512 Words

Weathering the Storm

M. Stanley Bubien

A wave crashed across our bow and rolled straight toward me. I can handle this, I thought just before it swallowed me.

Engulfed. I gripped the wheel as my feet were swept off the deck. The ship righted itself at that instant, shooting upward over the next swell. That was my demise. The deck met my knees, my chest, my head---and I was stunned.

The next thing I knew, I was tumbling like so much flotsam. I hit something long and thin. It knocked my wits back into me, and I flung my arms outward. I caught the bar.

The wave washed past, and I was dangling over the side of the ship. I had grabbed the railing.

Pulling myself upward, I shook the water from my eyes---just in time. I caught sight of the next wave rushing toward me. I wrapped my arm around the rail, grasping it in the crook of my arm, and clasped my hands together. The wave buffeted me, but I held.

I wasn't about to let the ocean beat me now, not after seven years on this tub. It had tried to get me before, but failed every time. And those failures made me stronger. They honed my muscles. They honed my will. Whatever the ocean threw at me, I'd hang on. Damn right I would. I'd hang on for all eternity if I had to.

The ship crested a peak and dropped downward. We drove into the trough with a crash, and my body screamed as I was beaten against the hull. The spray caught me first, then the whitewater. I hadn't taken a breath, and my lungs ached as the sea rushed over me.

I hit the hull again and slid a bit lower. Gasping for breath, I tried to lift myself toward the deck, but didn't have the strength. Another wave, and I found myself underwater.

My grip was slipping. A breath. I needed a breath. No. No. Sure death. Drowning... But a breath...

Seven years. Seven years, and the ocean was going to win. I slammed the railing, and felt my waist biting. It was a soft sensation, but it squeezed out whatever air I had left.

I let my grip slip as I took my last breath. I was floating. Teeth crushed my waist. I almost cried out, but I refused to exhale---my last breath, I was keeping this one.

The deck hit me. I rolled. Hands fell upon me. I was dragged. A dry place. A door slammed. Voices.

"Untie 'im. Let 'im breathe."

I sucked in air, precious air.

I had won again. Or so I thought.

I touched the rope that meant my life---the rope someone had thrown around me just as I had given up. I rolled over and met the eyes of my Captain.

"Durn fool," he said to me. "Shoulda lashed yerself to the wheel like I told yer. Took three of us to save yer butt."

Before I passed out, I had one final thought. I owed him my life.

Copyright ©1996 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, usenet news, or ftp.

Story Bytes


July, 1996
Issue #4

512 Words