By Guest Contributor
Y ou had to get to the breakyard early. Nariya learned that the way she learned everything, by going hungry when she failed.
She’d already been beat there by her grandmother, Suvemi, sitting in her shawl of rat skins, sipping from a tin cup, watching the sea break over the spine of the last ship beached here, picked clean of everything but the rust.
The hunched, /wrinkled mass was deaf but always knew when Nariya approached. She turned and her face split at the wet mess of a mouth, displaying three brown stumps and a tongue of odd provenance. This was her version of smiling. Just then, the air seemed to change, and they both looked up to see something twinkle against the sun. Nariya’s hand idly reached to plucked at Suvemi’s sleeve. She knew instinctively: this thing was falling.
There was no way the old woman would reach the fall line before the ship hit.
Nariya looked around her, growing frantic. A couple of yards away lay a curved metal door, too twisted to be resold. She dragged it behind Suvemi, and while it was surprisingly light, in her haste she smoothly slit one palm along the edge.
Suvemi silently whooped as Nariya heaved her off her perch of crates onto the door. She lay there like a bug, curled up on her back with her knees in the air.
Nariya hooked one edge of Suvemi’s cane in the lip of the door and pulled. The makeshift sled dragged across the sand. Nariya leaned back hard, her face turned to the sky. As she strained she opened her eyes and could make out the larger details of the ship. She saw now how the lifters distorted its true silhouette, and how one had to squint to distinguish between them and the darker, battle-bruised skin of the junked vessel itself.
The “fall line,” as they called it, was a black freighter the pilots used to triangulate the drop zone of the beach. It marked the northern, inland boundary. The eastern edge was formed by the cliff face, cracked from a couple of early miscalculations. All else was the sea.
The lifters disengaged their clamps and the ship leaped toward the ground.
Nariya pushed Suvemi flat and climbed on top of her as the earth shuddered and a monstrous clap abused their ears. There was a half-second pause and then the shockwave hit.
The makeshift sled skittered across the loose sand and slammed into the prow of the fall line, spinning so that it’s momentum carried it around the curve of the ship, debris pinging off everything around them, doing various bits of damage to Nariya’s back.
Neither woman moved for a moment, and Nariya would have been content to lay there all day, slowly aching. But there was work to be done. And besides, Suvemi was heaving. She worried her grandmother was having a heart attack. Favoring her sliced hand, Nariya got to her feet and turned Suvemi over to find the old woman soundlessly laughing, piles of slack skin bunched up against the bones of her face. This had been great fun for her. One of the benefits, Nariya thought, of being completely out of one’s mind.
Nariya fetched Suvemi’s cane, then wrapped her scarf around her hand as they advanced on the fallen ship. You had to start early at the breakyard. You had to eat.