Disassembly

The shadow of the Kanohi Dragon passed over the eleven Toa as it flew overhead, deciding whether to continue being a pest or to eliminate the pests below. While it made up its mind, Toa Hagah and Toa Mahri alike were sweating it out in the fiery inferno which raged in the surrounding plains, gripping their tools tightly. Far to the north, a path of destruction loomed in the dragon’s wake, as it used its fiery breath on the land. The Toa were determined to stop the destruction right here, but the battle had been a shaky one—the Kanohi Dragon was a more formidable beast than any Rahi any of them had ever faced, and they wondered if there was any hope of taking it down.

“Behemoth creatures with loads of armor,” Pouks grumbled. “Why did the Great Beings always have a fascination with behemoth creatures with loads of armor?”

“Maybe that can play into our benefit,” Nuparu piped. “We could overheat its systems, perhaps?”

“The dragon thrives on heat,” Norik reminded him. “And under each of those mask scales the Rahi has a ventilation system. Too many vents to try and plug.”

“Whatever we do, we just have to keep it from using its fire,” Hewkii growled as he summoned a boulder to throw the dragon’s way.

“And we can’t let it reach the villages south,” Gaaki reminded them.

“It came from the Great Volcano,” Jaller said. “How are batteries like us supposed to have enough power to suppress something a power plant couldn’t satisfy?”

“Precision,” Kualus answered, firing the tri-bladed staff he carried as the Kanohi Dragon dove towards them. What was intended as a strong stream of frost aimed at the dragon’s underbelly resulted in a thick coating of ice which adhered to its underside, the staff amplifying the Toa of Ice’s elemental abilities. Kualus continued his offense, bombarding the Rahi with ice colder than his Sub-Zero Spear could ever manage. The dragon’s maw opened wide as it roared in pain, fire beginning to conjure in its throat.

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Where They Made Their Bones

A Memorial of Sea Isle’s Bowen Brothers

Author’s Note: An edited version of this article was submitted (and from what I’ve been led to believe) and accepted in a soon to be published edition of American Lifeguard Magazine.

Renowned for their dedication to professional lifeguarding, Joe and Hugh “Hughie” Bowen earned the appropriate title of career lifeguards as they guarded year round. Spending their summers on Sea Isle City, New Jersey’s patrol, and winters on Hollywood, Florida’s lifeguarding staff, they made the job their lives.

Their love of lifeguarding kept them on the beach. The brothers saw it so important to guard the beaches that Joe, a champion swimmer, declined a full scholarship to La Salle College in order to guard all year. Their dedication to the career brought them to captaincy at both patrols— Hughie in Hollywood with Joe as his lieutenant, while Joe became captain in Sea Isle with his brother as lieutenant. This did not exempt them from sitting the stand, however, as they voluntarily sat up educating younger guards for another 20 years; their roles of administration were emphasizing to rookies how to lifeguard well, and how to pass it on correctly.

“Instinct,” Alma Bowen, Joe’s widow, claims was the edge they gained from guarding year round. 1Her favorite memories of her husband and his brother were of when they “…spotted people anywhere, [victims] nobody else spotted. And when you asked them how they knew about that victim, they would just reply ‘instinct’.”

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July 11th, 2016 marked the one year anniversary of Joe’s passing, as well as the 97th celebration of Sea Isle’s Beach Patrol formation in 1919. Comrades from the Bowens’ youth once again took up oars and paddle boards, accompanied by the recent generation of guards, as they scattered Joe’s ashes out among the waters of 43rd street.

“Their real criteria was water safety,” Tom Feaster, former bow man for Hughie, claimed they valued. “They were good in not just the boats but also as water watchers.”

Wreaths of Irish flowers loaded in the Van Duynes were tossed out to encircle the ashes, while the paddlers sent the salt water toward the sky, as homage to the former lifeguards. A large portion of the Bowen family watched from the beach as their ancestor was sent back to the ocean in which he so often immersed himself, only this time, to watch as Joe and the sea became one.

“[Joe] always wanted a Viking funeral,” commented Alma. Though the scattering of his ashes was not what Joe may have exactly wanted, she believes he would have understood the limitations the city had.

The crowd at the ceremony did not only pay respect to the Bowen brothers’ life in guarding, but also to the strength of their familial bonds. “The Bowen family represents a model of [what] family [should be],” spoke Bill Handley, captain of Sea Isle’s neighboring patrol Upper Township. Most of those in ceremony’s attendance had been good family friends, keeping close as to emulate the Bowen’s strong family core.

