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Week #12: Creative Writing Challenge – Goals

March 28, 2021

Write about a character who makes a dramatic life change to pursue a goal they’ve secretly always wanted.

Tasani sat at his desk staring at the navigation screen. Little green dots were scattered around the black background, representing other refugee ships. The brown jagged curve in one corner showed land that they wouldn’t see for a week. Tasani hated these late night shifts where it was just him in the nav room in the middle of the night. It gave him too much time to think.

His parents had died in the Indian uprising. He’d been five years old and they had shoved him onto the last refugee ship leaving New Chennai, the old Chennai long ago lost to the rising waters. The waters had been rising since the 20th century. They started slowly at first, and then faster and faster as the ice caps began to melt and the world warmed. Some areas took longer to flood as the land was buoyed up when the ice sheets no longer weighed them down. India was now a large island consisting of the Western Gnats and the Deccan Plateau and a smattering of other islands that used to be mountain ranges. A large ocean covered what was once fertile land and separated the Indian islands from the mighty Himalayans.

The factors leading to the Indian uprising had been mirrored across the world. People, low on food and medicines and kindness, revolted against government institutions and the wealthy classes. The world saw one big civil war, repeated over and over again with very little variation. Food resources on land were scarce because of the loss of so much fertile land at low sea levels. The waters rose so quickly that people couldn’t adapt. It was said that billions died of starvation and sickness, and many died violent deaths in the uprisings.

The lucky few had escaped to the oceans on large vessels, equipped for lengthy stays at sea. The idea was to sail the seas until the land had stabilized, but it had become clear to Tasani as he listened to radio communications from land that stability was near impossible. The refugee vessel Tasani’s parents had shoved him on was called “The Escape“, and was the flagship of the refugee boats from New Chennai. The flotilla traveled together for safety. Pirates were always a problem, but sticking together was usually enough to dissuade anyone from trying to board them by force.

The Escape had state of the art freshwater recycling technology, solar panels and pressure sensitive decking to generate power, a greenhouse and aquaculture facility for food, composting programs on all decks to deal with waste, and housed about 1000 people who were experts in maintaining all the technology on the ship. The biggest problem The Escape had was making repairs in their technology. By foregoing the land they also couldn’t fix things as easily. Sometimes The Escape made port in a known friendly areas to trade for parts. People living on the land were always willing to trade for food stuffs and The Escape could grow plenty of food to trade with, given enough prior planning.

The Captain and Council of The Escape had fairly stringent rules on family size, rations, and training, all in the name of keeping everything running smoothly. When someone was unhappy enough to cause a commotion the Captain and Council worked with them to solve the problem. When that didn’t work they were given the opportunity to “disembark” at a port of call of their choice. Not many people were unhappy enough to cause a commotion.

Tasani was unhappy, but certainly not enough to get kicked off the ship. He had a place to sleep, a satisfied belly, and had found people who cared about him.

The biggest problem Tasani had was that he was bored. Really, really bored. He had been trained as a navigator since he had finished the ships’ schooling program at age ten. In five years of training he learned to read maps and radar, navigate by the stars in case of system failure, create new maps of the areas The Escape explored, and communicate with other ships and the land. In the beginning, everything was new and exciting and he had worked his way up quickly to assistant junior navigator, but Tasani had just turned 20 and he was bored. It was just a lot of green dots on a black screen and all he had to do was make sure The Escape didn’t run into them.

Tasani longed for the land. He wanted the ground under his feet to be still. He wanted dirt on his hands. More than anything, Tasani wanted to climb the mountains that he saw in the distance as a child. He wanted to feel the cool of high elevation breezes on his cheeks and he wanted to look out over the land instead of looking up to it. Tasani wasn’t made for the ocean. He needed to be rooted to the ground.

The Escape had a library with an old computer system aboard. There was no internet. That had been destroyed in the uprisings and people communicated by ham radio for many years until a phone network could be reconstructed in newly inhabited areas. The computer system did have a copy of Wikipedia, all 100 GB of it. It used to be a website that normal people could contribute to as long as they included correct information. It was like crowd sourcing information from around the world and it had the most amazing articles and pictures of mountains.

Tasani spent a lot of his free time browsing Wikipedia articles about mountains, mountain ranges, mountaineering, equipment, weather, mountain cultures, animals and plants, and mountain expeditions that had happened in the past. Tasani’s didn’t share his passion for mountains or his secret desire to climb them with hardly anyone, not even his best friend. It likely would have landed him in the mental health facilities if he had.

When Tasani’s late night shift was over at the navigation panel, the sun was just rising and Tasani yawned as he made his way up to the top deck to see his best friend Havi and check on plans for later that evening. Tasani found Havi bent over a vat of algae. Havi was constantly up to his armpits in algae and had the super important job of cleaning the algae vats so that the pipes didn’t get clogged and people went hungry. Algae was a huge component of the diet on The Escape and they had engineered it to increase the protein content. It could be mixed with anything or eaten on its own as a snack, and it didn’t taste horrible either.

