Chapter 1

Caution: This Drama Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Fa/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Rape, Lesbian, Heterosexual, Post Apocalypse, Interracial, .

Desc: Drama Sex Story: Chapter 1 - The tale of Karl Larson, his family and friends after the area where they live is hit by a major earthquake, then a tsunami. Not simply a disastor tale, the story also contains a minor mystery. (Although this is the first story written about Karl Larson, it will eventually be one of the later tales in this universe.)

Almost silently, the big double ended boat crept through the fog, its old steam engine wheezing with a soft and steady chufa - chufa - chufa sound as it ticked over lazily at low throttle. Karl sighed softly. He knew where he was. At least he knew where his new GPS said he was, but even though he could read the screen in front of him, he didn’t believe it. In fact he would have gladly traded a bottle of top quality, single malt scotch for a clear view of the shore line. The new GPS put his position almost in the middle of the bay, but the radar showed a low jumbled shoreline only a few yards away. He knew that GPS stood for Global Positioning System and that its accuracy was supposed to be phenomenal. However, since it was so new to him, he wasn’t sure how it worked, and at the moment, he wasn’t positive that this recently added technological wonder was functioning properly.

Judging from the brightness above him, the sun was shining, but the fog bank was thick – thick enough that he could scarcely see fifty feet in front of the boat. That fact left him as uneasy as a cat trying to sneak past a junkyard dog and into new territory. Karl’s problem was that he wasn’t sneaking anywhere and he wasn’t in new territory; he should be feeling completely safe. He’d steamed through this bay countless times and thought he knew it like the back of his hand, but everything seemed different from what he could remember.

The radio was no help. Although it didn’t seem to be on the fritz, he hadn’t even been able to use it to call for reassurance. He had tried again and again to get a clear signal, but all he could hear was a jumbled hash of interference, as if hundreds of people were talking at once. He had listened in several times, changing channels to try to find a clear signal, then finally he’d turned the radio off in frustration. He hadn’t even been able to receive the weather station’s signals. That channel had appeared to be totally dead with no signal at all.

He wished he had a breeze, just a tiny bit of wind, enough to break up the fog, but not enough to make the water rough. He stared ahead, wasn’t the fog thinning, wasn’t the light getting steadily brighter? Maybe he’d be lucky; maybe the fog would thin and eventually break up.

Then suddenly the boat passed through the fog bank’s edge. Suddenly he was in bright sunlight and he knew that this was one of those rare instances when the fog bank had a sharp edge and he’d just gone past it. His eyes watered and he cursed softly, squinting and blinking rapidly, trying to accustom himself to the sudden change in light levels. He managed to reassure himself that there was nothing large looming directly in front of him, then he closed his eyes tightly, trying to force them to readjust quickly. He wished he had his sunglasses, but knew he’d forgotten them. They were sitting on a table, just inside the door of his cabin - miles away and totally useless to him at the moment.

After a few seconds the bright pink of the light against his eyelids faded and he opened his eyes to stare forward, his hands convulsively gripping the spoked wheel tightly. He squinted against the light of the bright morning sun, his face twisted into a critical frown. Almost in reflex his deeply weathered right hand dropped to the throttle handle, slipping it back to full stop. The boat coasted forward slowly as he stared glumly at the silent scene before him.

“What the hell?” he muttered softly to himself.

The bright May sunshine lit the shoreline in front of him, but instead of the small community that should have been there, rock and rubble covered the ground and even that appeared strewn with rubbish. On top of that, between him and the shoreline were acres of flotsam. Bits and pieces of trees, branches, plants, part of a bright-green-shingled roof, a dirty-white plastic lawn chair, bottles, cans, as well as thousands of other unidentifiable objects floated in the water. All that rubbish bumped and ground atop the gentle waves of a returning tide, desecrating the small bay that he had been counting on as a refuge.

He snapped the engine control into full reverse, slipped the throttle down to the middle of its travel and with the ease of long practice brought the boat to a halt in its slow drift toward the floating mess that lay ahead. His ears heard the churn of water beneath the boat and he felt the soft shudder through his feet as the steam engine spun the propeller in its fight to stop his forward momentum. He paused, waiting until he felt the boat hesitate, then just when it was on the verge of moving backward, he eased the throttle back to full stop and slipped the engine control to neutral. Almost automatically he shut down the boiler, killing the main burner and leaving only the pilot flame alight.

His eyes had never shifted from the view of the destruction in front of him. Everything he had done had been done automatically because his mind was stunned by what he saw. He twisted his head slowly to one side, then back to the other. The land contours were right, he knew where he was now, but he wasn’t looking at a view he had ever seen before. Ahead of him, where there had been a small, well-kept town only a month or so before, now there was only waste and rubble. There were no docks, no boats, no stores, no houses, no people, no gardens, and few standing trees, nothing, but raw mud, bare rock and masses of piled rubble.

The few trees that were left all leaned away from the water at strange angles, as if they had been crushed by a giant hand. Everything looked as if it had been smashed flat, stirred vigorously, then thrown down haphazardly. The boats, the docks, and the marinas were gone. Nothing marked where they had been except for a few pilings and some concrete footings. The whole waterfront was barren and ruined. There was nothing left unchanged.

But, not only the waterfront was destroyed, so was the town which had covered the slopes leading away from the waters of the bay. There were no houses, no stores, no businesses, nothing but rubble and ruin as far as he could see. That town had been home to hundreds, no - thousands of people, but now it simply wasn’t there. The whole town had been wiped from the face of the earth, destroyed, obliterated and smashed into wreckage. He’d had friends and acquaintances living in that town. Where were they, had any of them lived, or were their bodies smashed and strewn amidst those piles of wreckage and rubbish.

His eyes picked out strange details and odd shapes; bits and pieces of lumber, chunks of walls, battered cars, the prow of a boat. All those things and more were smashed, bent, twisted, broken, crumpled, and piled haphazardly amongst the few remaining trees. Parts of buildings leaned crazily against crushed cars. A concrete stairway ended brokenly in midair. Pipes stretched haphazardly skyward while wires twisted madly between massed piles of debris. Here and there a wall leaned precariously, pockmarked with bare openings, openings that had once been windows and doors. Now those same openings seemed to stare accusingly at him.

