With a hideous pause on the very threshold of audibility the Maelstrom gives way to a cataract of surging, turgid unseen green waters cascading with a mighty roar into the heart of a fog-bound estuary just on the very verge of visibility. Some place long abandoned. Deserted. But very much alive.
Marta flailed about in the grievously agitated waters. She'd be damned if she was going to drown now, after all she'd been put through. Not a chance. She fought the water. Kicked. Scooped. Took every breath she could steal. Forced her way towards the glimmering lights. Slashed. Thrashed. Something bumped against her foot. A buoy of some sort. The water grew suddenly shallower. Fingers scraped deep into soft mud. She clawed her way through the receding tide until she collapsed. It took a moment for it to sink in that she wasn't drowning any more.
Then she puked.
Dead fish stink and rotting mounds of sea weed crawling with tiny crabs. Piers. Seagulls. All the usual unidentifiable flotsam and jetsam. Marta pushed herself up onto her elbows. She rolled over onto her back. The fog was heavy and wet. The estuary might as well not even be there. There was just the relentless, rhythmic slopping sound of water washing over some embankment, flowing down a drain or something. The surf, what there was of it rolled onto the beach as if it were somehow unwelcome. Seagulls. Of course. There had to be seagulls.
Marta got herself together. Standing up took more effort than she had expected. Wobbly. Weak. She nearly puked again. She took stock of her situation. One shoe was missing, the other one was ruined. Her clothes were soaking wet, and she could feel the salt crusting on her skin as everything dried. Her hair was unspeakably tangled. She stunk of brine. But her limbs seemed intact. No real injuries to speak of, which came as something of a surprise.
It was a nice change of pace, considering the last couple of days.
Fog hung over everything. A shroud of opaque vapor. She shivered with cold. Her breath misted into the fog. The world was being erased. No. Not erased. Swaddled-up in empty, pointless white. She turned away from the incoming waves.
Firm with frost, the sand crunched satisfyingly as she walked inland.
Away from the estuary. Away from the water.
Seas and oceans depressed her with their endless hunger and restless tossing about.
Rocks loomed out of the fog. Dark. Moss-softened edges. Little blue and yellow flowers poked out from the otherwise foreboding masses. The wind shifted. Instead of reeking of the sea and shore it carried the too-sweet perfume of flowers. A mingled olfactory atrocity that reminded her of certain coastal rainforests best left unnamed. The skies were vivid and citrusy there. When you could see them. Which wasn't often.
At least it wasn't raining here. Yet.
Marta trudged on through the frozen sand. Past the ponderous rock formations. Inland. Keep moving. Out of the wind. She came to what any respectable reference would define as a certifiably cyclopean wall. The very definition made manifest. Before her very eyes. It was in her way. So she began to climb.
Her fingers were getting stiff.
But she reached the top. The fog was less dense. The sun was coming out from behind the early morning clouds to burn off the fog. It slowly, teasingly faded out. Revealing the dark outlines of some city in the distance. She didn't much care where she was. She just wanted out of the freezing cold. Now.
The climb down was freakishly treacherous.
Her fingers slipped. Gave way. Four feet to the hard ground. Usually not much to worry about. This time it proved jarring. It took a moment to get back on to her feet. She couldn't feel her feet either. But she had a destination now. A goal. So she walked.
Fog fled before her.
The streets here were paved. Where they weren't overgrown by blue-leaved vines. More than a few trees had broken through in places. The streets were narrow woods, bounded by empty, dead buildings. All signs or details blurred into oblivion beneath moss and vines. Lots of vines.
What kind of vines had cobalt blue leaves?
Condensation was beading up in her hair. On her face. Over every surface. She couldn't see her breath any more. It was getting warmer. Brighter. The sky was becoming a brilliant green. The moss underfoot made walking easier. A lot easier than the fractured glass-wastes she'd left behind a dozen or more days ago. It was good to not be there any longer. Even cold, stiff and sore. And hungry. This was a better place.
But why was it abandoned?
Flowers opened up all around her. Soft popping noises echoed through the wooded street. The fog was nearly gone now. Everything glistened with dew. The smells were incredible. Sensual. Nearly intoxicating.
The air came alive with the scent of spices.
Marta reached the plaza. It had to be the right place. There couldn't possibly be two such ostentatious monuments to bad taste. Not in any one place. It would violate some sort of cosmic law. The fountain was completely overgrown. One massive planter filled with ferns and flowers. Colonized by butterflies.
She desperately wanted to sit down.
To sleep for a hundred years.
To go home.
Marta stared into the rich, fragrant humus within the fountain. Like it was some sort of oracle. So much accumulated biomass. It wasn't quite dirt. Not yet. But it was close.
Like the vines.