Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Rattled (05/09/13)
TITLE: Mr. Unknown
By Carla Rogers
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As the storm of storms came closer with every blast of wind, with every giant swell, the ship creaked and rocked enough to give even an experienced seaman like John seasickness. The deck appeared to be nothing but sea as the ship went down into the depths of the waves. Concerned about the cargo, John stumbled down the stairs to the hold. In the guts of the ship, the air was overpowering with foul, putrid pockets that were even worse than suffocating.
The melody that he had been humming could be heard even above the roar of the storm and the crash of the waves, still in time with the rattling chains.
A giant wave crashed into the side of the groaning ship, splintering the hold beyond what he could repair at sea. Being more petrified than he had ever been in his life, John feared that the ship would go down, with him, his crew and the precious cargo with it. He quickly considered all the possible solutions and came up very lacking in ideas. His mess of a life flowed through his mind: memories of his loving mother, who had taught him about Jesus; his father who had taught him all about the sea; his murderous thoughts and arrogant life; his life as a servant to the lowest of the servants.
John again heard the tune louder than ever, along with the rattling chains securing the cargo and the sounds of the furious storm breaking the ship apart. Being so close to death, the tune now reminded John of a funeral dirge.
He cried out to God, first time in countless lost, desperate years. Just then a crushing wave smacked into the side of the battered wooden ship sending a cargo chain stretched beyond capacity flying up causing a box of beeswax to slam into the gaping hole. The force of the impact caused the beeswax to seal the hole completely. John immediately knew that God had miraculously saved him.
The slaves chained to the wall and the beams in the cargo hold were singing the song and rattling their chains in rhythm to calm their flaying nerves. It was haunting. He didn't understand the words, but the tune that night was in his soul.
That dreadful night became John’s salvation. From the depths of despair came the greatest hymn ever written, “Amazing Grace”. The hymn books state the lyrics were written by John Newton, but the melody is by an unknown person. The melody has the same characteristics as other Negro Spirituals, which John would have heard on the slave ships. Next time you hear “Amazing Grace”, listen for the seas waves crashing and the slave chains rattling, the way it was first heard and remember Mr. Unknown.
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