Advent Blog – The League of Sharks – The Missing Chapter

So these are two chapters from the very first draft of The League of Sharks. No one’s seen this draft before and these two chapters eventually became one in the final draft so there’s plenty of unseen bits and pieces. It may be of interest to some and not to others. This is probably full of typos and things that don’t make sense with the finished books but it’s all part of a process. Enjoy.

Darkness came quickly. There was a bright moon out but the thick tops of the trees meant little light seeped through. Junk kept moving as long as he could but eventually he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face and kept tripping over roots and rocks every few steps. He slumped down with his back against a tree. He was tired, he was cold, he was hungry. What’s more, he had lost track of where he was.
Suddenly, he heard a twig snapping in the nearby undergrowth. Junk was alert instantly. He held his breath and listened. Only his eyes moved. He heard a wheezing breath. A snort. There was some sort of animal out there. A growl. And it was coming closer. The nighttime played tricks on his hearing and he couldn’t be sure in which direction it was. Another growl. Sonorous and predatory. Whatever it was didn’t want to be friends. Junk stretched out his hand on the ground and felt around in the dirt for something that could act as a weapon. He found a jagged rock and held it ready to fire.
The growl intensified into a throaty roar and Junk heard four pounding hoofed feet clattering across the stony ground straight at him. He didn’t see it until the last second. It was big, grey, covered in fur. It could be a wolf but a wolf the size of a cow that ran at the speed of a leopard. He threw himself out of the creature’s path, hurling the rock as he did but missed the target completely. He felt the animal’s hot, rancid breath on his face as it passed. Junk rolled acrobatically and was on his feet and running in one swift but panicked movement.
He heard the beast stopping and turning. It was more cumbersome than Junk and it crashed into the trunk of a tree in its haste to pursue. It let out what sounded like a bark and then Junk heard it as it set off after him.
Junk ran blindly, knowing that any misstep would mean he would end up as this animal’s next meal. He thought about climbing a tree. If this creature was some sort of big cat then it could follow him but he still thought he was probably the faster climber.
However, before he got the chance the ground gave way beneath him and he somersaulted down a sharp embankment, landing hard on his back and knocking all the wind out of him. When he opened his eyes, he saw Garvan standing over him. He craned his head and discovered he was back outside the cabin. He’d gone round in a circle. Out in the night, he heard the creature sloping away.
Garvan crouched down and slapped his big hand on Junk’s foot. Junk struggled but to no avail. Garvan’s grip was too strong. He looked at the leather manacle that was still around Junk’s ankle and Junk knew he was about to become a prisoner again. But he was wrong. Instead, Garvan pulled at a few different strands that held the cuff together and where Junk only managed to tighten it, Garvan was able to undo it and remove it. Then he stood and headed into the cabin. Junk sat up and watched him go. He turned to the forest behind him and it was now alive with sounds of life and almost all of it aggressive. Junk debated what to do. His choices were extremely limited as far as he could see. Finally, he got to his feet and followed Garvan inside.
When he got there, he found Garvan was sitting at the table eating. There was a second place set at the table. A place for Junk. With little in the way of hesitance, Junk sat on the big chair at the even bigger table and started eating.

The boy had passed the tests. He was intelligent and resourceful. And he had come back. Garvan knew what that meant. It meant that the next thing to happen was that he would have to almost die. He wished there was another way to be sure before risking it but almost dying was the next marker. On the plus side, if the boy saved him then he will know for sure. He made a mental note to make sure the boat was well stocked.

When the sun rose again, Junk woke to find himself back in his old fur lined bed. The first thing he did was look at his ankles but he hadn’t been shackled in his sleep. Instead the cuts on the soles of his feet had been treated with a thick, green balm. Junk lifted one of his feet to his nose and took a sniff. Immediately, he wished he hadn’t. Whatever was on his feet stunk like crazy. Junk felt light-headed for a moment but it passed.
He noticed some clothes laid out on the back of a chair. They were far too small for Garvan and just the right size for him. There was a pair of trousers and a pair of thick boots made from animal hide. They were light brown. Then there was a grey shirt, similar to the one he’d been wearing for the last few weeks but a fraction of the size. Finally there was a jacket, also made from animal hide but a darker brown than the trousers and boots. Junk got dressed. Everything fit him perfectly.

