I’m cheating this week. Chuck gave us the challenge of writing something for one of 50 stock photos nobody in their right minds would ever use. Nobody in their right mind would write about them either.
I decided to do the bit for Pete & the Swede that I missed out after Lars heard the trees when they’d been drinking the orichalcum slinger, way back on Feb 7th. You could read that first if you like, since this precedes the story I did last week. It’s not exactly flash fiction, though, more of a serial!
The Swede, who also went by the name Lars Nilsson when he needed one, woke up knowing something was wrong. He gazed at the interplay of light and shade reflected on his ceiling. It was pretty, soothing, relaxing. He could go out and do something enjoyable on this vacation planet. Surfing, for example. He leapt out of bed in anticipation.
That was what was wrong. They’d drunk a lot of alcohol last night, finishing with the amazing orichalcum slinger – and his head was as clear as a miner’s before starting the drill. He felt great, in fact. The edges of his lips curled, then dipped as he remembered something else about last night. He shook it off. It must have been a dream. Still…
He grabbed a hunk of bread and some cheese from the kitchen, some fruit from the bowl in the living room, slung it into a bag along with his water flask, and nipped down the balcony steps. It was a short walk through the upper level of trees, over the ridge and down the other side through the low bushes that smelled of herbs. His board was right where he’d left it, at the edge of the dunes, safe from any wave bar a tsunami.
Lars stood at the top of the beach, watching the waves intently. On most planets you couldn’t surf alone. Rip tides, freak currents, and large meat-eating sea creatures tended to put people off surfing at all, let alone without a buddy. Lifeguards were a luxury when you were an asteroid miner. It was you and the elements, and your partner was around to pick up the pieces if you blew it.
As far as Lars could tell, there was no rip on this beach until the ebbing tide reached the mid-water height. At present it was higher than that, and coming in. He was ok to surf for the next hour or three. He grabbed his board and strode into the water, paddling out on it when he got deep enough. Time to catch a wave!
The tide had turned. The wind still blew the waves in, but he reckoned there would only be one, maybe two more big ones now. He sat astride his board, paddling parallel to the beach. Salt dried in little star patterns on his neck and shoulders, encrusting the freckles that had blossomed under the Sunset Strip sun.
A figure was walking along the beach. He couldn’t make out which of the girls it was. He wondered why she had come so far out of her way, since he’d taken the direct route. Maybe she’d needed a walk and ended up here. She waved at him. Long elegant arms reaching way above her head. Funny, it wasn’t the greeting he expected from Dolores or Maggie. He raised an arm to wave back, but stopped as he felt the tell-tale dip as the sea drew back to power a bigger wave, still out of sight. He flicked a general acknowledgement at the girl and turned the board’s nose to the open sea, paddling out to the break point, the sweet spot where it would lift beneath him with the right power to surge forward, rolling on and on until it finally crashed onto the beach.
With swift, powerful strokes he brought the board up to speed to ride the wave. He leapt to his feet, adjusting his weight forward and back to steer the nose and balance the tail as it rode the swell. A few seconds of surge…
It had gone.
His board sank into the trough and he slumped down to sit on it, watching the rolling back of the monster as it ran away and sacrificed itself to the land.
He paddled after it. That was the last big one for that tide, he was sure. The wind had changed as well. Never mind – with Sunset Strip’s rotation there were high tides every four or so hours. He could come back later.
The girl was standing there, waiting.
His stomach lurched as he realised – it wasn’t Dolores. It wasn’t Maggie. It was Aramintha!
“Hi,” he said casually as he lugged his board from the shallows, fighting the suck of the wave.
“Hi,” she replied, eyeing him up and down, the way she did. He’d forgotten how much he liked her doing that. Why build the muscles if nobody admired them? Well, a miner needed them, but it felt good to know she liked what she saw.
He put his arm round her, drawing her to him for a rough kiss, then stopping and kissing her properly, save for keeping his other arm firmly on his board. “Welcome. What kept you?”
“Some stupid client.” She was offhand about it, but Lars was sure the ‘other client’ had bought her services for months, not weeks. His delight in seeing her was tempered by a spacer’s scepticism about good fortune. As they walked arm in arm into the dunes, though, his hunger and expectations got the better of him, and they celebrated their reunion in the shade of a planted surf board amongst the marram grass.
“Sandy,” Aramintha giggled a while later.
“Itchy, too,” said the Swede. “There’s some nice springy turf further on. We could have waited till then.”
“No, you couldn’t,” she retorted.
“Could, too! I’ll show you.”
Leaving the surf board standing sentinel behind them, the Swede demonstrated the superiority of the short-cropped turf further up among the dunes.
“Mmm,” she said, curling a stray tuft of his blond hair around her finger, “I’ve missed you.”
He gazed at her face, noting how her eyes caught his, then slipped past to look into the distance. The voices he’d heard in his head last night echoed once more: we will protect you when she comes.
“I’ve missed you too,” he said.
Whom did he trust? This woman whose company he’d desired for months, or some disembodied voices from a drunken dream?
(c) J M Pett 2014
Watch out for the next installment – since I think there’s something else before they hit the Gallery (last week’s effort)