Free like a wind

The azure smooth surface of a sea sparkled and shined under beams of a rising sun. Waves rolled over each other, foamed – and, having been picked up by a new stream, – were carried away. A fresh breeze was blowing – one that happens here day after another – one who has collected its tribute of moisture from a sea and was now desperately throwing it in the faces of men in a form of brilliant cold drops. A wind inflated sails and they, sagging before its force, were heeling the ship sideways. But – only slightly. Strong cables, adhering a vessel to a coast, didn’t desire to grant a wind even the slightest chance to shift this machine even for ten meters.

A captain’s shout ringed in the air – and sailors began to descend from ship’s masts to continue their duty on a deck. Soon this frigate will leave a port into its next sailing, but for now – there were shouts, carried downwind, the noise of adjusted tackles, the soft scratch of ship’s boards, which has been accepting the next portion of cargo on board, and yet a wind’s whistle in a face.

A strange and unclear premonition was still making him feel uneasy: a melancholy of abandoned – even for a day or two, while new provisions were being bought and captain’s assistants were conducting brisk conversations with dealers, trying to lower prices for goods, – but still home, new home among boundless waters and storm… a joy of incoming adventure and some sort of strange presentiment, that the life he has been experiencing, for now, will very soon change, that his path will sharply be altered and he will be compelled to make a new important step in own life. Two weeks ago this sensation was born in him, three months ago he became a ship’s boy…

“If a man trusts himself – he can once achieve his dare dreams. Remember it well, sonny,” words of his father, which he, a simple tailor, gave him before son’s journey – into his new travel into boundless sea spaces, into a path that has been awaiting him since childhood and called for in magic dreams. A path that was going to change so soon, granting him a new choice.

A captain’s shout rings aloud once again in the air – and sailors start lifting sails. Their captain was an inborn leader – a bane of pirates of the Caribbean Sea, he in his youth has made his name himself through dozens of brilliant attacks on pirate vessels. A remarkable strategist and even greater tactician, he has now become a sea trader – one of many. Yet the power has always been with him – even now it was swirling in that man, loudly appealing to his crew for the frigate’s departure from a port.

* * *

Raised and fluttering sails. A light breeze blowing in the face – soon it will change to the approaching squall and they will have to lower sails and start maneuvering downwind among rolling multimeter waves, so that storm cannot turn the ship sideways – even though a wind can change its direction more often than once in a minute. But all that will happen in fifteen or twenty minutes, when a storm will finally overtake them – and for now he was looking forward, on a boundless smooth water surface, opening before his eyes, and a sensation of the approaching of the time of a choice and changes, how he has agreed to call it for himself, were becoming only clearer and stronger.

More than once during these three months of his new life among open seas their ship has passed through the most dashing and desperate storms, which have been known to the Caribbean Sea in the last two years. And each time the captain and team pulled it out of the most, apparently, desperate situations – evaded from direct attacks of several buccaneer barks and from battles in private with titans – enemy frigates and even once with a galleon ship. For this is the way their captain was – free like a wind adventurer and bane of pirates, knowing no such word as a retreat.

* * *

Furiously the wind whistled and waves showered boards of the vessel, trying to break or tilt their frigate on one side so that in a new impetuous pressure they can definitely finish off these pity daredevils, who have dared to struggle against mighty water elements.

The storm has been raging for almost an hour.

Waves have been beating on all boards of the vessel. The wind blew off from feet even those men slowly creeping on a deck of the ship, waves washed away into the storming sea and absorbed into its abyss crewmen, still shouting something in their last minutes.

This was one of the most terrible storms into which their vessel has got this year – or maybe these years. He knew not – he only saw how easily the sea finished with all those whom he has always considered as invincible… unbeaten until this dreadful day.

The new wave pours over him, trying to pull out a saving cable from hands – and yet another desperately floundering man is carried away, rolling on a deck with a scrap of rope in hands… a splash, which sound sinks in the noise of wind – and everything is over…

Waves, waves, waves. Wind, wind, wind.

A saving cable in hands – his unique link with this ship – and the only rescue.

Storm. A cruel wind, rushing about here and there.

The elements triumphed.

* * *

He didn’t know how much time has already passed. He knew nothing of the location of a ship. He cannot see other crewmen – only sea waves, whipping on the ship’s board, only a scratch of ship’s planks underwater weights – and own immobilized hands, holding an iron rope.

Minute, two, three… Ten, twenty, thirty…

Slowly did time flow. Methodically did waves beat in the ship. Voices of crewmen have been silenced already – whistling of wind muffled all other sounds. The body cannot be felt, only the thought – lonely though-phrase, preventing him to immediately uncouple own hands and be washed off into the water, – “If a man trusts himself – he can once achieve his dare dreams”. To keep believing was the only thing he could do for now – to trust himself and remain courageous. And then he can survive. And then he should survive.

Consciousness ceased to serve him at times – and then strange dreams were seizing him…

He saw himself as an admiral of a huge squadron. He saw himself giving orders to captains of his ships during battles – and people with both boldness and readiness in their eyes going to execute these orders. People trusted him and were ready to offer their lives for him to live on, but he was ready to sacrifice his own for his people to survive – and fought himself on a front line – with pirates and robbers, who have filled these once peaceful spaces of recently unknown sea – in the sea and on the land, when they were starting to assault a seaport. He battled the enemy of his state as well – yet this was far less often.