Junk stepped out onto the veranda wearing his new clothes and saw Garvan sitting in his swing chair, tying off some strands of leather at the top of a bow, securing a sinew bowstring in place.
“Morning, Frank,” said Junk because he didn’t know what else to say. Garvan looked up at him momentarily and then turned his attention back to the bow. “So I guess I’m not your prisoner any more. Am I free to go?” Garvan made no attempt to answer or even acknowledge that he had heard him. “Any chance you’ve got a boat?” Nothing. “Could you point me towards it maybe?”
Garvan finished tying the leather and inspected his handiwork. He was happy with it. Then, without warning, he threw it to Junk. He only just caught it.
“What’s this?”
No answer. Garvan just got up and grabbed a second larger bow that had been leaning against the cabin wall. He slung a quiver of arrows over his shoulder and tossed a second quiver to Junk.
“What’s going on? We going hunting?” Garvan strode off into the woods. Junk hesitated. Not sure what to do now. Finally, he went after him. “Hey, Frank, wait up,” he called.

For such a big man, Garvan moved with surprising grace. Out of the two of them, Junk was making the more noise as they padded through the forest. Bows held in front of them.
“I used to go hunting with my dad.” Junk had not stopped talking for more than half a minute at a time since they had left the cabin. Garvan didn’t seem to notice. “Just rabbits and things, you know. Nothing big. And not with a bow and arrow. Had an air rifle. It was a good one. Had a scope on it and everything. Felt like James Bond with it. Do you know who James Bond is? There was a fella in one of them films called Jaws. He was a massive big fella with huge, great metal teeth. He could bite through anything. You know, metal and horses and stuff. I don’t think he actually did bite through a horse but he could if he wanted. Thing is he wasn’t as big as you. You’re like the biggest person I’ve ever seen. How come you don’t talk? Can you talk?”
Suddenly, Garvan froze and put his hand out to stop Junk. Swiftly, Garvan drew an arrow from his quiver and nocked it. He drew it back and waited. He was as still as one of the many trees around him and he focused on one particular spot in the undergrowth about thirty metres ahead.
“What is it?” whispered Junk. He whispered because he felt the tension of the moment even if he didn’t understand the tension of the moment. Garvan’s only response was to raise up his bow and take aim. Junk stared into the dense foliage. “What’s out there?”
The forest became very quiet all of a sudden as if every other creature, every bug, bird and rodent had stopped what they were doing to watch what was about to happen.
Junk heard a twig snapping under foot. Then a snorting sound. Then movement as a creature that looked like a very big wild boar stepped into view. It stopped as if it could sense danger was nearby. It was about the size of a cow, its fur was long and thick and it had two tusks that curved into deadly points either side of its bulbous jaw. Junk realised his bed was made from the hide of one of these animals. He remembered the carved model in the first of the puzzle boxes. It was one of these. Seeing it in person made Junk aware of just how skillful Garvan was at manipulating wood. The likeness was remarkable. The creature turned to look directly at them and it growled. Sonorous and predatory. Junk knew that growl. This was what attacked him the night before. It wasn’t a wolf. The beast took two tentative steps forward, its threatening snarl rattled in the back of its throat. It snorted and a mist of sputum umbrella-ed from its snout.
Garvan turned his head and caught Junk’s attention. He drew Junk’s eye to the bow in his hands and nodded his head at the beast. Junk’s mind raced. He understood immediately what Garvan meant but his brain wouldn’t accept it for several seconds and it whirled and blushed with panic. Garvan wanted him to kill the creature.
At that moment, the beast stamped a hoof on the hard ground and bayed menacingly. He looked Junk in the eye.
“I-I can’t,” said Junk breathlessly. “I don’t know how.” Garvan nodded his head towards his own bow still held in front of him. Reluctantly, Junk took an arrow from his quiver and nocked it just as Garvan had done. He raised the bow and aimed. Garvan lowered his bow and stepped to the side.
The beast stamped both front hoofs down on the ground, snorted, raked at the mud with his tusks and let out a roar that rattled through Junk. Junk had never been so scared. Then the beast started to charge. The fear Junk had experienced only a moment before mushroomed out of all proportion. He wanted to run away but the message wasn’t getting through to his legs. They weren’t moving.
The beast thundered towards him, kicking up clouds of dust as it came. Junk was breathing hard and the bow was shaking in his hands. He tried to focus. Tried to calm himself. Easier said than done. Junk drew back on the bow string until it was slicing into his fingers. He held his breath. A moment of clarity. Everything in the forest around them blurred to nothing. It was just him and the rampaging beast. The fingers of his right hand opened, letting the arrow go free. Its path was straight and true. It sliced through the air and hit the creature, burying itself deep in its neck. A burst of triumphant elation surged through Junk but it was short-lived. The beast didn’t even slow down. The arrow had no effect. It just kept on coming. The beast bouldered at Junk and launched itself into the air, lunging at him, ready to gouge him with his murderous tusks.
Suddenly, another arrow flew, this time from Garvan’s bow. It hit the beast in the flank with such power that it shunted him off-course, away from Junk and into a tree. The beast hit the trunk with such velocity that Junk heard its bones crunch. It fell to the ground, let out one final rasp and then it was dead.
Finally, some sort of message reached Junk’s legs and they gave out from under him. He fell over, panting.

