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Pioneers

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Author's note: This is my current draft of "Pioneers" however I am still in desperate need of feedback. I feel...  Show full author's note »
Author's note: This is my current draft of "Pioneers" however I am still in desperate need of feedback. I feel quite confident in the middle and the end of the piece, but I am still having trouble with the beginning. I also plan on expanding the story and perhaps lengthening the plot to around 80k words (it's at around 11k right now.)  « Hide author's note
Chapters:  

Chapter One

Quintus Bellamy felt anxious and cramped as he gazed longingly out the window of the beige sedan. Endless acres of farmland flew past in a marigold blur through the gathering blue of the coming dusk. He shifted in the small vehicle’s inadequately sized seats as his father hummed a jazz tune. An irate puff of air issued from his nostrils as he leaned his head against the vehicle sidewall. Only one week ago he had been back in Queenstown, happy to begin what promised to be two blissful months of
This draft is incomplete and still requires feedback and editing. Comments and reply's are greatly appreciated
freedom from the cloying world of courses and classrooms. It was the summer of his 11th Year and he and had planned a trip all the way up to the mainland of Australia with his friends. Hours of travel agent appointments and extra shifts at the local diner to fund the trip were finally about to pay off. While his friends had offered to help arranging the infinite details of the venture Quint chose to take on the burden of planning the voyage alone. He had arranged to travel by seaplane from Tasmania to Sydney through to a mutual contact. From there they would spend a wonderful week of beachside partying with the droves of excited youths ready to make the most of the holidays before renting a van and taking a road trip all the way up to Brisbane and back. It was going to be the adventure of a lifetime. He had been packing his rucksack with all the bare essentials when his mother had come into the room. “Hey Quint, can you stop what you’re doing for a moment?” she had said to him “Hold on mom, I have to finish packing” he replied “Quint I need you to stop.” She said, her tone now more demanding He paused, caught partway through rolling a pair of socks together into a neat fold. “Your dad just called; that was him I was talking to on the phone.” She said “He had good news; he’s spending the next couple of months in Vancouver on business.” “Where?” he asked “It’s a city in Canada. He said that his company wants him to take an extended stay there while they negotiate some big deal or something, they’re paying for his hotel and everything.” She answered “Okay…” he replied “Um, yeah, great for dad.” “He wants you to go with him.” The room momentarily fell silent, a thick atmosphere of tension spontaneously smothering the small chamber. “Haha, yeah good one mom.” He chuckled nervously “I’m not joking Quint.” She replied calmly He stared at her, trying to read her blank expression. Hoping to catch a twitch in the corner of her mouth or eye that would betray the fallacy; but her face remained stoic and unmoving. The gnawing sensation of concern began to churn its way through his stomach. “Mom, you can’t be serious.” He said, now genuinely worried “I’m sorry Quint, but I really think you should spend more time with your father.” She said simply “Mom!” he said, beginning to raise his voice in panic “Do you realize how hard I’ve worked to make this trip happen!?” “Honey I know, but your father and I agree that you two have a lot of bonding to do, and this might be the last big break that you two can spend together. I understand this is difficult…” she said before he cut her off “No mom you don’t! I’m not gonna let you and dad ruin this for me!!! You two can’t just go and screw over everything I’ve worked for!!! All the hours and extra shifts that I pulled just to make this happen, and why should I have to go with dad, what the hell’s he ever done for me!?!” he yelled, feeling hot blood rush to his face as unadulterated rage poured through him like venom. “That is enough!” exclaimed his mother “He is still your father and I am still your mother and I will not allow you to take up this tone of voice with me while you are living in my house. Now I’m sorry, but there will be other silly road trips in the future, you need to spend more time with your father and that’s final.” He glared coldly at her, the words lost to him like waves dashing themselves upon rocks in vain. Already he could feel the familiar burn of hatred filling him, blinding him to any form of reason or justification. Without saying a word, he walked out of the room and then the house, slamming the door loudly behind him. They had departed from the airport at Hobart four days ago. As the aircraft climbed into the bright southern sky, it dipped a wing, providing Quint with one last nostalgic look at the beautiful summer country he was leaving behind. He turned to his father who was sitting next to him, engrossed in a magazine, and couldn’t help but feel the bitter swell of anger rise within him. He knew that his father’s validation was nothing more than a misplaced feeling of guilt towards a divorce which in Quint’s mind had been quite possibly the healthiest course of action for his family to take. As the aircraft leveled off at cruising altitude and began its long trek across the Pacific, Quint lay back in his chair and began to doze. Drowsily, his mind idly wandered back to the world of two years prior. The screams and arguments still echoed through the unchecked corridors of his thoughts. He could still feel the sting of the angry, unjustified beatings from his father. He could still sense the feeling of cold isolation creep beneath his skin from whenever his mother would leave, screaming insults at both of them she walked out the door, sometimes for days on end. Estranged living under the same roof. The worst came at night, snapping from his nightmares in a cold sweat. Lying awake in his dark bedroom, straining to block out the closing shadows and deafening silence, shivering alone in the night, knowing that the dawn was still hours away. Despite the discomfort and hardship of that difficult time, as always, morning’s light still came. His parents finally took the step to end their marriage, discovering a newfound respect in friendship rather than matrimony. Thanks to hours of group therapy the emotional scars started to heal even as the physical ones began to fade. To his great surprise Quint’s father had also joined Alcoholics Anonymous and returned to his faith, finding an inner peace that had never been present before. Although the worst had passed, some hurts lingered on. His father had to move out after the divorce, only seeing his son on infrequent visits due to living far away. Quint attributed this as to why his father had insisted so adamantly about his accompaniment on this trip, unwittingly creating a new foothold for resentment between the two. Quint’s academic performance had also suffered, so bad that had almost been forced to retake his freshman year. However most of all, his trust in his family been irrevocably shattered, something which Quint still did not yet fully understand. The plane touched down less than a day after it first took off in Tasmania, coming to a screeching stop on the wet tarmac at SeaTac International Airport in Seattle, Washington. Here they had arranged to stay with family for a short time in order to visit with rarely seen relatives before