Hello, hello, and hello once more! We are yet again into another offering of Left of Midnight! My latest novel that will be available for purchase sometime in 2021. However, is now available to you, faithful reader, for free right now. And I hope when all is said and done, if you like this of course, you’ll go ahead and purchase it on my personal author’s site and support the cause! I can use all of the assistance I can get! One of these days, I’ll be professional enough to have a personally built website that will be phenomenal and exceptional and will be the subject of much literary lore. However, in the interim, we’ll just have to make due with what we’ve got.
In that spirit, let’s just get right into it, shall we?
SHŌTŌ WATCHED THE American waving haphazardly towards him as he meandered off towards the lake. He wasn’t sure exactly what the man had been saying to him but at one point his finger extend in the direction of the volcano to the north. He couldn’t quite say why that set his hairs on end, but a sudden urge to warn him against that direction cause him to lean forward and blurt out, “No! We have to stay here! Where ever it is you expect to go, we have to stay here!”
Of course, maybe he was hallucinating what exactly the pilot had been saying. After all, he’d awoken to the man hovering over him chewing on something looking as if he were about to open his mouth and spit whatever concoction it was into it. Then feeling foolish when it turned out he’d just been eating his own food and was serving him up what he’d just cooked for breakfast. To his surprise, it’d actually been pretty good. Though, Shōtō was certain while he was sick and out of his mind, the man had been offering up absolute grotesquery. And now that man was going off to the lake.
After a moment, Shōtō stood up and went around the edge of the alcove to see exactly what the American was up to. He was relieved to discover he was merely bathing using the makeshift soaps he himself had figure out how to craft from the various barks and muds along the delta to the west.
Shōtō sighed and made his way back to the campsite to sit back down. The nightmare from earlier was gone. He couldn’t even remember exactly what it had been. Only that something dark and sinister was rising up in his soul.
No, that’s nonsense. It’s just a nightmare. Shōtō looked around and starting making shapes in the dirt at his feet with a stick he hadn’t realized he’d picked up. He stared off into the unknown distance and felt a heavy sweat picking up across his skin. He was both roasting hot and unnaturally cold. Did I understand him for a moment? I thought he was speaking Nihongo for a second there. Like he was saying we have to head north. That he knew I’d thanked him for his generosity. But… that had to have been my imagination. No, he was just caring for me and happy I finally awoke. That’s all.
Shōtō remained where he was for a long time after.
THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER
THE RINGED RIVER RAVINE
AVERY STOOD ATOP the gully edge staring down into the grand chasm that had played home to himself and the Japanese pilot for the last several weeks. If he had to guess, it was somewhere in June. Though he couldn’t be completely sure given how much time he’d spent in a near demented state. Had it not been for his run in with the pilot, he might still be running around down in that gorge like some Neanderthal looking for a mate. He hadn’t realized just how much he’d missed human companionship. Even if the human in question was his archnemesis. But the man seemed kind enough, if not a little aloof.
He was feeling so much more like himself that he’d even gone back to naming things he’d found just to be giving his mind something to focus on. For instance, the great chasm he’d taken to calling ‘The Ringed River Ravine’. He knew that the chasm was more of a sunken pit that a ravine or a gorge or a canyon, gully, or valley (in truth, he really didn’t know what to call the crazy geographical phenomenon) but Ringed River Ravine just sounded cool in his head. Much better than ‘The Pit’.
His hands formed relaxed fists and he braced them on his hips as he stared down into the great expanse of the ravine. Several of the strange and colorful birds (cockcaws, he liked to call them, as they were very similar to the cockatiels and macaws; most having blue and green feathers with tufts of feathers atop their heads that tended to be purple or magenta) flew from tree to tree. They didn’t tend to flock together in large groups, so they tree hopped in sporadic displays of bright fluttering plumage. Several mewling calls rang out and he recognized them as the Panzer Cat (of which he bequeathed them the title due to the fact the animals were armored on their bellies with fleshy skin that was hard yet strangely flexible; they still had catlike facial features and claws, but were muscular with white green fur all across their hides and wispy tails). The only reason he knew what a Panzer was, was due to all the talk at one barracks he was stationed at about German war machines over in Europe being top of the line and armored to the teeth. However, those cats were rather skittish so he stopped bothering with hunting them.
Avery sighed. He could just make out the campsite from this position and could see the Japanese pilot at the lake’s edge looking like he was bowling water into their one pot (a cooking instrument he’d discovered that the man had forged out of some of his plane’s siding; he was impressed with the man’s ingenuity, and surprised at how clever he could be). Now, he was looking for somewhere to call a new camp. Though the lake was very easy to access where they were now, he didn’t like being exposed to the storms that frequently blew through. He thought he found one good place just up the pathway leading up a tunnel through the cliffside coming out on top of the chasm overlook.
