“We’s run aground!” yelled outside his cabin woke Zuangeng. He opened his eyes. He could not see anything. Light flashing through the three portholes briefly revealed an empty cabin. His clothes laid in a corner. Thunder exploded outside. He laid in his bunk, listening to the Jalapean chaos outside.
“We’s still in da ocean! How’s we aground?”
“It’s a reef, damn moron!”
“Reef’s punch a hole! We’s shipping water! We’s sinking!”
Zuangeng got out of the bunk. He felt the wood floor on his bare feet. A flash of light briefly revealed the cabin’s door. He felt his way to the door. He opened the door. He exited the cabin into strong wind and pouring rain. The wind blew his hair across his face until the rain pasted it to his forehead. Some of his hair hung over his eyes. He became thoroughly soaked quickly.
It was dark. The only lights were lanterns carried by the Jalapean crew. He felt the wet deck under his feet. Lightning flashes revealed the scene. Light reflected off the wet deck. The Jalapean crew scurried about the deck.
The men were dressed whereas he was naked. Their clothes were soaked. He felt water hit and run down his body.
The ship was listing to starboard and stern. He walked to the starboard railing, astern of the paddlewheel housing. He grabbed the railing with both hands. Like everything else outside, it was wet. Light glinted off all the wet surfaces when lightning flashed. Thunder sounded like cannons going off.
He looked over the side. Lightning revealed large waves heading starboard and toward the bow. Some hit the housing spraying Zuangeng. He looked toward the bow. Another bolt of lightning revealed the remains of the ruined paddlewheel. Water was slightly above the axle. Light glinted off the large waves.
“Hey, kid,” came from behind him. He twirled around to face Muse. He brushed his hair from his eyes.
Zuangeng was wondering about the harbor at Mikitaya. He wore a pair of blue pants, white short sleeve shirt and pair of brown shoes. His black hair hung below his shoulder blades. He was alone. His uncle and aunt learned to trust him being alone. He was waiting for the Serikua to arrive.
He grew hungry. He stopped at a café. He entered it. Sitting at a table, looking at him was Muse. Zuangeng looked at him with distaste and loathing. Muse was with four other men.
The only available table was close to Muse’s table. Zuangeng sat facing Muse.
Muse turned to face the men. Bilal said, “Muse, what happened to your face?”
Muse said, “A small damn dragon attacked me, last year.”
Last year, Zuangeng was visiting friends in Kulathra. He had arrived on the Serikua. Captain Esiada let him visit his friends. He wore red shorts and nothing else. He walked the streets with his buddy, Emelabad. Emelabad’s gang was with them.
A Jalapean man approached them. He said, “Is this Zuangeng?”
Zuangeng said, “What if I am?”
The man said, “A mutual friend wants to see you.”
Emelabad said, “Zuangeng, don’t follow him. He is Muse, one of Shokura’s men.”
Zuangeng said, “Leave us alone. Shokura is no friend of mine!”
Zuangeng, Emelabad and gang walked off. Muse followed them. Zuangeng looked back. He said, Emelabad, run! Everybody else run. You guys go ahead. I’m running in a different direction.
Emelabad and his gang took off running. Zuangeng parted with them. He ran to the left. Muse ran after him, leaving Emelabad’s gang alone.
Zuangeng ran across the street, Muse in pursuit. They came to an alley. They entered it. Zuangeng found a large full trash bin. He jumped into it and buried himself.
Muse came to the trash bin. He looked in it. He rummaged through the trash looking for Zuangeng. What he found was a small blue sea dragon.
Ciyonaung felt the trash on top of him move. He felt some heat on his back. He raised his head and looked at Muse. Muse said, “What a freakin’ hell?”
Ciyonaung snarled and growled at him.
Muse said, “A boy jumped in here. Where’s he?”
Ciyonaung said, growling, “Don’t know who you are talking about!”
Muse pulled his gun out. He pointed it at the dragon’s face. He said, “Don’t play me, fuckin’ dragon!”
