by Rachel Finn-Lohmann
Artwork, “Ark” by Julia Sorensen
The end of the world will turn out to be much slower and much wetter than you
expect. It will be the woman in the beach house who one day notices that the waves are
touching the outside stairs, and a few years later notices that at the very highest of tides a
little bit of ocean water seeps under the crack of her door. No problem at first, they will
just move inland, find higher ground. It will be a long time still before everything is
beach, and there is no more inland to move to. The mountains will become the beaches.
Then will come the boats.
The rocking lulls them to sleep and the stillness wakes them. It is often like this.
The storms shake The Everest at night and they fall asleep with their hands clenched in
fists hoping that there will be a tomorrow. And then, in the night, the water grows weary
of fighting and forgives, and they wake up to still blue in every direction. It is hard to say
whether the emptiness is less frightening than the waves. Tyze is always awake first,
setting nets. He doesn’t need very much sleep. Tobs and Waltr usually wake up together,
blinking at each other from across the big mattress.
Tyze catches the fish and Waltr cooks them. Tobs steers The Everest. It is not a
particularly difficult job, because they are not going anywhere in particular. But Tobs has
the gift of navigation. They are without maps or compasses, but when his bones tell him
straight he goes straight, and when they tell him turn he turns. The only object is to avoid,
and so far he has been successful. There is, of course, the question of whether or not there
is anything left to be avoided.
There is a lot of free time on The Everest, and they try to fill it. Waltr writes
poetry. He tries to write poems that are like the ones he read when he had books. Tyze
writes down a record of everything that happens. “For what?” Tobs always wants to
know. “For who?”
“For me,” Tyze says. “Who else?”
Tobs doesn’t write. Driving The Everest keeps him busy enough. He has to keep
constantly aware of what his bones are telling him. Even when he sleeps, he sometimes
wakes with a start to find that his bones are telling him to turn around. So he goes up,
turns the wheel, and then goes back to bed. Sometimes his bones are quiet for a long
time. So they go straight, straight, straight into the nothing. Sometimes he worries that he
has lost his gift. But then his bones will call out, “A little to the left!” And he’ll adjust accordingly.
RECORD TYZE Day 1458 All around is blue. Sky is lightish 2day. Waves r medium-dark. Wind is medium blowing. Sun is medium shining. Tyze catches 2 fish in morning b4 others wake up. Does not know what kind of fish they r, but they r medium-big.
Waltr comes up. Waltr- What kind of fish r those? Tyze- Medium-big silver snaps. Waltr- They’re good 2 eat? Tyze- The best. (May-b a lie? May-b a truth?) Waltr takes fish & starts 2 cook them. Tobs comes up. Tobs- Had a weird dream last night. Tyze- Why do u still do that? (Tobs is strange.) Tobs- Dream? Tyze- Tobs- I can’t stop. I dreamed my bones told me 2 go left, so I went left, & they told me 2 go left more, so I went left more. & they kept saying more left until we were just spinning in circles & circles. We spun so fast we made a whirlpool & it sucked us in. & when we came out on the other side there was Tyze- Enough! Tobs- Tyze- Tobs- It was beautiful. Tyze- Waltr- Fish r ready.
Waltr doesn’t think that the fish are the best, exactly, but he doesn’t complain.
Tobs says, “Are you sure these are safe to eat?”
“Of course,” Tyze says. “They’re medium-big silver swords. The most delicious.
“Thilver thnaps, I thought you thaid.” Waltr is missing a few teeth in the front of
his mouth, which gives him a bit of a lisp.
“That’s just their nickname,” Tyze replies, taking another large bite of fish and
smiling. “Mmm. So good.”
They continue to chew in silence. They eat from the pan, using their hands, and
when they finish eating Waltr dips the pan in the ocean to clean it. Tyze lies on his belly
on the deck with his notebook in front of him, furiously scribbling down the nothing that goes on around him. Tobs stands at the wheel of The Everest, listening for his bones.
Waltr puts the pan away, goes into the cabin, makes the bed, grabs his notebook and his
pen, sits on top of the sheets, which smell like sleep and sweat, and tries to write.
He stares at his paper until he thinks of a title, and when he has one he writes it
down. Then he stares some more, trying to think of more words. Every time he thinks of
a word he adds it, until the poem is written. Then he reads the poem and decides whether
or not it is good. If it is good, he draws a smiley face underneath. For bad poems, he
draws a frown.
