Author : Ian Hill
Tumultuous ocean waves crashed against the ship’s vertical hull, spraying the flat deck with salt, white froth, and chunks of viscera torn from oceanic creatures by the raging storm that had passed over only a few minutes before. The vessel crested the dune-like water’s ridges and sunk low in the valleys, moving like the rocking cradle of an infant. The sky, still wounded from the raging storm, stood as a minefield of densely packed grayscale clouds surrounded by endless, pristine, pearlescent blue punctuated by flocks of ivory birds that flew in arrow patterns. The water itself was dark and choppily faceted like a field of imperfect gems, blue on the ship’s right and violet on the left where the sun cut bloody hues at steep angles through the thunderheads that dominated the western horizon.
There was something violent about the atmosphere despite the relative calmness that had settled in the storm’s wake. The air itself felt purified by the raging wind, still and raw like a freshly cut wound. Those who stood at the guard rail of the ship’s deck stared out at absolute sterility contrasted by the accumulating chunks of slashed organic material that slid about, caking the heels of their rubber boots.
Adrian Galbraith was one such watcher, a land-faring man who now found himself tossed about by a tormenting, playful sea. He clung white-knuckled to the rusted iron guard rail, eyes focused on the infinitely flat horizon line where fluffy white clouds blew from right to left like the leftover smoke of a war-torn battlefield. Adrian’s sluggish eyes slid down to focus on the gradually calming waves that collided with the undecorated hull, covering his pale face with invisible flecks of liquid. The way the skewed sunlight played against the angular, ever-moving surface caused his stomach to churn.
Adrian flicked his glassy, red-rimmed eyes back up. He focused instead on the sky this time, attempting to smother the ceaseless parade of nausea that had begun to fester ever since they launched this research expedition. He selected a particular island of grayish clouds that hung like a paralyzed insect in the sky, rolled over and exposed. Anything could be hidden behind that façade of indistinct haze, he thought. It was a strange idea that didn’t help set him at ease.
“You ever hear of The Roamer?”
Adrian flinched at the intrusive voice and glanced over his shoulder to find one of the sailors, a particularly old man with a white beard, standing not far away. He leaned against nothing, staying upright against the vessel’s wallowing as if it were no feat at all.
“Well?” the sailor asked, one hand in his jacket’s pocket and the other tugging at his beard.
Adrian shook his head. “Can’t say I have.”
The sailor smiled and moved to Adrian’s side. He leaned against the guard rail and stared up at the cloud. “He’s up there now. Watching, eh?”
Adrian followed the man’s gaze but remained silent.
“The Roamer roams, stalking the creatures of the sea. It passes overhead, droning like some giant mother beetle. It crouches and it glides, its tendrils hanging low and dragging across the ocean’s surface. But,” he turned to face Adrian and wagged his finger menacingly. “But if someone like us comes a-calling, The Roamer stops roaming. It retreats to the clouds and watches from a distance. Observing. Waiting.”
Adrian narrowed his eyes, feeling a dreadful sense of unease creep over him. He glanced up at the gray patch of clouds and suddenly felt as if he were being watched.
“Don’t fret, son.” the sailor said with a grin. “We’re roaming now.”