Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
“Well, now. What do we have here?”
I yelp in surprise and shoot him. He disappears from view. There’s a splash.
“Did he just fall into water?”
“Definitely sounded like something wet.”
“Does that mean we’ve arrived somewhere useful?”
“No idea. Go look.”
“You’re the mad scientist who dragged his family into warp space using a faulty home-made hyperdrive.”
She’s got me there. I lift my tired bones off the bottom of the pool and peer over the edge.
“We’re a barge. In a river. I see boats with flashing lights coming this way.”
“Told you that gun was loud.”
“Dad, our barge is leaking.”
I look down. The turquoise ceramic of the tropical paradise pool has finished translating itself. It’s now the hold of a derelict barge that clearly hasn’t been maintained in a very long time. Still a long way from the garden shed it started out as.
“Looks like we’re swimming.”
“Dad, let’s dive off the opposite side to the flashies. Shoot the hyperdrive as we go.”
“Can’t do that, Nancy, it’s our way back!”
She slaps me.
“Your fucking way got us lost, got my stepmom and Max eaten by some alien monstrosity, then sent Jimmy running off with a Terbulantic dancer. There are no answers in your delusion. Use your busted machine again? Fuck no. We need to get off this ride somewhere liveable before something kills you and I end up dead – or doing something fucking awful to survive on a world I don’t belong in.”
“You swear too much.”
“Apart from that: I’m fucking right, and I’m fucking leaving. Come if you want.”
Nancy runs across the hold, scrambles up the far side and drops from view. There’s another splash. Damn damn… Oh, balls to it. My daughter’s clearly the brains of this outfit. I run across the hold, clamber up on the edge, then pause while I take aim at the flawed device that started all this. I shoot it twice, then drop the gun into the hold and roll off the side of the barge.
The explosions behind are accompanied by a lightshow that makes our short swim easier. I get to the ladder as Nancy reaches the top, and make it halfway up before the final blast flattens me against the embankment. Maintaining my hold with difficulty, I force myself to climb. After clawing my way over the edge, I force myself to ignore the sirens and run with her.
She darts to the left. I hear a startled cry. Before I can gather myself to look, she’s back.
“Got a bag. No, I didn’t kill anyone. Hopefully there’s money in it, and the thing sticking out is some sort of newspaper.”
Who is this? Three years ago she screamed for a day after we had to scramble back to the transformed shed through a jungle filled with insects the size of cars. Two years ago she was hysterical over seeing her dog eaten, but still dragged me away from Anne’s severed leg so we could escape. She was the one who bandaged the wound where Jimmy stopped my arguing with a long knife, hatred burning in his eyes.
We run a long way before she scoots down an alley and settles herself.
“Sit down. Time to turn your brilliant mind to being a criminal. I love you for trying to fix your fuck ups, hate you for not quitting sooner, haven’t forgiven you for getting Max killed, and I’ll leave you if I need to.”
My daughter, the survivor. Hope I can keep up.