The merciless sun beat down on The Merukiyo as it gently bobbed on the calm, glassy surface of the Pacific Ocean. Aurelia Salvador relaxed in a reed-woven hammock with her hat across her eyes and her head propped on her elbows.
“This is the life, ain’t it, Milo?” she murmured, stroking the loyal German shepherd by her side. Milo whined and licked her hand energetically. Suddenly, an unwelcome, oily voice sliced the peace like a knife through butter.
Aurelia pulled the hat off her eyes and squinted at the scraggly man standing in front of her.
“What is it, Argus?” she asked, situating the hat back on her eyes in an attempt to shade herself from the blinding sunlight.
“Carlyl reckons there’s a storm a-brewing in the nor’th,” he explained with disdain creeping into his voice. “Shethinks we should turn back an’-” Suddenly, Aurelia barked a laugh that sounded a bit like Milo’s yowls.
“We all know Carlyl got the sense of a squirrel,” Aurelia laughed. “Ya see this we’ther? There ain’t a storm in a hundre’ miles o’ us, and I sure not gonna be runnin’ scared ‘cause she says she seein’ a dark cloud. Prob’ly her own shadow!” she griped. Settling herself back into her hammock, she added, “Why don’ yu go an’ take her shift, Argus.”
“Yes, Cap’n,” he muttered and strutted off to relieve Carlyl of weather watcher duty.
“I’m tellin’ ya, Milo, Carlyl can be dumb as a post som’times,” Aurelia growled, still petting Milo’s soft ears.
She had no idea how wrong she was.
Aurelia woke to a violent swaying of her hammock that almost upended her onto the deck of The Merukiyo.
“Whoa!” she yelled. Her hat slipped off her face, and her cheeks were immediately splattered with cold raindrops. “What the-” She looked up and was shocked to see pitch-black clouds rolling and crackling with thunder overhead. “Milo!” she sputtered, remembering the last storm they had encountered. They had been in their rickety house, which they hardly ever occupied, as they were out at sea most of the time. Every clap of thunder, Milo had yelped and hid and shivered, his usual pompous attitude gone without a trace.
“Milo!” Aurelia yelled again, swinging her feet onto the hard wood of the deck. Squinting in the pelting rain, she spotted her German shepherd, who looked to have wedged himself in between two barrels and was whimpering like an injured puppy. Sighing with relief, Aurelia scanned the deck. Her men were busy as bees, rigging down the sails, tossing heavy things overboard, and cursing loudly as they slipped on the wet deck.
For a moment, Aurelia was stunned as she gazed at the broiling black clouds overhead, occasionally flashing with dazzling lightning strikes. Carlyl had been right. It was Aurelia’s fault they’d been caught in this storm. Chiding herself angrily, she ran to help one of the younger boys of her crew tipping a heavy barrel of drinking water over the side. It pained her to voluntarily give up any provisions to the dark, churning sea, but she knew they had to do all they could to stay afloat, or else the sea would have their entire boat.
“I got ‘dis!” she yelled to the boy, even though they were two feet apart. “Go help Sam wit’ the riggin’!” she ordered, pointing to a man swaying precariously on the top mast, hunkering down whenever a flash of lightning lit up the sky. He nodded vigorously and dashed away.
A piercing, wailing shriek filled the night along with the sounds of the storm. Aurelia immediately recognized it as Carlyl’s voice.
“We’re all gonna die!”
Aurelia rounded on her with blazing eyes and flaring nostrils.
“Shut you mou’th and be helpin’ somebody, or we jus’ migh’!” she yelled. Carlyl scurried away, frightened tears mixing with her rain-splattered face. Suddenly, the entire boat lurched sideways, tossing several of the crewmates overboard. Their splashes in the sea could barely be heard over the whining of the boat. Aurelia swung herself on a mast that was listing sideways along with the boat.