moving on northward. They were met at the airport by Quint’s uncle and a large assemblage of his extended family. The small mob greeted them with warm embraces and open arms as they were led to the virtual fleet of vehicles waiting outside to transport them from the heavy squalor of the airport to the relative comfort of the north Seattle suburbs. The stay was pleasant enough and despite himself Quint even managed to forget his frustration for a while in the festive hospitality of his younger relatives. They had insisted on taking him on a lengthy tour of the Emerald City. Together they visited tourist attractions and hidden local alcoves of art and food alike. On their last night in town, his cousins had snuck him out of the house around midnight. Together they hopped into waiting cars, traveling to a hole in the wall venue near the city’s industrial district there they enjoyed an explosive late night concert where his cousins (all well into their twenties) had vouched for his age. Despite the brief whirlwind of excitement from the adventure, Quint and his father were soon forced to return to their travels and continue on their trek to Vancouver. Quint’s uncle drove them to the car rental, where they would be acquiring their vehicle for the drive north. They would continue to use the car before exchanging it for a company owned one Quint’s father’s employers would be providing him with during the duration of his stay in Canada. After a cheerful farewell from his family, Quint could already feel his jovial mood fading as he found himself seated unhappily again on another long ride into the unknown. “Think of it this way,” his father had said “we’re like pioneers, striking it out across the final frontier, going where no man has gone before!” Quint did not share his father’s optimism, unable to help but feel a deep chord of sorrow playing at his heart as he stared out of the window at the cobalt stain of the coming dusk accumulating on the endless fields of Northern Washington. They seemed to stretch on for miles, with the craggy peaks of titanic mountains silhouetted against the darkling purple skies like cerulean giants sluggishly tramping across the horizon. Somewhere in the sea of crop and dirt the lights of a farmhouse signaled in the gloom, a warm beacon of home and comfort. As the car sped down the highway, Quint felt the weight of nostalgia pressing onto his chest. His friends would be leaving for Australia soon, thousands of miles away. He should be with them now, instead of trapped in this ever long world of half lit dusk. With a deep sigh, he let his heavy eyelids slide over his strained and tired eyes, head gently resting on the soft upholstery of the side of the car, drifting into the comforting realm of sleep. He dreamt of bright days and warm nights and the magic and freedom that accompanied the heat of the Australian summer. When Quint awoke, he didn’t know what time it was. Looking around, he could tell they had long left the wide spaces of the open road. Their surroundings were now suburban with tall green hedges lining the two lane avenue. A soft rain began to pour down, refracting the orange light of streetlamps on the windshield like tangerine teardrops set upon the ebony night. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, assessing his surroundings. Within minutes they had entered the city limits. On either side of the car urban structures with clean facades and glowing electric signs gleamed like with a dreamlike clarity. In the road median Quint could see hopelessly tangled frays of black he recognized to be leaf bare trees in the night. As they cruised down the busy streets of the city Quint could see people walking about, armed with thick coats and umbrellas against the rain and the chill. Soon they came to a bridge, peering out the window of the vehicle Quint could see only black abyss over the side of the guardrail. As he looked up massive specters of buildings dark against the orange glow of the sky appeared out of nowhere. In the buildings warm yellow lights glowed invitingly like fixed fireflies acting as minuscule lighthouses to the empty beyond. Although Quint had seen large metropolises like Perth and Sydney a few times before, he was still amazed by the scale and layout of this new world he had entered. Even at night Quint could tell the city was huge, definitely larger than Seattle, and its sprawling layout was unlike anything he had before encountered. Despite his previous anger at being dragged away from home, he couldn’t help but drink in the spectacle that now presented itself to his waking eyes. As they drove through the metropolitan area of the city, he could see the streets lined with an incredible number of shops and restaurants. Vast store windows displayed all manner of merchandise, while neon signs dominated entire city blocks advertising restaurants and fitness clubs perched one or even two levels above the bustling street. Massive skyscrapers with sleek modern designs protruded far into the clouds. They disappeared into the swirling cauldron of the vapors above, tinted orange from the reflected glow of street lights and buildings. The streets teemed with people; thousands of pedestrians dressed to ward off the early December chill. A multitude of automobiles ranging from decrepit pickups with smashed windows and duct taped bumpers to flashy sports cars with Italian names and sharp streamlined bodies darted through the concrete channels. They continued to drive through the heart of the city until they came to the waterfront, where Quint’s father took a left turn and began to move away from the center of the metropolis. The buildings here were shorter and further apart, although they were still towering compared to anything in Queenstown, or even Hobart. Well-kept lawns, trees and sculptures framed the wide sidewalks, giving the feel of a park rather than a heavily urbanized area. As they approached, Quint noticed one of the buildings had a long canopy jutting out some fifty feet from its face, tempered glass held up by a massive framework of white metal pipes. As they pulled under the canopy scores of fluorescent lights bathed the drive in a crisp light almost as bright as day. Erased was the dreamlike quality of the drive through the city via the crystal clear image provided by their incandescent glow. Quint now recognized the building as an upscale hotel, judging by the elaborate uniform of the doorman and the warm, expensively decorated lobby visible through the sliding glass doors. “Well, here we are mate,” his Dad said, turning to him with a smile “home sweet home!” Two weeks into his stay, Quint had already fallen into apathy. At first the experience had been somewhat thrilling. The hotel itself was quite beautiful, with wide open commons and plenty of places to sit and relax. Quint was happy to see that the fitness center was also fully equipped so that he could continue his workout regimen unabated. He had also begun to explore the more remote parts of the hotel, wandering through the mezzanine and convention center, both of which were usually quiet. Some nights he would enter the conference hall, a massive chamber with ceilings at least thirty feet high with a single titanic chandelier hanging from the top. Mostly it was dark and quiet, lit only by the ambient illumination leaking in from the lobby. A single piano sat in the corner, its polished hardwood structure waiting patiently for the next person to come along and coax out the beauty of sound from its ivory keys and amber depths. Quint who had never played a musical instrument before in his life however, had paid it little notice. He had tried