epsilon -🌛 #Dreams, 🐳 #whales, & 🐉 #dragons
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June 11, 10 a.m. — The weather is excellent this morning, we have a constant wind from stern and Excelsior is leaving behind a beautiful foamy trail, a temporary signature of our presence in these calm and clear waters. The dreams I had last night were unusually long and vivid. So vivid, I took them for real.
I’m relieved to see that nobody from my crew is missing in this routine and uneventful journey. In three days we are supposed to arrive at the Northern Fort, unload our cargo, then sail back and return to our naval base from the metropolis by next week. Still, the whole dream about the Island was so long, intense, and intriguing! I had the feeling I have lived in that strange world for a whole week! The story itself is worth remembering. I’d better write down everything on paper while all the details are still fresh in my memory.
11 a.m. — Time flows slowly on the deck while I fill up my notebook with the adventures from my dream. If I were a more talented writer, I would be tempted to expand them into a novel and try to publish it. Perhaps there would be enough readers who would pay to read such a book.
“Whales at prow, about ten degrees to starboard!”, the voice of the man in the crow’s nest cuts the flow of my thoughts.
“Sir, let’s make a small detour and watch them from a close distance,” I tell the captain.
“All right,” he says. “It’s a welcome change in our boring journey.” He gives the order for the temporary course detour and our vessel turns towards the herd of whales.
It takes about half an hour to catch up with the huge cetaceans, as they are far ahead and are moving in approximately the same direction with us. In this area rich in krill, they are feeding swimming graciously with their mouths open, with a speed of about five kilometers per hour. It’s a group of five humpback whales, each measuring between 10-14 meters in length, apparently made of two bulls and three females. Normally they spend most of the time deeper underwater, where the highest concentration of krill is available, and only come to surface once every ten-fifteen minutes. Probably the krill is denser near the surface here, making the whales easy to spot and follow.
However, as our ship closes in, the big aquatic creatures prefer to disappear under the waves and swim rapidly away, in a direction perpendicular to our course, to avoid any potential harm from us. The captain orders Excelsior back on her initial route.
9 p.m. — Nothing else worth mentioning happened for the rest of the day. While we continued our journey north, with all the sails up, I’ve finished putting on paper the story from my long dream.
June 12, 9 a.m. — Since early morning, threatening clouds began gathering ahead of Excelsior. Meanwhile, the helmsman is complaining that the compass doesn’t point anymore towards a fixed direction. Its needle is rotating in circles, making impossible for him to maintain the correct course. The captain orders the chip log launched behind the ship and we’re doing our best to keep her going straight.
10 a.m. — The sea is still calm, but the sky above has darkened considerably. Bright flashes slice frequently the grim cloud canopy. Rumbling thunders reverberate all the way to the horizon, most of them with a delay of a few seconds after each burst of light. The storm is going to start at any moment. Fortunately, the compass seems to have stabilized back.
11 a.m. — Most of the sails are wrapped up now and our advancing speed has reduced greatly. Under a sky as black as it can be, the wind is blowing furiously, rocking the ship back and forth. No rain is falling yet, but we expect to be hit soon by a flood of water from above.
12 p.m. — The hurricane is at its peak. Excelsior is battered incessantly by huge waves that hit her gunwale like angry, giant fists. A furious shake from underneath and an angry deluge of rain from atop meet on the deck in a frantic battle. The course can be maintained only approximately and with great difficulty.
Several people from the crew suffer from sea sickness. I don’t feel so great either, assaulted by dizziness and nausea, almost ready to throw up everything I have eaten during my most recent meal. Still, I do my best not to show it, as it would be a bad example from an officer. In the meantime, I can’t stop myself from having a feeling of déjà vu.
9 p.m. — The waters are calm again, after a storm that lasted over six hours. Excelsior has survived the battle with the elements with almost no damage. The sky is still cloudy and the ship changes course towards the direction where we think the shore is located, intending to use its features to identify our position more accurately.
10 p.m. — Many of our crew members are getting nervous, because we haven’t reached the coast yet. It’s a full Moon night and the mountains behind the shoreline should be easily visible from great distances, even with a cloudy sky like this. The thick layer of clouds prevents us to see the Moon or the stars.
Midnight — It’s obvious we went off course during the storm. The clouds are gradually clearing in an area I believe to be towards north. I’m looking for the Polar Star to measure our latitude. However, all the constellations look changed and the few stars patterns I can glimpse in the sky appear totally different from everything I know. I turn my eyes toward the captain. We look at each other with surprised expressions while the ocean’s waters around us, full of billions of small light-emitting creatures, sparkle in a strange blue color. A few minutes later, the whole sky is entirely covered by clouds again.
“What a crazy night!” says the captain. “Let’s wrap up all the sails and wait for the sunrise”.
June 13, 7 a.m. — The Sun returned to the sky, climbing above horizon at around 6 a.m. It appeared from an unexpected direction. The compass from the steering wheel suggested that it had risen from the south…
“It’s crystal clear now, we have encountered a magnetic anomaly that veered us off course,” said the first lieutenant. “When in doubt, trust the Sun, and you will be fine,” he added immediately, with a smile.