His mind raced in frantic circles as he stared about him, a heavy frown further creasing his wrinkled brow. His heart beat frantically. He felt weak and knew he needed to sit down. He twisted to look behind him. The fog bank was slowly drifting away, moving back across the bay. He consciously eased himself to a position where he could rest, letting his racing heart slowly calm. Although he sat still, his mind was reeling in disbelief, hunting frantically for an explanation.

It had to have been a tidal wave, a tsunami. There must have been a major earthquake somewhere in the locality, but he hadn’t felt one or even the results of one. Of course he’d been out on the water, but he was sure he would have seen or felt something this momentous. He simply couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that he hadn’t been aware that such a tragedy had occurred.

Breathing deeply, he sought to relax and it seemed to work. After a few moments he realized that he was going to have to accept the tragedy that surrounded him and he sighed heavily. Then something bumped softly against the bow of his boat, instantly snagging his attention. He certainly didn’t want his boat damaged. He lifted his eyes and stood slowly, moving out of the boat’s cabin, then forward, to look over the side.

A sodden blue-grey couch drifted a foot or two away from his boat’s bow. Making the couch look even more bizarre, an ugly, grey striped cushion lay draped across the high arch of the back rest. He automatically reached for a boat hook to push the couch away and was reaching it out toward the couch when the ‘cushion’ developed eyes that stared at him. A pitiful meow came so softly, so faintly, he almost missed the weak plaint.

He stared in surprise, his reflexive motion of pushing away the annoying piece of flotsam forgotten. He dropped to his knees, then reached to hook the arm of the sodden couch, pulling it closer until it was within reach. Setting down the boat hook, he stretched out and grasped the cat by the scruff of his neck, hoisting it, then lowering it gently onto the deck near him. Strangely, the cat never fought, never struggled, never even made a sound. It was still alive, still breathing, but it didn’t seem to have enough energy to struggle. After giving the soggy feline a brief inspection for obvious wounds, but noticing none, Karl slowly rose to his feet.

Glancing about and realizing that he had drifted into the edge of the flotsam that covered most of the water of the bay, he decided that he needed to anchor. While at anchor, he would be in less danger of having his prop fouled by the drifting garbage. He bent to release the anchor winch, letting the weight of the anchor and its fifty feet of anchor-head chain pay out slowly so he wouldn’t do any damage to the hull. After that he let the anchor line slip out freely until he could see it slow as the anchor reached the bottom, then eyed it as perhaps another fifty feet or so of line slipped from the winch.

He stopped the winch, and tied off the anchor lead, then finally turned and lifted the cat into his arms. The cat felt thin and very, very light, especially considering the fact that it looked quite large. It didn’t struggle as he reexamined it more closely for wounds.

“Now you’re a real mystery,” he whispered softly. “Why the hell didn’t you just swim ashore?”

The cat opened one eye slowly to stare at him balefully for a few seconds before seeming to decide that nothing was worth the trouble or the energy of keeping that eye open. Its fur was matted and salt crusted, one leg showed signs of a small wound and its eye lids were crusted with a white deposit. Except for those problems and the fact that it seemed extremely worn and weary, the big grey cat appeared okay.

“Well, I haven’t got any cat food, but I guess a tin of salmon would do,” Karl sighed softly, slowly making his way back to the cabin of the boat, then below deck to the galley. “I think we’ll just wash that crap out of your eyes first, then maybe get you a drink of fresh water.”

Holding the cat in the crook of one arm, he stared around the galley looking for something that would do for a cat bed. Then he one handedly dumped the contents of a small drawer into a bucket and set the drawer on the edge of the galley sink. He pulled an old towel from the laundry bag and dropped it in the bottom of the drawer, spreading it as well as he could while still holding the cat with one arm.

“That’ll have to do,” he spoke softly as he lay the cat gently in place.

He tore a small strip of cloth from a clean rag and wet it under the pump as he filled a saucer with water. He set the saucer carefully in front of the cat’s face and then gently wet those crusted eyes, moving surprisingly gently for his size. The cat struggled weakly, not at all enthusiastic about his kind attentions. The big man lifted the rag slowly, not knowing what to do. The cat seemed to droop as if his struggle not to have his face wiped had been his last act.

Karl sighed heavily. He reached down slowly and wiped at a crust of something on the edge of the cat’s mouth. To Karl’s surprise, the cat’s mouth slowly opened.

“Hell, you’re dying of thirst, aren’t you?” he grunted. “I suppose even a cat can’t drink salt water.”

The cat lay there, hardly breathing now, its mouth open piteously and its eyes now staring at him. Wetting the rag until it was dripping and holding the cat’s head so he could aim the droplets, he moistened the cat’s mouth with a few drops of water.

“Not too much now,” the big man sighed softly. “I wouldn’t want to drown you.”

He paused and watched as the cat closed its mouth and seemed to relax in his hand. He wasn’t sure if it swallowed or not, but after a long moment the cat’s mouth slowly fell open again. He administered another few drops of water onto the rough tongue. The cat’s mouth again closed slowly.

A few minutes more and the cat’s mouth fell open again. He repeated his actions several times, each time dribbling a few droplets of water onto that rough tongue. Finally, the cat snapped its mouth closed and struggled to free itself from his hold.

“Okay, old timer,” he chuckled releasing his hold. “I’m not about to fight with you.”

The cat dropped back on its side, now seeming to be breathing slightly deeper than it had before.

“Well, old son, I can’t waste much more time on you,” he sighed, pushing back from the counter. “There just might be people somewhere up in that mess who need my help more than you do and I think I’d better go look around.”

The cat lay calmly as he lifted the old drawer slowly and then carefully set it on the floor in the space under the galley table.

