It's Been a Long Dark (Fiction)

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It's Been a Long Dark
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1819
Part 1
Colin Pritchard walked through the marina, looking for his father's boat. Lugging his duffelbag over his shoulder as his boots kicked fresh snow off the boards of the marina pier. It wasn't long before he locked eyes on a man in his trawler, who looked up with a grin slung across his face. The grey hairs had advanced over the man's scalp sooner than Colin he had expected.
"Hiya Colin" The man shouted as he took a step onto the pier and opened his arms to Colin.
"Hi Dad" Colin greeted his father with a quick hug and patting of backs. Colin noticed that his father had lost weight, no longer beset with much of a beer belly as they embraced. The elder Pritchard's cheek bones and jawline were more prominent and defined beneath his stubbly cheeks.
"How was your journey?" Colin's dad asked him with his hands viced on his son's upper arms in excitement.
"Yeah it was alright, the border at Abbotsford wasn't too bad" Colin summarised the weekend traffic heading up from Washington into BC.
"Oh it's been like that for ages, come on, we haven't got long before we have to leave port" Colin's father said as he turned back and reboarded his trawler. Colin's father was a naturalized canadian. Though Rhodri Pritchard still kept the soft ripples of his accent, that hinted at his welsh upbringing.
That, and the trawler was called the Gwynedd, who's proper ponounciation had been drilled into his second-generation canuck head.
The Gwynedd was originally a small, commercial trawler now stripped of most of it's equipment and rigging and chartered out as a deep sea fishing boat. At least as deep as the Salish sea got anyway. Though not a big boat, the bridge sat close to the stern and had a cosy cabin pushing right to the rear of the ship. While also giving enough deck for the dozen or so anglers towards the bow to enjoy their trip comfortably.
It didn't look that comfortable however, the deck was littered with cases and just general equipment strewn all over the place.
"Don't mind the mess, we can sort it before we cast off" the elder Pritchard said as he walked the deck to the bridge.
"When was the last job you had dad?" Colin asked as he lingered behind to inspect the state of the boat. "Oh uh, about a week or so" Colin heard the his father shout from behind the screen of the bridge.
"It seems a bit... messy, doesn't it" Colin turned to look through the windows and saw his father flicking switches and tapping buttons. "Nah, most of the bare essentials are stowed away, except your bag" Colin noticed how excited his father was to get the fishing trip underway.
"I was going to leave it at the house" the younger pritchard said as the soles of his red converse smacked across the deck. "But I didn't know you'd rented the house out dad?" Colin asked, looking through the bulkhead door to see his father's eyes lost in controls and panels beneath the windows.
"We can discuss that later Master Pritchard" a groan crawled out of Colin's throat. Just as much as Colin was irritated by his father's childhood name for him as much as he'd avoided the topic of the house.
Colin walked past the bridge's bulkhead with a roll of his eyes and into the cabin next to it. Recognising the cramp conditions of the bunks and the corner shower that doubled as a bathroom, with little inlets for toothbrushes and the like. An electric kettle sat on the bedside table to double as a kitchen, with packets of instant noodles and pots of ready to fill oatmeal stocked in the cabinet above a cooler.
Two of the bunks, the top ones, were devoid of blankets or pillows to cover their bare mattresses. While the bottom bunks still had the same dark green blankets and single pillows.
"Any day now Master Pritchard, unless you've forgotten how to man a ship" Rhodri shouted out.
"Wouldn't it be more accurate to call me Mr Pritchard now Dad?" Colin shouted back, waiting for a reply that never came. Colin stepped out of the cabin and swung around into the bridge to see his father making his ignoring odvious.
"Captain Pritchard sir" Colin sighed.
"Yes Master Pritchard!" His father raised another smile under his nose.
"Wouldn't it be more historically accurate to call me Mr Pritchard, sir" Colin was tired of playing along.
"Nope, you'll always be Master Pritchard until you can take the helm" Rhodri retorted before stepping past his son to begin clearing the deck.
Colin dropped a frown over his eyes before dumping his bag into the cabin and pulled back to help cast off the ship.
The dark sky opened the light of thousands of stars, to bask over the shimmering waves that blurred the gap between the sea and the sky to the east. The orange smudging of the suns ray had streaked down behind the mountains to the west. Colin could see the trees brush against each other in the darkness, on the slopes beyond the seaside road.
The Gwynedd had anchored close to a pebble beach. The long, curving stretch of stones lay covered in a blanket of moonlight. Though the mountain's shadows made it look like the blanket was falling off into the ocean. The waves reaching out onto the beach to grab the moonlight covers off the pebbles with each new effort. Colin could see a glimpse of an aurora, the green, silky waves graced over the clouds like a pale crowd between him and the show.
A clatter from in the bridge snapped Colin's vision back to the boat, looking over his shoulder in his flimsy deckchair.
"You alright dad?"
"Yes, though the bloody biscuits are all over the bridge!" Rhodri shouted from within the bridge.
