seasonal movement of animals from one region to another.
I don't know where I am. Geography was never my strong subject at school, and that was back when I was on my own freaking planet. Here, I've got no clue. I just remember the discomfort, and the churning seas, and the heat or the cold. And Marv.
The container truck reached the docks the day after we'd departed the farm. Furey had told us to be ready to move, and had unlatched a hatch in the ceiling that I hadn't even noticed previously.
"What's wrong with the main door?" I asked.
"Too conspicuous," she said. "if you want to be arrested or shot, be my guest."
Even with the vehicle's nifty technology we felt it come to a stop and waited for a few minutes. Then there was a loud clang, as if something had taken hold of the container, and then the whole thing tilted sideways, sending us rolling towards one wall. It stabilised almost straight away, though there remained a slight rolling wobble.
Marv was having some difficulty keeping himself from falling on his face. "What's going on?" he asked. I slid across the floor and pushed up against his wounded side, helping him to keep steady.
"We're being loaded," Furey said, never offering more than she had to.
Sounds from outside were muffled and told me nothing, other than that we were surrounded by machinery. We waited in the lamp-lit gloom of the container for what seemed like hours but we probably less than one. Furey consulted her wrist device throughout. She'd already packed all of our food and other bits and pieces into backpacks.
Finally she indicated it was time to go, and reached up to the unlocked hatch. She pulled at a stiff lever and the hatch opened down and inwards, accompanied by a splash of dirt and water. Streams of rain poured in, illuminated by the moon outside. It was night, then.
"I'll go first," she said, "then you help him up."
She jumped, grabbed the rim of the hatchway, and hauled herself up and out in one swift move. She disappeared from sight.
Marv looked at me. "Think you're strong enough to boost me up?"
I gave him a pitying look.
I braced myself and he stepped onto my interlaced hands, then up onto my shoulders. He grabbed onto the hatchway with his one arm and I started pushing him upwards by the soles of his feet. At last Furey reappeared and pulled from the top. She then leaned back in and reached down with one arm. I shook my head dismissively, then leaped, half-clearing the hatchway before planting my hands on the top of the container and pushing myself the remainder of the way. I landed gently on the roof. It felt good to move.
The rain tasted acrid and industrial and I realised that it wasn't lit by the moon after all, but by enormous spotlights hung on gantries high overhead. The container was nestled between other containers, stacked side-by-side and end-to-end. It would have been impossible to get out of the main doors, so was a good job they'd added that hatch. The rows were stacked higher all around us, so I couldn't see far. Cranes worked on the gantries above, delivering more containers.
"We're a little obvious up here," Furey said. "Follow me."
She threw a pack at each of us and slung one onto her own back, then jumped to the adjacent container. We jumped, and climbed up the sides, and made our way across what turned out to be an enormous cargo ship. It must have been a mile long or more, piled high from front to back (I could never remember what the proper words were for ships) with containers each identical to ours. We were headed towards what looked like some kind of control room tower, on the edge of the ship and halfway along its length.
The night was an inky black, sliced up by lines of diagonal rain which hammered down onto the containers, filling the air with a staccato, pattering roar. Rainwater ran down my face, wriggling its way in and around my scales, and my hair was plastered flat down my neck. My clothes were sodden and clung to me uncomfortably as we made our way along and across the ship.
Finally we reached the tower and huddled against the relative shelter of the metal wall while Furey worked on the door. It didn't take her long, and we darted inside.
The door slid shut behind us, immediately cutting off the noise of the rain and leaving behind an oddly expansive quiet. The inside of the ship smelled old and musty and salty. Furey beckoned for us to follow and we descended a metal staircase, down into the bowels of the ship. Lights flicked on as we advanced and turned off behind us as we passed, leaving me entirely disoriented. It didn't help that everything was the same off-white shade of metal.
"They sure like building shit out of metal round here," I muttered.
"We have an arrangement with the captain," Furey said quietly. "These ships only have skeleton crews, in case any of the systems need fixing. They know we're on board, and they know not to come looking."
"But they don't know I'm squamata."
Furey reached a bulkhead door, set into its own metal frame, and spun a metal wheel before pulling down on a lever to unlock it. The lever was also metal. The door swung open and the lights flicked on inside the room.
"Holy shit," Marv said.
There was a sofa. And a table with chairs around it. I could see at least one bed off in a corner. A tiny television was up on one wall. The space seemed huge after the container journey.
As Furey locked the door shut I slunk over to the sofa and tentatively lowered myself down onto it. "Ah!" I cried. "It's not made of metal!"
Furey gave me the briefest of disapproving looks, before circling the room, checking out every little corner.
Marv dropped his pack to the floor and collapsed onto the sofa next to me. I put my arm over his shoulder and he wriggled up close.
"This plan of yours," he said, "think it's got a chance of working?"
"Got to try something."
"I'm glad you're here, Marv."
"I'm not," he said, "this place sucks."
I realised I was gently stroking the stump of his missing arm. "Sorry," I said, moving my hand.
He lifted his remaining arm and grasped my hand in his, then positioned mine back on his shoulder. "It's OK," he said.
We sat there together and, for a moment, it was as if we'd just left the Black Jasmine, and none of the rest had happened. A little glimpse of what might have been.
"You think Cal's coming back?" I asked.
Marv didn't speak immediately. Then he moved my arm away and turned towards me. "We're stranded on an alien planet, in the hold of a ship, with some crazy woman I don't even trust, and the whole damn place is trying to arrest us, but I know one thing. We're better off just us."
I frowned. "So if he came back right now to get us out of here, you wouldn't go with him?"
"Hell no," Marv said. He leaned back into me. "I'm getting cuddles with Kay. Cal can get fucked." He sighed, and rested his head back on my arm. "Ask me again tomorrow and I might give you a different answer."
The floor trembled and the table shook as the ship's engines came to life. We were on our way.
Thanks for reading! Please do vote or leave a comment to let me know what you thought. Chapter notes can be found on my blog: https://simonkjones.com/tag/a-day-of-faces/
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A Day of Faces (complete novel)Science Fiction
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