“Not bad for an old man with arthritis,” he chuckled softly to himself. “I didn’t ruffle your fur or even spill a drop of water from the saucer.”

He closed the door to the boat’s companionway at the forward end of the galley.

“That’s just in case I’m gone for a while and you start looking for a cat box, I can clean up the deck, but my bunk wouldn’t be as easy. I’ll leave you a bowl of water on the floor too, just in case you do wake up and drink everything in that saucer, but you’re going to have to wait for some food. I think dehydration is your major problem, not starvation,” he spoke softly.

The cat didn’t bat an eye, but its breathing was definitely easier now.

Karl went back up on deck and paused in the wheelhouse for a moment. The boat had swung with the tide and now rode stern first to the shore and bow into the oncoming flotsam, which meant his anchor appeared to be holding. He decided he needed to set a stern anchor just in case and looked up at the steam gauge, checking that he had enough pressure to do the job.

“No problem,” he grunted to himself.

Starting the engine again, he gently ran the boat back against the forward anchor, checking that it held, then dropped a stern anchor and ran the boat forward slightly to set it as well. All the time he had the propeller turning, he was anxiously watching to be sure that it didn’t become fouled by the floating debris. Breathing a sigh of relief, he shut the engine down, then went forward to check his main anchor line. He adjusted its length and tied it off to a fore cleat, then checked the wrap on the stern line’s cleat as well.

By the time he was finished anchoring, the boat was surrounded by flotsam. He had to push rubbish away from the stern just to clear room for the dinghy to drop from its davits into the water. His mind was awhirl with what he should do, but his hands worked automatically as he tied the dinghy to the stern cleats. As desolate and difficult as the whole shoreline was, he realized that he had to be ready for almost any eventuality. His immediate appraisal was that no one could have survived in that chaos, but he had to check. After all, he had previously had friends and acquaintances who had lived in the houses on that devastated shoreline. For a brief instant the bitter feeling of loss washed over him, but he forced it aside. He couldn’t afford to let his mind be clouded by remorse, not when he had no certainty of actual facts.

Drawing a deep breath, he steeled himself for the task ahead. He had to investigate. He had to know for himself what was left onshore. He realized that if no one had survived, he was totally dependent on his own resources and he resolved that he’d have to be extremely careful. A minor fall or injury that would normally be no problem would loom as a catastrophe now. At the moment he was totally alone and a mistake could be disastrous.

He went back below, finding a small pack that he’d often used to haul a few supplies when he was ashore, especially if he was in a port where he had to walk any distance to buy his groceries. He dug out his old hatchet, slipping it into a holster and hitching it on his belt, adding a sheathed hunting knife beside it, grabbed his binoculars and hung them around his neck. Then filling a plastic bottle with water, he put it in his pack along with an old blanket and a small first aid kit. He looked thoughtfully at the small emergency kit that he’d made up years before, then crammed it into the pack as well. He had everything from freeze-dried rations and energy bars to fish hooks and matches in the emergency kit. There was enough food in it to keep him alive for a few days if he got into trouble. He’d never needed it before, but he might need it now.

One more quick glance at the sleeping cat under the seat and he went up the steps into the bright sunlight that illuminated the wheelhouse, his pack in hand. He glanced at his boiler gauges, checking that the fire was out and that the tiny pilot burner was working. Realising that he still had some steam pressure left, he belatedly thought of his steam whistle.

Staring at the shore line, he reached up and pulled the whistle lanyard. Three long hearty blasts, then he waited and listened. A cacophony of gulls screamed in surprise, then echoes of his whistle were all that he heard. He waited for a moment or two, then tried once more. Three more long toots of the whistle, the last whistle falling to a wheeze as the dredges of steam pressure in his boiler drained away. The echoes of the whistle and raucous cries of the gulls mocked him. He waited a few minutes, staring at the desolation on the shore and hoping to see some motion other than birds. He’d never seen so many gulls. They were wheeling in the sky, paddling on the water, perching on the debris, or busily squabbling amongst themselves. They were everywhere, in astonishing numbers.

Finally despairing of any response, he slipped over the side and into the dinghy, carrying his pack, a coil of small rope, a short walking stick, and a couple of life jackets. Once everything was safely stowed in the dingy, he untied and pushed off into the sea of rubbish that had fully surrounded his boat by then. He paddled slowly, threading his way through and around the larger objects which floated in the water. There was no way that he could miss everything. For every large piece of litter that blocked his way, there seemed to be a hundred small pieces and a million tiny ones. There was so much debris that the water hardly showed through it. Every stroke of his oar seemed to be through a mush of floating trash several inches deep. On top of that, every larger piece of rubbish seemed to be the perch for a gull that screamed at him as he passed. Garbage and gulls, he thought, the water of the bay was filled with both.

After a few moments, he paused to make up his mind just where he was going to try to land. The shoreline was awash in flotsam and even getting close to shore would be a problem. A long jutting tongue of rock seemed relatively free of debris and luckily there appeared to be a relatively clear channel of water leading toward it. Now, if he could only find a route to get around what appeared to be part of a house that floated in his way without getting fouled in submerged extensions of the ruined building. A portion of one wall faced him and he could see through a window. Surprisingly the window appeared unbroken although the building was ruined; even the roof of the house was gone. Bright sunlight shone down on an old easy chair and an inverted table as they floated soggily inside the surrounding walls amid a welter of other debris. Luckily it took only two or three gentle strokes of his oars before he was clear of the ruined house, then it took only a few minutes work for him to reach the tongue of rock.

A natural channel in the rock made it easier for him to get ashore, but made it more difficult to pull the dinghy clear of the incoming tide. The rock was clearly marked by a deep deposit of fine debris at the tide line and he heaved the dinghy well above that mark. He paused for a moment to get his breath back, grumbling to himself that he was in damn poor shape if only a little exertion like that could tire him so easily. Leaning against his dingy to rest, he surveyed the near shoreline and the rubbish built up at the tide line. Surprisingly he saw another dingy was trapped nearby in one such pile of flotsam, but he doubted that dingy would ever float again. It had been skewered right at the waterline by a chunk of shattered timber and looked almost as if it had been harpooned.

