TITLE: Ennui, How to Defeat.
CHALLENGE: fudge ripple #11; hesitation.
SUMMARY: in times of safety, boredom can be your worst enemy.A.N.: takes place quite early on in the timeline—at this point, Elpida has not yet been to pro-zombie-apocalypse Crete (I will never tire of writing the words ‘zombie apocalypse’). Apologies for, er, rambleyness?
The whitewashed, square buildings of Antikythera clung to the terrain like tortoises, huddled up dusty hillsides on giraffe-coloured and sandy ground where tall shrubs sat easily, watching the days go by—seemingly unmoved by anything. They were content to simply mull over whatever mysteries it is shrubs think about. The blue paint on the doors and window frames, peeling as it was, struck up a cheerful contrast against the whiteness of the plaster, and the square rooftops were covered with a dusting of sand from the winds that constantly blew over the island. The terrain was made up of rock, and cracks and crevices ran through it, meaning that bridges had to be constructed long ago: grey-brown pathways connecting everything that existed in this little settlement. It had been this way for decades.
Elpida Calpis sat on a pebble beach on the southernmost side of the island that took up only about twenty kilometres square of space. It was a puny island, a blip: it used to have three small towns on it, but now all of the people had moved to Potamós, what used to be the biggest town there; now holding all fifty-one of Antikythera’s residents, a lot of them in the holiday cottages that were set up to make money from the tourist industry. Tucking a stray strand of dark hair behind one ear, she kept her eyes on the thin pier that jutted out into the ocean like a cigarette from a pair of lips. There were a few of boats tied up to the pier—an array of tiny rowing boats, as well as a couple of fishing sloops—but the one that took pride of place was the Sapredon, her father’s own ship.
It was much larger than the other boats—it certainly wasn’t huge, but it was the biggest there—and it was very beautiful, to her eyes at least. It was about the length of five full grown men head to toe, about thirty-five feet, and perhaps twelve feet wide. It was quite an old thing, not powered by a motor but by the wind; which was a big help, in Elpida’s opinion. When the great sails were down, as they were now, two masts stood up tall and thin with thin ropes tied in patterns that she did not understand travelling to all corners of the boat; and the boon swung gently, two life rings hanging from it, cheerfully red and white like candy canes at Christmas. There was the main above-deck cabin, which looked like a shed that had been nailed to the deck to Elpida, as well as the below-decks. The brig, as it would have been called in more romantic days.
Her father had just returned from yet another excursion to Crete along with his crew of fifteen or so able-bodied men (and a couple of women, too). They were the brave ones, the ones facing the zombies. Elpida could only imagine what they looked like; her mind filled the gaps full of all sorts of things. Zombies that spat acid, ripped off heads, climbed up walls, all sorts of fantastical elements that her mind threw in. Despite all of the horrors of her mind, though, she felt this dreadful curiosity—she really wanted to see the actual creatures. She had seen one photograph, snapped by one of the ‘explorers’ as such, a helpful young thing by the name of Fotios. The island being so small, of course she knew of him—but she was yet to really make much of an informed opinion on him. Using a small polaroid camera, for which he had been saving the batteries, he had taken a slightly blurry picture. It was hard to see what the creature looked like and it wasn’t very close to it, but it was still enough to both terrify and excite Elpida.
Turning her head, she looked up shrubby slopes and rocky cliff-face until her gaze rested on the settlement she had spent her entire life in: it was high up on the sloping terrain, looking as if the giant had thrown a handful of white dice over the orange earth, the blocks all a tumble of what she knew to be housing. Some were joined together, some were apart, and only a very few of them had more than one floor; each of the roughly cube-shaped buildings had a smokey grey path that joined them onto the main ‘road’, although nowadays all of the cars lay rusting to one side. They had been there for years, these little homes, out here on the rocky landscape that was Antikythera. She’d been here for years too. All of her life, in fact.
She’d always planned to leave, to spread her wings. To go to a big university in America or England or perhaps simply on mainland Greece—although she’d always liked the sound of England. Geographically, her life had been a faceless plain, the flat sort of topography that airport landing strips were constructed upon. Never had she come within touching distance of love, or death... or, in her opinion, life. All of the boredom was thrust aside the moment these odd zombie creatures began hoarding the planet, these voodoo creatures. None of the people of Antikythera knew what was happening. Black magic, some form of disease, who knew?
