This River Awakens

This River Awakens by Steven Erikson Read Free Book Online

Book: This River Awakens by Steven Erikson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Steven Erikson
them. Years of neglect had led to years of decay for some of the old boats. Some, like Mistress Flight, hadn’t been in the water for years. Watching meant seeing, and seeing meant feeling. That’s what made it difficult, these twenty years of standing guard. No, it wasn’t a sense of loyalty that kept him here. Nothing so noble.
    Still and all, he mused, sipping his tea, not all beached whales die. To see the grand old yachts returning to the river each spring, to see them proudly ply the swirling currents on their way to the lake fifteen miles to the north – such moments were a true salute to those boats left behind.
    Walter listened to the ice marching in disordered ranks down the river. The wall in front of him dimmed and blurred; it seemed that clouds filled the room now, obscuring everything, drawing darkness in from the edges. He shook his head, muttering.
    Seventy-three years is a long life, he told himself. And most of those years had been hard ones, days of struggle, nights of restless undefined yearnings. Wave by wave, a ceaseless weariness. But a storm was building, somewhere ahead, some time in the future, and it was not a natural storm. The cracking of the ice was only the beginning. There were the nightmares that came night after night, leaving him feeling battered and somehow twisted inside his body upon awakening. He found it hard to recall the details; he knew only their aftermath in the chill mornings when he curled tight beneath his woollen blankets, waiting for the sun to dispel the night’s wintry air.
    Walter let out a slow breath, wiped at his eyes. ‘The tide grows,’ he said to the wall in front of him, ‘and I’m still waiting.’ He closed his eyes, swung his face to the window and let the sunlight warm it. ‘Where are you, my lady?’ he whispered. ‘I need to talk to someone, you understand. And it’s always been you. So, where are you?’
    III
    Inland, the boat yards came to an end with a ragged windbreak and the Yacht Club’s garbage dump. The blackened mound of kitchen refuse and soot-stained broken machinery smudged my view of the tree trunks beyond. Oily smoke rose from the dump continuously, as if its fires were fuelled by the earth itself.
    The mound disturbed me, conjured frightening images in my mind. It might have been a boat once, burned on its pyre in some unholy rite. Among the garbage were beams of wood, black and dusted grey with ash. Some rose from the heap, curving like ribs.
    ‘Hey, Owen! What the fuck are you doing?’
    The voice – Lynk’s – came from below. I realised that I had stopped halfway through the forward hatch. The prow of Mistress Flight was pointed at the garbage dump.
    ‘Want somebody to see you, man?’
    I felt a push from below, and began climbing down. The boat lurched. I careened to one side, hitting my ribs against the hatch edge. ‘Christ!’ I gasped. ‘What the fuck?’
    Lynk pulled me back down into the cabin. In the shadows his eyes looked slick. ‘Just Roland,’ he said. ‘He slipped.’
    Behind Lynk, Carl and Roland crouched low on the aft deck, both looking panicky.
    I swore again, then drew a deep breath. The boat’s motion had been forward, as if Mistress Flight had come alive, as if it had set a course for the dump’s smouldering mound.
    I pushed past Lynk, leaving the cabin, and went to the port side.
    ‘I don’t think anybody heard,’ I said quietly, looking out over the yards.
    ‘Maybe we should go,’ Carl said.
    I sneered at him. ‘Scared?’
    Mouth hanging open, Carl shook his head. But his eyes were wide.
    ‘Maybe Gribbs is calling the cops right now,’ I pressed, grinning. ‘They’re probably on their way. What would we do? Run in every direction, right? But what about you, Carl? Can you run fast? You’ll have to.’
    His eyes were filling with tears, but he didn’t move from his crouch in Roland’s shadow. Glancing at the faces of Lynk and Roland, I saw frozen expressions and felt within me an eager

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