Author Topic: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked! (FINISHED)  (Read 1436 times)

EjectedStar

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Welcome to the Fortnightly Writing Competition where our local wordsmiths put together beautiful short (sometimes) stories for all to read and enjoy!

This week our theme will be:

Shipwrecked!



Here we stand before our vessel, broke down, inoperable, possibly beyond repair.  Whatever shall we do?

Entrants will be tasked with writing a short story that somehow includes being shipwrecked, whether taking the term literally or stretching the bounds of the word. Judging will follow the standard secret 10 votes at the end of two weeks.

I look forward to everyone's stories!

The deadline for entries will be: August 2nd!
« Last Edit: 07 Aug 2021, 14:00 by EjectedStar »

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #1 on: 20 Jul 2021, 08:30 »
Dammit, I just wrote a pirate and shipwreck themed story not that long ago, and a space-shipwrecked story a while before that! Now I need to come up with yet ANOTHER shipwreck themed story!
WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF!?  :-D
Wrongthinker and anticitizen one. Pending removal to memory hole. | WHAMGAMES proudly presents: One More Fathom!

Mandle

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #2 on: 20 Jul 2021, 10:12 »
On it.

Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #3 on: 20 Jul 2021, 11:35 »
I’m in. Not sure I can think of a way to use this theme for a story set in my book’s world, but I’ll have a think.

Sinitrena

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #4 on: 24 Jul 2021, 15:34 »
I'm working on something as well. And I'm already 7 pages in in my file. I guess this time I'll be the one with the long story again. (If I manage to finish it, second vaccine jab next tuesday and all of my family were out of comission for at least a few days after their second one, so... :-X)

Baron

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #5 on: 27 Jul 2021, 14:51 »
I've also left port, but my story is currently smashing itself to pieces on the shoals of indecision.  Advantageous given the current theme?  Time will tell the tale....  (roll)

Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #6 on: 27 Jul 2021, 16:15 »
I’m still in the port but have gathered a crew and plotted a course to the treasure, though my navigator is still drunk on rum, and there’s a storm on the horizon. So it’s not looking very hopeful at the moment.

EjectedStar

  • I'm Bobbin Threadbare, are you my mother?
Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #7 on: 27 Jul 2021, 23:19 »
Lads and lasses, I seem to have misplaced all the spare lightbulbs in the lighthouse and... the last one just burnt out.  I hope nothing bad happens!

Mandle

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #8 on: 28 Jul 2021, 09:23 »
ROSE IS LOVE
***********
Spoiler: ShowHide


When you end up shipwrecked on an island with everything you need to survive for months you don't immediately panic.
What you do is, you tie the wreck of your boat to a sturdy-looking palm tree with a long mooring line so that it won't wash away and then you wade back and forth from the beach to where said boat, your multi-million-dollar cruiser, sits with the front of its hull impaled on a big pointy rock.
On each crossing you bring back bundles of sealed food rations and shrink-wrapped stacks of bottled water at first and drop everything in the shade of the trees where there is stunted grass growing to show that the tide never reaches that far.
Then you bring everything else: Your two suitcases full of clothes and shoes and shit, even a shaving kit. And then you bring the suitcase that has all your game stuff in it.
And then you remember to bring the implements from the cruiser's kitchen and the toolkit from under the smoke-billowing engine hatch.
And finally, with everything stowed where the tide cannot hope to snatch it away, you test the radio on the boat.

At least that is what you would do if your priorities were the same as those of Kenneth Holding just after he ran ashore on a tiny island in the Caribbean that his GPS map was apparently unaware of.
He had been making what should have been a successful and adventurous crossing from his estate in Panama to Florida to tell some amusing anecdotes about at the 1998 Gaming Convention in Miami where he was booked as a star speaker.
They had told him, his relatives and friends, and the people who had booked his appearance at the convention. They had told him to just take a plane. They had told him not to pilot his boat too fast, or at night. They had told him many things, but Kenneth hadn't gotten to where he was by listening to the advice of others.
The same, or the same kinds of, people had told him that there was no future in creating computer games and role-playing games and board-games ever since he had embarked on his self-captained career of doing just that over a decade ago, fresh off his barely-passed degree in English Lit from UCLA.
And now he was a millionaire many times over. He was the owner of a three-story building in Los Angeles that housed his computer game company "Holding Pattern Games". He was the owner of some thousands of square-feet of office space and factory floor in Phoenix, also under the same label, that developed and manufactured his line of board and role-playing games.
He was the owner of a large beachfront estate on the Caribbean side of the beautiful country of Panama with all its beautiful women and lenient tax laws. He was the owner of his own destiny, having sworn off marriage and children as the heavy baggage that he knew they would be.
And now, Kenneth also found himself the unexpected owner of an island just a little larger than his Panama estate and a hopelessly burnt-out boat radio.

During his last haul, while he was wading back through the incoming tide to the beach, something at the back of the boat, probably the fuel tank he imagined, went up with a brief "Whoooosh!" and flames quickly raced over the whole craft.
Kenneth spent the early morning hours of that first night on the beach eating the last fresh food he had, the one remaining Subway Foot-Long Meatball Sandwich salvaged from the boat's fridge, while watching his beautiful cruiser, the "Holding Pattern", burn in a plume of smoke that would have been visible for hundreds of miles in the light of day.
By the time the sun broke over the jungle behind Kenneth to awaken him from where he had dozed off on the sand, the boat's fire had already burnt through the mooring line, now hanging limp down the sandy shore, its blackened fused-together end washing up and getting dragged back by the waves, and the Holding Pattern was nowhere to be seen.
Her burnt-out hulk had already been dragged away by the out-rushing tide, never to be seen again.

It took several weeks, the days marked off in knife-cuts on the side of a palm tree as one did, for Kenneth to give up all hope of rescue. At first he had assumed that the disappearance of someone like himself would prompt news of a missing millionaire to put planes and helicopters in the Caribbean skies. If such efforts were underway at that time, Kenneth saw no evidence of them.
He forced himself to think realistically about how many people could even make a guess as to where he might be. All they knew was that he had been crossing the Caribbean. He hadn't submitted an official plotted course or even spoken on the radio since leaving Panama to call in his position. That had been part of the mystique he had wanted his crossing to be shrouded in. For all anyone knew, he was already at the bottom of the ocean, never to be seen again.

