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HANIG EIKMO, Part One



Retracing Hanig Eikmos path has not been easy. Not because it was so complicated but because it was so simple. Hanig seemed to be a man of direct action, a man who would solve problems characteristically with his hands, not with his mind. Therefore, it became at times infuriatingly difficult to reason out what he would have done next, because what he did next was often spur-of-the-moment.

Too, he was by far the weakest speaker of American, barely advanced beyond the mandatory classes at the trade school he went to instead of the Academy, and barely having learned any more from the radio and television during the trip. He seemed uninterested in most things, even things almost anyone else would have thought vital. Therefore, he did not interact as much with Americans as his fellow crewmen did, and tended to live by himself. This was particularly true during the early years of his exile, but it was always true to a large extent.

But in the end it did not matter, as it turns out. But I am getting well ahead of myself. Best to tell Hanigs story simply as it unfolded, for him, to the best of my ability to reconstruct it.

After the crew split up, Hanig went on through the night, very steadily, looking little to the left or right, until he came, in due course, to a creek. There he stopped long enough to put a hand in the water. Determining in which direction the water was running, he proceeded along the bank, downstream. And again in due course, he came to an estuary. Technically, it was a river, for the creek emptied into it, but the water was plainly salt when he tasted it; the tide came up this far. And now he had a choice to make.

At this point, he would leave solid ground; the cattails grew on either side from a base of water, the soil that nourished them being submerged. But it was not a real choice. To stay with relatively firm footing, he would have to divert, and divert into a land of which he knew very little. If he stayed with the estuary, he was in much more familiar territory, for his youth had been spent in country much like this. A little testing showed that he could follow the water at least for a time without having it close over his head, so he proceeded to do that. And though in time the water did become too deep for literal wading, it was calm, so that he was able to half swim, half gain a foothold and jump forward in the water, and continue to move downstream at a good pace.

A more cautious person might have given thought to marine denizens of various kinds the more troublesome because largely unknown to Eikmo. But as it happens, with the exception of sharks which did not normally penetrate this far inland, and, if they did, were only liable to attack under the most extraordinary circumstances Eikmo had in a manner of speaking picked a climatic range in which the water was free of that. Farther south he would not have been as lucky, but he was not farther south. He made his way through the night, taking as much care as practical to keep reasonably quiet, and that was that.

And in due course he came upon a sailboat, tied up to the dock/veranda of a shack built on stilts. It was a bit of a shock; one moment he was moving onward, with nothing to either side but the dim shadows of cattails, and the next he had rounded a turn and found this. But he was not truly surprised. In fact, he had been looking for it, and considered that it was only a matter of time until he made his way close enough to the sea to come upon the home of a waterman.

There were no lights not in the shack, not on the boat, not even running lights. Levering himself out of the water onto the dock, he listened. There was someone sleeping in the shack, but that did not immediately disturb Eikmo. He slipped aboard the boat, a twenty-four-foot yawl, and found it perfect; certainly showing signs of wear and tear, but the sails were apparently whole, being loosely gathered at the base of the mast with a few turns of cordage to keep them so, and the hull was sound. With that learned, he examined the ties to the dock and found that one of them was a padlocked chain, despite the fact that access to shack and boat was limited to water. He examined the chain and found it strong, and fastened to an eyebolt through the dock, the other end of the eyebolt with its threads apparently damaged deliberately so that the nut could not be backed off at least not by Eikmos hand. Shaking his head, he now entered the shack and stood over the sleeping occupant.

The interior of the shack was dim, and he could not make out much detail, but it was one room, plus the veranda/dock from which, undoubtedly, the occupant fished from time to time, and the occupant was alone. He was a man of thirty or so, who had gone to sleep with his clothes largely on, and judging by the smell which fountained up from his mouth he was on his back he had gone to sleep drunk. Eikmo killed him swiftly, by breaking his neck, and searched his clothes until he found the key to the padlock.

He now had transportation. It did not take long to puzzle out the mysteries of the yawl rig. In a matter of several hours, he was down through the increasingly broad estuaries and on the ocean, and then around Cape May into Delaware Bay. Full daylight saw him headed in the general direction of Dover, Delaware.

The bay was not, even then, the loveliest of spots; the water that sometimes literally foamed back from the hull was liberally laced with chemicals and detergents, and yellowish; nor was it helped by Eikmos having to tack, again and again, against a quartering breeze. But he forged on, ducking the tankers and freighters that occasionally cut across his path.

In due course, he found a landfall in the form of a long, deserted, weather-beaten dock poking out into the bay, flanked by an obviously abandoned building and some distance from a highway he could see. That was the extent of civilization at this point, Dover being inland by a few miles, but for Eikmo the highway was the important thing, with its traffic proceeding more from left to right than from right to left.

He scrambled onto the dock, taking a few things with him and lashing the wheel of the boat. He watched the boat start to sail away, and then he turned shoreward. He made his way over some broken concrete and then through a scrub field to the shoulder of the highway, which was the main coastal artery but was two-lane, if concrete. He studied the traffic flow, and then he began to walk in the direction of Dover. In due course the highway became a street. And so he proceeded, gradually seeing signs of life in the form of decaying houses and stores, and then somewhat less decayed structures, and the occasional human, and being passed by cars, and in a little while he was walking down an undoubted human street in an undoubted human city, with humans here and there, and he betraying no sign that he was any different from them or did not belong there.

He had, aside from his iron rations and his first-aid kit, a compass, a chronometer, and a portable marine band radio. He had also changed from his uniform into paint-spattered jeans and a T-shirt, which, though somewhat skimpy for the weather, and short, were of course far safer than his uniform. The latter was at the bottom of the bay.

He found a pawnshop in due course, probably simply going along until he came to a store window full of all sorts of things with only portability in common. But remember that he had the items in the first place; he knew there was someplace where you could get money for items without clear title. True, he traded in the stolen goods for a very little amount of money he could not bargain, of course, though I doubt he would have even if fluent in American and with that little bit of money bought some clothes at a secondhand store; a better-fitting pair of jeans, and much cleaner; and the same for a T-shirt, which he topped with a blue chambray shirt and a pea coat. He kept his issue socks, underwear, and shoes. In fact, he still had the shoes, years later, and though they were like no pair on Earth at the time, neither were they outlandish, and he saw no point in discarding them. (It is also possible he wanted something to tie him back to the world of his birth.)

Outfitted, so to speak, he next waited beside one of several saloons, and, picking his victim judiciously, relieved a sailor of his pay, which came to several hundred dollars. He killed again, yes.

With that much for a stake, he moved to the Greyhound station, where he bought a ticket to Denver quite possibly because it was the easiest city name to pronounce. Practically every city name has a variety of possible pronunciations, except Denver. And in due course he arrived there.

In Denver he lived for many years, working as a day laborer, getting paid at the end of each day, sleeping in flophouses and eating in diners, distinguished from his fellow denizens only in that he did not drink. He really seems to have been content with his lot, and if he hadnt accidentally seen Ravashan on a stopover on his way to Colorado Springs, he might be there yet, and reasonably happy, and out of this story entirely.

But he is not out of it.

A.B.


A TRUE AND ACCURATE, COMPLETE ACCOUNT BY DITLO RAVASHAN FOR HIS OWN FILES | Hard Landing | JACK MULLICA