free web stats Lost in the Eternity of the Here and Now: ...then there was darkness
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

...then there was darkness

Staring up into the darkness he could see the faint glimmer of moonlight as it shimmered along the surface of the waters above, its pale glow distant and obscured by the murky haze that seemed to surround the light, to press in on it from all sides until it was a wonder that the oppressive darkness did not swallow even that last bit of light. His hand outstretched before him seemed something apart from him, as if it did not belong to him, was not his own. It moved back and forth, flowing with the gentle currents around him, briefly casting shadows across his eyes as it blocked the pale, but distant light above. There were no sounds here, no voices, not even his own. Even his thoughts seemed distant and muted. Silence surrounded him even more that the cold water, coldness that he no longer felt, pressing in on him from every side. No sound. No feeling. There was only that eerie light. Something about the light tugged at his memory. There was something familiar about it. He could remember that light, but it was so much brighter before. It was supposed to be warm. That was it. It was supposed to be warm.

It was early in the morning. The sun had not yet risen, but he was already up and about. He had set his alarm for 5 o’clock so he could get a head start on the day. He had been looking forward to this day all week. All week long he sat in an office that felt like a prison as often as not. The sedate walls, painted in soft pastels so as to be pleasing to the eye, were the type of thing that could make a person crazy. But today was different. Today he was leaving that behind, even if only for a few hours. Today he would take his boat out onto the waters and enjoy a day of sailing. Today he would escape the drudgery of his daily life, escape the confines of those nauseating colors and immerse himself in the vibrant colors of nature as only the open waters could paint. That was why he was up so early. There was nothing so wonderful as a sunrise on the horizon, surrounded by nothing but the water in every direction. That was freedom. That was what he looked forward to today.

It did not take long to prepare the boat, a 20 foot day-sailer that he had purchased just a few months back. Though the boat was new, he had been sailing since he was a teenager. His grandfather had taught him everything he knew about sailing. With a wry grin, he remembered when the idea of sailing had seemed old fashioned and boring, along with his grandfather. He had been so engrossed in the world of his video games as a teenager that the thought that anything else might exist beyond the pale glow of the gaming screen seemed ludicrous. He could not help but laugh at the silly child he had been. Luckily, his grandfather had not been the kind of man that you said no to. He had dragged him out onto the water one morning not much unlike this morning, casting off from the dock while the sun was still sleeping beneath the distant horizon. Even the seagulls were not awake yet as he maneuvered the boat past the rows of other boats, each one tied snugly in their slips. The faint sound of the water lapping against the sides of the hull as he motored out into the harbor was like music in his ears.

There was already a decent breeze picking up in the predawn twilight. Once past the other boats and out into the empty harbor, he killed the engine and just sat for a moment looking up into the sky. The stars were still out, though the light pollution from the small port town behind him obscured all but the most brilliant. Still, it was a peaceful view. Just him and the stars. He smiled as he craned his neck to look into the heavens, remembering his grandfather pointing out the constellations used for navigation, used way back when computerized equipment and compasses had not even been imagined. Already the sky was turning a lighter shade of dark, a pale hint of light starting to edge over the horizon in the eastern sky. With a content sigh he set about raising the main sail which rippled in the breeze as he hoisted it up the mast using a hand crank nearby. Adjusting another crank that controlled the boom, the sail caught full of the breeze and went taut as it swelled outward and the boat surged forward toward the open waters.

The gentle swaying motion as the boat rose and fell along the ocean swells made some people seasick. Not him. With his hands on the wheel he closed his eyes, tilting his head back and inhaled deeply. The smell of the ocean was magnificent, fresh and clean, tinged with salt. A faint mist of seawater suffused the air, dampening his face, occasionally splashing as the boat hit the bottom of a swell. The breeze whipped by him carrying with it the scent of the wide open expanse before him. The sound of the wind catching the sail, of the water flowing by, filled his ears. Soft clouds stretched out across the sky, a sky which was quickly growing lighter off to his side, promising a grand display once the sun broke. Looking back he could no longer see the land behind him. Smiling to himself he turned slowly, just taking in the freedom into which he had sailed. There was nothing here, just him and the ocean. Dropping the sail he let the boat glide to a halt, now bobbing with the gentle swells, and dropped the anchor. Seating himself on a cushion he kicked his feet up and waited for the sun to rise.

