I looked up from the dusty and dirty old map I had been examining for the past seventeen minutes to see what Liam was pointing at through the window, feeling worried and upset that I still hadn’t got any clue at all as to our whereabouts. He was standing at the bow of our medium-size fishing boat with his back to me, leaning dangerously over the railing, looking straight ahead into the thick billowing sea mist, his wind-blown dark curly brown hair glistening in the dimmed sunlight.
“What is it?” I asked him, narrowing my eyes as I stepped out onto the deck, shivering in my red parka jacket and army shorts. “Careful there, son. If you fall over and die, the fish will be throwing a party tonight.”
He threw a nasty side-eyed glance at me. He’s one of the few people who could actually stand my sick sense of humor. In fact he inherited the same twisted ability from me to realize that bad things that happen can be funny.
“You’ll die first, dad. Because you’re so old.”
My face instantly contorted into a look of utter confusion.
“I thought we’ve come to a mutual agreement that your precious corn-fed northerner stepfather Furby will die first? What, is he like three hundred years old or something? What was going through your mom’s head when she met him?”
“You’re so old, dad, you have an autographed Bible.”
“Yeah? Furby is so old he got dumped by a Neanderthal chick twice.”
“It’s Fernby, and no. You’re still much older and will die first, and I will be very sad, yes. But yeah you will die first,” he continued casually and shrugged.
“Well, looks like we both will now.” I looked around and sighed. “It’s a joke!” I added quickly when I met his gaze, shaking my head.
“I think I just saw … a boat …” His voice trailed off reluctantly as if he weren’t sure what exactly he had spotted amidst the mist.
I wobbled closer towards him. We were surrounded by thick mist which obscured everything from our sight. It was only 12 pm but it looked as if the night sky had decided to arrive early to distract us once again. We had been stuck here for five hours tossed about by the wind and waves because the engine had somehow shut down and I could not, for the love of God, turn it back on. But it seemed like nothing could dampen my son’s spirit. He’s only 14 but his tendency to always stay positive under difficult circumstances never ceased to amaze me.
I turned my head and spat as sea mist rose above the surface on the breeze, and with it the acrid smell of brine.
“Where? Where is it?” I asked, looking around in confusion trying to make out the outline of a boat nearby.
He raised his hand again and pointed at a vague and blurry silhouette of another fishing boat in the distance, about two hundred meters due west from where we were.
“Hello?” he shouted loudly.
“Hello?” I chimed in. “Can you hear us? We need help. We’re stuck here. Hello?”
A few minutes later the boat finally came into clear view as it floated closer towards us, then I noticed how strange it looked. It was covered with efflorescence all over its bow and stern as if it had been left out in the open sea for months. The wooden hull also looked fragile and was covered in barnacles and other marine growth.
“Hello?” I called out again as it inched closer to us and then our boat shook lightly as it gently collided with the strange boat. I rushed back inside our cockpit and grabbed the rope I had tucked away belowdecks then I hopped up onto the other boat’s deck carefully and threw one end of the rope to Liam.
“Tie it up tight on the railing, son!” I told him as I secured the other end onto the seemingly abandoned vessel.
“Maybe they have a radio we can use to alert the coast guard of our location?” he asked. His timid voice projected my own hopefulness. He jumped onto the deck behind me and yelped as his left foot sank into the deck boards, sending him off balance and towards the railing. I quickly wrapped an arm around him for support.
“Careful, son! This boat may have been stranded out here for months. It’s deteriorating,” I warned him.
“You could have told me before I jumped, though.” He rolled his eyes at me while trying to pull his foot out of the hole he had just torn in the wooden flooring. “Ouch!”
I bent over to take a closer look at his shank. There were small scratches and small wood debris all over his lower leg.
“We’ll need to dig the splinters out if there’s any in your skin.” I sighed and stood up straight. “Wait here. Maybe they have something we can use to clean your wound.”
“They? There are no people on this boat.”
I pulled at the loop I had just made to make sure it was safely secured. Then I began to walk slowly and carefully towards the cockpit. The door was slightly ajar, the round glass window covered in a thin layer of dried salt as well. It looked dark as I peered inside.
Weird, I thought to myself. I didn’t recall any report of any missing fishing boat in the last few months. I grabbed the handle and proceeded to push the door open. A mixture of suffocating brine and horrible stench wafted out through the open door and I instinctively put a hand across my mouth and nose so I would not throw up.
