Shore Lunch

The safest thing, he thought, would be to affix the cords to the cable above the buried hook.  The bag might rip free if he anchored himself to it alone, but the hook would not.

He ran one of the bungee cords about his waist.  It didn’t fit him as snugly as he would have liked but it wasn’t long enough to circle him twice.  He wrapped two of the remaining cords around his thighs and looped these through the cord around his waist.  He connected all three with the last cord by running it through them all and formed a kind of carabiner with the black hooks which he affixed to the steel cable.

He breathed deeply to calm his racing heart.  The night yawned above him.  A breeze rustled the steel cable and it whispered across the pavement.  He ran his fingers over it.  A thin layer of ice encrusted it.  He drew up the slack on the cable and tugged.

A powerful tug answered his and dragged him hurdling toward the car.  He nearly fell but he kept his balance and grabbed the steel cable with both hands and pulled as hard as he could, throwing his body backwards into the effort.

A moment later he was airborne, spinning in great wide arcs, the earth falling away beneath him.  He saw the lights of bonfires in the country and far out some large town glittering.  He wheeled up, rising through that blackness forever, choking on it, screaming or trying to, the cords cutting into his thighs, his waist.

Then his ascent slowed.  The air was freezing and thin.  Arms and shoulders in agony, he clung fast to the steel cable to keep from tilting backwards and dropping out of the makeshift harness.  His breath exploded from his mouth and nostrils in jets of pale steam.

Wisps of ghost-gray cloud enveloped him.  Beads of condensation froze on his skin.  The pressure in his head was severe.  He opened his mouth and his ears popped.

He broke through the cloud cover.  His lungs felt like a vacuum.  The sky spun about him.  Something else popped and it wasn’t his ears and he felt hot liquid awash within his head.

He looked up.

An airship, outlined in lights, filled the sky–a hull-shaped fuselage lined by myriad oar-like wings undulating in tandem to keep the idle craft aloft.

The only sound was that of the wind sweeping over the immeasurable tundra of clouds below.

The ship loomed enormous as he rose toward it.  He shifted in his harness.  His legs were columns of tingling flesh.  His shoulders and arms burned.  Darkness blacker than the empty expanse of space and night encroached on his vision and he squeezed his eyes shut but it didn’t help.

His arms gave out; his hands followed.

He pitched backward in the harness and seconds later, hanging in the void, he blacked out.

*     *     *

Two leathery hands drew him over the side of the airship.  Out came a gleaming blade and cut the harness that bound him to the cable.  They cradled him tenderly.  They skinned him, flensed him, and filleted him along his backbone.  The open air found his lungs still twitching.  He was very fresh.  They cut the rest of the meat from his bones and plucked his choicest organs and tossed the rest of him back over the side of the ship.

The messenger bag was still intact, the hook still well hidden.  Gently, so as not to spook the creatures below, they lowered it back to earth.

–first printed in Midnight Echo: Issue 5. Blackmore, Leigh (ed.) Nov. 2011. Print.–

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