‘Final Passage’, Addison Clift

Illustrations © 2013 Carmen Moran

 [ Ice Breaker, © 2013 Carmen Moran ] As soon as I heard they were going over the Pole, I quit my construction job in Fairbanks and hitched a ride on a truck hauling casing joints up the Dalton. The driver kept calling me “girlie” and showing me the scars from the times he’d been stabbed, and all around us the autumn tundra was red and orange, purple and gold.

12 hours later I'm in Deadhorse, Alaska, standing on the edge of the world.

Last year, at about this time, the Arctic was totally free of pack ice. Apparently this happened way faster than anyone expected. It means merchant ships can skip the canal or the Northwest Passage and just go straight up over the Pole, saving beaucoup time and scratch.

But last year, no one was ready. This year? Different story. They’ve descended on Deadhorse like a colony of worker ants, trying to get a port up and running by the time the ships need to leave. It’s still unfinished, it looks like it’s made of pallets and duct tape, and it’s only got one working terminal. But on or around September 9, 2016, about two weeks from today, a tanker is going to leave the Port of Deadhorse and sail right over the North Pole to London, the first non-icebreaker ever to do so, and I’m going to be on it.

For an OS job, the interview process was intense—drug tests, background checks, criminal record checks, and investigations into whether I’d ever been tied to “terrorist or radical environmentalist groups.” (Who apparently have it in for this ship.) This old retired Navy crewcut grilled me for like an hour about my opinions on climate change. Sheesh. And here I thought climate change was the reason we were able to make this trip.

After checking into my motel room, I took a walk around town. It was cold and muddy and treeless. Nothing but a few company-owned stores, company-owned motels, and some trailers to house the workers—all of it built up on stilts or gravel pads. I watched through a chain-link fence as gas flares from the oil fields lit up the dark grey sky. It kind of reminded me of hell.

After a few hours in Deadhorse, I was bored stiff. I was hanging out in the company-owned trading post when this chick came up and asked me if I was going to be on the ship to London. She stuck out like a third leg in that place. Most people in Deadhorse wear overalls and work gloves, but this girl was mad hot and dressed like a movie star. Her accent was weird. It might have been Russian, but I’m no good with accents.

“My name’s Alisha,” I said, trying to find something that wouldn’t fall over when I leaned on it with my casual cool. “I’m Raven Clan, from Prince Rupert, BC, but really I’m a rolling stone. I can’t stand to stay in one place too long. I’ve been all over—Yellowknife, Seattle, Hawai’i, Japan, you name it. So are you like an oil executive or something?”

She smiled. “A tanker ship isn’t a very safe place for a pretty girl like you.” (She was flirting with me! And her hand “accidentally” brushed against mine! Who said this town is boring?)

“I can take care of myself,” I said, smiling coyly and inching a bit closer.

“I bet you can,” she said, then turned and abruptly walked out of the place.

Oof. Shot down like a fat turkey. Did I say something wrong?

First day went all right. They had me putting non-skid on all the ladders and walkways, and I got a mean buzz off the fumes. They expect the September ice minimum to be in about a week, so we’ll be leaving soon.

Despite what I’d thought, the MT Tomorrow actually is an icebreaker, since she’s a double-acting ship. But everyone figures that as long as she never uses her icebreaking capabilities, it still counts as making history, right? It frigging better. I quit a good job for this.

There’s this AB named Charlie who makes my gaydar do a blip or two. (Although that thing’s been on the fritz lately.) If she’s a dyke, she’s very femme, which I like. Her story is the same as mine—she left her town in Oklahoma to see the world, and she never wants to go back.

Tomorrow’s the Tomorrow’s big day. All morning I was helping Charlie and some of the others load cargo, but mostly I was just trying to stay out of the way. Something on the chicksan arms or the vapour hoses wasn’t fitting right, or at least that’s what I gathered through all the f-bombs.

But I do like a girl who’s not afraid to cuss.

Later they called us all out on the dock for a group photo. It was my first time seeing most of the crew. The captain is a Yank named Pomerantz and the chief mate is a limey named Collier. No opinion on them yet.

