With groans and grumbles, Jana and Misham began to wake up. I hurried over to untie them.

“You alright?” Misham called, as I cut his restraints.

“I’m good,” Jana and I replied in unison. I turned back; we shared an awkward glance.

Jana wiggled herself upright. “Good thinking from our friend here. They stopped us from going overboard.”

“Were we really…?” Misham took my knife to free his ankles.

“Yeah,” I said. “Those blue lights got me too, but it wasn’t as bad as you two. What was that about, anyways?”

“Damned if I know,” said Jana. “Mish, pass me the knife?”

“Oh, I got it.” I passed it to her, leaving Misham to massage the sores and bruises on his joints.

We were free from those strange blue lights, but they had done their damage. We had lost three travelers to the waters. Three companions, three friends, three lives each as full as the rest of ours. From the rest of the night until morning we rode the alien winds in silence.

As for me, I and the other travelers sharing our boat grew close in our mourning. It was as though we realized how easily we could lose each other, and had thus begun to explore our comradeship beyond our common goal.

Jana and Misham, as it turned out, had already been close friends since beginning the journey. Both were born of uncommon mind, and both had been shunned for it; only in each other had they found much acceptance. As it turned out, I had much in common with them. I, too, struggled to understand the ways other people acted, struggled to keep up with my senses and the words and motions I could not help repeat. Just like them, my mind also often ran wild and out of my control, keeping me awake in the night and restless in the day with overlapping thoughts.

We did not sleep. Instead we talked until the morning, freely laying out our lives for each other to see. In truth, I had never known this kind of closeness with other people until now. It was… wonderful.

Even though we had known each other for scarcely two weeks, Jana and Misham let me in as readily as I found myself desperate to be their friend. So it was that when the sun broke the blue dawn with crimson light, it felt as though we could never be separated again, as though we had become a family of our own choosing.

“Oh my gods. They’re right!” Misham laughed, pulling against our boat’s rigging to catch the passing wind. “You would, Jana. You… lazy little creature.”

Jana, who as usual laid back and let Misham and I do all the work, scoffed.

“It’s comfortable here… You really can’t blame me. I think if it sank slowly enough, I wouldn’t even bother to get up and save our boat.”

“That’s what I’m saying!” I exclaimed, momentarily distracted by a school of hard-shelled fish passing beneath our hull. “You don’t do anything unless you absolutely have to.”

“Nope,” Jana said, absently staring up at the clouds. “Nuh-uh.”

“‘Nuh-uh?’ The hell you mean ‘nuh-uh?’”

“Don’t even try,” Misham cut in. “She’s just like this.”

Jana chuckled, then turned to me.

“Hey, can you get me a ration pack? Frosted strawberry flavour, please.”

Misham looked at me expectantly. Groaning with equal parts exasperation and exhaustion, I began sifting through our supply bags.


End of chapter one