The Vessel (part iii of iii)



The Vessel
(part iii of iii) ocean stories
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greenleaf
greenleaf queer writer of colour.
Autoplay OFF   •   3 years ago
He has always been a boy for wild, vivid dreams, but even he couldn't have expected this. (short fantasy story, part iii of iii)

The Vessel (part iii of iii)

Luci grows more quiet with each visit, and he runs through everything he’s done to try to figure out what's wrong.

Luci grows more quiet with each visit, and he runs through everything he’s done to try to figure out what's wrong. He hasn’t offended her, to his knowledge.

He says goodbye each night and visits her everyday; he’s been away from school for three days now, making sleep all the easier, and they’ve travelled more in these most recent dreams than ever.

It has grown colder and darker over the ocean and fog is now ever-present, rendering his telescope useless.

His overcoat is joined by gloves and a knitted cap, but Luci never shows any signs of feeling the cold, even if she is more pensive. At last, one windy night, he can stand it no longer.

He abandons the helm, choppy waves notwithstanding, and runs over to the railing.

“What’s wrong?” he shouts over the vast ruffling of the sails. The biting air slaps colour into his cheeks and rubs them raw. “You’ve been so quiet these past few days.”

She doesn’t answer at first. The waves have grown heavier and rock the boat at any given moment, but they don’t hinder her speed as she cuts a line through the water.

He thinks she’s ignoring him until her clear voice, unusually subdued, floats up from below.

“There’s nothing wrong. We’re almost there.”

“There for sure is something wrong,” he yells back. “And where the heck is ‘there’?”

She remains silent. He can barely see her small shape in the dark waves, and suddenly imagines her disappearing, leaving him alone in the fog and the gloom with no one there to guide him.

His heart skips a beat at the thought. “Hello? Can’t you hear me? Where have you been leading me all this time?”

“Ryan,” she says unexpectedly, tremulously, and it sounds as though she’s speaking right into his ear despite being all the way down below.

“I’m sorry.”

A block of ice colder than the frosty air forms in his chest.

“What do you have to be sorry for?”

“What do you have to be sorry for?” To his alarm, he realizes that the faint glimmer of the sun behind the clouds has sank to the horizon – it is sunset.

“What do you have to be sorry for?” To his alarm, he realizes that the faint glimmer of the sun behind the clouds has sank to the horizon – it is sunset. He hasn’t been keeping track of time.

“What are you talking about?” he shouts. “This isn’t funny! Stop it!”

“I’m so sorry,” she says again, and something in the air just snaps.

Suddenly she’s crying, breath catching in great heaving sobs, and her voice sounds like it’s coming from right inside his head,

Suddenly she’s crying, breath catching in great heaving sobs, and her voice sounds like it’s coming from right inside his head, filling his whole being and drowning out even the sound of the howling wind.

The gale turns from forceful to monstrous;

The gale turns from forceful to monstrous; barrels, crates, and cannons from all over the deck careen into each other with splintering crashes from the lurching of the ship,

The gale turns from forceful to monstrous; barrels, crates, and cannons from all over the deck careen into each other with splintering crashes from the lurching of the ship, and he’s shouting and pressed against the mainmast in complete terror -

- and then out of the chaos Luci begins to sing, and her voice is unlike any sound he has ever heard before.

It is high and tuneful and absolutely beautiful, but is also inexplicably painful, like icepicks being driven into his ears.

It is high and tuneful and absolutely beautiful, but is also inexplicably painful, like icepicks being driven into his ears. Something in his chest wrenches and chokes off his breath.

He tries to force himself to awaken, can even feel in that incomprehensible way his body in the waking world twisting and jerking in the bedsheets, but she only sings louder,

He tries to force himself to awaken, can even feel in that incomprehensible way his body in the waking world twisting and jerking in the bedsheets, but she only sings louder, and any sensation of the waking world is yanked away from him entirely.

Then there is an awful crack, and a pillar of jagged rock looms like an avenging soldier out of the mist, smashing into the hull of the Vessel and tearing it asunder with a shuddering boom.

The masts fall like tumbling trees in the wake of a cyclone.

The masts fall like tumbling trees in the wake of a cyclone. He goes flying, suddenly weightless, and crashes into the water with a shriek frozen on his lips.

The masts fall like tumbling trees in the wake of a cyclone. He goes flying, suddenly weightless, and crashes into the water with a shriek frozen on his lips. It’s like falling into liquid darkness, and the frigidity of it burns his skin, shocks him into gasping and choking.

In an instant his dream has become his worst nightmare – even the sea itself is foul and tainted with what tastes like thousands of years of utter filth.

But that is hardly the most horrifying thing, for when he forces his eyes open through the stinging brine,

But that is hardly the most horrifying thing, for when he forces his eyes open through the stinging brine, he can see what appears to be countless pairs of little yellow lights blinking on at the bottom of the void that the ocean has become.

They – they’re all watching him, he realizes far too late, a feeling of unspeakable horror rising in his throat,

They – they’re all watching him, he realizes far too late, a feeling of unspeakable horror rising in his throat, and at the same time he kicks desperately upwards, the weight of his sodden clothing nothing compared to his fear.

For one high, exhilarating moment,

For one high, exhilarating moment, he breaks out of the water and feels for the last time the stinging wind on his face,

- but he’s hardly been at the surface for a second,

- but he’s hardly been at the surface for a second, has barely caught a moment’s glimpse of the setting sun disappearing beneath the horizon -

- when two iron fists grab hold of his collar and

- when two iron fists grab hold of his collar and drag

- when two iron fists grab hold of his collar and drag him

- when two iron fists grab hold of his collar and drag him downwards

- when two iron fists grab hold of his collar and drag him downwards into the night.

fin.

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