Jandrax 57

Chloe’s child should be nine months old now; simple arithmetic makes him a good bet to be mine, but Anton claims him. Perhaps; no one will ever really know. I saw him only once and I burned with a hunger that was nine-tenths shame.

There is nothing for me at the colony. The men despise me and the women shun me. So be it. They have cast me out symbolically, so I have cast myself out physically.

When I was younger I would have dreamed of finding where the herds go and returning triumphant with the knowledge. No more. Youth is dead, and dreams. Still I am curious, and out here on the open water my loneliness is less poignant than it was where I had my fellows around me, showing me by daily example that I am less than a man.

My supplies are limited but I have fishhooks and line. Every fish I catch sacrifices his entrails to make more bait so the supply is endless, if monotonous. I never dreamed how tired a man could get of raw fish.

I learned much from the computer before I undertook this trip, but little of it made sense. Now I have begun to put it together into a coherent pattern; the strange sounding names and terms are no longer meaningless. Keel, tack, tiller, before the wind. They were meaningless before. Now I know them well. Tacking is what I do from dawn to dusk, a keel is what I lack to do it well, leeway is what I am making – that is, the wind is blowing me away from where I want to go. Our lake is huge, 200 by 750 kilometers and I had intended to cross it diagonally. It seems that I will be at it forever and I would have long since died from my ignorance if I were on a terrestrial ocean, but there are no storms on this planet and I have only to reach out my hand to have fresh water. Water, fish, wind, sky, water. I live, but I become unutterably weary.

Using my knife, I make a notch in the calendar board as the sun sets, and count. Seventy-two.

***

By taking sun sightings at dawn and sunset I have been able to establish my latitude, but I have no way to determine my longitude. Each day finds me further south. It is now the seventyfourth day of my journey and I have spotted land, but not the opposite shore of the lake. It is the great island which my map shows, or so I think.

I will stop here in hopes of finding the materials with which to improve my craft, especially with which to build some form of keel. Also, I may find some of the smaller life forms here to supplement my diet of fish.

***

The island rose from the sea like the top of some mountain with great rocky headlands upon which the waves broke. On a planet without storms or rain, the rocky faces are stark and unweathered.

The island rose up devoid of vegetation, locked in the grip of low winter, the season of desert before the snows come. Only immediately adjacent to the lake was there a band of dense vegetation, drawing moisture from the lake itself.

*****

At the second three asterisk break, the story changes from present to past tense. Present gave immediacy that could not be sustained, and past is the tense of story telling. At least, it used to be. When Jandrax was written, the modern, ubiquitous use of present for story telling had not yet swept over the globe in a noxious wave. more tomorrow

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