Part III – Saudade
“All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves.”
There were lakes now where none existed before. A large expanse of water covered what was previously desolated woodland. None of them knew the trees were there. You couldn't see far enough in the gloom, but now it was clear. Like an army of forlorn soldiers the tall pine trees marched across the horizon, their feet in the water.
That was not the most remarkable thing, nor was the fact that you could see the ocean, the waves crashing into a shore that were hidden some way off and below. But the most incredible thing, you might look at it and declare a miracle – the sun was rising over the hills behind the house, the sun!
Nobody had ever seen the sun before. The boys walked out onto the deck at the back of the building, from here you could see the open landscape that finished at a jagged ridge in the distance. The sky was clear and blue, the sun was a round yellow ball, its rays touched the earth and sparkled off the water of the newly formed lake.
Droplets of water glistened as they fell from the roof onto the deck, they reminded Joel of a Christmas a long time ago. Their twinkling reflection was like the tiny lights that blinked on the tree. But this was so much bigger, it was as if the whole world had been washed clean and was shining brightly.
“It’s beautiful,” Jack spoke quietly, staring at everything.
Mark gripped Joel's hand. He squeezed it as he looked up at him.
Joel smiled, “It's fucking perfect. I can't believe it.”
After some time staring and taking in everything they could see around them, Joel broke the trance. “We need to go look for Kado, my mom and Charlie.”
“It looks like we survived,” his uncle had joined them on the deck.
“And the building is pretty much undamaged,” Joseph added.
Turning to his uncle, Joel looked concerned. “How are we going to find them, my mom and Charlie?”
“Don't worry, first things first. Joseph and I need to check the power reserves and see what's working. All vehicles have a tracker. If the GPS is working... I am sure it is working, but if we can access it, and that really should be easy, so long as we have some power, we can get their location.
“What about Mount Columbus?” Mark asked, anxious about his brother.
“We'll see about that as well, see if we can communicate.”
They were battered and bruised, the car was at an odd angle, it was dead, no emergency lighting, nothing. They were cocooned inside a black ball and she wondered how they would get out. Charlie was okay, but unusually silent. At least they had survived.
“There's a manual lever to open the door,” Kado's voice came out of the darkness.
“Can you get us out?”
“That's it,” he was thinking aloud, he ignored her question.
If he could budge the lever he would be able to start rotating it and open the door. It moved slightly. He had a firm grip, he shifted to get his weight behind the thing.
“Yes!” He exclaimed with some satisfaction as he started to turn it.
Slowly against a sort of background metallic grinding sound the door of the vehicle began to open, light entered, illuminating the inside with an arc of daylight.
It took ages to move the door manually, then when it was little more than a foot or so open it stopped. Impossible to turn the lever, it was locked solid.
“We're trapped, the thing won't shift. There's gotta be something outside blocking it.”
“You sure you can't move It?”
Kado sat back, thinking for a moment. “Hey kiddo,” he could see Charlie squeezed up next to his mom. “Can you get through there?”
“You're not sending him outside alone.”
“Look, if he can get through the gap, we at least get to know what's blocking us in. What else do you want to do? Sit here forever?”
He didn't think the kid would be much help, but he still wanted to do something, and it was the only way forward. Nobody was going to show up and rescue them.
Eve wondered about the devastation they had left behind, thought about whether anyone would still be alive down there. They were heading for a new life in the stars, but she couldn't help the feeling of loss that invaded her emotions. She was relieved they made it, all together, but even with the planet in the state it was she still missed it.
“That's it then,” Evan remarked.
“No going back, even if anything is left to go back to,” Andre replied.
“I kind of miss it already,” Mark added.
“Don't be nostalgic for what's already ruined and gone,” Howard joined the conversation.
“Anybody who's anybody will be on the mothership. No point feeling melancholic over a dead planet.”
“That's right people,” Emret added. “New life with all the best people.”
Eve didn't reply, she just remembered those neon billboards back in the city, “Join us for a new dawn... life has never been this good...” She wondered had they made the right choice?
When Grif woke, it was dark and cold, there was only the faintest glow from some kind of emergency lighting. He looked across at Steve who was still sleeping. Gingerly he manoeuvred his legs around and over the side of the trolley. He really needed to be able to stand and walk out of here. Holding the side of the thin mattress he lowered his feet to the floor and stood up. He took a couple of steps, still with his hands leaning on the trolley. Finally, he stood up. It was okay, he didn't feel super strong, but he had his balance.
Slowly he walked around the two trolleys, ready to break his fall with his arms outstretched, should his balance falter, but it didn't. He managed.
Shaking the boy next to him gently, he whispered, “Steve, wakey, wakey,” and waited.
