volcano at the island's core starts to erupt and Mariner and Ma-Ku flee
toward the boat on the shore...but a gun is trained on them as they try
A split second before the gun fired, a lava bomb struck Huss, shattering his skull like a ripe melon. The shot went wide and Mara screamed as his corpse was smashed to the ground.
Mariner hauled in the anchor after helping Ma-Ku scramble aboard. A bullet from Mara’s Luger whined past his ear like an angry hornet, just as another lava bomb the size of a cannon ball struck the water in a fountain of spray only yards away.
“Keep down,” he yelled as he raised the outrigger’s mat sails, and rushed to the tiller as more leaden death flew about his scuttling form.
As if in answer to his silent prayer, a strong wind sprang up, and White Cloud began to move into the open sea. Lava bombs and ash commenced to fall around the vessel with increasing intensity as explosion after explosion shook the island to its very core. Ma-Ku crouched beside Mariner, coughing from the sulphurous fumes.
“Poor girl,” he thought. “She looks absolutely terrified.”
Ripping off his shirt, he tore it in two and soaked both halves in seawater.
“Here,” he said, handing one piece to the girl. “Hold this over your nose and mouth like I’m doing. It’ll make breathing easier.”
She did so, and crept into his strong arms, clinging to his muscular frame, drawing strength from his masculinity. Holding her close, Mariner looked back and saw Mara’s distant figure on the beach, staggering towards the sea in a desperate attempt to escape the red-hot lava that now surged out upon the sand.
Overcome by choking fumes and ash, the girl collapsed, unable to escape the unstoppable flood of molten rock that swept down upon her. A brief agonized scream rang out, and Mariner averted his eyes from the terrible sight.
“God, what a horrid end,” he thought. “Perhaps she deserved it, but I still can’t take pleasure in her death.”
Not so Ma-Ku, who turned her head to hide her secret smile.
The occupants of the boat sat in silent awe as the frightful drama unfolded before their gaze. It was as if the very jaws of hell had opened and vomited fourth molten hate in an all-consuming rage that ate the land with wrathful flames.
The island shrunk into the distance, and after a time it was just a smudge obscured by clouds of smoke, ash and steam that rose many miles into the air, like the vapours from some vast funeral pyre.
“We’re out of the danger zone now,” said Mariner as he cast away the rag. “The entire island, monsters and meteorite, have been buried under many feet of ash and lava. The world is safe form that menace, at least.”
Ma-Ku still lay in his arms. Looking at her he began to reflect upon all that had occurred, and a strange stirring of emotions, like an illuminating ray of light, pierced his heart. Soot covered and dishevelled though she was, she seemed to glow with an inner beauty that he knew would not fade with time.
“You know,” said Mariner, impulsively. “I do believe this boat could do with a woman’s touch, what do you say?”
He cringed at what he had blurted out -- it wasn’t the most artful line iin the history of romance, but to Ma-Ku’s ears his sincerity clothed these simple words in wondrous poetry.
This story is copyright by Kirk Straughen. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)