Junk was considerably more subdued on the journey back to the cabin. Garvan had the carcass of the beast slung over his shoulder and even its immense weight did not seem to slow him down. Junk walked several paces behind him, looking into the eyes of the beast. They were glassy and lifeless but still strangely mocking.
Don’t give me that look, thought Junk. You’re dinner, pal.
Their path took them to the edge of the cliff, looking out to sea. In the distance, Junk saw the black rock thronging with birds. He saw one of the birds out on its own, circling high in the sky. Then it turned and starting flying towards them. Junk looked back after a moment or two and realised that the black rock must have been further away than he had first thought because as the lone bird drew closer he saw how big it actually was. He had thought it was the size of an eagle but now he knew it was much bigger. The size of a man.
It came closer still and it started to take on detail. At first Junk couldn’t comprehend what he was seeing. The bird was a man. Half a man at least. Its torso looked almost human. Its legs were thin but muscular and tucked up beneath him as he flew. Its wingspan was easily four metres, maybe more. The lower half of its body was covered in dark brown feathers. The upper part of its chest, neck and head were bare and pink, looking like a plucked chicken. The upper part of its wings were thick and muscular, almost like human arms, and they ended in hands. Much like human hands but with only three digits. Two of them ended in long, sharp talons. Its face was owl-like: flat and round with bulbous, lucent orange eyes and a permanent scowl etched on it. Its beak looked like a hard, shiny nose, half-buried into the mottled flesh of its face, though it was sharp and pointed at the end. The nose/beak was black in colour and stood out in contrast to the skin around it. Its mouth looked unnervingly human. It was almost as if it was evolving from a bird to a flying man but was only halfway through the process.
Junk was so shocked at what he was seeing that it didn’t register with him that the birdman was coming straight for him. By the time he realised, it was too late. The birdman’s long, muscular legs uncurled from beneath him as he swooped down and latched onto the upper part of Junk’s arm with powerful claws. Junk howled as he was lifted off the ground. The birdman pumped his massive wings and started to rise.

