beta - ⚔️ The #sea #storm
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The personal log of Alberto Shimada
June 11 – Our journey has been quiet and peaceful so far. The sea is calm, we have a steadfast wind from stern and hope to reach our destination in three days. This afternoon, a group of eight dolphins escorted the ship for about thirty minutes, jumping in and out of the water, sometimes almost up to the height of the gunwale. I have always felt strange seeing the dolphins being so friendly towards us, humans.
As the second lieutenant on Excelsior, I am in charge of the crew’s shifts, the weather observations, and any other science-related events that could be of interest during our expedition. However, I don’t expect to see anything unusual during this short and routine trip.
June 12, 10 a.m. – I have just been proven wrong about my previous log entry. At sunrise, the navigation compass began to spin in circles, becoming totally ineffective for navigation. It seems we have encountered a local magnetic anomaly and are still under its influence. There is no shore line in sight, all we can do is keep the helm straight and use the position of the Sun as reference for our orientation. Strong bursts of wind are hitting periodically our sails from random directions. The captain ordered the chip log launched behind the ship.
1 p.m. – Thunderclouds are gathering from the east. They are pushed by the wind towards us and look threatening. The sea is still calm, but the incoming storm cannot be avoided. Fortunately, the compass has stabilized back.
4 p.m. – Most of the sails are wrapped, ready to face nature’s fury. The wind’s strength has decreased for the moment, but it’s probably going to transform soon into a gale. The sky above is completely black, sliced periodically by lightning flashes. Even for someone who has seen sea storms before, we’ve got a terrifying view today, a realm where the Hell itself appears to have switched places with Heaven and is preparing to crash soon on our heads. The sea surface is glassy, covered by dark ripples that are gradually transforming into long rows of unfriendly waves. The rain hasn’t started to fall yet, but soon will. A feeling of anticipation, like before an important battle, is reigning on the deck.
8 p.m. – The storm is at its peak. Huge waves are sweeping over our ship. A furious shake from underneath and an angry deluge of rain from above meet on the deck in a frantic turmoil. Powerful water fists are battering our vessel, coming from all directions. With difficulty, we can still maintain approximately our course. Several members of the crew suffer from sea sickness and I’m not far from it myself.
11 p.m. – Excelsior was fortunate and survived the battle with the elements with relatively little damage. A total calm surrounds us now, under a sky still covered by curly gray clouds. The wind has stopped and the ship floats immobile in unfamiliar waters. No waves, not even small ripples are disturbing the ocean’s surface, making it appear like an endless mirror made of a shiny metal. The water is radiating a strange blue color, probably given by billions of tiny light-emitting creatures. We continue to wait for the return of the breeze.
June 13, 9 a.m. – The wind has started to blow again and we are finally moving. What gave everybody a scare this morning was the green tint of the Sun’s color. Due to some unusual atmospheric phenomenon, today’s Sun also seems to be a bit bigger and paler than what we would normally expect to see shining above our heads.
Not having a direct way to measure its angular diameter, I held a broken piece from a glass sheet in front of a candle to darken it with smoke, then watched the bright disc through this improvised filter. Looking at the Sun through the smoked glass with my right eye while holding in my extended hand a small coin and checking its size with the left, I could make a rough comparison of them. The Sun’s diameter appeared to be about one tenth larger than expected. I suppose that an unusual dispersion of light is to blame. Soon after my quick visual check, the curious green tint extended to the whole sky.
2 p.m. – Our course continues towards north. At noon, the sailor in the crow’s nest called out, signaling land. This is certainly an odd thing, because we are supposed to have only open sea in this area. Based on the available facts, the only logical explanation is that we lost our way while being affected by the magnetic anomaly. Perhaps the compass continued to point to the wrong direction even after it stabilized back.
The captain ordered the route changed towards the newly found shore, as it was not too far away. Once there, we could hopefully identify the place and pinpoint our location before correcting the vessel’s course.