“Hey bro, how’s the slime this morning?” Tasani said. The greeting was met with a laugh and a chain of swear words as Havi accidentally splashed green all over the front of his shirt.

As Havi cleaned himself up Tasani continued, “So are we still meeting up tonight to dance in the Caf? I’ve got the night off.” The cafeteria doubled as a bar/dance hall on friday nights and many of the younger crowd found themselves there to hang out.

“Yeah. I’m in, but I’ve gotta let Brit come this time or my mom’s going to have a fit.” Havi responded.

“Cool. I’m gonna get some shut eye before the all-hands at 5. Meet you at 7?” Tasani asked, his heart speeding up just a bit at the possibility of seeing Brit. Havi confirmed with a nod, but his eye was already in a microscope as he checked the chlorophyll count from algae in the vat.

Tasani sauntered back to his bunk. He had lived with Havi and his mom and sister Brit until he was 15, and the Captain and Council transferred him to his own living quarters. His bunk was literally just a bed, toilet, and small standup shower. It was only made for sleeping, so that’s what Tasani did after setting an alarm for the all-hands.

An annoying and continuous beep drew Tasani out of a deep sleep. After washing his face in the tiny basin and changing his clothes, Tasani made his way to the nearest meeting room. Each hallway had a meeting room that people used to socialize, stretch out, and relax in. There was a TV monitor in each meeting room that the Captain and Council could connect to so that everyone on the ship could see and hear when there were announcements or emergencies. Today’s all-hands had been planned to go over some of the news from the rest of the flotilla and rumors from land, but there were also whispers of a mission. It was curious because there weren’t a lot of secrets on board. The Captain and Council had found that people responded to good communication and information, and thus shared everything with anyone who wanted to know.

Tasani settled around the table facing the video screen with the 14 other people who lived in the little hallway. They were all singles who had lived with families until they started training for jobs aboard the ship. They hung out a bunch, but always gravitated back to their adopted families.

“Welcome Escapees. We hope you’re doing well this evening,” The Captain addressed the ship. The video showed him surrounded by the other 8 members of the Council. The Council represented leaders from important jobs on the ship; one each from medical, food, navigation, engineering, mental health, technology, communications, and life support systems. The Captain continued with normal updates about the rest of the flotilla, information about where they had been, and the state of The Escape. The latter was punctuated by reports from each of the Council in their respective spheres.

“Now we will hear from the council members from Technology, Communications, and Navigation with a special announcement.” The Captain said as he gestured for the three to come front and center to the screen.

“We have successfully thrived for 15 years at sea with the technology that we have on board. This requires continuous upkeep and repair. I am sad to report that we are nearing the end of our ability to maintain many of our technological systems because of a lack of spare parts.” The Councilman from Technology said formally. “We have the knowledge and tools to machine and create parts, but we are lacking raw materials only found in mountainous areas of the land. We have need of copper, lithium, aluminum, nickel and other rare materials like lanthanum and neodymium.” With that he handed the floor over to a woman who was the communications specialist on the Council.

“Many of our trade contacts are also running low on these types of raw materials. We have been communicating with several of our contacts to organize an expedition to the mountainous Himalayan regions bordering the Ganges Sea to retrieve many of these raw materials. Our contacts have agreed to provide much of the mining expertise, while we have agreed to provide navigation and life support services. The two groups will split the raw materials obtained. Although this expedition does represent a risk in depending on land communities, the groups we will be working with have proved trustworthy over the past 15 years. I will now turn it over to the Navigation specialist who will go over details.”

“Thank you Councilwoman. The expedition will last between 2-3 months, at which time The Escape will be mapping the Ganges Sea and remain in close contact in case extraction is necessary. The expedition will require two navigators whose job will be to interpret mining maps our contacts are providing, and then to navigate quickly to the area. We will be sending navigators with limited technology to discourage untoward behavior from our contacts. There will be a communications specialist to work with our contacts and make regular reports to The Escape. The expedition will also require 2 survival specialists whose primary purpose will be to provide or obtain enough food for the entire expedition to survive on. One medical specialist will also accompany the team to provide support and anticipate sicknesses due to elevation. Our contacts will be sending a similarly outfitted team in addition to 5 mining specialists and equipment.” The Councilman paused to take a breath.

“We will be utilizing known mining operations and equipment from our connections, as we lack that expertise of our own. Please be aware that these operations may not be abandoned and that the journey may encompass many dangers from the land and its inhabitants. Because of this, we will also be sending one of our safety officers. All people on the mission must be in good shape to journey to and climb mountains. Everyone will be trained in personal safety and protection maneuvers.” The Navigation Councilman stepped back and the Captain filled the screen again.

