Die Writing

The Loss of Magdalene’s Star

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on October 25, 2016

Aside
Participating in another writing contest – The Great Flash Fiction War, this time. The prompt was “I can’t leave her now. She’s already gone,” with quite liberal constraints on its use.

I’m presently reading Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, and I think her writing bled over a bit into this story. It also resonated with all those Jules Verne books I read as a kid.

CRASH

 “Get to the boat!” Captain Faulk thundered over the storm. Again and again he eyed the distance to the Ethebian Gate, two colossal pillars of ancient basalt guarding the narrow entrance to the harbor beyond. He spun the wheel, commanding the cutter away, toward the open sea. Magdalene’s Star lurched, her hull pierced and bleeding.
 “Captain, you must be away with us!” His passenger, the doctor, pleaded, wiping away the frigid brine. Around them, torn rigging beat and snapped in the wind as a host of maddened vipers. One of the sailors slashed the cord securing a tarp over the lifeboat. The storm immediately ripped the canvas away, and it flew off, flailing like a nightmare hag.
 “If she drifts, she’ll overtake and spoil the boat before it reaches the Gate.” He regarded the doctor with a level gaze. “You are needed ashore. I am needed here.”
 “She is lost!” With his free hand, he motioned toward the wounded sails and the broken booms.
 “Then I’ll follow her to Hades! Mr. Creene, get the doctor to shore!” The sailor gathered up the doctor in a heap, and clearing half the deck in a single bound dumped him into the lifeboat.
 Presently, the sea began to draw itself up. The coming swell was so massive, it seemed to tilt the horizon, as if the globe itself struggled under its largesse.
 “Mr. Aldour!” The second sailor appeared, his loyal eyes upon his master. “Cut loose on my command. Once free, race like hell. If the crest overtakes you, all will be lost in vain.”
 “Aye, captain.”
 “Get on with it.”
 The sailors leapt into the lifeboat and drew their hatchets, aiming for the lashes holding it in place. The dull grey steel glinted dimly in the early dawn. The storm thrashed and howled around them. The doctor, his pleading eyes still turned toward the captain, pressed himself into the bottom of the lifeboat, his bone-white fingers grasping tight his leather valise.
 As the sea surged upward, it drained the water away from the Ethebian Gate, revealing its treacherous and craggy maw. Magdalene’s Star, faithful to the last, rushed and sliced up the glassy slope. The crest nearing, Captain Faulk laid the cutter to starboard, shielding the lifeboat from the crest, turning it toward the distant hope of the Gate’s passage.
 “Now!” The captain commanded. One, then the other, the hatchets sounded, severing the lashes and letting the boat free. The sea began to boil all around, but in its wake, Magdalene’s Star left a brief window of calm. The lifeboat slipped into the rift of relative security, and darted into the watery gorge below. Creene and Aldour leaned into the oars with fiendish strength.
 Above them, Magdalene’s Star briefly cut a silhouette against the foaming ridge, illuminated by the first rays of the breaching sun. She listed to port, water broke over her deck, and the graceful cutter slipped onto the far side of the swell. The doctor caught one last glimpse of Captain Faulk, who stood motionless, rooted to his deck, his countenance serene, and his hands resting gently on the wheel. As the green bank rose between them, the captain raised a hand to his lips, and tenderly transferred the kiss to the rudder wheel.
 The sailors rowed with back-breaking power. The oars bent and creaked as they struggled against the water. The slope rose ever more, opening the vast chasm beneath them. With their own strength and the sea pushing behind them, the miniscule boat flew toward the Ethebian Gate with astonishing speed.
 The surface of the water around them changed, from taut to ruffled to bursting. Above them, the crest bisected the darkened sky. The swell clashed with the outward cliffs of the Gate and the surge began to collapse inward toward the narrow entry. The sea, with the madly sprinting mariners at its fore, thrust itself into the close confines of the Ethebian Gate.
 Everything became a furious roar. The sea, the very air transformed into an icy, stinging, whipping mist. Deafened and blinded, the men cried out, though not to each other, but merely giving a voice to their terror and anguish.
 The boat swept to the left. An oar was caught between the hull and the rocks. Crushed, it burst into splinters. In brief flashes of visibility, the wicked black rocks would manifest themselves, arrayed against the beleaguered travelers as battle lines of pikes, only to vanish in the foamed brine an instant later.
 Then in a moment, hell receded, and the three found themselves safe in limb and body, save for the burning salt filling their lungs and eyes.
 They turned their gazes back, toward the Ethebian Gate and the riotous sea beyond. The monstrous wave had dissipated, and momentarily, the sea appeared level. Yet no sign of Magdalene’s Star could be sighted.

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