Saturday, July 30, 2011


The breeze dropped further still, and took to coming in irregular puffs before it died altogether. Dawn's first pink glow began to show through the hazy, cloud dappled sky, and the tall ship's sails drooped sadly in the still air. Scattered zephyrs rustled the dew dripping sails aboard First Watch, but provided no thrust. She lay there, bobbing in the diminishing swell some fifty yards from the ship's port quarter, surrounded by a glassy sea.

About a mile distant, the second ship could now be seen as well. Sails just as limp, becalmed in the eerily quiet, vast expanse of what looked just like a slightly wavy mirror. In fact, it was nearly impossible to discern the horizon. Sea and sky came together in a fuzzy, dream-like haze; both imitating the other exactly in appearance. It was not until the first sliver of the sun's red disc peeked above the plane that one could tell with certainty where it was.

Jack sipped his coffee, and ran his practiced eye along the ship's lines and rigging. She was a three masted square-rigger. Steel hull and masts, painted white and tan, respectively. She had the look of a clipper ship, such as the Cutty Sark, and was undoubtedly fast in capable hands. A beautiful ship, begging for the tradewinds and a competent crew. As her high, rounded stern slowly turned toward First Watch in the idle sea, Jack mouthed her name, Caribe, now visible in the soft morning light.

For nearly an hour, he took in Caribe's form. Her shape was trim and seaworthy, her rigging stout and efficient. And he knew there was no way that six men could work her. Sure, they could set sail eventually, but there was no way they could tack her in a channel, or make any maneuvers at all in short order. She was severely handicapped, and in eminent danger anywhere but the open sea. Surely she had engines, but even so, they could not reduce sail in time should it come on to blow. And then there was his suspicion that those left aboard had no notion of the engines, much less how much fuel was left aboard.

Linda brought Jack his breakfast, a powdered egg omelette filled with canned mixed vegetables, and covered in picante sauce. He ate it greedily as he kept his gaze on the ship, who's stern was now about twenty yards off of First Watch's starboard beam. When he'd mopped up the last of the picante with a slice of bread, Jack swallowed it down, cleared his throat, then hailed the ship.

Ahoy Caribe.”

Silence was all that returned his call. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he hailed again. After some minutes had passed, Vasiliy's voice came over the water from Caribe's port bulwark.


Do you know how much fuel you have aboard?” Jack inquired.

Good question! Engineer was one who left in boat. We have only deck crew left.”

Nobody knows anything about the propulsion plant?”

We sail, and see to the passengers. No engineers.”

You do know that you are undermanned for any kind of maneuvering?”

Yes, yes. Very short. We thought to anchor in cruise ship harbor and maybe, how you say, catch a lift ashore. The approach is wide, we swing wide around many miles, plenty of time to tack.”

You're sure of this?”

Yes, yes. Been there many times. No problem.”

Not wholly convinced, Jack nodded and waved, then turned toward the companionway and a much needed bunk. Linda kissed him before he turned in, and said she'd take the watch. He gave his respects to a much renewed Peggy, now almost human due to the calm, and then fell into his bunk, asleep before his head hit the pillow.

Swimming in the realm that occupies the space between dream and consciousness, Jack had a vision of a blue marlin leaping gracefully, shaking it's massive head in an attempt to throw the hook which had lodged in it's gaping jaw. He could see clean through it's flared gills, right to the water from which it thrashed and danced in it's efforts to free itself. The scream of a reel, and triumphant whoops from those who fought the great fish dragged him from his slumber, and soon he found himself blinking against the bright sunlight as he ascended the companionway ladder. Peggy had an iron grip on a doubled over fishing rod, and Linda held the gaff against the gun'nel, through the life lines, in anticipation of landing their supper. Several hands lined Caribe's rail, taking in the excitement, but not necessarily concentrating on the fish. And then, not ten yards from First Watch's stern, the glorious yellow, blue, green, and purple polka-dotted bull dorado made a tremendous leap into the air, raising a cheer from the onlookers aboard the ship, and delighted squeals from the women engaged in the battle. The fish seemed to hang in mid-air much longer than physically possible, but it finally came down with a great splash, and the reel sang out again as the fish made another blazing run.

Though not quite played out, Linda made her lunge with the gaff (for fear of losing such a grand meal). With one graceful arcing motion, she brought the fish up, up, and over the life lines into the cockpit sole. There the fish began flailing wildly, flinging blood all around, it's vivid colors undulating along it's body, until Jack subdued it with his billy club. Smiles and laughter came from those in the cockpit, and a great cheer came from the men on the ship, who then hurried off for their own fishing poles.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

May 22, 2012

7:15 A.M. Kevin rushed inside to tell Josey and I that he saw it again. And this time, there is a contrail... I ran out to the clearing with my binoculars, but all I could see, once again, was a silvery glint high in the sky. But this time it was followed by a contrail, so we are now certain that it is an aircraft of some sort. Who's aircraft, and what they are doing are the burning questions.

