Posted in Series, writing

The House on the Cliff

 Outland: Chapter 3

I never did find that hatch.  By the time I had dragged my toolbox back, I was too exhausted to go out looking for it.  It’s a shame.  Finding spare parts isn’t really easy.  Finding materials and tools to machine a replacement on this side of the mountains is even harder.  I stretched a tarp over the hole to hopefully block off any debris or such getting in.  Either way, it’s lighter and therefore more efficient.  That’s what I’ll tell myself.

Gulliver had charged up fully that next morning and we set off again. Sitting in the pilot seat, I sat watching the coastline move by me.  The searing sun glared down at me from the center of the sky.

“Gulliver, do you think we’re nearing the equator?  It’s awfully hot.”  I shifted sideways in the seat, pulling myself into the shadow of the windshield.

“Going off our coordinates, we could be there in about a week’s time, Andrew.”

“Excellent.”  I waved my hands through the rays of light being projected on the floor of the cockpit.  “I’m satisfied with this pace.”

After crossing over into the northern hemisphere, we would be one step closer towards island jumping through the Panama region, now a great deal under water.  I’ve heard accounts of the region.  The point where the oceans meet is supposedly beautiful, they said.  Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any other travelers in a while…

The calm sea by our sides, we continued up the coast until the sun had crept up to meet the watery horizon, drawing a bright orange line pointed towards us.  I put up the solar panels to be ready for the next morning, and climbed down to my cabin.  As I took my seat to start transposing the map for the night, I couldn’t help but notice a light out of the side window somewhere down the coast.

“Gulliver?”

“Yes, Andrew?”

“There’s something shining out there.  I’m not imagining it, am I?”  I pondered.

“I would assume not, Andrew.”

“I’ll have to see where it’s coming from tomorrow.  Remind me, could you?”

“I will do that.”

As I continued sketching out the coastline, I couldn’t help taking peeks at the strange light before I eventually nodded off.

The next day, we started moving early.  I kept my gaze focused ahead the whole time, looking for whatever the source might have been.  The wind-bitten cliffs overhanging the beach looked like they had taken a beating the other day from the waves.  Sitting precariously atop one of them, I spotted a grouping of small buildings.  Houses.  It could have been a neighborhood at one point.  A pile of debris at the bottom of the cliffs from various structures that hadn’t made it told me that it probably was no more.

A single house caught my eye.  It looked almost as if it were still pristine, an immaculate exterior of fresh paint and workmanship.  I stopped Gulliver along the side of the cliff, and exited the bottom hatch once again, climbing gear in hand.

The crumbly dirt of the cliffs seemed daunting, however the sheer walls had been worn down to piles of rubble, making it fairly easy to scramble my way up on all fours.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t have attempted it.  Reaching the top was otherwise comforting.  Clearing the dirt off my jumpsuit, I followed the edge around to the neatly kempt little house.

The structure looked just as good up close as it had from far away.  Clean looking white trim, swept porch, welcome mat… they were all here.  Hesitantly, I walked up to the door and made a soft knock on it.

“Yes?”  A person called from the inside.

“Oh.”  I responded, surprised. The door opened up before me.  “Someone does live here.”

“Indeed.”  An old weathered looking man greeted me, squinting his eyes in distrust.

“I couldn’t help but notice how well this place was kept up, considering the circumstances.”  I responded in my most pleasant tone.  A twinkle appeared in his eye.

“I appreciate that.  Gotta’ keep up the appearances.  Even if nobody comes to see anymore.”  He laughed, and waved at me to enter.  “You must be a traveler.  Come on in.”

I wiped my shoes heavily on the mat and stepped inside.  The interior was just as pristine as the outside, sporting an old yet comfortable looking sofa, and a variety of other nice furniture to match.  “What brings ya’ here, specifically?”  He announced, pulling my attention back towards him.

“I saw a light up here last night.  I just came to check it out.  Are you the only one?”  I asked him.

“Just me.  I just never wanted to move out.”  He said, shaking his head.  “My wife and I bought this place together years ago.  It was a great neighborhood, too.  Then she passed away… I promised her to always take care of this place.”

“Even after the disaster?”  I bit my lip anxiously.

“Yup.”  The man nodded heartily.  “The neighbors all moved out, went inland, and eventually the whole neighborhood went to pieces.  Not this place, though.  I made sure of that”

“Did the wave get to you the other day?” I asked.

“Well, I felt it.  Gave us a good shake-up.  We’re high enough to avoid the water though.”  He smiled.

I looked down at my shoes, still stained red with the dirt from the cliff side.  “The ground up here is eroding, you know?  Your house is probably getting closer and closer to the edge all the time.  It could eventually…”

“I know what you’re sayin’.”  He stopped me.  “When it happens, it happens.”

“But…”

The old man turned around to look out the window, parting the blinds with a metallic crinkle.  He hummed, scanning his head back and forth for a bit.  “That yours?”  he muttered.  I caught a glimpse of Gulliver down below through the blinds.

“The Breaker Mech down there you mean?  That’s mine, yes.  Gulliver.  He’s like a companion to me.”

“So, I guess you’ve been doin’ that stuff for a long while, eh?”  He eyed me.

“Yes sir.”

“You were one of the guys who caused all this mess.”  I could see him grit his teeth.

“I hate to put it like that…” I explained.

“You have the audacity to keep that thing around?  After all this?”  The man fumed.  “That thing should be decommissioned, so you can atone and try to make up for what you people did.”

“It’s not like it was entirely our faults, or even the faults of our machines.”  I shook my head.

“I don’t care.  I want you out of my house.”  The man stepped closer to me, hand closed into a fist.  I backed away, touching the door behind me.

“I’ll be going then.”  I said defensively.  “I apologize for intruding.  I wish you well.”  I quickly turned around and opened the door, walking quickly to the cliff side I had come up.

After sliding down in a shower to dirt and debris, I looked back up to the house.  The man stood up there, arms crossed, staring me down.  As I went back aboard Gulliver, I could still faintly see him staring me down.

The rest of the day was spent making distance between us and that place.  That night, I pulled out my maps once again.  On the freshly drawn section, I made a quick marker; “The House on the Cliff.”  If I’m ever back this way, I’ll be sure to check up on it.

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