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“Safety for our family,” was what Catie and Mason Castle claimed their grandfather Hughie always advocated. They never left the beach when they were younger, so Hughie had impounded into them safety was paramount not just as a lifeguarding trait, but a familial one. 

Family is an incredibly strong bond emphasized in lifeguarding. Offspring will take over where their parents once guarded, or younger siblings will guard in their elder’s stead once they come of age. Visitors and first timers to the island and the job have more interactions on and off the stand with strangers they call ‘partner’ than their actual blood, and from those countless hours comes an affection for fellow lifeguards which makes one feel their co-workers are a family away from true family. Captain Handley himself had his daughter, a younger guard at Upper Township, present in order to learn of the importance of family Joe and Hughie displayed. So when blood relations come to work together on Sea Isle’s patrol, as the Bowen brothers did, there is a bond seen with reverence by other guards.

The Bowen brothers legacy, Tom McCann states, “…is public safety. They never had a drowning on their watch. Both of them were trailblazers in their own right. They learned lifeguarding the right way, no matter what other ways were taught.”

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Joe and Hughie had guarded in many places and saved lives all over the east coast, but Dr. Joseph Larosa, former Sea Isle City Beach Patrol Hall of Fame Inductee, insisted it was right to have Joe’s ashes scattered in the waters of 43rd street. “They may have spent their winters in Florida,” Dr. Larosa recalled, his words heavy with unspoken memories of the Bowen brothers as he watched his son row out to toss flowers. “But they made their bones in Sea Isle.”

Much time has passed since the Bowens worked in Sea Isle, but their legacy can still be seen today. Despite the many changes in lifeguard culture in the current day, holding public safety beyond all other priorities is memorialized day to day in Sea Isle and all patrols they contributed to. ns-monogram1

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Sinister Lost

Author’s Note: Sinister Lost was originally posted on this site in January 2015. The version here, and the chapters it succeeds, is an edited version meant to reflect a major rewrite of the storyline. 

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 Frothy whitecaps rose to touch the sides of the boat as the island drew near, but it was not until Nireta and I walked along the frozen beach that we could admit that we were cold. The wind blew hard at our backs, but the constant motion of the gale kept the cold from settling into our cloaks.

As we walked the icy shores, however, the wind was blocked by the towering mountain The chilling air began to sink into us, seeping through the material and between the cracks and breaks in our armor until we were shaking at our cores. If there was an empty cove beyond the frigid dunes ahead, Nireta and I agreed as we made our way up the beach, then perhaps there was a chance of finding warmth on this desolate isle.

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Through the Storm

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A rift in space appeared at the top of a dune in the middle of the desert, purple sparks leaping along its edge. From its depths Brutaka stepped out, his bull shaped mask glaring at the horizon around him. He squinted into the distance where he knew west was, his mask the only shade his brow could receive in the endlessness of the desert. As quickly as the Mask of Dimensional Gates had stopped glowing, it began to glow again, opening up another portal. Brutaka stepped into it, his foot stepping onto a dune at the edge of his sights. Stepping all the way through, he repeated the process for the umpteenth time today.

“Sand,” the titan sighed, kicking the pile he was on. The grains tumbled to the valley between the dunes, revealing yet more sand.

This was his way of travel for at least four days now. His travel out into the desert from Utywa had not gone as expected; instead of stepping right into the quarry that would give them the sandbags they needed, he had found himself in the middle of the deep desert, no indication of any quarry nearby. A quick inspection of his mask had found a hairline crack on one of the horns, much to his dismay. Instead of trying again to reach the quarry, Brutaka instead resorted to travel within eyesight. That had not really been too progressive on the second day, when a sandstorm leapt up around him. The sand filled whips of wind the desert had used in attempt to drive Brutaka away had left an uncountable amount of scratches in his mask and armor.

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Saving Lives on Their Own Time

Author’s Note: An edited version of this article was submitted for the winter 2017 edition of American Lifeguard Magazine. 

Whether one may be on the watch for a single year or a lifetime, the natural instinct to save lives is ingrained in those who call themselves “lifeguards”. CPR and First Aid will always require refresher courses, and time to train for competition is a daily grind. But once a person enters the world of guarding, spending eight hours a day watching over those in the water, they tend to leave the stand after each shift and season with a regard for others’ safety further enforced in the back of their minds.