Kenneth had not been idle during this time, though. The island had a, for the most part, contiguous beach running around its treed interior, broken only by an outcropping of rock about fifty-feet-high at the bulbous end of its comma-shaped outline.
Between the gaps of the rocks Kenneth found several caves. Most ended only a few feet inside after the initial tight squeeze got even tighter, but two opened up into rounded hollows about the size of Volkswagen Beetles, with rounded ceilings and sandy floors.
The cave on the east side of the outcropping had several fissures through the rocks that allowed natural sunlight to slice through in narrow beams. This was the one that Kenneth first set up home in until the extremely early morning sun annoyed him enough to make the move to the cooler, darker cave on the westward side.
And so he lived for the next few weeks. He had packaged rations that would last at least six months, but he also learned how to split open coconuts using a saw, a hammer and a set of pliers from the boat's toolbox. So, supplemented by coconut flesh and milk, he only ate one of the ration packs every third day, and then only once every ten days once he had built his fishing dam in a hollow that he named "The Holding Pen". He realized that fresh water would become an issue though. Everywhere he dug deep enough on the island to strike water only hit a warm salty broth.
It didn't take long for Kenneth to rig up several desalination stills around his cave using the empty plastic water bottles, some duct tape, and the evaporative power of the sun.

He was set. He could do this. And he did this for a very long time.

A year and a half later by his palm tree calendar, and with still no sign of any ships going by or airplanes flying overhead, Kenneth started to consider doing the drastic thing. He still had the mooring rope from his long-gone boat. He didn't know how to tie a noose but he experimented on his thigh with several different configurations until he found one that would probably hold firm and offer him a relatively quick and painless death compared to the grim option of just swimming out so far that he wouldn't be able to swim back and letting himself drown.
He muttered to himself that he'd better test the rope first with some weight on it just to be sure.
Kenneth looked around his cave, running a hand through the sparse sun-bleached hair over the top of his scabby sun-burnt scalp. He looked around for something weighty. His eyes fell upon the suitcase containing all the models, boards and various rule-books and tokens he had intended to present at the Miami convention as his company's new board-game "The Devil Made Me Do It", and he chuckled to himself at the irony of it all.
But, when he hefted up the weighty suitcase by its handle, the hinges at the bottom, rusted from the long exposure to the salt air, gave way. The suitcase split open at the bottom and everything poured out onto the sandy floor of Kenneth's cave and he suddenly had a much better idea.

The Devil Made Me Do It was a board-game that Kenneth had been developing over the course of the year before he took to sea to present it at the Miami conference. It was a game set in a stereotypical small American town which the three to six players would navigate while trying to figure out which among them was the betraying titular "Devil" forcing them at times into heinous acts of injustice and violence.
It was easy for Kenneth to throw all the intended nihilistic game-play away and just use the building models, landscape props, and character figures to set up a rather quaint and charming Mid-Western American town on the floor of the abandoned eastward-facing cave.

Once the town was set up to his liking, Kenneth looked down on it from high above and said "Now I will bring forth life upon you."

It took quite a few more months of rule-writing and play-testing until Kenneth was satisfied that his little town would behave like a real-world counterpart would. He had written the stat-sheets for several dozen characters that live in "Holdington": Men, women, and children from all walks of life and holding the positions that would keep the town functioning. And the backstories and motivations for them that would keep him interested.

This would be his version of the real world. This would keep him going until maybe a way out came that didn't involve the end of a rope.

Three days shy of his second year on the island, Kenneth made the first dice roll of the game:

The 3 on the red dice indicated that Marjorie Evens woke up without incident on the sunny and glorious morning of Monday, January 1st, 1999 in the town of Holdington, USA. The 6 on the green dice meant, however that she didn't meet her motivation roll to go to her job at the Circle-K. The 4 on the yellow dice meant that she passed her Charisma check to fake an illness and get out of work, and the 1 on the blue dice meant that she decided to go to the park and just enjoy the sunshine.

Going down the list of characters, starting off their mornings one by one and moving and marking their character pieces appropriately, Kenneth felt alive again in a way that he hadn't felt in a long time. A very long time, going back well before he even ended up on the island, although that was a fleeting thought that he pushed out of his mind as he rolled the dice for and moved Rose Maddock for the first time.

Rose woke up hungover from New Year's Eve but still managed to make pancakes for her three children, two from one father and one from another.

During the mid-morning phase she successfully made the trip to the grocery store and engaged the register clerk, William Clark, is some harmless flirty banter. Back in the real world Kenneth updated her Happiness stat and noted a positive +1 interaction when dealing with William in the future. While he was doing so he was still aware of his hand guiding the pencil on the paper sheet.

This self-awareness would go away over the next few weeks as Kenneth became more fluid with the game mechanics and more fluent with its rules. He referred to the rule sheets less and less often. His rolls became more and more a muscle-memory and the results immediately translated into the character doing as the eight colored dice foretold that they would.

Kenneth still made sure to catch and gut his fish and collect his coconuts and reset his fresh-water stills in the early hours of each morning but the afternoons were all about Holdington.

Time progressed faster there. By the end of the first month in the real world, three years had passed by there.

There had been births: Penny Hill had twins! One named Frances and one named Wayne.

There had been deaths: The grocery store clerk William had died in a fire in his house while he slept. Kenneth cried over his plot as he placed the headstone he had made from a seashell. Only Rose and William's boss had attended the funeral.

When the Mayor rolled a triple one on the blue, red, and grey dice, meaning that his skimming of the church's donation fund had been noticed, he bailed out of town in the dead of night and that left his office open.

Even though Kenneth had been used to some twists and turns in the town's history he gasped when he made the triple-six roll which meant that Rose Maddock, despite her recent brush with drug-addiction, would be one of the candidates running for the open position of Mayor.

The press came close, within one number on one dice kind of close, of exposing Rose's dalliances with cocaine but she was in the running clear and free, and also clean.

It was around this time that Kenneth found himself dreaming about Rose more and more often, on his bed of unneeded clothing in his westward cave. He had dreams at first where she was running down from the beautiful white bandstand podium in the middle of Holdington's central park square into the arms of her husband, Jerry, and then deeply kissing him before throwing her head back and laughing with unfiltered happiness. But then, as the weeks went by in the mayoral race, he began to have the same dreams from the perspective of Jerry.

Rose ran towards HIM and landed that kiss on his pucker that felt like his first summer love and then threw back her head and he felt her joy as she laughed up into the overcast Holdington sky above.

Indeed, the day of the mayoral announcement had overcast weather according to the setup dice rolls and Kenneth's heart started to beat all that bit faster. Rose was going to win!

Kenneth threw the dice. A three on blue, a six on orange, and a one on grey confirmed it! Rose had won! Kenneth almost felt the kiss from his dream on his lips.

Now there was only the trivial roll to get her across the street from the central park square to the Town Hall where she would be sworn in:

A one on blue, a one on red, a one on orange, a one on green, and a one on grey meant that something bad had happened.

Kenneth consulted his folder of rules for the first time in weeks, even though he knew them back-to-front. He had to be sure.

But it was not good news. Rose had been hit by a car while crossing the street. Kenneth made the rolls to see how soon the ambulance could get her to the hospital. It got her there in the fastest time possible.

All she needed now was a Constitution saving-throw to survive the surgery. She is strong. She has a Constitution of 5.