to go out on the town during the first couple of weeks of his stay, but soon found the experience unbearable. Beside the constant bitter cold of the Canadian winter and the seemingly constant downpour own slush and icy rain, the sight of so many happy groups of young people walking up and down the city streets pained Quint. Inescapably reminded of the all of the excitement and adventure his friends were experiencing without him. Eventually Quint gave up trying to interact with the world outside altogether and resigned himself to the same daily routine within the confines of the hotel which had now come to serve as his prison. Every morning he would get up around six o clock, an hour after his father had departed their shared business suite for work. He would then proceed to the fitness center, where he would either swim in the indoor pool or jog on a treadmill for half an hour. Every other day he would also add weight training to the mix, utilizing the hotels collection of dumbbells and universal cable machine. He would then return to his room, shower, and then go back downstairs for the buffet style breakfast served in the downstairs restaurant. He would eat his meals alone, dividing the remainder of his time between reading, sleeping and watching television in his room. Although he told himself he would one day take a long walk through the city or perhaps to Stanley Park, which was in exceedingly close proximity, he always found reasons to remain indoors and avoid braving the cold and the wet. Throughout the hotel were numerous photographs and illustrations of Vancouver during the summer months, but even in the luxurious comfort of the white marble walks and high wooden ceilings, the city beyond the comfortable confines of the building appeared as dreary and bleak as his dour mood. Time passed in a blur for Quint, the days bound together by the monotony of his routine until he could no longer differentiate a morning from the one before and he began to lose track of details like days and weeks altogether. It was on a Monday (at least he thought it was a Monday) when he first met her. Usually he made his way down to the fitness center long before the silver disk of the sun had begun to creep into the forlorn, overcast sky. But on this day, whether by chance or by fate, his alarm failed to ring. When the dark depths of his room would usually swell with the shrill echo of the bedside clock as it filled the chamber with its obnoxious electronic chatters only silence prevailed. Gently lulled even deeper into his dreams he lay unaware of the change in his daily tempo upon the soft linen sheets until dawn’s first light began to shine through the membrane of his eyelids, drawing him back to consciousness. His interest at discovering that his sleep had been drawn further than expected was minimal at best. He rose from the soft embrace of the warm sheets, crossing from the bedroom to the bathroom as he brushed empty Chinese takeout boxes and soda cans out of the way of his sluggish footfalls. He stood before the wide mirror, its bright strip-lit vanity lights seamlessly integrated into the shining steel frame of the crisply modern looking glass. Peering expressionlessly at the tight jawed youth he saw presented before him. He took a moment of pause; he would be in Brisbane by now, enjoying warm sandy beaches and the company of other likeminded teens without a care in the world except the new adventures and exploits the next night would bring. He had long since accepted the loss of his summer, coming to admit the futility of resisting his fate and simply succumbing to the knowledge that he wouldn’t see his beloved Australia again until school was back in. All the same, the knowledge of the time he was missing even now was enough to reignite the pangs of heartache from deep within his soul. Removing the embroidered washcloth from its place upon the countertop he wetted it before rubbing the sleep from his eyes and the thin layer of grime from his lips and nose. He stared once more at the fresh face which now appeared in the mirror in front of him, pulled on his black swim trunks and a matching black tank top and departed the hotel suite, tucking his key card within the back pocket of his shorts before leaving the room. The lobby level walkway was already bustling, foreign tourists with beer guts and squabbling children argued and gabbed in the elevator as he stood behind them, arms idly crossed over his chest. As he walked into the fitness center he was surprised by the amount of company which immediately presented itself to him. He was used to having the room to himself, save for the occasional fitness guru or jetlagged jogger. But now the room was bustling with men and women, from middle aged European visitors gently gliding upon the elliptical machines to large lumberjack like men curling massive dumbbells without apparent strain or effort. Quickly glancing over the room for a piece of equipment not in use, Quint strode to the chin-up station. Hopping up to grab the bar he lifted his bodyweight swiftly and fluidly, performing thirty repetitions in under a minute. He dropped off of the bar, flushed and exhilarated by an effort which would have left him breathless and stunned only half a month prior. He allowed himself a small smile; taking a comfort in the knowledge that at the very least his physical prowess had improved during his northern exile. After finishing his weight training regimen he exited the fitness center, using his key card to access the lock on the clear glass door to the pool deck. As the small light on the gold lock blinked green, the door popped open with a click allowing Quint to enter the pool area. Few people were there for which Quint was grateful, happy to focus on his swim rather than having to avoid people’s rambunctious children frolicking in the shallow water. Tossing his towel and key card onto the nearby poolside furniture he casually removed his black tank top, balling it into a wad before tossing it nonchalantly into the chair with the rest of his belongings. Diving with a form perfected through years of swim practice on the team at his local High School he slipped below the surface of the blue water where he began to swim his countless laps back and forth. He tracked his progress in time rather than circuits in the confines of the small pool. After half an hour of swimming, a beeping from his wristwatch informed him of his goal being met. Righting himself in the water, he stood in the waist deep shallows, running a hand across his hair and face to rid himself of excess moisture. As he waded towards the edge of the pool, its deck now empty, he heard the electronic beep and its companion clack as the door soared silently opened. A quiet clicking echoed throughout the chamber; the sound of flip flop sandals on white tile floors. Quint was already exiting the pool deck, hand behind his head as he dried his soaking hair, when he first saw her. She was his age, perhaps a year older, dressed in a black two piece bathing suit which greatly complimented her lean figure and lent her an alluringly mysterious air. Her glowing skin was a rich tone of light brown like caramel spread thinly over polished ivory. Straight brunette hair cut medium length touched lightly along the length of her exposed collarbones, however her most incredible feature were her eyes; a deep shade of sea green with stark black pupils that seemed to reflect the shimmers from the azure waters of the circular swimming pool. Caught unaware by her glamorous appearance he was at a loss for words as she strode splendidly forward. Regarding him with a mischievous smirk as she casually