The Boy and the Sea Dragon
From which we came
Which is in all Cingala blood
Lost at Sea
The naked, brown skinned boy was up in the crow’s nest above the main royal sail. He wore a pair of goggles, made of glass and brown leather, above his forehead. A steady wind came from starboard and stern as it had been for days. It blew his shoulder length, straight, sun bleached sandy blond hair that was not held in place by the goggle’s strap about.
The crow’s nest sides went up to his chest. He stood facing the bow.
He enjoyed being up there. He felt like he was on top of the world. He pretended to be a king looking over his realm from high above. He saw more of the world up here than on the deck.
He looked down to the deck. Men were working about the deck. They looked like insects crawling on the ground.
He looked around. The ship was under full sail. They were on the same course they had been on since leaving Cinga Archipelago. He looked past the ship. The ocean extended to the horizon.
He walked around the crow’s nest. He looked past the ship. The ocean extended to the horizon everywhere he looked. No land was in sight. He came to face the stern. The sails blocked part of his view. Beyond the mizzen royal sail, he could see the ship’s wake spreading behind it.
He came back to face the bow. The sun warmed him. He looked at the sky. Grey clouds seemed to be increasing. Further ahead, the sky appeared to be solid medium grey. A black line appeared on the horizon. It suddenly lit up at various points along its length. He watched the line get bigger and slightly lighter. The sky turned grey as it became overcast. The line became a wall of clouds – dark and ominous. They lit up on occasion.
He looked down. The men were going about their chores. They seemed oblivious of what was coming toward them. He cupped his hands around his mouth. He screamed as loud as he could, “Lingesa!”
Everybody looked up at him. He was pointing toward the bow. They looked in that direction. They saw the storm.
The sea dragon flew through the air. He was on the other side of the storm. He flew toward it. He came close to it. The air was developing almost too much turbulence to fly. He looked to find a way around it. The storm reached the horizon in all directions in front of him. He looked up. The storm’s top was rather high. The turbulence was too rough to climb. He looked down. The water was too rough to float. The wind churned the water into huge waves. The waves could swamp him. They could toss him about. He saw no other way around it. The only course of action was to go underwater.
He saw the lightning flashing. By the time he made his decision, the sun had disappeared. The sky was dark grey. Rain pelted him hard.
He stopped flapping his wings. He partially folded them. He made a nearly vertical descent toward the water. He drew his wings back, like some diving birds do. He hit the water cleanly. He submerged.
He leveled out underwater. He spread his wings out. He flapped them. He flew, underwater, straight through the storm. This was the safest passage through it, he knew of.
A crewman walked to the captain’s office. He knocked on the door. He heard in Cingalia, the only language spoken on the ship, “Come in.”
He opened the door and entered. The captain sat at his varnished oak desk. He was looking at the supply list.
“Sir! We are approaching a storm. It looks bad,” the crewman said.
“I’ll be out in a minute,” the captain said.
“Yes, sir,” the crewman said. He spun around on his left heel. He exited the office.
The captain put the paper in a desk drawer. He got up. He grabbed his rain gear. He exited the office.
He looked up at the sky. It was overcast with dark clouds. He walked to the starboard bow. He traced the line of darker clouds. It went from horizon to horizon. Lightning bolts streaked across the clouds. A bolt struck the water.
The wind blew his shoulder length straight black hair. It blew some hair across his face and eyes. He was able to see none the less. He looked at the water. The wind churned the water into big waves. Some waves came at the ship from astern. They slapped the hull. He put his rain gear on.
The clouds darkened as the boy watched. The wind became stronger. It was changing directions. He looked down beyond the ship. The water was choppy. He felt a raindrop hit his bare skin.
Suddenly, the wind came directly off the bow. The ship quickly lost momentum. The boy lost his balance. He staggered into the crow’s nest wall. He held onto the side with both arms as his legs buckled. He nearly fell to his knees. He stood up. He looked down. Both stay sails between the fore and main masts hung loose. The square sails on the masts were aback. The ship seemed to barely move astern. He knew that a sailing vessel could not sail directly into the wind.
The captain ran astern. He came to the helmsman. The helmsman had his rain gear on as well. It started to sprinkle. The captain stopped and turned around. He looked over the deck. Everybody he saw wore rain gear. He looked up. The mizzen square sails were aback. The Cinga flag just hung. He barked, “Helmsman, turn the ship starboard! Men, prepare to tighten those sails!”
The helmsman cranked the helm to the right. The stern slowly backed to port. The crew grabbed the sheets. Several men were on each sheet.
The three jibs were flapping in the wind. The bow backed to starboard. The jibs caught the wind. They swung to starboard. The crew on their sheets hauled on them. They sang as they hauled.
The ship continued to turn. The captain walked to the hatch leading to the crew’s quarters. He yelled down, “All hands on deck. Bring rain gear.”