“For those interested in joining the mission, please submit a letter of intent to Councilwoman Travail by next Friday. The expedition will commence in approximately 4 months when we get to the outpost of New New Delhi to meet our contacts and training will begin as soon as the team is chosen. Please direct any questions to Councilwoman Travail or Councilman Catso.” The Captain ended the all-hands with a determined speech about survival and hope. Typical Captain style.

Once the video screen went dark Tasani took a deep breath, like he had been holding it since the Technology Councilman started speaking. While everyone else filed out of the meeting room Tasani stayed seated and visions of mountains played through his mind. He could almost feel the cool breeze against his cheeks and he imagined what snow might feel like in his palm. He had never wanted something so much in his life.

Once Tasani pulled himself out of his daydreams, he went straight to the nearest workstation and spent hours typing up a letter of intent to send to Councilwoman Travail. Truthfully, he didn’t care about the purpose of the mission. The Escape would find some way to go on regardless of what happened, but this might be the only chance he would ever have to climb mountains. As Tasani typed, a thought kept rumbling through his head that he refused to acknowledge; that maybe he would just stay in the mountains and keep climbing.

Havi gave him hell the next day for not meeting at the Caf like Tasani had promised, but it was an empty admonishment. Everyone was excited about the expedition and Tasani’s absence was quickly forgotten.

It was hard for Tasani to wait the two weeks it took to choose the expedition team. He didn’t know how he would continue on The Escape if he wasn’t chosen for the expedition. The potential opportunity had made Tasani realize how unhappy he really was.

Tasani was having dinner with Havi and his family when the Captain came on the video feed to announce the expedition team. Families with larger bunks had their own video screens and didn’t have to watch from a meeting room, so it was with his adopted family that Tasani learned he had been chosen for the expedition. It was also when he learned that Brit, Havi’s younger sister, had also been chosen. There was stunned silence in the larger bunk.

Tasani looked at Brit, who held his gaze. They exchanged a silent conversation that indicated neither one had told anyone they applied for the expedition. That was one of Tasani’s favorite things about Britt; she was confident in what she did and what she did was usually right. Brit had started her training early and was already well on her way to becoming a talented medical specialist.

When Tasani had moved out five years previously Brit had clearly been a 13 year old child, but in the past few years she had blossomed into a frustratingly intriguing young woman. Tasani had trouble figuring out whether he wanted to treat her like a little sister or as something more intimate. Tasani and Brit had shared numerous late night bouts of sleeplessness when they were children and had traded childish dreams and desires whispering in the dark. Brit was the only person Tasani had ever told about this passion for mountains. Tasani thought he probably knew Brit better than Havi, but would never tell anyone that.

The silence didn’t last for long as Havi threw back his chair and stormed out into the hallway. “I’ll go get him,” Brit said when she had drawn her eyes from Tasani’s.

That left Tasani with their mom, Kattana. Tasani thought of her as his mom, but was never really sure if she felt the same way. Tasani knew that Kattana cared about him, but there was always a bit of sadness that he felt in her gaze when she looked at him.

“I had hoped that you put in a letter of intent.” Kattana barely whispered. “Your soul was not meant to be on the ocean. It craves soil under your fingernails and rock under your feet. I’ve known it since I took you the day your mother shoved you into my arms. Hopefully you will find what you seek out there on the land.” Kattana took Tasani’s hands and brought them to her forehead in a gesture of respect. Tasani bowed his head when he saw the tears in her eyes.

Tasani slowly got up and cleared the table. Brit hadn’t returned with Havi yet, but Tasani was tired, so he took his leave of Kattana and made his way back to his bunk.

He took the long way back by way of the port side walking space. In the moonlight, he spotted Brit by herself staring out at the ocean. He didn’t want to disturb her, but she turned toward him before he could make the decision to walk quietly past.

He came up beside her and rested his elbows on the railing and looked out at the ocean too. “Why didn’t you tell them, Brit?” Tasani asked her.

“You know why Tas.” Brit said softly. “I couldn’t bear to make them sad about a possibility. They know I’m not meant to be trapped on a ship, but they never acknowledge it. If I had told them and then didn’t get, chosen they would have known how unhappy I was and felt horrible about it. And now they know I’m unhappy, but have the opportunity to be happy. It seemed like the right thing to not tell them.”

They both stared out at the small swell coming from the southeast. It would be at least 5 feet higher by the morning.

“I remember the night you told me about the mountains.” Brit said. She turned her body to face him. “Is that why you’re going?”

“Yes.” Tasani said as he met her eyes. There was understanding and acceptance in Brit’s gaze.

Brit took a deep breath and said, “Together then. To the land, to the mountains, and to whatever else we find.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen permalink
    March 28, 2021 8:11 pm

    Beautifully written! More, please!!!

  2. Yael Kisel permalink
    April 15, 2021 3:29 pm

    I’ve been super busy the last weeks so just now catching up on your posts. Great world building here! I would love to read more! Well done 🙂

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