In a flash, Garvan let the body of the dead boar drop from his shoulder as he twisted and propelled himself into the air. Garvan’s massive hand only just managed to wrap itself around Junk’s ankle and as gravity took hold and Garvan returned to terra firma, his immense weight pulled Junk and the birdman down with him. The birdman let out a wail that was pitched somewhere between a squawk and furious roar. Snorting with exertion, the birdman flapped its wings even harder, rising up. Garvan got his other hand onto Junk’s ankle and strained. His back inflated as his muscles tensed. Junk cried out in pain. The birdman’s claws sank into the flesh of his shoulder. The birdman wasn’t going to give up his prize without a fight.
Garvan’s feet skidded over the dusty ground as the birdman started to win the tug-o-war. They were getting dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. If they went over Garvan would have to let go of Junk or risk snapping him in two. Garvan dug in deeper and started to pull back. He brought Junk down just a little lower and was able to reach up and hook his hand into the top of Junk’s trousers. This extra hold let him pull Junk and the birdman down even further. One more yank and Garvan got a hand onto the birdman’s leg. The birdman let go of Junk instantly, deciding escape was the better option now but as far as Garvan was concerned he had passed the point of no return.
Garvan buried his hand into the feathers around the birdman’s abdomen and this extra purchase allowed him to bring the birdman crashing down to the ground. The pair of them wrestled, rolling over and over. Junk watched them getting nearer to the cliff edge.
“Frank!” He called. It wasn’t clear if Garvan heard him but he suddenly twisted his body in the opposite direction. In one swift movement, Garvan was on his feet and, holding the birdman by its ankles, he slammed him down on the ground repeatedly until the creature didn’t move any more. Its human looking mouth was twisted open and a long, rasping gurgle dribbled out.
Junk was shaking with fear and pain. His shoulder was throbbing and bleeding but he saw that the jacket Garvan had made for him had taken the brunt of the birdman’s grip and only the tip of its claws had got through.
Garvan kicked the dead birdman over the edge of the cliff and pulled Junk to his feet by his collar.
“Hey, steady on, bigman,” said Junk who would have liked to sit a while longer, at least until he had stopped shaking from the adrenalin spike coursing through him. He felt a little light-headed. Then he saw that Garvan was not looking at him but behind him and with an ever-so slightly terrified tic in his right eye. Junk turned to see what was alarming the giant.
“Oh,” is all he could think to say. Other than that his mind was a total blank. Or possibly so active that all the different synapses that were firing off simultaneously had just merged every thought into one huge jumbled featureless whole. More birdmen had taken to the skies from the black rock. Thirty or so. Probably drawn by their recently deceased compatriot’s dying shrieks. They were flying this way and at speed. In the few scant seconds that Junk was looking at them, the sky darkened as they were all he could see.
Garvan held up his bow, nocking an arrow in one smooth and fluid movement, aiming and firing. The arrow snatched one of the advancing birdmen out of the sky. Garvan fired again and again and again. Every arrow hit its target true but too quickly the quiver was empty and there were too many birdmen still coming.
All of a sudden, Junk was lifted off his feet once more but this time by Garvan, who tucked him under his arm as if he was standing in for the ball in a rugby match and started off running as fast as he could through their bosky surroundings.
Garvan moved quickly. He shielded Junk’s head with one hand and tore through the foliage. Junk could feel thin branches whipping at his legs but the thickness of the leather trousers protected him.
The trees were thick around them but there were pockets of light that broke through and, as they were running, Junk could see shadows moving through the beams and he knew the birdmen were overhead, looking for a way through.
Suddenly, Garvan skidded to a stop and Junk found himself twisting in the air as Garvan set him down on his feet. It took Junk a moment to gather himself and get his bearings. He became aware of Garvan guiding him, positioning him behind his fortress-like girth. Junk heard throaty calls ahead and knew they had been overtaken. He peered slowly out from behind Garvan and shuddered as he saw a dozen of the birdmen were blocking their path. Movement behind. Garvan and Junk turned together and saw more of the birdmen moving in on them. They were surrounded. The birdmen were walking on their spindly human legs. Their feet looked vaguely human too apart from the fact that they were split down the middle, making two wide toes, each capped with talons. There was another talon at their heel almost like a dewclaw.
The birdmen were all emitting strange, repetitive calls from the back of their throats. En masse, it sounded like they were talking to one another. It was rhythmic. Like Australian aborigines playing a didgeridoo: Howyougonnaeatthem ImgonnaeatthemHowyougonnaeatthemImgonnaeatthemHowyougonnaeatthemImgonnaeatthemHowyougonnaeatthemImgonnaeatthem…
“What do we do?” asked Junk so quietly he wasn’t sure if it had been audible but Garvan looked at him so he must have made some sort of sound. Garvan moved his eyes, leading Junk’s attention through the birdmen, through the trees to his cabin, a mere fifty metres away. Junk understood. They needed to get there. The cabin was their only chance of survival. Junk nodded. “Understood,” he said. “On three?” Garvan didn’t respond but Junk chose to believe he understood. “One…”
The birdmen were edging closer.
Their mouths were opening, ready to feast.
“Thr–” Before Junk could finish the word, Garvan leapt forward and let out an almighty bellow. It was the roar of a lion, the trumpet of an elephant and the fury of a silverback all rolled into one deafening outburst. It made the birdmen hesitate for a moment. A moment was enough. Pushing Junk into a run, Garvan charged at the predators. He was brutal. He grabbed at wings, twisted and snapped bone and cartilage. Always moving, flowing, balletically dipping to scoop a rock from the ground, up again, turning, smashing the rock on the side of one birdman’s head, his arm carrying through, taking out another.
In the first few moments of the battle, Garvan had put down five before Junk even knew what was happening. Then, movement out of the corner of his eye made Junk turn. Another of the birdmen was coming for him. Junk let himself drop like a dead weight half a second before a mass of feathers and claws shrieked through the air above him. Junk scrambled to his feet and started running. He had never run so fast in his entire life.
