(This one is dedicated to Kelly Parra, who sent me a link to a picture and challenged me to make it come alive. Just joining us? Go back to Part 1)
The boat rose and fell. From peaks scoured by wind to dark valleys blinded from the world. Never resting.
Shivers ate Patrick's bones. Only low in the caverns of water could he duck the driving cold.
Old Jacob slapped Patrick's father on the back. Shouted in his ear.
"Rest! We'll need you later!"
The huge man nodded and released the oars. Old Jacob slipped into his place. He resumed the slow rhythm.
Patrick's mind swam in blackness. In the distance, the land leapt and hid behind swells. It's stability forgotten. His inborn senses fought to keep him upright, but the ocean was too fierce. His body flung in every direction. His reality peeled away.
"You see her?"
The water surged, and they crested again on the roof of the seas. Howling rain raked them.
"Off the port bow!" the lookout yelled back. "Under a mile!"
Patrick wiped the water from his eyes to see the schooner. Listing hard, it's decks washed with the sea.
They sheared another wave. Salty foam drenched Patrick's hair.
"Her sails are under! She's capsized!"
They all craned forward. Except the oarsman.
Patrick shielded his eyes. Mystified, he stared. He caught a wondrous glimpse of color. Sparkling orange. Like diamonds fluttering through air.
He couldn't cry out. He didn't have the words.
They rolled down into darkness. Patrick waited. The sky raced toward them once more.
"She's burning!" the lookout screamed.
Patrick's wonder stiffened. Not diamonds. Flames illuminated the spray.
His spirit withered at the horrible sight. Fire too delirious for the rain to quench. She would burn to the waterline.
The veins in Old Jacob's neck pounded. His mouth hung open. His lungs were spent.
"It's up to you, boy!"
He was the next. A stout man for eighteen. He gripped the oars. The wood was blotched red with blood.
"Row like the devil!"
The paddles bit water, and he shouldered the weight. He left nothing behind.
"That's it! Long strokes! Give 'er hell!
He pulled. And pulled. He ignored the pain.
He snapped to commands. Adjusting course. Swinging the bow to treacherous waves. The world faded. He beat to the thumping of his heart.
"No! We can't cross the shoals!"
"But we can't turn to!"
Old Jacob and the lookout were arguing.
Patrick turned to see their progress. The schooner loomed north, just a couple hundred yards away.
"Look at those breakers! It's nothing but white! The angels will take you in there!"
"But we can't show our stern to these seas! We'll broach!"
The other four men looked to Old Jacob. He walked the seas the longest. His words carried authority.
The lookout dropped his eyes.
"Starboard, Patrick! Away from the shoals!" he said. "Be easy now! We'll try to tack in!"
The wood rolled in Patrick's hands. His palms blazed with fire. Skin ripped raw with splinters and dripping blood.
They crept closer. The gale billowed sparks and ash off the deck.
"Wait! Did you hear it?" someone shouted.
Tip-toeing across the tumult. A sound. Like a bird beating wings against the cyclone.
"There! A man on the figurehead!"
Patrick turned. A man clutched the arching beauty of a woman on the prow.
"Ahoy! Ahoy there, man!"
Old Jacob bellowed through cupped hands.
The man waved. A brief and weak gesture.
The wooden hulk rolled with each blow of water.
"That's it Patrick! Bring us under!"
The fire gnawed loud enough to hear. Old Jacob coiled rope in his hands.
"Do it man! Jump!"
The dark figure let go. He plunged into the battering sea.
Much too small to make a sound.
On to Part 4
Back to Part 2