Inside, hanging from a tangle of cables twisted together and secured on the ceiling, with its back to the door, was a partially mummified corpse of a man, its lime green parka jacket and exposed parts of its body completely covered in white patches of dried salt. Its blackened skin was already peeling off, revealing the bones underneath, grey and brittle due to long exposure to weather and brine.
“Dad, what …”
“Liam, no don’t comꟷ”
But it was too late. He walked past me and saw the corpse. He jumped back instantly and shrieked in terror. He stumbled over his own foot and landed hard on the deck, eyes wide open, face as pale as the billowing fog surrounding us.
“Liam, it’s okay. It’s okay,” I tried to calm him down, pulling him into my arms and dragging him away from the horrifying sight.
“Is that a … a man?” he asked with trembling lips, breath wheezing in and out.
“It’s okay. Don’t look,” I told him as he tried to take a closer look at the lifeless body in the cockpit. This would probably traumatize him for the rest of his life. He had never seen a dead body in such a horrifying condition before.
“Dad, just … maybe we should just leave it alone. Untie the boat,” he said, still shaking all over. His skin felt cold as I half-dragged him back to our own boat.
“Nothing to be scared of, son. It’s just a dead body. It can’t do anything to you. I’m here, okay?” I bent over and hugged him reassuringly, trying not to show my own fear.
“Just leave it alone, dad. Please,” he begged, his blue eyes brimming with tears.
“You go back inside now, okay? There’s a small flask of whisky under the mattress. Clean your wound and wait for me!”
“Aren’t you coming with me?” His eyes strayed off to the side wildly, as if wanting to see the corpse again but unable to bring himself to do so.
“I’ll have a look around for a bit. Maybe … maybe there’s something here that we can use. Okay?”
He nodded slowly, but still looked hesitant as he scurried towards the railing and jumped over onto our boat. In a distant way I registered I wasn’t such a bad father to him. Not in the slightest. He had always been a good kid. Always listened to me. Even though the divorce had probably done its fair share of damage to him mentally, I still wanted to believe that he would grow up normally just like any other kid his age. I had been hell-bent on him having a normal upbringing despite the hardship.
I took off my shirt and wrapped it around my head like a mask. I steeled myself and slowly stepped inside the strange boat’s cockpit, careful not to touch the hanging mummified body. My throat grew tight as I walked past it. I could still smell the horrifying stench wafting through the acrid air around me. I held my breath, trying not to gag, and started to inspect the whole boat. The walls looked soggy, gleaming with varnish. They reeked of salt and decomposition.
After a few minutes, I sighed miserably because I did not find anything worth salvaging. But then a Davenport desk attached to the wall in the left corner caught my attention. There was a small red leather logbook on it which looked as if it had just been placed there by someone. It was splayed open to a page that contained the last entry before whoever it was stopped writing abruptly. A curiosity took hold of me.
It was written in stylish and elegant cursive, almost like calligraphy, which reminded me of my father’s handwriting. It belonged to a man named Captain Bill. The other entries had no dates either and looked as if they had been written in a hurry. I picked it up and squinted my eyes trying to adjust to the darkened room as I read it.
“It’s been two weeks and we still haven’t seen any sign of dry land, other boats, or anything at all. It almost feels like we’re trapped here. Like we’re only going in circles. Two of my crewmen lost their minds last week and jumped off the boat because they believed they had seen land in the distance. They had been acting bizarre for a while. All of them. We are far away from anywhere.
They did not return, as I had expected. It’s only me and Eddie now. He’s been talking in his sleep about the ‘one thousand years old wave’. When I asked him about it the following morning, he looked confused. But at night, I hear him again. He keeps saying that it’s coming. I don’t know what to do. Seems like I’m the only one who hasn’t lost his mind on this boat.”
The next entry had been written as if the captain was either in a hurry or in a delirious state himself. There were a lot of scratches here and there which made it almost impossible for me to read it.
“I think I’ve lost my mind already. Last night Eddie walked out the door and disappeared in the fog. He’s gone now. But I kept hearing his voice calling out to me all night long.