The birdman skidded across the dusty ground, twisted, turned and got back to his feet. He started running after Junk. He ran like a man, not like a bird. His legs were long, his strides reaching. He gained quickly on Junk.
Junk came to a small embankment and let gravity take him down. He never reached the bottom. The birdman pounced, clamped onto Junk’s already tender shoulder and took to the air. It happened so quickly that Junk was powerless to stop him. Before Junk could formulate any sort of plan of escape, they had broken through the tops of the trees. They were thirty metres above the ground and ascending rapidly.
Then suddenly a second birdman collided with the first, knocking him off course. Junk felt his stomach rising as he was thrown free as the first birdman lost his hold on him and then Junk started to drop. The second birdman snatched him out of the air, both clawed feet wrapped around Junk’s upper arm with a jerk that dislocated his shoulder. There was an explosion of pain and Junk screamed. The first birdman returned, squawked furiously and tried to pull Junk away. Squabbling over him as if he were a crust of bread. The first birdman attacked the second and the second let go of his prize. Junk started to fall again. He was aware that both birdmen were too busy fighting one another to pay any attention to him. His only option was plummeting. By this time, they were sixty or seventy metres up. It was a long way to plummet.
Then there was a third birdman. He came out of nowhere. Junk only half saw him on the periphery of his vision. His movements were panicked and instinctual. The third birdman was below him. Junk snatched at the air and somehow managed to clamp on to the feathers between the birdman’s shoulders. The moment he felt something, he wrapped his arms around the birdman holding on as tightly as he could. Too tightly as it turned out. His arm snaked around the birdman’s jaw and squeezed. He heard a crack and then all life vanished from the being beneath him. In his desperation, Junk had managed to snap the birdman’s neck. He went back to plummeting. However, this time, he had a shield. Junk dug his fingers into the dead birdman’s flesh and feathers as they reached the tops of the trees. They broke through two dozen branches on the way down but the lifeless birdman took the brunt of the impact. When they reached the ground, the stop was abrupt and brutal. Junk was flung off and he spun facedown in the dusty ground, scraping the skin off one side of his face. He landed on his dislocated shoulder with such force that it popped back into its socket. This hurt even more than when it had come out.
It took Junk a moment to get his bearings. He was close to the cabin. Even though every part of his body was screaming in agony, he dragged himself to his feet and limped at speed to the cabin door. He threw himself through. Turned in time to see another birdman swooping down to grab him and kicked out at the door. It slammed shut in the swooping birdman’s path and Junk heard a sickening thud as the birdman smashed into the heavy wooden door. The impact made the whole cabin shudder.
Junk lay still, listening, feeling every part of his body complaining. Every pain receptor in him was jostling to be at the front of the queue to lodge a strongly worded complaint about their recent treatment.
Then he heard the birdman on the other side of the door groaning. He could hear the sound of its talons scrapping on the wooden porch as it pulled itself upright. He heard the didgeridoo-like cadence of its voice: IwannagetinthereIwanna riphimapartIwannagetinthereIwannariphimapartIwannagetinthereI
wannariphimapart. Suddenly, there was a second voice and then a third all saying the same thing. Junk pulled a chair over to the translucent window and looked out. More birdmen were arriving. The chorus of voices grew. Four, five, six, seven, eight…
Junk ran to the other side of the cabin. The sound of the birdmen intensified. He climbed on another chair and looked out of the back window. There were more birdmen here. They were all around the cabin. Their chanting increased. Then they started kicking at the doors and walls. The suddenness and the ferocity of their attack startled Junk and he leapt back. He hit the table, upsetting an earthenware jug. It smashed on the floor and water streamed everywhere.
Junk was terrified. It wouldn’t take them long to break in. They hadn’t yet spotted the windows or maybe they hadn’t realised that the windows were the cabin’s most vulnerable areas. It was only a matter of time. Junk sunk to the floor, pushing in under the table, and tried not to cry. His mind was full of images of what would happen to him when they got in. There was no way out. He was trapped. He would surely die. He screwed his eyes tightly shut and clamped his hands over his ears, trying to block out his senses.
But it was no good. He could still hear them. He could still feel the cabin shaking under their sustained attack. He opened his eyes and saw the water from the broken jug. It flowed freely across the smooth floor under the table to a point. To a line. To a gap where it seeped through. There was a door there. A trapdoor. All this time spent in this room and Junk didn’t know it was there. He had never seen Garvan use it.
The first window smashed and a birdman started to come through. Fortunately for Junk two more wanted to be in pole position and it meant that they got in one another’s way, giving Junk a few more valuable seconds. He was on his knees feeling the perimeter of the trapdoor. It was so flush as to be invisible. Junk worked his way around it until he was back where he started. There were no visible hinges and no handle. There was no obvious way to open it. Junk let out a pathetic little whimper. He could hear the birdmen coming through the window. The strongest of them had merely thrown his rivals out of his way. Once inside, it wouldn’t take them long to find him. He only had a few seconds left to live.
Then he found it: a small concealed flap. Again the craftsmanship was so good that it was almost imperceptible. It slid smoothly to the side revealing a handle. With no time to lose, Junk wrapped both hands around the handle and pulled. The trapdoor lifted up quietly and efficiently. He found himself looking down a set of steps cut into the rock. They led down into darkness. More birdmen were coming inside now. Junk slithered through the hole in the floor, onto the steps and pulled the trapdoor down after him.
One of the birdmen looked under the table but was a second and half too late. The birdmen were confused. They didn’t understand why no one was here. Then they quickly forgot why they were here and started fighting amongst themselves.