Everybody below, even the night crew, came up to lend a hand. They put their rain gear on as they came. The last man out closed the hatch. Rain pelted the ship and everybody.
It started to rain in earnest. The wind grew stronger. The ship turned faster. The square sails turned. They were still aback. The crew hauled on the sheets and braces, keeping the sails under control. The masts creaked under the strain.
The boy looked down. The ship was slowly turning. The square sails swung around. The wind grew stronger. Men hauled on the sheets. The ship was picking up speed. He heard the masts creak.
The rain poured. He got soaked. His hair became plastered to his head. When lightning flashed, it was too close for his comfort. He said to himself, “Time to get down.”
The captain stood close to the main mast. The first mate stood beside him. The captain looked around. He did not see the boy. He said, “Iyo, is Zuang below?”
“No, sir,” Iyoseching said.
“Where is he, then,” the captain asked.
“He is at the top of the main mast, sir,” Iyoseching said. Lightning flashed closer than before.
“Get him down! That is not! a place for a six year old boy to be in this weather!” the captain demanded.
“Aye, captain, sir,” Iyoseching said. He turned. He walked across the wet deck to the wet main port shroud. He climbed up the wet ratlines.
Zuangeng turned around. In the center, the top few feet of the main top gallant mast poked through. On the starboard and port sides, holes big enough for a heavy set adult to go through, were in the wet floor. The top gallant shrouds ran through the holes.
He made his way to the mast. Rivers of water ran down his body. Water poured off the ends of his hair. Water ran down the mast and shrouds. Water ran off the ratlines.
He grabbed with his left hand one of the soaking wet port shroud. He got on a wet ratline. He grabbed another ratline with his right hand. He let go of the shroud.
He climbed down through the hole. Lightning flashed. Thunder roared. He said to himself, “I must get down fast. It’s going to be rough.”
He climbed down the wet top gallant ratlines.
The wind picked up some more speed. The captain barked, “Take down the royal and top gallant sails! Bring their yardarms down!”
Some of the crew jumped on the ratlines. They climbed toward the sails.
Zuangeng stopped when he got on the wet topmast ratlines. He looked out to the sea. The wind’s speed increased. The wind was churning up the water. The waves were getting larger. Some of the crew in rain gear passed him. Someone said, “Zuangeng, you need to get down to the deck, now!”
“Aye, sir,” Zuangeng replied. He continued down the ratlines. He came to the wet lower ratlines. He climbed down them. He met Iyoseching a few steps down.
Iyoseching saw him. He stopped without a word. Zuangeng looked at him as Iyoseching nodded approval. The two of them climbed down together to the deck.
Zuangeng stood on the wet deck where he got off the shrouds. Iyoseching rejoined the captain. Zuangeng held onto a wet shroud. He watched the men work. Everybody, except him, wore soaking wet rain gear. Crew were on all three masts. Some crew remained on deck.
The deck crew loosened the required sheets. They let out the halyards, lowering the six yardarms.
The mast crew reached the royal sails. They strung themselves across the yardarms. They pulled up the sails. The crew member at one end of the sails detached the sheets. The sheets fell to the deck. The sails were freed from the yardarms. They were passed over to clear rigging. The deck crew on the still attached sheet lowered the sails to the deck. They detached the remaining sheet. They folded and stowed the sails. Lightning flashed and thunder roared as they worked. Rain came down in sheets. The wind howled through the rigging.
The mast crew climbed down to the top gallant sails. The same procedure was done on them.
The mast crew freed the sheets from the yardarms. The sheets fell to the deck. The mast crew cleared off the yardarms. The deck crew let out more of the halyards. The yardarms came down. The mast crew cleared them of the rigging. The deck crew detached the yardarm rigging. The yardarms were stowed away. The mast crew came down to the deck.
The ship continued to turn.
The wind whipped the water into ever bigger waves. Zuangeng looked out over the water. Rain pockmarked the water. Waves came at the ship from port and bow. The ship rode the waves. The bow rose on a wave. It fell, smacking the water. Water sprayed out from the impact. Zuangeng kept a hold on the shroud. The captain and Iyoseching were steady on their feet. They rode with the ship.
The wind increased in speed and strength. Waves battered the ship. They washed over the sides. Zuangeng saw and felt one batter the shroud he was holding onto. He turned around. He felt them hit his back. Rain continued falling in sheets. Water ran off the remaining yardarms and horizontal rigging. Water ran down the masts, shrouds and stays. He felt water pooling where his hand contacted the shroud. He felt it running over his hand and fingers.
Everybody looked up the masts. The stay sails were straining. They threatened to tear to shreds. The top stay sail between the fore and main masts could not stand the strain. It shredded. The captain yelled, “Loose that sail! Bring the remaining ones down before we loose them!”
