Friday, May 20, 2011

Terra Australis

John Davis squinted against the bright sun reflecting off the snow. His boat, Cecilia, bobbed on the Southern Ocean's waves. His first mate slipped on the ice and John grabbed the man's arm before he slid into the water.

"Thanks. We might be the first ones."

John grunted.

"Terra Australis."

"Shush, you'll scare the seals."

"We'll be famous. You heard those russkies claims to have found the southern continent. It don't matter you just see something. You got to put boots on the ground, claim this place for America."

"Our business -- seals."

"Celebrity makes its own money. Just think about it. When we return to New York, any man will stand us a drink."

A dark shape flitted against the snow as if some smooth-bellied critter had belly-flopped on the ice, moving like a broken mast, riding the glacier. John itched the back of his neck. "You see that?"

"A blur," said the first mate. "Wait. Come back. It was too small to be a seal."

"There's something about this island --"

"Continent."

"Whatever. It's like the place watches you."

The first mate's eyebrows shot upwards. He hunched inwards, bunching his shoulders forward, crouching as if he could hide from whatever lived upon this land. "It's the seals. Their spirits must go somewhere. We... we got to get out of here. Now." Snow crunched as the man fled, falling into the boat. The sound of the boat's hull creaking against the ice carried on the wind. The first mate waved his hands as if he was fearful of shouting.

Finally, peace and quiet. John crested a ridge and saw hundreds of penguins shuffling their feet. So much for seal. John smiled, returning to the rowboat.

"Let's get out of here," the first mate said, pulling at the oars, rocking the boat back and forth, the motion knocking John to the floor. Once some distance separated them from the shore, the first mate asked, "What'd you see?"

"Foggy wisps."

The first mate's eyes grew large and his oar skipped over the water.

5 comments:

  1. A little creepy, but mostly invoking curiosity about their relationship to the island/continent. Is it just a stalker?

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  2. Hi Aidan --

    Great title; nice, icy, environs. This line added a frosty sparkle: 'The sound of the boat's hull creaking against the ice carried on the wind.' I wasn't quite sure why they had to leave straight away, but I did like the idea of those spooky seal spirits :)

    St.

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  3. Frozen environments always make me think of The Thing but you've done something a little more otherworldly with this.

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  4. @Sonia, glad you found it fun to read. I didn't entirely intend for it to be creepy.

    @John, Terra Australis was the name originally given to the South Pole. They claimed to have been the first to land on the south pole, but I think it was all the first mate putting them up to announcing it.

    @Stephen, I'd never be cut out to be a seal, I'm only fond of swimming in 30º+ water.

    @Icy, I'd never seen The Thing but doing a quick look on IMDB, I can see how this would evoke that movie.

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