After a short time, he straightened and stared about him at the desolation. He was standing on freshly scoured rock, swept clean by water and who knew what else. Above him and to one side, a broken concrete foundation that surely must have held up a house, now jutted jaggedly outward from a slab of rock and hung over softly washing waves. What soil had been in the former front yard was gone, but then, so was the house that had stood here. There was a rank smell of death and decay in the air. Gulls wheeled and squabbled around him and somewhere in the distance he heard a crow. Then, from even further away he heard the screech of a bald eagle. Carrion birds, that was it. They were all drawn to dead bodies and edible garbage. He shuddered at the passing thought of the probable source of the feast of carrion that drew them to the area.

His eyes swept in a semi circle, then he stared back the way he had come, past the boat and across the bay. The fog bank had lifted and he could see the opposite shoreline where a steep bank fell to the water. When he had been here a few months ago, that bank had been heavily timbered, from water’s edge to the skyline. Now the hillside was bare for at least two hundred feet or more above the water. Not one tree stood on the lower part of the bank. While this side of the bay was a ruin, the opposite shoreline was stripped bare. Once more, he felt weak kneed and sank slowly to sit on the prow of his dinghy. The area had definitely been hit by a tsunami, there was no doubt in his mind.

Almost reluctantly, he lifted his binoculars to his eyes and focussed on the far hillside. He sighed. There was nothing there, but rock, no trees, no bushes, nothing alive. There were a few stumps that seemed anchored in the rock itself and an occasional bare log that looked as if it had been peeled, then wedged into a crevice or crack in the rock, but there was little else on the slope. A few gullies crammed with rubbish and a fresh scar from a recent landslide marked the only areas that didn’t appear washed, then scoured clean by water carrying an abrasive load. In some places the rock appeared polished, as if a giant hand had scoured it clean with grit and sand.

He swung slowly, following the line of destruction along the shoreline and down the bay, realizing that the destruction seemed to climb higher as the bay narrowed. Then he stared in wonder at the massive mound of debris that appeared to have choked off the small river that had poured into the far end of the bay. He could see no sign of flowing water and wondered if all that debris was forming a dam, or if the river had been diverted somewhere further upstream.

Slowly he dropped the glasses and turned to look at the mess above him. He stared at the destruction momentarily, thinking to lift his glasses and study the desolation, but decided if he were higher up the slope his view would be increased, if not improved.

Resolutely, he reached down into the dinghy and lifted his pack, strapping it on, then slowly he made his way up the bank and into the debris field above him. He took his time, reminding himself that he suffered from breathing problems, a bad back and arthritis - and he was alone, if he was badly injured there would be no one to come to his rescue.

The first thousand or so feet inland from the shoreline was relatively easy to cross. There wasn’t all that much in the way of debris and what there was had been well flattened into the sludge and slime. Every surface appeared to have been covered with a coating of mud and filth, some of which had been partially washed away by rain. Now part of that muck and mire lay trapped in puddles in the dips and hollows of the ruined landscape, thinly disguised by floating rubbish. The only truly solid footing seemed to be where streets had formerly been. Unfortunately for him, his chosen direction seemed to be almost at ninety degrees to the direction that most of the local streets had run. He was unable to find a cross street and unwilling to detour in a possibly futile hunt for one. Although he had to be careful to avoid the gaping, trash filled holes of former basements and the extremely soft ground in the areas that had once been vegetable gardens or flower beds, he slowly made progress. He was able to move forward relatively easily by keeping to the relatively firm areas that had been lawns and patios, or streets and driveways.

Hardly anything had remained standing, but the ground was littered with broken glass, metal pipes, shattered wood, and hundreds of wires that snaked between strange anchor points. In numerous places trapped rubbish had formed impenetrable barriers. Usually those piles and mounds were centered round solid objects like concrete walls or immovable rocks. By sidetracking a few feet he was able to move relatively easily past most of the barriers, but on occasion he had to make a larger detour. He kept telling himself that time wasn’t really important. Yet, he resented the slowness of his progress and the further uphill he climbed, the harder it became to move forward. Every advancing step took him deeper into the debris field; which meant there were more and tougher barriers to circumvent.

His passage had been steadily and steeply upward. His breathing was heavy, but not strained and he refused to stop, then suddenly he realized he was at the crest of the hill. His hand reached out and rested on a short pillar of some sort, someone’s gate post, he supposed. His legs grew weak as he stared in disbelief at the jumbled ruin before him.

There was no way that he was going to try to cross that muddle. He shook his head slowly, glancing quickly from side to side. Rubble from houses was held up by broken tree trunks or smashed cars. A small upturned sailboat rested half buried under a section of stucco wall, its bowsprit poking through a gaping door of another section of wall. Something that looked like the smashed remains of a large truck, or perhaps a bus, leaned precariously against a tree. There was neither rhyme nor reason to the view in front of him. The giant wave of water had smashed everything in its path and carried it up, over this crest, then discarded its burden in the massive jumble pile of debris he now viewed.

Suddenly he realized what had alerted him to the fact that he had finally surmounted the grade. It was sound. The relative quiet of the day was now filled with the squawks of gulls and crows, even the raucous cry of eagles. Gulls and crows hopped and perched in clusters and bunches as if guarding areas of rich pickings. Others flew lazily from place to place, perhaps searching for more carrion. Thankfully he realized that the slight breeze he felt on his back was blowing the odour that must have attracted the scavengers away from his present position. He shuddered, again, realizing that perhaps part of what they were feeding on could be the bodies of the residents of the town. He could smell the sickly odour of death and decay, but it wasn’t that strong, at least not where he stood.

He glanced at his watch then in disbelief he stared back the way he had come. He had taken over an hour just to cross the half mile or so that he had travelled. He turned back to the barrier of massed rubble. That was insurmountable, at least for him. If he’d been ten or twenty years younger and much more nimble he might have been able to cross it, but not at his age, nor in his present condition.

