by R.W. Van Sant
Strange dreams overtook Jerry’s tired mind, of floating in darkness. Strong currents pulled and pushed all around him, gently coaxing him this way and that. Wonder flooded his entire being, enthralling and dominating him. He knew he was under water. He could feel it fill his lungs, yet he breathed normally. As he swam deeper, a new universe opened up, a forbidden world that was his for the taking. He danced and frolicked on the currents that powered the world, swimming among fish and sea plants with the freedom he’d never before experienced. He flew through the waves with no fear of falling.
A momentary hesitation rang through his mind; what if the magic ended. What if he could no longer breathe the salty water? Would it send him plunging like Icarus back to the waking world? The fear dissipated, replaced by the overwhelming joy of belonging. He belonged to the water and it to him, it wouldn’t forsake him. The dreamscape assaulted him with new sensations, and he rejoiced in them.
The currents grew ever more erratic, throwing him one direction and then another. A storm was raging on the surface. Cries of distress muffled by the water echoed in the tempest and drew his attention. Curiosity drove him upward. As he breached the surface, he was astonished to discover that his lungs would still take in air.
The waves rolled up and down, large moving foothills illumined by the occasional flashes of lightning. No longer hindered by the ocean depths, he was able to make sense of the strange noises he’d heard. Screaming, and shouting, the sounds of mortal terror, and they were growing ever louder.
A large dark object, riding on the surface, crested the top of a giant wave and came crashing down nearly on top of him. Instinct compelled him to dive deep, back to the safety of the depths. The contraption glided past, just a few feet above him, he could see the lengths of wood that made up its bulk. He fought against the water that was being pulled along in the wake of the monstrosity. It passed, rocking wildly from side to side as it fought the storm, leaving a path of debris and broken wood. He breached the surface again and floated amongst the flotsam shed from the ship.
The waves pushed it, driving the massive wooden vessel, despite the best efforts of her crew, toward the shore. Jerry’s pulse raced as the torn sails dropped to the deck, brought down by the sailors themselves. The wind was driving the ship inexorably toward a serrated reef, nearly invisible under the undulating, chaotic sea. Futilely, the crew rushed around the deck, frantic to save their doomed vessel. The ocean was in charge, however, not them. It wouldn’t let them go of its prize. The terrified wail from the ship indicated that the crew senses their impending doom.
A loud cracking sound echoed through the water. The impact of wood and rock was so strong that even from a distance, he could feel it on his skin. Hull wood splintered as the craft fought to be free of its trap. The bottom breached. Jerry could feel the pull of the water as it rushed into the doomed craft. The ship was sinking.
Jerry could feel the panic; pulses of fear traveled through the waves enticing him, drawing him toward the floundering craft with insatiable curiosity. Chilly waters, cloudy from the silt dredged up from the ocean floor hindered his approach.
Sailors, faithful to their duty, helped passengers onto longboats and lowered them onto the violent surface. The small craft, not made for such an assault capsized almost immediately leaving their occupants choking and frantic as they struggled to keep their heads above the cruel water. Old grabbed for young as the passengers struggled to save their families and reach the safety of the nearby shore, a scant few hundred feet away. Treasures and family heirlooms were abandoned to the mercy of the storm, sinking to the bottom of the cove so that a child or grandparent could be saved. They lost everything in the fight for survival. The doomed splashed and battled to reach the shore.
Vibrations of distressed splashing screams of the panicking people in the water and the smell of the blood fused to excite Jerry, as never before. Driven by driven by hunger and unknown instinct, he swam toward the panicked mob. Sleek dorsal fins cut the surface of the troubled water beside him disappearing short of the desperate shipwrecked.
A large sailor helped a child reach its father, only to be yanked beneath the waves in terrible billows of red, bloody water. The boy screamed as his father went under. Hope faded as the drowning denizens of the lost ship realized too late that they were not alone in the water.
The water tasted of blood, ash, and death, causing both hunger and nausea. Images of ripped flesh and clouds of blood overwhelmed all else. It’s only a dream. Jerry struggled against the growing feeling of belonging. He fought to awaken. The revulsion of his conscious mind rebelled. Still, it was a feeding frenzy, violent and primal and Jerry reveled in it. His victims swam desperately toward a shore they would never reach. One by one, they disappeared beneath the red waves.