Ciyonaung quickly reared up. He reached out with his right paw. He raked Muse’s nose and cheeks from just below his eyes. He ended at the bottom of Muse’s jaw. There were three bloody gashes in Muse’s face. Ciyonaung spread his wings. He leaped at Muse.
Muse ducked saying, “Damn dragon!”
Ciyonaung glided over Muse. He flew out of the alley and was gone.
Muse looked through the trash again. He never saw Zuangeng until at the café. He said, “I don’t give a fuck about what Shokura said. Next time I see that dragon, I’m gonna kill the damn dragon!”
The waiter came to Zuangeng’s table. He took his order. Bilal knew Cingalia. He heard Zuangeng’s order. He got up and left the table. Ten minutes later, he returned.
Zuangeng got his food. He ate. Soon, he grew tired. His eyes closed and head fell. He was asleep with his head in the food.
He woke to find himself in a cabin empty of everything but the bunk he laid in. He sat up. He found the three portholes. He looked out one of them. The deck and starboard railing come into view. He looked past the railing. There was water with swells. In the distance, about a mile Zuangeng estimated, was the shore of a Cinga Archipelago island. He looked at himself. He wore the same clothes he had at the café. He was bare footed.
He got out of the bunk. He looked for his shoes and socks. He found them under the bunk. He left them there. He walked out the cabin bare foot.
The sun was shining. Some clouds floated in the sky. A breeze from starboard blew his hair across his face. There was no mast just the deck, stern railing and water.
He turned left. He went around the starboard corner. He met Bilal. Bilal said, “Zuangeng, what are you doing out?”
Zuangeng said, “Getting some air. Besides, the door was not locked.”
Bilal said, “Come with me. We need to see the captain about you.”
Zuangeng followed him. They walked toward the bow. Half way, he noticed a wooden structure. It curved up and down. Zuangeng said, “What is that?”
Bilal said, “That is the housing for a paddlewheel.”
Zuangeng said, “What is a paddlewheel?”
Bilal said, “Come and look for yerself.”
They walked to the railing astern of the housing. They looked over the side. Bilal pointed at the paddlewheel. Zuangeng looked at it. A metal disk was at the center. White wood spokes radiated from it. Three circular metal bands of different diameters were evenly spaced on the spokes. At the end of each spoke was a white wood board extending toward the hull. Close to the hull was the same thing. The whole assembly spun. About a quarter of the paddlewheel was underwater. When the boards astern left the water, water ran off them. Then, water dripped off them. Half of the paddlewheel was covered by the housing. Bilal said, “This is how this ship is propelled. We need to continue.”
They continued toward the bow. They came to a flight of stairs. They climbed the stairs. They reached the top. Before them was a small cabin at the bow edge of the deck. There was a door in the back wall. They walked to the door. Bilal opened the door. They entered the cabin. There were windows in the front wall. There was the helm with the helmsman standing, holding it. Beside him was Captain Abduwali Garaad. Bilal said, “I caught Zuangeng wondering the deck. We should lock him in his cabin.”
Captain Garaad said, “We are at sea, far from any land. He can’t swim to shore. Let him have free range over the ship. Just watch him!”
Bilal said, “Okay. Hear that, Zuangeng?”
Zuangeng said, “Yes.”
They left the wheelhouse. Zuangeng said, “I’m hungry. Is there anything to eat?”
Bilal said, “I’ll find you something. Come with me.”
He took Zuangeng to the mess. Zuangeng sat at a table while Bilal went into the galley. Bilal returned with a plate of food, a glass of water and silverware. He put them in front of Zuangeng. Zuangeng looked at the food and water. He looked at Bilal. Bilal said, “Don’t worry! It’s not laced. Eat!”
Zuangeng ate. The only thing that happened was he got full. Bilal returned the dishes to the galley. They exited the mess.
Zuangeng roamed the ship, always with Bilal. Sometimes, they stood at the railing looking over the water. Zuangeng’s hair would blow in the wind. Occasionally, he could see it hanging over his eyes. They hardly exchanged words the whole time. Zuangeng would have some meals with Captain Garaad.