It was a strange looking sun, larger and paler than what I reckoned seeing during all my sea voyages, with a faint green tint around its edge. I darkened a broken piece from a glass sheet in a candle flame, held it in my right hand and watched the bright disc through this improvised filter for a few minutes with one eye, while holding a small coin in the other outstretched hand, for size comparison. My rough estimates gave me a diameter about ten percent larger than normal.
Soon, the green tint extended to the whole sky. Everybody on board was feeling uneasy about this unusual phenomenon. Some people began talking about spells and curses, making the atmosphere even tenser. Meanwhile, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I had already been through this before.
At 9 a.m. I was down in the cabin, attempting to have a good guess about our current location and intending to triangulate our most probable route, when the first lieutenant came and asked for my presence on the deck:
“Alberto” he said,“the man in the crow’s nest saw a group of unusual flying creatures. Even though they are still far away, their size seems to be huge, much bigger than any birds we know of.”
A few moments later I was on the deck, with a small portable telescope in my hand. The beasts were really far and I could only get a short glimpse of them, with the ever moving ship under my soles preventing me from maintaining a stable field of view. It was difficult to know what could they be, but these things were definitely not flying like typical birds. Their long, trembling bodies, suggested rather the shape of a snake… I could count three creatures and they were completely white. The strange beings seemed to follow our ship.
“Whales at starboard!” shouted then a sailor from the crow’s nest. Then, after a moment: “Whales at port!” Then again, after a few more seconds of silence: “Whales everywhere around the ship!” Apparently, a large group of humpback wales, more than thirty, emerged from the ocean’s depths at the same time, not carrying anymore about a potential threat from our ship. Meanwhile, still flying too high to be clearly seen, the strange creatures began to rotate in large circles around our vessel. I decided to climb the mast myself, for a better view of the whales placement and hopefully a more detailed image of the unusually looking beasts from above.
From the observation point on the mast, I could count now about fifty whales. This was an impressively large herd! All the swimming giants seemed to be occupied with their feeding, totally ignoring the presence of our vessel in the middle of their group. Meanwhile, the three flying serpents came closer to us. They had long, snake-like bodies and four short paws with powerful claws. I could recognize immediately what they were: mythological Asian dragons, with a length of about ten-fifteen meters! The way they actually swam in the air with their long and narrow bodies seemed to defy the laws of physics.
I tried to use my small telescope again to see the creatures better, but the ship’s rolling had made it completely useless at this height. I was just preparing to climb down back to the deck, when suddenly the wind changed direction and the mast tilted strongly towards the port side, with a jerk. Caught by surprise, I lost my balance and fell over the protective barrier of the crow’s nest. Desperate, I grabbed a hawser that happened to be in my way and managed to slow down considerably the speed of my unwanted descent. However, in the end, my landing on the deck was a bit too rough and resulted in a sprained ankle…
7 p.m. —The ship’s physician recommended a few days of rest until my swollen foot would be healed and I could walk normally again. I had to go to my cabin and lie in bed all afternoon. I used most of my time there checking navigational charts. At about 3 p.m., land was finally sighted. A land that did not look like any coast we expected to see. It appeared to be a large island. An island in a region where no islands were supposed to exist. No matter how much we had strayed from our course, there was no island in this area of the ocean that we could reach in such a short time. Puzzled, we kept sailing towards it. With the help of a crutch, I climbed on the deck to see the coast better.
One hour later we were entering a small harbor with a tall stony quay. Higher on the rocky shore, an unknown city, imposing and wrapped in a queer beauty, was visible. It displayed massive marble buildings covered in ivy, with wide streets intersecting at right angles. Tall white towers were surrounding its edges. The urban area extended all the way to the ocean on both sides of the pier, more than three kilometers across, as if holding the port in a perpetual, protective embrace. I counted twenty-five towers guarding the unusual metropolis. Everything looked like in my dream, and that was very unsettling.
Excelsior cast anchor close to the tall pier. Several wide roads made of hundreds of stone stairs linked the quay with the high promontory where the city was located. I told the captain and first officer about my dream vision. They already knew we must had come to the Island and paid careful attention to my story.
“It’s out of question to go in the city unarmed, but I shall caution all the people to use their guns only in case they are attacked. We shall not give the locals any reason to become our enemies,” said the captain. “I’m sorry, lieutenant, you have to remain on board for now, but will have plenty of chances to visit the city later, because we plan to stay here for up to a week. This new mission takes priority over the ammunition transport to the Northern Fort. If the legends about the gold here are true, the crew of Excelsior is going to return home with unbelievable riches for ourselves and for our country. As the highest ranked officer, you’ll be in charge of the ship while we’re on the shore.”
With these words spoken, the captain and the first lieutenant stepped on the quay, followed by a large group of about fifty people from our crew. I remained behind the rail with my worries and the rest of the sailors.
Excerpt from "Butterfly's Dream", a novel by Marian C. Ghilea;
photo by Marian C. Ghilea: #Sunset in #California
(c) Marian C. Ghilea, all rights reserved
12 sample chapters (pre-final draft) are available here: http://nivitx.blogspot.com/2017/08/final-proof-reading-novel-almost-done.html
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