The Weapon Child
about faith, fatherhood,
& never giving up
Chapter 1 - Bluer Than the Sky
Slotted sunshine falls across the father's face, filtered by the bars of the drowning cage. Water slaps against the sides of many ships; sailors call to each other. The sun is warm. He is going to die today.
An old soak leans against the bars, chatting conspiratorially with the condemned man between swigs of brandy.
"You know what's 'appenin now don't you, me old beauty?" The man's breath is pungent with alcohol and tooth decay.
"We're gonna take yer right out into the middle of the 'arbor. Then I'm gonna turn this little 'andle and then very slowly, you're gonna go down. Down to the slimy bottom you go, me beauty. 'Ow long can you 'old your breath for? Not long enough Cloudfall, I'll promise you that. Captain's in no rush today."
The drowning barge moves almost silently across the harbour. Two pilots stand at the prow, heaving on a rope that lies submerged beneath the water. As the rope sucks free of the brine, emerald weeds hang from it. Sparkling water and small jewelled crabs tumble and splash. The barge inches slowly forward towards its final destination.
Beyond the harbour, feathered clouds frame the mountain. Freedom, and the hope of seeing his family once again. The father's face is purple and swollen from a recent beating. His knuckles are white on the slatted bars. His eyes are bluer than the sky.
"My children," he manages to whisper through cracked lips.
"Aye, your children. You know what Grayling does to Cloudfall children don't you?"
The old soak stares deep into the father's eyes for a moment, searching, then nods as though satisfied.
"Aye, you know. Shoulda stayed home eh, Cloudfall?"
In the stern of the ship, three more men, including the captain, sit indolently playing cards. They pay little attention to the father in the cage. The two pilots at the prow occupy themselves with the rope, dragging the barge slowly forward.
The old soak leans in again and whispers conspiratorially. "See that post there, where the rope is tied? There's where we're going Cloudfall." His eyes glitter like knives. "Water's deep enough out there. Once we reach the knot, there's nowhere left for you to go but down."
High above, and to the right, catcalling sailors swarm over the deck and rigging of an enormous cargo hulk. The hull rears out of the water, a wooden wall. Masts and coloured sails overspill the sides like a fat old lady carrying bundles of washing. Idly he thinks he might perhaps stow away. Hide himself amongst the cargo like a rat.
If he were free.
"Perhaps you think yer special, Cloudfall. Do you suppose you're the first one to find his way across the Drift? I've drowned an 'undred just like you. Praxis likes to keep things tidy. See the captain over there? It's just a job to him. Get em drowned, get home, spend the bounty at Sal's place. But it's never just a job to me. I remember em all. I keep souvenirs."
The old soak pulls a brown leather wallet from his coat pocket. He waves it in the father's face. "This yours is it Cloudfall?"
The ratty little man flicks through it, tossing chips of coloured plastic over the side. Credit cards float in the water behind the barge, a stream of worthless confetti. He pulls out a picture of a pretty young woman smiling into the camera. "This your wife?"
The father wishes he had the energy to snatch at the photo, to fight his way out of the cage. But he is empty. The world seems to turn around him as though in a dream.
He thinks of his lost children. I will not die until they are safe.
The barge approaches the knot. The Father's eyes turn once more to the mountains.