Colin turned back to the beer can in his hand and the map laying on his map. His eyes glaring at the islands and islets that grouped so close, they looked like pieces of a puzzle waiting to be pushed together. Between Colin and his father's empty deck chair sat the cooler filled with a modest collection of beers and a bag of questionable milk.
Despite the stereo at less than half it's volume, it still sounded quite loud. With its power cable like a tail, over the crate that it sat on and curling around in through the bulkhead and into the bridge. For the last hour, it had been replaying the best of Bruce Springsteen.
As Colin took a swig from his beer, his father emerged from the bridge with a just wrangled biscuit tin held under his shoulder.
"Here ya' go" Rhodri flipped a digestive onto the map, landing chocolate side down.
"Hey! You could of just handed it to me" Colin swung his head to watch his father fall back into his seat.
"Hay's what horses eat" Rhodri grinned up to the late night sky.
"Oh god" Colin exclaimed as he picked up and bit into the cookie.
The snow had stopped for a little while, having greeted the Gwynedd as they followed the shoreline of Great Bear Island. Peeling around the chunks of ice that fought and battled with the waves for control of the sea.
The father and son looked out to the moonlit landscape from between a kinetic charge lamp and the lights surrounding the bridge.
A few minutes when by, the songs on the stereo swapped turns at the small speakers.
"Where's the stuff from home now?" Colin didn't want to ask, but had to.
He could hear his dad swallowed down his beer.
"I have a storage lot in Richmond I put most the stuff in. If you want, after we get back we can sort through the stuff you want to take back with you to Portland" His dad offered as he stuffed the empty can into the cooler.
"What's it doing there in the first place though dad?" Colin pressed to the bone of the issue.
Rhodri sighed as he pulled another beer and cracked the can open.
"Since Martha died, I just dove into work. The last time I was in the house, was to clean it up for the renters and when we had the funeral" The elder Pritchard let the froth of alcohol pool into a tiny lake at the top of the can. Colin didn't like how sometimes, even after a year, his dad still struggled with his mum's death like it happened yesterday.
The dull thud of a chunk of sea ice bumping against the hull broke the conversation. By ear, the two knew that it was nothing to worry about, but it was a reprieve from the topic. Both men looked to the hull the sound eminated from, as if they expected a great spout of water to erupt from the deck like in a cartoon.
"What about your bird? I thought she'd come with you this time?" Rhodri turned his head and drained the froth and amber coloured pool.
"Sophie and I are taking a break" Colin relented how the tide of their chat had turned back at him. "She flew back to Victoria about a week ago?"
Colin gulped his beer like all the thirst in the world pulled at his throat, finishing the can.
"Well, don't worry lad. Years of work and effort doesn't go away just like that" Rhodri said.
Then the lights on the boat went out.
The stereo was cut silent mid-chorus.
The kinetic lamp struggled and buzzed, as if irritated and growling.
Rhodri stood up with years of confidence as he quickly stumbled in the darkness to the bridge. In the plastic case of the lamp, sparks clicked in the container before igniting in a sudden burst of flames.
Colin swung his chair in a panic and landed on the hard, wooden deck at the detriment of his ribs and arm.
"Dad, where's the extinguisher!" Colin yelled as he pushed himself away from the burning lamp. He smacked his back against the cold gunwale.
"It's here somewhere! Don't let it spread to the deck!" Rhodri yelled as Colin heard his father rummaging through the bridge. Colin rose with the panicked urge to get up, his eyes glued to the flames that rose up higher to match him.
"Is the extinguisher out on the deck?!" Colin couldn't believe what his father had just asked him. Frantically looking up and down the deck for a red canister. "Fuck...Fuck...Fuck..." Colin kept repeating, desperately emptying boxes and pushing garbage as the plastic cooler began to melt.
A pair of worn old gloves dropped out of a crate and Colin felt an opportunity strike his head.
He pulled the left handed glove over his right hand and took some tentative steps to the lamp.
The flames snarled and flames lashed out at him. Colin's eyes were pinpoint focused on the handle that's warped form was hidden behind a bastion of flames.
With a quick scoop, he whipped his gloved hand through the blaze and onto the handle.
Just as the burning flames and searing plastic burned though the glove and licked his fingers, the lamp slipped from his fingers as it was flung overboard.
The flames tilted as they flew through the cool air, before an audible plop extinguished the fire and sent the lamp to the depths.
"You fucking pillock! Get your hands in the sea!" Rhodri shouted as Colin flung the boiling glove after the lamp and ran to the stern of the boat. Colin could see the red and blackened skin of his fingers and palm as he leapt to the gap in the gunwale. He dropped his hands into the sea and the shivering cold water instead cooled his burnt hand. The salt stung his wounds as it pressed against his burns.
"Bloody hell Colin! You didn't have to quite do that now did you! Keep your hands in the water while I get you the first aid kit" The tone and pitch of Rhodri's voice lowered as colin looked over his shoulder to see his old man retreat back to the bridge.
"It's probably with the extinguisher!" Colin chuckled, before the throbbing pain in his hand began causing Colin to hiss in reaction.

Continued in Part 2
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