Short Story: At Peace on the Water

John McDonnell was a fisherman. He rode the seas by day, slept atop them by night, trawled them the times between. John was mostly a one man show; did it all himself despite the workload required of a commercial fisherman of his station. But such was the way of the industry that a man did what he ought to earn his daily bread. For John, like most good, hearty Americans, that daily bread cost him hours ‘n hours of blood and sweat that dribbled periodically down his catfish-smooth back.

While trawling for whatever his nets could haul in, Martha was at home. Two boys and the life of an overworked school teacher meant, like John, she was under-appreciated, under-valued, and stuck in an industry as collapsed as his. Ever the homemaker and loving mother though, despite the collagen beaten thighs aching from hours on her feet. Each night she’d tuck the boys in, recalling stories John had told her. Stories she felt it her duty to impart to them. Told her, that was, on the rare nights he managed to make it home for supper instead of trying to procure it.

John had wanted to be a fisherman all of his life. He’d sit in school, drawing finely detailed sketches of the various species prowling the coasts and waterways of his childhood. He’d fill whole pages with specs of various rigs for boats and special fish. It was a pass-time. An obsession in the truest American tradition. All of those times he should’ve been focused on maths and sciences so he could “grow up and getta’ good job,” he was planning and learning his trade. When first he started to ply it, the middle finger he gave to dejectors gave him a hard-on. Martha would’ve enjoyed that thoroughly.

The first boat was an old one. Barely large enough to piss off. He spent more money repairing it from summer gigs than he’d ever earn with it. Between that and the oft-bags of ‘shrooms and grass aboard it, he was at peace with a lack of profit.

Cue Martha with comely good looks and dimpled cheeks. The bottles of Ole English Rye, John had taken to drinking. One hot night, and nine months later, there wasn’t much more he could do but provide for the twin boys that popped out.

That wasn’t to say John didn’t love his family. On the contrary, he was a family man through-and-through. Just like Pop’d been. And Grandad before him. Difference was, they’d made their livings as leather merchants or carpenters, back when those things were still valued. In that way, John had followed in their footsteps, found the thing he knew and was good at, and refused to do it for free– or anything else for that matter. That work was for land-lubbers though. The types that could sleep without scents of fish on ice or the sea-salt spray.

John just wasn’t quite the way about things most fellows were. He needed the water. Be it Pacific, Atlantic, or any rivers or streams between the two. He rode them all like a true man of his craft. It was all business until the lunch-time beer, then nothing more ’til the day’s the work was done. And when forced to sleep, the photo of Martha and the boys at his bedside got the nightly, longing look. Then the one of Martha naked got the nightly, stroking grunt. The light went out on his bed with a broad beamin’ on his grizzled face.

It was a bad May that John finally met his match. The season was just starting again. He’d only been out a week. The weather’d been fierce, but nothing the forty-footer couldn’t handle with John at the helm. Per usual for spring and summer, he’d hired on a few, part-time hands to help rake in the expected rush. The result was a near twenty-four hour done in twelve-hour two-man shifts. Only a pair of hands were there to tend the wheel or empty the nets at any given time.

The ocean swelled. The sky gave a thunderous roar. Squalls blew past island coasts far to the west and south. The season was geared to start with a bang. In the middle of it, John and his hands were slogging through knee-buckling waves while the forty-footer rode ‘em like a rag doll. By the end of their second full-day, they were all exhausted, their haul only half as intended.

Were he not chasing something in particular, maybe John wouldn’t’ve kept himself out so long. Maybe he’d’ve been satisfied with the first days’ bounty. Then again, maybe if he’d been that kind of man, he’d’ve never spent all those hours drawing fish or making charts. Never stepped on a boat. Never even dreamed of being John McDonnell, fisherman at sea.

But life’s funny that way, for both the fish and its most patient predator. It’s not quite a matter of maybes. Rather, it’s a matter of the soul. A sort’a passion that can only be appeased and rocked to sleep by the caress of water against the hull.

John and his hands were in a squall to beat the band. They all sensed it. When it finally happened, they almost welcomed it. Like John had said, though more sarcastically than not, he was doomed to end his life at sea. It made sure he was no liar.

The waves pitched and rolled him back. The trawler heaved and hoed. John sensed more than anything that the sea was fierce. Almost seemed as if he’d done something to anger her. Maybe it was his own foolishness. Maybe greed. Maybe poor, dumb luck. Whatever it was, there was no escape.

