This story is by Shane Fitzpatrick. and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Put it down Eve! There’s no need for this!”
“You ruined our lives Kurt! You killed Jack!”
“Please put the knife on the counter. I didn’t kill him and neither did you. He was just unlucky.”
“I asked you to get checked out, but no!! You’re one selfish prick!”
“I’ll get help for you Eve, this hasn’t been easy on me either.”
“You self-absorbed asshole!”
Eve lunged at me, unsteady on her feet. I dodged her but the knife sank deeper than I imagined. Self-preservation forced me to try to knock it out of her grasp, bringing both of our hands low. It must have nicked her femoral artery as blood oozed, like a river bursting its banks. I shouted “No, No!” as her life drained out, right in front of me. Her medical training count for nought.
I ran out of hands trying to stem it. Wiping the sweat from my brow, her fresh blood dripped all over my white t-shirt. Eve died in my inocuous move of self defence.
The drunken rages, attacking me and civil unrest, would be mere details in the investigation. I had the felony record.
I found refuge at sea, battling nature and my spirit. I took a cash paying job with an oil tanker company, trying to stay anonymous. They barely looked at my ID.
We anchored outside Kangerlussuaq, in Western Greenland, waiting to unload our fuel to the nearby airport fuel tanks. We were short of upload pipe as alluvial silt from the melting Russell glacier slowed our entrance into the fjord. The silt was like quicksand and the melting ice hampered our delivery.
The repetitive quiet of shallow gentle lapping waves and the clear emerald water below was alleviating my dull headache. Running my hands through my thick brown hair and scratching the scalp was centering me, until I heard a grating voice over the radio.
The incessant gripe was from the nearby airport manager, Greg, who wanted an update about our issues with refilling the tanks. The outfield behemoths painted in flourescent colours were the ones we were there to replenish.
His voice was antagonistic, implying blame lay elsewhere than with his lack of forward planning. Our Captain, Maja, was dong her best to placate him.
Not moving felt good. I breathed in time with the waves crashing against the outside of the hull, every three seconds. It was a mantra I could relax to.
Their two tanks were bordering on running dry, due to the unscheduled stops of aircraft landing from the east coast of the USA. Hurricane Victoria was causing havoc and heading out into the Atlantic, up from the Gulf of Mexico. Diversions to a former US Naval base were a good alternative.
“What’s the latest? I have enough fuel for four more Dash 8 aircraft – not enough for an A330. I need fuel ASAP,” whined Greg.
“I understand. Like I said already, our line from the oil tanker is four kilometres long. The distance from our usual anchoring spot to your tanks used to be 2.8 kilometres, give or take a little wiggle, but now we are short. We estimate the silt has flowed out more than 1.6 kilometres since our last unload six weeks ago,” replied Maja.
“How much are you short, woman?”
“It’s Maja, and we’re at approximately three hundred and twenty metres, MAN! That could be a bit more, as we’re going on geographical instruments and purely line of sight. We’re not taking into account wind, trajectory or sea conditions.”
“Would four hundred metres get you ashore and pumping astride the runway?”
“Good. You know about the possibility of Hurricane Victoria coming our way?”
“That’s slim at best.”
“Let’s cover all the bases and pretend it’s a certainty for now, little lady. It’s 7.30pm – I will have strong men out to you at first light.”
I listened with impending doom, ignoring the sexist ignorance. Not getting the fuel ashore kept me onboard.
I had access to the fuel-line. Getting it attached meant I faced the music on dry land. I wiped a tear away, which fell into the water below. Everything changed when Jack died.
We made headway the following morning, bashing through sixty metres of silt in three hours, tossing it aside. The pipe needed to be below the water line in order to keep the fuelline warmer than the air above.
I accidentally left the door open to the upload pipe hold. I went to close it but realised that when you spat, your saliva froze mid air before it hit the ground.
I overheard Maja questioning the company decision for us to head southwest to Newfoundland, after our dropoff. We would be heading directly toward Hurricane Victoria. All I heard repeated was “it was within limits” of the ship.
Sleeping that night was impossible. The silence was disconcerting. Everytime I closed my eyes, I saw Eve in happier times. Then Jack was born and the medical experts told us that the meiosis in the cell production came from the sperm.
He lived for eight hours. Eve had asked me to get checked before we tried getting pregnant, but I didn’t. I rubbed my scalp again, eager for reassurance. Chromosomal deformity they called it.
I walked out on deck to smoke and breathe the warm air onto my hands. The emanating vapour froze as it was expelled.
The sound of a snoring crew was punctuated by a murmur of grinding, like a bad gear shift. The runway lights flickered to life from across the bay. It was 2.32am.
A splutter, louder than the last.
Searching the sky illuminated by bright moonlight, a glint of silver fuselage shined. Smoke emanating from the left engine. Dumping fuel from the right engine on approach, banking hard to nearly forty five degrees, lining up to land.
Aviation fuel dropped on the length of the fjord from the mouth right up to the runway.
The smell of fuel assaulted my nasal senses before it passed overhead. The plane struggled for control as the right wheels of the aircraft bounced and lilted to the left before all wheels came together on the tarmac. Fire engines came with blaring sirens.
The cigarette fell out of my mouth. Hoses doused the engines with foam as passengers floundered down grey slides from cabin doors. The screams and panic chilled me, despite the cold. Buses arrived, bringing the terrified souls into the terminal.
The radio crackled. I answered as the night watch was absent from the brig.
“Maja! Are you there? Maja? Please answer!”
“Hi Greg – this is Kurt onboard the Runaway Dream – I just saw that aircraft land. Is everything okay?”
“No, it’s not! Those passengers are mostly fine but that’s not the reason I’m onto you. Where’s Maja? I need her! Have any of you seen the latest weather reports?”
“Hurricane Victoria is on our doorstep in less than four hours. 6am is the guesstimation. Our town has an emergency plan in place, but now we’ve got more people in it than we can accommodate. We’ve only got one big bunker and we’re well over that capacity. I need fuel – now!”
“I’ll get Maja for you Greg.”
Maja and Greg went back and forth over the radio for twenty minutes. Maja spoke clearly, keeping Greg calm. The town was tiny with a large runway. Their population rarely went above 500 and their mountain bunker could accommodate 650. The three hotels were little more than red brick exteriors with wooden interiors. Twigs in the wind.
I tried to earwig on their conversation until Maja closed the door to the brig. Through the glass, I saw her turn toward me and nod to Greg in the affirmative.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention. Maja came out and addressed the crew of the Runaway Dream. Her soothing voice reminded me of Eve on a busy night in the ER. Calmness under fire.
“Okay guys, the airport needs fuel. Hurricane Victoria is coming. We’re going to try something unorthodox. It’s been done before and it will work. We’re going to light the fuel dumped by that aircraft an hour ago as it’s sitting atop the water. It will warm and loosen the silt. We’re going to ram it, creating a new channel. The airport need fuel to get an inbound aircraft out with all those affected passengers. The town can’t cope with the overflow. We’ll probably run aground, with minimal damage to the ship. If we can get fuel ashore, the aircraft gets all the extra passengers out and then we can join all the townspeople in the bunker. We’ll have beer in hand on dry land before you know it.”
The crew muttered about the potential impact while I ran the implications in my head. Maja held my stare.
“Kurt? Can I have a word? In my office?”
I wasn’t going onshore.
Eve’s knife was in my pocket.