For Bill Dougherty, a two year guard in Stone Harbor’s class of 1947 following his service in the Pacific, that ethic was exemplified long after his official watch had ended. During the summer of 1962— over a decade since he had been a lifeguard— Dougherty had been on a walk on the beach while vacationing in his old stomping grounds when a former co-worker called out to him from the stand.  Continue reading

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Where Groundwater Goes

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“Why don’t you go home?”

Brutaka looked up to find Peck hovering over his table. The Skakdi did not ask hastily, but was merely curious. Wrapping his hand around his mug, he shook his head. “Don’t feel like it yet.”

“You’ve been clearing out my house, and I cannot repay you enough for that,” Peck told him. “But there’s a limit to how many drinks I can pass onto you tonight. I’ve already had one incident here, I’d rather keep the tally low for tonight.”

The titan nodded, taking a long swig. “I’m tired, sure, but I’d just rather stay here for now. The company’s fine now.” He watched the Skakdi through the bottom of the glass, a skeptical look on his large mouth. Setting the glass down, he shrugged. “But if you want to cut me off here, by all means.” The Skakdi nodded, collecting the glass and turning away.

“Alright. I’ve been having dreams.”

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The Village of Weary

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Shores of Strathmere, NJ, circa March 2009. Self Taken.

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The Village of Weary

Brutaka looked towards the ocean as he cleared away another shovelful of sand, watching his work crew wheelbarrow it back to the beach. With the dunes of Utywa gone— presumably pushed in by the storms to where he now dug—he could see straight out to the ocean, where whitecaps jumped from the dark waters, each straining to reach the sky.

The shore stretched far, but it was no longer full. The beach was a desolate ditch now, rocks and pipes sitting exposed in the gullies where thousands of tons of sand had once sat. The amount Brutaka and his crew were now transporting would not restore the beach, not by a long shot. Butt it was what they could do while the sky was clear and the tides low, the ocean’s way of allowing the island to nurse its wounds.

It was the last two houses at the end of the island they shoveled, which had been lifted on stilts a few years back. Sand had filled in the entirety of the space between the house and the ground, requiring a bunch of someones to come and clear the place. The crew had been working meticulously since early morning, but there was still a long day’s work ahead of them. The sand was dense, and only so many crew members could reach in at once to pull the sand out. The sun above streamed white rays down from the clear sky; As he waited his turn for his shovelful, Brutaka hoped they would get at least one of the houses finished before the sky turned yellow, as it did when the sun was on the bay side.

Sand spilled as one shovelful was taken. Brutaka did not know by whom, but what he did know was that it caused the house to shift. Forgetting his shovel, he dropped underneath, and thrust his arms upward, using himself to reinforce the structure. The Matoran workers cleared away the sand, to find the post they were clearing around was cracked. Brutaka cursed. The storm must have done this, the force of the floodwaters creating more pressure than the stilts could withstand. He nodded to the closest worker.

“The post is busted,” Brutaka noted as they cleared away the sand around a stilt. He turned to one of his Matoran workers. “Go to the lumberyard and ask for a dozen. Tell them its on my bill.” Creating a portal with his Olmak to the lumberyard, the worker nodded, rushing through, leaving his team leader holding the weight of the house. The portal closed behind him, leaving the worker to come back the long way. “Dig carefully—or I might not be around to uphold your house,” he warned in a grunt to the rest of them. Someone cracked a wise remark as they continued to dig, but Brutaka was in no position to respond.

Brutaka stood stuck where as he waited, forced to look out toward the choppy ocean. He glared as he watched each little whitecap out in the murky waters, the little wisps of whitewater catching his attention more than the mass of Matoran dumping sand to fill in the gullies. He should have thought of his position as he established himself under here. Or found something else to look at. It wasn’t seasickness that bothered him, but it was something else that made him mistrust the ocean. Maybe the strain of holding the building was keeping him from thinking straight, but there was just something wrong about the ocean, a vibe out there that did not resonate well with him.

The building shuddered, pulling him from his thoughts. Brutaka realized he had gone slack in holding up the building, too caught up in his staring contest with the black waters out beyond the beach. “This post better get here soon,” he grumbled to himself.

The end of the day found Brutaka walking home in a daze, utterly drained and arms reverberating with soreness. His titan frame was strong, but the endurance he required to keep the house from collapsing was beyond what he was used to. Tomorrow he would have to pick up the shovel again though. He wanted to go to get something to eat, and maybe he would later, but for now exhaustion led him right to his house, where he promptly fell asleep in his bed, hoping digging to be the last thing on his mind tonight.

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