Serialized Fiction: Ship Builders Part III

 

While the woman were away, Ánde worked on his boat the entire day, still ignoring the frame and focusing his energy on the tedious edgework.  The tools he used trudged over the surface with difficulty.  They were incredibly rusty and worn.

Erik eventually joined Ánde, and also worked on his boat only a few yards from him.  He was nearly done with it.  His anger had not subsided since the previous morning and he carved the wood furiously with heaving breaths.  The tools that he used were also old and well worn, which caused him extra effort and frustration.

Eventually he grunted loudly and kicked his boat.

Ánde looked over at his friend and, without paying much attention, his chisel slipped and gashed the space between his thumb and index finger.

It took a second for the red blood to rush out and for the pain to set in.

Ánde yelled vulgarly.

He held his hand tightly, but couldn’t prevent the dark blood from spilling onto the grey rocks, which then soaked quickly into the ground.

Ánde fell to his knees and curled his head and hands into his body.

Erik looked up and saw what had happened.  Throwing his tools down he rushed over.

“What’d you do?” he said.

“Ah!” Ánde protested against the pain, “I sliced it, what else do you think happened?”

Erik paused and stood wide eyed over Ánde.  “Come on, get up,” he said.

Ánde rose.  Biting his lip and squeezing his eyes shut, he tried to combat the pain he was feeling.  

Without being gentle or easy, Erik grabbed Ánde by the shoulders and walked him towards his own home.

Ánde again cried in pain.  He felt woozy and like he wanted to vomit.  The wound was so large he couldn’t even cover the whole thing with his free hand.

“Alright, you’re not dying, ease up on the yelling,” Erik said.

“Damn it Erik, not now.”

“Well, I’m just saying, you’re acting like you’re more hurt than you are.  Come on Ánde, a boat makers doesn’t let his tools slip like that…”

Erik had barely finished his thought when Ánde, in a daze of anger and pain, swung his injured hand and crunched it into Erik’s face, leaving a spray of hot blood.

Both men fell on the rocks.  Erik squirmed and grabbed his cheek.  Ánde cussed and grabbed his cut hand.  He yelled louder than before.  He was furious at Erik and even more so that he’d used his injured hand to hit him with.

“Ah fuck, Ánde,” Erik shouted while kicking his feet erratically, spraying rocks all over.

Ánde yelled some more.

“I was kidding.” Erik said hotly after he stopped kicking and looked irately at Ánde, who was now moaning and rolling about in the rocks.

 

 

* * * * *

 

After some time their anger subsided and they rested perfectly still on top of the rocks.  Erik eventually got up and calmly went to the sheets hanging from his house.  He ripped some strands that were free of the old, caked blood and used them to tie up Ánde’s bleeding hand.  He had to change the bandaging a few times, doing so every few hours as the wound refused to clot.

Ánde sat leaning against a wooden wall of his hut, void of energy, staring ahead in an almost drunken stupor.

“I’m sorry again,” Erik said after changing the bandages for a fourth time.  The right side of his face was red and turning a dark purple, he had yet to wipe away the blood splattered on him from Ánde’s hand.

“I know…” Ánde swallowed.  Sweat, grey dirt, and a streak of red blood were the only features on the surface of his white skin.

“Here,” Erik said placing in Ánde’s good hand a small figurine of a ship carved from dark wood.  “I was saving this for another day in the future.  Preferably not for you, but as neither of us seem to be celebrating anything anytime soon, I’ll just use it to make up for what I said.”

“Thank you,” Ánde said quietly.  He set his head back against the wall and closed his eyes, letting his hand explore all the details of the tiny figurine.  The intricacies and carving of the surface enticed the nerves in his fingertips as he rolled it about.  

He breathed in and out through his nose slowly.

Erik sat down beside him; the rocks made a scratching noise as he adjusted.

A misty rain was beginning to settle on the coast.  This prompted tiny, grey shelled creatures to waddle up through the rocks surrounding both men.  Their light green and gooey bodies propelled their movements in the tiny micro-rivers amongst the rocks, seeking to be washed away to a greater stream.  Neither human nor creature noticed each other.