“Evr’one!” she shouted, cupping her hands to her mouth. Her voice cracked with the effort of trying to be heard over the storm. “Swim for it! Abandon ship!” she shrieked, pointing to a distant cluster of bending trees that she could only hope was an island. It was impossible to tell whether people were obeying her orders or being tossed overboard by the sea, but most of her crew was in the water, hopelessly paddling in the general direction of the trees.
Aurelia jumped down and slid all the way to the edge of the boat, which was almost touching the water. With one hand over her eyes, she scanned the tilting deck desperately. She put two soaked fingers in her mouth and let out a piercing whistle. A horrible moment followed where no movement happened on the deck. Was Milo already in the water? Had he...no, he couldn’t have drowned. Aurelia raised her fingers to her mouth again when she saw Milo streaking toward her, dodging barrels of supplies as they rolled into the roiling waves.
Soaked to the bone and shivering, Aurelia held her numb arms out to her companion as he ran toward her, muscles rippling with desperate speed. It was hard to believe that she’d been relaxing on this very deck hours before, bathing in the sunlight. Milo barreled into her, whimpering and howling.
“We gotta swim fo’ it, Milo!” she yelled, unsure whether either of them could make it. The sea relentlessly tossed the struggling swimmers about, trying to drag them under into its dark depths. Aurelia hesitated, eyeing the dark waters with fear. Terror gripped her insides as she thought of her loyal mates struggling in the thrashing waves, all because of her pride and ignorance. Cursing every inch of her wretched mind, Aurelia made a silent vow to listen to her team from then on. Suddenly, with an almighty lurch and a terrible cracking sound, Aurelia and Milo were thrown into the hungry jaws of the Pacific Ocean, possibly never to be seen again.
It seemed hopeless. Every time Aurelia came up for a gulp of air, a new, powerful wave would engulf her head once more. She could only pray that Milo would make it to safety. Anger bubbled in Aurelia’s stomach, and she wanted to pummel the sea. If anyone died, and she was sure some would, it was the sea’s fault. A little voice in the back of Aurelia’s mind started to argue, but she was pulled back into reality as the sea swallowed her once more.
Muscles screaming in protest, Aurelia struggled to stay afloat. Which way was the island anyway? Squinting through the sheets of rain, she growled audibly. Then, something brushed past her legs and she screamed in fright, swallowing a barrel-full of water. Trying to swim away from the sea creature beneath her was pointless. Not only could it no doubtedly navigate the currents better than she could, but the sea also wouldn’t let her go anywhere. She felt the creature brush past her arm, and before she could yell out again, it’s head broke the surface.
“Milo!” she shrieked. He barked weakly, whining and treading the water with difficulty. A large wave rose and smashed over them again, shoving them down into total darkness. Aurelia kicked her legs and beat her arms furiously, trying to get to the surface. Black spots danced across her eyes as her lungs begged for air. For what seemed like hours, Aurelia and Milo fought the almighty waters of the Pacific Ocean, their fleeting glimpses of each other their only hope.
Many times Aurelia just wanted to give up. To let the sea drag her away, to let it all be over. She couldn’t see a break in the clouds, her body was exhausted, her mind fatigued.
But she couldn’t just give up. The thought of it sent her stomach into her toes. Aurelia never really believed in God, despite her grandfather’s intense faith. Nevertheless, she found herself making promises to Him that she would spend the rest of her life believing in Him, as long as He saved her from this wretched storm. Unsure of how she remembered this, Luke 1:37 stayed stuck in her mind. For nothing will be impossible with God.
It seemed impossible that she would survive this storm, but the verse says that ‘nothing will be impossible with God’, so she thought she might as well give it a try.
Shaking in exhaustion, Aurelia flopped her waterlogged body onto a splintered piece of wood to give herself a moment’s rest. Then the floating wood gave her an idea. She tried to fling a leg over the mossy, wet wood, but a fresh wave pushed her back down. Growling, she clambered up onto the log again. Bracing her legs, she sat up and peered out into the storm.
Aurelia’s heart sank. Her shoulders drooped and she almost slid sideways off her makeshift raft. She had been hoping to catch a glimpse of land. Suddenly, a wild bark sounded behind her.