Junk moved cautiously down the steps keeping one hand on the wall to his right at all times. The sounds of battle from above quickly dwindled, dampened by the thick stone walls. There was no light. Total darkness but Junk continued blindly, feeling each successive step with his foot before putting his weight on it. After about a minute, though it felt longer in the dark, Junk realised light was coming up from below. Ten seconds later and the blackness all around him started to take on form. He could make out the steps and only now realised that they were curving slightly. The treads were becoming deeper towards the bottom. Another dozen steps and Junk saw an archway carved into the rock. Bright sunlight was spilling out.
He reached the bottom and stepped through the doorway. He found himself in an expansive cave at sea level. There was a fishing boat moored against a wooden jetty, bobbing gently up and down on the water that slupped in and out of the cave mouth. Junk saw the open sea and sky beyond. The walls of the cave were covered with fishing tackle, nets, sails, oars and other such paraphernalia. At last Junk had found a way off this island.
A small path led around the side walls to the mouth of the cave. The tide was rising and was starting to lap up over the path. Junk edged around to the cave entrance and stepped through.
There was an expanse of gently undulating rocks on either side of the cave mouth and Junk could walk out for several metres. He went to the water’s edge and looked around to get his bearings.
Suddenly, an enormous shadow fell over him. Junk looked up to see six birdmen flying overhead, carrying Garvan between them. Garvan wasn’t moving. He was either unconscious or dead. The birdmen all looked bloodied and beaten and Junk knew Garvan had put up a hell of a fight. He wondered for a moment where they were taking him. There was no black rock in the distance and he reckoned he was on the opposite side of the island to the birdmen’s habitat. If he was right, why were they flying in that direction? There was nothing in that direction as far as the eye could see. Just open water. A moment later, Junk had his answer as the birdmen let Garvan’s motionless body drop. Junk watched, holding his breath, as Garvan dropped and dropped and dropped some more before hitting the sea, sending up a eruption of spray that looked, just for the briefest of moments, like a shark, of all things, launching itself vertically from the ocean. Maybe it was Junk’s mind playing tricks on him. Like seeing shapes in clouds.
The birdmen circled back. Junk stepped back into the mouth of the cave to hide himself from view and they flew off, he assumed, to the black rock to nurse their wounds and wonder why they thought it had been a good idea in the first place to attack Garvan and Junk.
Junk stepped back outside and stared out into the sea to the spot where Garvan had landed. He couldn’t see him. Junk turned and looked back into the cave at Garvan’s boat.

