The sea, which had been glassy only an hour before, now raged with an unholy vengeance upon the small ship. The lighthouse keeper pulled up his galligaskins and ran up the spiral stairs to the lamp. The oil was sound but as he peered into the relentless storm, he knew the ship would not last long. As if on cue, he watched the ship capsize and disappear beneath the waves. Sounding the alarm, he headed down the stairs two at a time. As he reached the base of the tower, he saw the nearby villagers gathering. They watched in horror as the occupants disappeared below the white caps of the ocean. She had once more claimed the lives of those approaching Eldric Reef. It was a cursed place to be sure.
As quickly as the storm built, it dissipated as if appeased by the sacrifice of the trawler. The lighthouse keeper looked about the shore, not expecting anyone to survive the rage of the sea. The villagers also started to fan out, walking the shoreline, looking for signs of life. The vainness of the task was not lost upon them. How many lives had the sea taken? And always, it seemed, upon the close of winter. The sea seemed to demand a sacrifice to hale the spring into life. March winds seemed to feed that demand, pitching up a storm of great power every year.
A cry down the beach caught everyone’s attention. The small crowd rushed down the shore to see what had been found. Three men fished the boy from the sea with the long hooks on a pole. He had clung to the board with all of his might, refusing to give in. Perhaps this was a good sign. Perhaps the sea would relent for once. Maybe this will be the last sacrifice.
As the boy stepped forth on shaky legs, a lost expression grayed his expression. He was uncertain of how to proceed. Turning back to the sea, he realized he alone survived. “Lydia…,” he gasped.
“Is that the name of the ship, boy?” asked the lighthouse keeper.
The boy shook his head. “It…was the name of the storm…she let me live.”
The villagers looked around in surprise. “How do you know her name?” the lighthouse keeper queried further.
“She whispered it in my ear as she pushed me to the shore. “
The lighthouse keeper glanced around to the other villagers, clearly flummoxed by this revelation. “Did she say anything else?” one of the villagers sought curiously.
“She said…that’s enough. I…I wasn’t supposed to be on the trawler. I hid under the tarp until after we left the docks.”
“A stowaway,” echoed another villager.
“W…we lost my brother last summer to the sea. I wanted to help the family. Perhaps…she knew my brother died. Perhaps she showed mercy in her demand,” he responded.
“Mercy,” spat another villager. “How many died so she could show you mercy? What makes you so special?”
“I survived,” he reposted.
This was written in response to this week’s “Finish That Thought #35”.