Sailing – 2

2

Upon awakening, I found our ship had anchored. I am not well versed in science, but I took the time to observe our situation closely. Indeed, there was little else to do.

This island was surrounded by a circle of the ocean and this circle was surrounded by a wall of cloud. The wall of cloud itself was like a dome whose peak sat high above the island. The island was bathed in perpetual twilight. Though I am not versed in science, I cannot believe that anyone could easily account for things such as these. I may speak beyond my expertise, but I believe that we were in some place long lost and far beyond the world…

…as though this place was a world unto itself. But what do I know?

Some men, as they waited, cast lines or nets into the water. Though the catch was scarce and stingy they brought up some loathsome thing. Tell me have you ever seen a fish made to swim on it’s side? Or a fish whose dorsal fin was like a scratching claw? Its eyes were not the soulless black of other scaly creatures but held an odd awareness making it have some angered expression as it stared up at the men there gawking down. Its jaws snapped sideways beaked like a bird or tortoise and I’d not put my fingers or hand near them for a crown. Still, one fool seized it near the tail and felt the hidden, venom stingers there.

Within moments, he burned in wicked fever and, within hours, the digits on his hand had fallen free. Only by tourniquet and hefty cleaver was his arm spared the same. When iron was applied to cauterize, his pain was such that he could not feel it.

Where we were anchored, we could see a great rift in the side of the mountain and below it a thick and oddly green swath of vegetation. That green was so unlike the green of any forest or jungle that I have ever seen. Were it up to me, I’d go no closer, but there was among the superstitious seamen an idea. I say idea, but it was truly a delusion, a belief that we shall not escape until we found what, on that island, there might be.

There the captain called for volunteers to man the longboats. I must go to record, so the choice there was not mine to make. Only by berating them was consent obtained, for these men would rather die than be known as cowards.

As the boat was lowered and as we descended the rope ladder leading to it, oh, that feeling of sinking was true in many ways. What hope remained there, like an unchained anchor, dropped and slipped away. There, then, for that moment my heart was entombed and interred beneath cold and choppy waves.

As we rowed away, I wondered if we would return. For that I hungered as for heaven’s great reward. Paradise is what you make it here on earth. But still I could not believe that’s where we were. As the ship shrank away, it was as though a lover bid me part and not return forever. My heart was sundered in that way.

From deep beneath us came shadows long and wide, but in that murky deep they waited. The greatest shark would hardly, even with its razor jaws, put such a dread within me. I imagined that these were the heads and necks of serpents far too vast to grant us more than mere curiosity. Only by our slightness were we deemed not worth the effort to be eaten. Or so it seemed to me.

The shore came close and closer, with gray sand spilling down into the waves. At last, upon it, we stepped on the hissing grains and dragged the boat high up the beach.

Our ship out there seemed so small, so tiny, that I thought it might as well be the good fortune found within a dream and lost forever upon waking.

 

Joe Stanley

Story by Joe Stanley

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