Kenneth, his heart beating hard in his chest that used to be three times thicker, threw the single red dice. It fell on a six and then just slid around inside the top of the suitcase lid Kenneth used for rolling dice and, without rolling even once, ended up on the same six. Rose had failed her Constitution saving-throw.

Rose was dead. Kenneth stared down, wall-eyed with shock, at the red dice. She couldn't be... His love couldn't be dead! He saw a potential way out:

"NO!!! It just slid around! It didn't roll! REDO!", he said.

He re-rolled the red dice and it came up a four. Rose was alive!

Kenneth continued to play the game of Holdington for just over one more week of real time. Rose took her place as Mayor of the town and passed a few laws governing trivial matters of rezoning. Three grey and lifeless weeks passed within the game.

On the ninth real-life day since the resurrection of Rose, the god of Holdington came into the eastward cave as the early morning rays of the breaking sun shot through the cracks, and stomped everything into the sand until not even a single splinter of the plastic buildings or any body parts of the plastic people were recognizable.

He went back to the westward cave and picked up the mooring rope.






« Last Edit: 28 Jul 2021, 09:35 by Mandle »

Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #9 on: 31 Jul 2021, 00:46 »
I’ve got something of a rough draft but not sure if I’ve got time to sit and make it readable. I’ll see what I can do though.

WHAM

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #10 on: 31 Jul 2021, 20:12 »
Haven't found the time to write, and truth be told I don't really have an idea, either. If I come up with one last minute, I might  give it a shot, but...

Sorry EjectedStar! :C
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Sinitrena

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #11 on: 01 Aug 2021, 18:09 »
Part 1 of 2

Wavedancer


The water brushed gently against his calves. It tickled him, then trickled back into the ocean. The next wave brought a bit of driftwood up to his hips. It nudged him, then decided to return into the foam. A third wave entangled his hair in a bit of seaweed and tugged his head to his chest. Water swashed into his half-open mouth and built a puddle on his gums.

Then, it was gone again as the first sign of life shuddered through the man’s body. Small ripples extended from his shaking form through the cold water and out into the vastness of the sea. Soon they were some among many, soon they were gone. But the just returned air lifted and lowered the man’s chest and after a while his long fingers cramped into the sand.

With consciousness, memories flooded back to him and whipped him awake.

”You’re insane!” the captain had said, and then, somewhat belated, “Sir!”

The man did not turn around. He stood at the bow of the ship and looked out over the waves and the storm on the horizon. Dark clouds had engulfed the sun just minutes before, but now it had sank deeper underneath the bad weather and closer to the waterline. From time to time, large, giant waves obscured it from view and tinted the whole world black, only to then blink through the darkness again. The thunder carried its sound to the lonely ship on the ocean, while lightning only flashed high in the sky for now. Still, for now the storm was far away.

“I paid,” the man said curtly, before he sighed, then turned towards her. A brilliant smile played on his lips and his eyes displayed nothing but curious naiveté as he added: “Will the storm be a problem? Is it in our way?”

The captain, remembering the full purse the young man had dropped in her hands when he boarded the ship, hastened to reassure him: “No. No, Master Lomin. It’s not a problem, not a problem at all. Rest assured, sir.”

With a quick nod and a curt “Good.” the man turned back to the fascinating dance of the rain-clouds.

“But, sir...”


Yes, but. The captain still thought he was insane, and quite frankly, he didn’t exactly disagree, especially now as he slowly heaved himself out of the sand and surveyed his situation.

Kneeling on the wet beach, he coughed a couple of times. The warm, inviting sun warmed his tattered clothes. Where they once were blue and decorated with white waves, identifying him as a priest of the Blowing One, God of Water and Storm, they were now nothing more than a dirty brown mess. He still smoothed them with his ripped hands and added some blood to the mixture of seaweed and sand.

Little was left in the air of the storm of the previous nights, except for the tense pressure in the atmosphere that seemed to hold him to the ground, and the remnants of chaos in the landscape.

Broken wood was scattered all over the small island Lomin found himself on. It sloshed against the beach and it lay next to the scrawny tree trunks that were the only vegetation here. Most of them already disappeared into the sand, that was constantly swirled up by the waves and then settled down again over the evidence of the devastation.

The whole island, which was only more than a simple sandbank because somehow plants had managed to take root here, stuck out from the waves by a few feet. When the water wasn’t as calm as it was now after the storm, it lay mostly underwater, as did many of the other islands around it. There were dozens, hundreds of them. Some were larger, bald rocks that glittered almost golden in the rising sun from the water that had collected on them in nooks and crannies, some nothing more than a dark shimmer under the surface, black against the clear blue of the water and the deeper darkness below. At some places, the labyrinth of small and smaller islands even looked like one or several larger ones and the sea water seemed like rivers between the rocks, but every now and then a wave washed over them and called them into their fold of knives and spears that could easily tear open the hull of unsuspecting ships.

For now, the water still simmered and frothed as an after-effect of the storm and angry foam and dark-green, almost black seaweed obscured the view of the world below, but Lomin knew that corals grew between the islands and further out into the open sea, where they were even more treacherous than the slightly visible rocks.

Lomin stumbled forward. In what direction, he did not know. No, he did know, he stumbled away from the rising sun, as it burned in his already burning eyes, towards the west, deeper into the maze of islands and corals, of slippery rocks, sand and broken trees.

There was nothing, as far as his eyes could see, there was nothing. Looking further and further beyond the rocks around him, the sea with its rising and falling waves smoothed its surface overall. Even though more islands and rocks lay here for miles to come, the ocean seemed as flat as a wash board. There were hills and valleys, but it were the hills and valleys of the water, not of the world below.

No ship danced on the waves. All signs of life in front of him, of a past life, that were still around, nudged against the islands in the remnants of used wood, painted here and there with colourful pictures that were now nothing more than sun-faded pale patterns. They swam everywhere, with no connection to what they once were and no memory of what purpose they once served. Somewhere among them, Lomin believed to spot the figurehead of the Wavedancer, a woman’s head with hair that looked like seaweed. No other human beings lay exhausted on some of the other islands, no body was anywhere among the debris that constantly sloshed against the shore and drifted off again.

And in this absence of death around him, the sheer loneliness, the sheer emptiness of the massive island-system suddenly took hold of Lomin and he halted his steps and sank to his knees in the water. It reached to his chest where he knelt, like it did when the storm gripped the ship in its iron hands.

It was not the shaking of the ship that woke him, nor the roar of the wind, nor the water that sloshed into the small cabin. It was the dream, the dream he had again and again and again since a storm in the desert destroyed his caravan and left him the only survivor. “You saved me then,” he murmured sleepily, not really sure which of the two gods that were responsible he addressed in this state closer to sleeping than being awake.

But the next wave that pressed him against the wooden wall of the cabin was enough to destroy all thoughts of sleep. Grabbing the long spear that was traditionally part of the ceremonial clothes of a priest of the Blowing One, he more fell than stumbled towards the door.

