I write so I can breathe. I am constantly evolving, mindless at times, frustrating even perhaps but heck, I wouldn't change the smell of freedom that comes with writing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Land Ahoy - Sequel to Mid-Watch at Sea

Dawn broke into an opaque foggy morning the sun could not penetrate.

The anchor dropped. Twenty minutes later the ship had come to a standstill, hollow sounds came in from the damaged portion. The ship mourned. Two divers splashed into the chilly waters. An unnatural silence, breath held, not a single soul dared lean more than was required, as if one person’s weight would tilt and capsize it. The atmosphere on board had an eerie, surreal quality about it. From the seabed came the ghostly echoes breaking the sounds of silence.

The divers were back, shaking their heads. It did not look good. In another minute they were down. I reckon the Captain wanted them to check again. Nothing explained the continuous tilt. It was pitch dark and murky.

We were moving again, a cautious crawl. The vessel groaned back to life. The propellers slowly rotated, leaving a miserable wake in its thrust. Life hung, inch-by-inch, angle-by-angle, and knot-by-knot.

There was nothing to do but to keep watch. The pain of the damage hurt me deep within. I saw the same pain in the eyes of the others. Fear invaded slowly, creeping stealthily into even those who dared. Courage never quite abandoned though. We had to pull ourselves together if we were to make it. If…

The smelly reprimands would come later. For now I simply decrypted and encrypted situation reports. The tone of the incoming and outgoing signals resonated in my head; a melody that stuck like a gramophone record, playing the same tune over and over again.

The divers were back on board.

“We can’t see a thing below Sir,” said the Ship’s Diving Officer.

The sonar echoed the sounds of the ocean beds, hollow. Ships passed by, almost slowing down to see the ravages of the early hours damage on the ships side; ripped apart like a paper boat, tonnes and tonnes of pungent fuel in the salted expanse of green waters.

Splash! Down into the waters went five brand new DVD’s of “The Titanic”

We would rather let that sink than this”, was offered by way of explanation. The statement stank of superstition. I roamed the decks, strolled up to the foxle from the port and looked back. She was grey, majestic, now injured and the pain of her damage and inadequacy of her slow limp across the strait, etched clearly on each sailor’s face.

The waters lapped the ship’s side, glittering waves gently bathing the sides. What I would watch with interest for hours was now a reminder of fallen glory. The day dragged on leaden feet. There was nothing to do but keep watch and slowly inch towards survival or death; we knew not which.

I saw the Captain; tired, weary, his entire flying career hopes shrunken into one desperate wish of making it to the shore safely. I looked at him searching for some of that sparkle that always told of his amazing sense of humour. I looked away. The day felt empty, hollow in its entirety.

Time marched on keeping its beat as the Ship’s company gazed into the horizon. The clock did its monotonous round of moving and ticking, minutes dragging, circle after circle, bringing an end to the day. So far so good, I thought and sighed. A lot will have to be accounted for when…if.

No one slept that night. Everyone simply thought they might just sink into the dark waters in the darkness of the foggy blanket of the seas. Several times, hushed feet made its way to the upper deck to the bridge. Eventually, I simply woke. I made my way down to the Wardroom. The aroma of roasted fresh-ground coffee stirred up my senses. We all sat the entire night, arguing, assuming, presuming, and wondering over facts and fiction as to just how it happened.

The OOW suddenly was an outlaw. The frozen blockade was up everywhere. A cold sudden hushed silence welcomed him with folded arms everywhere he went. Accusatory eyes roamed all over the ship. The wall was up, without a curtain or a veil. There was simply a difference in the outlook, all destroyed by quirk of fate or…was it sheer carelessness? Nobody knew for sure, yet, everyone talked about it. He became a pariah, deserted, an outcaste from the tribe of seamen.

Each time the ship groaned, whispered curses would meander from all angles and then sink in with the rolling and pitching. One does not need to sink a ship literally to destroy it. One just needs to sink the spirit on camaraderie.

The ship sailed on, undaunted by the blemishes upon her body, eyes searching for land which was far away yet.

The third day finally, forty miles due to reaching port, we saw the patch of green of an island. Resounding cheers echoed. The silence broke. The sky in accompaniment was blue. Waves reached out to touch and embrace the ship’s side.

What followed was something that never quite gave me time to breathe. Two Fighter Crafts flew past and almost immediately a white brilliance blinded me. The white haze sucked the air out into stillness. My senses woke for just a sharp painful instance and the vision froze in the silence that cut through, sucking the air out of my lungs just for a quick second.

The screams tore the ship apart in pandemonium. In the next instance the icy chill of the water gripped my body and I gasped trying to not breathe the water instead. The salt cut knife-like into my eyes. I came up for air and ignored the chaos to inflate my life jacket. My eyes shut out the vision, my senses numb while the sole thing I tried to do was not to get near the propellers. Fire licked the surface of the ship slowly, surely, inching towards the cargo tanks. My limbs were on automation now.

Later, I thought, there will be time to think this over. I have to be alive if I am to be of any use. Corpses floated around me; a reminder of the bodies in the Ganges, afloat, in an attempt at salvation. Focus. Focus. I was getting dreamy and the impact added to my dizziness…focus, stay awake…


1 comment:

  1. good going.. with its twists n turns.. well she ll definitely make to the land & then may be we cud follow her ventures on the unknown island till she discovers her way back to home..