He twisted to his side and looked behind him. The terrain he was standing on flowed down into a subtle decline and deeper into another thick forest of tropical vegetation. The landscape from here turned into a carpet of green forest canopy running all the way towards the great volcano rising up into the hazy sky some distance away.
Maybe five, six miles… if that, Avery wagered eying the geography of the northern point of the island. Where they were was roughly halfway into the island interior. From this perspective, he could see both the western and eastern seas of the South Pacific Ocean. They were miles away in both directions. Maybe three to four, he imagined. With how dense the jungles on the island were, he figured it would take nearly two weeks to reach the volcano. And he was okay with that. But first, he needed a good, solid headquarters to gather materials up within first. Supplies that would get him and, providing the pilot would cooperate, his new ally all the way to the base of that mountainous feature and back comfortably. Of course, he would have to start getting more proactive in his survival capabilities. So far, he’d been relying on pure luck and his good combat blade. Now, though, he’d have to start fashioning instruments that would help him and the pilot survive long enough to be rescued. If any rescue were to ever come, that was.
He turned his view back down the clear pathway along the ravine cliff edge. There was a stone walkway towards the decline leading back down into the ravine itself. The decline looked like a hole blasted into the earth at an angle. Like a rifle had been pointed from the heavens and shot through the cliffside top and downward until it exited into the very bottommost plateau at the base of the ringed river. There, the bullet would have ricocheted upwards and into the opposite side of the earth. The direction in which the pilot had entered the chasm to begin with. He hadn’t even noticed the two tunnels until after meeting the pilot for the first time.
Pffft. Meeting. You mean when you first tried to kill him. Avery shook his head. Details, Ave, details. Right now, we’ve got to have a better survival plan than just hanging out by the lakeside.
Thoughts of mythical gods shooting into the earth for the fun of it aside, there was a task he’d come up here to perform. Mere curiosity and the need for topside air had driven him to walk the distance to the cliffside to look down into the ravine. Now that he was comforted by the sight of the three waterfalls and the lake at the center where the Japanese man was heading back to the camp to make whatever it was he was going to make for lunch, and could take in the fresh water smell of the river swirling around the ringed forest within, he could focus on the task at hand.
Avery turned from the view and walked back to the decline that lead deep into the earth. He traipsed down the sometimes steep decline until he came to an offshoot tunnel leading off to his right. He reached for the wooden staff tucked through his belt on his right hip and pulled it free. At the end of the staff were some dry vines and mosses. He pulled from a dry sack at his left side (made from what was left of his tattered shirt) a flint and wooden cup full of a lard like substance. He knelt down on his left knee and ran the head of the staff into the substance and then placed the little bowl back in the bag. Then laid the staff on the rough stone of the cavern floor. He ran the flint several times across the surface until a spark ignited the head of the staff. He picked up the new torch and replaced the flint then headed into the offshoot. He’d seen it there before in his brief investigations, but this was the first time he’d taken a concerted effort to explore the area.
Avery entered a long tunnel. It was pitch black at its end as he moved hesitantly deeper into its confines. The light from the surface and from the ravine below at both ends of the decline pathway were becoming more diffuse the further back he went. He found he could stand to his full height within this cavern, but the width was still minimal with his elbows nearly touching both walls from either side of him as he moved forward.
Nearly ten minutes passed before he came out into an opening. Here, the cavern was ten feet high with a breadth of nearly twelve. The light of his torch showed that the cave here was nearly flat on the floor with a domed ceiling covering curved walls reaching back towards what appeared to be another offshoot leading up and to the right.
“Oh, I swear, if that leads towards another lake of gleels, I’m going to lose my shit…”
Avery walked towards the offshoot and looked up its incline. It dead-ended into a wall of stone some seven feet further in. In essence, just an alcove leading nowhere.
“Could be a storage area… if I flatten the incline out some,” Avery nodded to himself.
Satisfied with what he suspected to be within the cavern depths, Avery made his way back out to the decline and down towards the campsite where his fellow castaway was eating his own lunch. He paused by the exit of the tunnel leading out towards the slab of stone hanging over the river’s edge. Beside the tunnel exit, he’d piled up a small hill of sand of detritus with the intent of shoving his torch into it to put it out. He did this now and was satisfied by the hiss it made as the fire went out.
Okay, good. That fish blubber actually worked the way I hoped. Avery sighed and left the torch where it was sunk head down into the dirt and made his way over to a makeshift raft he’d left tied up around a series of stones he’d placed at the side of the river. To his relief, it hadn’t come loose. This in spite of the fact the only rope he really had was what he’d fashioned out of his remnant parachute and leftover shirt. He frowned. The two of them were fast running out of clothing the longer they remained on that island.
