The Girl Who Surfed Tsunamis
May 06, 2016
I did another Flash Fiction challenge this week. This one was from Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds site. We were to pick a title from a list of ten that his readers had suggested and write about 1000 words from that idea.
The titles were:
Still Turnstiles at Station 6 (Lori Schechter)
The Girl Who Surfed Tsunamis (Christopher)
Murder and Wine and the Oblong Door (Migo)
The Blood Lottery (Marion)
A Pretentious Title For a Pretentious Story (thisdamkid)
The Blind Tattooist (Russell)
Jeremy Pocket and the See-Through Wall (Naomi)
I’m In Love With A Zombie But He Doesn’t Even Know I’m Alive
They Sat Outside Eating Cake (Tom Byrne)
My random choice was the second one, The Girl Who Surfed Tsunamis. It's a little long, at 1200 words, but will do for now. Enjoy.
The Girl Who Surfed Tsunamis
Janna loved both surfing and tensor calculus. Her degrees in aerospace engineering and physics paid the bills, but being out on the waves fed her soul. Such as right now, as she and Jason sat off the coast of Santa Cruz, bobbing on their boards, hot sun on their backs, waiting for the next big one.
"This is the life," he said. "I could do this forever."
"Well, for a few years anyway," she said. "But then what?"
"Then we surf the world," he said. "Catch all the great waves. Follow the best ones from season to season, country to country. Forever."
She laughed. "There you got with that forever shit again. Things change. People change. Time marches on, sweetie. Come on, let's grab this wave. Start paddling!"
She'd met Jason while she was doing graduate work. He worked part-time in the campus bar, and gave surfing lessons. And, as it turned out, she was a natural at surfing. Maybe it was her high school gymnastics, maybe her studies in fluid dynamics, whatever it was, she was good. Jason was not nearly as driven and focused as her, not her typical type, but they hit it off and within a month had moved in together. She was still balancing several research projects and working on her doctorate, but Jason was just the kind of break she needed to help her focus.
And that focus paid off. One of her research projects attracted the attention of a private aerospace company, and they paid her a huge amount of money for her idea, along with a request to accept a senior research position with them. She took the money, and a leave of absence, and headed around the world with Jason. They did manage to catch a lot of waves and see a lot of sights, but eventually she had to head back home and get to work. Her new job was exciting, challenging, and paid well, very well. Unfortunately, it took more and more time from surfing, and from Jason.
No problem. She worked out a way to combine them both - her work and surfing. And Jason. "I've figured out how to surf in space," she said.
"Yeah, right," he said. "There's no water. Or air. Or sun - it's dark up there."
She smiled. "It's not dark, you goof. And you wear a spacesuit. And there are still waves up there. Down here the wind pushes up waves in the ocean, right? Well, so does the solar wind, from the sun." She tried explaining Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability to him, and waves in the magnetosphere, but she could tell he was only listening because he loved her.
"What about a board?" he said.
"I've designed one," she said. "And my company wants to build it. It's like those hoverboards the skaters use, but fancier, with more tricks packed inside. It will ride on these waves I told you about. We'll get there in a shuttle craft, of course, but then just hop out and grab a wave."
"We?" he said. "Wait a minute. I'm a surfer, not an astronaut."
She tried her damnedest, but Jason would have none of it.
"I just want to stay here," he said, "pick up enough spare change to live on, and enjoy life. What's wrong with that."
So Janna made the flight on her own. Her invention, and her skill at using it, exceeded everyone's expectations. Her suit had a VR mode that showed the surrounding magnetic currents in colour, and the board seemed to anticipate her every move. In the months that followed, it seemed that she was always either in the lab, inventing some new toy, or out in space, surfing. Sometimes she was on her own, sometimes she was with a customer, eager to try the newest sport for very rich adrenaline junkies. Eventually Jason moved out, but by then she was looking for the next frontier. Faster than light travel was now possible, thanks to research in quantum entanglement, so with the help of her company she was able to search out her next source of waves, Supernovas. FTL had its limits, but it did shrink stellar distances, so with the help of suspended animation she was able to track down some of the closer events and be there when they exploded into light. As she'd hoped, that burst of energy created a huge wave, bigger than ever, pushing her along at tens of thousands of miles per second. The rich and adventurous followed her, but even that excitement started to fade.
She missed Jason, with his calm and relaxed approach to life, his enjoyment of the moment, his ability to be satisfied with what he had. Of course, with all those decades she'd spent in deep sleep, traveling the galaxy, her lover was long gone. She'd tried to keep in touch for the first few years, but they had really grown too far apart.
She was musing one day on what her life would have been like with some different choices back there on the sands of Santa Cruz, when she realized that maybe she could find out. It was all about speed, and time.
She knew that the white dwarfs of binary stars pushed out a steady pulse of gravitational waves as they spun around each other, waves that spread at the speed of light. But she needed something stronger, something that would bend the very fabric of space and time. Out past the far edges of the galaxy she found an ideal source, a collision of two black holes, with a tsunami of a wavefront aimed back at earth, and the Jason of many years ago. If her calculations were accurate, and she knew they were, she would be able to send herself back to when she had first left, when she was thirty.
But first, yet another long journey for her, more decades in sleep, looping around the expanding wavefront. At last she was in position, waiting for the ride of her life. Her display showed the wavefront building behind her, higher and higher, until it blacked out the stars. She gave the board's jets a final pulse, leaned forward, and felt the wave push her, faster and faster.
Her run was a rush of shifting colours and electric tingles, interspersed with wrenches to her gut and agonizing nausea. It was over in seconds, it was over in decades. She woke up on a beach, sprawled on her stomach, sand in her mouth, with no board, no suit. Just sun, sand, water, and the cry of a distant gull. The shoreline looked pretty wild, but this could be the park just up the coast. She'd just need to hike back south a bit. But was this the right time? Something caught her eye, poking above the tree line, like a long neck. An animal of some sort? As she stared, it resolved itself into just a tall tree. Not a Brontosaurus. That was good.
She turned and looked out to sea. Definitely looked like the Santa Cruz surf. Farther out she could see a ship, two in fact. Sailing ships.
As she watched, there was a puff of smoke from one, and then the distant boom of a cannon.
This is a fantastic take on this title. It was a really wonderful story. I liked that it was really an incredibly personal story set to a background of increasingly advanced tech.
(If you are interested, it would be a welcomed submission to my podcast! )
Posted by: Mariah Avix | May 08, 2016 at 07:26 PM
Thanks, glad you liked it. And I am interested in your podcast. I've thought of adding audio to my short stories. I'm told I have a nice 'radio voice'. I'll look into recording this when I get back home later this week.
Posted by: Ravens | May 09, 2016 at 11:44 AM
This one is a visual delight. You can feel yourself riding with Janna through time and space. Terrific take on the title indeed. Always searching for that ultimate wave. Now, wondering what's in store for her.
Posted by: Joyce Juzwik | May 10, 2016 at 11:37 PM