Fiction Adventure

Orders are shouted forth from the helm and echo across the deck. The ship’s anchor is dragged up, the ropes are cast off, and the boat’s large sails fall and quickly fill with soft winds. Soon enough, the open waters engulf us and the coast of steady land is left behind. We sail for hours, setting off flares to light up the night. Sometimes, I hear the shouts of gulls and albatrosses, but the seas that surround us are empty. It’s just an endless void of water, but there’s always a nagging feeling that there’s something lurking just out of sight. Right underneath us. It triggers my fear of heights enough that I try to stay away from the ship’s edges if I can. Cold air blows across constantly, never ceasing no matter the time. The sea grows dangerous fast once the sun sets, forcing us to narrowly weave around whirlpools on two separate occasions, risking being dashed against rocks that jut out of the waters or sucked into the ocean’s ravenous mouths. Still, it’s hard not to be memorised when the swirling waters glow bright blue in the night. Once the danger has passed, we retire and emerge from under the decks in the morning.

“Y’know, you said Cassidy’s name in yo’ sleep,” Karla asks, a curious mildly suggestive smile on her face. I think the open ocean with no sight of land is triggering her agoraphobia, so she’s been clinging to any familiar person that she can for most of the trip.

“Oh, did I?”

“Yep. ‘nother weird dream?”

“Well…I wouldn’t call it weird,” I say, blushing a little. “But it was nice.”


“Aye. It was short an’ she appeared for just a moment, but she could see an’ ‘ear me this time! She was wearing her normal clothes too. An’ she smiled upon seeing me!” I grin.

“Eye-Spy Afa, any sightings on the horizon?” Commander Nevitt calls up to the front of the ship.

“No sign of any life, Commander,” they reply, fixing their spyglass back to their eye. “But amidst the vast expanse, land emerges before my eyes.” 

“Land?” I echo as they slide down, landing beside us with a thud.

“Aye, there lie a couple of islands, mere miles away.” They grin, genuine and handsome, with the bloom of a kowhai tree hanging from their neck. Heavy black lines, arrows, and dots tattoo their skin from the middle of their exposed back to their knees. “Do you reckon your beloved companion might have sought refuge there?”

“We ‘ave to check!” I demand. Somebody clears their throat. I awkwardly glance over. “Uh, if- if it’s alright with you, Commander.”

He has a small smile on his lips. “Crew, land is in sight! After our long journey, shall we venture forth and explore?” He bellows across the ship.

“Aye aye, sir!” comes the response.

The once calm ship quickly becomes a frenzy of work. Strong rapids shove against the ship, the sea crashing and spraying against the wood. We manage to plough through and the ocean grows wide and flat soon enough. I just about see the silhouettes of a cluster of islands on the shifting horizon, appearing from the mists and drawing us in like moths to a flame. Link bites their lower lip, grinning madly, bouncing up and down with excitement at the ship’s bow as we get closer.

“Ahhh, this is so cool!” they squeal. They’ve already adopted some of the attire of the crew, having eagerly changed their old trainers for newer boots and donned a pirate hat. It’s even got a little seagull feather and everything. “G, Karla, come check this out!”

“Argh, G-d, no. Can’t…unable to budge,” Greyson groans. 

The top half of his body is bent over the side. His cheeks briefly swell and he claps a hand over his mouth. He shudders after swallowing and spits out the taste into the foaming waters. Karla wrinkles her nose in disgust, her hand gently rubbing his back.

“What, are you scared? C’mon, it’s not that bad!” Link says, grabbing Greyson by the sleeve of his shirt. “We’re almost there, you gotta see!”

“No, no. Leave me alone,” he mumbles, turning away, trying to push Link back.

We seem to be the odd ones out with our seasickness. It makes sense that the crew wouldn’t get it though, plus Cassidy if she were here. According to her and her family, growing up as a naval military brat influenced her sense of balance and equilibrium. The gentle rocking motion of the ships soothed her as a baby and helped strengthen her core muscles and coordination as she learned to walk. She quickly adapted to the variable ship motion which sharpened her reflexes. Her inner ear attuned itself to detect subtle motions to help keep her oriented. This gives her great stability and spatial awareness, though she often needed support as a kid to avoid falling. After a life at sea, steady unmoving land initially seemed abnormal and required reorientation.

Years at sea left a lasting effect on Cassidy’s natural gait on land. She retains a slight sway as if moving with phantom ocean swells. Sudden motions cause her to quickly regain footing with smooth reflexes, compensating for motion no longer there. Her muscles seem imprinted with memories of adjusting stance to shifting equilibrium. She moves fluidly, pivoting to stay centred. Her hips sway, arms counterbalance, knees bend ready to grip the ground. She takes deliberate braced steps as if still on a rocking ship. Her motions are efficient yet powerful as she leans into an unseen horizon. Even standing, she subtly sways and adjusts as if on a deck, keeping a wide stance for balance. Her body compensates for phantom pitching, shifting weight and regaining equilibrium against imagined rolls. Her innate sea legs endure though firmly planted on land.

I only bring it up because Commander Nevitt, as well as the rest of his crew, have the same little nuances to their bodies too. And Cordelia and Herleif, now that I think about it. I begin to ponder it more until a sound echoes across the air. Everyone goes quiet, suddenly wary and alert. The ship ropes creak and the unlit lanterns sway a little. The deep groan rumbles, carried by an ominous wind that sweeps across the sea. 

“Oh, no,” Afa whispers, stowing away their spyglass. 

The crew members exchange worried glances. The waves starts to roughen, clawing at the ship. I peer at the sea. The waves look like…people, almost.

“Secure the cargo! Fasten every rope!” Commander Nevitt orders (kinda hot). “Trouble’s approaching, everyone!”