A new swell of water washed over him from the hatch at the end of the narrow corridor. He fought against the wave, against the rocking ground, against the first gusts of wind that found their way into the small passage. Then, it was not just wind when he dragged himself up the steep ladder, but a clear reminder why the god of water and storms was called the Blowing One. More than once, Lomin had to change his grip, renew his grip on the steps, more than once his feet slipped from the already wet wood, more than once a wave drenched him to the bones.

It wasn’t the first time he climbed a ladder in the middle of the night, it wasn’t the first time he climbed one in a dire situation. More dragging himself over the edge and onto the deck of the
Wavedancer than climbing out of the hull, he lay the fraction of a second on the planks that felt like a lake.

A new wave caught the ship in the stern, making it buck like a wild horse. It swayed from side to side, it turned around its own axis, though all sense of direction was lost to Lomin. Without the stars, without anything to orient him, it was even difficult to tell where on the ship he was.

Darkness had sunk over the world, only disrupted by flashes of light that twitched over the sky, close, too close to them. Every flash was accompanied by the ear-splitting roar of the thunder, the cracking of the waves, the screaming of the strained hull. The calls of the seamen added their own melody to the cacophony of chaos.

Lomin rolled a few steps over the planks of the ship, before it sank back into a valley between the waves and water poured over him. Whether it was rain or sea he could not tell, nor did he wonder.

He pressed his hands against the planks to get back up. They slipped away under him as the ship climbed the next wave and his hands scraped over the wood. A second time he tried to get up, but he slithered further to the stern of the ship before he got a better grip of his spear and drove it into the boards. With the help of the spear, he brought himself to his knees.

“How can I help?”he called to the sailor closest to him. The question and the offer were as natural and as honest to Lomin as any lie. His voice didn’t even reach his own ears in the noise of the rebelling sea.

“Pray!” came the answer from the captain. She stood at the stern of the ship, her hands firm around the wheel. Her words carried over to Lomin through the wind and the waves, even though he had no idea how she could possibly have heard him.

But used to ordering her crew, the simple and short word was like an order to him as well, an order he couldn’t resist and a reasonable request. After all, what good was he in this well-coordinated crew and who better to pray for a reprieve than a priest of the Blowing One?

While the lightning flashed over his head and the waves crushed against the hull, he dragged himself towards the bow of the ship with the help of his spear. For every step forward, the waves pushed him back two, then the ship sank into a valley again, the bow bowed towards the middle of the world, and for a moment he fell through the air. Heavy wind caught him in whipping hands and threw him back up. His back banged against the planks, then he was in the air again. At some point, somehow, Lomin found himself at the bow where the ship was slightly higher and a few steps lead up to a small platform, where he had stood just this afternoon and admired the storm. He didn’t remember going up the steps, he didn’t remember kneeling down or pushing the spear’s tip into a crack between the planks.

He knelt and the water swashed over him. Somehow, he held onto the spear and he held his position.

“You saved me once in the desert,” he said and icy water washed into his mouth and his eyes as if it wanted to stop his speech. He coughed, he spit the water on the deck, but he did continue.

“I don’t think you’ll kill me now on the sea!” It was not the traditional prayer of the order of the water, that whistled to the storm in a steady rhythm of a flooding and ebbing song, but it was heartfelt.

Thunder cracked above him as if in answer and shook the ship as much as the waves. For a moment, the figurehead in front of him shone in a clear and blinding light and it almost seemed like she turned towards him with her seaweed-like hair. Then the flash was gone in darkness and the illusion with it.

“And if you don’t want to protect me,” Lomin called into the black void of the storm, “if you want to punish me, then take me and leave them be!” Deep down, deep inside his heart, he knew that
his god would not let him drown.

With the next flash, the ocean’s chaos came into view for a moment. The waves were black shadows in front of blacker chasms. On dark mountains simmered white fires and yellow tridents cut into the sky. Then darkness left nothing but dancing spots on his burning eyes.

“We thank you for the water!” Lomin prayed. “We thank you for the storm. We thank you for the life you keep, we thank you for the chaos you create.” His voice, silent against the storm, sang the few words he remembered of the only prayer of the Blowing One he was familiar with. It swelled and waned with the blowing of the wind.

Another flash illuminated the world behind him and still he managed to follow its twisting course through the sky. It snaked through the darkness towards the middle of the ship. For the fraction of a second it seemed to hesitate, then it licked towards the fore-mast. The crashing sound of splintering wood mixed with the booming of the thunder.

At first, it was just a flick of light that stayed behind as the lightning seemingly slowly burned through the tall tree. Then it was a fire, then a blaze. The mast creaked and groaned and it bowed towards the deck. For a moment, it was held by the rigging, for a moment it still seemed stable. Then, the creaking exploded into a cloud of splinters that flew from the mast between the top mast and the topgallant. So slow and still so fast, the mast toppled over.

Please let my plans not be a lie. was Lomin’s last true prayer to his god. And then, the world turned dark.

The water was so calm now, the sky was so clear, the sun so bright. The silence was deafening. The weak sloshing of the waves was hardly louder than the silent weeping of the man on his knees. It sounded hoarse and raspy, it sounded like the cry of the birds over his head.

There was nothing, all around him there was nothing. There was no fresh water, though the water-skin on his hip was still full, no ship on the waves, no settlement on the islands, no trading route that passed through this region. Who would be stupid enough to sail his ship through this treacherous field of monsters and spears? Who would dare desecrate the holy islands of the Blowing One?

Soon, the sun would rise high into the sky and no tree would offer him shelter, no river would quench his thirst, no root or animal would appease his hunger. The spear was long gone, the water-skin probably encrusted with salt, his once elegant clothes, decorated in waves and storm clouds, were now just tatters.

Lomin didn’t know how long he knelt there like that, how far the sun rose and how long it baked the salt to his scraped skin. More than one prayer passed his dry lips and more than once he cursed his own stupid plans.

When the last ripples of the storm had settled and the sky was so clear that not a single cloud hung over his head and the water had receded so far that he knelt on dry sand, an unexpected sound drifted to his ears. A giggle purled through the sea, at first just like a single drop that fell into the ocean, than millions of them all at once.

Lomin looked around. He looked for the sound that made no sense. It didn’t sound like the indescribable force of the ocean. It was too gentle, too clear.

He saw nothing. Slowly, with aching muscles and bones, he got back onto his feet and went towards the water. It lay completely still now. The seaweed and foam had settled. A few steps from the coastline, the ground fell suddenly into a greater depth. The water was so clear and blue, it almost seemed like he could just reach into the ocean and grab the mermaid’s hair on the ground.