“Milo!” she shouted, hope filling her chest. She strained her ears. The bark came again, louder and more confident. Suddenly, a massive wave erupted behind her and slammed her back down into the water so viciously that the wind was knocked out of her. The wood slipped from beneath her as she spiraled into the sea, bubbles exploding around her.
Frantically, Aurelia tried to swim for the surface, but to no avail. An undercurrent swept her deeper, and she felt her ears pop painfully. It was strangely silent in the sea. No thunder, no thrashing sea. Just calm. Quiet. It reminded Aurelia of the moments of silence at funerals.
No. She was not going to let the sea take her away. She had life left to live. But even as she thought these things, she could feel her life slowly slipping away. Her lungs cried out for air, her exhausted limbs felt heavy and useless. She shook her head angrily, trying to get rid of the black spots that seemed to be clouding her vision more and more. Aurelia’s body contorted into different, writhing shapes as she died.
Suddenly, sharp pain dug into her shoulder. She cried out as she saw blood seeping into the water around her. That was a mistake. Before she could even get a good look at what creature was attacking her, her lungs filled with water and her deadened eyes blinked once, twice, and her whole world faded to black.
“Is she dead?” an urgent whisper woke Aurelia. She couldn’t open her eyes. She couldn’t move a single muscle. Her mind was sluggish and she couldn’t remember a thing. Then something warm poked her in the side.
“Methinks not...” another voice said softly. “I hope not,” it added in a whisper. Aurelia knew that voice. Her mind started to speed up, and she tried again to open her eyes.
“Flarngb?” she asked, one eye opening. Blurry figures around her started, and they all started talking at once.
“What in da wo’ld-”
“How in da wo’ld is she ‘live?” Aurelia opened her other eye, and blinked until she could see the facial features of her crew staring anxiously down at her.
“What happ’ned?” she asked. She could hear that her voice was slurred, and her body still felt awkward and heavy. Many voices started talking at once, most of them sorrowful and scared.
“They was a awful storm and-”
“We though’ you-”
“Carlyl died, and we haven’ found Marty, but-”
“Milo!” Aurelia tried to sit up, but made it about halfway and had to flop back down onto the sandy shore. “Where is he?” Just as she asked the words, a warm, wet nose nudged her hand gently. She sighed in relief, tears welling up in her eyes as everything that had happened hit her like a boulder.
“Did you sa’ Carlyl-died?” she asked, her voice shaking. Argus, who had been the one who poked her, nodded sadly.
“We’s found her body ‘mashed up ‘gainst them rocks over there,” he growled, pointing to a cluster of rather pointy black rocks by the shore. Aurelia felt an unbearable weight of guilt press onto her chest. That was her fault. Carlyl died because of her.
“We’s stuck here fo’ now,” Argus rumbled, waving at the trees by the water. “We’s gotta wait ‘til some’un comes ‘n picks us up,” he moaned. “Tha’ cou’d be weeks!” Aurelia smiled a very strained smile.
“No poin’ in wallowin’ ‘bout it,” she chided him. “We’s gonna built a sett’ment. Called...Carlyl,” she said thoughtfully. A disapproving and disbelieving murmur passed through the gathered crowd. She raised an eyebrow. “‘Less you wanna be a skel’ton waitin’ all pretty-like for a hero,” she growled, closing her eyes in rest.
“But that’d be imposs’ble wit’ no supplies,” a woman named Trisha pointed out. Aurelia laughed, then gasped at the pain of it.
“What’re we surround’d by?” she asked after a moment.
“Um...trees?” Trisha asked dully.
“‘Xactly. And wut do trees make?” she asked as though she was speaking to a kindergartener.
“Oh...” Trisha’s voice took on a hint of dawning. “Wood,” she answered thoughtfully.
“Yup. We’ll make this island our home,” she said, as if it was the easiest thing in the world to build a town out of nothing. “Besides,” she added, opening her eyes and peering at the faces of her crew mysteriously. “Nothi’n is ‘mpossible with God!”