Another Michael Wombat story here, and the opening of this one combines both of his greatest literary loves: really weird piratical vessels, and (made up) words that make polite company wince.
Under an impossibly azure sky, the cutter Jack’s Bitch sailed at a steady ten knots, her single mast fore-and-aft rigged, her two headsails swollen by a foehn wind, thrusting her way across the fast sand that layered the scorched desert of the Wastelands. The only sounds were the hiss-tick of the wide wheels, fitted to enable the vessel to sail oceans of sand as well as those of water, and the occasional shout from the crew.
The desert wind was hot and dry. It curled my hair beneath the sweat-stained old baseball cap that sat uncomfortably over my antlers; it tugged at the white square of cloth that covered the back of my neck; it made my nerves jump and my skin itch. Its constancy nagged like an unsatisfied lover. It could not possibly get what it wanted, this wind, but it incessantly worked at my skin, trying to make me … different; trying to erode that which makes me Ghabrie. It whistled through the rigging, modulated, singing without melody. It reminded me that no matter how many friends I might have, or how many people love me, in the end I will die alone. Some things we must do alone. Dying is one of them. The desert wind whispered that truth in my ear even as it grazed my cheek.
To starboard the beautiful Shadow Mountain shimmered into the blue, forming a barrier to more temperate country beyond. Wisps of cloud on the high ridges betrayed the strong katabatic winds that raged high above the vessel. As Jack’s Bitch drew abreast of a rocky promontory that provided refuge for a swarm of wolf spiders, the captain beside me bellowed orders. Crew scrambled to lower the sails. The cutter glided to a stop. Silence, save for the song of the wind and the creaking and ticking of the wooden hull under a burning sun. I adjusted my irises as I gazed out across the sunbright ripples of sand.
“Bloody hell, Jack,” I growled. “There’s nothing here. I swear if you’re double crossing me your entrails will soon be your extrails.” I had heard that threat once in an old movie that Alphaeus had shown us, back in the shipping yard, and had been waiting a long time for an opportunity to use it.
This is one of the very few stories to use Ghabrie as a viewpoint character, and I believe the only one at all to use first person while doing so. I have to be honest, I found that closeness a bit off-putting and would have preferred to keep a certain amount of mystery to Ghabrie’s inner voice. Everything else about this story was wonderful, mind you, so feel free to ignore my misgivings about voice choice.
Items of note in this story: Ghabrie saves some kids (Huzzah), and we see the reappearance of the skystone from the end of my story (Aha!) that Wombat asked me to put in. Also, explosions, radioactivity, and the breaking down of doors and such with mighty kicks. This is an action-packed kind of story.
The book is available at Lulu.com in paperback and e-book formats. It is also available at Barnes and Noble as paperback and for the Nook, and at Amazon (paperback) and Amazon (kindle). All proceeds go to Water is Life, so you should buy it. Also, it is a very good book so you should buy it.
The Summer Indie Book Awards are now finished, by the way, and we came in 2nd (WooHoo). I guess that means I still can’t refer to myself as an “Award Winning Author”, but I might start using “Award Nominated Author” and see if it catches on.