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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Enjoy Chapter Three of "Port Story"! | Work in progress | Metaphysical Fantasy

Synopsis: The night has come and gone, and Port Hawktried has as well. Sèbastienne, waking, rushes outside to look around, to see what this new reality, which now includes her and everyone in Port Hawktried, looks like. Read on!


Chapter Three
Telling the Sheriff


The remarkable reality of the newfound bridge, her discoveries concerning how it lined up with the broken border road, the old dried-up creek full of new water from this new world ... all of it disappeared as she stared down at Montague Eckbert’s killer.

   He hadn’t noticed her. She fell flat to her tummy, taking him out of sight beyond the tumbling falls. Very carefully, she crawled off the bridge towards home. When she got behind one of the nearby boulders, she stood and hurried to some brush, then another boulder. By this point she knew he couldn’t see her, so she sprinted for home.

Dr. Faust didn’t return for another hour. Sèbastienne was making for the front door, ready to run to the village to find her, when she walked in. Dr. Faust immediately saw the alarm on her face.

   “What? What is it?”

   “Raleigh Myles ...” Sèbastienne began breathlessly, “here’s here! I saw him!”

   “What? Are you sure?

   “Yes! He was at the falls—the new falls! There’s a pond there! He was there!”

   Dr. Faust looked horrified. “We must inform the sheriff! Come, Sèbastienne!”

   They hurried for the door and out.

   “The sheriff was at the dinghy, inspecting it,” said Sèbastienne once they gained the trail. “I’m guessing she’s still there. They were hauling it out of the water so that they could go over it with a fine-toothed comb. God only knows where it has been since!”

   It wasn’t until they crossed the bridge over the creek that Dr. Faust took the time to look her over. “You look a complete mess! What happened to you?”

   Sèbastienne recounted her entire adventure, and the thinking that had accompanied it. Dr. Faust stopped, her face one of frustrated puzzlement. “To think ... that I hadn’t considered the borders ...” She gave Sèbastienne a pat on the shoulder. “Very well done indeed! My mind was so wrapped up with the mechanics of the Shifts ... the possible explanations, the mathematics, the concern for getting back, the safety of the citizens ... your safety ... What was obvious was just under my nose, completely ignored!”

   They continued their fast walk to Port Hawktried as Sèbastienne inwardly beamed.

   “This does indeed merit much more investigation. But I think with Raleigh Myles back—God knows how that happened; and I guess we shouldn’t be so surprised with Eckbert’s boat suddenly back as well ... and oh, how unfortunate all this is!—I would feel much more comfortable if I or an adult accompanied you to the border in the future—at least if that border is out of line-of-sight with me or the house!”

   Sèbastienne did not argue the point. Though she was sixteen, nearly an adult herself, the notion that a murderer was stalking around just outside the village was downright terrifying.

Port Hawktried’s main border—the ocean—never varied either. It didn’t rise to swallow the village up, or be found at the base of a cliff. It was always there, gently lapping against the docks and the boardwalk.

   The village, predominantly Victorian in architecture, was colorfully beautiful, with the circular, tree-lined town center just three blocks from the water. A good third of the stores had closed, but the rest had remained open or were taken over by someone other than the original owners, who were outside the borders when the first Shift occurred.

   The market, thank goodness, had been stocked just before the first Shift. Though the shelves had emptied a bit since, the farmers that came along when it happened had managed to keep food coming, though both suffered acreage losses when parts of their farms were lost. Soaps and toiletries and other necessities were supplied now entirely locally. Clothes were mended by experienced seamstresses, or, more often than not, by their owners themselves. The lone inn had been converted into the village’s meeting place and hospital, which Port Hawktried didn’t have before the first Shift. In the past, sick citizens had to stay at home or take a carriage to Port Brookings twenty-five miles to the south.

   The town’s economy had radically changed as well. Almost all goods and services were simply traded for, but money hadn’t gone away entirely. It really made no sense to try to accumulate it, so, against Ivar Strohkirch’s vehement protests (ones that continued to this day), the bank was opened permanently and a single account created, one for the citizenry to dip into any time someone had need of something that required more money or trading power than they had. Strohkirch, to make a point, threatened to empty the community coffer completely and stash the cash into his many safes, but since he was the only one to make such a threat, the result was merely for him to be roundly humiliated at the village meeting and told that if such were to occur, that he’d be the first to be suspected as the thief. That was when Sheriff Rexanne Leslie came into her own, according to Dr. Faust.

   “She wasn’t going to take any garbage from that greedy vermin, and she let him know!”

   People gladly put their money into the community coffer, where it quickly became known as the Village Coffer. It didn’t even have a guard watching over it.

   Sèbastienne deeply admired Sheriff Leslie. Just eight years older than her, Miss Leslie was traveling through Port Hawktried on her way to the Republic of California to join her mate when the Shift occurred. She was college-educated, a free thinker and rebel, and could shoot a rifle and handgun better than any of the village’s men.

   That too drove Strohkirch mad, who openly questioned her “Christian values” and sanity, especially when it was discovered that the mate she was traveling to join was female. Strohkirch insisted she be fired, but the City Council refused.

   “What?” said Dr. Faust, glancing at her.

   Sèbastienne came back to herself. “Huh?”

   “You sighed and said, ‘Strohkirch ...’ like he’d done something else to get us all angry. What were you thinking?”

   Sèbastienne told her. Dr. Faust sighed too. “Yep. That’s him. Come. We’re almost there.”

   They entered the village and got to the fountain a few minutes later. They stopped there, because that was where Sheriff Leslie was talking to the librarian, Mr. Wallace. They waited until he walked off. Miss Leslie glanced at them. “Dr. Faust; Sèbastienne. It’s good to see you!”

   When Sèbastienne didn’t smile in return, the sheriff’s brow furrowed. “What’s up?”

   She thought Dr. Faust would speak up. But Dr. Faust merely looked at her and said, “It’s your news; tell her!”

   “I saw Raleigh Myles!” Sèbastienne said quietly.

   The furrow in Leslie’s brow deepened. “Where?”

   “There’s a new waterfall ... a pond ... he was there! I swear!”

   “Show me,” said the sheriff.

   Despite the fact that Sèbastienne had already walked several miles already, she felt like she’d just gotten out of bed and had loads of energy. “This way!”

They hurried to the waterfall, where they stopped.

   “He’s over the ledge,” she pointed. “There’s a pond at the base of the falls. There’s the bridge I told you about. He’ll see us if we get any closer.”

   “You two stay here,” ordered Leslie, who stepped away from them and very carefully made her way towards the shelf, peering carefully, her head craned. After a time she turned and shook her head. “I’m going to go to the bridge. You two ... get up close to the ledge there and keep low. If you spot him, signal me.”

   “Got it,” said Dr. Faust. “Come, Sèbastienne.”

   Sheriff Leslie, stooping low, made her way slowly towards the bridge. Dr. Faust took Sèbastienne’s hand. Together they inched towards the ledge.

   Just as they got close enough to peer over, the sheriff, at the bridge, suddenly dropped to her belly, her eyes wide. Dr. Faust quickly pulled Sèbastienne back.

   Leslie crawled on her tummy until she could come to her knees, and then her feet. She ran the rest of the way.

   “Did you see him?” demanded Sèbastienne.

   “Oh, yeah,” said Miss Leslie. “That was Raleigh Myles all right. Washing pots and pans. He almost saw me.”

   “What are we going to do about this, Sheriff?” asked Dr. Faust.

   “I have no damn idea,” Leslie answered. “But I think the first thing is to talk to the mayor. I’d like both of you to come with me.”

Chapter Four