The Sea of Grass: Chapter 6

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The Sea of Grass

Book cover with dried grasses.

Chapter 6

Dear Jim,

This morning Barbara and I as usual were having our coffee and nutri-bars on the stairs of our pod. The sky was overcast and grey. We thought there was the possibility of rain but of course we didn't have the expertise to say for certain.

'A weather forecast,' Barbara said. 'Someone has to do a weather forecast.'

I nodded, thinking about that idea, when suddenly I saw the grass was moving like something was coming towards us. To my surprise I realized that a medium-sized, white-and-brown-spotted dog was sprinting towards us through the grass. Its tail was rotating like a propeller. The dog was followed at some distance by a man, who seemed to be quite out of breath already and calling for the animal to stop.

While the man was getting closer, the dog decided to stop, give Barbara a rather wet, slobbery kiss and beg for what was left of her breakfast.

'I don't think this is what you think it is,' Barbara told the dog, throwing a small piece of nutri-bar on the ground. The dog sniffed at it and decided it wasn't edible, which really speaks volumes about the taste of these things.

'Told you so,' Barbara said.

Meanwhile the man had almost reached us. He was tall, slim, and panting heavily. The arms of his uniform were rolled up to his elbows, revealing two strong, hairy arms.

'I'm sorry. I hope he didn't scare you,' he said, gasping for air after every word.

When he was breathing more evenly again, the man extended his hand to Barbara and me.

'I'm Gerald, by the way, you may remember me from yesterday,' he introduced himself. 'This is Ryker. . . who usually doesn't run off. He seems to be quite excited about this place.'

Then he looked at me for a moment, thinking.

'Hey, aren't you our engineer?' he asked. 'I've got something I could need your help with. If you have some time.'

And thus I emptied the last gulp of coffee from my cup and followed Gerald to his pod on the outskirts of the cluster. We waded through the knee high grass and crossed the river in a rubber boat. Close to the other side of the river we reached what was marked as Pod Number 44. Right next to it was one of the strange large trees, reaching into the sky with thick, knotty branches. Only now I realized that it didn't have any leaves. And then I noticed the sound again – the one that Barbara and I had first heard a few days ago. This time it reminded me of someone blowing air over the neck of a half empty bottle.

Gerald pulled me out of my thoughts by leading me over to a cargo pod in the vicinity, which as he explained contained mostly agricultural equipment. He had already started to assemble some of it, but had now reached a difficult part and needed help. Together we dragged all the parts out of the pod, laid them out in the grass and I got to work. Gerald stayed to watch me and help holding parts when I needed him. Meanwhile he told me things about potatoes, beans, lettuce and the chicken eggs he had in an incubator. Ryker was meanwhile sitting next to us, looking alert.

'I'll have to build a secure enclosure for these chickens. Too many predators around, you see?' Gerald explained.

I looked up from fastening a wheel to the machine's body.

'Predators? Can't say I noticed any,' I said surprised. 'This place seems pretty peaceful.'

Gerald stood up and rummaged in a box, then handed me binoculars. He pointed over to a low hill with a few large rocks some distance away. I took the binoculars and watched the spot for a while. Suddenly I saw movement. Several creatures were sneaking around the rocks. I had the impression they were watching us from afar, just like we were watching them. They looked a bit like dogs. Or more like cats? I really can't say. Their fur was brownish red with dark stripes. They also had long bushy tails and they were definitely moving like you would expect from a rather large carnivore.

Gerald nodded as he saw my look.

'We've been watching them for a while now, Ryker and I. They don't come near during the day, but at night you can see them sneak around and hunt,' he explained. 'I'm sure they wouldn't mind a chicken dinner.'

I shivered, thinking about the eyes I saw from the window last night. Who knows what else is living here and we didn't even know about it yet? I watched until the animals disappeared between the rocks again. Then I turned back to my work.

I looked up when I heard Ryker bark and Gerald mutter, 'Oh, no, not them.'

Heading towards us were Dough and Candy, who was wearing a rainbow-coloured wig today. Her brother was walking behind her and carried a medium-sized suitcase, which he put on the ground when they reached us.

Candy put her hands on her hips and looked at us.

'What are you doing?' she asked.

'Assembling farm equipment,' I said, not looking up from tightening a screw.

'I will need you to go to the other side. The light is not right. And you. . . ' she looked at Gerald, 'You have to stand next to her or our audience won't see you.'

She turned to Dough.

'Mirror,' she commanded.

Dough opened the suitcase and took out a medium-sized mirror which he held so Candy could see herself, fix her hair and check her pink lipstick. When she was satisfied he released three camera drones, which buzzed into the air and started to circle around me and Gerald. It was very annoying and distracting, but I decided to ignore it for now and get my work done.

Candy randomly grabbed a laser welder from my box and crouched down next to me, while holding it the wrong way round. Then she thought to pull up the sleeves of her uniform – apparently to look more 'at work'. She smiled sweetly into one of the cameras and explained how we were all working together so well and we were all friends here. She also called me Sandra the whole time. Gerald refused to be any part in it and went to do something else, although Candy tried to order him to come back. Dough held a large lamp to give the perfect lighting to the scene under Candy's instructions.

Ryker repeatedly came over to us, curious about what was going on. When Candy tried to push him away, Ryker licked her hand, which led to her squealing in disgust and then berating the dog, who retreated under the pod. I had to go and console him, which led to Candy having a fit about everyone ruining everything. I decided to ignore her.

After a while Candy finally got tired of this and they made some footage of her 'taking a break' with a cold bottle of Crypto Cola, which she was sure to hold into the camera. I shook my head at it all and was glad to soon see Candy and Dough walk away.

As soon as the two were gone, Gerald re-appeared with two instameals. He had chosen bratwurst and sauerkraut. I must say it wasn't bad. I think we will survive on this stuff until we grow our own fresh food. There are also supposed to be cooks aboard the Boreas, so I'm sure we'll get good food in 5 years. . . sounds like a long time, right?

After lunch, Gerald showed me one of his treasures. In a few pots next to his pod he kept a handful of saplings.

'They are apple trees,' he explained. 'In fall, when they are well, I will plant them and when they are grown, we'll have apples.'

Then we went back to assembling his farm equipment. A slight drizzle started to fall from the clouds, but it wasn't bad.

When I returned to my pod in the late afternoon, I learned that Barbara has spent the whole day observing small rodent-like animals which seem to have a burrow near our pod. She is by now able to imitate their whistling rather convincingly. I am impressed.

I have read much of your mail already this evening. I am very happy to hear that you and Filippa were able to buy a house at the lake. In a way, I also have a house at a lake, even if it is quite different. I am happy to hear that Sally is doing well at school. Please thank her for all the pictures she has drawn for me.

Of course, I also want to send my congratulations on the birth of your son Ezra. He must be 6 years old by now. . . how time flies when you are frozen for a couple of years. I am now sorry that I cannot be there and see both of your children. Please let them know their aunty greets them from outer space. I will soon send you pictures so you know how we live here at the moment. I miss you. Best wishes to Filippa and the children.

Love, Sarah

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