We thought it best to keep to the side roads, and under trees as much as possible. It may be in vain, but it seems like the prudent thing to do. So now we unhitch the trailer and say good-bye to it's comfort. We must go into "stealth mode".

12:00 P.M. We saw it again, on it's apparent return. All three of us. I felt sort of silly afterward, but I quickly swerved off the road and under the cover of some trees. We watched it arch across the sky and disappear behind a mountain peak to the west. Noting the time, there doesn't appear to be any regularity to these flights. Which is something I could have wished for. All we can do is press on I guess, though I wonder if we shouldn't turn west to find where this airplane comes from. Of course, we may not like what we find... But not knowing is beginning to gnaw at me. For the time being though, it will be regarded as "unfriendly".

6:30 P.M. We've stopped for the evening along the Susquehanna's west bank. Kevin insisted on doing some fishing (he's been craving fresh fish for a while now), so off he went, and I stayed behind to set up camp. Josey, bless her heart, insisted on setting up her "kitchen" herself. She's coming along well, but her wound still pains her. Though she does her best not to show it; she occasionally lets a wince come across her face, or lets out a muffled "ooh" when we hit a good bump. Ever the trooper, she doesn't complain, and she refuses pain medication. Says it makes her too sleepy.

She insisted on helping me bring things down from the truck bed. I climbed up into it, and passed things to her from the tailgate. Balancing perfectly on her one leg, she received them and put them down on the ground. I set up the collapsible table we found at the surplus store. While I was doing that, Josey proceeded to cut a length of nylon cord, run it through the carry handle of the camp stove, put it around her neck, and carry it over on her crutches. I was simply struck with admiration for her. I guess I was smiling at her, because she stopped, smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and said "It works". I laughed and said it sure does.

Kevin came back with a pair of plump catfish which he then skinned and filleted, while Josey searched among the spices we have for the perfect ones to season the fish. A pasta and broccoli side dish from a pouch rounded out the wonderful meal. Kevin was right, some fresh fish was in order.

11:00 P.M. I'm sitting here by the light of a shaded oil lamp, sipping on some whiskey. About an hour ago, just before Josey turned in for the night (Kevin was already asleep, as he volunteered to stand watch after midnight), she came over to me and wrapped me in an embrace. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for what I had done, and said she couldn't stand the thought of Kevin losing her after losing his father to the disease. I held her as she cried, and told her it was more her own will that pulled her through than anything I had done.

Something happened to me just then. Maybe it was the weight of our situation, or my own Captain Ahab like drive which kept me from recognizing it, but I suddenly felt something inside of me. For the first time, I noticed Josey's beauty. Maybe I was still clinging to the memory of my Jenny. Though it's only been a little over three months, it seems like a lifetime has passed since everything went to hell. I miss Jenny dearly, but to be honest, she seems like someone from another lifetime now.

Tonight, for the first time, I saw Josey not as someone who I'm simply trying to survive with. Tonight, I saw Josey. A beautiful woman. She is about five foot three, with shoulder length wavy brown hair that is invariably tied in a pony tail protruding from the back of her ball cap, which I've never seen her without by day. The most beautiful pair of dark brown eyes I have ever seen straddle a small, slightly turned up nose. Crow's feet emanate from the corners of her eyes, but I find them complimentary. Full lips are surrounded by a lovely squared jaw, and her teeth are straight and bright, except for one indented incisor on bottom right. She has a voluptuous, most feminine hourglass figure which can't be hidden by the surplus camouflage we now wear, nor is it diminished in any way by the loss of her left leg.

Even on crutches, she carries herself with a pride and grace unequaled in any woman I've ever known. And what a damned fool I've been for not noticing before now. Better late than never, I have a new appreciation for her. And maybe something more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Out On A Limb

Why did you slow down for us?” Jack asked.

We want to know who you are.”

We're nobody” Jack replied. “Literally. We're.... former Americans. Just looking for someplace safe.”

Ah.” the shadow said. “We're in same boat, ha ha! Men without country. Good. Good! You are armed, no? Sail with us to Saint Martin. We help each other. Is safer, no? We have no weapons, and your boat is very small. We go together.”

What about the other ship.” Willie stated more than asked.

Oh, same thing.” the dark figure answered. “They have eight men left. No weapons there too. They go ahead, to scout. I talk to them on radio before you come alongside. They will wait for us now, so we go together.”

Explain to me why I should trust you” Willie said. “You're mutineers, not exactly trustworthy if you ask me.”

We are like you.” the shadow said. “The officers, and some crew, they want to return to home countries. Many different countries, these crew. I am from Ukraine. Vasiliy is my name. I, and many others did not want to go home. The others, they try to force us. So we mutiny. Most go into lifeboats, some get killed. A few heroes, they pretend to mutiny, then try to take ship back. I think all have been stopped, but no way to be sure. So now we are six, when used to be sixteen.”

