The Seventh Hour(9)

By: Tracey Ward

“We have to do something,” Karina says decidedly. “Come on. We’ll take the fishing boats out to gather survivors.”

The rain starts to fall in earnest as she hurries away. I look back toward the mountain where our people are hurrying inside out of the storm. We would be too, if we had any sense.

I chase Karina up the beach. She’s run straight for the small fishing boats tied to poles driven into the shore. She’s already untying one when I get there.

“Karina, we can’t,” I tell her. “The storm is picking up. You saw what happened to that ship. What do you think will happen to us in this row boat?”

As if to prove my point lightning cracks again, illuminating the beach in a garish light.

Karina shakes her head, her wet hair plastered to her face. “We’re a smaller target. We’re less likely to be struck by lightning.”

“If the lightning doesn’t kill us the waves will.”

She doesn’t listen to me. She’s tugging hard at the ropes securing the boat, a crease of determination cutting across her smooth forehead. I take hold of her arm and pull her toward me.

She opens her mouth to protest but I cut her off. “Listen to me. Think about what you’re doing. The wind is picking up, the rain is getting worse, and once those waves get to churning nothing is safe out there. Definitely not a fishing boat. I know you want to help them, I do too, but what help will we be if we’re dead before we find anyone?”

Her eyes tighten in protection against the now pelting rain. Her eyelashes are dark and clotted together, her pale face streaked with wet. I can see it in her eyes that she knows I’m right. We’d never make it to them, and even if we did we’d never make it back. Not in one piece.

Thunder vibrates the rocks at our feet, sending a shiver through her body under my hand.

“You’re right. I know you’re right, but… Gray, they’re out there and—“

“I know,” I assure her gently, “but we can’t help them.”

A wave crashes to shore. It races up the rocks, reaching past our ankles.

“We have to go,” I remind her.

She nods shakily before taking off at a run. She splashes through the receding water that’s turning to yellow foam between the rocks. I follow close at her heels, glancing sideways at the sinking wreckage. The fire has gone out on one half. Maybe it’s underwater now. I don’t know, I can’t tell for sure with the thickening storm clouds blotting out the last light we had left.

A discordant banging picks up behind me. I turn to look down the beach, cursing under my breath. The boat Karina was untying is loose, banging against the rocks as the tide tries to pull it out to sea. It’s barely hanging on. One more rush of the waves will yank it loose.

“Grayson!” Karina calls. She’s paused to wait for me up the beach. Lightning scours the sky, making both of us flinch.

I wave for her to keep running. “Get inside! I’m right behind you!”

“What are you doing?”

“I have to tie up the boat! We can’t afford to lose any of them!”

Her face is torn. She bites her lip and looks between me and the boat, between herself and the safety of the mountain. Up to the electric sky above her.

“Go!” I shout before turning my back on her.

I don’t know if she listens. She probably doesn’t. The only voice she hears lately is Easton’s.

If he was here he’d be in that boat rowing for all he’s worth out to sea, being the man Karina is asking me to be. But that’s the problem with her. With all of us. She’s beautiful and good and the best friend I’ve ever had, but lately she looks at me like something is missing. And when she looks at Easton I know she thinks she’s found it. He’d go back again and again looking for survivors, his big body full of strength mine will never know. I’d never make it. Not even if I wanted to.

It’s not that I want these people to die, but I’m realistic, not heroic, and I can see from the wild way the ocean is churning and the clouds are swirling that there is no hope of heading out past the breakers and making it to the wreckage. I’d die trying.

I slip on the rocks, nearly falling. My long arms flail, my tall, beanpole body wobbles gracelessly, but I’m able to right myself at the last second and push on down the beach. I’m fast on my feet. So fast that I nearly make it. I’m almost to the boat before the loosened rope lets go completely, but a wave rushing to shore slows me down while simultaneously lifting the wooden hull off the rocks and pulling it away from my grasp.