Blue By: Waltr
Everest By: Waltr
They write until they are hungry, and then Tyze catches more fish and Waltr
cooks them. They eat sitting on the boat’s deck, cross-legged and in a circle, picking the
last pieces of fish from the pan with their hands. The Everest is not a large boat. The deck is long and flat. It is made up of a series of trap doors that open to the storage
compartment below, which is filled mostly with fresh drinking water. If they ration well,
the water will last them four to five more years. They try not to ask, “And then what?”
The deck’s flat surface is broken only by the navigation board and the wheel that Tobs
spends most of his time standing in front of. The navigation board is supposed to tell
them their position on a map, but it stopped working a long time ago. And what good is a
map when the whole world is ocean?
There is no place to sit on The Everest. There is no privacy, no shade. The ships
were made for withstanding storms, not for comfort. At the ship’s rear there is the cabin,
which is a room not tall enough to stand in and just wide enough to hold the large
mattress the men sleep on. There are pillows and blankets, which have begun to smell
unpleasant. There is one shelf, where Tyze and Waltr keep their notebooks and pens and
Tobs keeps a photograph of his mother, who he can’t remember. “If you don’t remember,
how do you know it’s her?” Tyze once asks. But the woman in the photograph looks like
After dinner, the men sit with their legs hanging over one side of the boat and
watch the sunset on the horizon. “I can remember, a little bit, watching the sun set over
land,” Tyze tells them. “You must remember it better than I can, Waltr.”
“I remember it,” Waltr agrees.
“It was when there were still mountain ranges, not just single mountains, and I
lived in a real village,” Tyze continues. “I was very young. I didn’t even realize, really,
what was happening. From the mountaintops, of course, you could see the ocean all
around. But lower down, where we lived, the other peaks blocked the view. You looked around and saw land, and trees. You watched the sun set behind a hill, and rise in the
other direction in the morning. The ocean was something you went to, to fish or to swim.
But then the ocean came to us.”
They are quiet for a long time. “I was born on a boat,” Tobs says, finally. “I never
“That’s the difference,” Tyze replies. “That’s why you’re alright.”
“I’m not alright.”
“The ocean talks to you. You’re one with it. It’s in your bones. You don’t know
“It doesn’t make it better.”
“It makes it much better. Doesn’t it Waltr? Doesn’t he have it better?”
“Yeth. He doeth.” Waltr gives Tobs a single paternal pat on the back. Tobs gets
up and goes back to wheel, standing behind it and looking out into the distance, listening
for his bones. But his bones are quiet, and after a while the sky turns dark and the men
retreat into the cabin and try to sleep. The next morning is the same as the one before. For
several days nothing happens. This is normal.
RECORD TYZE Day 1463 Mostly blue with some grey at edges. Waves r medium-dark, medium- big. Wind is medium-fast. Sun is medium dull. Tyze catches 5 fish but all r small, mostly bone. Waltr & Tobs come up 2gether.
Waltr- Looks like a thtorm ahead. Tobs- Bones say straight, though. Waltr takes fish 2 cook. Tobs- Do you see something out there? Tyze sees small white dot at edge, in grey. Tyze- No. Tobs- A little white dot, out there. (Points.) Tyze sees it. Tyze- I don’t see it. Tobs- What do u think it is? Tyze- It’s ur eyes. They’re going bad. Tobs- It’s not my eyes. Waltr, do u see it? The white dot? Waltr doesn’t see it. Waltr- I thee it. Tobs- See? Tyze- No. Tobs- Waltr- Tyze-
The storm comes that night. Tobs prepares The Everest and they go inside and
hope for the best. The rocking starts, and then the splashing. They lie under the blankets
in the big bed and close their eyes and pretend to sleep.
“Ocean’s angry,” Tyze says. “Do you hear?” The waves slap the deck hard.
“The thun’ll come out tomorrow,” Waltr says.
“Maybe,” says Tyze. “Maybe not. Could be there isn’t a tomorrow. Hard to say.”
“Hard to thay,” Waltr agrees.
There is a tomorrow. In the morning, none of the men remembers falling asleep.
