Captain Hancock looked to the sky and scanned the wide expanse. “Looks like a storm.” He muttered. “What’s that sir?” I asked. “A storm’sa comin’” His eyes still fixed on the sky, “and a nasty one at that.” I nodded, even though a storm didn’t seem possible. The sky was blue, clouds were a fluffy white, with no grey or any hint of storm in them and the seagulls happily screeched as they flew through the air. But, if the old captain thought a storm was coming; it most likely was. He’d never been wrong about the weather before and I was not about to doubt his instincts now. I watched him turn from the rail and hobble off to his cabin.
I continued to think while I went to find Richie and ask him what I was supposed to do. I still hadn’t quite memorized what my duties as a sailor were yet. I kept my eyes on the sky as I crossed the deck. In one cloud there was a touch of grey; Captain Hancock certainly knew his stuff. I had never been on the sea when a storm was brewing, and it felt exciting. Yet, Elizabeth had warned me about how dangerous the storms out here could be. “Always watch out for yourself, my darling.” That’s what she said on that morning when The Grand Old Blue had set sail for the Caribbean. I smiled in spite of myself and plodded on. The breeze had grown stronger and more grey patches began to fill the clouds. I spotted Richie and called to him. “What is it now?” He scoffed at me. “Captain says a storm’s coming, sir.” “I know that! The sky’s already told me! Cap’n Hancock’s not the only one who’s good at reading signs.” His brash and pugnacious manner told me that right now was not a good time to ask about my duties. I’d have to ask Clam about it. “What are you still doing just standing here?! Go help with the sails.” Well, I thought, that settles that.
Shaking my head, I found Clam and began to help with the sails. “Richie’s in a great mood today.” He said in a belligerent tone. “Well, I don’t blame the old octogenarian. He probably had a hard life.” “Well, aren’t you one for fancy words.” Clam raised his eye brows up into his bushy hair. I blushed. “I’m sorry; my mother always said it was better to use refined speech than to use none at all.” “Well, there is a bit’o wisdom ‘en that.” I smiled and continued working.
Just as we finished, I noticed that the wind had picked up and the grey patches in the clouds had turned to a tremulous black. My blond hair whipped back and forth in the approaching storm and my loose clothing flapped widely. The waters became choppy; rolling the ship back and forth. Captain Hancock appeared at the wheel and was talking to the helmsman while Richie shouted for us to pick up the pace. Clam pulled at a rope and I joined him. Grad, Andy, Pen and Jay strained against the ropes which creaked and groaned in return.
Then it started. Lightning flashed across the sky and thunder rolled in elongated booms. The sails whipped back and forth in the hungry wind. The rain came down in sheets and smacked the decks in a wild frenzy. The ship rose and fell with the scurrilous sea and the salt from its waves stung my pale skin. Richie’s broad form looked intimidating in the fading light as he continued his shouting. I shivered in the freezing wind. I watched as the others moved with amazing alacrity while I stumbled to make my flimsy legs stand on the deck.
Waves of water thrust themselves up and over the ship, making us flail widely in an attempt to grab something tangible. Captain Hancock joined Richie in the shouting of orders as the lightning continued to just dodge the mast in several feint attacks. “The storm’s picking up sir!” Richie yelled to Hancock as the wind chapped our flesh in a castigating manner; for what sin we had committed, I do not know. Our Captain nodded and bowed his head against the wind’s blows.
For three straight hours we battled against the force of nature. Captain Hancock and Richie worked tirelessly to make sure we didn’t go down. Throughout those three hours I had slipped and fell thirteen times. The only reason I hadn’t gone overboard was the rope Clam had tied around my waste, which was anchored to a metal loop on the deck of the ship. “ROCKS AHEAD!” Someone in the lookout shouted. We groaned. Hardly any ship survived these rocks. Poseidon’s Graveyard was their infamous name. I braced myself for the worst. Our fate was evident; the helmsman didn’t even try to avoid them. We fixed our gaze ahead at the threatening rocks and silently prayed for our lives and our families. Tears began to fill my eyes. I looked down at myself; my clothes were soaked through to my bones, my wet hair was plastered to my face and I was sure to die on those rocks who had claimed many others. “Lord help us.” Clam said in awe as the giant boulders rose out of the sea.
