I am one who counts myself among the many who are drawn to the sound of the ocean. There is something therapeutic about the detached persistence of water lapping against the shore. We had been sitting for some time, soaking in the afternoon sun, before I even noticed the day was drawing to a sleepy end. Rods stood up in the sand, swaying lazily in the breeze. Having always lived on the east coast, it was a peculiar sight to watch the sunset over a watery horizon. The matte powder blue sky made the sun even warmer as it sunk into the ocean, leaving a blazed orange streak skipping towards us on the beach. A few of the others had fallen asleep in their chairs, hats drooped over their eyes. Lowry turned, observing the sleepers, before asking if I’d fancy another beer. I told him I did and graciously accepted the frosty can.
I’d known Doug Lowry for a few months now, working inland digging up diamonds. A few of us had become friends during our stationing at Argyle, and decided that the Bunbury coastline was far too beautiful to for us to pass up a weekend of recuperation before leaving town for the season. Watching the sunset, Lowry spoke,
“It’s been years since I’ve seen a sunset like this.”
I sipped my beer.
“Yes it would have been in Samandag. This orange, like a burning oilfield.”
He mutter something about god having forsaken the oil industry.
“It’s a different matter here and now of course, but years ago people cared much less about the means to their ends, especially in a place like Samandag. Doing business there isn’t like how they do it here.”
Lowry never once took his eyes off the ocean to check if anyone was even paying attention.
“ I remember they sent me and a crew, maybe eight or so of us, they sent us out do drill a probe off camp somewhere.Well we set off in two transports and made our way on location. There was only one road for us to drive on, ran straight for more miles than I care to remember. The dust, everywhere… You get to camp at the end of a long day and you’re covered in the stuff. Well, maybe three hours out we hit the GPS marker and set up shop. Security wise there wasn’t a lot going on. We had three Blackwater boys with us just in case, but a little probe job like this one was usually easy money. The big wells, those were the real targets for militias in the area. If they could capture a well and hold it for a few days, that’s a pretty solid weeks work. No real prize worth killing for when we haven’t even tapped a well yet. So we set up the probe and start her running, hit about 15 foot and still nothing. I remember looking around at the landscape and thinking god, this place is just desolate. For Moses to even find a bush to watch burn must have been a miracle unto itself. The glare was vicious. Always glare off every rock, grain of sand, all shades of light beige reflecting those rays directly into our eyes. Canyons and dunes were about all that broke the skyline. I remember shielding my eyes thinking I could see someone up on one of those things, waving at me, or maybe shaking his fist. Probably a shepard or farmer of some sort, there’s lots of those types out and about but they usually knew better than to approach us. Anyway when we drilled to 40 foot and still hadn’t tapped anything, everyone was ready to leave. I finished the testing and packed the probe back into the transport.”
Lowry paused for a moment to revisit his warming beverage. The sun was half sunk behind the sea now, emanating a orange yellow aura like the yolk of an egg spilling out over a blue dinner plate.
“Must have only been forty minutes on the road before the Blackwater fellows start chattering and pressing ear pieces. The windshield was grubby, but even from the back seat I could see bright lights shining far ahead. The man next to me spoke between mouthfuls of chewing gum,
“Looks like a road block boys. If its a local checkpoint we can pass right through, but it wasn’t here this morning so I suspect these guys are militant.”
The other technicians just nodded at him in dumb confidence, but I watched one guy struggle to unscrew the lid off his bottle, his hands were shaking so much. The gum chewer spoke up again, this time leaning forward to talk to the driver. He goes,
“I’ve sent comms back to the guys at Sammy-D and they advise we approach with caution. Shouldn’t be anything a pre-emptive fine payment can’t sort out.”
We were on good terms with the local ruler, I suppose warlord is a suitable enough title for what he was. Everyone on the project was getting paid well above market, due to the inherent risk of the practice, but the money came from the ridiculous deal that had been struck between corporate and the big man.”
Only the last remiments of light spilled over the horizon now as Lowry’s shadow looked upwards. I could never see many stars on the east coast, too many big cities. Out here, it seemed the sky was full of them, in every patch another galaxy. Lowry must have noticed our shared admiration, because he spoke up again,
“A clear night in Samandag was a lot like this, if there were no clouds that is.”
My continued silence spurred him on
“When I’d first flown in, I remember looking out my passenger window at the continent below. Now I’m no stranger to air travel and have landed in a few airports, but this must have been the only time where I couldn’t even guess at roughly how high we were flying or what we were flying over. A few tiny specs of light were tossed across the void below, but there was no white mess of city lights, no red strips of congested motorways, not even runway beacons. My ears told me when we started dropping and it was only in the moments before we touched down I could make out shapes against the primeval black.”
This time it was Lowry who took up the silence.