Tyze is awake first, casting his nets. Waltr and Tobs rise later and bail water from The
Everest’s deck. They eat sitting on its slippery surface, reaching their hands into the pan
of fish and wiping the oil from their faces with their sleeves. The storm has been replaced
by a thick, soupy fog that weighs heavy on The Everest and its crew. They finish eating
and Tyze and Waltr begin their writing while Tobs steers straight ahead into the grey. It
is afternoon by the time the fog clears.
RECORD TYZE Day 1464 All is grey. Waves r medium-flat. Wind is medium-nothing. Sun is medium. Waltr- Fog’s clearing. The fog is clearing.
Tobs- See that? Small white sail in the distance. It moves towards us? We move towards it? Tyze- What? Tobs- Another boat. Tyze- I don’t see it. Waltr- There. Out there. → Tyze- I don’t see a boat. Waltr- Rnt u supposed 2 b avoiding? Tobs- Bones say forward. Tyze- Well then bones r wrong. Tobs- Bone r never wrong. Tyze- We’re going straight toward it. Tobs- So u do see it? Tyze- According to u, we’re going straight toward it. Waltr- Turn around. Tobs- But the bones say. Tyze- Can’t argue with the bones. Waltr- I’m thcared.
The boat arrives in the evening. It is just like theirs, a standard issue. Tobs was
beginning to wonder if they were the only ones left. Waltr continues to suggest that they
turn away, and Tobs refuses, until they are close enough to see the woman on the new
boat. She stands at the steering wheel and waves at them as she approaches. Waltr hurries
into the cabin and locks the door. Tobs waves back.
They pull the boats up next to each other and attach. Then nobody is sure what to do. “I thought maybe we were the only ones left,” Tobs says.
“There aren’t many, that’s for sure,” the woman says. “I’m Eleno. And this is The
Witch.” She gestures toward her boat.
“This is The Everest,” Tyze tells her. “I’m Tyze. Tobs is first. I’m second. Waltr’s
our third. He’s in back.”
“Where’s your fourth?” Eleno asks, immediately suspicious. A missing fourth is
always a bad sign. She is wary of them, on guard.
“He went overboard during a storm,” Tyze lies. Tobs nods his agreement. She
will know that they’re lying. It’s obvious. But everyone has had to make difficult choices.
“What happened to your crew?”
“The same,” she says, looking down. Tobs does not think she means a storm.
There are not always enough fish. Everyone has had to make difficult choices.
“Where are you headed?” Tyze asks. Eleno shrugs. “Do you want to eat with us
tonight? We caught a lot today.”
“Sure,” she says, stepping aboard.
“Waltr,” Tyze calls, knocking on the door. “Come out, it’s okay. It’s time for
dinner.” But Waltr doesn’t come out, so Tobs cooks the fish and they eat on the deck
with Eleno, looking out at the waves. When they finish, Tyze goes into the cabin to check
on Waltr and bring him some fish. Tobs and Eleno stay on the deck.
“Were you always a first?” Tobs asks. Eleno nods. “What do you steer with?”
“Toes,” Eleno replies shyly.
“Toes,” Tobs says. “Interesting. I steer with my bones.”
“Are they loud?”
“Loud enough.” They are quiet. Tobs wants to say something more, but there isn’t
“I’ve been alone for so long,” Eleno says, finally.
“Me too,” says Tobs. “I mean, I’m with Tyze and Waltr. But still.”
“Yes,” Eleno replies. “Still.”
They sit in silence, watching the sun sink low towards the water. “So, the
Everest?” Eleno asks.
“Yes,” Tobs says, not understanding her question.
“How long have you been here? Three years? Four?”
“I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember?” Eleno laughs. “You’re a bit young for that, aren’t you?”
Eleno is older than Tobs, but not as old as Waltr, or even Tyze. Her skin has lines in it,
but they are faint, not yet deep creases. Her long, dark hair falls all the way down her
“I don’t remember much at all,” Tobs explains. “I don’t know why.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Do you want me to give you a tour of my boat?” Tobs hesitates, then nods, and
he and Eleno help each other cross from one deck to the other. Her boat is smaller than
The Everest, and older, and they have to crawl into her sleeping cabin, which is half the
size of the one Tobs shares with Waltr and Tyze. Eleno is very tall, taller then Tobs, and
he thinks she looks funny crouching low to squeeze into the cabin. Next to Eleno’s bed
there is a photograph of a younger Eleno with a man. The man is tall, taller even than the
very tall Eleno, and she is leaning her head on his shoulder in the picture. His eyes are
narrowed, maybe squinting into the sun when the photograph was taken, but at the
moment Tobs thinks the man is glaring at him.