But the navigation officer—oh, man. His name is Dubinkin, and all I can say is there must be a revolving door between the Russian Navy and the Russian mafia these days. Seriously, this guy has more tats than a biker.

You can barely see me in the picture, but still, it was pretty cool. Media came from as far away as Vancouver. Hell, maybe they’ll even run it in Prince Rupert!

But then they had to spoil everything with one more photo. The Americans hung this big red ribbon across the dock, then they cut it with a pair of those oversized cardboard scissors, as if the Arctic were a brand new shopping centre.

Strange dreams haunt my sleep. Some kind of midnight black mass is taking place on the bow of a great big ship. The woman from the trading post is standing up there, naked, holding her hands in the air and letting out a hair-raising trill. About ten jet-black creatures with long, curved heads move in a circle around her, bowing and chanting.

I wake up and it’s dark out. The snow is coming down sideways. I look around, and it all comes flooding back. Our departure was delayed by the blizzard. This is Charlie’s motel room, and she’s sleeping next to me. (Yep, she’s a dyke.)

I reach for the remote to turn off the Cartoon Network. With the TV off, there’s no sound but the creaking of the building and the howling of the wind.

Clear weather! Casting off at last! The satellite says the Pole is still free of pack ice. Several days of good weather expected. London, here we come!

Some killer whales swim alongside the ship on our way out of port. We do 15 knots all day. Should make about 650 kilometres. They have me sounding tanks, then chipping rust. So far, so good.

This is my first time on a tanker, and I have to say it’s weird. I don’t just mean that it’s nearly as long as three football fields. It’s weird trying to imagine all that oil, sloshing around in the dark beneath my feet. Someone told me this thing carries 750,000 barrels. Think about that. That’s enough to power almost three SUVs.

Earlier I beat down Charlie’s ass at ping pong. It was brutal. Then we discovered the karaoke machine in the crew lounge. Charlie sang “Big Shot” and nailed it, even the part where he does the “Monster Mash” voice. I did “We Are the Champions.” I was pretty proud of my performance, but then I got in a big fight with Jeff, the wiper, because he said it’s the first time he ever heard that song sung by an actual man.

I called him a prick-ass dickholeface and told him to bite shit. It was all downhill from there.

I dream about the oil. In my dream, the oil is alive and conscious. It mounts assault after assault on the bulkheads, trying to break free. “Alisha,” it whispers. “Alisha, I’m returning to the place that I came from. Will you come with me?”

I wake up with the overwhelming feeling there’s something out in the passageway. But it soon dissipates, and I figure it’s just the dream lingering, so I go back to sleep.

Still clear, no ice, still making great time at 15 knots. On the 8-12 I’m draining the pumproom bilge into the slop tanks. (Glamourous, I know.) I have to use this crappy little portable pump since the hydraulic in the pumproom is busted. I come back up and everyone’s saying Pomerantz is about to skin Dubinkin alive. I ask the ETO what’s going on, and he says, “Didn’t you hear the shot?”

“I didn’t hear shit, I was in the pumproom.”

“Dubinkin took a shot at the stern. He claims he saw something.”

Took a shot at the stern? Good thing I was right underneath it, ass-to-crotch with a pair of two-and-a-half million gallon oil tanks. What could have possibly gone wrong?

I call my folks from the sat phone in the crew lounge. They say Jeremy’s in trouble in school again.

“Tell him next time I’m in Rupert, I’m going to kick his ass,” I say.

“Alisha, if I believed there was a next time, I’d throw a party.” As my mom says this, I glance out the porthole, and for the first time, I see some real ice out on the water.

Night. I’m down in the No. 1 starboard ballast tank, hand-scraping rust. There’s supposed to be two of us, but Rocky’s got the runs or something, so it’s just me.

Except—it isn’t. There’s something down here with me. Some kind of presence. I’ve never considered myself psychic, but this is like being in an elevator with another person.

