The Greater Fort Worth Writers spring Round Robin comes to a close with a finale by member Bryan Grubbs. Bryan got the story started and came back around to finish. We’ll have a blog post from Bryan next week on his thoughts on the story and where we took it. Enjoy!
“Wait, so the feet are where the head should be?” She nods solemnly. Frustration grows, but most of its weight is directed at Zoe. In an age where we can launch hundreds of thousands of civilians into space in a frozen stasis to travel thousands of light years and colonize a new planet, I find it more than a little hard to swallow that she can’t turn a baby. “Have you tried it from outside?”
“Externally? It’s possible, but there are complications.”
“It’s a lot of stress to put on the mother. Not to mention exceedingly painful. Just the attempt could put her into shock, send her blood pressure through the roof. If we had some sort of anesthetic…”
A quick survey of the area reveals the two little ones are still scavenging for a blanket. I smile at the thought of them, two undeniably young people set on trying to save the world. Or at least the little one they exist in. They’ll do well adapting in their new home, of that I have no doubt.
Satisfied that they are well away from eye and earshot, I turn to Sera and lean in close. “Sera? Sweetheart? Do you see the top of that grain tower over there?” I gesture with my head and her face, strained and sweating, slowly turns to follow my hand. Faster than her peripheral could follow, I bring the butt of the pistol fiercely across her temple, making a sickening cracking sound a bit louder than I had intended. But as I had intended, her head falls to the ground and body goes slack. My fingers slide along her neckline and maneuver until they find her pulse, then check her breathing.
“What the hell was that?” Zoe shrieks.
“The local. Vitals are normal, body calm and feeling no pain. Now you can turn the baby.” She glares at me and I return gesture. “Anything else you’re leaving out? Did you somehow stumble across a boat that didn’t appear up to safety standards?”
“Nothing like that. Well, a couple of kayaks, but no motor.” I sigh, wondering how everybody could have forgotten that they’re traveling with a pair of rocket scientists. Though only one now. I shake my head in dismay at Caleb and his heroic bravado. Sure it was the first option that had crossed my mind, but swimming five to ten miles would take hours. Hours that we don’t have. And certainly hours that he isn’t trained for. As the leader, and now the only sensible adult, I have to be the rational mind. I have to get us out of this mess. “Get that baby turned, I’m going to get to work.”
Lucis and Amara come racing from a barn, carrying a faded blue horse-blanket between them. “Hey Mr. Drake! Look what we found!”
I return their smile. “You kids are truly amazing! Amara, go ahead and run that back to Miss Zoe. Lucis, I’ve got another assignment for you should you choose to accept it.” His eyes widen at mine, soaking in the praise and further opportunity to prove himself. Taking a knee, I meet him at eye-level and place my hands on his shoulders. “I’m going to build us a boat to get across the water. What I need from you is to find me as many screws, nails, bolts, or any kind of metal fastener you can manage. That, and we’re going to need some sealing wax. There should be a ton stored somewhere around here. Can you do that for me?”
He nods his agreement, but a sad expression crosses his face. “But what about Mr. Caleb? Isn’t he supposed to be bringing back a boat.”
“He is, but we have to have another plan in action in case-” I watch his face drop further. This poor kid has probably suffered enough loss already. Cynical as I may be, I have no desire to crush his faith any further. “Just in case there are no boats out on the water. If that happens, we’ll pick him up on our way.”
“Do you think we’ll be able to find him?
Not a chance in hell. “Of course we will,” I smile widely, giving his shoulder a fond squeeze. “Now you go run along.” I lower my head and give him a stern expression, signifying the importance of my statement. “I’m counting on you, Lucis. We all are.”
Small and pink, his tongue darts excitedly across his lips. “Yes, sir!” In his excitement, his voice is barely audible over the sounds of a storm rolling in. We turn together to watch the horizon where a large cloud cell bursts open, spilling lightning that doesn’t flash, but runs across the ground in a spastic dance, resembling a tesla coil.
“Yes, Mr. Drake?”
“Better hurry.” He shoots off like his own bolt of lightning, disappearing into the nearest darkened doorway. I take up my own scavenger hunt, pulling the canoes over to the bikes, then scouring the area for any loose planks that haven’t rotted through and any tools I can find. My watch shows we’ve got just shy of five hours to make it across then miles of unpredictable water and safely inside the craft. Time to work.
“Drake!” Zoe’s voice cuts through the wind and draws me back from my focus. A quick glance at my watch shows one more of our precious hours has already passed. “Drake! Hurry! It’s time!” Dropping my tools, I step back and look at our salvation, nearing completion. Lucis came through like a champ, snagging everything that wasn’t bolted down and running off for the next bounty with energy to spare. I wipe my greasy hands off on an old rag and run the numbness out of my legs to where the rest of the group are surrounding Sera.