This afternoon, I looked out through the window, over the edge of the boat and into the fog as it cleared out, and I saw this strange gloomy reddish light beneath the surface. I thought it was a jellyfish. But I was wrong. It was an eye. An enormous one. Looking straight back at me from the cold dark depth of the ocean. I ducked back quickly under the desk, not knowing what to make of what I had just seen. Maybe I was only imagining things. Maybe Iꟷ”
A loud bang shook the whole cockpit suddenly as the door swung shut on its own. I almost jumped out of my skin. The logbook fell off my hands and landed with a dull thud on the desk. Okay time to go, I thought to myself. I walked past the corpse and quickly crossed to the door. I grabbed the knob hastily and turned it but it didn’t budge. What the hell … I turned it again harder repeatedly but to no avail. The thing wouldn’t open.
I sighed and tried to stay calm. This is stupid. No I won’t be stuck in here with a fucking dead body, I whispered under my breath. Again, I turned and pulled at the doorknob carefully, pushed it, pulled it again, turned it, and still it didn’t work. I stopped and slowly turned around. There has to be a way out. Or not. The cockpit of the boat wasn’t connected to any other rooms. The stupid door was the only way out. I checked the shelves on the desk but didn’t find any tool I could use to jimmy the door open with.
I turned towards one of the portholes next to the steering wheel and looked out. There was nothing out there. Only the eerily calm ocean as far as the eyes could see. I shook my head. An overwhelming silence was filling up the cockpit, broken only by the rhythmic pounding of the ocean.
“Liam!” I yelled tentatively, as if not wanting to disturb my host’s rest. I stood by the window, looking out towards our boat. I banged on the glass hard repeatedly and then stopped to wait.
“Well, then …” I blurted out, my voice came out hoarse and a pitch higher than I had intended it to. “Guess I have to break one of the windows. Sorry, Captain Bill!”
I held my breath, took the shirt off my head quickly, and wrapped it around my fist. Suddenly the whole cockpit seemed smaller and more cramped than it actually was, as if the walls were closing in on me. I could also feel the dead body swaying from side to side as a sudden surge of swells rocked the boat, its presence was tangible right behind me.
Without thinking twice, I moved to the side, turned my head as far as possible from the window for safety and swung my fist hard into the glass. It shattered into tiny million pieces with a loud crash. After carefully moving some of the glass, I heaved myself up and climbed out safely without so much as a scratch.
I untied the rope that connected the two boats immediately, hopped back onto our own boat, and then with all my might I pushed the strange boat away. I waited until it disappeared behind the thick grey curtain of fog, its silhouette dissipating into a blurry outline of amorphous mass. I decided my son was right. Maybe we should just leave this mysterious boat alone. For some reasons I did feel it would do us more harm than good being so close to it. The waves had now calmed to a gentle lapping around us, enabling me to hear the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. A storm was brewing.
“What are we going to do now?” asked Liam as I joined him in our cabin, struggling with the weight that had settled in my chest. He was huddled in bed looking down closely at his bandaged leg with a curious look on his face, prodding it gently.
“We wait,” I told him, not feeling like explaining our situation to him all over again.
“Jesus, Liam. Don’t touch it!”
He looked up and grinned at me as I lay down right next to him.
“Dad, you got some cuts there yourself!” He pointed at my left calf. I stood back up immediately.
“Broken glass,” I replied, walking towards the windows to take a better look. I frowned in confusion. There were five long reddish lines on my calf which looked more like scratch marks.
When the clock struck five, I woke up to an eerie and overwhelming silence settling over the sea around us, usually humming with gentle pounding of waves. I stood up straight in bed. Liam was still snoring peacefully next to me, curled up in his blanket. Suddenly the door squealed as it swung inward. I turned my head and glanced at the darkening grey sky outside. It was unusually quiet. Unlike before, I could no longer hear the splashing of waves against the hull. I jumped off the bed and wobbled out through the open door onto the deck. The surface of the sea was flat. Mirror-like. A gigantic smooth and dark surface on which the boat was merely a tiny lonely black dot. Not even a ripple was in sight.
I shuddered when an old legend my father had once told me when I was little flashed into my mind. Once in a long time, decades even centuries in between, a great storm appears and turns the ocean into a massive whirlpool from which any boat that gets trapped in it can never escape. The storm also brings something with it, or more like it awakens something from the darkest depth of the ocean. You can always tell when a storm is coming. Strong winds breaking through the surface and creating big waves always precedes it. But when the sea is eerily quiet, like disturbingly too quiet, that’s when you know that something far worse than any storm you’ve ever seen is about to reveal itself. A monster storm, whose arrival is foreboded by the so-called false silence of the sea. They call it the mirror effect. The calmer the sea is, the more severe the storm will become.