I call to the bosun, but he doesn’t answer. That idiot’s supposed to stay right outside the hatch. I climb the ladder and stick my head out, and finally I see him horsing around at about midships with some guys from the engine deck.

So I go back down. Only this time, as I’m scraping rust, I swear I can hear something breathing.

I finish real fast, then I make a beeline for the crew lounge, just to be around people. A bunch of them are playing GameCube and smoking herb.

Kit, the steward, comes in, looking like he’s seen a ghost. He doesn’t say anything, just sits down and stares off into space.

People try to be friendly: “Kit, que pasa?” “K-Man, want a hit?”

But he just sits there like something inside him has switched off.

On the way back to my cabin, I come across Dubinkin, sitting on the floor in the p-way. I sneer at him, but he’s too drunk to notice.

Morning. We’re in some serious ice now. It’s everywhere. A lot of it looks like lily pads, but then there are these big mean-looking bergs floating around. I think we’re down to ten knots, maybe less.

I got lucky today, getting to spend the 8-12 on lookout. (Although it occurred to me I don’t have a contingency plan if that drunk Russkie starts taking pot shots at me.) Over the course of the watch, the icebergs have gotten bigger and bigger, and the ship has gotten slower and slower.

Cold. As. Hell.

When watch is over I’m a frigging popsicle. All I can think about is getting under the covers. So I head to Charlie’s cabin and we both conk out.

Next thing I know, someone’s knocking on the door. I drag myself out of bed and answer it.

Well, well, if it isn’t that fucknut wiper.

“Yeah, what do you want?” I ask.

“Russ got something on the VHF.”

“What do you mean, ‘got something?’”

“Come see for yourself.”

So me and Charlie take the elevator up to the main bridge, still in our pyjamas, and stand in the back of the crowd, trying to see and hear.

The radio is crackling like hell, but it’s unmistakably transmitting the sound of a female voice, speaking in a strange warble no one can identify. It sounds human, but the speaker never seems to pause for breath.

It hits me: this is the same thing I heard in my dream.

“How far away is it?” someone asks.

“This thing’s range is sixty miles.”

Charlie: “Have you tried answering?”

Russ just smiles and presses the PTT: “Station calling, hotel nine-er, zulu delta x-ray. Identify yourself. Over.”

He releases the button and we all listen. The warbling continues unabated.

Russ tries again: “This is the MT Tomorrow, identify yourself, over.”

The voice goes on as before. You can hear a pin drop in the bridge. Captain Pomerantz, who I’ve never actually spoken to, just stands there, nervously turning a coin over in his fingers.

“Weirdest damn thing I –” Russ starts to say.

But before he can finish, several other, much deeper voices join the female voice, and in unison they say some kind of chant. Or maybe it’s a prayer.

For the first time, I wish I was back in Prince Rupert.

At mess, no one is talking about the VHF. They talk about everything else. The Astros are about to set a record for longest winning streak in league history.

I tell Charlie I want to see her after watch.

I spend the first part of the watch helping out in the galley, since the steward has locked himself in his cabin and won’t come out. Then later they have me cleaning heads.

I find Dubinkin in one of them, sitting on the floor with a bottle of schnapps, drunk as an Irish mosquito.

He’s ranting and raving in Russian, but at one point, as I mop around him, he switches to English long enough to say, “They hide in plain sight.”

“Who?” Then the smell hits me, followed by the widening puddle. “Way to go, Boris Fuckov. You’re leaning on the toilet, and you just pissed the floor.”

“They’ll never let us through,” he says. Then he rambles on some more in Russian.

They’ll never let us through. For some reason I think of those creatures in my dream, with the flat faces and the curved heads. I try to get Dubinkin to move, but he won’t, so I just leave him there, marinating in his own juices.

After watch, I meet Charlie in my cabin. I tell her what Dubinkin said, and how when we heard that voice on the radio, I swore it was the same one from my dream.

She tells me about her dream: she’s standing on the ice before a big black tower, trying to run away, but it keeps pulling her back.

“Like I’m tethered to it or something,” she says.