assessed him in the flattering atrium light. As he walked forward he smiled cautiously, a gesture she returned revealing a row of beautifully straight white teeth. He turned his head as he stepped past her, looking to see if her attention was still directed at him before the side of his head collided with the hard surface of the clear glass door. He stood still for a moment, eyes closed, cringing at his own embarrassment more than the actual pain of the impact, before calmly opening the door and stepping through, far too mortified to look back to see the reaction of the pretty girl on the deck of the indoor swimming pool. Quint returned to his room to shower before heading down to breakfast. As he stood in the hot water, he found that he couldn’t shake the thought of the beautiful girl from his mind, nor did he want to. He exited the shower with a noticeably newfound spring in his step, fastidiously arranging his hair and attire far longer than he usually would before heading down to the hotel restaurant. As he walked down the green carpeted hallway towards the elevator he stopped at least three times to check his appearance in the circular mirrors dotting the hallway and once more in the mirrored wall of the elevator itself. Going from the main hotel corridor and into the restaurant he constantly glanced over his shoulder, nearly colliding with several passersby, hoping to see the girl from the pool deck. As he sat down to eat, he did not remember ordering the eggs benedict with a glass of orange juice. Nor did he remember adding the bill to his room tab or tipping the server. All the details of the meal passed by in a fuzzy blur as his focus was thoroughly consumed every time he heard a new party enter the dining area, looking up and hoping to spot the only face he now cared to see. After an hour of fruitless glimpses however Quint finally gave up hope of finding the girl. Now filled with a deflating sense of regret at not being able to talk to her when he had the chance; her appearance being the only break in his monotonous schedule in the last four weeks, he resigned himself to his room. He sat and watched television in a melancholy state for the rest of the day. Quint woke up around seven in the evening, the television was still blaring, it’s blinding screen the only source of light in the darkened room. With a grunt he shifted into an upright position, rolling his shoulders before proceeding to hop to his feet. He suddenly felt light headed, vision full of stars he paused for a moment, hands braced against his knees to prevent himself from toppling. After a few seconds his vision cleared and he found himself once again able to stand straight and walk without issue. Raising his watch to his face he was surprised at how late it was, he had slept almost five hours without meaning to. His back popped as he stretched his hands over his head. Walking over to the room’s refrigerator he opened a bottle of water, enjoying the refreshment of the cool water over his soured palate. With a beep and a click, the front door of the suite creaked open. “Hello!” called Quint’s father “Quintus you home?” “Yeah Dad,” Quint called back “right here!” “You had dinner yet?” asked Quint’s father “No not yet,” he replied “Ok good, I brought back a pizza.” They watched television while they ate, an action movie marathon on one of the cable channels providing the finishing touch to their domestic dining experience. “Quint” said Quint’s father “Yeah dad?” replied Quint “I just want you to know that I understand how much you wanted to be with your friends this summer, believe it or not I was your age once, and I know that all your mates will still be there waiting for you when you get back. I just hope you know how much I appreciate you being such a good sport about stickin’ with your old man.” he said “Yeah, I know dad,” replied Quint somewhat absently “I love you son.” He said “I love you too.” said Quintus Quint had a hard time falling asleep. He could hear his father’s snores echoing from master bedroom, the intermittent rumbling sending ripples of sound through the constant dark. He stared at the ceiling, lights from passing cars and lights in the street casting strange shapes across its shadowy face; a bizarre opera in silhouette. He turned to the clock on the bedside table. It was only a little past eleven. He stared back into the darkness, the occasional sound of a car on the street or door in the hallway breaking the otherwise impenetrable silence. He tried to close his eyes, drifting through strange realms on the fringe of dreams, but still to no avail. He reopened his eyes, staring once more at the ceiling. It had felt as though he had spent hours awake in the dark. He turned once more to the digital clock on the nightstand; five minutes had passed. With sigh, he pulled the covers off of himself. Standing quietly in the shadows, clad in sweatpants and a T-shirt, Quint tip toed over to the room’s writing desk and picked up his jet black laptop computer. He then walked to the door, making sure to pick up his key card, before pulling on a pair of sneakers and slipping out the door. The hotel commons were mostly empty by now, all the chandeliers and lamps that were on during normal hours continued to light the halls and sitting rooms, but the lights of the restaurant and pool were shut off, draping his once familiar haunts in a very unfamiliar darkness that made them feel foreign and taboo. A janitor was the only other person he encountered in the hall, vacuuming up remnants of the previous day’s traffic. He nodded to Quint as he passed but other than that the hotel seemed pleasantly deserted. Soon Quint came upon a comfortable looking armchair, situated in a corner opposite a scale replica of what looked to be an old wooden battleship from the British fleet. Sitting down in the chair’s surprisingly plushy seat he placed his computer on his lap. Connecting to the hotel wireless he accessed the blog which his friends had promised to make of their adventures along the coast. As he flipped through image after image of his friends, partying with what looked to be college students at a beach in Sydney, roasting a midnight snack over a bonfire somewhere near Newcastle and surfing ten foot waves off of Brisbane, Quint felt himself overcome with crushing feeling of frustration and melancholy. He desired nothing more than to be standing alongside them at that very moment. His shoulders dropped as he leaned back into the supportive rest of the armchair, staring at the urban night sky glowing orange and black through the window panel of the layered ceiling above. Quint glanced back at his laptop, closing the browser; he opened a puzzle game, hoping to distance himself from any thoughts of being back home. He quickly became engrossed in the thoughtless play, so much that he failed to notice the sound of light footsteps coming down the hallway towards him. Out of his peripheral vision Quint noticed a flicker of movement, glancing over the top of his laptop screen, he saw a girl with her back to him peering interestedly into the glass case containing the scale model of the old wooden battleship from the British fleet. As Quint peered at her face, reflected in the glass of the case, he recognized her as the girl from the pool, dressed in a flattering purple sweat suit and plush black slippers, her brown hair now tied behind her head in an elegant ponytail. He felt his mouth go dry as his vision quickly shot back to his laptop screen, his game now seemed amazingly unimportant. He felt his heart flutter with panic as he strained to think of something to say to break the silence that now felt