He sighed deeply. Even at forty-two, a man who had arthritis and a bad back had to realize his limitations. He’d crossed the easiest part of the slope below him and he was already tired. There was no sense in getting out into the middle of that mess and collapsing in exhaustion. That would only give the gulls more to feed on.


He slipped the pack slowly from his back and sat back on a stump to reason out his next step. Opening the pack, he took out the water bottle and had a sip, carefully resealing it and putting it back in place in the pack. This was not the time to get careless in any way. He might need that water later. Another deep sigh and he wiped his forehead under the beating sun.

Reaching into a pocket, he pulled out a very thin packet of tobacco and his cigarette papers. He rolled a cigarette, then lit it and gazed around in despair as he quietly smoked his first cigarette of the day. Perhaps taking the time to have a quiet smoke would calm his rattled senses and allow his mind to function at full potential. His brow creased into an even deeper frown as he considered the situation that he had to deal with.

“All right, I’ve got no chance of crossing that mess, so what do I do?” he said aloud in a voice that was so soft it was almost a whisper.

He realized he still wasn’t thinking straight. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

“No sense in dwelling on what I can’t do,” he advised himself. “Just what can I do?”

Slowly a calm feeling of resolve came as he mulled over his situation. He couldn’t cross all that wreckage, but he could check the slope where he stood. Then he could go back to his boat and signal to anyone who was strong enough to come to him. If he kept himself safe and functioning, he’d be able to supply some aid or assistance to anyone that needed his help - if indeed he found someone.

He was relatively high here. Was there any way he could see any place of safety or even some sort of shelter where people could have survived? Of course, he realized belatedly; he had his binoculars - which was why he had climbed the slope in the first place. He snorted then, mildly disgusted that he’d temporarily forgotten his original goal in the shock of seeing the sheer amount of destruction. Yet he knew he shouldn’t be upset with himself, sometimes Mother Nature was vicious, so death and destruction happened ... but enough philosophising ... he was still alive, was anyone else?

He opened his eyes, stubbed out his cigarette and dropped the dead butt into a pocket, then with a quiet sigh, he lifted his binoculars to begin his search for signs of life.

In the distance he could see areas where it seemed the water hadn’t been able to reach. Surprisingly, even those areas seemed to be damaged, houses and buildings appeared to be crushed, twisted, or at least badly damaged. Of course, there must have been an earthquake to trigger the tsunami, but ... wait a minute. He thought a tsunami travelled away from the earthquake? Somehow this area must have been hit by both, but how? He realized he didn’t know enough about either earthquakes or tsunamis to even hazard a guess.

Instead he put the question out of his mind for now. He had enough to worry about right in front of him. Using the glasses, he moved his focus from ruined house to ruined house, looking for movement. Search as he might, he could see no sign of life.

He dropped the glasses from his eyes suddenly.

“There’s no sense in staring into the distance anyway,” he calmly berated himself. “I couldn’t get there to help even if I wanted to. No sense in making myself feel worse by staring at wreckage that I can’t possibly reach.”

Resolutely, he lifted the glasses and forced himself to look within the area immediately surrounding him and sloping back the way he had come. If anyone survived in that mess, where would they stay?

“If I’d been here and survived, the first thing I’d do would be to find shelter, then food and water. After that I’d stick close to whatever shelter I’d found, hoping someone would come to help me,” he whispered to himself.

His search became more deliberate. He only concentrated on areas that looked like they might act as shelter for a desperate survivor. In one or two places, shattered walls seemed to lean over empty spaces and he concentrated his visual search on those areas. None of them yielded any signs of life or movement. More than anything, movement was what he was looking for and something caught his eye suddenly. Something had moved and not a bird, either. A flag perhaps?

Crushed and partially hidden between two overturned trees was the forward portion of a hull; just the bow and foredeck of a small boat with a small section of the cabin. From the top of the cabin a small flagpole sprouted incongruously, complete with a tiny Canadian flag fluttering in the breeze. The shape of the wreckage reminded him of a submarine rising to the surface, the trees representing the waves of the ocean. He glanced at the bow, able to make out the letters ‘E-A-M, ‘ but nothing else. His gaze passed on, then snapped back. There was something weird about that shattered boat and its flag, but he couldn’t seem to pick out what had drawn his attention, what was different?

He stared for a moment at the white hull, or rather part of a hull. What had drawn his attention to it in the first place? Something about that boat wasn’t right. He widened the field of the glasses, then refocused them. He studied the hull, concentrating on detail. He would have wagered that the whole boat had been lifted and slammed between those trees in one piece, just from the way the planks were crushed and twisted. Well, considering the way everything else had been destroyed, that wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was that the section of the boat that he could see was in as good shape as it was.

There was still a line dangling from a bow cleat and a white bumper, crushed against the hull by a branch. The cabin was only partly there, no windshield, just the uprights, and part of the roof, supporting a drooping tarp, and then the absurdity of the flagpole with its tiny flag waving gaily in the breeze.

The flag! That was it. That was what was wrong. The maple leaf was upside down, that was an old, formerly common, marine signal of distress. Fly your national flag, but turn it upside down, an even older and at one time more widely known distress signal than the Morse code S.O.S. or the modern Mayday. Whoever had been on that boat had realized they were in deep trouble. Even though he could see no sign of movement, he knew that he had to investigate that wreck, just in case.

He swung the focus of the glasses across the intervening distance between him and the boat, immediately planning a route that would take him to it. After a moment, he looked up and used his unaided vision to replot the route he’d chosen. Dropping the glasses to hang around his neck and rising to his feet, he picked up his pack, slipped the straps over his shoulders and set off, careful to keep a slow steady pace, forcing himself not to rush carelessly.