As she’s talking, three long blasts. We look at each other. Ship’s whistle. Three long blasts.

Man overboard.

We run out on deck, as fast as we can. It’s Kit, the steward.

Andres, one of the other ABs, was standing watch. He says he saw Kit over by the manifold, looking out to sea. His lips were moving, like he was talking to someone. Then he just walked over, climbed the handrail, and jumped off.

He was not wearing a lifejacket. Andres says he was cradling something in his arms, but he couldn’t tell what it was.

They bring the ship around and shine the searchlight into the water. We’re in that brief period of deep blue twilight that passes for nighttime this far north, and a heavy fog has rolled in.

We all call to him. Nothing.

Collier’s afraid he might be clinging to some ice, too in shock to answer. He wants to drop a boat.

It’s been almost thirty minutes since he jumped. Pomerantz surveys the icy water and says, “He’s already dead.”

They call it in to Deadhorse as a likely suicide. We keep going.

Morning. This place is like a tomb. No one got any sleep last night. Strange sounds reverberated through all the passageways. Everyone lay awake, hoping someone else would investigate. The AB standing the 4-8 watch said he heard voices on the wind.

Earlier someone tried to call their baby mama south of 49 and realized right away what the steward took with him when he went over the side—our sat phones. All three of them.

We still have the internet and the ship’s radio, but I mean, what the fuck? Why would he have done that?

At mess Harlan says he thinks the people back in Deadhorse were right: someone is trying to sabotage this ship. Brenda says it’s only about 800 miles to Svalbard, the first settled place we hit after the Pole. I don’t know, that still seems awfully far away.

Night. I’m on B Deck, mopping a passageway. I have that feeling again: I’m not alone.

It isn’t a breathing sound this time, but it might as well be. I know there’s something here, but what’s even weirder is, I think I know where it is. I think if I just reach out my hand—

There’s a crackle. The smell of ozone. Every hair on my body stands on end.

From around the corner, a little blue orb comes floating toward me at about eye level. It hisses and buzzes. It slows down and seems to take notice of me, then it passes right through the far wall.

Okay, I think I’m done mopping for the night.

“Alisha!” It’s Charlie. “Just came over the NAVTEX. Monster storm. They’re sending me up to the bridge to help out.”

And she’s gone, before I even have time to wish her luck. I go out on deck, and a gust of wind nearly knocks me over.

I look for the bosun, but find Collier instead. He’s rushing off somewhere. I ask him what I should do. He looks at me for a second like he wishes I didn’t exist, then says, “Go to the engine store and lock everything down.”

The ship makes its first really good pitch while I’m heading down the stairs. I hold on, but my dinner almost doesn’t.

The store itself is a disaster. There’s crap all over the place. It’s going to take hours just to get everything back in its proper drawer, much less lock it all up. I get to work, cursing the storm and the chief mate and Charlie for getting to go up on the bridge while I’m banished down here.

The ship is starting to heave something awful. It’s hard to keep my balance. I have to dodge camshafts and inlet valves as they roll across the floor.

Something whacks against my right ankle. The pain is so bad I have to limp over and lean against the wall.

Through the air vent, just above my head, a loud crack.

I prick up my ears. I shut the door to the engine room to cut down on the noise.

Then it comes again. Pop. Pop, pop.

Oh, god. I think I know what that sound is.

I fight my way across the floor and pull myself up the steep metal steps.

In the crew’s mess, my stomach plunges when I see a bloody handprint streaked across a table. I look around, but I don’t see anyone else.

The “pop pop” comes again—upstairs. I stagger out and make my way to the stairwell.

Once inside, I steady myself and listen. Someone is firing off a gun on the next deck. Where the hell is everybody?

I take a deep breath and start climbing. When I get to B Deck, there’s blood everywhere. On the floor. On the walls. I see a body lying half in the p-way, half in a cabin. I think it might be Collier.

I’ve barely taken a step when Dubinkin comes around the corner. Or some crazed thing that used to be Dubinkin. His eyes are full of murder. He aims his rifle at me. I should run, but I just stand there like a goddamn deer. I close my eyes and wait to die.

