I only remember that I was falling.
It was a strange sensation, falling thousands of leagues in stars, the only one I can recall. I was void of any emotion or feeling; I simply knew I was in existence. It was a gentle fall, as if some unknown force was carrying me as a child who’d fallen asleep outside the nursery.
The white-hot, supermassive stars were so close that they singed the tips of my bedhead. Glancing forward, I saw my own reflection, then the reflection of the stars around me. I pondered how this could be. A thin, glass wall separated the atmosphere and the vacuum of space, delicately balanced between. Detached from my emotions, I fleetingly feared passing through, yet I could not stop. The moon smiled as my body passed through, tearing the unseen tapestry.
Instantly, my body picked up momentum, careening toward Earth below. A rush of emotions hit me presently: panic, fear, confusion. Freezing rain beat against my face as I plunged past monstrous clouds. I was in the middle of a powerful tempest. The harsh night wind drowned out my screams. An acute sense of doom twisted my heart as the storm swirled around me. Every part of my body ached, inside and out. I felt that I could faint at any moment. My nightclothes could do nothing to protect me from the intense cold that gripped my very soul. I now understand what a lake feels when winter claims its soul each year: frozen, helpless, subjected.
Lightning crackled as the dark sea beckoned me into her sadistic depths. I looked to her as she pulled me toward her wicked waters. She cackled, savouring the moments leading to my unavoidable death. Sobbing, I gasped for air ten, five, two leagues from her ravenous surface. I braced myself. Surely, I would die here.
The starving sea gobbled me up like a greedy child, salt flooding my senses. Somebody cried from above, ‘Man overboard!’
As I sank beneath her thrashing waters, I was left without feeling once again. I saw black, losing all consciousness.
I woke, the stench of salt pungent in my nose; I retched, choking up seawater. My vision cut back in. I saw gruff men opening their mouths emphatically, trying to have themselves heard over the madness of her waves. Through flashes of lightning, I watched saturated wooden crates slide across the rain-soaked deck.
Dense ropes holding hoisted sails shook in the gale. The boat was in fact a large ship, groaning in protest of the sea’s great tantrum.
How was I not completely obliterated, instead sat here alive, half-drowned and unharmed? Somehow, by fluke or fate, I was still breathing.
A huge hand grabbed my shoulder, shaking me. I jumped, realizing now that there was a man kneeling beside me, trying to get my attention. Raindrops nested in his long, grey beard. A faded scar traced his temple, pale against weathered skin. He spoke, but I could not hear him over the ringing in my ears.
Just then, a towering wave smashed over the adjacent side of the ship. “Port side!,” the grey man shouted as he jumped into action. The other men followed suit.
Loud Devon accents squawked over the wind as the crew got to work, scooping water out of their ship. Bucketful after bucketful of salt water was splashed out of the ship with hurried panic. The more water that was tossed out, the more came back in. The sea had such vengeance, a score to settle.
“Ger over thar!”
“Ger yer britches movin’, Larry!”
“Whar is tha’ Captn’?”
“Me cigars be gone!”
“Oy! Stop whinin’ and ger goin’!”
Forcing myself to be rational, I scanned the deck for somewhere safe to hide.
I feared going below deck, as I dreaded the idea of being farther from the surface of her Majesty the Sea. I attempted to stand, but found myself paralysed. I began to weep again, terrified. When I looked up again, I found myself behind a pile of barrels, unsure of how I got there. The rocking of the ship made me sick again, expelling more seawater. The stench of the salt forced me to bury my face in my arms. I pulled my knees to my chest. I dared not look up.
***Correction 10/11/2019: “loud Devon’s accent” changed to “loud Devon accents”
A version of this post originally appeared in
The Teller October 2019 Issue #7
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