APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 4 May, 2000



Tom McGrenery

Gullar's mind was focused entirely on his toes. More specifically, the change in hue that occurred right where his feet entered the lapping water beneath him and the reflected sunlight overlapped with the water's own blue colour. He found it hard to imagine what life could be like for the majority of Terra Nova's population, land-locked so far from the freedom of water. He himself could think of nothing better than to be out in the quiet of a dinghy, slackening the mainsheet and lazing in the sun. Messing about on the water. In water, on the water, doesn't matter. Even by the water. Land is better when it's by the shore. Where you can walk through the cool grass, hearing the faint metallic clinking of rigging upon unused masts.

Gullar closed his eyes. Across the water he could hear the faint voices of soldiers by the Esperance shipyards. He assumed they were soldiers, anyway - they were talking about things like duty rotations and posts. Gullar let the sunshine wash over him. For some reason, there wasn't the usual red brightness behind his eyelids that the sun normally brought. The sideways motion of the lake lulled Gullar further into a doze. He was helped by the effects of the Cascade he'd been drinking at lunch time.

Another one of those research teams had been from the Lake, having a break in the bar. It was nice to see things proceeding much the same as they always had. Returning home brought with it the safety of familiarity. He had remarked as much to the bartender, who had replied only with a silent nod. It was very hot in the summer by the shores of Lake Esperance, and everyone felt it. Over-enthusiastic activity rarely featured on the North Bank. It was comforting that everything here was the same as ever. The people were the same as before he left, and they treated him the same as well. Not like anyone who'd known him in those intervening years.

Gullar let his lids flutter open a little. He hauled on the sheet and cleated it further in. The sail was spilling wind like a cawfee-addicted lorry driver. This didn't particularly bother Gullar, who brought his leg back over the side of the hull and with his foot pushed the tiller across, heading further out into the lake.

So many people would never be able to know the beauty of water. They would never appreciate that fascination it holds, that makes the observer crave to be more immersed in it. The peculiar urge to step out from the boat on to the waves to see if, just this once, the surface would hold firm, and could be stood upon. Something like the way you sometimes want to throw library books on the fire, but perhaps differently motivated.

So many people had to live in those places, like the Badlands. Aptly named, Gullar thought. But he'd escaped that terrible place; he'd been all right. A lot of the others hadn't got out but he'd made it. A quick flight across the border and to Port Oasis, a debriefing and an honourable discharge. Perfect. And then he'd been able to come back to his home, his lake.

He could tell no one he knew here about this, of course. There was still the possibility that the Northies might track down him or his old unit. So, he had to make sure no one found out about what he'd been doing those past three years. He lay back down, walled by his boat on either side, and shut his eyes. He moved to shade his face with his hand but found he didn't need to. He could hear the voices of the soldiers again, and their footsteps. They sounded like they were walking on metal.

"Thank you," he said, apropos of little.

The soldiers looked down at Gullar's bound form, their rifles slung casually over their shoulders.

"Did you here that?" said the first to the other, "Is he okay?"

"I'm not bothered," said his partner, "We're assigned to make sure he doesn't get away or hurt, not to mind his mental health."

They both looked away, as a swell in the water caused the pontoon on which Gullar lay to bob up and down significantly. A slight smile stretched across Gullar's face, and while he basked in the sun, all around him stretched out the vast dark tunnels of the MacAllen.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 4 May, 2000