Mermaid? He sure hadn’t drunk enough and was hallucinating because this had to be an illusion. It was the head of the figurehead, having sunken deep down and now its seaweed-like hair made from wood was replaced by the real seaweed in the ocean. But the head didn’t lie still. No, it blinked up to him and from its mouth bubbles rose to the surface whenever she laughed and her giggles send ripples and weird noises to the priest.

But mermaids were legends, mermaids were allegories in the stories of the Blowing One and yarns the sailors spun on long and cold nights. Lomin knew the stories, of course, the stories of how the Blowing One had not agreed with the Seeing One, God of Law and Justice, of how the world should be governed, how the Silent One, God of Liars and Thieves, had stolen his secrets of creation for him, how the Blowing One had made the merpeople. But he also knew of the second part of the tale, of the fight that the Blowing One lost, of the fact that he didn’t manage to hide his people in the sea, no matter how wide and deep he made it, no matter how much he protected them with his storms and his waves. No, everybody knew, that the merpeople were no more, even if they ever existed.

But here she was, giggling at him like a purling river, with seaweed as her hair and blue skin that was only a little bit darker than the ocean’s blue. Here she relaxed on a stone in the deep sea and looked directly up at him. She blinked and her eyelids closed in a spiral. Her skin gleamed in the iridescent shine of nacre, though with a clear blue tint. It reached all the way to the tips of her hands and feet where thin fins connected her fingers and her toes.

She was completely naked and the way she lay there left nothing to the imagination. Her small breasts perked up to Lomin and only the wobbling water made it slightly more difficult to see.

After a moment of shocked confusion and not a small bit of staring, Lomin turned away and put his hands in front of his eyes. He wasn’t quite sure if he wanted to rub them or be a decent man.

The mermaid’s giggles became louder and louder still when he knelt there on the edge of the island completely frozen. He didn’t move. He didn’t even breathe for a moment.

Finally, a gush of water shot out from the ocean and drenched him completely. It woke him from his stupor. Slowly, he rubbed his eyes, slowly he put his hands down.

The mermaid was gone. Where she had been before, the water was turbulent and opaque.

Before Lomin could finish the thought that he must have imagined her, a fountain sprouted behind him and he slender woman flew over his head. The mermaid turned a somersault in the air, squirting water everywhere, and then she came to a standstill in a kneeling position in front of him. She giggled again. Not softened by the heavy water, the sound got a shrieking quality but still reminded him of the soft purling of a river in the night. Without hesitation, she blew a steady stream of salty water directly into his face.

Lomin turned away and wiped the water from his forehead. “Hey!”

She giggled again and pushed her chest out. Kneeling on one knee and with a straight back, she put her hands into her hips and cocked her head. She looked like she was ready to fight or to fall onto her back at the same time. The seaweed-like hair, thick and deep green, seemed to move of its own will, snaking around her head like a squid’s tentacles. At the side of her head and down to her chest, gills gasped for life, even though she seemed otherwise perfectly fine breathing through her nose. The nose itself, blue and iridescent like the rest of her body, was slightly flat and in front of her nostrils a thin net of some kind opened and closed with every breath. When she smiled, which she now did constantly, sharp and long teeth peeked out under pale lips.

“Hey!” the mermaid gurgled, probably imitating the sound the young priest of the Blowing One had made just now.

“I… I… You are…” Lomin stammered, then swallowed and began again. “You are a mermaid.” He didn’t bother to avert his eyes. She clearly didn’t care.

She didn’t say a word. She only moved her head from one side to the other and then back again. The spiralling eyelids closed alternately, first the one than the other, as if she tried to look at him from all possible angles.

“You are a mermaid!” Lomin tried again. Fear and respect shone through the nervousness of his next words. “I mean, you clearly are… I mean… Sorry… Sorry… My Lady, one of the chosen ones of the Blowing One. I am… I am Lomin… Master Lomin… Priest of … of the Blowing One and…”

The splashing of water at his side interrupted him. More water fell onto his head, then two other mermaids appeared at his sides. They looked at him in the same measuring way as the first one, moving their heads from side to side and blinking over and over again. Their skin was as blue and their hair as green as that of the first mermaid and overall Lomin could not really tell them apart. Just like the one in front of him, these two knelt on the sand. Occasionally they spurted water on him from their mouths.

“It’s… It’s an honour…?” When the mermaids still didn’t react, Lomin decided to just press on. “My ship… There was a storm… and…”

“There was a storm.” The mermaid in front of him said. It still sounded like she was just imitating him, singing the words in a giggling ripple. The words flooded and ebbed, louder and more silent, higher and lower, so that it all sounded like a weird singsong. It reminded Lomin weirdly of the secret language of his order, even though the words were spoken in the more common language of the traders on the coast Lomin had chosen now.

“And lightning. There was lightning and the mast broke and…”

“The mast broke.” One of the two at his side agreed. Her voice sounded more guttural, deep and hoarse, like salt grinding over rocks.

“And the figurehead fell from the hull…”

“It fell.” the third one, whose voice was the whispering breeze of the wind, said and skittered closer to him. She put her webbed fingers on his clothes and pulled on a loose thread of the stitched ornaments. A white wave was dragged from his uniform and then hung from her hands.

Lomin did not move. He watched the woman as she watched the thread wafting in the wind, he watched her as she pulled the smaller strands apart, he watched her as she let go of it and it slowly drifted to the ground.

“It was a mermaid’s head.” The first mermaid called Lomin’s attention back to her.

“Ye...Yes, it… we… we honour your people in this way? Like we honour the Blowing One? Like I honour him?” None of these were meant as questions. Lomin’s hands were shaking. “You see, I’m a priest of the Blowing One and I wanted to see these islands here, as part of… as part of my training… as a priest, you see, the holy islands of the Blowing One and then there was this storm and… I mean, the captain told me it was dangerous, but...”

Sinitrena

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #12 on: 01 Aug 2021, 18:10 »
Part 2 of 2

”The Sunken Islands?”, the captain looked at him like he was mad, letting her eyes glide over his whole body unashamedly.

The priest was smaller than her, but he stood with a straight back and an arrogance in his posture that just screamed nobility at her. His clothes were made of silk and linen, the needlework so intricate that it was nearly impossible to follow all the details in the otherwise simple pattern of waves. His dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail and his chin was shaven clean, probably because he was too young to grow a proper beard. Though, if she was honest, she couldn’t really judge his age. He was younger than her, obviously, and going by his words he had just finished his studies to become a priest, had just taken his oath, but that meant little.

“Yes, the Sunken Islands. They are… you see, they are holy to the Blowing One, that is, to my god and I, you see, I really, really want to see them. Just once, you know, just see them, that’s all…”

She had never heard that the Sunken Islands were in any way or form holy, but who was she to question a priest?

On the other hand, the young man staggered dangerously on board of the ship, even though it lay completely still in the harbour. Just by looking at him, she could tell that he had never set his feet on deck of a ship before, which made it more than clear to her that someone else had chosen his god for him.

