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May 16, 2012 / Daniel

The Rim

[1123 words, rated PG]

Corey kept his hands in his pockets and made long uncomfortable strides up the slope.

Merriene was there, just on the peak of the downslope, sitting with legs crossed, leaning back onto her elbows, watching the sun set over the giant wall on the horizon. Beyond that, the people that shut out the rest of the world.

In the near distance, the ocean lapped the gray shoreline, churning the silty black mud at the edge of an expanse of gray beach. It separated Marriene and Corey from the water, a swath of gray powder that filled a bedrock trench; the earth on which no one steps: The Rim.

“It looks heavy.” A slight breeze flipped Corey’s hair around.

“It was.” Merriene wiped tears from her cheeks. “As heavy as stupid,” she whispered.

Down the frontside of the slope, at the edge of The Rim was a coiled bundle of iron bars, boards, pipes, and axehandles, all arranged in long parallel and lashed together. Steven and Harry leaned on the coil catching their breath; it was a massive load to get up the slope and then down again to the edge.

“I think this’ll work.”

“It won’t.”

Steven and Harry set about selecting rocks just heavy enough and grippable, making four knee-high piles.

Corey leaned down, picked up a rock. He weighed it in his hand, rolled it around for the best hold, pulled back and threw it in a long arc toard the powder.

It landed in a puff, shaping an oblong crater into the stuff.

The powder rushed in on the rock and covered it in a seething, churning, heap. It gobbled around the object in a mound of surging fury. The sound of it was a high-pitched fuzz; like glass shards and razor blades sliding down charkboard. Momentarily, the mound settled and smoothed back into the rest of itself, leaving no visible trace of the rock.

Merriene buried her face into her knees and sobbed loudly.

Corey stooped and put his arm around her shoulders.

She shrugged him off.

Behind them, a clanking, dragging figure started up the slope at them.

Stire’s thin but muscular frame was not visible beheath the costume of gear and assortment of load he was carrying. At the peak, he towered over them wearing boots that looked like they were banged together that afternoon; leathers up to the knee and laced tight, soles made from a dozen or more layers of hammered metal, cupped one into the other. He dropped his stuff in a heap. From his shoulder he dropped a pole and a pair of stilts which were fitted with layed metal feet, just like his boots.


Stire sat down between Corey and Merriene. “I didn’t think you’d come.”

“I came to stop you,” said Corey.

“No you didn’t. You came to hope I’d not try it.”

“Yeah, that too.”

“Sorry, Corey. I can’t anymore. And if we don’t try, if someone doesn’t try, then none of us will ever know.”

“Don’t do it.” said Merriene. “Just don’t.”

Stire put his arms around her.

She shrugged him off, “You look ridiculous.”

The wind blew and the sun slowly sank.

“Alright,” he finally said, “I’m going to need help.”

The three picked up his gear and walked down to the edge where Steven and Harry waiting with the coil.

Stire slung packs over his shoulders, around his neck. He cinched up buckles and checked his boots. He laid the stilts out side by side and stood between them, near the foot holds. They lifted him up with the stilts and steadied him. His practice showed, taking small steps to balance, he was set.

“Ready with that red carpet, boys? Let’s go!”

On his signal, Corey and Merriene started throwing rocks into the powder in two lines. The powder rushed toward the stones, moving away from the middle and leaving an open space on the bedrock below.

Steven and Harry shoved the coil and it began to unroll itself into the open path on the bedrock, as far as it could unroll. They joined in throwing rocks on either side of the path, keeping the powder occupied.

“ARRGGWHARGGG!!!” Stire screamed and charged out onto the trail in gigantic stilt strides. The path held, and the four on shore threw rocks as fast and as far as they could to keep the path open as far out into the powder as they were able.

Stire’s strides soon outran the coil and he was starting to stride directly into the powder. The podwer was clumping around the metal layers at his stilt feet, but was having a hard time disolving though the metal layers. He was able to make a dozen strides or more past Harry’s best throws and he laughed.

Once the powder clumps got past the metal feet, the stilts disolved quickly. Each stride was taken much closer to ground level than the last, the stilts had done about all they were able. He tried to go faster.

From his back, he pulled out the pole and planted it several feet ahead of him, using the last of his speed to vault himself up and forward. At the top of the arc, he could already feel the pole shortening; the powder appetite was voracious.

He landed right in the stuff, feet first, boots first, at least. The depth of the powder was suprisingly shallow this close to the water, but no less dangerous. Without slowing, he broke into a run, leftright, leftright, don’t stop, don’t stop, get to the surf, get to the surf, get to the surf.

Almost there, his boots were getting shorter and shorter with each pounding of powder, the stuff dissolving the layer after layer off his gear.

From his back, he pulled out the raft pack, threw it at the water, and pulled the inflator mechansim in one movement. The boat inflated slowly, but he was at the water, almost out.

Stire ripped the zipcord from his boots and they fell away into pieces, he leapt into the boat and it floated outward with him into the surf.

Working quickly, he unfolded a small scaffold that fit snuggly inside the boat, and mounted two small pipes on the brace, firing them both off. The rockets propelled him away from the cycle of the surf, and burned long enough to get him out, and on to the outcurrents.

In the dusk, farther in than they could see, Corey, Merriene, Steven, and Harry all saw a pair of orange lights appear, then shrink away.

He made it.

It was cold.

One Comment

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  1. Ann Ritter / May 23 2012 6:17 am

    Wow! Suspense to the end! Loved it!

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