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March 2, 2018

11. Ora Pro Nobis, pt. I

Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
Isaiah 26:20

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
Matthew 24:29

* * *

The universe is inevitable. And here we are.

It had been a long and rumpus night. The pub was Hogarthian and bawdy. Sketchy wights drinking too much and enjoying themselves into debauchery and erasing their memory. Two men stumbled out into the saline coastal air. 

Missing planks reminded the men of the pub’s location on the dock. They stepped outside and walked the maze of docks, the wooden planks—some missing—that made up the walkways and connections between shops. The smell of spoiled water and low tides with thick; the smell of death, all freshness sucked from the air. Moss-green, crustacean-covered posts barely held the docks out of the tide. The seaside wind was strong.

The water was sick and frothy. The beautiful blue had faded into a noxious gray and pallid tone. The typical tides and waves had slowed to soft, lethargic laps on the sand and stone shore. The night was heavy.

Back in the pub, loose floorboards and rambunctious nightlife spun around in the tight quarters. The pained floorboard creaked and screamed under inebriated dancing. Music was out of tune and off beat, entirely drunken; warm and appropriate. Everyone sang along. The indoor lanterns were dented and beaten like men and women in the alleys.

In recent years the natural order had faded. Creatures behaved outside of their instinctual courtesy. Nature was becoming unnatural. Permutations within wild species had led to grotesque sightings across the country. Frightful indeed.

The haloed moon looked down on the apathetic night water. What was in that strange sea?

Stars salted the sky, a population of flickering white flecks. Orion seemed to be preparing for eternal charge of Taurus. The Gemini twins forever in tandem. Cancer scrabbled through the sands of stars.

“Look. There...” one of the men pointed towards the night sky. The Draco constellation shown bright—and seemed to writhe and wiggle in the sky.

“What the hell…” the other man burped, bewildered.

Quietly and discreetly, one by one, the stars of Draco fell from their astral position—a poetic descent into the sickly and inky ocean. From their vantage point the men could hear a splash and they could make out a disruption in the vast stillness.

Distance is so difficult to measure over water. How this series of stars had fallen from the heavens so far away and landed in the sea so nearby was a mystery. It was too far to swim out there but not too far to hear the splash and see the affect on the corrugated surface of the water.

This was not normal. Not at all. Even with the other changes in ecology, nothing came from above. Nothing showed a crack in the heavens.

* * *

Adam felt his wrists and ankles begin to warm. Their coolness was loosening; the iciness was loosening its grip. His consciousness was not full but his awareness was enough to begin to understand. Something had shifted. Did he smell cedar and cypress?

His eyes cracked open. Light wrecked his vision and blurred his reality. He could barely make out the contrast of a horizon line but nothing more.

His freedom led to a range of motion he had not felt in too long. New aches and soreness in places his mind had forgotten. But he was slow to move.

And then he felt the release. Falling. The bonds that held him gave way and he was free. He had no sense of direction but down. The cool wind was sharp and quick on his ears and feet. How loud was the wind in his ears. Consciousness was returning in the speeding seconds. But not quickly enough.

He made his real awakening when his body made contact with the water. The surface crushing him. And his rate of fall. His maximum velocity had folded him into the still water. 

His eyes flashed open. The old aches mixed with the fresh pangs of impact. He flailed in the water. How deep had he gone?

In one moment he was suspended and bound, the next he fell, and now he swam. The sulfur and saline of the disgusting water choked and burned. He could see nothing in the darkness but flashes of water. The silence beneath the water tensed with the noises of his gags and gurgles. 

His attempts to swim only constricted his muscles and flared his nerves. He quickly realized surrender was his freedom and he let go.

* * *

Both of the inebriated men were stunned. In a moment, full reality had been shown and their minds were clear and quick, washing away the alcohol in a flash of shock.

“What did we just see?”

“Het let’s get a boat and go out there!” one of the men suggested.

“No! Who knows what that was. Let it drown!”

The other man had already pulled the ropes of a nearby dinghy and prepped the oars. “Get in.”

With an eye roll and a sigh, the protester complied.

* * *

He awoke coughing. His coughing turned into a gag and his stomach and throat repulsed water into his mouth. He vomited more water than a body should hold. He could not contain himself or what is pushed up and out of his mouth, a salty and burning liquid. He turned quickly to look realize his surroundings. The quick turn had reminded him the pain was not so simple.

Caspar caught sight of the whole scene. “Are you okay? Drink some water. Here,” and he handed him a canteen. “My name is Caspar and we—my friend, Marin and I—saw you washed ashore last night. You should be dead, fully drowned.” He motioned to Marin across the room.

“Figured you needed a real place to sleep. This was the cheapest board but it did the trick, didn’t it,” Marin chimed in.

“Thank you.” His mouth tasted disgusting and his throat was sore. He stiffened and then relaxed back onto his little cot. “I’m sorry.” He swished some water and spat it out, clearing his palette. He took a small sip to clear his throat. The canteen water was full of life, clarity, and brilliance. He was thankful for its flavor. “My name is Adam.”

“Welcome, Adam,” said Caspar.

“You’re lucky whatever fell into the water didn’t get to you first,” Marin added.
 
“We saw stars fall directly into the bay last night. Straight from heaven down into that sick water. You must have had too much to drink and fallen in right near that area. We came out of the Ox and Lamb pub just in time to get you out of the water with whatever else had gotten in,” Caspar said.

Adam looked relieved but did not respond otherwise.

“Well, anyway. The cost of the room and board is covered. Caspar and I split it. It was cheap anyway. Get some rest and we’ll let you go from here. You’re alive.”

“You are kind, thank you.”

Marin and Caspar politely said their goodbyes and left Adam in the old room.

* * *

This story accompanies “The Bad Dreams of Others” and “As Above” as part of a larger, connected narrative I have in my drafts. Maybe if I publish them in bits it will motivate me to complete all the minor steps to write the larger story. So here is another chapter, still incomplete.

Index