When she saw the familiar figure of her father standing on the pier, Elpida clambered to her feet and took off towards him at an easy jog.
By the time her feet landed on the springy wood of the pier, her father had spotted her coming and was standing there with his hands on his hips. He was quite a severe-looking and stoutly-built man with a very square jaw and a hooked nose that was shaped—from the front—rather like an arrow pointing down at his lips. Elpida knew that her nose took on a somewhat similar shape, but she liked to think of it as being a little more feminine and small. It cheered her up. Smiling brightly back at her father, she greeted him in just a couple of words and they stood in companionable silence for a moment, turning to look at some of her father’s crew finishing closing up the Sapredon. Elpida knew that he was proud of ‘his boys’, every one. They were treated like heroes after every venture.
“How was Crete?” Elpida asked, looking at her father sidelong with one eye closed. This was the way she looked at people when she was trying to work something out, or trying to get into their heads.
“The same,” her father grunted (he was never a natural-born conversationalist), looking down at his feet. “The lads have gotten pretty well used to it. We haven’t found any survivors, though.” They hadn’t found any, yet. Although, apparently, they hadn’t been much farther than the seaside town of Chatia. “I’m sure there are people on Crete, but we don’t like to go too far from the boat. You never know what’ll happen.” He sighed in a harried manner, but Elpida knew her father. He came off as somewhat intimidating to people who didn’t know him well, because of his stoic nature and expressionless face—but he loved this adventure, he loved being in charge of all of these people, saving lives and doing things.
Something that Elpida felt she may have inherited from him, in a roundabout way. She was sick and tired of being stuck on this island. She wanted to go out there with her father, do things.
“The lads and ladies,” Elpida corrected. He glanced sidelong at her. “There are women who go, as well.” She paused. “Papa...”
“If you’re going to ask about coming to Crete, Elpida, I have thought about it,” her father sighed. This momentarily silenced her, which did not happen all that often. He knew her better than she thought: reminding her that other people watched the world just as much as she did, if not more. “I’m not sure because—it’s dangerous over there, and you are so young...”
“I’ll be eighteen soon,” Elpida pressed, oblivious to her father’s definition of the word ‘young’. He didn’t look convinced, and Elpida chewed on her bottom lip, before continuing quickly. “You know how bored I get, hanging around with the other girls my age and doing housework...” True, that wasn’t all that she did, but surely he knew what she meant? Occasionally, they would bring back a book or two (Elpida was certain she had cleared out every bearable book in the town’s entire library in her thirst for something to drive away that rolling, tar-like sea of boredom), and several stories of their own—but she wanted to be there.
Her father hesitated, seeming unwilling to come to any further conclusion. Elpida knew that Tasoula—her elder sister—wasn’t interested at all in going over to Crete, and neither were most of the others (at least not yet). If anyone was interested, they could just pipe up, and they would more often than not end up on the next boat over there. But Elpida was his daughter, and she was kept on Antikythera, getting more and more bored. Safe, but bored. She didn’t think, really, that it was fair that she was allowed to become bored in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.
“If you come with us next time,” her father said, cautiously, making Elpida’s heart soar; even the hypothetical ‘if’ was a step closer. “I’ll make sure one of the lads protects you. And I don’t want you coming too far into Crete—the population of the undead is more dense towards the centre, we’ve found.” It felt like training wheels on an adventure. But it was something, so she shook it off.
“Oh, thank you, thank you so much,” she gushed, smiling at him widely; it was a genuine smile, too, even though nervousness began to edge at her insides. She silenced her doubts with the comforting knowledge that soon she would be going on... well, near enough an adventure. “But, well, I don’t need some kind of bodyguard...”
“Hush, Elpida. Be glad that I’m even letting you come—you know what your mother’s like...” Elpida nodded. Petris Calpis was generally a docile woman, but fearsome when it came to protecting her two daughters. But that didn’t matter to Elpida—all that mattered to her was that she would soon be out of there, she would be on Crete, facing all sorts of dangers and discovering with her own eyes what all of this was about. The possibility of danger laced her heart with a tinge of fear that pulled tightly before tying a firm knot, but it also made her blood pump faster in the most thrilling way, as if it were cleaning out all of the blood vessels in her body, washing away the thick boredom that clung to every internal organ.