oppressive and deafening. Without thinking he blurted out the first thing that popped into his head. “I think it’s British.” he said rather loudly “Excuse me?” she replied “The ship, I’m pretty sure it’s British.” he said “Oh yeah, because so many old British sailing ships flew American flags” she said gesturing sarcastically to the miniature stars and stripe perched on the top mast of the model. He felt himself blush awkwardly, suddenly wishing he had simply stayed in his room altogether. “It’s alright,” she said smiling “It doesn’t matter to me, but you should be careful, if I had been a real boat nut you could’ve really pissed me off.” “Sorry, my bad,” he said with a nervous chuckle “Hey, don’t worry about it,” she said smiling as she approached him “I’m Eve, Eve Jones” “Quint Bellamy” he replied, extending his hand “from Tasmania” “Well Quint Bellamy from Tasmania, do you mind if I join you?” she asked “What? Oh no not at all!” he replied, snapping his laptop closed and placing it on the table next to his armchair. She dropped lithely into the chair next to him, legs crossed on the seat of the chair, her hands folded in her lap. “So Quint, what brings you down here at midnight on a Tuesday?” she asked, nodding to the empty commons around them “Insomnia mostly,” he chuckled, running a hand through the back of his hair “No I meant like what are you doing here, at this hotel?” she said “Oh!” he said “I live here.” She raised an eyebrow quizzically. “Well no I don’t actually live here, I’m staying here, with my dad, for the summer, well I guess its winter for you guys; you see back where I live it’s summertime, anyway I had a really great break planned with a bunch of my friends, but my dad shot it down at the last minute and dragged me out here to stay with him while he’s here in Canada on business. So I’ve been here for about a month and I still have one more to go.” he said “Wow,” she replied “That sounds really sad!” They both broke into casual laughter “Yeah, yeah it’s a pain. But the way I see it I just have to keep at it one day at a time and soon enough I’ll be home free. So, what brings you down here?’ he asked “Vacation” she said “Well, that and jetlag, my body clock’s been weird all day. This morning I was full of energy, then I passed out for a few hours and now I can’t get back to sleep.” Quint leaned against the arm of the chair, smiling amusedly at her. “I know I’m rambling but I’m getting to the point!” she said with a laugh, straightening herself in her chair as he brushed a nonexistent wrinkle from the leg of her sweatpants “Anyway me and my family come down here every year for Christmas to meet up with my grandparents. They live across the bridge in North Vancouver; their place’s kinda small though. So for the last couple of years we’ve just stayed here when we’ve come in for the holidays and honestly I prefer it.” “So where are you from?” Quint asked, beginning to feel himself relax for the first time in what felt like a very long while “Connecticut,” she replied “without a doubt the most boring place in the known universe.” “I don’t know,” he said “Queenstown could probably give Connecticut a run for its money!” “Where?” she asked “Oh, it’s the town in Tasmania where I’m from.” He replied “God,” she said “you are so Crocodile Dundee.” “Crocodile what!?!” he replied with a laugh Their conversation carried on past midnight and long into the early morning hours, all the while Quint found himself becoming more comfortable with every moment he passed with Eve, as though all the anger and tension his situation has brought him was finally beginning to fall away for the first time in months. After what felt like a blissful eternity, Eve noticed the time displayed on the clock face gracing the wall opposite. “Well, it’s been fun, but I think I should go.” She said “What, why?” he asked, surprised “Dude, it’s three in the morning, don’t you have to get up in a couple of hours?” she said “I can sleep in.” he said with an easy smile “Well, I have to get up tomorrow and I don’t want to feel like crap when I do.” She said rising up from the velvet upholstery of the armchair “Ok,” replied Quint, standing up from his chair as well, and stretching in arms behind his head, breaking into a yawn “how long are you gonna be here for?” She laughed lightly. “Don’t worry your little head.” She said ` Reaching into her pocket she withdrew a thin black ink pen. “Here,” she said “give me your hand.” He stretched his left arm out, to which she proceeded to take his hand in hers and scrawled a line of immaculate digits into the back of it. “I’ll be here for the rest of this week and half of next, that’s my number, don’t forget to call.” She said “I won’t,” he replied still unable to wipe the foolish smile from his face “See you later Dundee.” She said, giving him a subtly charming wink before turning on a heel and striding keenly down the hallway. Quint watched her walk down the hall and out of sight. As she disappeared around the corner his mind was filled with thoughts; thoughts about how beautiful she had looked and how charming she had been and what he would say to her the next time they met. But for the first time in over a month, not one of them was of what he had left behind in the hot Australian summer. Somewhere outside the cozy confines of the hotel, in the icy Canadian night air, the first snow had begun to fall. Quintus and Eve had spent almost every day that week together. He had tried to wait before calling her, but in the end found the proposition of seeing her face again completely irresistible. The next day they met for lunch in the hotel restaurant. Quint was happy to find that even in the truthful light of day; Eve remained as compelling and beautiful as ever. Every day she coaxed him further beyond the strictures of his routine and drew him farther into the world beyond the hotel. Together they spent the days taking long walks exploring the snow covered woods and frosted trails of Stanley Park and the evenings enjoying all of the of the beauty and wonder the shining city had to offer and for the first time in a long time, even before his parents had divorced, Quintus Bellamy felt truly happy. “Hey Quint,” his father said early one morning. “Yeah,” said Quint still half asleep “There’s a blizzard warning out for tonight, I’m going out to an important meeting up in Burnaby, but I don’t want to get caught up in the storm so I’m staying the night with my clients. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon, you don’t mind staying here at the hotel alone until I get back do you son?” he said “Dad, I’m seventeen, I think I can take care of myself for one night.” He mumbled in reply “Alright kiddo, just don’t get in too much trouble. Love you son.” His father said “Love you too dad.” Replied Quint before rolling over and returning to sleep That day Eve and Quint had walked through Stanley Park, only to realize that the blizzard forecasts had been far from exaggerated. The snow wind howled about them as snowflakes stung any exposed skin like wasps. The sky was dark and ominous as though motivated with sinister intent as they ducked into the hotel. It was only three in the afternoon but already the light had grown thin and grey. “Whew! Glad to be out of that!” exclaimed Eve wiping the snow off of the sleeves of her jacket. “No kidding.” Agreed Quint “Well, now what?” she asked arms bouncing at her sides “I know a place we can go.” said Quint with a smile Leading her by the hand they ran down the hallway with a joyous haste as Quint led them to the hotel convention center lobby. “Wow,” she said when they reached their destination “This must be the biggest