“That was my husband,” Eleno explains. “He’s dead now.”
“Me too.” Eleno’s voice comes out in pieces. She looks intently at Tobs, like she
is trying to see behind his eyes and into his brain. “Sometimes I have dreams where
something changes, and the whole world is turned upside down. It’s all land, and we wait
for the water to come down from the sky. I dream that I’m lying with my back on the
Tobs nods. “Sometimes I dream that deep below the water, there’s someplace
else. Someplace I could get to, if I swam deep enough. Someplace beautiful.” Suddenly,
he wants to lean his head onto Eleno’s shoulder, the way she is leaning against her
husband in the photograph. But he doesn’t do it.
Love By: Waltr
The next morning when Tyze wakes up, Tobs is not in bed. Tyze goes out and
casts his net like normal. The Witch is still joined to The Everest by a rope. Tyze thinks
that The Witch is bad luck. He has trouble catching fish. He manages to get one before
Tobs and Eleno emerge from the cabin of The Witch. Tyze does not look at them. “Good
morning, Tyze,” Tobs says.
“I didn’t catch enough fish for you.” Tyze still does not look at Tobs while he
speaks. “Just enough for Waltr and I.”
“That’s alright,” Tobs says. “Eleno and I will catch some for ourselves.” They
begin to cast their own net, on the far side of The Witch.
Eleno tries to lean her head onto Tobs shoulder while he fishes, but he is too
short, or she is too tall, and she sits back up. “Do you remember anything, from before
you came to the Everest?” she asks.
“I remember my mom. But only from a picture. But from the picture I remember
everything. Her voice, the way she smelled. When I look at it, I remember.”
“That’s how I am with my husband,” Eleno replies. “If I close my eyes, I can’t
see his face anymore. But when I look at the picture it all comes back.”
A storm builds that afternoon, large and black and angry. Water begins to pour
down from the sky and up from the sea, and Waltr and Tyze retreat to the cabin of The
Everest while Tobs and Eleno prepare the ships for the bad weather. “Come with me,”
Eleno shouts over the sound of the storm. “Your bones can help my toes navigate. Your
words can help make things less silent. Let’s stay together.”
“What about Tyze and Waltr?” Tobs shouts back.
“They can come too.”
“They won’t want to. They’re so afraid.”
“It’s up to you,” Eleno says.
“What?!” Tobs shouts. The waves are getting louder.
“I said, it’s up to you!”
RECORD TYZE Day 1465 Night. In cabin. Dark. Crack of light from opening door. Tobs comes in. Storm storms outside. Waves sound medium-gigantic.
Tobs- Tyze? Tyze- Tobs gets in bed, under blankets. Taps Tyze. Tyze doesn’t move. Tobs shakes Tyze’s shoulder. Tobs- Tyze. Tyze- I’m sleeping. Tobs- Do u want to b 1st? Tyze- Ur 1st. Tobs- But u could b. Tyze- Not while ur here. Tobs- I could go. Tyze- Go where? Tobs- I could go with Eleno. Tyze- Y? Tobs- For a change. Tyze- Whatever u want. Tobs- I won’t leave if u don’t want me 2. Tyze- I want u 2. Tobs- I can stay. Tyze- Go.
Tobs- Tyze- I’d b a good 1st. Tobs- U would b. Tyze- Better than u. Tobs- Definitely. Tyze- Much better at avoiding. Tobs- Certainly. Tyze- So go. Tobs- R u sure? Tyze- Would u go now? Tobs- I could. Tyze- Go in the morning. Tobs- OK. Tyze- Sleep here 2night. Tobs- OK. Tyze- Tobs- I’ll leave tomorrow. Tyze- May-b. May-b not. Could b there isn’t a tomorrow. Hard to say. Tobs- Hard to say. Tyze gets notebook. Writes it down. A little messily, because it’s dark.
Inside the cabin the storm is only a rocking. Underneath the blankets it is warm.
Waltr is sleeping, Tobs is dreaming, and Tyze is writing. Outside the waves are crashing
harder and harder onto the deck, tossing the little boat from side to side in the wind. The
storm is growing, the rain pours down in sheets, and the little boat floats precariously on
top of the dark waves.
And the water rises.