7 p.m. – The land detected in the early afternoon seemed to be a large island and we reached it at around 4 p.m. As we approached the coast, we saw a circular harbor with a tall quay made of stone, opening like a giant fan in front of us. Behind, on the rocky shore, a large city was visible, with massive marble buildings covered in ivy, wide streets intersecting at right angles, and tall white towers surrounding its edges.
The city extended all the way to the ocean on both sides, spreading over more than three kilometers, as if holding the port in a perpetual, paternal embrace. Looking at the towers, who were maybe thirty-forty meters tall, I wondered about their purpose. They all had flat platforms on top, perhaps designed to be used by archers. I counted twenty-five such imposing stone columns. The rest of the urban buildings displayed an exotic architectural style, similar to the Greek cities from Antiquity, appearing at the same time imposing and graceful.
I could not remember having seen any city like this before. None of us could recognize this place, none of use had any idea where we were now. As I was observing the unusual landscape, Excelsior cast anchor close to the pier. Two narrow mobile bridges connected soon her gunwale to the quay. Several wide roads made of hundreds of stone steps were spread along the slope towards the high promontory where the heart of the city was located.
“We shall find out soon what is going on here” said the captain, and about fifty members of our crew, myself included, went ashore. I noticed immediately how the roofs of the buildings were neat and shiny, made of yellow metal tiles that looked like gold. Of course, I thought at first, there was no way this was gold, because nobody could afford such a waste for a whole city.
Then I remembered the legend about the Island, I remembered my trip to the Southern Islands from the previous year and the surreal meeting with Mei Xing, the old Chinese woman who was selling oriental clothes in our urban center. The memories made me freeze. What if the old stories were actually true? I looked at the captain’s face, and his expression showed me that he also knew where we were.
The locals, with facial features and skin color surprisingly close to ours, showed up on the pier wearing long garments of various colors (green being the most common), shapes and fabrics. Through large gestures, they invited everybody to a Gothic-style palace situated a little further uphill. Dressed in a sumptuous blue robe made of silk and with a silver crown on his head, the local king gestured us to follow him on a large marble terrace, where several long tables full of foods and drinks had already been set up for our crew.
The monarch had next to him an interpreter that could speak satisfactorily our language. The speech of the locals had a nice musical sound and gave me the feeling that many of their words were similar to those found in most languages from Europe. Its phonology was probably closest to Latin, but with many notable differences from it. The words’ ends and structure sounded confusing and I could not make out anything from the conversations surrounding me. Was this a creole talk created from a mix of the tongues spoken by the visitors from all over the world who might have arrived every once in a while at this place for so many centuries? Where did the Island’s inhabitants come from, after all?
We were asked about our trip and about the reason none of our people visited their city for such a long time. The captain told the king what he knew from our legends. He explained how only a few dozens of ships were able to find the Island in the past and how this place could not be reached anymore in recent times, when everybody believed that it had disappeared underwater after a powerful earthquake.
“Yes, every time people from your country come here, they complain about the difficulty to find our city,” commented the king, through the interpreter. “Then they want to trade pretty much everything they have for our cheap yellow metal. We shall be glad to do business with you, too. However, before anything else, please come and have dinner with us. We have prepared our best meal to honor your visit. I am confident you will find it delicious.”
A few minutes later, I had to agree that the king had spoken the truth: the dinner was a real feast. The local food came in many servings, being based mainly on fish and fruits. Everything we ate had a wonderful and exotic taste. When the night fell, they brought, instead of candles, many crystal globes that radiated a calming yellow light. And yes, all the cups, plates, roof tiles and most of the metal objects I could see around me were made of gold. Could this be the Paradise on Earth? But were we still on Earth?
Excerpt from "Butterfly's Dream", a novel by Marian C. Ghilea;
photo by Marian C. Ghilea: The #Parliament's #Palace from #Bangkok, #Thailand
(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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