mean.
Cresting the last rise, we stand on the sand. The boat, barely showing the legend Point Reyes, is in front of us now, horribly landlocked in five feet of sand. There's a smell of seaweed, rusting metalwork, and organic decay. It's not an enticing cocktail, but it doesn't drive us back.
The silence is deafening now, the presence of the ship overwhelming under the empty sky.
We both reach forward, and touch the wooden side of the sh...
I have no idea when it is. It's dark and wet and someone is shouting. The roar of the sea is all around, and heavy rain batters us as we stand on the main deck of the Point Reyes. Dark currents heave us every-which-way from fathoms beneath us, and darker ones roil in the clouded midnight sky above us.
Eolist stands beside me, clinging desperately to the wooden rail around this exposed bridge area. In front of us, an heroic figure in oilskins, gumboots and a sou'wester hat wrestles a course from the ship's wheel. The sturdy crate he's standing on to reach the wheel does not detract from the spectacle, nor do his black and white feet.
Yavin! I roar desperately. Where's 'Difficult?! The badger turns in acknowledgement and points a drenched paw to a struggling shape at the front of the ship; it's my best friend, the legendary arch-genius iDifficult. Bewildered that he can hold fast on the bucking deck, I'm also impressed to see that he's clearly focused on a task; he's adjusting a brass device at the prow, calibrating a clockwork mechanism preserved under glass. A blue glow from its depths illuminates the immediate area, shining through the wave that obscures him for a moment. A moment later, he somehow slams into the rail around us and offers a grin.
Told you! Piece of cake! he bellows as another wave, perhaps the older brother of the first, tries to sweep him away. I wave frantically towards the miracle device at the front of the ship.
Is the time core going to get us home okay?! I dislike conversing in shouts, but right now our options are thin. And I feel confused; I'm sure a moment ago that I was somewhere else. But we don't have time for that now.
A thumbs-up from 'Difficult seals our course and fate, and we haul him over the rail and into relative safety. The torrential downpour seems to worsen suddenly, and the wooden floor ahead of us vanishes again in a fresh deluge. The ships barrels to the left and then drops in a moment of Zero G. My last meal begs for an airing; this is one hell of a bumpy ride.
I'm aware that our speed is increasing, and we seem to be slowly angling forward. I grab for Eolist with one hand, and the railing with the other, as I glance behind and upwards.
And I see the lightning.
It's not in the sky, but is deep within the rising wave that's pushing us headlong towards an invisible horizon. The lightning arcs and flashes beneath the water, and there is a strobing suggestion of a mighty form with multiple arms and a broad, low-slung head.
We're angled more heavily now, and the rise of the wave seems without end. But suddenly, the front of a grey-furred form breaks the plane of the cresting water; a simian head, too many hands, and more teeth than I have time to count. Dammit, it's an Octoboon.
The howling wind is drowned out by a cacophony of gibbers and whoops.
I bellow some unrepeatable words, and lurch towards 'Difficult as a wave thunders past.
That thing doesn't belong here! screams Eolist beside me. I concur, and add my own hoarse enquiry to my friend at close quarters. We're travelling rather fast, far quicker than a boat could ever cross water.
We're falling through Time! How is that Octoboon following us through Time?! My friend waves as expansively as he can in our sixty-degree descent through an ice-cold shower of stinging water.
Well, I'm not going to learn much by engineering a stupid animal, am I? he sprays emphatically. The logic is impeccably twisted, but the prospect of outrunning a creature with eight arms, three hearts and nine brains is not an attractive one. Nor is its embarrassing baboon butt, which has just butterflied free of the titanic wave. I notice that it seems to be the source of the lightning; electricity arcs to the main mast, which shatters in a brief fiery burst of splinters.
Can we outrun it? roars Eolist. Are we there yet?!
A deep growl from close by draws our attention to Yavin. The badger engineer is pointing towards a point of light ahead of us. It's not at the horizon, and it is clearly expanding as we thunder towards it.
We're almost there!
High above us, the Octoboon leaps free of the water, and is outlined in baleful white fire, a Vetruvian pinwheeling of arms and gaping jaws that promise our immediate doom.
Time stretches like elastic, and the beast's roar deepens and slows.
And finally, in a rush of wet, dark, fast-forward images, Time snaps.
Back in the now, both myself a Eolist tumble away from the stranded ship.
The misty Sunday morning in California is silent but for our Olympic coughing.
Eventually, I sit up and reassure myself that my tiny amiga is okay. I then regard the ship. Oddly, it's previous presence has gone; the Point Reyes is now just a rotten old boat with rusty fixtures, and no future beyond our epic memories.
When you get home, please kick his arse, grumbles Eolist. She's re-found her coffee, but not her sunny disposition. Or a hairbrush.
Whose arse? asks a tall upbeat figure as it rounds the ship with a smaller companion; it's 'Difficult and Yavin. They're soaked to the skin. As he sheds his oilskins, the badger tugs at the arch-genius' sleeve and points at the distant hills enquiringly. My friend nods. And by the way, where are we?
There's a selection of hugs and backslaps as we greet each other.
Some of us are not where we're supposed to be.
But we're in good company.
Continued in Part 2 - Beyond The Notice Of Physics
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2011