The sun, much like him, was in no hurry. It would get where it was going when it got there. Stars began to disappear as the dark twilight faded to a light gray. And before long, the gray began to reveal soft blues and pinks that seemed to stretch out from the distant horizon. The soft clouds reflected the predawn light like something out a fairytale or a painting. The blue and pink pastels steadily grew in intensity until the entire sky seemed to come alive under the deft brush of a master painter. The pink became a brilliant red that refused to sleep any longer. The sky was a living thing now, a symphony in blues and reds and pinks, slowly building up to its crescendo. Just then, when it seemed that all the color in the world had been poured out before him, the sun broke the horizon like a conquering hero, entering the praise of the song being played out before him. Golden rays shot forth in triumph, glittering on the surface of the water, rushing forward on the water, washing over him. The clouds above echoed the golden song being played out on the rippling water as golden tendrils spidered across the sky, transforming the once red and pink painting into a blinding thing of golden radiance. The clouds looked like the pebbles at the bottom of a crystal clear stream, only painted in brilliant gold from horizon to horizon. He let the warmth of the rising sun wash over him, taking in every bit of its heat. Tears welled up in his eyes. He had never seen anything so amazing. Each sunrise was unique, special. Each one had the power to evoke this feeling, and never the same one twice. Those were his grandfather’s words, etched in his memory and upon his heart - words that seemed spoken only yesterday, and at the same time, spoken so long ago. Sometimes he could hardly remember the sound of his grandfather’s voice, but not so here. Here his grandfather spoke clearly, as if still sitting next to him. As he sat there watching, the golden chorus faded back to the reds, and soon even the reds faded, revealing a deep blue sky streaked with white clouds.

Raising the anchor and the main sail, he glided on after the sun has finished its morning song. Now overhead, the sun had taken the chill from the air so that the wind rushing by him was pleasant instead of cold. He was not sure where he was going, and honestly, it did not matter. He had the entire day to go as he pleased, and he was happy to let the wind take him where it would. Though he was alone, he could hear the voices of his friends, his family. They enjoyed coming with him on days like this. But today it was just him and his boat. Him and the water. The day was perfect.

By mid-afternoon he noticed that the wind began to pick up. Clouds were moving in, and moving quickly. The warmth that he had enjoyed not so long ago became nothing more than a pleasant memory. In the distance he could see dark clouds forming. They loomed menacingly on the horizon, a gray sheen between them and the water, evidence of heavy rains. The wind, now blowing from that direction, carried the faint smell of rain. Even as he turned the boat around and started heading back to the shore, he knew there was no way he would outrun the storm. The breeze was strong now, and the gale whispered threats in his ear even as the ocean began to swell with anger. The sky grew dark, both with the return of twilight and the clouds rushing in, as ominous thunder pealed overhead while lightning fingered across the sky above. Gone was the perfect day and tranquil breeze, replaced by a rage that had been welling up beneath the surface, now breaking forth in all its fury. The swells, once pleasant, now sent the small boat rushing up and down their steep inclines with reckless abandon. Water splashed up over the bow, more than a gentle spray. Quickly lowering the main sail, he started the engine, hoping that maybe he could outrun the worst of it. The howling wind played tricks on him, as if faint voices could be heard on the raging gales. He was glad he was alone now. Best that no one else was here to face this with him. Best that… Suddenly everything lurched forward and there was a loud snapping sound.

He was lying down. That didn’t make sense. Water was streaming over his face and wiping it away did little to help him see. The light was nearly choked out in the deluge and tumultuous clouds that roiled overhead. Lightning that left streaks of purple in his vision still stabbed across the sky as if to glory in its ability to have destroyed the tranquility of the morning. Sitting up in a daze, one hand to steady himself, one against his head, he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. One moment he had been at the helm, the next sprawled out on the short deck several paces forward. His safety strap must have snapped as he flew forward from the cockpit where it should have held him securely. The small craft still rolled wildly with the swell of the waves, and he had to grab wildly at the railing to keep from being hauled over the side as the water rushed over the top of the deck. Determined, his grip tight on the rail, he began to make his way back to the cockpit. He would be safe if only he could make it back. A noise behind him was the only warning he had, turning just in time to see the now unsecured boom rushing toward his face. Then darkness.

Darkness and a pale light above. He vaguely remembered coming to as he hit the cold water. He remembered losing sight of the boat as it sped away in that darkness, broken only by the brief flashes of lightning. He remembered flailing wildly to keep afloat in the storm, and failing to stay above the water more often than not. The salt water stung his eyes and burned as he tried to swallow more than he inhaled. He had struggled for as long as he could, even as he gasped for each breath, even as he had known it was pointless. His limbs grew numb and felt like jelly from the effort. He could vaguely remember the storm going as quickly as it had come. One moment the skies had dumped their fury on him, the next the clouds had parted, revealing a pale moon in a silent sky. But all that came and went through his mind in a blur now. The moments rushed together and it was hard to make sense of anything. His mind was growing sluggish. He no longer heard the sound of the ocean, even from underwater. His own heartbeat seemed far away, just like his thoughts, just like the pale moon above, still rippling with the surface above, but now even farther away as he continued to sink into the depths. There was no fight left in him. His eyes fixed themselves on the light above. Even the cold of the water was a distant thing now. His eyes stung, briefly, though whether from tears or the salt water, he could not say. It was so quiet here. Alone. But that was alright. There was the darkness. He was sure there was still light, somewhere in the distance. There was still… hope? There was still… What was there still? What was hope? What…

Then there was darkness. The pale light was forgotten, lost in the depths, lost beneath the surface now calm. There was only darkness. Cold, silent darkness.

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