“This is a very dangerous request. And it’ll cost you a lot if you want us to take this risk.” He obviously had the money. It didn’t hurt to squeeze him a little, especially since her own purse had disappeared just before she got back onto the
Wavedancer.

“I’ll pay.” was all he said, probably used to getting his way with money alone.

“We can’t sail close to the Sunken Islands, though. It’s too dangerous, the water’s too low. You’d have to take a smaller boat.”

“That’s fine. That shouldn’t be a problem.”

She doubted he even knew how to hold an oar, much less how to row.


The mermaid at his side had stopped studying the thread from his clothes and had started to let her fingers glide over his arms. He touch prickled and her scales seemed to rip the thin hairs from his skin.

Despite this, he kept talking. “I… I don’t know what happened. The mast broke and… and everything went dark and… And I found myself here and…”

“You dragged yourself to land.” The ebbing and flooding of the first mermaid’s voice became faster, a purling turned into a current.

The two mermaids still a few steps away from him inched closer. They hardly moved their legs, gliding over the sand as if it were water and leaving a snakes trace behind.

Lomin watched them wearily but for him their expressions were completely neutral and their body language did not shift at all. They still sprayed him with water periodically, as if they couldn’t stop it from sprouting out of their mouths or as if they were completely convinced that he was not wet enough. Their giggles also still rang over the islands.

“Yes,” Lomin said, “Just so. It was… it was close.”

“It?” the mermaid at his side asked, now pulling at a strand of hair that had fallen from his tie. Her own hair, the tentacles on her head, explored him in the same way as her fingers did, moving along his skin and from time to time glueing themselves to his clothes. “The boat, you mean?”

“Wha… what?”

“You dragged it to the beach.” the first mermaid said and came closer.

“You moored it close to here.” the second added and her webbed fingers drew symbols in the sand. They were the waves and the clouds of the Blowing One, adorned with the same additional patterns his clothes had once had.

“You came to see the sea.” the third one said, now untying the water-skin from his belt and opening it. “Did you drink the waters of the sea?” Clear, sweet water dripped onto the sand.

“I… I did?”

“Did you drink them in the storm?”

Lomin hesitated. He recognized the words of the ceremony, the words that every priest of the Blowing One spoke when he was initiated. “I did.” he answered finally, remembering all the water he had swallowed as the storm raged over the ship and he spoke an awkward prayer to the Blowing One.

“Did you swear fealty to a god?” It was still the third mermaid who spoke. Seemingly uninterested in the words and his answers, her attention was still mainly on his clothes and his skin. Her bare chest pressed against him, as if she wanted to experience him with every part of her body.

“Yes, I did.” Around his neck, tied to a nondescript leather band, a shimmering medallion swung back and forth, and almost automatically he grabbed it now and his fingernails scraped over the smooth surface. The memories of the desert and the day he took this symbol out of the water and presented it to a statue flooded back to him and the memories of one storm mixed with another.

By now, all the mermaids were very close to him, though only the one touched him. At first, he had thought the one that always giggled and had first shown herself to him was the youngest, based on the clear, smooth quality of her voice, but in truth he could not tell. But the voice of the third, of the boldest and curiousest of them sounded deepest to him and so he had assumed she was the oldest.

Still, it was the youngest who spoke next in a slightly questioning or accusing tone: “A god of storms? A god of water? A god who changes like the waves? A god who dances like the storm? Who’s shadow once and sunshine next? Who walked as one and swam as other?”

Lomin hesitated again. His fingers played with the medallion and a little smile crept onto his lips when the meaning of her words fully sank in. “Yes.” he answered truthfully.

As one, the three mermaids looked up at him and ceased all their other movements, the third one with her hand flat on Lomin’s hair. Even their constant blinking stopped. Had not their gills still gasped for water, one could have believed they were statues.

“You are a god’s,” the second one, who had spoken little so far, said finally and moved her hands onto his skin as well, “but not our god’s. You serve the liar and the thief.”

“Yes.” There was no hesitation in his voice now and no shame. He admitted his lies as quickly and as slickly as he spoke them. The tension in his body changed. It changed from nervousness to expectation, from fear to assertiveness. As if it was the most natural posture, he knelt on the sand in the same manner as the three mermaids, with his back straight and ready to fight without seeming aggressive. Had he looked at them before, he now studied them with the same curiosity that they studied him.

Without moving a lot, he touched the tentacle-like hairs on the head of the closest one. Scales covered the whole length of them and they felt smooth and slightly cold. There was strength in these hairs. They felt like they grab him and shake him, but when he touched them they nestled up against him and as if they had their own will, they seemed to enjoy his skin.

For a while, nobody spoke. Lomin didn’t intend to give an explanation when none was asked and he was curious how much they already knew about him. The mermaids on the other hand just seemed to wait now that he had given them a glimpse of his true personality, or at least a different one from what he had shown so far.

“You came to seek us out and see?” the first mermaid finally guessed. So far, they had been sure of all they said, but now she showed clear signs of hesitation or even confusion. While curious of him the whole time, now their curiosity shifted to who he was and what he wanted instead of what he was. Their strange blinking, closing the eyes in an iridescent spiral of tiny scales, began again.

“Even though you’re not the sea’s?” the second one asked and pushed gently against his chest as if she wanted to test how steadfast he was.

I’ve heard rumours of your people. I was curious, the lie, an easy lie, already touched his lips when he thought better of it. “There was once a covenant between the sea and the thief.” he said instead, slightly imitating how they referred to the gods, instead of using their titles as he normally would.

The three mermaids looked at each other. Shrill, raspy tones came from deep within their throats, not unlike a seagull’s shrieking. Louder shrieks mixed with more guttural gasping. Their webbed fingers touched, fingertip to fingertip and then they turned to him as one.

And as one they spoke now: “As flimsy as the foam on the water, as changeful as the tides, as sudden as the storm in the sky, as silent as the breeze and the cloud…”

“… as honest as the thief in the night,” Lomin continued with a smile, “as quick as just thunder and light, as deep as the ocean’s floor – who am I talking about?”

Lomin sat on the quay wall and looked over the crowd in the harbour. For the moment, he wore the clothes of a sailor and chewed on a piece of sweet wood like so many sailors did. While he watched the hustle and bustle of the harbour workers and crewmen and tried to find a suitable ship, he went through the documents he had found in the old library under the desert one last time in his mind.

The legend of the stolen creation, of the Blowing One creating his own people, was told in many versions. Some were a cautionary tale, warning of the storm and the sea, warning that everything would end, that nothing could be forever. Or that not even the gods could or should break the law of the Seeing One, God of Law and Justice. But the priests of the Silent One told a different story, they told you that the Silent One, God of Liars and Thieves, could even steal from the other gods themselves. But the old tale on the crumpled parchment went even further, because it said that the Seeing One did not see all, that under the storm and under the sea, his eyes could not reach, because the Silent One had hidden a world there for those who were not meant to be.