A final, forceful heave. The sea crashed from two directions. The keel groaned and flexed. Then, a loud crrrack. Fiberglass snapped. The hull tore open. The forty-footer began taking on water. It was over in moments. The trawler headed for the ocean floor, John with it. The last thing he saw before the air left his lungs and the life left his eyes, was the limp curl of a dead fish. It floated up past him in the aerated water, no doubt released from the trawler’s own depths.

As a fisherman’s wife Martha knew the fear and sorrow of missing husbands or partners. Even at the best of times, they lived a life of perpetual torment, terror. Ever on the precipice of tragedy and sorrow. None of them knew if or when their mates might make it home. Usually, they missed their scheduled returns by days anyhow.

Martha and the boys didn’t worry ’til then. It wasn’t long after that they knew she’d joined the ranks of widows whose only solace was that no man could be so cruel as to stay at sea so long.

John was one of those men. Lost to the sea. Lost to history. Nothing was left to find of him or the others. He’d spent his whole life wanting to be a fisherman, living as one, then dying as one. Even in his final moments when he felt the forty-footer shudder and begin to sink, he was at peace knowing that. After all, the water was his home, always had been. Now, it would be forever.

Bonus Short Story: E.R.V.

The Extended-Living Habitat Research Vessel was a mouthful to most people that heard or read about it. Colloquially it became known as Erv (like Irvine), for obvious reasons. However loquaciously challenging, it was also the most state-of-the-art aquatic research vessel ever built. It was, for all intents and purposes, a floating skyscraper. It extended a Kilometer into the air and equally as much into the sea.

To the distant observer, it appeared as a hilted sword, point-up, on the horizon. It even shined as one from the solar-cells along its upper-half. The glint of glass from apartments was only barely visible between the cells that supplied power to its nearly two-kilometers of various facilities and dwellings.

The hilted shape, more a bulbous, closed ring than anything, formed the sections necessary for navigation while just beneath the surface, at its stern, arrays of hybrid magneto-hydro-dynamic engines were its propulsion. That is to say, giant, jet-like turbines that served as both engines (by means controlled of electrical charges from induced from salt-water conductivity over magnetically charged plates), as well as power generation.

It was the greatest achievement in maritime engineering since the first, primitive submarine was put into commission and helped create the first modern, Navy. Erv was designed and manufactured with a specific purpose in mind; to harness the power and neglected space of the ocean for marine research and relief of overburdened, land-based cities. Erv was more than a strangely-shaped ship with fancy new technology, it was Humanity’s next, greatest hope.

Farming the oceans with massive nets, as well as fostering marine-animal husbandry through special containment areas in the hilt, no-one aboard wanted for food. Between that and its advanced power-collection systems, ERV was practically self-sustaining, would required only the occasional re-stock of certain, mechanical parts that could not be repaired nor recreated aboard. Eventually, even that was possible– in addition to extensive hydroponics and aeroponics centers aboard, the more than a thousand people living and working there were given an immense catalog of manufacturing abilities. The helm of this massive sword bobbing along the water was a forward section of the bulbous ring-like hilt. Its bridge was a technophile’s wet-dream. Every known form of navigational, computational, and long-range transmitter known to man occupied. Arrays of antennae atop the hilt connected the ship with all facets of modern living– from NOAA weather monitoring satellites in orbit to satellite television and internet. More-over, it’s own, personal system of satellites– built in anticipation of wide-spread deployment of Erv-like vessels– tracked and aided its navigational computers with nearly-autonomous, pin-point precision. All that was necessary was to plot a course, enter it into the nav-systems, then let it run.

With two “kims” of height, the only thing Erv couldn’t do was enter shallow water or win speed races. What it could do was accept and dock with ferries, and once finished, other Erv-class vessels. A series of retractable piers and docks were easily unfolded, anchored to the lower hull for stability. With Erv’s necessary strength, it was possible to form a make-shift port that held true in even the worst seas.
The upper-half of the sword was a composition of modern residences comfortably sandwiched around one another. Its lower-half, a series of labs, offices, farms, and other specialized sections allowed its crew to partake in anything from recreation to medical check-ups in the necessary, hospital-like infirmary level.

The first “test” of Erv was to stand a pre-determined length of time against the elements. In that it excelled. With every storm that came and went, it never faltered. Due to its size and stabilized shape, it was impossible to topple regardless of the category of dangerous hurricanes. Tsunamis only barely registered and merely required its docks remain folded. It was a sword in the proverbial master’s hands, ever-balanced and unyielding.