The boat cut through the water. It was big for Junk to man alone but he knew enough about boats to pilot something twice the size. Though to use the oars meant Junk had to spread his arms as wide as possible. Every stroke caused the shoulder he had earlier dislocated and relocated to send a spear of white-hot pain through him to the base of his spine and back again, where it would then separate into a hundred individual needles of white-hot pain, which would spread rapidly out to every other part of his body. Sweat was streaming down his face as much from the pain as from the exertion of pulling back on the oars.
By the time he reached the area where Garvan had entered the sea, his head was throbbing from over-stimulation. He took a moment to catch his breath and then, with difficulty, drew the oars in. He stood. The boat was big enough that his movements had little impact on its stability. Only the gently lapping waves affected it. He turned in a circle looking for any sign of Garvan. It’s not like there was anywhere for him to hide, especially as big as he was. There was no sign of him.
“FRA-nk?” Junk called out but halfway through remembered the birdmen weren’t too far away and he didn’t want to risk attracting their attention so he turned down the volume considerably. Junk waited, watching and listening. There was nothing. The only thing he could hear was the sound of the water hitting the side of the boat. “Frank,” he said again in a barely audible voice. He knew Frank wasn’t coming back. All was still. All was quiet. He was alone.
And then suddenly Garvan shot out of the water, mouth open, a long and resounding exhalation of air issued forth and he slammed half of his upper body into the boat. His sudden appearance had startled Junk and knocked him onto his behind. Garvan didn’t move again. One hand slinked off the boat and splashed into the water. It took Junk a moment to realise all of him was going the same way. Garvan was about to slip back into the sea. Junk leapt up and threw himself at the big man. He hooked his comparatively small arms under one of Garvan’s enormous arms and tried pulling him in. It was no good. Garvan was far too large and immovable. Inexorably, gravity started to take hold and Junk could feel himself being pulled towards the water. He knew if Garvan went in, he would never be able to get him out. He only had seconds left before it would be too late.
“Help me, Frank,” he shouted through gritted teeth as he pulled at Garvan. “Wake up, you stupid great lump and help me!” But Garvan continued to slip away. Panic set in and Junk started to headbutt the side of Garvan’s head in an attempt to rouse him. Hitting Garvan’s head was similar to beating one’s head against a lump of granite that was concealing itself inside another even harder piece of granite. A welt opened up on Junk’s forehead and blood started to flow freely down his face. In moments, he couldn’t see out of his left eye as the blood started to collect there. A surge of strength rippled through him and Junk roared as he put everything he had left into pulling Garvan into the boat. Just at that moment, a wave tucked under the stern and flipped the boat up. It came down hard and the momentum caused Garvan’s dead weight to move with it and like a calf being spat out of the birth canal, Garvan and Junk slithered fully into the boat. Junk ended up lying face down on Garvan’s considerable chest, breathing heavily. After all the exertion, Junk was spent. Unconsciousness overcame him. The boat drifted.

About David

Screenwriter and Novelist.

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