“As flimsy as the foam on the water…” Lomin repeated the words that could mean either the Blowing One or the Silent One to make sure he had them memorized. He couldn’t risk writing them down. The words that were meant to remind the merfolk that they owed their existence to two gods, but what would they mean to anyone else? If only he were sure they really existed, if only he were sure they would still honour the agreement of the time when the gods still walked the world regularly. If only he had anything to offer but an ancient riddle. As far as he could tell, his own order had no contact with the mermaids any more. It was time to change this.

There were sailor’s tales of mermaids near the Sunken Islands but no one had ever had contact with them as far as Lomin could tell. He had spent the last year listening again and again in various harbour towns to tall tales and sailor’s yearns and now his plan would either lead to success and an old covenant renewed or possibly to his death.

For a few minutes now, his eyes had followed a young woman through the busy harbour streets of Remria. He had not seen her the first time, as a matter of fact, he had watched her for a few days now. She was perfect. She would ask questions, but she cared more about money than answers. She knew the sea and honoured the Blowing One, but her knowledge of him was limited. And she always tried to get one up on people, especially nobles. It was easy to get her to do what he wanted, it was easy to make her ask the wrong questions. And despite her tendency to take more money than she was worth, she tended to keep her word. She was perfect.

Jumping up from the quay, he pulled his cap deep over his face and took a knife from a fisherman’s table without even looking. When he passed her, the knife easily cut the string of her purse and the money slid into his own pockets. There was no reason to waste more money than absolutely necessary on this excursion. Then, with the next step, the knife found its way into the boot of a pickpocket who could use better tools and Lomin had slipped into the cheap tavern he had a room in for a few nights.

Minutes later, out came a priest of the Blowing One, the clothes a bit too expensive, the ceremonial spear too clean and decorated to be truly useful. His back was straight now but his eyes flitted nervously from side to side. He seemed taller now than he usually did, but also more lanky, as if he had not quite found the right strings to pull in his muscles.


Neither Lomin nor the mermaids answered the riddle. They didn’t need to.

“The covenant still exists?” Lomin asked instead.

The two mermaids at his side let their fingers glide over his legs and up to his chest. There, they paused for a moment and their seagull-like sing-song filled the air again. Even though Lomin could not understand the words or even make out individual words, he did recognize that they were not discussing anything among themselves but speaking words to him that must have had a deeper meaning. Their still straight bodies seemed to become even straighter and more rigid, their eyes stared at him unblinking and even their gills stopped their continuous gasping.

When the last tone of the mermaid’s cry subsided, the mermaid in the middle, who had not joined into it, spoke to him in his language again. He could only assume that she translated their language for him: “For the god who stole the world. For the god who stole the secrets. For the god who stole us away. For the god who stole the eyesight of the Seer. For him, we offer shelter. For his, we offer shelter. For his, we are protection. For he protected us. For he protects us still.”

The three mermaids were still connected at their hands and now the two at his side move their hands over his chest and down along his arm, until their webbed fingers connected with his.

Memories of the storm washed over him. He was on the Wavedancer and the thunder rattled the deck. His prayer was weak and false. He was not initiated in the mysteries of the Blowing One, he was not even particularly fond of the ocean. A flash of lightning jerked from the sky, one of a thousand that night. It his the mast and flames trickled down the wood. He fell, then, but now he followed the next lightning from the sky. He followed it to the figurehead, he followed it to the wooden hair of the mermaid as the shaking of the waves loosened it from the hull. At first it had still hung onto it, had only turned slightly, but now it fell. It fell with the seawater and with the rain. It splashed onto the wild surface, then it was taken up by a wave and it clashed against the hull, then it sank deeper and deeper and deeper below.

There, the water was calmer. It still frothed and pushed but the wind could not reach into the depth of the ocean.

The mermaid’s head drifted down into the dark, past the fish who had left the surface and came here to escape the wildness and the vastness of the ocean. Again and again it was called back up and thrown through the waves. Then, when it was hurled into the storm for a moment and fell back down into the foam, it passed a sister in style though not in blood.

Her strong legs fought against the current. Her hair tentacles kept her steady. Water splashed against her face, wind whipped against her scales. Her spiralling eyelids kept both out of her eyes and she saw the ship in the distance dance on the waves. It bowed and it bucked and it burned in the night. On the deck, tiny people ran around or flew through the air but the fire slowly died on the horizon and the ship sank into darkness.

The mermaid stopped her struggle against the current and let herself sink down into the ocean, down into the depth of the water and underneath she swam back towards her home, to the caves and the corals and the riffs under the sea, where the sisters sang and the brothers glided, where seaweed was braided into curtains and mats and no sun and no storm disturbed the calm of the world.

Then the memories returned to Lomin, to his feet touching the sand, not the sand of the Sunken Islands, but the sand on the coast near Remria, where the harbour lay at the bottom of a high cliff and the river flowed through the city, where water splashed over the edge and fell into the ocean in a high waterfall.

“Where the sweet water falls and in the world the temple was once lost.” the first mermaid, who was indeed the youngest, as Lomin could now tell, sang in her high-pitched cry.

“You ask for nothing,” the taciturn one said, “You just wished to see us.”

Now that the mermaids had seen into him, Lomin knew that she did not need to ask or even state this fact. But no matter how much he wished to return to the beach on the Sunken Islands, his mind was called back again and again to the waterfall in Remria, where the river cut right through the city and right through the high cliffs and the water fell down into the ocean in a thunder you could even hear up on the rocks.

“Where the water falls…”

“Where it splashes into the sea…”

“Where it once cut a deep aisle… And where humans made a cave behind the fall.”

Lomin knew the place. He had looked down from the cliffs more than once, fascinated by the strange path the water had chosen there for itself.

“The floods came…”

“… and the walls fell…”

“… and the temple was left to the waves…”

There was a temple underneath the river? Lomin’s mind followed the mermaids into older memories, into the salt-water lake behind the waterfall and the half natural half man-made cave that once served as a temple of the Blowing One. He looked from the water at the frescos and passages of the temple and into newer memories of them broken and gone.

“You find the temple deep below.”

“You may take it for the thief.”

“You may return it when you leave.”

No matter how deep into the mermaid’s memories their connection allowed him to see, Lomin found no reasons, just the wish to renew the temple, like the covenant was just renewed. When the thought had found its way into his mind, the mermaids removed their fingers from his and slowly withdrew over the sand.

The always changing ocean had returned with stronger force in the last hour or so he had spoken with the mermaids and the sand was wet and slick again. The blue scaled beings slithered over the beach like snakes, even though they could have walked and dove into the ocean without looking back.

