Sailors in my Father’s tavern would often regale the other patrons with tales of the affectionate caress of the Sea, of how Her garish blue green sting would wash and lick and rinse the wounds of any man. As I sat on the prow of the ship the wide foamy swath of Sea before me glittered and glinted in the tinge of a red dusk, but it was no elixir for my failed heart. Perhaps I am the exception, then. But I believe my wounds are too wide to patch, too deep to mend.
The captain, a tawny man with kindness etched into the lines of his face, lent me a cloak, dry and scratchy. My own clothes are little more than refuse now, sodden and frayed from days spent as flotsam and jetsam, me along with them. It was only the day after last his boat came into vision, slicking over the horizon like butter skimming across a hot pan, and plucked me from a delirium of thirst and sun fever. He gave me quarter in the belly of the cedar ship. I drank warm broth and sipped fizzy wine. A viscous amber salve was spread over my burns, softening the sting of the Sun upon my skin. I slept.
My dreams were wicked and true that night: Lovers ripped from one another by the incensed current of a swollen Sea. A child perched high in a gnarled Beech tree, her ululation rising with the predatory tide. Swarms of people thrashed and flayed and churned into a maelstrom of crimson and scarlet. The air was rank with the squalid scent of brine and blood and bile. Grand buildings erupted. Churches crumpled. Fine homes exploded, sending splinters and shards slicing the survivors; shrapnel crafted of pomp and hubris. Time ceased, then sprung forward and ceased again. The torrent dwindled. I was alone.
The dream replayed the following night.
The next morning I woke to the sway of the ship, listing over on her port side. The captain redirected course when I came aboard. We were sailing towards the rising sun. “My engagement in the west is complete,” he said. I nodded. Two promontories were on the horizon, jutting gray and withered against an indigo sky, like the fingers of an ancient god, eager to clutch seafarers for his keeping. The captain invited me to take up a post upon the prow. “One should appreciate a first passage between the Pillars.” I nodded once more and obeyed.
It was dusk. Midday and the Pillars were well behind us. The captain moored the ship in a bay he spotted off the port side when we first cleared the pass. The land before me was good green pasture, gilded by the sun’s waning light. Beyond the meadow was woodland and beyond the woodland sat the mountains, wreathed in mist and shadow.
My gaze averted from the land and alighted on the captain, his foggy eyes pallid and cold. He smiled, wryly, and inclined his head to a tan rucksack on the deck. I fumbled through the pack he had prepared for me. Behind a jug of water, a loaf of bread, and a wineskin, I found my old clothes, restored to pristine condition. From the pocket of my vest I pulled a red-copper coin, the wage of a day’s work in Father’s tavern. After a moment, I bundled the sack and hefted over my shoulder. The captain was waiting for me in the stern of the ship, leaning against the tiller. I approached him and offered the coin. He took it. “For others requiring passage?” he asked. I nodded. His smile transmuted into a beaming grin, almost nefarious, a gleam reminiscent of a chimp. With a flick of the wrist, the captain sent the coin skipping across the surface of the water and into the western sun.
I flung the pack into the water and jumped from the stern into the bay. Once ashore, I made for the meadow beyond the beach. “Farewell, Andalusia.” yelled the captain. But I did not turn around.