Bewildering Stories

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Chapter 4, “The Lake”
part II, conclusion

by Tala Bar

Gaia began in issue 88.
Chapter 4, part II, section 1 appeared in issue 101.

Subtly, imperceptibly, the change occurred, and when Dar noticed it it was already too late. The morning’s light, white clouds had darkened, thickened. The light-blowing wind had stirred into lively gusts, and the day’s warmth had suddenly gone. As Dar, without much thinking, was picking up her backpack and searching for some warmer clothes for herself and for Nim, the boat rocked sharply, throwing her against its side with Nim on top of her.

“What the...” the girl cried, just before another rock threw them over the other way. Things were happening so quickly and fiercely that no uttering was possible except screams and shouts; Dar forced her full power of concentration to avoid doing that.

The sky had turned into an enormous pile of huge, dark, heavy lumps; like enormous barrels of water they burst over the people in the boat, pouring their content, which mixed with the looming waves suddenly springing from nowhere. The light boat had become a slight plaything, thrown up into the heavy air, landing with a splashing thud on top of a billow, sinking deeply into the trough between two rollers flooded with rain and lake water.

The fisherman had abandoned his efforts to keep rowing, trying to hold the boat with the strength of his hands, all for nothing. The whole world had turned into a stormy confusion of clouds and water, slapping their faces, rending their hair and clothes, blinding their eyes. They could not see the huge tsunami, which had risen in the distance and was getting closer in an amazing speed. It hit them as a last punishment with one fierce hurl, smashing the boat, splintering its boards asunder and scattering them on the surface of the water.

Dar, unaware of what was happening to her companions, was thrown up in the air; one long confused moment she was held by an unseen force, then splashed face down into the waves. In a split second she was sinking like a stone, barely keeping her consciousness.

Somehow, she remembered to hold her breath, subconsciously keeping her eyes open as if trying to find her bearings. She saw nothing while her body was moving rapidly through the body of water, except a floating dusky haze dotted here and there with a few glimmering patches. A raging chaos of air and water with an added amount of gravel stormed around her under the surface, hitting her body, filling her mouth, ears, nostrils, in a deafening noise. It tossed and turned her like a lump of butter in a mixer bowl, all she could feel was being afraid that her fate was going to be the same as that butter. She was certain she would be broken into small pieces and mixed with the other elements around her, her body smeared on any surface happening to be near by.

* * *

When Nunez had come to fetch the women to the island, nothing prevailed in his heart but numbness. When the storm broke, however, he came back to life. The need for action took over any emotional state and, when the boat was lifted on the billows and smashed under them, he knew he must try to save his companions. He had had an impression of Dar as a strong, healthy woman, who could probably take care of herself; then he saw her thrown in the air, and knew there was nothing he could do for her in any case. It was the girl who had been left for him to worry about, and he was determined to take hold of her and bring her to shore.

In a moment, he saw her body swaying lifeless among the rollers and, with a few powerful strokes, managed to get close to her. An excellent swimmer, he managed to catch her in his arms. Unable to see the island, he had to work on instinct to swim in the direction where he felt land must be. The swell eased a little, and Nunez noticed a couple of planks from the broken boat lolling among the waves. Dragging Nim’s body with him, he managed to get up to one of the planks, lay Nim on top of it and pushed it with his powerful legs through the stormy water.

They stayed in it for a long time, swaying back and forth; continuing to push, Nunez was unable to ascertain whether they were advancing in any direction. His instinct, though, was good, and toward evening he at last saw the line of land within reach. Completely exhausted by then, wavering between different levels of consciousness, he pushed the plank with the girl on it to shore with his last strength. He just managed to check on Nim, finding her pulse and seeing her breathe, before finally falling into a coma-like sleep.

He awoke toward midnight. Drawing closer to Nim, he found her unconscious, her body cold and shivering. Without much thought he took her in his arms, lying in this way on the sand until morning, half asleep, his nebulous mind wandering aimlessly.

Nunez was asleep when Nim woke, warm sun rays falling on her face. She lay motionless, finding herself unusually tightly held by the strong arms of a half-naked strange man, his hairy face hovering before her own. Feeling too comfortable to move, she snuggled up to the warm body as to a safe haven. Her movement was answered by the man’s tightening his hold of her body, strengthening her own need to be released.

She managed to free one arm and, moving it about for the purpose of loosening the stranger’s hold without waking him, her hand hit on an obstacle. The man had had an erection in his sleep. For a moment Nim looked at it, fascinated; suddenly alarmed, she acted more forcefully, pushed his arms away from her body and jumped on her feet. She stopped, then, stood at a short distance and gazed at it in confusion and wonder.

Nunez opened his dark blue eyes, sat up, looked up at her and suddenly smiled. Unaware that he had frightened her in some way, a small beam of happiness had lighted his eyes. “You’re all right, then? I am glad.” The man’s smile had softened his face considerably, making him less strange and alien.

Nim, still confused, was no longer frightened. She looked around, searching. “Has Dar got up yet?” she asked.

The man’s face clouded and he rose on his feet. “Let’s go look for her,” he replied. But they could see no sign of Dar anywhere.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by Tala Bar

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