Huge and threatening, their jagged edges and sharp points rose up to meet the ship. My eyes widened with fear as we heard the first rock tear into the starboard side. “Prepare for the worst!” I heard Captain Hancock shout over the shrieks of the wind. I turned my head to Clam, who was weeping as he held onto the side of the ship. “Don’t be sad Clam, we’re about to meet our Lord.” He just shook his head and gave no head to my attempts of solace. I patted his shoulder and held the side with him as another rock tore through the hull. My eyes swept the beat up deck and observed the grown men crying tears of grief; their appearances sordid by the many hours fighting the storm.
“I’m to die a wretched sailor,” Clam sputtered into the wind. “---never --- able --- aspire for anything ----,” His words were lost to the howling of the storm and I had to strain my ears to hear. “always -----a sailor. --- father forced -----it. Never ----- want ---this job. ---wanted to --- settle down.” I heard a defining crack as the ship started to be pulled apart by the hungry rocks. I hung on for dear life. The boards beneath Clam began to give way. I looked into his frightened face. “Hang on!” My voice shouted. “It’s no use.” He whispered. “You’ve been a good friend John, but hope’s lost.”
The ship was being brutally bashed and banged by both the rocks and the storm. Clam’s body began falling towards the ocean’s cold grip. “NO!” I raged; reaching my arm to try and stop his fall. I just barely grasped his hand. “Don’t let go!” He grunted and groaned as I frantically looked for something to use to pull him up. I spotted a loose rope and hung it over the side of the crevasse. “Grab onto it!” His left arm reached wildly for the life line but it was not to be. The waves leapt higher and higher; trying to claim their victim. Our hands began to slip and the rope was just not close enough but I dared not move for fear of losing him. I looked down at the water below. Sharks. Their grey fins cut in and out of the water as they circled around the spot were Clam was hanging. He followed my gaze and fright like I’ve never seen in a man’s face came to his eyes. His hand slipped from mine and I watched in horror as he fell to the sharks. Their chomping sounds made promulgate that he was gone for good.
I rose to my feet, using my rope as an anchor, and scanned the decrepit deck. Men, sailors, my friends; all were falling into the sea or holding on to avoid it. My mind raced. I couldn’t die, I just couldn’t. Too many people needed me at home. “Think John, think! What can you use to save yourself?” I frantically looked around for something; anything. The ship creaked and groaned as more and more rocks crashed into its side. I heard a crashing behind me and saw a huge rock coming at me. I inhaled sharply and turned to run. I was suddenly yanked back and I fell to the deck. I had forgotten about my rope. Pain surged through my arm. A deep laceration had been caused by a jagged board. Slowly sitting up I looked for a rag while my arm bled on my pants. Spotting a stray jacket, I took it and began wrapping my wound. Turning my head, I watched as the big boulder scrapped the side of the ship; tearing out the boards as it went.
I sat there on the battered deck, my mind becoming foggier and foggier. The jacket around my arm was drenched with blood. The world around me began to swirl in circles; the flashing lightning made my eyes hurt and the thunder pounded through my head. Soon my vision began to become blacker and blacker, then, I passed out.
I shouted and sprung from my bed. I was drenched in sweat and my covers were a tangled mess.
“John?” I heard a familiar voice call. “Are you all right?”
I smiled a weak smile.
“Yes darling, I just must have had a frightful dream.”
I heard a tisk, tisk from the kitchen and the patter of feet on the stairs.
“Well, I’ve made you some tea to help you feel better.” Elizabeth smiled as she stepped past the door and into the room. “It must have been a very bad dream.” She commented as her eyes swept over the knotted covers.
“Yes, yes it was.” I took the tea from her hands and watched as she fluffed the pillows and straightened the sheets. I drank until there was nothing but the dregs left in the cup.
“Captain Hancock payed you a visit this morning.” She told me. “He wanted to know if you were still thinking of sighing up.”
“Oh no.” I shook my head decidedly. “I disdain the life of a sailor now. Too much danger, not enough food, hardly any pay.”
“Really?” She said, shocked. “But just yesterday you were so excited about joining.”
“Not any more. You’re too important to me.”
She blushed, kissed my forehead, and waltzed out of the room.
© Copyright 2016 Cassidy Small . All rights reserved.