The Tide (Rest of the Story)

This is the rest of the story. Click here for the beginning

The Harnet Gulls reacted differently.  First a few started flapping hard, then more, and soon entire flocks were fighting for height, raising themselves well above the tops of the Barnacle trees.  The Soar Eagles made use of the confusion below to snatch a last meal where possible, but they didn’t stop to eat.  Instead they flapped their way to the very tops of the Barnacle trees with their prey, finding their own holes in which to take shelter.

A gentle warning alarm sounded beside Michael, he silenced it.  As if he needed a mechanical warning when he had the animals and birds.  The trees and bushes as well, for now they too started to prepare.  The Barnacle trees started to pull in their frilly foliage, drawing it in and sealing the gaps in their trunks.  Michael knew there would still be plenty of space for the animals which had taken shelter within.  Space and life giving oxygen.  In return those animals helped fertilise the tree, their droppings rich in nutrients.

The bushes were preparing in their own way.  Some drew their leaves in, as the trees did, while others closed up their leaves, forming tightly curled barriers that were as strong as iron.  They would need to be.

A few unlucky animals had failed to find a safe place.  They scrabbled desperately at the trees, trying to find a way in, but it was too late.  Michael’s heart went out to them.  They knew what was coming, knew they faced death.  He would have helped them if he could, but there was nothing he could do.  They soon gave up on the trees and started to try and dig their way into the ground.  Michael urged them on, hoping that a few might survive.

The warning chime sounded, more insistent this time.  Michael hit the override again.  A warning flashed up beside it which he acknowledged.  He immediately heard the door behind him locking solidly shut.  He wouldn’t be getting back in the house now, not till it was over.  That thought made his heart beat a little faster.

Maxima was high in the sky now.  The landscape around him was silent, other than the gentle wind.  No animals remained to make a noise.  The Harnet Gulls wheeled so far above that he couldn’t hear them.

Over the next minute or so he became aware of a noise, just on the edge of hearing.  It started as a slight whisper but soon grew in strength.

Another alarm chimed and Michael overrode it one final time.  His heart was pounding, his breath coming fast.  The noise was growing rapidly now, and he could see a blur on the horizon.  The blur soon grew, resolving into a massive wave of water rolling across the land.  The tide was at least thirty meters high and was pounding against everything in its way.  The sight took Michael’s breath away and nearly stopped his heart.

The wave was higher than the house, despite its position on the hill.  The force bearing down on him was awe inspiring.  Michael stared into the wave and knew he stared death in the face.  The wave wouldn’t be slowed for a moment by him or the house.

A shrill tone rang out.  This time Michael couldn’t override it.  The porch’s armour-glass dome rose rapidly, swinging across the area he sat in and slamming home against the house with a thud that shook Michael’s chair.

He sighed.  He didn’t really want to meet the wave head on of course, or that’s what he told himself, but the moments when he was facing it without the safety of the dome made him feel so alive.

The wave was almost there.  Michael watched it close in with a knot in his stomach.  The dome should be guaranteed to protect him but the sight of that much water pounding down still triggered primal fears.  As it struck the dome he let out a defiant yell, screaming against the roar yet not able to hear himself.

And then the front of the wave was past.  The water was still rushing by outside the dome but it was deep and settled enough now that Michael could see out.  The barnacle trees were bent over, their flexible bases allowing them to offer little resistance to the rushing water while their roots clung tightly in place.  The bushes too offered little resistance to the water, though several had still been torn from the ground and swirled past.

Michael watched for several minutes as the water settled around him.  Holes opened up in the Barnacle trees, but not the holes which had been open before.  No foliage came forth, instead these holes allowed the sea water to move through the trunk where it would be filtered for nutrients.  And from the holes came the creatures that had been sheltering there since the water last receded.

Crustaceans and soft bodied amphibians streamed out, returning to the environment they depended upon.  Some small species of fish too, though most of the fish Michael could see had arrived with the tide.

Looking up he could see Harnet Gulls bobbing on the water’s surface a dozen meters above, occasionally diving down to catch a fish.  They didn’t have it all their own way, though.  He saw a sleek and deadly Razor Shank launch itself towards the surface, its jaws snapping closed on an unsuspecting gull, which died before it could react.

And so things would be for the next few hours, until Maxima’s orbit dragged the huge ocean away.  Then the dance would be reversed, with the sea animals moving on or seeking shelter and the land animals once again surfacing.

The pattern would repeat across large areas of Aguamon.  Not all of it — forty percent was deep ocean, affected by Maxima’s huge pull but too deep for the seabed to ever be exposed.  Then there were some areas which were never submerged — mountains, tall hills and even one massive plateau.

The rest of the planet consisted of low-lying ground, ground that was repeatedly submerged and exposed.  Amazingly, life had found a way to not only cope but to thrive in that environment.  Scientists still flocked to the planet to learn more of its secrets, but in focusing on the details they lost sight of the amazing bigger picture.  The very wealthy bought places like Michael’s home, but few of them spent much time there.

Michael was pretty sure he was unique.  He hadn’t missed the tide coming in for ten years, yet each and every one was still amazing.  He appreciated them in a way no one else ever did.

Part of that appreciation came from the fact he hadn’t expected to see any of those days.  As a deposed planetary governor he’d expected to be executed.  Instead he had been quietly relocated.  He couldn’t leave the house.  He had no way to contact anyone and the only people he ever saw were guards who occasionally delivered supplies, but he’d grown to love the solitude and the amazing tides.

There was still a niggling doubt, though, a thought that maybe, one day, the execution would come.  That one day the dome wouldn’t close.  That one day he would face the might of the incoming tide without any protection.

Was it a doubt, or was it a secret hope?  He really didn’t know.  He wouldn’t until it actually happened, if it ever did.  Only in that moment would he know whether he greeted the tide with terror or joy in his heart.  He suspected it would be both, but the idea still appealed to him.  Whatever happened, he would face each and every incoming tide, and every day the electric fear he felt would remind him he was alive.  Not at all a bad way to spend his retirement.

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