She’s awake now, eyes glazed with pain and sporting a nice purple bruise from where I’d clocked her earlier. Guilt wells inside of me, perhaps not my finest moment, but it seemed necessary at the time. “How is she?”
“Aside from painful contractions of trying to pass a baby and suffering from a minor concussion, I’d say she’s coming along nicely.” There’s a bite to her tone, but she manages it with a smile.
“I’m sorry about earlier. That’s no way for a gentleman to behave and-”
“Save it,” she cuts me short. “We have more pressing matters right now.” There’s a twinkle to her eyes, “But try again later.”
I kneel down next to Sera, retrieving the damp cloth from Zoe and wiping it across her sweat-soaked forehead. “What do you need from me?”
“Take her hand.”
I do as instructed and offer a gentle squeeze to let Sera know I’m here. It’s immediately countered with a much tighter grip, more power than I’d imagined from such a little thing. I’m about to warn her that I’d be needing my hands soon, but bite my tongue.
“It’s time Sera. When I say, I need you to push.” Sera nods her understanding, but scrunches her face, grinding her teeth with enough force that I can see the muscle structure prominent across her jaw. “Okay, Sera. Push!”
The next few minutes are a blur of screaming, grunting, and anxiety. I remember worrying about the children, but they only watch the scene with wide eyes and intense fascination. So much for sheltering them with stork stories. But it pays off. It ends with Zoe wrapping and cradling a ragged little bundle, cleaning her off and slapping her back to begin the breathing process.
I’m still in stunned silence when she asks me to cut the cord. A part of me doesn’t want to. Doesn’t want any harm to ever come to this delicate beauty. All of her features so small, but so human. I snip the cord and clamp it shut with a plastic paper holder, then watch as she’s passed to her mother.
Sera pulls her close and coos to her, even through her exhaustion and pains. “I’ll be taking that apology now,” says Zoe, wiping her hands across her pants before folding them across her chest.
“Of course,” I laugh, mostly from relief than humor. “Zoe, I’m sorry for-” She cuts me off again, this time with by covering my mouth forcefully with her own.
“Apology accepted,” she says softly, long fingers pressing through my mess of hair before pushing me away from her. “Now go save the world, I’ll look after everybody here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I smile, still dizzy from the kiss. “Lucis, ready to learn about internal combustion engines?” Together, we race to the raft and get to work, rigging up a couple of motors with the blades of some old rotary fans Lucis came across.
Zoe and Amara join us soon afterwords. “Looks awful. You sure this thing will hold together?”
“For a few miles at least,” I reply, no humor in my voice. “Lucis here’s got quite a knack for this type of work. Think we’ll have to look into an internship on the new world.” We step back and admire our handiwork. It really does look like crap. “Give me a hand and we’ll push it down to the water and load Sera and the baby in the side-car we rigged up.” It was Lucis’s idea and he took the time to load it up with every bit of spare padding he could find.
“What about Caleb?”
“We’ll just have to meet him there. I don’t know how fast this will run, but I’m betting it will be close.” I don’t add the part about if we make it at all. “Does the baby have a name yet?”
Amara giggles at the question, Zoe rolls her eyes as if privy to some inside joke. “I’m not recording anything officially, crediting the name she chose to post-surgery delirium.”
In response to my questioning stare, Amara blurts out, “Stormy!” then erupts into laughter, clutching her sides.
“Cute. I like it.” We take our positions behind the make-shift boat and push it across the sand to where Sera is still laid out with baby Stormy. I smile at the pair. The name is already growing on me.
Loaded up, I push the raft the rest of the way into the water and Lucis and I fire up the engines, panicking for only a moment while they sputter before upping the throttle and kicking in. The boat doesn’t race across the water, but it does it’s job cutting through the chop. Off in the distance, we see the lights of civilization and our last hope to leave this dying world once and for all.
About Bryan Grubbs (w/a Matthew Bryant)
I have been writing for over 10 years now. Finished a few novels, burned all but one and roasted vienna sausages over the flames… then fed the sausages to starving neighborhood cats (who were the only animals who’d eat the damn things) The cats created a cult of sorts around my persona and erected a giant monolith in my honor.
That is until city ordinances forced it to be torn down for its phallic representation… I guess I shouldn’t have put a pair of shaggy hedges around it. But before it could be removed, it was seen from space. Aliens don’t really exist, but a pair of angels came down in a starship, chopped off my hands and replaced them with feet. Now I type all toes, but it’s helped me to decipher forgotten fairy tales. Apparently there were 1007 Nights.
Inspired by the dark forces that brought a creeping madness in those old tomes, I write science-fiction thrillers, horror, urban fairy tales, and utter nonsense (See above)
Favorite authors include Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, James Rollins, and Robert Metzger.
Favorite musicians to listen to while writing are Celldweller, Blue Stahli, and The Luna Sequence.
Buy Matthew Bryant’s debut novel, Towers on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.