Student Literary Contest Runner Up: Jonah Goldberg
January 11, 2015
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“HOLD YOUR POSITIONS!” the Captain yelled, but his men were unable to obey. Waves thrashed violently back and forth, and now there were only a few minutes between their attacks. As the newest and fiercest wave arose from the churning blackness of the sea, the Marksman’s hull shuddered, steeling herself for the oncoming shock. Then, the wave, roaring with the full wrath of the sea, slammed into the ship, and in one blink, the Marksman was flooded. The Captain heard screams from belowdecks, where the crew hadn’t even finished emptying the last wave’s surge, and watched from his place at the helm as the recruits on the surface were ejected from the ship, crying out as the world was ripped from under them. The Captain registered their loss, but had no time for remorse or sorrow. From his first voyage as a young man, he had learned that there was nothing more important than to “keep an iron grip on your helm and your heart” when commanding a vessel. The Captain had never needed to follow this rule more than in this battle with chaos.
The sea roared again, a savage and piercing cry that reverberated through the atmosphere. The Captain felt his left eardrum snap, but from the right side he faintly heard his first mate calling. “Tell me again, Liam!” the Captain cried back, barely making out his own voice over the ocean’s rage. Thankfully, Liam heard, and as the loyal young man struggled up to the helm, he repeated, “That can’t be just the water, Captain! There is a beast upon us!”
The Captain stumbled back, having lost his balance in his surprise. Quickly returning to the wheel, he silently cursed himself for not having realized it on his own. He then turned back to where the boy was, only to find that the deck was now empty except for the water. The Captain was alone, left to face whatever was hiding under the waves.
It rose from the water with the cry of a thousand Sirens, but without the hypnotic lullaby. The Captain could feel the weight of the sound as all the air around him seemed to be ripped away. Fiercely grabbing onto the miraculously still-standing wooden wheel, he struggled to breathe in the emptiness. It was in this fitful state that the beast finally showed itself. Only there was nothing to be seen.
The sky, having been in a peaceful twilight despite the water’s anger, was quickly enveloped by a giant sheet that was blacker than tar, which blended with the brackish water. The Captain, wanting to scream, but not finding the air needed to do so, could only stand still as the world was swathed in darkness. Then he was tumbling, only aware that he was moving because of the churning of his stomach. Everywhere he looked, he faced the same harrowing blackness, and piercing all other sensations was the same nightmarish sound, an eternal guttural scream.
The Captain felt he must have died thousands upon thousands of times, and was more afraid than his brain could even understand. Now, in the infinite dark, he began to see things, images of his wife and of the bustling town he called home. He saw the Marksman as she was built, and watched himself set sail for the first time. Finally, he again saw the chaotic storm he had just lost his crew in, and then the blackness faded into itself.
Then, suddenly, it was over. The sound was gone, the movement stopped, and the darkness was replaced by a blinding white light. Death, certainly. But soon, the Captain began to feel the gentle rolling of the ocean again, and he shivered in the cold wind. His skin began to notice the water that it was soaked in, and he felt the weight of his drenched clothes. Then the smell of the sea came back to him, combined with the subtle scent of damp wood that a sailor’s brain tends to pass over after a while. Finally, the whiteness faded to a midnight blue sky dotted with stars. The water remained black, but he could see it now.
The Captain registered his new situation. He lay curled up in one of the Marksman’s lifeboats, with its oars hooked into the sides. Afraid to look out, he simply stayed still for a while. Eventually, his reasoning and curiosity got the better of him, and he slowly pulled himself into a sitting position. Then the Captain began to weep.
Spread out in the night lay various parts of the Marksman, hopelessly devastated by the beast. Her faithful mast had been reduced to five large splinters, one of them now so waterlogged and full of holes that it was beginning to sink. The Captain didn’t say anything; he could only gaze upon the wreckage and try to wrap his mind around the ruin.
Suddenly, he heard a noise behind him, and he turned to the starboard side of the boat, where a new sight disoriented him further. A single, blood red, tentacle-like projection, easily dwarfing the lighthouses back home, slunk down into the ocean, clearly attached to a much larger object. The Captain shuddered to think of how big an animal with tentacles like that would be. Big enough to blot out the sky.
As the sinking mass continued its movement westward, the Captain realized that he had just faced this massive beast. His stomach seized up at the thought, but his dinner had left long ago, and he only coughed as the last of his tears flowed down his face. They were tears of sorrow, anger, relief, and confusion. Because the Captain had faced the Kraken, and it had spared him.