I wonder if I can learn to sew us some real clothes? He considered as he cast off and used a wooden paddle (he was really trying not to kid himself as the ‘paddle’ was little more than a slab of thick bark tied across a large branch fallen from a tree) to push off from the rise of stone hovering a foot over the river surface and steadily pushed himself back over to the ring of land at the center of the ravine. The makeshift boat (several buoyant slabs of driftwood strung together by vine) floated lazily to his left as he swooshed harder towards the shoreline across the way.
The plan is coming together, Ave. It’s really coming together. I think my new friend will be quite surprised.
SHŌTŌ SHOOK HIS head as quickly and fervently as he could. He wasn’t entirely certain what the man was gesturing towards, but he got the distinct impression the American wanted to leave the valley and head north. And that was something he was not prepared to do. He waved his hands in the air hoping that the ‘no’ was miming was coming across quite clearly. He felt maybe it had as the American’s hand that had been pointed up towards the cliffside slowly fell to his side and the smile on his face diminished.
The pilot frowned and crossed his arms. He stood for a moment staring at Shōtō for a long moment before seeming to try again. He made exaggerated movements that irked him to no end. The man obviously thought he didn’t understand what he was getting at.
But, what if I’m wrong? What if he’s not wanting to leave but merely show me something he’s found? Shōtō frowned watching the man take several steps back and thrusting both hands, index fingers pointed out and behind him, towards the far cliffside. An area he thought was where he’d originally come down into the chasm some weeks before. If that were so, he was worried that the man had finally found the tunnel leading up and towards the north across form his original pathway downward towards the ringed river and its central lake.
Shōtō shook his head vehemently once more and the American gave a gasp of frustration then tossed his hands forward, palms towards him, in a gesture that he took meant ‘forget it.’ If that were the case, then he was more than happy to do the such.
He went back to his seat and sat down to work on sewing some vines together. He’d been trying to figure out how to use the materials at hand to make something resembling clothing. There wasn’t much to work with. His garnering kit had been destroyed in the crash and sticks made for poor needles. But he was making some progress on what he hoped would turn out to be a decent enough shirt. At least decent enough to add extra protection against the constant storms that liked to blow through.
The pilot watched him for several moments and then walked away. Shōtō glanced up at his back as he placed his palms on his hips and stared out at the lake beyond the alcove.
Just let it go, whoever you are. We don’t need that kind of trouble.
AVERY WAS GETTING nowhere with the pilot. So, he decided to take the time to build up the new shelter himself. Maybe in time he’d be able to convince the stubborn bastard to follow him up to the place and show him around. But he knew it wasn’t going to be easy. And it wasn’t going to be quick. However, he knew that he could get it done himself if he had to. Eventually, the Japanese pilot would have to give in and agree to follow him. And then the trick would be seeing if he’d come with him to that volcano. However long that would take.
The weeks went by as he worked on fashioning the building materials he would need to convert the cavernous interior into a livable space. He filed down rocks to become spades, hammers, and chisels. Carved large slabs of wood into doors, walls, and furniture. Converted narrow twigs and stones into nails to hold the wooden surfaces together. Created wall mounted torches that could be changed out after they were completely used up. Even developed a basic toilet (something he’d been missing since crashing on the island; he was getting real tired of relieving himself in the woods).
And when the task was done, he found that he was immensely satisfied with his work.
“Yeah. You’re not the only one who’s creative, Mr. Grunt.”
He stood inside the newly built home and rest his fists on his hips feeling accomplished. Then, he went about cleaning up his tools and placing them in a storage compartment he’d built within the alcove leading slightly upwards. In there, he’d made a flat floor that stood about a foot off the actually ground and sloped inward towards the incline of the alcove floor. It made for a decent enough closet. And he closed the wooden door to it then made his way back out towards where the Japanese pilot had been living the last little while. He’d only slept inside the new shelter a few times since he started his project but the man never left the lakeside. Now, he figured it was time to put his charisma on full display. He hoped anyway.
Once more we reach the end of our weekly reading! I hope you had fun and I also hope you’ll be back next week for some more Left of Midnight. Stay tuned, and know that I appreciate your support! I think by now I might have some options up here for any who care to donate to go ahead and drop a buck or two here and there and see to it that I’m able to continue delivering to you these works of fiction! At least, I hope we’re at that point. Sometimes, I feel like I’m just pissing in the wind, holding on to an electric fence, and making myself wet and electrocuted. But, that’s life, right?
See you all next week!
~Timothy S Purvis
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