He saw himself promoted to some rank, saw faces of court men inclined in respect and admired ones of his sailors-soldiers, when he was approaching them, openly bearing the award…

And then he saw his dark blue insensible hands and a floor of the vessel, being constantly poured by sea waves. Saw fixed on the ship and moved here and there iron rope, being grasped by his hands. And then despair overflowed him.

And then once again – oblivion. And again – a storm. Oblivion. Storm. Oblivion. Storm.

And then he regained consciousness once more – and there was no cable in his hands any longer. He was being carried by waves among heaps of boards – by some sort of miracle he was still alive. He collected last bits of forces and grasped a wide thick tree log – possibly, remains of a mast of their former ship, – there were no more doubts that their ship has been destroyed. He pulled this piece of wood and clasped to it, trying to hold.

And once again comes the oblivion…

* * *

When he opened his eyes once again, the storm has already extinguished – the sun was shining and its rays were jumping and playing in the water. He was being carried on azure waters of this sea together with a piece of the former mast, and once again he could count only on himself – and own force of spirit.

And thus he was keeping. Gathering the last bits of remaining forces. Knowing that he has practically no hope for survival. And nevertheless, he was keeping. And waves were throwing a pity ship’s piece together with a man, who has seized it…

And when a vessel appeared on the horizon, he had no more strength even to rejoice – or to send a signal. But he was noticed – and a ship slowly and smoothly approached a small branch of the tree together with seizing it in a death grip unmoving person.

For now, he could barely remember these moments. It seems that after he has been dragged aboard and men have started reviving him, they tried to ask him of something. However, everything he was able to tell his saviors were some muffled lows of disobeying lips.

Then he was placed into some cabin and has been sleeping for long-long. From time to time he woke up from nightmares and couldn’t come to his senses for quite a while… But he finally regained common sense after a month of this sailing on this trading vessel, as he has learned afterward from its captain.

A month was necessary for him to prove that he is worthy of living – and several more years to prove that he is worthy of a better life – so that a fork of his way and its consequences have become visible at last.

He has stayed for a month on a ship that has picked him up – in thirty miles from a destroyed vessel. As he has learned later when he could be roused after two weeks, the captain of the ship that has rescued him, – after he has become a witness of the tragedy which has comprehended his former ship, – has given an order to search the area for survivors. But there was no one live found in five miles’ radius from the wreckage. The captain of the rescue ship couldn’t tell if there was anyone else who has survived the storm – anyway they couldn’t find any.

Yet he survived – by some sort of miracle. As the captain of the rescue vessel told him, they have already lost hope to find any survivors and have started sailing further, and almost the moment after they have stumbled upon him – lying on a piece of a tree which he didn’t want to part with when they were trying to lift him up and drag on a ship’s deck. They have tried to find out what has happened to him and whether he has been one of the survivors from a vessel, witnesses of which destruction they have recently become – yet he was so emaciated and thick, that they could achieve nothing from him. Then he was put in a cabin and was treated the best way they could do it. Two weeks from that month during which they have been sailing to a seaport, he has lain in bed. Ate very little, slept a lot. At times he rose in cold sweat from the bed, shouting something that he would have the power to pass through it and survive, that he must do that, that he is free and his own way would soon completely reveal before him. They didn’t listen to that attentively – considered it all a delirium.

For two weeks he has been struggling for a living. No, for two weeks and three days. The rescue vessel has passed a tragedy spot only three days after a storm – and only after three days after mentioned events, it has picked him up in the sea. A sea, which was already quiet and solar by that time…

For two more weeks, he has been sailing together with them on their course – when his new life has started, the one which had no chances for upcoming if he has surrendered before. If he has ceased to struggle, has despaired. He hasn’t despaired. Hasn’t surrendered. He was battling – and has won to start a new life – a premonition of which didn’t leave him before.

* * *

“James, tell the captain of the ‘Guard’ to set course for Plymouth. We are coming back home.”

“Aye, it shall be done, captain!”

“Wheel to the right! Trim the sails to the wind!”

“Let’s turn, let’s turn! We are heading for Plymouth!”

Shouts were carried downwind. Sailors carried about on the ship.

He was looking forward – on today’s peaceful sea surface, flying seagulls. It’s time for the squadron to return home – battle has been won, and home is calling. They will repair ships and replenish provisions and will be on the way once again, – free like wind sea wanderers. He and his crew – devoted and trusting him, their admiral.

Yes, they will return to a harbor. But at first, they will sail to a different city – the one where he has grown and hasn’t been for such a long time… long seven years…

Returning home… He will see his father, a common tailor, once again, after these five years – the father who have told him such important words in that memorable day of trials. If a man trusts himself, he can achieve much…

Yes, these words were sustaining him. They were holding him when he was sinking in a storm. They were keeping him when he, already being a captain of own ship, – has been fighting in seas. These words have kept him. And they are keeping him now – after these long seven years.

They are still keeping him. The one who does not surrender.


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Short Story
writing prokhor_ozornin
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