But instead of death, I’m knocked off my feet. It feels like the ship hit something. I roll into the stairwell. I hear Dubinkin getting up behind me, cursing in Russian.

I take the first staircase several steps at a time, but then another collision throws me down the next one. My knee lands square on the metal floor. The pain is blinding. I see a flash of white light, then stars.

I don’t know if Dubinkin is still coming, but I have to keep going. After two tries, I’m on my feet. I limp out the door into the passageway. I head for the deck because I don’t know where else to go. The ship rocks again. I slide to the floor, trying to favour my knee, but I cry out in pain anyway.

Then there’s a strange sound and I get a sickeningly familiar feeling.

As I watch, a shape moves across the surface of the wall, then the wall itself changes colours, and a jet-black creature steps out of it. It must have been camouflaging itself, like a flatfish. It’s over two metres tall. Its head is curved on top, then hooked down on each side. Its mouth is an ugly, frowning slit, and its eyes are small and beady and dead.

Then another one comes out of the wall, and another one. I watch in horror as the wall comes alive with them, and before I can even piss myself, at least ten have stepped out into the passageway.

And they’re coming right at me, reaching out with weird, mouth-like hands.

Feet, hatch, deck—where I immediately wipe out. It’s a total skating rink.

I half-crawl, half-slide from one piece of machinery to the next. I’ve got no lifejacket, and my ice cleats are back in my cabin. The wind must be fifty knots. I’m going to try for the deck store, but it’s about fifty metres out, so I’m going to have a hell of a time getting there.

I grab onto a P/V valve and look back at the deckhouse. I don’t see anyone (or anything) coming after me. I try to signal the bridge, but I don’t think I’m in their line of sight yet.

There’s a totally naked woman climbing up on the davit arms.

Wait, I must be hallucinating. Right? I pull closer, but the figure doesn’t vanish. I hold onto a COW line and shout. I wave my free hand. I shout some more.

Then she looks at me, and I see who it is. It’s the woman from Deadhorse, who touched my hand and told me I was pretty. The one in my dream, who conducted a black mass on the bow with those same creatures I’m trying to get away from.

She grins like a demon, one of the chains breaks, and the lifeboat slips and goes dangling off the side of the ship. Then the other one goes, the lifeboat drops into the water, and immediately gets thrown against the hull.

That’s when I see it. The wave that’s going to sink the Tomorrow. It must be ten stories high, and it’s bearing right down on us, tossing off icebergs like dandruff.

Too slippery to walk? Think again. I speed-skate across the deck, reaching out toward the hatch, creatures or no creatures, now almost there, now flat on my face, now up again, now I’m inside, now I slam the hatch closed and lock it behind me.

Then the wave hits, and everything goes black.

“Hey. Hey, wake up.”

I open my eyes.

“Alisha, right?” It’s Bruno, the pumpman. I don’t really know him, but I recognize him from his big moustache.

I look around. I’m lying in the p-way, just inside the hatch. “What happened?”

Bruno kind of laughs. “What didn’t happen? I’m going around looking for survivors.”

I sit up and try to get to my feet, but they give out underneath me.

“Careful, you hit your head.”

But that isn’t it. The ship is still. Not still like the storm is over. Still like…still.

“We’re stuck,” he says, then clarifies when he sees the way I look at him. “We’re stuck in the ice.”

“But we’re an icebreaker.”

He laughs. “Do you know how to fix this thing?”

I pull myself to my feet, take a minute to get my land legs, then open the hatch and look out.

It’s like the surface of the moon.

I step outside, mindful of how slick it is. There are giant ice boulders all over the deck. The sky is low and grey. The ice stretches to the horizon, in haphazard stacks and ridges. You couldn’t walk across that landscape if you wanted to.

“The storm must have blown us right into some pack ice,” Bruno says. He lifts his vest, showing me his pistol. “You’d better come with me. Those creatures are everywhere.”

