Waves crashed and churned. They made a lilting kind of sound that lapped at our boat, leaving us gently comforted in their embrace. We were safe here, secure as a baby in our mother’s arms. This was Papa’s lifelong dream, to sail to the Bahamas with his family. I hadn’t ever thought about doing it, but since we started it had seemed to work out ok. Papa had assured me it was safe, soothing my fears, so I knew it was going to be fine. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. All night long, the sea rocked us to sleep and lulled us like a baby in its cradle. I was tucked away tightly in the small bedroom, low in the yacht's hull. There was no window, only a small porthole up high, so the room felt dim and dark at first, like a coffin. It had taken me a long time to become accustomed to the small space, to sleep soundly and not fear the unrelenting darkness, but after five days travelling by sea, I was used to it. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. It was not the waves outside the yacht, those waves were conspicuously absent. It was the rising waves of nausea bubbling in my stomach. I’d heard something, which had jolted me from my sleep. Loud bangs followed by a scream, and it made my blood run cold. The chill of terror ran down my spine, and my stomach clenched as it responded to the cry. I tumbled out of bed, landing on the floor in a crumpled heap, listening, my heart pounding. Blindly I staggered out of my little cabin toward the companionway which lead to the rear deck. I could hear raised voices, shouting, screaming. There was another loud explosion, followed by an anguished, bloodcurdling, inhuman scream, and something thumped above my head. I smothered a scream of my own as the stars were suddenly blocked out by a large form that tumbled and slumped in the opening of the hatch. Long hair that I knew would be blonde, hung into the cabin the from a head that flopped about like a rag doll half in and half out of the hatch. Mama! Oh my God! Her blood dripped onto the floor, and I recoiled in horror. No! I was not going to die!
Waves crashed and churned. They rose in my stomach and threatened to erupt from my mouth. I slammed my hand across my lips, eyes wide, ears straining. I could hear footsteps, I could hear voices. With a pounding heart, I scrambled backward, searching the cabin for a safe place. I’m not sure what I thought I would find. The yacht was very simple, only the bare minimum, the necessities for life on board, existed in its confined space. Every nook had been utilised to maximise storage. Then it came to me. Beneath my parents’ bed was a space that we had not used to store anything in because it was too hard to lift the mattress and slide back the cover. I scurried to their room like the quietest, most frightened little mouse and burrowed into that dark, safe space. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. In the darkness, my head began to throb and I could feel the cold clamminess of my skin as I fought against the nausea. My heart pounded in my throat, threatening to choke me, as I heard booted steps entering the other room. Although it was muffled through the wood of the bed base, I could hear them clearly and I held my breath, lest they hear my frightened gasping. I squeezed my eyes shut. I was not going to die! I was not going to die! I was not going to die!
“Shit, the eperb’s been activated!”
“Bitch must have pressed it before she came out.”
“What do we do?”
“Set it in the life raft and then scuttle the ship. They’ll chase the life raft and hopefully give the yacht time to go down.”
“On it, let’s clear out!”