The mast crew went aloft again. All the stay sails were loosened. The sheet on the shredded stay sail was taken off. It dropped to the deck. The wind was allowed to take the shredded stay sail. The others were lowered. The deck crew removed the sheets. The sails were folded and stowed.
The captain walked to the bow. He checked the jibs. They were straining in the wind. He ordered, “Let out the jibs!”
The crew let out the jib sheets. The ship kept turning to starboard. The captain studied the situation. He ordered, “Take the flying jib, its stay and top gallant stays down! Prepare to take the top gallant masts down!”
The crew brought the flying jib down. They folded and stowed it. The mast crew went aloft. They loosened the requested stays. The stays dropped to the deck. The deck crew coiled and stowed the stays. The captain ordered, “Bring the top gallant masts down!”
The deck crew got the necessary tools. They tied them to the halyards. They raised them to the crew still on the masts.
The mast crew freed the masts. They carefully lowered them to the deck. The deck crew took the crow’s nest off. It and the masts were stowed away.
Zuangeng stayed where he was. He watched the crew working the sails. One wave came over the port railing and his head. He saw it coming down. He ducked his head. The wave hit the deck in front of him. The wave crest came down on top of him. The water swept over the deck.
The captain looked around. He noticed Zuangeng standing at the shroud. A streak of lightning and crack of thunder came. A wave came down on the boy. He waited until the wave was gone. He yelled, “Zuangeng!”
Zuangeng raised his head to look at him. The captain yelled, “Beinga siema!”
“Yeala, tiana,” Zuangeng yelled back. He turned to head for the nearest hatch. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw a wave coming. He turned his head to watch it. He waited. The wave came up over the side. He raised his head as he watched it rise over his head. He followed it crashing down on the deck, swamping it. A lightning bolt flashed. A loud boom of thunder followed. Once the water cleared, Zuangeng made his move. He faced the hatch. He let go of the shroud. He ran toward the hatch. The captain was watching him. He turned his attention to other matters.
Zuangeng was about half way to the hatch. A huge wave came. It hit the deck near his heels. The water bounced up. It hit him in the small of the back. The force of the water knocked him onto his stomach. The water washed over the deck. It pushed him toward the hatch. It subsided. He tried to get on his feet. Another wave came. It crashed on the deck and his legs. It knocked him back down. The water pushed him past the hatch.
He managed to get back on his feet. He looked around. He cried, “Aye, ingayala! I missed the hatch!”
He turned around. He tried to make the hatch against a fierce wind. The wind continued to howl through the remaining rigging. In spite of being soaking wet, his loose hair thrashed about behind him. Torrents of water flowed down his body. Water sprayed from his hair. He leaned into the wind. His head was down.
He looked up to see a wave coming. It was the biggest he had ever seen. It landed on the deck almost at his feet. The water splashed up. It hit him in the pit of his stomach. It knocked him down. It sent him to the starboard railing.
He got back on his feet again. A bigger wave came. It nearly swamped the ship. He watched it hit the deck close to his feet. The rebounding water picked him up. It carried him over the railing. He fell on his back.
He righted himself. He pointed his toes down. He landed in the ocean, feet first. He closed his eyes to keep water out of them. He submerged under water. He swam to the surface. He tread water. He shook his head vigorously. His loose hair swung back and forth, spraying water. He opened his eyes. He watched the ship turning and receding through curtains of rain. He yelled at the ship, “Hey! Esiada!”
The howling of the wind through the rigging and thunder drowned out his voice. Rain and waves hit his face. Some sea water got in his eyes. It stung. His eyes watered. He pulled his goggles down over his eyes. Sea water got into his mouth. He spat it out.
He looked at the ship. Only the lower six square sails, the inner two jibs and the mizzen sail were left. The top gallant masts were gone. He tried yelling again to no avail. Waves pushed him away from the ship.
A big wave came his way. He bent his head down. It came crashing down on top of him. He sunk under water. Water got in his throat. He swam to the surface. He coughed up and spat out water. He found himself further from the ship. He had difficulty seeing it through the sheets of rain. Waves came at him from the left. He tried to swim toward the ship. He could not swim fast enough. He had to fight waves trying to push him. They were winning. Lightning flashed. Thunder roared. The ship got further from him.
Another wave sent him under again. This time, he had his mouth closed. He held his breath. He resurfaced. The ship was nowhere to be seen. He was alone in the water. He cried. He stopped swimming, finding it to be futile. He bobbed with the waves. He said to himself, “I’ll never make it. I hope, they’d find me missing, turn around and come looking for me.”
Time went by as he tread water, trying to stay on the surface. The rough water made it difficult. Several times, he almost sunk. He continued to bob with the waves. There was no such luck. He thought, “There will be no rescue. I’m lost and alone. I won’t make it. I will drown and that will be the end of me.”