We take the stairs up to the bridge. Charlie is there, tinkering with the control console.

“Alisha,” she says. “I’m glad you made it.”

“You too.” I look around. All the glass is busted, letting in the frigid air. The instruments are smashed. Ice is everywhere, in big chunks.

“That rogue did it,” Charlie says. “I was in the room when it happened. Took Pomerantz with it.”

“The captain?”

“Washed him right out to sea.”

“Can you get anything working?” Bruno asks.

“It’s all shorted out. And I’m an AB.”

I notice for the first time the backup lights are on; the main power must have been lost. “What about the radio?” I ask.

“The whole radar mast is gone. Washed away. We got nothin’.”

“We must have some other means of communication.”

“Not really. No radio beacon, no SART transponder. Or at least, they’re not where they should be.”

“What about the main transponder?”


“By the storm?”

Bruno sucks air through his teeth. “It was in a cabinet down in the equipment room. Now it’s in pieces all over the floor. The GPS tracker, too. Could have been the storm, but…a million to one. If you ask me, someone took a sledgehammer to every piece of vital communications equipment on this ship.”


“So we’re cut off?”

“Well, there’s one thing that might save our asses. I think some of our not-so-loyal shipmates may have escaped without us. The lifeboats are gone, and I’m not finding nearly enough bodies.”

I don’t say anything about the naked woman cutting the lifeboats down. I don’t know if it’s because it sounds too crazy, or because I don’t want to take away their last hope.

Bruno sighs. “Of course, they’d have to send an icebreaker, which could take weeks. Meanwhile, we have those things to deal with.”

“Let’s go back to the galley,” Charlie says nervously. “I couldn’t pilot this thing if all this crap was working.”

Kyle, the QMED, is waiting for us in the pantry, along with Sami, the second engineer. But Sami is unconscious most of the time; Dubinkin put a few extra holes in him.

“Where is that psycho bastard?” I ask.

Bruno shrugs. “I’m going to look for more survivors. Haven’t been below deck yet. I was headed that way when I found you.”

“Please,” Kyle says, “Leave us the gun.”


“What are we supposed to do if those things come back?”

Bruno takes something off the shelf and tosses it to him. “Throw a can of peaches at them.”

Then he leaves.

Four hours and Bruno still isn’t back. I’m pacing back and forth, trying to reassure everyone. “You know they’re gonna come for us. They have to. Even if we’re just lower class trash no one cares about, think how much oil is on this ship.”

No one seems very reassured.

The creatures come. We hear them in the mess, so we all hold our breath. Charlie keeps her hand pressed over Sami’s mouth, since he’s been moaning from his wounds.

I think there are three of them. They speak in these weird clicks and whistles. At one point, they’re right outside the pantry door.

After they’re gone, no one speaks for like an hour. Then Kyle says it’s the third time they came.

They must know we’re here. What are they waiting for?

It’s been all day now and Bruno is still gone. Me and Charlie want to go look for him. Kyle doesn’t want us to. (It’s becoming clear that Kyle is a total pussy.) But in a way he has a point. It isn’t really Bruno we’re going after. It’s the gun.

We go anyway.

We search the whole deckhouse. At one point we have to hide in a closet from two of those things. Bruno is nowhere, but we do find Dubinkin—in the basketball court. He’s slouched against the wall with a knife in his hand. It looks like he tried to disembowel himself, but was too drunk to pull it off right. He bled to death anyway. His rifle’s nearby, but it’s out of bullets.

We go out on deck to have a look around. The fog is back. I can barely see ten metres off the side of the ship.

As I’m scooting along the icy deck, my feet give out under me and I land flat on my ass. Charlie, too.

We look at each other. The ship has come unmoored. We…are…moving.

All around us, the ice is breaking up, and we’re skating past it with surprising ease. I look, but I can’t even see the bridge in this fog. If anyone’s up there, they can’t see either.

We hurry back to the galley, where we find Kyle and Sami—or what’s left of them—strewn about the pantry in big red splotches. We sit in the mess for a while without speaking before we go up to the bridge.

