The Seventh Hour(8)By: Tracey Ward
“Help,” a weak voice calls.
I barely hear it over the wind rushing through the flames, fanning them higher and higher.
“Where are you?” I cry.
It wasn’t Gav. It was a kid, a little girl I think. I look for her everywhere but all I see are floating barrels. Soaked clothes and cloth. Planks of charred, broken wood.
I see her. If it weren’t for her bright blond hair I’d never have found her in the rubble. I surge toward her, using my board to keep me afloat as I kick with all my strength.
The girl is holding onto a rope hanging off the side of the ship, one that’s disappearing into the water. I take hold of her small hands to help her take hold of the board. Once she’s holding on tight enough I kick to turn us, putting our back to the sinking wreckage. I push us away from the danger.
Just as I’m beginning to hope we’re clear I hear a sharp snap followed by the rush of flames. I don’t think. I don’t plan or consider the folly of my actions. All I can think of is saving this girl.
I cry out as I push her and the board forward. I shove with everything I’ve got, my face going underwater with the effort. She surges away across the water. She’s heading toward the building black waves surrounding us as the storm increases with incredible speed. She might not make it. She may capsize out there or be swept off of the safety of the board. Either way, she’s better off than I am.
I don’t see the flaming section of our ship before it hits me. I barely even feel it before I’m pulled from the world into infinite darkness, but I hear it. I know it’s coming.
And I have nowhere to go but down.
I shake my hand loose from Karina’s to push her toward the mouth of the cave.
“Get inside!” I shout over the thunder.
I don’t wait for her to reply before I’m running hard down the last leg of the hill where it spills onto the rocky beach. I hear her feet following fast behind me, though. Still, I don’t look back. I knew she’d follow. She’s stubborn like that. Always has been.
I skid to a stop on the smooth, wet rocks of the beach. I blink twice against the misting rain, the drizzle playing preamble to the downpour that’s on its way. Out over the ocean I can make out the line of ships heading west. One massive ocean liner like an island in motion, four Dashers with full sails and engines probably working at top speed to power through the storm. It’s the fifth Dasher that’s the problem. It’s broken in half, burning on the water and slowly sinking under the waves that try to put it out.
It’s a surreal sight. We’ve seen storms hit the ships before but they’ve always made it out. I’ve never seen one burning. It’s eerie and ominous, sending the hair on my arms up on end.
“Oh my God,” Karina whispers behind me.
I look over my shoulder to find her standing with her hand over her mouth, her green eyes wide with amazement. The sky snaps behind her, lightning hiccupping inside the clouds.
“You should get inside,” I tell her again.
She lowers her hand. “How many?”
“How many what?”
“How many people do you think were on that ship?”
I frown, looking back at the wreckage still burning. “I don’t know. A hundred maybe? Most of the Eventide are on the big ship.”
“A hundred people dead. Just like that. It doesn’t seem real.”
“What do we do?”
“What can we do?”
Rocks click together as Karina stumbles toward me. “We have to help them, right?”
I shake my head. “It’s not our business.”
“Grayson,” she scolds breathlessly. “Of course it is.”
“No, it’s not. Their people will pick them up. They’ll take care of it.”
“I don’t think they will. Look.”
She points to the west where the other ships are pressing on, leaving the wreckage. No boats turn around. None even hesitate. If anything they pick up speed, leaving their dead and dying behind.
“What the hell?” I mutter to myself. “They aren’t going to save them.”