For centuries people have vanished without a trace out in the open sea. Some adventures and misfortunes might be worth braving, but at what cost? Even the most daring and audacious sailors like my father knew where to draw the line between bravery and utter madness.
I rushed back inside immediately, swinging the door shut and securing it with a bolt, while uttering a silent prayer under my breath to any God who could hear me, to protect me and my son. I shook Liam awake and told him what was happening and to get ready for it. He opened his eyes and frowned at me, bundled into his navy blue sweater which I had bought for him last Christmas and he had been wearing everywhere he went. He did not ask too many questions this time. By the look on his face, I could tell he understood.
A few minutes after the sun went down the storm continued to thicken with the arrival of a strong wind which lashed out at our boat, and with it a two-meter high wall of water pouring down on us like an avalanche. The boat fell to its right and left as if it was about to capsize. The wind blew stronger without mercy against our boat, carrying bigger waves towards us in rapid succession. The whole boat started to groan and creaked dangerously under pressure. I glanced out the window. Countless angry waves were raging endlessly as far as the last lights of dusk could allow me to see around as they pounded furiously towards us, like a massive congregation of monstrosities that splashed out of the ocean. I could only pray as I watched the horizon far away being obscured gradually by the approaching storm in its violent wake.
The thunderstorm was raging all night long and did not stop until the following morning. Strangely enough, through all of this, we had somehow fallen asleep a few times. In the middle of the night, I awoke to a distant rumbling of what at first sounded like thunder to me. I sat up straight in bed immediately. Cold seawater and rain had seeped in, trickling onto the floor through the narrowest gaps. The boat was still swaying hard in the raging storm. I looked through the window and regretted it instantly. What I saw out there will forever haunt me until the day I die. I was raised by my father to always be a tough kid and to never show any sign of weakness. But for the first time in my life that night, I felt helpless and weak. I gasped in horror as I crouched down next to my sleeping son.
It was a wave. Dark and massive like nothing I had ever witnessed before, its dark silhouette rolling away in the distance as lightning illuminated it for a split second, towering over the storm like a great mountain that had grown out of the bottom of the ocean overnight, gobbling down smaller waves as its crest grew higher and higher.
The One Thousand Years Old Wave …
I curled up into a ball next to my son, shaking all over. I had never felt so afraid and helpless in my life before. Are we lucky we didn’t cross paths with that thing? Is it going to come back around and completely annihilate us from the face of the earth? So many questions were swirling around in my head. I wondered if the wave was actually ‘the monster’ from the old legend my father had briefly mentioned to me in his drunken state that night. The horror that has been haunting every fisherman in our little village in their sleep or whenever their feet relish the warmth of dry land.
As I hugged my son tight and reflected on what might be the last few moments we shared together alive, I finally was released momentarily from my misery when sleep overtook me once again.
By the time it had finally calmed to merely a slightly weaker version of its terrible form, the thunderstorm no longer bothered us and I soon fell into a deep slumber, from which anything slightly weaker than the great storm itself could have never awoken me. After the sea had calmed completely, the fog returned, once again closing in on us incrementally from all directions. I woke up to the sound of my son snoring loudly as if we hadn’t almost drowned to our deaths the previous night. I sighed exasperatedly, jumped off the cramped bed, walked over to the door and swung it open. I glanced around for a few seconds, taking in another possibility that somebody would soon find and rescue us. The sound of waves pounding gently against the hull brought a new promise that there would not be another storm coming our way anytime soon.
I stretched my whole body and cracked my knuckles as I breathed in deeply, absorbing the invigorating air around me. As I turned around, I had to put a hand over my mouth so I would not scream. There it was. I watched in horror as the mysterious boat from yesterday floating closer menacingly. It had somehow found its way back to us. Something was not right. I tried to brush it off as a coincidence, that the storm might have inadvertently carried it across the sea right to where we were. Still I could not shake the feeling that we had been going in circles these past few days, that time had stopped in this remote and vast watery part of the world, that we were tangled up in a time loop from which we could not escape.
