Nicola O’Byrne + Larkin Cunningham

Stranger at the Pier

Jimmy’s been drowning his sorrows for hours. He punts the latest in a series of empty cider cans off a wall and squashes it with a Doc Martin. Then he gives the can a good hard kick and sends it spinning over the edge of the pier. He watches as it sinks, catching the three-quarter moonlight.

Jimmy O’Leary – One; Corporate Scumbags – Nil, he thinks.

He peers over the pier’s edge, wobbling alarmingly.

“Fuck you looking at?” he asks of his rippling reflection and laughs at the absurdity of it. “Fuckin eejit.”

He unzips himself and pisses into the sea, marvelling at the sparkling splash.

“Champagne, Madame?” he says, and laughs again.

For a moment, the water surrounding his urine’s entry point seems to turn blue, though this is a trick of the moonlight. He is actually pissing blood, but is too drunk to notice. A blow to the groin earlier in the evening is to blame. Madame’s blow.

He is careless enough to forget about zipping himself back up, but force of habit at least ensures he deposits his manhood back inside his underpants. He has his dignity after all, goddammit! He belches loudly. It echoes up the hill behind the pier. A dog barks. Jimmy howls at the moon. The dog does not howl back, but continues barking.

“Had one too many, friend?” a stranger says suddenly from beside him in a low, guttural rumble.

Jimmy turns and eyes up the stranger. The stranger is not facing him.

“What if I have?” Jimmy says.

“It’s nothin to me, friend. Nothin at all. Just makin conversation is all,” the stranger replies.

Jimmy just grunts. For a while they stand, silently observing the water lapping against moored boats in the estuary.

“It’s all so beautiful,” the stranger says quietly to no one in particular, maybe addressing the sea itself.

A little while later, perhaps sobered by the salty air, Jimmy turns to face the stranger. He is tall, face masked by the shadow of a hood, hands in pockets of his hoody. A small yacht motors by and the skipper waves in their direction. Jimmy does not acknowledge. The stranger does. Jimmy coughs up a rubbery lump from his chest and gobs it into the sea.

“This cold is killin me,” he says.

Still facing towards the sea, the stranger speaks with authority: “Listen now and listen good, friend. If you lack the simple manners to acknowledge the salute of a fellow seafarer, then I don’t think I want much to do with you.”

The stranger continues staring at the waves, now gathering magnitude with the stiffening breeze. Jimmy is stunned.

“What’s eatin your dick off?”

“What’s eatin it off? I’ll tell you what’s eatin it off. Dick’s like you pissin on Mother Nature; kickin cans into the sea; spittin your germs everywhere – you dumb fuck.”

“Look man, I ain’t done nothin to you.”

The faceless stranger’s motionlessness is uneasing. The strengthening wind merely buffets his hood a little.

“Mother Nature’s wonders. Such wonders,” the stranger mutters.

“Look, I don’t want no quarrel. You hearin me?”

The stranger takes something from his pocket and Jimmy glimpses a flash of metal. Jimmy backs away from the pier’s edge. The stranger does not move. Jimmy turns and bolts for his car. Still the stranger does not move. Beep, beep. Car remotely unlocked. Jimmy opens the door, slides in, shuts the door. Car locked. Sanctuary.

He starts his Golf and backs away from the wall. A loud thud stalls his progress. He exits the vehicle to inspect the damage.

Sprawled on the ground is the stranger. Unhooded now, the stranger is no longer so imposing. His eyes are open wide, though his stare is blank. The pool of blood under his skull seals the deal. The weirdo is dead.

I must be over the limit, Jimmy thinks. Manslaughter for sure. And then he sees the apple on the ground next to the stranger, a paring knife still embedded in it.
He takes a moment to compose himself and looks back at the sea and thinks, Isn’t that convenient.

Sterilisation of the Seed

Dear Survivors,

I shall not bore you with the details. You’ve survived, so you know the story. You’re one of the lucky ones who’s number came out in the lottery and, if you are reading this, you’ve just come up from your subterranean sanctuary. You have my deepest commiserations on the plight you now find yourselves in — one that “we”, the original survivors, have had to endure since The Blight.

The irony wasn’t lost on us, believe me: that the seeds were called “terminators” by those GM food scientists. Could anything have been more appropriately named than those harbingers of The Blight? Others, perhaps searching for the comfort of science, called it the “sterilisation of the seed.” I prefer to call it The Blight; I believe it has a Biblical ring to it.

I must confess that it is difficult to write this letter in the knowledge that I may be leaving you to an interminable fate. A purgatory, so to speak. But just as life here, in your cryogenic chambers, is standing still, so it is renewing in a final bastion — a place we call Nuevo Creciemento.

As you were being placed in your comas, apprehensive that you may never wake, but in the realisation that it was a more attractive option than suicide or starvation, the first of the plants began to die. The Blight moved through the ephemeral to the annual to the perennial. Even ancient lichens clinging to the most desolate of rocks perished. And we began to die in our millions as you slept.

We retreated into the corners of our continents, desperate for anything organic. Ancient trees had their leaves harvested to make repugnant soups. People dived into the oceans in search of seaweed, only to find that it, too, had perished. And I’d rather not talk about the more obvious source of food.

Then, in the final corner at our final hour, the first seedling appeared. It was a sign from God! Oh, how we worshipped that plant. We were a rabble by then, a motley bunch from every crevice of the five continents. The plant wasn’t just a sign from God — it was our saviour! We cultivated it, bled into the soil to nurture it, and it grew.

I can’t express enough on this page just how hard we prayed for it to seed. We held hands night after night, chanted to our various gods or spirits, channelling what we could however much we believed. And then it did seed. We took each of its twelve seeds and planted them, dispersed so that we might grow communities around them. In each community there was a high priest and his disciples.

And that is how I came upon your cryogenic facility. I am a disciple of Nuevo Creciemento and I carry a seed. I continue north to find suitable ground for growth and to sustain a new community — and to become a high priest. When your facility’s computers detect sufficient organic life, I am sure you will be awoken. And when you do, perhaps you could travel north to join us in our rebirth.

I must go now.


Felipe Bethsaida