It has become a tradition for me to post my first night’s work here on the inaugural day of NaNoWriMo. This may not be all I write tonight, but it’s a good size for an excerpt.
Jaqi broke the surface with a gasp. “Four divers up!” Smokey called from the raft, his raspy voice carrying over the calm water. As Jaqi tread water, panting, she allowed herself a little smile. Last one up, again. Once the firefiles cleared from her vision and her breath slowed down she turned and swam to the raft, where her friends were already being pulled aboard. She passed her arm through a hoop welded to one of the steel barrels that foemed the floats of the raft, and waited until someone could pull her up. It would have been an easy climb, had she not just spent four minutes holding her breath.
After a few seconds Aaron’s sunburned arm reached down and she took his hand and let him pull her up.
“Madre,” she said, and laid down on the sun-hot planks, feeling the heat of the sun on her skin. Someone handed her a tin cup with fresh water. Aaron had retreated to the sheltered section of the raft, heavy canvas supported by a steel frame cast half the raft into shadow impenetrable to her light-adapted eyes, but she could hear the children in there, doing their lessons with white-haired Annabelle, while young, gangly Alex no doubt watched over the cook fire. In the sun to her left Big John cursed steadily while fussing over one of the guy lines that held the mast in place.
“Anything?” Smokey asked. His dark hair was showing gray now. He had never been a big man, but now it seemed like a puff of wind would carry him back to his home in Cuba. He had threatened to pilot the whole raft there, one of these days, but Jaqi had heard that they were shooting new refugees there now. Sparrow said they were eating them, but Sparrow said lots of things.
Jaqi shook her head. “Fuckin’ South Beach,” she said. She sat up and looked down at the water, reading the gentle waves as they revealed where buildings stood below the surface. To the east, the rolling waves from the Atlantic broke over a reef that had once been the hotels and night clubs that lined Ocean drive, now just a jumble of broken, twisted beams and slabs of concrete breaking the surface, discolored by a slick layer of algae.
On the other side, the towers that lined Alton Road had also fared poorly when Henrietta had struck, the storm surge toppling two while undermining the rest. The Icon still stood, damaged when the Murano Grande went down, but only a few crazies lived there, distilling the brevetoxins from red tides into a substance they called “Brevelicious.” What they didn’t consume themselves, they sold to the archipelago. Sparrow knew a couple of them, he even said he’d spent the night there once, but Sparrow said a lot of things. At night the screams of madness from the Icon carried over the water for miles, while lights flashed wildly only to go abruptly dark
Jaqi lay back down, her black braid still dripping onto the deck. “Everything’s collapsed down there,” she said. “Your fuckin’ wine bar is gone, acere.”
Smoky looked up along the darker blue stretches that announced a streets lay below, forming a neat grid. “It’s around here somewhere,” he said.
Javy stood and spit over the side, his brown skin perfect in the sun, his lean frame starting to fill out with muscle. He almost caught Jaqi looking at him. “Either someone got it already or all the bottles are broke. There’s nothing left this close to the towers,” he said. “Fucking scuba dipshits were all over this.”
“We got time for another dive?” asked Jaqi.
Aaron frowned and looked at his phone. “Satellite says weather’s comin’ in.”
“Don’t look like it,” Javy said, making a show of inspecting the horizon.
Smokey shook his head. “Those are the worst ones. Barometer?”
“Dropping,” Aaron said. “But not much yet.”
“One more dive,” Jaqi said. She hated coming up empty-handed.
“You haven’t had time to recover from the last one.”
“I’ll make it a short one,” she said. “We’ll be heading for the towers in five minutes.” Already she was taking deep breaths, hyperventilting to fill her blood with oxygen.
Smokey sighed. “Anyone else want one more?”
Javy shrugged. “Sure.”
“You just said there was no point.”
He shrugged again.
Rosa said, “Fuck it,” and took her t-shirt off. Jaqi watched Javy watch Rosa adjust her bikini top. Jaqi busied herself with her fllippers and her mask. Short dive. The building she had tried to find a way into her last time down might have had retail space on the bottom floor. If she went straight at it, found an opening, there might be something worthwhile inside.
“Three divers,” Smokey said. “Get ready.”
Jaqi moved to the edge of the raft, and fiddled with her own one-piece suit, almost dizzy from the oxygen in her blood, but still breathing hard.
“Divers go,” Smokey said, and Jaqi dropped from the edge of the raft into the cloudy tropical water.