His eyes burst into tears. He cried. A big wave came his way. He thought, “No sense in fighting fate.”
The wave swamped him. He no longer struggled. He went limp, as he sank. He closed his eyes. His mouth opened. Air bubbles escaped and rose from his mouth and nose. He breathed water instead of air. His lungs filled with water. This made it harder to breath. He passed out as his breathing became shallower. He continued to sink. He faced downward. His arms and legs were splayed out.
The ship was one hundred degrees to the wind. The remaining sails billowed out. The main top sail could not stand the strain and tore. The captain yelled, “Loose that sail! Bring down the remaining topsails! Bring down the top yardarms! Break out the storm sails!”
Some crew went aloft. The fore and mizzen topsails were brought down, folded and stored. The main topsail was freed. The wind blew it away. The yardarms were lowered and stowed. Other crew went below. They brought up the three storm sails. The captain yelled, “Bring down the top masts and their rigging! Bring down the outer jib!”
The outer jib was lowered, folded and stowed. The top mast rigging was dropped to the deck. The deck crew coiled the rigging and stowed it away. The top masts were then lowered to the deck. The masts were stowed away.
The captain yelled, “Bring down the mizzen and its booms!”
The mizzen was brought down, folded and stowed. Its booms were brought down and stored.
The captain yelled, “Bring down the inner jib and courses!”
The sails were brought down, folded and stowed. The ship was, now, one hundred and twenty degrees to the wind. The captain yelled, “Raise the storm sails and set them!”
The storm sails were set. These sails were smaller and stronger. The captain walked to the helmsman. He commanded, “Helmsman, straighten the rudder!”
The helmsman cranked the helm to the left until the rudder was straight.
The storm sails were set, The captain yelled, “Brace those yardarms!”
The yardarms were braced. It continued to rain hard. Lightning flashed and thunder roared. Waves battered the ship. They went over the port rail to crash on the deck. The men held on tightly to the remaining rigging. Some men made it to the hatch between waves. They went below.
The captain remained on deck. He headed for the main mast. He made it to the starboard shrouds. He got on the ratlines. He held on tight due to the ship rocking. He said to himself, “I’m taking a terrible risk climbing up.”
He climbed to the top of the lower mast. He looked around himself. The storm was mostly in all directions. The greater portion was to port. He saw a glimmer of hope to starboard. There was a sliver of sunlight. There was a rainbow.
He climbed down to the deck. He walked astern along the starboard rails. He reached the helm. He stood beside the helmsman. He said, “To port until we’re hundred ten to wind.”
The helmsman cranked the helm to the left. When the ship had turned ten degrees, he straightened the helm. The captain yelled, “Reset the sails! Rebrace the yardarms!”
The remaining crew did so. The captain yelled, “Get below, men! Batten down the hatches!”
The men went below. They battened the hatches.
“We’ll lash down the helm,” the captain told the helmsman. They lashed the helm to its post. This kept the helm from turning. They walked into the captain’s office. The captain locked the door. Everybody shed their rain gear. They hung them to dry. They waited out the storm.
The sea dragon looked up as he flew. The silhouette of a ship’s bottom, eventually, appeared. He surfaced to investigate. When he surfaced, he raised his head for a look. It was raining in sheets. He saw lightning and heard thunder. The wind was blowing something fierce. Large waves washed over him. He remained on the surface. His wings remained spread out.
He saw the ship. It was the same one that hit him a few days ago. The masts were shorter than he remembered. The only sails present were the courses. They appeared smaller than he recalled. There appeared to be no one on board. He thought, “Everybody must be below deck out of this weather.”
He sunk his head in the water. He arched his back. He sank back under water. He flew for a while.
He resurfaced again. He raised his head. He was still in the storm. The rain and waves made it a little difficult to see. Suddenly, he said to himself, “Did I see something bobbing in the water?”
The ship was not in sight. A wave obscured the bobbing object, occasionally. Out of curiosity, he swam to investigate. The object disappeared in a wave. It was not seen again. He said to himself, “Must be my imagination.”
He dove back under. He found it, again, sinking. He flew closer to the object. It got bigger. He got close enough to see it clearly. It was the boy he had talked with a few days ago. The boy had something where his eyes were. The boy was not struggling for the surface. The sea dragon thought, “He must be drowning!”
The sea dragon became alarmed. He flapped his wings and wagged his shark’s tail furiously. He raced to catch the boy before he died.
He reached the boy. He circled around. He got underneath the boy. He rose up to catch him. The boy’s feet touched his back first. They were caught between two pairs of fins. One pair was on each side of his back. He continued to rise. The boy’s body settled on his back. Both arms were caught between two more pairs of fins. He banked to the right. He continued to rise. He thought, “I hope, I’ll clear the storm by the time I resurface. I hope, he will be alive then.”