Sailing – 1

1

It did not take me long to feel the swirling nausea of sea sickness. I am not a sailor, I am a scribe, and it was my task to record the events of our journey. We left the sunny, tropical shores for the gloomy gray and rainy port that waits across the ocean vast and blue. Our cargo was of rum, fruit and spices. These things would bring a fortune in the market place back home.

If only we could make it home.

As we sailed along, we saw that in our path a wall of fog or mist climbed up to the stormy clouds above. Those clouds were oddly colored, though I thought it was my illness turning everything to shades unpleasant and even… vile.

The clouds stretched from horizon to horizon, it seemed, and we had little chance to avoid them. We sailed to them, they flowed to us like duellists on the field of honor. It is an apt description of that sense of something ominous that gripped me.

Though here I can state I found them to hold more than mortal fear. For a mighty storm is a ship’s nightmare and one all sailors rightly see with the respect one might grant the visible hand of God itself. A storm falls upon a vessel like the wrath of a vengeful nature and every man aboard secretly recalls his failings and wonders if his judgement is at hand.

But what I mean is, sick though I was, the clouds and fog impressed on me a sense of the alien. It dwarfed that fear stated above with a greater fear – that of the unknown, that of the unknowable. Though I told myself that I was sick and only making fantasy and phantoms, I knew I merely held myself within the comfort of a hopeful lie.

Every moment between us and it was both a gratefully received reprieve and a ticking pendulum which announced the ever shrinking time until it had us. When, at last, we collided it was as if we sailed into some immense cobweb. Though we had been clipping along, our ship seemed to slow then as the ephemeral net dissipated what speed we had.

Oh, though words are my charge, I have little I can add to a ship swallowed up by a sea-going cloud. In all directions there was nothing but the limbo of formless, shapeless vapors. For it felt as if we were cut off from the world and I think that says it all. Even the sound of the water was so faint as to be absent. Were those missing sounds cast only back into the world we left behind?

How I wish that fears were all there was to it, if it was, perhaps we would have happily sailed through the other side and been on our merry way. But a cry and then another brought our attention to faint and colored lights which darted here and there all around us. What firey angels flitted, climbing through that cloud? As they danced and played and shifted shade the oldest sea dogs stood with mouths as wide as mine.

It was all I could do to clutch the rail and wonder for such things I think so few shall ever see. I think, perhaps, life is merciful for that. Time within that mist moves both slower and faster until one asks has it been but moments or is it years? Have centuries rolled by like heartbeats or have heartbeats taken centuries? I truly could not say and with horror I concede the answer there is one which I would rather remain ignorant.

We grew neither hungry nor thirsty and with no wind the sails hung useless. The mast rose up and away disappearing into the obscuring swirls that pressed down upon us. I had supposed we either moved not at all or surely drifted on the ocean’s current. Then again, only the mist seemed moving and perhaps that is the sole truth of it. Perhaps by moving, it moved us, somehow.

And as time rolled on unending, the dancing lights fell behind. Before us a dark triangle rose as the mist then thinned away. But here should be no island, let alone a mountain poking out of the ocean deep and rising to the sky. We broke the wall but to see the wall circled the island.

With a slight wind in the void between them we circumnavigated it and found no freedom from the tomb of its seemingly endless grayness. It was clear that we shall sail back into the fog again or seek landfall on the dark and towering cone-like pinnacle before us.

While the captain contemplated this, I slept.

 

Joe Stanley

story by Joe Stanley

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