The wind intensifies, whipping through the ship’s rigging and causing the crew’s hair to dance wildly. One crew member rushes to secure loose cargo, tying down barrels and crates with sturdy ropes, ensuring they won’t be swept away by the tempest’s fury. It takes me a moment to realise that it isn’t wind. It sounds more like howling or wailing. Another crew member climbs the mast, their movements agile despite the swaying deck. The sea quickly grows rougher and rougher. Water splashes over the side and I get a glimpse of something almost trying to take shape in the curl of the wave. A person? A small wooden ladle clatters to the deck, thrown over by the sea. The crew works quickly, furiously lashing the sails to prevent them from being torn apart by the relentless wind. Karla, Link, Greyson, and I hurry to rush in and help out until a figure looms over us.

“Big Flame?” I frown. 

“Doctor and friends, this is for your safety,” she states before easily scooping the four of us into her massive arms.

“Wot the- Hey! Big Flame!”

We struggle fruitlessly against her muscles. I catch the sight of the crew members moving with practised efficiency, their muscles straining as they battle against the elements. More water and more ladles are thrown over onto the deck. The crew secures ropes, tightens knots, and double-checks their work, their focus unyielding. I notice the water taking shape until we’re unceremoniously shoved below deck into the captain’s cabin.

“Stay away from the windows,” is all she says before shutting the door and disappearing.

The sounds of desperate preparation, indistinct shouts, and our thudding heartbeats are still loud enough to reach us. “Hold on, everyone! We can’t afford to lose control of the ship!” I hear Big Flame yell. The sea almost seems to rumble as the storm blows closer. The ship now feels tiny compared to when we first stepped on it. The captain’s cabin is quite cramped, stuffed full of bolted furniture and tied supplies: a table, a shelf, some barrels, and a couch. We avoid the skylight and the two windows that frame the desk, our only views of outside. The boat sways to the side again, thrustedupward, teetering perilously on the edge of disaster. The once-calm sea transforms into a tumultuous battleground as waves rise and crash against the boat, threatening to engulf it.

Panicked cries escape us as we’re thrown across the room and knocked to the ground. I smack my head against the wall. Greyson and Karla are both shoved into the couch on top of each other. Link clings to whatever they can to steady themselves. Eyes wide and darting, their chest heaves rapidly. Their hat has gone flying but they don’t even seem to notice in the moment. Clutching their abdomen and wheezing, a half gasp-half word tries to escape their lips but it comes out strangled and indecipherable. A colossal wall of water rises from the depths, dwarfing the boat in its immense power. Greyson hurriedly crawls over to Link, softly shushing them, gently holding their face to his chest, running his fingers through their hair in an attempt to calm them down. I recognise it as what he’d do with Cassidy when she was freaking out. His mouth moves but I don’t hear his words over the chaos of the ship. Link seems to though and does their best to follow his directives, shakily breathing through pursed lips and holding their breath for a few seconds at a time.

The ship rocks, like it’s being cradled and crushed on both sides. The window panes strain and crack when the wave smacks against it. I make the horrible mistake of looking through them. Teal molluscs and green barnacles are launched at the ship by the water. The sea shrapnel pierces the deck. Water starts to leak in. And then I see a stray anchor heading for the crack windows. I forget how to breathe. The metal crashes through the windows, shattering the glass. Water follows immediately. I’m swallowed.

“DEVIN!” Karla screams. 

Our hands brush against each other’s for a moment, before I’m forced out. The rough sea throws me about like I’m little more than a feather. I gasp when I feel my head break the surface. I crash onto the upper deck. The wood cracks against my cuirass and claws at whatever parts of the gambeson underneath are exposed. Groaning in immense pain, I struggle to uncurl myself and get up. The crew struggles to keep their balance too, along with the ship. Strange people made of water, the remnants of people who have died in shipwrecks, have invaded the ship. “Sink. Drown. Join us (シンク. 溺れる. ぜひご参加ください),” they whisper as they use their wooden ladles to fill the boat with water. And they seem entirely unaffected by the storm, like it’s their doing. The crew’s eyes widen in horror as the ship is lifted high into the air, suspended for a brief moment before gravity takes hold. The boat crashes down with a thunderous impact, its fragile frame shattering upon contact with the unforgiving sea. Splintered wood and debris fly in all directions as we’re thrown into the tumultuous waters. 

“Hold on, everyone! Prepare for impact!” Commander Nevitt cries. 

The sea crashes against the wood, splashing and frothing. The sheets ripple in the harsh winds as we’re pulled along. I cling to the splintered wood, frowning at the sight of how much damage has been done to the lower decks. They’ve been ripped open, looking almost punctured, and some of the sails have been shredded. Lots of supplies float in the water. We fight against the current, our bodies battered by the relentless waves.

“The tempest has ensnared us!” Afa yells.

Various crew members cry out.

“Oh, God!”

“We’re doomed!”

“We’re gonna die!”

“Hold on tight!” Commander Nevitt roars. “Brace yourselves, everyone!”

The air gets colder. My teeth begin to chatter. I can’t breathe. My head is spinning. It’s too much. The ship is shoved so harshly that we almost capsize. When it rocks back, I’m hovering slightly as we fly. Everything seems to slow down. My stomach drops. I involuntarily look over the edge. The sea splashes at my feet, a shifting blanket of blue and white that’s getting further and further away. Bits of the ship fall off. I see Commander Nevitt’s face, twisted in terror and shock. In a very strange way, the weightless is a peaceful break. Until the ship starts falling backwards. I begin to turn around to see land rushing up to meet us.

“Oh, no.” 

March 01, 2024 18:17

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