Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Breathe (08/19/10)
TITLE: Air good. Brine bad
By Daniel Kane
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The first part of the voyage was fairly uneventful. The wind gods were in a playful mood and kept on blowing us about, making sailing a bit hard, but nothing dangerous. One of the prisoners thought this meant some typhoon was brewing, for he went around warning everybody that the voyage was doomed. Eventually I got so sick of his jabbering I climbed up the mast with a bucket of kitchen slops, planning to dump it on him as he passed by. Unfortunately, I missed, and my lovely present landed on Cap'n Grizzle instead. Oops!
We reached a poky little harbour, and there was some dispute over whether to wait out the winter there, or risk the increasingly dangerous seas to reach a better port. I didn't pay much attention to the discussions, though, as I'd discovered an unattended barrel of ale that was feeling lonely. I was quite surprised when I woke up in the middle of a gale.
What a storm! The sky was filled with purple, swirling clouds, the sea was whipped into foaming mountain ranges, and there was so much water pouring down on us you'd have thought a whole ocean was emptying over our heads. Several times after coughing up water that had sneaked into my throat, I wondered whether it's possible to drown by inhaling too much rain. Countless times we nearly capsized, and equipment and sailors alike slid – or even floated – about the deck. The worst thing was the wind. Those fickle gods had suddenly become furious, and a true hurricane ploughed us on through the foam at a fearful pace. Even Cap'n Grizzle's bellow was drowned out.
The storm seemed endless. I'd never bothered to learn to swim, and so I was terrified of being swept overboard. We threw out the cargo, the equipment, and most of our food. We almost threw out the prisoners, but the centurion stopped us.
That doomsdaying prisoner – I never did catch his name, Pail or something – had suddenly changed tack, and was now assuring us that we'd all be just fine. I came very close to throttling him several times, but that Roman was always around. After a couple of weeks I'd had enough. Despite the risks, I started lowering the lifeboat, hoping to get away safely. Just then, that annoying Pail warned the Roman that “if anyone leaves you'll all die.” So the idiots cut the ropes to the lifeboat and it splashed into the sea. I was just about to really throttle Pail right in front of the Roman, but then suddenly he announced we should all have some food. Best advice I've ever heard. I eagerly devoured the soggy bread, and then what was left we chucked overboard.
Come daylight, or rather come not-quite-so-pitch-black, we spotted a sandbar, and Cap'n Grizzle announced that we would deliberately run aground on it. Pail told us we'd all be fine and to have faith in God, and I spat on him to show my contempt. Anyway, Cap'n Grizzle steered the ship toward the sand bar and I prepared to die. The ship smashed onto the sand bar and was pounded to pieces by the surf. Everybody jumped overboard, except me. I cursed my luck, the gods, Pail, and everything until a giant breaker sloshed me into the deep.
I should have drowned. The force of the wave pushed me deep underwater, and for the first time I breathed in brine. Not a nice experience. Just as I was about to die, a plank of wood swirled past me. Desperate, I grabbed at this piece of flotsam, and it somehow carried me safely to the beach, where I vomited up lungfuls of water. I've never felt so wretched in all my life. But I'm alive. Thank the gods. So's that rotten Pail. But if he gets any closer to that viper, he probably won't stay that way for very long.
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