an artificial waterway constructed to allow the passage of boats or ships inland or to convey water for irrigation.
a tubular duct in a plant or animal, serving to convey or contain food, liquid, or air.
The days blurred. We were aboard that freighter for twenty days, give-or-take, and it sucked. Travelling anywhere for twenty days isn't thrilling, so when you combine that with being stuck in the bowels of a massive super-freighter with almost nothing to do, you know it's going to be less than awesome.
On the plus side, I got to hang with Marv.
Then again, there was also Rose Furey.
There was a rudimentary shower room off from the main area, with the kind of hose that dripped down at you rather than did any kind of legit spraying. That doesn't really work for squamata skin. We need a decent pressure wash or things get stuck.
Marv was generally chilled, in his way. He was quiet, always thinking, rarely contributing unless asked a question. Furey disappeared at the start and end of each day, often returning with extra food she'd sourced from elsewhere on board. I still wasn't entirely sure who she was or what made her so highly regarded, but I guessed she was just making it look easy.
The worst of it was right at the start. After a day and a half at sea, we turned towards land and entered a 270 mile-long tunnel. I only knew this became Furey occasionally updated us on progress. I wanted to go up on deck to see what a tunnel that big looked like from the inside but she assured me that it was simply 'dark'. Apparently the tunnel connected the ocean with an inland sea, which we then spent a week traversing until reaching a canal that cut through two enormous continents. Furey showed me a map and it corresponded somewhat to Locque, but everything was named differently and borders were all wrong. Even the land masses seemed inconsistent in enough places to disorient me - and, like I might have mentioned, geography was never my jam.
We passed through the canal, then drifted down a long, broad inlet that eventually opened out into the wider ocean. One night I waited until Furey had settled into sleep, then I tiptoed to the main door, pulling on my coat. Turning the wheel lock was excruciating, each spin risking a scrape and a creak. I rotated it by tiny increments, until finally it clicked and opened. Getting up onto deck was simple - though this ship's concept of a deck was a little tenuous. Aside from the control tower, where we were hidden on the lowest floor in the depths of the ship, the only other easily accessible area was the walkway around the edge of the entire ship. It was barely wide enough for two people to pass, and ran the whole length. The moon was half-set and the sky was cloudy, affording only a vague sense of scale as I looked down past row after row of stacked containers. They were about six high, and Furey had said they went eight deep below the deck. These ships ran around the world all the time, mostly automatic like the truck. It seemed that the people on Earth could entirely vanish the next day and everything would keep on keeping on forever, happily ticking away on auto.
I leaned on the rail and breathed in the salty air. The waves rolled below, all the way off to the horizon. There was no land visible. I'd never been on a ship in the middle of the ocean before, and it left me feeling calmer than I had for many months. Although there was occasionally an ever so slight tilt, the ship was so large that it was a mostly comfortable ride. Not much to do, but after I'd pushed past the boredom barrier I came to kinda like that. After everything that had been happening, a bit of dull suited me fine.
The same group that Furey and the Lynts were part of had a larger base out east somewhere, on an island called Hong Kong, or something. Something Kong. That's was our destination. They were there because there was another facility there: another dimensional turbine thing, which could jump us back to Locque. We'd have lost their trail by then and they wouldn't be expecting us to show up. After we got back home, that's when the hard work would begin. On the plus side, we'd be geographically shifted to the equivalent area, in Qinhu. About as far from Perlyn as you could get, which would keep us out of sight for a while. We were still only just over halfway through our journey, so there was plenty of time to plan.
There I was, caught up in my thoughts, that I utterly failed to notice Furey approach. She was actually standing beside me for who knows how long, and I only realised when she spoke.
"You shouldn't be out here," she said, and I jumped out of my skin. Which is a metaphor squamata usually try to avoid.
"You nearly gave me a heart attack," I said. "You like sneaking up on people?"
"Yes. Be glad it was me and not one of the crew."
"They're all asleep."
Furey grabbed my wrist and forced me to face her. "This grand plan of yours," she said in a whisper, "it's not going to work if you get spotted before we even get where we're going."
Her face was smooth, and defined, in a graceful sort of way. Her hair was close-cropped, which emphasised the curve of her head. Humans here had a kind of streamlined simplicity. Looking into Furey's eyes, I realised that I hadn't really had a chance to just look at one. As I did so, I noticed the absence of fear. She stared back at me, at my skin, and my dual-lidded eyes, and my fangs, and it was like it didn't even register.
No, scrap that. It registered. She just didn't care, like she'd seen it all before.
"I'm not here to make sure your plan works," she said. "All I've been asked to do is keep you safe, and take you from A to B. Once that's done I'll be on my way, and you can do whatever you want. Until then, you do as I say."
The ship continued on.
Five days out from port, I sat at the table in our shared room with Marv. He'd found a pack of cards in a drawer somewhere and we were playing a game that Furey had taught us. I think she'd done so mainly to keep us occupied so that we weren't asking her questions.
"You've been quiet," I said.
"Keeping a lot in here," Marv said, tapping a finger to his forehead.
I reached over and put a hand on his arm. "You know you can share with me?"
He smiled, and nodded a little. "Here's the thing, Kay," he said, putting his cards down on the table in front of him. "Every day this ship sails east, I'm heading away from my sister. From my family. Being on a different world was bad enough. Now, it's like I'm abandoning them all over again."
"What Simons said, about Cal. And what you were saying, back at the house. You really think Cal was manipulating us?"
Marv shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "All I'm saying is: since when do either of us have a history of insurgency?"
"It's been an unusual year, for sure."
"That's not the worst of it," he said, looking down at the table. "Whenever I think to blame him, or assume that one of his forms had some kind of mind control, all it makes me think is that I'm making excuses for myself."
"Kay, you're a good person. But you don't have to always try to make me feel good. What if I am just making up a bullshit story to rationalise the fact that I just up and left them?"
"Then we do something about it."
Furey entered the room and threw a bunch of new clothes at me, scattering my cards onto the floor. "That's your new wardrobe," she said, pointing.
"For me? You're too kind." I started pulling apart the various layers of cloth. "This looks complicated."
"It's religious clothing. Lucky for you, it covers your entire body, including your head and face. You'll be able to go out in public if you're careful." She turned towards Marv. "As for you, we're going to have to rely on good old make-up and a hat. Don't get too close to people and they'll just think you've been out in the sun for too long."
"To be fair, I was stranded on a desert planet for a while."
The ship slid slowly into dock, a process which took most of half a day. We'd arrived.
YOU ARE READING
A Day of FacesScience Fiction
A coming-of-age story about a snake girl called Kay and her shape-shifting friend who accidentally uncover a conspiracy and wind up changing the world. ***** Kay is a sarcastic, ordinary high school girl who enjoys her weekends and doesn't think muc...