I had woken up with a sense of optimism that came with knowing the storm was over and we were safe and I might be able to retrace our route across the ocean. But now, watching that cursed boat inching closer to us made me realize soon I would probably have to give up any hope of that. It was a dark reminder of our own fate should we ever fail to get to the safety of dry land. We still had plenty of canned food and fresh water enough to survive for a whole month, though I wasn’t sure how I could maintain my sanity for another day of being stranded like this.
I leaned over the railing, staring at the hazy horizon ahead, just to take my gaze off that boat. The worst heat of the day was yet to come, but I was already sweating and panting heavily. Deep down I knew that I might find some answers in that old logbook from the mysterious boat, but I just didn’t feel like going back into that cockpit that reeked of death either. So I went inside instead and lay down next to my snoring child until my head felt light and I fell I fell asleep again.
I woke up in the middle of the night hours later in the dark to the muffled sound of footsteps outside. I caught my breath audibly as I stood up, gazing up at the cabin’s small rectangle window through which streaks of dim and eerie bluish light were seeping in. Somebody was out on the deck! I un-tensed my neck as I started to stagger towards the cabin door. Something felt wrong.
I looked over my shoulder at the bed and let out a gasp. Liam was nowhere to be seen.
I stormed through the door into the cockpit immediately. Great terror was filling up every fiber of my being like venom as I looked around frantically for my son.
“Liam?” I yelled as my hand touched the doorknob. I pulled it open and a strong gust of wind greeted me as I stepped out onto the darkened, wet and cold deck. The sky above was a massive portal into the dark realm, a floating abyss ready to swallow the whole world into nothingness. The sea was lapping against us. I was wrong. The storm had returned. It wouldn’t leave us alone. I saw my son standing at the railing, both hands reaching out towards something I could not see, his whole sweater soaked in rainwater.
“Liam? What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I staggered across the deck quickly, grabbed the hood of his sweater and pulled him closer to me. His eyes were open, staring blankly into the darkness ahead, whispering something I could not hear over the din of the howling storm. I struggled with him for a while as he tried to wobble over to the railing again.
“Wake up! God damn it!”
I patted him slightly hard on the face when a rogue wave suddenly ran amok and crashed over us, threatening to obliterate everything in the way. We both fell as the boat started to tilt to one side. I grabbed at the door jamb quickly and held on to it with one hand, the other one still clutching Liam’s hoodie tightly. I hauled him up into my arms with all my might as the boat started to right itself gradually.
“Liam!” I screamed at the tops of my lungs, pushing the door open and struggling to drag ourselves back into the cockpit, while the boat heaved and rolled in the swelling sea. I kicked the door shut behind me and shoved him gently onto the floor, then I collapsed right next to him, breathless but relieved immensely, still spluttering and blowing sea water from my nose.
“What … the hell … was that about …” I remained on the floor, panting to get my breath back. I could feel my irritation turning into slight anger.
He rose to his knees and looked at me befuddled.
“I … I don’t know. I was sleeping and then I was dreaming and I thought I heard you calling me from outside. I can’t remember what happened next,” he explained, rubbing his face.
“From outside? I was sleeping right next to you, son. How could you possibly think I was outside?”
“I heard your voice, dad. I know I did,” he insisted. His frown deepened until his eyebrows met, as if he was trying to remember something. “It’s the boat …” His voice trailed off.
“The boat, dad. The one with …” he paused for a few seconds as our eyes met. “I saw it too. It was there. It was out there in the storm. It has come back for us.”
I scrutinized his face closely for a few seconds, trying to determine if he was telling me the truth or was just messing with me, which prompted him to look away nervously. Or was it because he was scared? I got to my feet immediately and rushed to the porthole to look outside and peer down into the inky water. At first no distinguishable shape could be seen in the wet murk of the raging storm, other than the indistinct white crest of waves breaking and crashing against one another. And then thunder tore through the sky, followed by a blazing flash of lightning which illuminated the whole terrible display of the power of mother nature. It only lasted for a few seconds but long enough for me to make out the dark outline of another boat swaying through towering walls of water.
“Liam?” My voice wobbled with fear, eyes locked on the ominous silhouette of that boat bobbing back and forth in the distance. And then, as another flash of lightning struck, I saw something crawling on all fours across the deck of that boat, scurrying into the cockpit before I had the chance to see it clearly.
“Dad? What is it?”
Liam squeezed my shoulder tight, his hand was cold. He saw it too. I snapped out of my trance, feeling disoriented with fear.
