"Stay below! It's coming! There is nothing you can do boy! Just hold on!"
Those were the last words I heard and certainly the last words I remember. It seems that every time one is warned about what is on the other side of the door, under the bed in the middle of the night or in the basement, that there is this odd feeling sparring session. One feeling says do as your told while the other screams in chalkboard screech,"Disobey!" On that day I decided the second. And still, amidst all the fear, the inspiration and the romance, I still haven't come to the end of my decision. It all started below decks.
Wind. Breeze. There is an obvious difference. One soothing and one a violent whiplash of natural slap happy scream. When the natural can be judged in terms of miles per hour, there may be some problems. Captain Ivan Androsov was leaving the white mountains of Skatzan after another successful trade conference. He has ten sails and a resolute nature. Perfect Captain combinations. The people of Skatzan have long been friends of Androsov's ever since the Captain rescued their beloved leader, King Marco Belto, from the most ferocious avalanche one had ever seen. Now, it was the last time Androsov would ever get to visit his old friend. For Marco Belto was deathly ill. But, there was a promise.
And there stood Androsov. Like an eagle awaiting flight on the edge of a cliff, paradise buffet of possibility below. A tall, thin man, Androsov makes up for his lack of physical intimidation with a memorable face. Thin eyebrows that appear more like silver feathers, weather beaten tan from the extremes and coarse black hair that has refused to gray. His expression seems to be trapped in mid-thought. A constant thinker. He is a sculpture awaiting carve. All that Belto promised was a change, a change in the way things were. A meeting among sons and daughters. A hope to make things right. And a magic that had not been used. Not yet.
And the breeze evolved. The sails looked fuller than ever before. Captain Androsov felt something in the air besides the crisp cold bite that catapulted its way from the surface and across his frigid brow. There was a storm coming. Androsov selected only the most veteran of his crew to stay with him on the deck in an attempt to ride the dragon out. The others were sent below decks and told that their fate rested in the hands of Mother Nature and not in the hands of luck or savvy. The Captains sixteen year old son was one of the few allowed to stay above. This made him proud. This made him vulnerable.
Young Andrei was to manage the sailors at the stern of the ship. What he lacked in ability was made up for in reputation. To put it simply, they feared his father. And there was much to manage. The swells were beginning to resemble beach break. There was no splashing, only crashing. The blue sky previous was an immediate memory. Thick gray overcame the tiny blue speckles that were left. The weather was too tough for it to be cold. Fear would mean certain doom. The massive hull of the ship was being tossed about like a child's play thing. Andrei seemed to age and then regress. His lack of experience was beginning to show. Suddenly, he felt a stiff claw upon his right shoulder. When he turned to see who it was a turbulent rush of salt water engulfed his senses! He was thrown to the deck like a rag doll. Eyes flooded, ears clogged, he began to worry.
Voices could be heard in water logged scatter. Hundreds of sounds blended into one smooth drawl. Something about getting below. And then, darkness. Andrei struggled to open his eyes. They were being interrupted by a slight of blood from some sort of head wound. Andrei felt an entirely new surface below him. It wasn't the slippery hardwood of the deck he was so used to, it was sand. Sand? Andrei was somewhere else? Had he been killed? Hardly. All that he could think of was that he was thrown over board. Several pieces of what appeared to be ship wreckage were floating among the tiny waves which caressed the beach. Endless horizon in every direction. A swamp-like forest behind him. And his father, missing.
Andrei began to walk down the beach in a southern direction. He did not know if he was on an island or on a continent? His shoes had been ripped from his feet in the storm. A rail-like fellow, much like his father, Andrei's thin brown hair was a thickly tattered mess. He looked like a school boy out of place, but had a hidden toughness in his eyes and in his step. The longer he walked the hotter it became. There was no fresh water in sight. Hours multiplied quick. The island theory was soon to be dismissed. And then, a vision. A large animal? A bird? Something beautiful.
"There it is again! Yes! I see it, I see it! Row you fools, row!"
Voices? Where? Andrei quickly scanned the water for signs of life. His heart was racing thumpedy thump out of control! And then he saw them. They were too far from shore to recognize. A small craft, possibly a rescue vessel or lifeboat? All that was definite was that they had no intention of stopping. Andrei was too tired to yell. The bird landed and it was anything but! A woman's gorgeous face? How? Feathers that shined like the most precious of all gems and treasures! A rainbow reality. The creatures eyes were captivating glory. A sultry expression that was impossible not to stare at. And then, a sound.
It was a music unlike any other. Was it a voice or was it birdsong? A symphony of the most eclectic sounds ever combined. Pure dessert for the mind. Andrei had a moment of realization. He remembered a tale told to him by his Grandfather as a young boy. The myth of the Siren Bird. The temptation that would carry any man or woman that dare listen fully into a realm of loss, never to return. Andrei moved quickly! He grabbed a cork that was floating in a nearby tide pool, bit it in half and plugged his ears! The men in the boat were rowing with all their mite! And they kept rowing and rowing and rowing. Gone. Quicker than they came.
Where was Andrei? Hiding like a cat at a dog show. He had slithered between two large rocks and hopefully out of reach from the mysterious bird. Slowly. Very slowly. Andrei began to creep his way back to the surface. And there it was! At least four feet tall and staring right at him! Andrei thought of only one thing to say, "AAAAAAHHHHHH!"
His feet did their duty. Andrei bolted into the swampy woods faster than fast could ever be fast! Branches wacked him in the forehead! Fallen logs tripped him! It was ugly. A confusing array of circumstances that began to drive Andrei a bit mad. He couldn't move any longer. Exhaustion on the highest level. Sleep.
For three days Andrei slept. The only thing that kept him from going completely batty was the fact that he had to know. He had to know! Where was his father? Where was he? And how was he going to get home? Each morning, after the three day nap, Andrei walked in the same direction. On day seven he came to a small home, or what was left of it. The door, I guess you'd call it, was half broken with only two splintered wooden planks wavering in the wind. The windows were completely shattered and the roof was a spider web infested heap of boards dripping of humidity. Andrei felt right at home.
He walked into the one bedroom home as a hideous stench of musty wood and old socks penetrated his senses. He found one closet with a surprise inside! Clothes! Andrei's were wet, filthy and smelled like smell! He found a pair of straw knit shoes, that were dry, a ragged straw hat, a dry pair of cotton pants with a tear in the knee and a wool pullover shirt that was dry. Dry! That's all that mattered to him if you hadn't guessed? Food had to be caught instead of bought. Andrei remembered full well how to make a fishing rod out of a tree branch and thread from his old clothes. There were plenty of insects to use as bait, all Andrei needed was a place to fish.
He knew that if he tried to make it back to the coast that he may get lost. So he continued inland. Two hours of sweat went by and he came to a divine clearing of trees. In the middle was a glassy miniature lake! Lily pads gently floated on the surface, their grace interrupted momentarily by the occasional croak of a jolly frog. Andrei found two crickets and hog tied them to his line. A seat between two branches, a sigh of slight relief and a deep breath. Andrei was fishing.
Time was irrelevant. It never seemed to get lighter or darker. Andrei was beginning to doze off when a tiny tug at his line awakened the young man lickity split! Another tug..and then a stronger one! And then another! And then...nothing? Frustration. Andrei put his head on his knees and began to cry. It was too much. That is until he heard the most beautiful voices he had ever heard,
"Don't be sad, kind sir. We can help. Have you become lost?"
Andrei couldn't believe his eyes as his head shot up like a fairy-tale beanstalk! Mermaids!
To be continued...
Tale by Tony Bonacorsi