The Navigator and the Sky
by Ian McHugh
“Sing, Kio Lea! Sing!” Tapa O heard his wife urge, even over his own exhortations to his nephews and grandsons to paddle.
The young men bent their backs. Sluggishly, the big double-hulled canoe moved out of the harbour. Huddled on the platform that joined the twin hulls, a pile of shadows beneath the platform’s roof, the men’s wives tried to quiet their crying children. The sail hung slack, dyed orange by the light of the fires ashore, its turtle motif half-hidden in its folds.
Kio Lea’s voice rose at last. Tapa O put a hand to his chest, feeling the song in his heart and lungs, the pulse and breath of the world. His granddaughter’s voice belonged to the days of the ancestors, he was fond of boasting, when mankind still had one foot in the realm of the gods.
The Wind arrived, the goddess leaning into the sail as she inhaled Kio Lea’s song. The canoe surged forward. The young men gave a ragged cheer, the sail with its painted turtle filling out proudly above them.
Tapa O hauled on the tiller, bringing the canoe around. His eyes roved the heavens, mapping the tracks of the stars without needing to check the brass cylinder of the star compass at his feet. The Wind was a slight thickening of the air around the sail, distorting his view of the constellations directly overhead.
About the Author
Ian McHugh’s first success as a speculative fiction writer was winning the short story contest at the 2004 Australian national SF convention. Since then he has sold stories to professional and semi-pro magazines, webzines and anthologies in Australia and internationally. His stories have won grand prize in the Writers of the Future contest, been shortlisted five times at Australia’s Aurealis Awards (winning Best Fantasy Short Story in 2010), reprinted in Australian year’s best anthologies, honourably mentioned for world year’s bests and appeared in the Locus and Tangent Online annual Recommended Reading Lists. He graduated from the Clarion West writers’ workshop in 2006. His first collection of short stories, Angel Dust, was shortlisted for the Aurealis Award for Best Collection in 2015.
Ian lives in Canberra, Australia and is a member of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild.
About the Narrator
Darren Kelk told the story.