A happy new year to you all! Readers and writers, whoever we are we all need to look after ourselves, and each other too.
Right now I’m looking forwards to cracking on with the preparation for the print version of ‘Girl’, and also looking forwards to several short stories appearing in F&SF, Stupefying Stories, and Eibonvale Press later in the year. What is equally exciting is that my SF novel, ‘Shopocalypse’, is being re-issued in a new edition at the Eastercon convention in April at London Heathrow. If you like talking cars, shopping, mad presidents, and/or nuclear war, this book is for you.
Plenty for me to look forwards to, and I hope the same is true for you. Meanwhile…
Slowly and by inches Sea Cucumber’s bows rose from the water. Down in the hold, tied back to back, Foxy and Tim felt the deck jump beneath their feet. Their ears ached at the sudden change of pressure. Somehow they managed to stay standing.
‘They’re using explosives,’ Tim said.
‘Look at the cargo,’ Foxy said.
Along with the list to stern the detonations had shifted the seed drums. One stack tipped against another, in turn pressing against a third.
Tim considered the weight of the drums and the prospect of trying to avoid them once they started rolling. ‘This doesn’t look good.’
‘We’ll be all right if the ship settles as she is.’
‘I wish I could see you, Foxy.’
Their fingers pressed together again.
Tim shook his head again, his ears still didn’t feel right and there was something wrong with his eyes too. Down towards the stern a slow wave of blackness crept towards them across the floor. The explosion hadn’t been that close, the shock wave must have affected him. He’d heard of people killed like that, with not a mark on them. He must have concussion. Inside his skull his brain was bleeding, slowly deafening him, blinding him.
The blackness moved steadily towards their feet. It carried a briny smell and Tim realised there was nothing wrong with his head. One form of fear replaced the other.
The lights went out and they both gave a wordless cry. The lights flared briefly then died. The darkness was total, the air damp cold and salty.
Tim’s feet were wet.
Deep in the ship a new vibration began, a near sub-sonic rumble that steadily rose in pitch and volume to a strong, steady throb.
‘Standby generators,’ Foxy said. ‘Emergency pumps. Someone’s turned them on or they’ve tripped in automatically.’
Dim red lights began to glow along the sides of the hold. Five inches of icy water sloshed round their ankles.
‘Koponen knew what he was doing when he refitted this old girl.’ Foxy’s voice filled with respect. ‘You can feel her fighting back.’
‘Do you think the pumps will be enough?’
‘Honestly? I don’t know.’
Tim thought about that for a bit. To his own surprise he felt very calm. ‘If I knew was going to die on a sinking ship I’d have liked to be a bit better prepared. I’d wear a tuxedo and have a glass of brandy, maybe have a last dance while the band played on– OK, that sounds a bit unfair to the band so it had better be a jukebox. Either way I’d want to look good when the end came. Have a shave and comb my hair–’
Foxy gasped. ‘Yes! Oh, Tim Wassiter, you clever, clever man.’
‘I know how we can get out of here.’
‘Yes. We’ll only have one chance, so listen very carefully and do exactly what I say.’
Tim’s mouth was dry. ‘What do you want me to do?’
‘See if you can touch my bum.’
To be continued…