Jack looked at Willie in the dim moonlight, trying to catch some sign of what he might be thinking, but his stoney expression yielded no clue.

Calculating” Jack said under his breath, but not quite low enough to go unheard.

Willie shot him a sideways glance, and just barely nodded his head, once. His gaze quickly turned back to the figure at the ship's rail. Then he turned to Jack, and said “It's your call captain.”

What do you make of him?” Jack asked in a low voice.

I wouldn't trust him any farther than I could throw him. But I don't think he has any ill intent. He's got nothing to gain.”

I guess it couldn't hurt then. Hell, we're going to the same place anyway.”

Willie turned back to the shadowy figure. “Vasiliy, we will sail with you to Saint Martin. Under two conditions... One, you lead. We will follow on the windward side. If you so much as flinch, we're outta here. Two, no more radio. I want complete radio silence. Agreed?”

Good. Good! Yes, agreed! Is much safer, you know? How you say, the more the merrier, no?”

It can help. My name's Willie, and this is Jack. Let's get going, shall we?”

Yes! We go!”

Vasiliy vanished behind the bulkhead once more as Jack eased First Watch just behind, and to windward of the ship. A few moments later, several figures appeared on the ship's deck, and Vasiliy's voice could be heard barking orders. They climbed into the rigging and began to set sails. Willie watched them with hawk-like intensity, his left hand resting on the rifle that lay on the cabin roof beside him.

An hour passed before the ship carried enough sail to make eight knots in the dropping breeze, and Jack was relieved to finally shake out the reef in his sail. The ship's crew descended the rat lines, then disappeared below deck. Willie's eyes had been locked on them for the duration, and his hand never left the rifle's stock. Now he relaxed a bit, though he still made it a point to scan the ship's deck every few seconds.

Rubbing her eyes, Linda appeared in the companionway.

What's up? I felt the change in the boat's motion.” she said.

And then, blurry eyes cleared, she saw the ship next to them.

What the hell?”

We've got some new travel companions.” Jack said. “They're headed to Saint Martin.”

Alright then! You boys need some coffee or something?”

That would be nice.” said Jack. “It's been a long night, and it ain't over yet.”

Saturday, July 9, 2011

May 21, 2012

7:30 A.M. We were just about to get moving when something caught my eye. A flash of light in the sky, like sunlight reflecting off of glass or  polished metal. I jumped out of the truck and ran to the trailer for my binoculars, but by the time I got them the flash was gone. Kevin saw it too, so I know I wasn't seeing things. It was at a very high altitude. There was no contrail. Looks like we'll have to keep watch on the sky as we travel...

1:00 P.M. The roads are becoming more congested as we travel further north. Twice this morning we had to detour around stretches that were completely impassable. I'm really glad we found this truck, it looks like we'll be needing it. The Scout would never have made it through some of the paths we took. That massive front bumper has come in very handy for shoving cars out of the way. We're coming up on another river crossing, the Susquehanna. Looking at the map, I think it would be wise to jog east a bit, and avoid Harrisburg. The bridges there are probably a mess.

2:45 P.M. We saw it again, all three of us. Very high up, sunlight reflecting off of glass or metal. Binoculars did nothing more than magnify the light, couldn't make out what the thing was. I think it must be a military aircraft, something they had hidden away somewhere safe from the solar flare that fried everything. Tucked away in some hangar under a mountain or something. We need to alter our strategy...

5:30 P.M. We parked the truck in a dense stand of trees near... whatever town this is, didn't bother to notice. What we did notice was a large military surplus store. We all got camo and several pair of boots. One of those camouflage nets, big enough to cover the truck. Some tools and knives. An army tent, and cots. As nice as the trailer is to have, it is now a liability. So is a fire engine red truck. The several gallons of olive drab paint we found will remedy that situation.

We're spending one last night here in the trailer as we transfer gear and supplies into the truck. No more open fires, we'll have to cook on the camp stove.

It's one thing to be on watch for someone on the ground, which we have been, but aircraft are an entirely different thing. Depending on what sort of electronic wizardry they have aboard, there may be no hiding from them. We're in a whole new ball game.

10:30 P.M. Been watching the sky, and the surrounding mountains since we finished painting the truck under the camo netting. None of us has seen anything, but we're all on edge. Kevin even painted Josey's aluminum crutches olive drab, for fear they might reflect sunlight and give us away, like the aircraft. Good thinking on his part...

While watching the sky I also pondered over what that airplane might be doing up there. Are they looking for people? What will they do if they find us? Will we wind up in another prison, like the one I escaped from? Maybe the biggest question: how many of them are there? And where are they? I won't be getting much sleep tonight.