Now that he was crossing the slope and not climbing it, his pace was much slower. He had to climb over or work his way around numerous tree trunks, smashed walls, and other obstacles. Several times he came across decaying fish and once he saw what could have been part of a human arm or leg judging by the size of the exposed bone. He carefully averted his gaze and passed it as quickly as he could. He hadn’t realized the number of flies around him until then, but suddenly he was aware of their buzzing sounds. The whole world was full of the sounds of flies, competing with the cries of gulls and the squawks of crows. He shuddered, was everything else around him dead, but for the scavengers?

The smell of death and decay suddenly became almost overpowering. He felt the gorge rise in his throat and he stumbled forward to lean against a broken wall, his head down as he tried to control his rebellious stomach. He took a deep breath and forced himself to move forward several yards before he paused to sit on a tree trunk. He managed to slip off his pack in order to take out his water bottle and have another sip of the tepid water.

A few deep breaths, another tiny sip of water and he felt much better. He waved his hand wearily at a fly that buzzed in front of him, then looked up to see how much further he would have to go to reach the boat.

Surprisingly it was only a few yards away. Now that he could see it better, his heart sank. He realized then that he’d been hoping against hope that someone had been alive in the wreck, but the way the hull was shattered and seaweed strewn, there was little chance of that. He sighed deeply, took one more sip of water, then resolutely put the water bottle away and stood slowly, slipping the pack straps over his shoulders agaiin.

He moved forward slowly, almost afraid to look closely at his target. The tree that held the hull upright was directly in his way, a jumble of branches and garbage piled under and around its trunk. He moved toward the butt end of the tree trunk, looking for a possible passage to get closer.

Suddenly he stopped. He could hear a strange sound, a cross between a whine and a whimper, almost a chant, perhaps a song of lament. It seemed to be coming from somewhere inside the hull. He leaned forward, resting his hand on the rough bark of the huge tree trunk. He took a deep breath, holding it for several seconds as he listened to the soft whining hum.

“Hello?” he called. “Is anyone there?”

A gull thrashed into the air not ten yards away, squawking in terror as it rose. Its call was matched and repeated by several other gulls not much further from him. The air was suddenly full of screaming birds, the whistle of their wings and their raucous cries drowning out all other sounds for several seconds. Relative silence gradually descended. The whine, or whimper, or whatever it was, had stopped now.

“Hello, the boat,” he called again; his voice much quieter now.

A strange squawk seemed to come from the boat, barely recognisable over the instantaneous plaints of the gulls.

He stared at the hull, his ears straining, trying to identify any sound he might hear. He held his breath and thought he could hear a rustling sound. Then he saw part of a face, mostly a pair of eyes, staring at him through a shattered porthole.

“Oh! Omigod!” a woman’s voice squealed and the face disappeared.

He stood stunned, his heart pounding, his brain awhirl. He became aware of a litany of sound coming from the boat now, a soft scrabbling sound, as well as a somewhat shrill paean of words, running on and on.

“Oh, don’t come in. Don’t come in. Please, don’t come in. I’m not dressed and the boat is such a mess. Just wait. I’ll come out. Oh, please don’t go away. I’m so lonely. Please don’t leave me. Please, please, please!” there was a short pause in the litany of words. “Oh please, are you still there?”

The voice dwindled to silence.

“I’m still here,” he announced quietly.

“Oh! Thank you!” the voice broke into a laughing, almost insane chatter. “Thank you, thank you, thank you...”

Those two words were repeated over and over, on and on, almost becoming a song as the woman’s voice rose and fell. He leaned back, somewhat relieved, almost stunned. There was someone else alive in this world of death and destruction. He felt his face twist into a smile, a grin of pure unreasoning pleasure. As for the woman who was inside the wreck, her voice lilted on in her singsong chorus of thanks. She sounded like she was laughing in happiness and he found himself wanting to laugh with her.

The pack suddenly felt unreasonably heavy, he slipped it from his shoulders, set it on the ground and stretched slowly in the bright sunlight. He relaxed, enjoying the sound of someone else’s voice even though he couldn’t understand the meaning of her words. After all it was no wonder a human voice sounded good, he hadn’t seen or heard anyone for a week or more. He rested a hand on the torn up roots of the tree trunk, breathing deeply, stretching and easing muscles that hadn’t been used in a long time. He moved a few steps, then sat back against a larger root. The sound moved, becoming more muffled, then suddenly clearer, he could hear it seem to become louder. Suddenly a female figure was walking toward him as she moved around the tilted bow of the boat.

She paused, stopped making any sound, noisily drew a sharp intake of breath and he stared in sheer surprise. She looked beautiful to him right then.

She was perhaps twenty-five or thirty years old, her hair - a soft short blonde, her eyes - huge and green or perhaps hazel, she had a freckled nose, full lips, and dimples. Those dimples were emphasized because her lips were set in a wide grin, almost a rictus of a smile. She was tall and looked quite athletic, dressed in a blouse and a short skirt. She was breathing rapidly, causing her breasts to rise and fall beneath the thin cloth of her blouse. That blouse was only partially buttoned, actually unevenly buttoned, as though she had missed one button in her hurry to dress. He could see her nipples harden and swell, knew she wore no bra to support her round perky breasts. She had beautiful breasts and for several seconds he felt himself studying them, memorizing their curves. He caught himself staring and forced his eyes away, making his eyes look at the rest of her. Her waist was small, her hips wide, her legs long and trim. She was bare footed and...

She had let out a tiny squeak, as though she’d tried to say something and it wouldn’t come out. Her voice drew his gaze back to her face. She was grinning widely, her eyes sparkling as she stared at him. Her mouth worked, but nothing came out. Karl found himself staring at her face, finding he had no voice either, but realising he was grinning as widely as she was.

Then with a soft moan, she began to move toward him again. As he stood up fully she came toward him in a rush, her arms thrown up and forward. She crashed into him, wrapping her arms around him as her rush almost overbalanced them. Karl felt like he had the breath knocked out of him for several seconds. He realized that she was pressing against him so hard that he was being forced back against a fallen tree.

“Oh, I’m so glad to see you,” she moaned, her head buried against his chest.

