Author : JY Saville
“Iridescent,” she said without looking. “Aren’t they?”
Henry Deaton shook his head, exasperated that his wife still couldn’t remember the colour of his eyes.
“Never mind,” he replied.
He raced up on deck and peered through the reinforced bubble covering the ship as it sailed the methane seas of the oil-rich planet that had made his fortune. As long as Lydia had her silks and jewels she was happy; she had no time for Henry’s eyes.
“Captain!” came a shout, and Henry turned to watch, longing for excitement.
A young boy ran barefoot along the deck. The captain emerged from the cabin opposite Henry and surveyed the dirty youngster with distaste.
“Captain,” panted the boy. “There’s a hole, they’ve made a hole.”
“What are you talking about, boy?”
“The ship, they’ve broken the ship: the giant barnacles.”
The captain looked astonished for a second then laughed, cuffed the boy around the ear and dismissed him.
“Giant barnacles!” he repeated to himself, shaking his head as he ducked back through the doorway.
Henry watched the boy with interest as he slunk back along the deck. On a whim, he followed.
Three floors below deck Henry lost the boy in a crowd of jostling men, but he barely noticed as he realised what all the activity was about. The wall bulged alarmingly, and the six-deep crew were straining to push it back into place, trying to strengthen it with a patch. Whether it was giant barnacles or metal fatigue, something had cracked the outer hull, and the immense pressure was threatening to crush their vessel like a toy boat in a storm. Not knowing what else to do, Henry muscled into the pack and added his weight.
It soon became clear, at least to Henry Deaton, that they were not moving the thick wall, and with all the crew here, other important tasks were being neglected. He looked around for signs of authority, but all Henry could see was the imminent onset of panic reflected in the eyes of his companions. He squirmed out of the mass of bodies and ran for the stairs.
The captain flung open his door and looked disdainfully at the dishevelled passenger who’d had the audacity to hammer upon it.
“Captain,” Henry continued, “The boy was right, the ship’s been holed.”
“Now don’t you try and tell me it’s giant barnacles,” growled the captain. “If there was anything amiss, don’t you think I’d know? What do you think these are for? Decoration?” He gestured to the gleaming banks of monitors behind him, then slammed the door before Henry could reply.
Rousing the captain again was futile, and there was nothing more he could do below deck, but a sick fascination drew Henry back to the scene of the struggle. He raced back below but froze at the foot of the stairs, eyes wide with terror. Had Lydia been there, she would have seen that they were black, like the bottom of the sea.