“You better change into dry clothes now. And don’t you dare go outside unless I tell you so. You understand?” I warned him and pushed him away from the porthole.
We went back to bed after drying off. There’s no point staying awake to wait out the storm. It would subside eventually. It had to. I was relieved it wasn’t as severe as the night before.
I was only about to fall back asleep when again I was yanked back into wakefulness for the second time that night by a dull thud which reverberated throughout the cabin, Reflexively I rolled over to my side and heaved a sigh of relief when I saw Liam still sleeping right next to me. All the hairs on my body stood on end as I slowly made my way into the cockpit, holding my breath when the floorboards creaked under my weight. Strangely enough, the storm had already subsided. A sickle moon partially obscured behind a dark somber cloud was hanging low in the sky.
Despite the oncoming panic and urge to go back to bed, I wanted to go out there and see what had caused the strange sound that had awoken me. It was beyond me to resist the urge. I needed to protect my son from anything that might harm him. I put my hand on the doorknob, ready to pull it open. But something made me hang back. The more I mulled it over, the worse the idea sounded. It was cowardice, perhaps. Then I almost fell to my knees when a loud splash outside broke the silence, like something heavy falling in the water. I crossed to the porthole next to the wheel and squinted my eyes to see what was going on out there but it was still too dark to make out any distinguished shape at all under the dimmed moonlight.
I strained my ears and listened closely when suddenly a hollow thunk echoing out from somewhere belowdecks broke me out of my reverie. Then another one, slightly louder, followed by what sounded like a scratching noise along the bottom of the boat. My heart fell to my stomach as I realized it came from under the boat, below the surface. It had become painfully obvious that we were not alone at this point. A horrifying image of decomposing blackened hands in the water tearing deep gouges into the hull with impossibly long and sharp nails flashed into my head.
It was the storm. It must have come down with something else in tow.
As I kept peering out the porthole, the sound of footsteps out on the deck behind me made my blood freeze instantly. I turned to my left frantically and saw a dark figure of a man standing at the bow with his back to the front of the cockpit, muttering undecipherable words quietly to himself. Recognition dawned on me as I squinted both eyes to have a better look. The outline of his tattered lime green parka jacket glowing dully under the pulsating icy glow of the moon brought back a sense of unwanted familiarity. The horrifying image of it hanging stiffly from the ceiling of the cockpit was burned into the back of my eyelids involuntarily.
Suddenly he turned around stiffly in a crooked manner which prompted me to duck down quickly and alarmed behind the steering wheel, finding it almost impossible to breathe without making a sound. The creaking and groaning of the floorboards out on the deck told me that he was tottering slowly towards the window. Towards me. I crawled hastily to the door and almost tripped over my own feet. I cursed my own clumsiness and lack of better coordination as I pressed my back hard onto the door and forced myself into a sitting position with my knees drawn up against my chest. The room grew dimmer as he stood before the windows to peer inside, blocking the moonlight and casting a long shadow on the floor. I held my breath, trying not to move. Fear traced a cold finger down my back.
“Shit!” I muttered under my breath.
The shadow lingered there for a while as the man stood still like a statue. I didn’t know for how long he just stood there motionless, devoid of any indication as to how a human being was supposed to be. Why does it feel like time moves slower when you are holding your breath in fear? My mind veered into a dark place, formulating plans of what I should do to protect my son from whatever that thing was out on the deck.
“Don’t …” he hissed sorrowfully. His tone was somber and full of remorse.
He put a rotting skeletal hand on the window pane and started banging on it weakly.
The words came out like the sloshing waves against the sides of the boat, cold and bitter. A wet choking sound that made me cringe in disgust. And then he was gone.
I took a deep breath as soon as I was convinced we were safe. The fog had lifted and the sky was clearing up. The moon rose higher above the sparkling water. No sign of the dead man and his doomed vessel. And yet, I didn’t get back to my feet, and remained at my lookout post until I fell asleep from the cold and exhaustion.
We were found by some mackerel fisherman on their way back to shore the following day, fortunately. They had been sailing around a storm for weeks when they spotted our boat. When I asked them if they had run into another boat with a corpse aboard it they told me they had no idea what I was talking about. I guess the fate of Captain Bill whoever he was and what happened to them will forever be lost at sea. At its highest speed, their large fishing boat would take about five days and eighteen hours to get to land. But I could not complain. We were saved. They were kind enough to let us take as much rest as possible and I didn’t mind being in one of the crew cabins for as long as possible if it meant I wouldn’t have to see the ocean again for the rest of the trip back home.
