The chill waves threw me ashore at Brackett’s landing and left my body shivering on the dark, rocky sand. Barnacles had sliced the skin on my hands, arms, thighs and shins, and my vital fluid and torn, ragged tissue was attracting quite a crowd of invertebrates that scuttled, skittered and jostled about for a share. Seagulls cried in the air, and I thought of my grandfather throwing the morning’s extra pancakes to the gulls in a swirling flurry of white adults and mottled gray juveniles. There was a gull larger than the rest that always came for breakfast, and he had been duly named Jonathan. I pulled my knees up to my chest, hugging them tight, trying to keep some heat, and brushed Poseidon’s pets from my legs and looked about through swimming eyes.
A crowd had gathered at the end of the ferry pier to murmur and mill about and generally get in the way of the hardier souls manning ropes and carrying life rings down to the heaving waves. A freight train thundered behind me in its rolling tremble, and I could hear sirens choppily wail between the gaps in the freight, which consisted mostly of Douglas-fir trees. Likely, a few trees somewhere in that cargo had sprouted before Copernicus’ Little Commentary, waiting patiently through sun and cloud, rain and snow, drought and deluge, Cooley spruce galls, coneworms, Pileated-, hairy-, downy- and all other sundry woodpeckers, wood-boring beetles, ichneumonid wasps, black bears, lightning, lobaria lichens, native firewood gatherers and outlasted all else that orbited around and impacted them until a plaid-wrapped hoot owl born on a wanigan and now missing his left ring and middle finger gnawed them down to stumps and put them on a railcar heading north to Everett to be turned into toilet paper.
My five-year-old soul was amoral at that point to the cutting down of old-growth coastal forests because it was the furthest thing from my mind. I was cold, my grandparents were likely dead and my favorite toy car was somewhere in the murk, probably eaten by a ling cod or being driven off to some secret, underwater garage by an enterprising hermit crab.
I did not know why I was crying. It could have been the loss of my car or grandparents, the cold and wet, the creatures feasting on my flesh or the shame and horror of enjoying the warmth of involuntarily urinating in my purple jeans.
So lost was I, I did not know I was found.
A man with a pocket protector and thick glasses was crouched down in front of me with his hand laid on my shoulder. He probably had been asking me what was wrong for at least a minute. He had a weird looking wheel made of wire on a stick next to him on the sand.
“Guh…guh…guh…” was all I could gasp between sobs.
“Everything’s going to be all right. Where are your parents?”
This confused me, as there was no good answer for that right now, and it caused another round of involuntary jerks.
“Okay, okay. It’s going to be okay.” Looking about, he seemed to connect my dishevelment with the commotion on the dock. “Were you a part of what happened over there?”
I nodded between spasms.
His hand lightened a bit, and he looked around. He seemed a bit at a loss. How could you blame the guy?
“Let’s go find someone to help you out. You’re all cut up.”
“Over by the dock. Can you walk, or should I find someone to come here?”
I was starting to feel a bit more safe, the sobs were subsiding, and I was able to squeak out, “Walk.”
He stood, extending his hand to me, and then remembering his wheel, crouched down and grabbed the stick attached to the wheel. “My name’s Mark.”
I stood, brushed some sand off my pants and took his hand. “Ansilo.”
“Nice to meet you, Ansilo.”
Now I had the hiccups and realized how much I ached all over. I took a few wobbly steps in the sand, slipping on seaweed and tripping over a sand collar, but his steadying hand kept me going in the right direction. He navigated us towards the dock, but I could see him glancing at his wheel, which he steered in the same direction.
“What’s that?” I said, pointing at it.
“Well, it’s a wheel I’m testing for the moon.”
“Yep. The moon. I work at Boeing, and my team is building a moon buggy that astronauts will be able to drive around in when they’re there. Most of the moon is covered in dust, but there’s still a lot of rock there, so I thought the beach would be a good place to test this design out.”
“That wheel is going to the moon?” I asked in wonderment. All my pain was forgotten – I had moved from despair to euphoria by standing next to a holy artifact.
Mark chuckled. “Well, no, not this one. This one is to test the design. It’s performing pretty well though, and so far, only you and me have seen it.”
I must have done something, as he stopped and looked at me with alarm.
“The moon?” I mumbled as I fell to the sand, my brain overloaded by my morning’s arc from Rambler apogee to beach perigee. I wanted to ask him all sorts of questions, but I couldn’t quite seem to make my mouth move, and things were going dim for me as I moved into a long, dark tunnel. The gull cries and lapping waves echoed down the tube until everything was silent and dark again.
I came to in a busy industrial kitchen, with clinks, clanks and clunks, shouting, liquids being spilled, meat being chopped and hacked. I can’t quite place the era but it must be pre-industrial, as the barnyard sounded close and because I could hear squeals from the abattoir.
The floor felt like cool stone to my cheek and was pleasant on my temple, but the rest of my body was wearing whiffy, course cloth that itched, and it felt like I’d been beaten.
I was getting too old for this.
I decided I should open my eyes and sit up.
A big bear of a man with long, matted black hair and beard startled me. He wore a wide toothy smile and the pelt of what looked like a yak, but I couldn’t remember if there were yaks with spots. He was shod in leather moccasins and a shofar hung from his neck on a silver chain.
“Who…? Where…? Wha-?” I dribbled, swiveling my head around to sound my milieu.
I was in no kitchen.
The bear came and knelt down next to me and clapped his hand on my shoulder.
“What, you do not recognize your own brother? It is me, Amielio!” he said with a hearty laugh. “You must have hit your head harder than I thought. That should teach you to watch your feet in battle, brother!”
Definitely yak. Burned yak. The perfume enveloping him made my eyes tear.
“You need water! Hoi! Slipson! Bring my brother Ansilo some water!” he barked.
Slipson put down the basketful of catkins he was carrying and scurried off.
Ameilio quickly sat and put his arm around me. “Ah, my brother. A fine battle and grand victory that was. Next time you mustn’t sleep through it!” he said as he shook my shoulders.
“Who…? How…? …”
“There’ll be time to tell the story later! Now that you’re awake, I’m off.” He used my shoulder to lever himself up.
Amielio must have had very important things to go and do because he didn’t look back and didn’t see how he had accidentally shoved me back down onto the floor hard enough to cause me to lose consciousness again.
Yet again, I was plunged into the black void.