An excerpt from my new fantasy short A Small Sky Through Broken Strands,
which will be released on April 11, 2014 Available Now!
On a tiny bit of land in the middle of the sea, Joha Mender watched the midnight sky for sign of his father. He didn’t know how many days had passed, and he didn’t let himself dwell on counting. It’d been a long time, and that was all he was willing to admit. But Pa would come.
The fire was dying noisily, sputtering on the last of the land’s meager fuel source. He could burn his clothes if it came to that, he reasoned. The fire was his lone companion, and he did not relish the thought of facing the long, cold nights without it. Pa would come before it came to that.
His belly coiled tightly, painfully. Uncle Emmitt’s pantry had been stocked amply, enough to see a careful person through a season, but now the cabin’s shelves held naught but crumbs. Joha wished he’d been a little more careful in those first days. Tomorrow he’d have to go into the sea to get food, if he dared. He shivered. Pa would come. Pa would come.
Joha warmed his hands. The wind ruffled his long hair. Waves gently lapped rock; the tiny splashing noise was oddly comforting. Odd, because he’d feared the sea before. It hadn’t been an irrational fear – even Pa was scared of the sea. The sea was where sky-people went to die.
The sea had already tried to kill him, once. After he’d realized he was going through the food stores too quickly, Joha had decided he should conserve the water reservoir as a precaution, and make use of the ample supply of water all around him. Drinking the sea water had left his throat parched, his tongue fat, and his head buzzing unpleasantly. The sea was dangerous and could not be trusted.
A metal fence as tall as Joha’s chest encircled the island. The fence made sure nobody accidentally walked right off a skyland. Now it served as a protective barrier between Joha and the wide sea and all the things that moved beneath the surface.
In the sky, the Mother’s milky eye was closed. He could not see White Skies, his home. But he knew roughly where it was, and he thought he could make out the outline of the clustered skylands. If Pa came, it would be from that direction.
He lingered until the fire was down to bright embers. Then, hitching his pants, he went inside Uncle Emmitt’s cabin to sleep.
Pa was not coming tonight.
Tomorrow, Pa would come.
The stomach pains woke him, a horrible clenching of his guts. Joha went to the pantry, hoping somehow he’d overlooked some bit of food. He imagined a jar in the back corner on a high shelf, wearing a thick coat of dust, the contents doubtful. But it’d taste wonderful and would see him through another day.
Joha dragged a chair into the pantry and checked the highest shelves, but they were empty. He went outside and briefly basked in the glow of the morning sun, stretching. His pants slid toward his ankles. He snatched them up. Holding the waistband with a bunched fist, he crept toward the water and peaked over the edge. His reflection cautiously peered back.
Seeing his face in the water the first time had been a startling discovery. He still wasn’t sure it wasn’t some trick of the sea, trying to lure him to his doom. But it was impolite to ignore somebody while they smiled at you.
“Fine morning.” Joha watched the reflection mouth the words. “Don’t worry, Pa will come soon.”
Joha-in-the-water grinned at him.
“I’m out of food. Might you have some?”
Joha-in-the-water stared back, eyes wide. He looked hungry too.
“I may have to try the sea today. Catch one of those silver or blue creatures. They look fast and slippery. But I’ve been working on something that might help. What? Did you think I just sat around up here all day? I’m a Mender, as I told you before. And Menders mend.”
I hope you enjoyed this brief peek at my newest story!