room in the hotel.” “Yeah, I found this place my first week here,” he said “they usually keep the lights pretty dim in here, probably to conserve power.” “Quintus!” she exclaimed “If I didn’t know better I’d think you were trying to make a move on me!” “Oh no, you’d know if I were trying to make a move on you.” he replied jokingly “Hey is that a piano?” she asked pointing to the black grand piano tucked into the corner of the room “Yeah, but I never payed it much attention” he answered “I don’t play.” “Here, I’ll show you.” She said leading him over to the massive instrument She sat him down next to her on the bench, gently lifting the wooden cover off of the antique ivory keys. Stretching her fingers out, she began to gently tap the keys with a practiced ease, slowly coaxing a hauntingly beautiful melody from the black lacquered depths of the wood, wire and steel. “That’s beautiful,” he said “what’s it called?” “Claire de Lune, by Claude Debussy,” she answered “here,” she said taking his hands “play these notes.” She gently guided his fingers on the alabaster bars until he had memorized the simple pattern she had assigned him before returning to her own part. At first he lost the tempo, creating a disconcerting racket which clashed horribly with her accompaniment, but after a few failed attempts, they began to play in synch. The gorgeous melody filled the cathedral like hall with soft, twinkling music smoothly lamenting the forlorn world beyond, draping them in a sheltered island of sound all their own. In a brief moment, their hands touched on the keys. Without thinking or even realizing what he was doing, Quint turned his head to Eve as she did to him. In a frozen moment the look of shared tenderness mirrored from both in the eyes of the other, filling the void of time and space until it was occupied only by the small breaths issuing from between their slightly parted lips as they sat staring at one another. Then Quintus leaned forwards, kissing Eve straight on the mouth. They sat for what could have been half a second or several days, time itself was no longer significant. All that mattered to him now was the soft feeling of his lips on hers, the sweet smell of her hair and the soft flutter of her heart pressed against his chest. After what felt like eons, they parted, smiling shyly as though meeting once again for the first time. “Come with me.” He said softly, dropping to an almost whisper. She nodded to him slowly as he took her delicate hand in his and led her to the stairs up and out of the convention center lobby and into the mezzanine. The entire floor was vacant as all events scheduled that day had been cancelled due to weather. Quintus led Eve into one of the grand ballrooms, its cavernous maw lit only by the massive window comprising an entire wall, allowing for a breathtaking view of the city outside, lights in windows beginning to flicker to life in the falling dusk. Turning back he stretched out his free hand, pulling the door shut before locking it with a twist of his wrist. Sometime later Quintus laid in the dark, his head resting on Eve’s lap as she gently ran her fingers through his thick hair. “You think I should get a haircut?” he asked her “No, I think it’s cute the way it is.” She replied “You think I should get it cut.” He repeated more definitely “Yeah sure, if you really want to I guess.” She said with a slight giggle “I knew it.” He said They stared out through the window. The black of the night had come to stretch over the cityscape, darkening the skies with the color of pitch whilst lights on buildings twinkled like clusters of shining amber jewels set so precisely upon the infinite shroud of the nocturnal. He smiled. “If you could go anywhere in the world where would you want to be?” asked Eve “I know if I could I would go to Rome and see all the ancient buildings like the coliseum and the Basilica and sleep in all day and spend my nights exploring the old parts of the city.” Quint looked up into her eyes, the glow of the outside twinkled upon her brilliant irises as her countenance softened in an innocent expression of childlike wonder. He looked back at the window. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but right here, right now.” He replied They continued to sit together on the soft carpeted floor of the beautiful ballroom. Two small shadows silhouetted starkly against a glorious pane of light. Without warning the skyline began to darken. It began at the far end the city, barely noticeable as construction equipment and shipping cranes silently blinked out across the bay. But the blackout continued to spread, first on the smaller houses and buildings on the outskirts of the city before rolling over skyscrapers and streetlights bathing the entirety of the city in impenetrable shadow. Startled, Eve looked around, suddenly blind. “Whoa. What was that?” she asked “Blackout?” replied Quint nervously “In the middle of the city?” she replied “Doesn’t this kind of thing happen from time to time?” he asked her “Not like that it doesn’t.” she said Together they got to their feet, eyes beginning to adjust by the sudden shadows which now seemed to encase the world entire. “Take out your phone; we can use it as a flashlight.” Said Quint Removing her black touch screen phone from her pocket, Eve pressed a button on the side expecting the interface to blink to life at her demand. It remained unresponsive. “I don’t understand, I had a full charge two hours ago.” She said trying to reboot it in vain “it should still have battery for at least another day, here try yours.” Quint too attempted to activate his cell phone, but to no avail. “This is too weird.” Said Eve, confirming the feeling of dread Quint already felt coursing through him Feeling his watch upon his wrist, Quint attempted to activate its glow feature. The timepiece established his touch with a decisive click, but still failed to illuminate. “We’d better get out of here.” Said Eve Even in the dark, she could see Quint nod in agreement. Blind as bats they felt their way through the shadows back to the door from which they had come. Gingerly undoing the latch, they stepped back onto the deserted mezzanine. The great hall which had before appeared grand and alluring was now home to tall, intimidating shadows which seem to stare back at them with a diabolical hunger. Children screamed in the lobby as guests bustled and argued. All the while hotel staff attempted to defuse the situation with little success. Fumbling for the handrail, they found the staircase and slowly made their way back down to the main lobby. There some hotel staff had begun to hand out glow sticks, the weak light from the small iridescent bars reminding Quint of the bioluminescent spots and lures of strange predators lying in the murk of the deep ocean abyss. Walking up to the hotel attendant handing out the glow sticks Quint inquired about the source of the blackout. “I don’t know,” the man replied “one minute everything was working fine, next minute the whole city went dark, no communications, not transportation no nothing.” “I think I’ve heard about stuff like this before,” said Quint “an electromagnetic pulse or something?” “Maybe,” said the attendant “let’s just hope they get this place up and running soon, with a blizzard outside we’ll all be frozen in no time.” “Speaking of which, do you guys hear that?” said Eve “I don’t hear anything.” Said the attendant “Exactly.” she replied Outside the walls of the building the sound of rushing wind and tempestuous gusts had fallen into deafening silence. A feeling of distinct unease began to blossom within Quintus as he turned slowly towards the door of