One afternoon I woke up and looked out the porthole to see a big dark cloud hanging ominously about the horizon in the distance which instantly sent me into panic mode. I moved Liam over gently and slid into bed next to him, praying that the storm wouldn’t catch up to us and once again enfold us in its cold deadly embrace.
When we finally got to land, I made a promise to myself and my son with considerable wisdom and trepidation regarding what happened out there, that my sailing days were finally over, that I would never again set foot on the shore, looking out into the sea and letting it lure me into its never ending vastness. I sold my two-story seaside house overlooking the bay at a slightly higher price than its construction cost and moved inland far away from the smell of brine and the sound of murmuring waves crashing down on the shore. I wasn’t even thinking of waiting for a perfect deal to come around, I was so ready to leave it all behind and start over somewhere else.
I would like to end my story here on a happier note, but unfortunately that’s not the case. I am not making a big deal out of nothing. I know what I saw even though it has been more than ten years. People in my humble coastal town are a bunch of traditional God-fearing folks who quote The Bible incessantly and far too frequently for their own good. And believe me, that town is swimming in them. I used to be one of them growing up in a strict Protestant household with my father’s constricting set of rules that would contradict those of today’s modern society. If there’s one thing that my father might have done right, it would be his unwillingness to let me follow in his footsteps and become a fisherman myself. But history always repeats itself unfortunately.
In the years following my son and I’s doomed venture into the vastness of the ocean, I have avoided the sea altogether, and yet there is one thing that has been nagging me immensely and I can not put a stop to it. When we were still stranded out there in the middle of the sea, I had the impression that time stood still around us, like we were going in a circle or trapped in a time loop of some sort. Imagine my surprise when they told us that we had been out in the sea for more than two weeks. Some things didn’t add up. A huge search party had been sent out to comb a total area of more than 50.000 km² off the coast of my hometown where we had last been seen near the small fishing port. They had found no trace of my boat, which was absurd. It had only been a few hours after we passed the mouth of the bay when the boat engine broke down. How could they have not found us? We hadn’t been that far out.
Also no large-scale thunderstorm had been reported before and during our fishing trip, which did not make any sense. A storm of that magnitude like the one we were in can never go unnoticed by any high-tech weather stations we have today. And how about the fishermen who rescued us? They told me they had been avoiding a storm when they found us. But all in all, I was so grateful that we were saved, I didn’t pursue the matter any further.
I am so proud of my son and the path he has carved in this life for himself. I could only make as much use of watching him grow up to be the amazing young man he is today. He has a life of his own now, in which my presence is no longer the only reassurance, the way it was once, for him to know that everything is going to be okay, that I would always be there to protect him. His wife just gave birth to their first son last month. His life is complete now.
In my youth, I used to seek out the serene, and peaceful calm of the sea. It might have been worth the loneliness, being away from the world and its hustle and bustle for a change, spending the days watching the endless sweep of indigo as far as the eyes could see. These days I mostly spend my time trying to navigate through the barbarity of modern life and its propensity for novelty, which at times I find very exhausting.
You see, it’s been calling out to me. It has never stopped since the day of our rescue. It haunts me in my sleep at night, to the point where I can almost sympathize with the whiny sleep-deprived in the city whom I have always despised for being weak. In a state of wakefulness, if I strain my ears and focus hard enough, I swear to God I can almost hear the gentle lapping of waves against the shore in the distance. It has been driving me crazy for years. Like a deadly disease eating away at the body, causing the afflicted to lose hope and their sanity.
In all fairness, there’s nothing left for me here now. I’ve mustered up the courage for weeks, years even, to be honest. I am heading out to sea next week. I miss the sweet smell of brine and the sense of freedom that overcomes my heart being out in the open sea. The romance of it is plucking at my heart. Like in the old stories of people sailing away from their homeland to find new hopes and dreams of a better life in a foreign land. I pray for my son to find as much happiness in life as I do in the ocean. I miss being out there. Longing for it and dreading it as well. The beauty lies in the irony of it.
Liam, son, if you’re reading this, I want you to know one thing. I love you and I miss you so much. If anybody reading this recognizes me, please tell my son I love him. I, William Peuvront, will come back to him. I promise.
Credit: Eoghan Ferguson
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