The boy stirred and opened his eyes. “That was some dream,” were the first words he spoke. Then seeing Grif standing by his trolley he almost shouted, “You're up!”
“Yeah, well of course I am.”
“No, I mean you’re standing, walking, out of bed.”
“Ah ha, I haven't forgotten how to do that,” Grif smiled in the gloom.
“How you feel?”
“I'll make it.”
Steve sat up and peered into the darkness.
“It's hard to see anything in this place, wasn't like that before was it?”
“No, I guess we’ve lost all power. I think we need to get out of here.”
“We've got backup power for forty-eight hours approximately and Joseph is setting up the solar bank.” The professor was very cheerful, if somewhat preoccupied.
“The solar bank?” Joel was intrigued, he hadn't heard about this.
“Yes. Something we prepared, for after we recovered control of the rainfall, it will serve us now. The panels will generate enough electricity to keep us going during the day and recharge the batteries for the night.”
“So we'll be okay?” Jack was standing beside Joel, and equally keen to know what was going on.
“If it stays like this, blue skies and sunshine.”
Mark was much more concerned about his brother, “So can we communicate with Mount Columbus?”
“No, I’m sorry, we tried. It's likely they lost communications or power, or both.”
That was not what he wanted to hear.
“Could we go there, to find out?” Joel asked.
“Yes, I think you should and on the way you can find your mother. Here are the coordinates of their vehicle.”
His uncle handed Joel a scribbled note.
“There is a car charged up in the basement garage. It will get you to their vehicle and Mount Columbus. Plus get you back here. You can communicate, but try to keep everything on minimum to conserve power. If they don't have power when you get to Mount Columbus, then you will only have the vehicle charge, which is the limit, there and back.”
“That's great, thanks.” Joel appreciated how very well organised his uncle was. He turned and smiled at the other two boys. “Get your stuff together, whatever you think we might need, and let’s get going.”
“There's a medi-kit and tools in the car. Try to get back as soon as you can, we'll need your help around here.”
Grif found his strength was coming back, he could walk. Occasionally he wobbled, which a couple of times made Steve reach out to grab hold of him, but they made it to the outside.
“Wow, what an amazing view!” Steve was stunned, it was hard to take it all in.
“I never thought this place could be so beautiful,” Grif was equally in awe.
They were halfway up a mountain, well maybe not exactly halfway, but high enough to have a magnificent view point. Forest stretched away into the distance, tall pine trees, although there was a distinct strip that had been crushed. Like skittles knocked over in a domino effect, a great swathe of fallen trees drew a line down the mountain. There was the sound of water rushing across the mountain side, and the whole scene sparkled as if it had been sprinkled with glitter. The most amazing thing of all was the darkness had been replaced by sunlight.
“I don’t believe it!” Steve exclaimed.
“You can see the sun.”
Grif lifted his head, eyelids half closed, towards the sun.
“Oh man, you can feel it’s heat.”
They stood some time looking, feeling, taking in the changes.
“Do you think it will stay like this?” Steve looked hopeful.
“I got no idea, but I sure hope so... It’s like a dream.”
The door was open just enough for Charlie to squeeze halfway through, he couldn't go completely out because the car was virtually smooth and there was nothing to hold onto. Besides, if he slid through and off the body of the vehicle he'd be in the water, and who knew how deep that was. He could climb onto the tree, but he didn't see the use in that.
“So what do you see kiddo?” Kado asked him.
“There’s a tree blocking the door with its branches and we're in the middle of a lake.”
“Don't joke kid, this is serious.”
“I’m not joking, we are in a lake.”
“No, that ain’t possible,” Kado was getting annoyed, but he decided to change tack. “Can you move the tree?”
“No way! You think I got super powers. That tree is ginormous.”
“What about the branches?”
“They're big too.”
“Yeah they’re big, but can you move them off the door.”
Well that’s pretty definite, Kado wondered what the hell they could do now.
“Maybe if we try rocking this thing.”
“Darling come back inside,” Charlie's mom told him.
When he was back in the car she asked him to explain things again. It seemed a tree was lying over the car, or they were wedged against a tree and the branches were thick and stopping the door from opening. They were also in the middle of water.
“And another thing,” Charlie continued his explanation.
“What?” Kado asked.
“I saw the sun... It’s light and I saw the sun.”
Kado moved to take Charlie's place by the door and he tried to exert his not inconsiderable force on the thing, but it didn't budge.
“I guess we’’re stuck,” he finally had to admit.
“Maybe someone will find us.”
“You don’t seriously think that do you? Look the only thing we can do is send the kid to get help.”
“No way, I can't swim.”
They were at an impasse. Kado sat back down to think.