The Second Erv-class vessel was completed shortly after the first finished its last test; a live-scenario that simulated an extended loss of communications and sat-guidance equipment. Though carefully monitored, Erv-1 had been at sea long enough that the people aboard were confident in fending for themselves. The fully-functioning agriculture and live-stock programs allowed the crew no limit to rations. Moreover, due to the advanced navigational-systems aboard, the loss of satellites only required good, old-fashioned mathematics and active sonar to keep them sailing unhindered.

ERV-2 was put through its paces shortly after contact between ERV-1 and land was re-established. The only test left for the former vessel after a time was to dock with ERV-2 once it survived its extended comm-blackout tests. As expected, ERV-2’s performance was flawless, and like its predecessor, became fully autonomous when lost by land.

The docking of ERVs 1 and 2 was equally successful. Having then been at sea near five years, ERV-1’s crew was happy to be joined at the hip by her sister and its new people. After establishing their tether and linking their docks, they formed a two-pointed palace on the ocean with a harbor between them. Able to now share their crews and foods equally, a kind of specified niche-market began on ERV-2. By scaling back its agriculture focus, with ERV-1 in turn ramping up its own, the two ships were able to compliment one another in both crew and utilization.

ERV-3 and ERV-4 were finished only months later, the construction process now stream-lined. Having been the prototype, ERV-1 required a quick retro-fit and re-calibration of its navigational systems before it could be considered on-par with the slightly newer tech in the second-gen vessels. Before long, all four ERVs were linked to form a half-moon joined only months later by four more, new vessels known as ERVs 5-8.

Together, the vessels formed a massive ring of swords. At a distance, they appeared as streaks of light emanating orb-like energy-bolts beneath. Due to the increased demand for space aboard the existing vessels, and the growing need for more housing on land, a third generation of ERVs were constructed all at once. These eight further vessels broke water only to link with and beside the first series.

It wasn’t long before the ERVs took over the ocean. They formed an inter-connected metropolis complete with streets and walk-ways that dominated the outer areas and allowed for easy traversal across the massive sprawls of ships. Before people realized it, they no-longer felt themselves as crews of ships, but rather citizens of the first, fully-aquatic city. Like Erv-1, these settlers broke-ground to become something Humanity could look upon fondly.

Even today, decades later, newer ERVs are under construction and the sea is on its way to being harnessed to its full-potential. Millions dwell in the metros created by the interlinked ships. Millions more still await their place aboard the cities to come.

With a silent reverie, it seems, the collective wisdom of Humanity has allowed them to once more brave a new-world and thrive. Like ERV-1, those water-dwellers were the first generation of a new class of being; aquanauts who knew first-hand the beauty of the sea in all of its gentle, fierce, and life-giving forms, and embraced it as home.

Short Story: Ode to Shadows

The ocean is an abyss, more desert than plain or forest teeming with life. The thought is a difficult one for humans to grasp when deserts have become synonymous with arid, barren, wastelands. The ocean is seemingly its antithesis, most would think. In truth, it is but one face of a two-sided coin. Humans have descended little more than six miles in one, lone spot, only to find emptiness, darkness. They have mapped little more than five-percent of this lifeless zone with primitive instruments put to shame by even their lesser-advanced, contemporary achievements.

What they have found (or rather, not) is nothing in comparison to what lies hidden in the deepest, unexplored recesses. In places where neither men nor beast can reach, there dwells a spark of existence known only as Shadows. They are unlike their surface counterparts in uncountably unimaginable ways. They’ve no physical bodies, not as a man could touch or feel; no eyes or ears, nor mouths with which to speak. Instead, they communicate with only thoughts projected between one another. Each Shadow is a floating consciousness with no more aim but to continue floating. Were any man or animal to stumble upon their confines, an intentional, psychic transmission would destroy them. It is not with malice nor anger, but merely an effect of Shadows’ extreme differences.

Had someone known this before NOAA sent down their prized research team, perhaps things would have gone differently. But once more humanity was slighted for their curiosity, blissful ignorance. In time, each researcher was subjected to that pulse of mental power, overwhelmed to death by it.

The team of six arrived at a previously undocumented area of sea-floor. Their mission was to map it and catalog its biome. In their specialized submarine– not unlike a ballistic missile design, but different entirely in its purpose– they laid anchor somewhere in the southern Atlantic. The trough they took residence in was three miles deep, enough to require mixtures of exotic gasses to replace oxygen. Those gases of helium and oxygen were necessary given the dangerous nature of Oxygen at such depths and pressures.