“I’m not going to work on the boat for the rest of today,” Erik said after some time.

“Hmm,” Ánde responded with his eyes still closed.

“It’s not a good day, should never have started out on the thing anyway.”

Ánde didn’t respond.

“I’ve got a good feeling about this boat this time around.  It’s going to sail, perhaps even get me to the next sea.  I can sense it.”  Erik said.  He looked at Ánde, appearing to want to see some sort of response from him, but nonetheless was content at the man’s frozen complexion.  He continued.  “It’s getting warmer.  I mean it feels warmer this year.  We don’t have to feel so cold.  Who knows, perhaps the clouds will leave and the sun will shine.”

Ánde opened his eyes and looked across at the grey sky behind the dark silhouette of the grey mountains.

“I’m sorry, but I’m tired Erik.”

“Oh, yes, yes…I know.  Sorry.  I shouldn’t talk so much.  Here, I can help you into your bed; you should rest...”

“No, that’s alright.  I’ll just wait out here till Eva comes back to stitch me up.”

Erik, completely rid of the anger he had earlier, pushed to get up.  He coughed and spat out some phlegm onto the ground, before taking a few steps towards his hut.

“You can stay here,” Ánde said.  He closed his eyes again.

Erik didn’t respond and just stood still.

“I mean, I want you to stay Erik,” Ánde said in a whisper.

“Yes, yes…I will,” Erik responded as he sat back down.

 

* * * * *

 

It wasn’t long before both men were sleeping.  Both mirrored each other with their heads sunken onto their chests.

The women returned when twilight was almost over and the bridge to the nighttime sky had begun.  The other homes of the village were lit up brightly from their fires, both inside as well as outside.  Neither couple’s own homes were like this, and instead remained as dark as dead embers.  

Ina looked as though she wouldn’t be able to make another hundred yards.  Eva, with both arms around her, walked her to her hut.  Erik and Ánde woke to their wives’ footsteps and proceeded to their own homes as well, neither one said goodbye to each other.

Ánde was almost undressed when Eva walked in.  He still felt nauseous and was going to skip dinner.  Eva looked questioningly at him and, in response, he made a half smile as he lifted up his bandaged hand.  Blood had soaked through the strips of linen but he felt too lazy to change them.  In the morning he would have Eva stitched the wound shut, regardless of the danger in waiting.

Eva approached her husband and without saying a word grabbed his hand and gently stroked the fabric with her frail fingers.  

She kissed the bandage.  Then again.  Then again.

Lowering their hands she then kissed his cheek.

She was hungry, but got into the bed with her husband.  Their frail bodies united.  They almost felt warm with each other and breathed heavily in their embrace.

After tonight she would again go to the Cave in the morning.

 
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Jonathon Engelien

    I grew up in the valley of Central Wisconsin, in an area straddling a post-industrial world and seemingly untamed wilderness.  The harsh winters of the Upper Midwest, the liturgical display of seasons, and the economic and social decay of the region fostered my interest in survivalism and post-apocalyptic imagery. 

    I create in the framework of an idea I call Apocalyptic Nostalgia. I defined it as: The comforting and painful longing for the past and a destructive future, both as a means of understanding as well as coping with the present.  My artwork converges both the realities of nostalgic, comforting materials, with harsh, apocalyptic, and yet to happen sensibilities.  My artwork blurs the lines between fiction and reality.  It offers a setting for the viewer’s suspensions of disbelief, with the goal of intrinsic thought and meditation.  The work straddles the real and the unreal as it pretends to exist and come out of a post-apocalyptic world.

    Apocalyptic Nostalgia relates or depicts the natural world and/or human experience in it.  It is concerned deeply in paradoxes, with ideas such as survival, human endeavor, camaraderie, identity, individualism, community, vastness, intimacy, longing, rest, contentment, loss, safety, danger, hope, hopelessness, future, past, myth, reality, sacred, secular, longevity and destruction.