Her arms gripped him tightly and she squirmed as if she were trying to get even closer.

“Are you okay?” she whispered.

“Unh huh,” he managed to grunt and found that his arms were holding her just as tightly as she held him.

The fallen tree made a lump that was pressing against a tender spot in his back and he twisted slowly to the side so it wasn’t pressing as hard, but he didn’t want to release her. She began to giggle softly and her face twisted so she could look at him. Their eyes locked, their faces twisted in broad grins as each of them held the other tightly. Then her giggles made him chuckle. They stood there, giggling and chuckling, the sound gradually growing louder and louder until they were laughing hysterically. He couldn’t seem to hold her tightly enough, but she held him in a grip that was just as tight.

Gradually their laughter died and they stood quietly staring at each other’s face. He felt an instantaneous and extremely intense desire for her, knew she felt it too. One of her hands released her hold around his back and slid up his arm, over his shoulder. It reached up to touch his beard, caressing it gently. She sighed softly.

“Thank you,” she whispered softly.

“You’re welcome,” he whispered back. “Although I haven’t done anything to be thanked for.”

“You came to rescue me. I’ve been so lonely. I couldn’t find anyone. I’ve been all alone for so long.”

She sighed then and pulled back, her other hand slipping down to rest on his chest.

“I didn’t hurt you when I slammed against you, did I?” she asked quietly.

“No,” he laughed softly. “You did more damage to your blouse.”

“Oh,” her hands lifting from his chest as she looked down. “I guess I didn’t button up well did I?”

Her blouse might have been poorly, buttoned before, but now after her antics, it gaped open almost to her waist, only one button still held it closed. She looked into Karl’s eyes and then down again, her eyes questioning him as she giggled and her face flushed slightly. She slowly did up the buttons, one at a time, not really trying to hide the fact that her breasts had been on show.

“Look, I’m not really skin shy and I do like sex,” she murmured. “I’ll be honest, if you want payment for my rescue, that’s really all I have and...”

She let the question trail off, then she leaned forward and lifted to her tiptoes so her lips could reach his. Her kiss was gentle and tentative. Although Karl suddenly felt desire for her, he paused. He thought of the woman who had borne his son and his hand slipped down to the waist of the young woman in his arms. Somehow he managed to fight his own urges and break off the kiss. His head lifted and he stared down at her face.

“Oh,” she gasped, her body now pressing against his. “Don’t you like me?”

“I’m involved ... not married ... but we have a son,” he said hesitantly. “Besides, you don’t have to pay to be rescued, even if you look awfully good to me. Besides, this isn’t the time or the place, not for anything like that.”

She stared at him in surprise for a few seconds then broke into a giggle. “Oh sure, turn me down. I know I’m not at my best. Heck, I haven’t even got a brush or comb to fix my hair and I haven’t been able to wash properly for a week. I’ve barely got enough water to cook or drink. I sure haven’t wanted to waste any on washing myself, well, not much.”

“I guess I’m spoiled,” Karl smiled at her, astounded that she could still tease someone after being in such a precarious position.” I’ve been having a shower every day and I wash whenever I want to. I have a water desalination rig on my boat, so if you want a shower, it’s available.”

He twisted and pointed his hand to his boat anchored out in the bay below them. “There she is. The old wooden steam boat.”

He paused, suddenly realizing that his boat was the only one on the quiet waters and thinking back to the former times when it had been a bustling, busy harbour.

“You came by boat?” she gasped. “How did you survive the tsunami? Where were you during the earthquake?”

He stared at her. “I didn’t know there had been an earthquake, not until I got here. I’ve been running in either fog or heavy rain for several days, navigating by GPS and radar. I haven’t even been able to get my radio to work.”

“Where were you last Friday afternoon?” she stared at him.

“Um, well off the tip of the island, maybe twenty miles or so from land, why do you ask?”

“That’s when the earthquake tore everything up,” she shuddered as she spoke quietly.

Karl looked at her as her eyes seemed to go distant and unfocused.

“I was moored out, standing out on deck and I heard it coming. It sounded like a freight train, or a big jet, or something huge,” she paused and when she spoke again, her voice was even quieter, almost a whisper. “Then all the birds started flying, all squawking like mad and the dogs all started to howl. “I knew it was something terrible, but I didn’t realize what it was. Then as I watched, everything on the land seemed to jump and twist. Almost at the same moment the water around me seemed to dance for a minute, just little waves that were moving every which way. After that it was eerie. The water went completely flat and there seemed to be an instant of total silence. I didn’t have any idea what was happening.”

“Then the water seemed to...” she paused as if searching for a word, then she continued quietly. “It seemed to sort of jump and twist. I guess the best way to describe it is that it was like it exploded somehow. When I looked up at the shore, I saw all the buildings moving, each one seemed to twist and shake. Everything started to shift and wiggle in strange directions. Then it was like a shimmer passed over anything in my view and it all started to move or even fall down. There seemed to be a cloud of dust rising from every object on shore and I heard all the noises. Everything seemed to be making noise; crashes, and thuds, and bangs, and horns, and sirens, and shrieks, all at once. Every single thing was moving and falling. I watched buildings twist and break apart, then just fall flat in a huge cloud of dust. I saw a whole pier just fall down like someone had chopped whatever held it up out from underneath it. Suddenly the water near the shore turned all brown, then it seemed to bounce away from the shore.”

She shuddered and sighed deeply.

“After that, it seemed like big waves were coming at me from every direction and I was too darn busy trying to keep from going overboard to watch anymore. I had to hang on for dear life”

Her eyes had grown huge and she stared at him. One of her hands reached to grasp one of his and squeezed it tightly. He reached out with his other hand, brushing his fingers gently against the back of hers.