Waves crashed and churned. They echoed in my ears like faraway thunder. The footsteps retreated, and I began to tremble and almost cried in relief. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. The boat was tilting. I shuddered in my small safe place and waited, but the boat was not tilting back to the other side. The waves weren’t ebbing and flowing; the tilt seemed permanent, and I was pressed against the side of my safe little haven. I needed to see what was going on. I couldn’t hear any voices, nor any movement, so I cautiously lifted the mattress above my head and peered out into the darkness. The only light was from the moon that shone through the portholes. I slowly slithered out of my cocoon of safety onto the cold floor that definitely tilted to one side. I staggered on bare feet as the floor tilted further and undulated with the motion of the waves. There was water on the floor of the main saloon, slowly lapping at the base of the seats. The moonlight reflected off each little wave, and I suddenly understood. The boat was going down, and I knew something to the depths of my bones. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. They seemed to increase in frequency as I made my slow way up the gangway past our little kitchenette and dining table, rocking the boat more violently as it listed further and further to the side. The shadows thrown by the seats and other fixtures became ominous in the moonlight as they tilted drunkenly. My stomach clenched as I stepped up the companionway, remembering my mama’s hair as it had dangled through the hatch. She was there, laying in a crumpled heap against the side of the boat, her arms and legs undignified in their sprawl. Her face was blood smeared in the moonlight, with eyes unseeing, gazing blankly at the carpet of stars above us. She was undoubtedly dead. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. The sea finally acknowledged my terror by slapping itself against the sides of the boat as it tried to tip me out. I staggered, grasping the railing for support, looking for my papa. Further along I found him, rumpled and ragged, swimming in a pool of blood that welled beneath him as he lay wedged against the seats. Nearby, hunched over the ship’s wheel, was our captain and further along in the dim light I could see feet that must have belonged to the second mate. It dawned on me that I was now alone, and I made a vow right then and there. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. They lapped over the edge of the boat as it titled dramatically, taking on water with each swell and rise. I had scoured the deck for the life raft that papa had shown us all before we embarked on this ill-fated trip. One of the large rafts was missing, but the smaller one was still tucked into its cradle. It was heavy to drag out, but I successfully activated its inflating mechanism and threw it into the sea. I had already donned one of the life vests and inflated it, so I jumped after the raft and clambered aboard. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. I watched our boat slowly sink beneath the waves, as the dawn lit the sky with fiery reds and golds. It was like a Viking funeral pyre, watching my parents’ final moments being consumed by the sea. Salt water trickled down my face as I huddled, numb and cold, shivering and alone. But I was determined. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. All about me were the whitecaps as they crested and broke, only ocean as far as I could see. The wind dried my nightgown out, which was soon stiff and uncomfortable with the embedded salt water. My skin itched, my mouth was dry and my eyes watered from staring out in all directions, searching for a ship. I was not sure if I wanted to be found or not. What if I was found by the people who killed my parents? How would I know? Would they want to kill me, too? One thing I knew for sure. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. The sun, reaching its searing hot heaviness, burned at my exposed skin. There was little in the raft to protect me from it. I huddled as best I could under the silver blanket and curled up on the soft floor of the raft, rocked to sleep by the swell. Or, to be more accurate, it lulled me into a stupor, a delirious half alive state where consciousness and unconsciousness met to dance together in my mind. I held onto that one thought, though, that one lifeline keeping me sane. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. From time to time, I spotted aircraft flying overhead. I roused myself to wave, to attract attention, but with the huge swell that lifted me up and crushed me down, they did not see the little raft on the vast expanse of ocean. Slowly, the sun edged its way toward the horizon, dying in a pool of orange light. The wind picked up, and I shivered. The heat from the sunburn on my arms and legs cooled rapidly, chilling me. Amid the waves, I could see ominous black shadows swimming curiously closer to my little raft. I dared not think about what made those shadows. With my eyes squeezed closed, I focused only on one thing. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. Their rocking was no longer comforting, as they attempted to throw me from the little raft throughout the night. As I lay down attempting to sleep, I clung grimly to the hand-holds along the side, praying I would not be overturned in the swell. Eventually the wind died down enough to calm the roiling water, and just before the dawn of the second day, I slipped into a half sleep. I was just sleeping. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. So much water. My lips were so dry and cracked. So very thirsty. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. Thirsty. Dry. My head spun. I was not going to die.
Waves crashed and churned. The sound of them breaking against a hull did not penetrate my brain. The voices that swept out to sea, crying out in amazement, did not register. Hands that lifted me, hauled me upward toward faces, weathered by years of wind and sun, slowly rolled back my numbness and I peered at them blearily. I was not going to die!
“What’s your name?”
Waves crashed and churned. Memories smashed into my brain with the force of a tidal wave. Dry tears rolled down my wet cheeks as my mouth moved, forming my name. There were sounds of voices swimming around my head. Urgent, amazed as they wrapped me in warmth and carried me to safety. My brain could sleep now and darkness enclosed me with one final thought, one tremendous sigh of relief. I was not going to die!