Demetrius cowered in the crook of the forecastle, shivering. Fearful his shipmates might see him, he shrunk into the corner, praying the lurching of the ship would not cause the lantern to sway. The last thing he wanted was for the shifting light to reveal his presence. He could never live down the tears flooding his eyes. Demetrius had no reason to be ashamed. He was a fine sailor. His small frame and athletic ability made him a natural; his quick mind enabled him to grasp intuitively the intricacies of sailing. In fact, the ship’s master had commented on this natural affinity: “That Demetrius,” he had overheard the master saying, “has the makings of a captain someday…” There would be no someday.
It had seemed an exciting adventure. Father wanted him to learn the family business; however the bookkeeping of his father’s shipping mercantile held no attraction. He preferred physical labor to sitting and scratching tallies on parchment in a stuffy room. Sailing was still close enough to the family business that Father thought it a brilliant idea: Demetrius could begin his apprenticeship later, wiser for having seen the industry through a sailor’s eyes.
But nothing had prepared him for “Euroclydon.” Its violence defied description. Bitter winter winds racing clawed at the boat so that she groaned incessantly. Unpredictable winds incited waves to batter her relentlessly. What Demetrius once thought magnificent, he realized was truly tiny and frail, as the vessel plunged deep into a trough only to struggle just to crest the next summit. He did not often risk a glance at those mountains of black water. Marcus, the oldest mariner, said they might as well be caught in the teeth of a huge shark as left to the whims of this storm.
Hunkered down in the shadows, the conversation turned to a favorite topic- the strange prisoner who hadn’t wanted to sail in the first place. Recently, that man had told the crew everyone would survive, for God had sent an angel to tell him he must stand before Caesar. It was the crew’s consensus that he was crazy. Sane people would rather die at sea than appear before Caesar.
Suddenly, “All hands on deck!” echoed through the forecastle.
“Listen!” commanded the master.
A grin spread across the face of old Marcus. “Sir, dat ain’t de sound o’ wind an’ wave. Dem waves are hittin’ rocks. Rocks means land!”
“Take a sounding,” was the next command.
“20 fathoms, Sir!” was the reply. And moments later, “15 fathoms, Sir!”
Just then, Marcus whispered in Demetrius’ ear, “Lis’n up. I like you, young’un. I've got a plan that may nary well save us. De boss gonna say ta trow out ankers, to stop de driftin’. He’s desp’rate. I sees one hope: Get up dere, ready an’ we’ll play us a game of charades. Ya know dat, right boy? ”
“Make a pretention a’trowin dem ankers – we’ll drop de lifeboat and row fer land,” continued Marcus. “Ya in on dis with us?”
“Marcus?” Demetrius paused, “…the others?”
“Der’s room for sum. Rest gotta take dey’re chances,” sighed Marcus. “Be nigh impossible for ev’ryone t’escape.”
At the command was to throw four anchors, Marcus, Demetrius put their plan into motion. It looked like they might actually succeed, when a voice rang out from behind them. It was that political prisoner. “Centurion, have your soldiers stop these men. They are making a pretense of laying out the anchors. Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.”
Soldiers rushed forward, cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and it fell into the sea. Demetrius could no longer stop the tears. The prisoner who thwarted their escape looked at the young sailor, and said compassionately, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating. I encourage you to take some food, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish.” Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he began to eat. All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food.”
Demetrius felt peace, like a gentle wave, wash over his heart. Perhaps there was something more to this man? If he made it to the shore now dimly visible in the breaking light, he was going to find out more about this man and the God in whom he was so confident.
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