the hotel. Together he and Eve exited into the front drive of the hotel, the area now bathed in an eerie crimson glow which reflected off of the fallen snow creating an unearthly pink aura. Above the thick clouds had taken on the same vermillion hue, creating an unsettling background upon which the shadowy forms of the tall buildings were cast. Cars lined the streets, stopped right where they had been when the blackout had first hit, trapped in suspended animation, their headlights dark and sightless. The air was unnaturally still, as though a sealed vacuum had descended around the city. Little by little people were beginning to trickle out of the hotel and into the driveway and street. Quint glanced around at the foreboding hulks of the buildings in the vicinity, their facades so warm and inviting only minutes before were now inexplicably fearsome and sinister, cast in alien tones of red and black. “Where’s your family?” Quint asked Eve “Over in North Vancouver with my grandparents.” She replied “What about your dad?” “He’s up in Burnaby at his client’s house; he said he wouldn’t be back until tomorrow. Do you know the number of your grandparent’s place?” he replied Eve did not answer. “Eve, do you have your grandparent’s number?” he repeated Her gaze remained fixed above his head; slack jawed in a horrible expression of terrified awe. Quintus looked around the plaza, the cries and conversations he had heard before were suddenly silenced by some unknown wonder. The dumbstruck look upon Eve’s face was mirrored by everyone else in the crowd. Turning around slowly something terrible swam into view. For a moment he began to laugh, verging on the unhinged as deafening silence filled the air, unable to comprehend the sight unfolding before him. But what he was capable of understanding held no power over the tangibility of the awful something now descending upon him. It was jet black and massive, slowly drifting through the overcast sky at an ominously soporific pace. Its sheer bulk defied gravity, defied reason, defied the narrow doors of human conception. But nonetheless it came, slowly and surely, blocking out the sky itself and encompassing the whole of the city and beyond, strangling the heavens with its unholy mass. Upon its shadowy underbelly, thousands upon thousands of strange markings gleamed bright red; the source of light from above the clouds, each insignia was the size of a stadium, flourished with arcane twists and curves the likes of which had never before been seen by human eyes. As the great something approached, grotesque clusters of fleshy ovoid shapes hanging in banks became visible around each symbol. They appeared like groupings of plump, corpulent grapes the color of pale flesh left to rot in standing water, dripping with ooze and throbbing with an obscene malice. Without warning the sacks began to fall, like fat drops of viscous rain dropping from inconceivable heights. Suddenly a pustule the size of an SUV smashed into the overhead canopy of the hotel driveway, sending glass shards raining down upon the amassed crowd and snapping Quint back to reality. The scene dissolved into chaos as the amassed began to scream and run with terror. All around the sacks had begun to land, crushing cars, lampposts and even people as they made splattering contact with the hard ground. With a rising sense of horrific dread, Quint gazed with frightful amazement as one of the slimy masses on the ground began to quiver and shake, spreading out across the pavement like a pool of living molasses before a fold lifted off of the ground and quivered menacingly in the air like a huge flap of animate flesh. Turning back to the darkened hotel Quint’s way to the door was blocked by the monstrous blob pouring from the overhang and into the entryway, its towering bulk now swaying with insidious intent. Grabbing Eve by the arm, he ran around the side of the side of the hotel along the waterfront seawall as more of the strange blobs began to fall, looking back it appeared as though a thick hail was descending upon the shadowy city, he could hear screams behind them but whether they were of fear or agony he could not tell. “We have to get out of the city!” he yelled to her “Through the park!” she replied “We can go across the bridge and get to my grandparent’s house.” Together they ran through the dark towards the pitch black expanse of Stanley Park. The trees whose thick evergreen demeanor had seemed so protective and inviting in the past weeks now appeared immense and ill-omened with sharpened black tips like the spears of heathen bloodcults from a savage and more primitive age. They ran for some time, the screams in the city behind them still audible. Finally they began to tire, throats and lungs aching they panted for breath. Abandoning their sprint they walked, slower now, along the black road. Quint jumped with a start as a shape detached from the blackness, then another and another. They were not alone on their trek. Little by little people began to take to the street in a throng, besides the meager light of a few crude torches or the pallor of a handful of glow sticks the grim parade marched in darkness. Young and old alike advanced in a line through the cold towards the towering expanse of pines in the distance; quivering high like quills on the back of some incredible monster roused from its ancient slumber and poised to devour the frightened pilgrims like a grouper to a shoal of baitfish. Quint looked back at the city. No light emanated from the seemingly vacant skyscrapers, their tall silhouettes cast like monolithic shadow puppets against a backdrop the color of blood. From amongst the towers the ghastly din of those trapped in the dark echoed with an unalterable atrocity. Quint’s breath caught in his throat, suddenly overcome by indescribable emotion. In the brevity of a moment everything he knew to make sense in the world had come crashing down around him. His foundation had been utterly shaken as he felt his sanity plunging into the depths of despair. Standing hopelessly on the edge of oblivion and staring into the abyss he felt a warm presence suddenly make contact. It’s reassuring touch anchoring him to lucidity. Turning he saw a single delicate hand resting gently but firmly upon his shoulder. Attached to the hand was a wrist which led to an arm and a shoulder and neck, and atop that neck was Eve’s face, frightened and defiant. Within her blazing eyes dwelt an air of pure determination with seemed to burn with all the fire of a dying star. With one look, she drew him back to the light. He placed a tired arm across her back; she took his gloved hand in hers and together they continued on their way. Within half an hour they were already deep into the park. Only the crimson sky was visible through the trees, angry branches extended threateningly into the path with sharp grasping fingers and malicious timber hearts. The shadows surrounded the pilgrims on all sides, as if poised to pounce and snuff out their meager spark at the first sign of hesitation or weakness. Suddenly a resounding crash echoed through the darkened woods. The line stopped, travelers flinching with the unexpected sound. Then another crash, this time somebody screamed. The crunching sound of mighty timber’s being ripped and broken echoed over the dark forest. The air filled with the sound of wing beats and screeching as a flock of birds detached from the horizon. A few moments later an ancient pine some sixty feet tall fell over, accompanied by a heavy thud. Another tree fell as the ground began to vibrate with the approaching sound of booming strikes crashing through the undergrowth. The entire