The first day of their two-week stay was uneventful, spent largely in configuring their diving gear to the intense pressure outside. By the second day acting leader of the team, Karen West, had ordered they make their first foray into the deep. Through a moon pool in a central compartment, they plunged into blackness without fear, unaware of what lay beyond their ship’s powerful lighting.

Split into pairs, one third was to head for a geothermal vent to the South. Another was to map the extent of the vent’s radiant heat to the North. It was, by way of deduction, in hopes of creating a mapped radius of a possible live-zone. Such is the sea’s nature that, as the desert’s inverse, heat is the life-giving force in the freezing depths. The final third of the group was to remain in range of the ship, collecting sediment samples to determine the anchorage area’s age and composition.

Instructed as they were, the pairs broke ranks and ventured forth in their enormous pressure-suits like over-inflated astronauts. Indeed, the aquanauts’ steps in the low gravity of the Ocean made the comparison all the more apt. Not even the strongest suits could protect them for what was to come.

It was Donald that first saw the shadows. Though the others wouldn’t come to know that until it was too late. He and his partner, in charge of mapping the radiant heat’s outermost reaches, came upon a Shadow without knowing it. They bounced between their feet in a low-G moonwalk, appeared as great, shuffling, tire-clad men with flood-lights atop their heads.

When something skirted the edge of a light, Donald pursued it. A moment later he was stopped dead. Pressure built in his suit. Screams sliced through his comm. It linked to his partner and the rest of the team. Before they could react, there was a shrieking crescendo. A loud, wet pop! Then, his suit toppled over, face-mask spattered with blood and brain in a viscous carnage.

Karen recalled everyone to the ship at-once. It wasn’t enough. As different as Shadows are, like man they shared an intrinsic trait; curiosity. Donald’s partner barely made to flee before he too screamed, silenced by another, wet pop! Karen and the others were already double-timing it to the ship, hoping its poly-alloy walls would protect them.

If only they’d known what they were up against, perhaps they wouldn’t have been so foolish. But how could they have? The only reason anything is known of their encounter is due to a real-time black-box system linked into their comms and embedded in the submarines controls. The black-box was near-indestructible, only discovered when the submarine’s scheduled rise came. Crew or not, the sub was fated to ascend.

When it appeared at the surface, there were only the vaguest of hints of what had gone wrong. After a quarantine period, its exterior was examined and found to be immaculate. Nothing more could be learned without boarding.

Scattered around the sealed, moon-pool doors, NOAA rescue crews in hazmat gear found their four researchers. Audio of a final, few minutes preceded dead-silent comms that lasted two-straight weeks. After the routine, first day, and the chilling events of Donald’s death, leader Karen and the others’ final moments were discovered.

A mixture of swears and cries bled through the comms. Debates about what might have happened, what to do now. Then, with an almost audible breath, a silence. A thump against the sub’s outer-hull gave way to a collective groan. Someone said something about a nose bleed to Karen. Another thump. Then, two more in succession. A crew-member’s screams terrified someone to tears– or perhaps it was the pain of the slow, further succession of thumps omnipresent against the hull.

Before long, little else was to be heard but cries and thumps. Sounds of four men and women dying grated investigators’ ears, whom listened to the thumps for five full minutes. Then came screams. Like Donald and his partner’s, that apexed in shrill cries.

Then, pop, pop, pop… pop!

The deaths were ruled an accident, but NOAA barred return to the site. If only they’d known the Shadows, like humans, were a global pandemic in the ocean’s deepest recesses, perhaps they’d have never again set foot on a ship. Instead, man continued on unawares. But such is the nature of his ignorance and fragility that he might be at death’s door one day, then sailing the high-seas unbidden the next. Alas, that matters not to the Shadows, for they are eternally patient, curious, and wait only to investigate with a wet, solemn, pop!

Short Story: Captain Lesley Butler

Waves rose with fury. Wind whipped hard rain into a cyclonic torrent. The scent of sea-salts was all the more present from the river that surged over the trawler’s walls. The Sixty-foot tuna boat pitched and rolled with the ocean, nearly cap-sized with each tsunami-sized wave that the hurricane-force gales kicked up. At the bow of the trawler, Lesley Butler stood sentinel. Her feet were like cement bolted to the ship’s deck. She had an uncanny set of sea-legs that kept her sturdy no matter how angry the Sea-Gods had become with her.

For any of the ten-odd crew it was a curious sight to behold. Time and again, squalls would rise in the storm, crash against the hull with a force that should have dislodged her. Instead, she stayed still, gyroscopic feet and legs inching apart, around, or closer together mindlessly to stabilize against the maelstrom. The waves would crash with their fervor, spray Lesley, then deposit their left-overs at her feet and she wouldn’t bat an eye.

