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At the End of the World: Chapter Seven

       Last updated: Monday, May 25, 2020 19:15 EDT



July 17

    So today, as soon as Tierra del Fuego disappeared behind us, the captain tried to raise Port Stanley, capitol of the Falklands. What he got back was fevered gibberish. While it lasted. He turned the dial, retuned, tried to raise our destination: King Edward Point, the small sub-Antarctic station the Brits maintain on South Georgia Island.  No reply. 

    He turned off the radio slowly, then sat back. I waited for what was, according to the clock above the wheel, slightly more than three minutes. When he spoke, he did not look over at me. “Alvaro, we’re going to keep trying those stations. So, until someone replies, we’re not going to tell the others what we just heard — or didn’t. Your mates are far too twitchy already.”

    I just nodded. Which made me complicit in agreeing to what he was really saying: “we’re going to keep this between the two of us until and unless there’s proof that the whole world has gone to shit.” Or as he would have said, “has gone pear-shaped.”

    “Next steps, sir?” I asked.

    He looked at me. “You don’t rattle easy, do you, Alvaro?”

    “I try not to, sir.”

    “That’s good.” From him, this was unthinkably high praise. “Do you know how to fish?”

    “I know there’s a hook involved. Other than that, not a clue, sir.”

    His jaw seemed to experience a momentary tic: whether that was a spasm of disappointment or amusement, I couldn’t tell. “Well, find someone who does. I suspect Chloe will have some experience. Tell them to meet me astern at 1400. We’re going to go off prepared foods for a while.”

    “I see, sir. Anything you want moved into the ship’s locker?” Which meant, effectively, placed under lock and key.

    He nodded. “Vitamins. Bottled water. Canned goods. Spare batteries.” He stood. “There will be more. But we will take this one step at a time. Eventually, we’ll need to collect any personal medical supplies — ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin — and anything else we might need to ration.” He finally looked at me. “Where’s your family, Alvaro?”

    “My mom is in England. On business. Mostly. She’s my only family.”

    He nodded, walked to the door: beyond it, the grey South Atlantic tossed fitfully, as if, far below, thousands of whales were having bad dreams. “From now on, whenever I’m not using it, the radio is unplugged and off limits. You understand.”

    “I do, sir. And yes, sir.”

    He went through to the weather deck looking like he had aged another ten years.

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