“A big wave hit my boat and snapped the anchor line like it was string. I almost got thrown overboard, but all I could do for a while was hang on. When the boat settled down, I was almost in the middle of the bay and I could hardly see the shore, it seemed like...” she paused and sighed softly before she continued, “ ... it was like there was a fog or a dust storm or something, and I could smell smoke. I decided I had to get out of there just in case a tsunami came at me. I tried to start my engine, but in the rattling around I guess something must have broken, anyway I had no power. I don’t know just what I did, but in my panic I wiggled every electrical connection I could reach easily and when I tried the starter again, the engine fired up. I headed for open water as fast as I could, full throttle, not even bothering to warm up the engine. I was so scared; it wasn’t funny.”

She looked at him with eyes that seemed to grow larger and larger.

“Then everything changed again. I almost panicked then. I could feel the boat moving strangely, not responding to the rudder very well. Yet I was moving faster and faster. It felt like the tide was suddenly starting to run out like mad and I didn’t know what to do. The boat must have been moving at thirty knots or so, but I couldn’t see the shore to check, that damn mist or smoke or whatever was in the way. I shut the engine off again to try to hear something, but even that didn’t help and when I tried to restart the engine, but it wouldn’t go, no matter what I did. For some reason I tied a bucket to a rope and threw it off of the stern on a long rope, thinking it might slow me down, but it didn’t. All the water around me was moving, not just me. It did keep the bow pointed forward though, so I guess I still had some forward momentum from when I was using the engine.”

She paused and shuddered softly as if she had a sudden chill then she quietly continued.

“I could hardly see any signs of the shore. I’m sure I was being drawn right out of the bay and looking back I could see rocks exposed that I’d never seen before, not even at the lowest tides. I was almost in the middle of the channel and going like a bat out of hell. The shoreline was hidden. I turned around to look out into the strait where the air seemed clearer, but the whole horizon seemed to be crawling upward. I was heading straight into a wall of water.”

She paused again, staring down at her hands holding his.

“I don’t know why, but I decided I wasn’t safe where I was standing. I don’t know how I got there, but the next thing I remember is being in my bunk in the bow of the boat with both legs braced against one bulkhead and my hands braced on the other. Then everything happened at once. I felt like I was falling downward, then I seemed to be rocketing upward, then sideways and I think I went completely over, I don’t know. I banged my head on something and I remember flying through the air. Then everything became a blur and I can’t remember what happened other than the idea that it all seemed to be carrying on forever. Eventually I must have either banged my head again, or else I passed out.”

Her hands gripped him tightly and her eyes lifted to meet his.

“When I woke up, I was laying upside down in my bunk and what’s left of the boat was sitting where it is now. Other than bruises all over, I don’t seem to be injured at all,” she stopped speaking and sighed softly, her eyes staring into his.

She turned her head slowly and stared at the shattered hull.

“It was such a nice little boat and it wasn’t even insured yet. I’d just bought her a week before,” she sighed again and tears came to her eyes.

“Just think how lucky you are,” he said flatly. “You could have bought a house instead, then what would have happened to you?”

She started to cry softly, leaning slowly against him. He held her gently for a few minutes. Then realizing that the sun was well into the west, he lifted his head and cleared his throat.

“Umm,” he said hesitantly “I’d like to get back to my boat for the night and I think you should come too, but if we’re going to get back before it gets too late, we’d better get moving.”

“Well, nothing is going to be hurt any more than it is now if it stays here,” she sighed softly. “But, I’d like to change my clothes and get a few of my things, if you don’t mind waiting.”

“Not at all,” he smiled. “By the way, what’s your name? Mine’s Karl Larson.”

She broke into giggles and shook his hand in both of hers.

“Hi Karl,” she managed to giggle. “I’m Linda.”

“Was that Linda?” he questioned.

She nodded her head enthusiastically, still pumping his hand in hers.

“Unh huh, Linda McReady,” she giggled softly.

“Well, Hello Linda,” he grinned and she giggled even more.

He found her giggles lifted his spirits enormously. Nothing looked so bleak now that he’d found her. She got her giggles under control and shook her head.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have giggled, but it seemed so funny that I didn’t even know your name and I was already trying to be involved,” she whispered.”Are you really in a hurry to leave?”

“Yes,” he said, quickly, but gently lifting her hand. “I think we have to and I think we’d better go soon. If we don’t, we won’t be back to the boat before dark.”

“Is that so important? I do have a shelter here and a mattress to sleep on,” she grinned.

“I don’t think you want to sleep,” he chuckled then he shook his head slowly and his face sobered as he glanced at the horizon. “I’m sorry Linda, but I don’t think I want my boat to be at the mercy of the elements without being aboard. From the look of those clouds, there’s probably a storm coming with lots of wind and rain.”

“I suppose we should go. It’s just that...” she paused and sighed. “Well, everything seems so much better now that I know I’m not all alone.”

“I know what you mean,” he smiled. “I’m looking forward to showing you around the ‘Skolka’.”

She pulled back slowly. “Is ‘Skolka’ the name of your boat?”

“Yeah,” he looked up at her. “It’s Swedish, and it’s a word that means ‘to play hooky’

“‘To play hooky? What does that mean?”

“Oh, that’s an old expression. Umm, I guess it means to shirk responsibility, usually in favour of doing something pleasurable. When I was a kid, we used to play hooky from school.”

“Hah, with you wanting to get to your boat instead of staying here with me, that doesn’t sound like you shirk responsibility at all, but it does sound like a good name for a boat. I like it,” she held out her hand to him. “Come on, since you insist on being responsible, let’s salvage a few things from my wreck, then you can show me your pleasure yacht.”

He took her hand, not that he needed it, but because it was her hand and she was offering. He bent slightly to pick up his pack with his other hand and followed her.

“It’s really not much of a pleasure boat,” he said as she led him around the bow of her boat and past the huge tree trunk on its other side. “And it’s definitely not a fancy yacht. It’s just an old fish boat, an old fish boat that I converted to use steam power.”

She paused and turned to him with a grin. “So what? You are what is going to make it a pleasure yacht,” she said softly.

Karl stared after her as she pulled away from him and turned toward her boat. For some reason he felt almost as if he was a fly about to explore a spider’s web.

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