After a while, the ship would pitch, rise on a new plane, and the water would rush toward its stern. The automated pumps stationed around the ships’ perimeter worked double time to pump what water they could scoop as it passed, then pump it back out over the hull. Their occasional bursts of mechanics and jet-fired water were little more than an intermittent hum beneath the roar of wind, rain, and creaks of the hull.

For three days the storm had been on them. As if controlled by some, heretofore unseen deity that commanded it, it followed them no matter which direction Lesley ordered her First-Mate to sail. It had begun with a casual, light rain the first day, became a downpour of strong micro-bursts that grew into the tempest on them now. The crew were exhausted, Lesley among them– though none of the crew would have known it to look at her. All the same she manned her post at the bow.

The crew had been afforded the opportunity of sleep after the first night, but now it was two days that all aboard had gone without it. If it was possible, the crew was just as battered as the ship’s hull, each wave now a struggle to keep conscious and on their feet. Half were ready to tumble over the sides of the ship as they watched the pumps or worked to keep things tied down. Their bounty of two and a half tons of tuna made them all the more determined to keep the metal cases, ice chests, and various equipment tubs from being washed away.

It must have been somewhere around noon of the third day, no-one was sure anymore. The crew’s eyes were bloodshot, blurry from the incessant pummeling from salted sprays and heavy rain. There was only the faintest hint of the sun’s light through the insanity around the ship. As if stuck in a million-mile expanse of the worst hurricane ever seen, they could gain no purchase in an advance from its clutches. Whatever direction it was headed, it seemed to change with each new order from Lesley.

It was around nightfall of the third day that, to the entire crew’s surprise, Lesley broke from her days-long trance to mount the ship’s Bridge. She shoved her way in against the wind, forced her mate off the wheel. Then, with a fury to match that of the storm’s, she steered them into the waves. Her face was hard, her teeth grit and her jaw stiff, set against itself in determination.

The ship rose with a wave, then like a surfer, twisted atop its immense crest to ride it downward. There were cries from the men and women aboard. To state this was insanity was as much redundant as it was pointless; Lesley had the wheel now, and her will would be that of the ship’s way. No one could change that. Not even the sea.

There was something in her eyes, her posture– a ready width to that gyroscopic gait, and a bead of thoughtful sweat on the brow above her chipped shoulder– that said she understood something new. It was as if those hours of standing afore of the crew feeling the oceans tumult and watching it that she’d become part of it.

Lesley manned the helm near on an hour before anyone thought to stop her. They couldn’t handle it anymore. Even the most experienced seaman could not quell the undeniable sickness that swelled in their guts. That hour saw them rise, time and again, to crests of waves of unimaginable size, only for the wheel to be spun hard to port or starboard as it reached its peak. By the time it was atop each wave, its bearing had shifted one-hundred eighty degrees to surf downward until the wave exhausted itself or crashed into another, and the process began again.

Dusk was upon the crew when one finally threw open the door to the helm, rushed in against the winds and opposing gravity of yet another rise to a crest. Boggs was the usual brick-house of a sea-faring man; broad across the chest and shoulders with a torso doubly as thick with muscle as his oak-like limbs. He braced himself weakly against a window to the starboard side of the cabin, his legs rubber from exhaustion and tumbling bile.

“We can’t keep this up, Captain!” He bellowed over the winds and engines. “The men are sick. Exhausted. This insanity has to stop.” He pulled himself along the wall to eye her from the side, “Sometimes, you have to know when you’re beaten.”

Her eyes were fixed ahead, hands working to the tempo she’d long established. Her voice was level, calm, but with a hard tone of irritation, “You know nothing of insanity or exhaustion, crewmen. Return to your post at once.”

“But Ma’am we–”

Her composure flickered, “The sea is a living thing, Boggs. It aches, it breathes, and it loves. Right now, it’s playing with us. But like all living things, it will eventually tire, break. Like you’re doing now. Return to your post or you’ll find yourself out of a job come landfall.”

Boggs was irate, too tired to function rationally, “This is insane! You’re refusing to accept the inevitable. We’re done for! The more you fight it, the more you prolong it. In the meantime we suffer for your delusion.”

With a swift turn of her body, she released her grip on the wheel. It spun erratically against the waves that stole its grip from its engines. In a flash, she had the man by the throat, rough fingers poised to snap his Adam’s apple. He choked, breathless.

