There are other things to talk about soon, like this hike called Lion’s Head where someone dies every couple of years but which they still keep open, and which my friends and I hiked not knowing that it was a death trap (the brochure says “fun walk!”), but that experience is still too fresh to joke about. And there’s this other thing that has been eating at me.
So please bear with me for one post, or more, occasionally, serially.
By my calculations, if I kept up this exact pace and wrote a novel of the average middle grade length, I’d finish on the day my son was born, July 13th. This also happens to be an auspicious date in the story, and in general, a beautiful pair of numbers, 7 and 13. That kind of a pace would be a bit too productive for me, but it would be such a fantastically lucky day to finish that I’ll try anyway.
Tall ships and tall kings
Three times three
What brought they from the foundered land
Over the flowing sea?
Seven stars and seven stones
And one white tree.
Rikka Seven is a small girl with arms and legs as thin as twigs and light brown skin that seems to glow in the sun. Here she is with the biggest fish she has ever caught, or that anyone on the island has ever caught, for that matter:
[THIS DRAWING IS TAKING AGES! FOR NOW, IMAGINE RIKKA STANDING ON A ROCKY ISLAND HOLDING HER FISH]
She couldn’t eat the fish, of course. The end of the world had pretty much poisoned the ocean and everything living in it. Can you imagine a fish having to grow up swimming through the underwater remains of factories that had once made chemicals used for cleaning toilets, or through an underwater wasteland of rusting cars, each with a battery whose acid is seeping slowly up into the ocean? As if that weren’t enough, imagine that this heroic fish also has to suck through his gills the really bad stuff that governments buried underground and proclaimed would never again pollute the earth, but which of course ended up washing into the ocean because 1) the governments hadn’t considered what would happen if the world ended, and 2) they never really knew what they were talking about anyway. Can you imagine a fish swimming through all of that? It would be a tough fish who managed to adapt to this new environment, and such a fish has earned the right not to be eaten.
If at the end of his courageous life this fish is caught by Rikka Seven, which is not surprising because Rikka is an excellent fisherwoman, he will be used for the honorable purpose of making something the islanders call Glue. For while Rikka and her father Snid and the six other people who live on the island are quite happy if not sometimes a little hungry and sometimes a little wet and sometimes a little cold, they do have one major problem, which is that everything they’ve managed to build on the island is always, slowly, falling apart.
Rikka’s island is very tall but very narrow, like an ice cream cone without the scoop of ice cream on top.
If you don’t believe that an island can actually be shaped like this, you’ll be interested to know about Ko Tapu, a very tall island in a region that people used to call Southeast Asia. The tall skinny island in this picture is Ko Tapu:
Ko Tapu is not Rikka’s island, which is simply called The Island, but Ko Tapu is very similar to The Island. A minor difference between the two is that The Island is a bit larger than Ko Tapu, and a major difference is that there is no other land close to The Island. If there had been other land nearby, the islanders probably wouldn’t have chosen to live in such an uncomfortable place.
When the world was ending, each of the seven found that he or she simply had no choice.
They washed up, one or two at a time, on the great waves of trash that fanned out into the ocean while the world was ending. Sheets of fiberglass were crammed in between slats of wooden docks, upon which sat plastic chairs whose legs had snagged on tarpaulins, which were wound between long beams of plastic siding from houses, and on and on. It all floated in one big jumble out to sea so that it must have looked to the birds on The Island like one rolling carpet of confetti celebrating the end of the plague of humanity.
The birds cackled joyfully to one another under the thunderous gray sky, and the whole thing would have been a rather festive occasion for the birds if they hadn’t grudgingly noted that at least seven lucky people had survived, and were, at various speeds and from various directions, heading straight for their very own island.