It’s more or less like I expected. Not a soul around. All the instruments are dead and the wind is knifing through the room. Whatever’s driving this ship isn’t using the usual controls.

So now we’re sitting up here at the bow, as the Tomorrow barrels through the icy water. Charlie has her head in my lap. She’s barely spoken.

“Maybe it’s London,” I say.

She looks up at me, not knowing what I meant.

“I mean, maybe the transponder is working fine, or maybe we’ve got another one, and they’re pulling us along somehow. Hell, maybe everyone’s glued to the BBC, and they’re showing us as this little moving dot, and…”

I shut up when I see the look on her face. It’s bullshit, I know. In reality, the oil company suits are probably running around in damage control mode, trying to blame this all on an incompetent crew, lest their dreams of turning the North Pole into their own private HOV lane get dashed all over the ice.

Strange lights fill the sky. There is a pale green glow all around us, and little silver balls are streaking like shooting stars, right off the side of the ship. And sounds—like wailing and moaning on the wind.

There’s been no sign of those creatures. Are they gone?

A few minutes ago the fog began to lift, and that’s when I saw it. Charlie must have felt my body tense up, because she lifted her head to look.

It’s a black tower. Shaped like a mushroom. It’s dead ahead of us, although I can’t say how tall it is or how far away. It’s still partially shrouded in the fog. But when I look at it, I can feel it looking back at me, as if it were the periscope of something that hasn’t surfaced since the earth was a primordial swamp.

We’re closer now. I can see this thing a little better. It’s perfectly rounded, with no distinguishing features. It’s jet black and it looks coarse, like it’s made of pumice. Every few seconds it emits this low-grade pulse that makes my teeth rattle.

A few minutes ago, my stiffening body once again alerted Charlie. I wish it hadn’t, because while we both watched, two doors separated and a portal opened up at sea level. I can’t see inside it. Pitch black. But whatever’s in there, I have a feeling we’re about to find out.

 [ Tower, © 2013 Carmen Moran ] I don’t know what time it is, or what day. Could be midnight or noon, for all I know.

Silent lightning streaks above us. That little blue orb I saw in the passageway—now it’s in front of the ship, leading us closer and closer, right into the mouth of this thing.

Charlie is sitting at the railing, looking out portside. But then a scream rips through the air all around us, and she scrambles back and presses against me.

The fit is gonna hit the shan here, people.

Mom, Dad—I love you. I wish I could call you and tell you I’m sorry. Sorry for being ungrateful, sorry for running away from my problems instead of facing them. I thought I was a grown-up, striking out on my own, but really I was just being a big coward.

And Jeremy—I promise to watch over you, from wherever I end up. Like Foam Woman, the ancestress of our clan, I’m going to rise from the sea, just to keep you out of trouble. You’re a great kid. It was an honour to be your big sis. I won’t let anything happen to you, J.

Charlie says she wants to make one last attempt to take control of the ship. I ask her not to, but she goes anyway. She comes back a few minutes later and puts her head in my lap without saying anything.

The ship is empty. Those things are gone. We’re the only ones on board. I can’t describe how I feel. Strange. That’s all I can say. Strange. Like this is happening to someone else…

This is it. Just a few more minutes and it will pull us in.

It is huge—much bigger than I first thought. It must be a hundred metres high. Or more. It’s covered with weird hieroglyphics, and from somewhere within its dark opening, I hear a familiar chanting.

Or is it a prayer?

Charlie clutches my hand. I clutch back. Then she sits up and kisses me on the mouth. “Well, Alisha, it was nice to know you,” she says.

She goes over to the rail and, as I watch, puts one leg over, then the other, and drops off the side. I run over to look, but her body has sunk like a rock in the frigid sea.

So now I stand at the bow, alone, with this great, primeval Unknown reaching out to draw me into it, and I have a decision to make. I can follow after Charlie and jump to my death in the icy water. Or I can stand my ground, and stay with the Tomorrow as she makes her final passage.

© 2013 Addison Clift

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