CHAPTER 30: DROP IN THE OCEAN
He was flying, and in front of him, black as ebony, was a mountain to dwarf Olympus.
He could feel himself speeding towards it at great speed, but the mountain didn’t change size. It simply rested, irrevocable.
Flying? Why was he flying?
He fell asleep for a few seconds.
No, not a dream. The mountain was still there. He was still flying.
He was cold. The air was freezing.
He couldn’t breathe.
No. No air.
It was dark as well. Cold and dark.
Night? No, the light wasn’t right. Too blue.
He looked down. He was too high to see the ground.
But there, what was that? A flock of birds?
He could see them shining silver in the dark.
No. Not birds. Those were fish.
And suddenly he was fully awake.
Three miles over the Atlantic sea bed, Mabus and Joel fell together like stones cast in a well.
He could feel Joel’s arms wrapped around him, tight as a steel vice.
Got behind me. Brought us here. Clever leper
His lungs were two bottles of burning petrol.
Knows I’m old, hoped the cold would send me into shock, knows he can survive this longer than I can, surprised I’m not dead already.
The mountain was now wreathed in a halo of dancing colours.
Not much longer, dead soon, cold or asphyxiation, take your pick. Get out of here.
In a minute. Tired.
Idiot. Fine. Take a minute. Take an hour. Take an eternity rotting on the ocean floor, what do I care?
No point anyway, he’d just bring me back, can’t break his grip, too strong.
Weak old man…
Think! What would break his grip?
The flare. They hate the light. Always hunt at night. Eyes sensitive.
Need to breathe. Need warmth.
I need heat, light and warmth.
One mile beneath the surface of the ocean, Mabus smiled.
Three thousand miles away, in the year 1345, in the Gobi desert some thirty miles from the border of what would one day become Mongolia, not much was happening. Some cactuses were growing. Some lizards were sitting on rocks and going “thup“. That was about it. It was therefore something of a shock to the lizards when two men, one old and thin, the other huge and muscular, both soaking wet, suddenly materialised two feet in the air and fell to earth with a crash. It may well have been a shock to the cactuses also, but they kept their cool and you wouldn’t have been able to tell.
Joel dropped to his knees, screaming, his hands pressed into his eye sockets to shut out the cruel, needle-sharp sunlight. Mabus lay gasping on the baking hot sand. Through half-closed eyes he could see his hands, brown, shrivelled and ancient, with great purple veins like earth worms slowly shifting beneath the thin, paper-bag skin. Everything ached.
“You stinking, filthy old…” he looked up as he heard Joel cursing him, feeling around madly for him with one great arm, throwing sand to the air, while the other hand covered his eyes.
Joel had become so enraged that he had even forgotten to enter slow-time. For a second Mabus watched him as he crawled pathetically over the yellow sand, leaving grey trails as the sea-water dripped off his filthy clothing in rivers. Then he calmly and quietly gathered his strength, slowed the world to a third of a second per second (and even that took more effort than he would have ever thought possible) picked up a medium sized rock and flung it straight at Joel’s head.
He stopped. Went red. Collapsed.
He lay there quietly. Mabus watched him.
Before he died, he asked Mabus:
“I hate what you are.” Mabus told him “And the things you have done.”
“…had a choice. Live or die. Chose to live. Wouldn’t you?”
And with that, he closed his remaining good eye, exhaled once and became still.
As he stood there beside the great carcass, gaunt and black in the sea of desert light, Mabus realised he was glad that Joel had died before he had had to answer.