procession crouched low to the forest floor, shivering, waiting. Without warning the congregation drew a collective breath as a cyclopean nightmare strode into view. The monster towered over one hundred feet into the air, clearing the tops of the pines which remained standing in its path. It did not share the shapeless form of the strange blobs that had slowly slithered across the hotel drive; this creature appeared defined and powerful with a pair of shining trunk like legs with girths wider than a man’s shoulders and stubby feet like those of a caterpillar. Whilst the blob creature’s skin had been the pallid color of a waterlogged corpse, the newcomer’s complexion seemed, for lack of a better word: alive, flushed as it was with an aggressive crimson hue. A distended bladder covered in strange protrusions hung from below its spaded snout as it stared down at the group for a moment. An ancient god of sacrifice from the old world of ritualistic bloodshed, regarding them with indecent intent through a pair of bright yellow orbs poking out from atop its hideous mantle. The cloying stench of fetid rot like waste left to ferment in the hot bowels of a clogged landfill packed the air in a nauseating miasma. With the lewd sound of wet skin peeling off of leather, numerous long appendages dropped from the bottom of its massive bell, rearing up like fleshy cobras the size of pythons before the petrified onlookers. It struck with lightning speed, pulpy hoods blooming like flowers from the tips of the foul red tentacles as they shot forth before enveloping the heads of any unfortunate individuals within their slimy grasps. Several loud cracking sounds accompanied those first hit as bones crunched and blood spattered under the heavy collisions of the muscular tendrils. The assemblage panicked as bodies flowed like water to escape the grasp of the goliath, bottlenecked by the thick forest they tripped and fell over each other’s limbs like drunkards, making easy prey for the beast. As Quint and Eve tried to escape her foot caught on a small imperfection in the concrete, dragging him down along with her. As a tentacle seized a woman next to them with a sickening crack, Quint threw his arms around Eve, hoping to shield her from the probing coils. He looked on in horror as the woman’s body hit the ground beside them, a pitiful moan muffled by the thick folds of flesh encasing her face, before the tentacle began to reel her back towards the red titan, now brushing its head back and forth over the crowd like a yogi in prayer. It dragged her struggling frame across the pavement a ways before jerkily reeling her into one of the puckering orifices lining the bottom of its head, lipless mouths blindly mashing in search of fresh quarry. As the behemoth drew closer, what Quint had before taken to be ridges and protrusions along the soft underbelly of the monster became more visible. With a sickening realization he now discerned them to be hands and feet, arms and legs, shoulders and elbows pressing hopelessly against the elastic walls of the living prison. Some had their faces pushed up against the rubbery walls of the undulating sack; mouths open in silent screams as the beast’s foul hide stretched tight over their features like the skin of a drum. “Quick!” exclaimed Quint as he hauled Eve to her feet. Alongside a handful of survivors, they tried to run back the way they came. Suddenly a second shadow eclipsed the narrow red sky. It strode onto the path before them before uttering a bloodcurdling wail, like the forlorn lament of a despairing woman. The first beast returned the call, the unearthly cry sending shivers down Quint’s spine. Tentacles shot from both creatures as the contingent, now numbering a miniscule fraction of its previous size, was picked off one by one. Eve tugged his arm with an expedient urgency. “Quint,” she yelled over the tumultuous din “do you trust me?” “Yes.” He replied, his answer instant and resolute Grabbing him, she pulled away from the path, sprinting towards the inscrutable features of the black winter forest. Together they dove blindly over a guardrail on the edge of the road, falling through the underbrush to escape the predatory abhorrence behind them. They tumbled over rocks and roots, painfully collecting all manner of bruise and laceration during their descent. As they began to slow, Quint felt something hard strike the side of his head with a resounding crack before he slipped limply into darkness. He woke to soft murmurings; prayers in the night. With a flutter his eyes opened. Eve was lying next to him. Curled into a fetal position, he could hear soft sobs punctuate her quiet pleas. His entire body ached. A spot on his head felt as if he had been struck with a bat. Weakly, he raised a hand out to Eve, gently brushing his fingers across her back. She whipped around, pulling him into a tight embrace as he began to sit up, he could feel the warmth of her tears upon his cheek. She helped him to his feet, tearing a strip of fabric from the bottom of her blouse to help bandage the wound on his skull. Together they limped out of the forest and into a wide grassy field, still and silent as the grave. Far across the crisp cut lawn, eight totem poles stood in the distance. As Quint stared at them, black lacquered eyes upon grim painted faces seemed to acknowledge his presence, still facades marked by an unfathomable sorrow. The totems had seen a time when ancient pines with trunks thicker than houses stood tall and proud in the bright summer sky. A time when orca and porpoise frolicked in the rushing water of the shallow bay, its waters lit a bright shade of fiery gold by the setting summer sun. A time when the warm night air was filled with the rich scent of smoking fish and the potent sound of tribal drums and native chants as glowing sparks and embers climbed into the starlit sky over village fires and ornate longhouses. Then the explorers came, driven by an avaricious hunger no treasure hoard could hope to quell; and behind them the brave pioneers. With their machines and dreams of conquest they poisoned the land and enslaved its people, eradicating any trace of their once bountiful society until only the sad totems stood as weary testament to a time that almost never was. Now Quint looked across the bay to the black towers bulking into a bloodshot sky. They would now serve as the totems of a younger age. They would remember a time before the warmth of the sun’s rays was replaced by the sinister glow cast by mammoth red symbols hovering in a cold dead sky. Before terrible things came to lurk in the desolate forests and abandoned waterways. They would remember a time when man counted himself foremost amongst god’s creations and alone in the cold stars of the infinite galaxy. Like the white conquerors that had crossed wide and majestic oceans, these strange new pioneers had journeyed across the barren gulf of space. However they came not for lands or riches, but for the residents of this brave new world. Humanity would be the prize of their conquest and there would be much suffering before the end. Quint pulled tore his gaze from the desolate skyline across the bay, staring back into the shadowy unknown that lay before them. He inhaled a deep breath, and then together they strode forth into an uncertain future. They would be the pioneers now; lonely voyagers into a strange world, an altered world. With them they carried two things; two things to give them meaning and to give them strength in the difficult times yet ahead. Together they carried their hope and more importantly, they carried each other.
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