Her eyes burned with fury, “If you’ve given up, then get the hell off my ship. I’ve enough dead-weight with the tuna we’re carrying. If I’d wanted more, I’d have bled you like the rest of ’em and shoved you into a cooler.”

His eyes began to roll back into his head. He groped tired hands across her forearm. She sneered, shoved him sideways to retake the spinning helm. A moment later she’d returned to her rhythm as though she’d never left it.

Boggs worked himself upward along the wall, “You’ve lost your goddamned mind.”

“And you seem to have a lot of life left for a fish that’s trying to beach itself,” she countered. “Get out of here.”

Boggs cast a wide, black-eyed look between Lesley and her first mate, who’d been fixed to one corner of the cabin since she’d taken over. He remained motionless, as much in tune with her as she was with the ocean. Boggs growled, shoved open the door to the deck, then fought it closed again.

“It will only anger the crew,” the mate said.

“I don’t care,” Lesley replied evenly.

“You say it’s playing with us?” He asked, curious of her meaning.

“Like a child that toys with a cat, or a cat to its prey,” she replied.

He eyed her skeptically, “How do you know that?”

She glanced back at him finally, “I just do.”

For six, straight hours, Lesley matched the sea wave for wave. By that time, the crew had begun to sour. Most had been sick at one point or another. All-out anarchy was poised to explode aboard the ship, the crew set to mutiny. They just wanted to go to their watery graves peacefully For them, there was no other option than that. For Captain Lesley Butler, it was the only thing not a choice.

The crew fought for the helm against the pitch of another wave, ready with ropes, weights, and tools. They would beat Lesley from the helm, tie up and weight her, then cast her into the ocean if need be. Boggs led the slow, painful charge toward the wheel when the unthinkable happened.

As if all at once, the storm disappeared. The stars appeared above and the deck pitched downward along the remnants of one, final wave. Were they anyone else, they might have thought they were in the eye of the storm, but something told them they were free, clear.

Someone spotted blinking lights on the horizon; tall cellular towers on the coast, sweet apparitions of land. Someone checked a GPS. They were only ninety miles out of port, thirty from land itself, the latter visible for the wondrously clear skies around them.

The crew collapsed into varying degrees of exhaustion. Lesley relinquished the helm to her first mate, who’d managed to conserve what remained of his strength in the corner of the cabin. Then, with her gyroscopic gait no longer taxed, she exited the bridge to find the crew lying about the deck. Most were already asleep, the others at least part-way there. Lesley approached Boggs, whom sat with one leg up, wrist on his knee as he stared at the clear skies with a curious confusion.

“Captain,” he said as she appeared beside him.

“Boggs,” she said, calm as ever and ready to step past.

He stopped her with a word, “Captain?” She swiveled to eye him, urge him onward, “What just happened?”

Lesley’s arms were crossed, “She got tired, like an overstimulated child. The storm was her way of trying to find someone to show her affection and attention. Once given that, she played until she collapsed.”

Boggs wasn’t sure if she meant it metaphorically, or if she truly believed in a sentience inherent in the sea. In either case, he responded distantly, “Just like you said.”

There was a pause. Lesley was silent, face indifferent. Boggs’ shoulders slumped, he wasn’t sure if he believed the sentience of the ocean, but Lesley had been right. The sea had tired itself out– and with a timing too coincidental for his liking. All the same, he couldn’t know what to do or say– if there was anything– even if it had been true.

Boggs’ face sank with remorse, “I’m sorry, Captain.”

Lesley gave a small tilt of her head to clearly remark a similar sentiment. Cosmically, they were even, she with him for her threats and violence, and he with her for his planned mutiny and distrust.

“Next time, a little faith wouldn’t hurt.”

He gave a small nod, then laid his head back against the crate behind him to stare up at the sky.

Could the sea truly play like a child? He wasn’t sure. Boggs thought to ask the Captain, but she’d turned for the bow, retaken her place to stand sentinel until landfall.

Whether they believed it or not, the crew was in her debt. She’d heard the cries of a sad, neglected creature with all the immensity, wrath, and beauty it could manifest. In that, she answered with something more than her voice, something the sea could understand. With the ship, she cared for the sea to keep it from the heart-sickness that claimed so many that sailed her. She’d surfed the waves with as much calculated affection as if she were to play ball with a child. Once satisfied, the sea returned to its wayside, rejuvenated by the attention and once more allowing safe-passage for the trawler, its crew, and Captain Lesley Butler.