Memories, that were mixed before, drifted apart. He left the water behind in the ocean, he left the reefs to the shadows. With every step back over the labyrinth of sunken islands and sharp rocks, over salty rivers and seaweed carpets, darker and darker clouds obscured them from view. The clouds hung deep over the sun, but they also hung in his mind and the memories of the mermaids disappeared behind a veil. Lomin’s hands wandered again to the medallion around his neck, because now he was sure that the Silent One’s secrets still hung over the islands and the Blowing One’s storms still protected them and shielded them from view.

To his boat, moored in the east of the islands, he took the sand of the beach in his boots and the memory of a temple under the sea, where sweet water fell from the sky. No sign of the mermaids remained in the water. No disturbed waves changed their rhythm, no giggles came from the depths of the ocean. Where the water had turned foamy and dark from them entering it, it settled slowly to reveal nothing but rocks and seaweed under the calm.

He found his boat where he had left it, moored on a flat piece of land and tied to a convenient rock. It was undisturbed. Water and food as well as his clean and undamaged clothes under the bench next to the oars and some other supplies he thought he might need for the days he planned to spend on the islands.

Even though he had shown the mermaids his real being, he now slipped easily back into the personality of the awkward young priest of the Blowing One he had presented to the captain. He change into clean clothes and brushed all traces of the sand from the fine threads, then he untied the boat and dragged it into the sea.

Pushing away from the land, he rowed the boat out into the ocean. It slipped easily over the low waves towards the Wavedancer that lay lonely as close to the Sunken Islands as was possible. Every stroke of his oars seemed a little bit easier than on the way to the islands, as if the current of the waves gave him a little push, or as if mermaids carried him under the sea. He glimpsed them a couple of times, blue scales in the blue of the water, seaweed-like hair mixed with the green seaweed of the sea, but when he peeked over the edge of the boat and into the ocean he could not see them in the waves. The closer he came to the ship, the scarcely came the pushes from underneath and when he reached the Wavedancer and was pulled back on board, the ocean lay there calm and still wild and no trace of them remained.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” the captain asked with an amused smile when she helped him on board with his unsteady legs.

“Yes. Yes, I did.” he answered truthfully.

Five days later, when the ship had docked and the captain had received the rest of her money, Lomin climbed the cliffs of Remria towards the river.

Looking over the banister onto the cliffs that jutted out far above the ocean, he wondered if there really could be a cave and an old temple behind the waterfall. The water rushed into the sea, crashing against the rocks with a thunder he could hear all the way up to the edge. It churned the ocean into a whirlwind of pure chaos, white and black and wild.

The further he had left the Sunken Islands behind, the stranger this meeting seemed to him.

But deep down in the ocean, between the foam and the froth, under the waves and between the rocks, he could just make out the iridescent blue of a mermaid’s scales, waiting for him.




------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sorry, guys, I’m exhausted. I just finished writing this and have no time to do any proofreading or editing (even if I did, I doubt I would see any mistakes right now). There are probably some inconsistencies, but considering that the narrator lies to you for a large part of the story, it probably isn’t too bad.

This story is set in the same world as a couple others of mine and some parts make slightly more sense if you know them (all references to the desert, for example (see: “The Naming of Names” below)).

Other stories in the series, in logical order (as in, that’s the order the events happen in, but if that’s the best reading order I’m not sure. It would take some time to work this out.):

The Naming of Names
The Square of Flowers
Wavedancer (that’s this one here)
Little Dove
A Future that would never be
Truth!
The social, friendly, honest man
« Last Edit: 01 Aug 2021, 18:18 by Sinitrena »

EjectedStar

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #13 on: 02 Aug 2021, 00:23 »
A Short Story In The Fortnightly Writing Competition

 “What on God’s green earth is that?” Wiggin said, his mouth hanging agape. His eyebrow twitched and he stared off over the deck at the enormous creature that crashed through the waves.

“Don’t care,” Raymond grunted, keeping his attention to the wheel that was gripped tightly in his hands, the knuckles stark white in his exertions.

The creature almost looked like a mix between a centipede and a whale, segmented insect like body parts, all wrapped within the blubbery texture of a sea creature. It crashed through the swirling waves of purple that surrounded the ship, jumping in and out of the frothing ‘liquid’.

“Damnit Wig, I need more starboard power!” Raymond shouted out, his eyes still glued to the dials in front of him.

Wiggin jumped, snapping out of his fixation. He shook his head as if to shake away his thoughts and then turned back to his work. After a quick check of his own readouts, he corrected the listing of the ship with a pull of a lever, ratcheting it down a few notches. 

“’Bout time! We’re not here to sightsee!” Raymond said, the strain in his voice lessening, not having to fight against the tilting of the ship anymore.

“Actually,” Wiggin said, tapping a finger against his chin, “that is exactly the reasoning for the mission.”

“Y-you know what I mean,” Raymond stuttered out, “not here at least!”

With a quick glance across his readouts, Wiggin nodded to himself, assured that the ship was steady at the moment, and turned back to face across the deck.  “Never in my wildest dreams did I think anything would be able to live here in the timestream.”

Their vessel traveled through a type of wormhole, allowing them to transit through time and space. Years of research had delivered this opportunity to them. Being that the pair were the founders of the project and the lead researchers, it was only prudent that they would be aboard her maiden voyage.

The ship, which was more of a maze of complicated brass colored tubes and a control deck, traveled along the inside of a spinning tube of purple tinged liquid. Wiggin hadn’t the foggiest idea what the liquid could be, and was even more dumbfounded at the presence of life within what he had theorized would be an uninteresting black void.

“Approaching the halfway point!” Raymond shouted out, the readout on his display scrolling through data so fast that it made Wiggin’s eyes glaze over when he glanced toward his partner’s direction.

A booming crash came from somewhere on Wiggin’s right, and he had but only a moment to ponder it’s origination before he was thrown to the side, his head whipping dangerously about.  The wind was smashed out of his lungs as he found himself bent at his midsection, the brass railing slamming its way into his stomach. He slid to the deck, crumpling in a heap, his vision a jumbled mess. He could see Raymond straining at the wheel, trying to keep the vessel upright and in the center of the tunnel. Across the deck he could see the source of the crash, as a swarm of the insect-like beasts dove in and out of the side of the tunnel, slamming their way into the side of the ship.

He pushed himself up to his hands and knees, the breath in his lungs slowly returning. He crawled and scrabbled to maintain his stance as the deck lurched underneath him, beasts slamming into the side of the vessel. Something groaned deep within the ship as he reached Raymond’s position and climbed to his feet, a hand held firmly on the nearby rail.

“I can’t keep her steady,” Raymond said, finally turning his head and meeting Wiggin’s eyes.

Almost on cue, the ship, listing now from the damage began to slowly turn within the tunnel.

“Better hold on,” Raymond continued, “we’re about to find out what happens when you disrupt a wormhole from within.”

The bow of the ship met the side of the tunnel, purple liquid tinged with white froth sprayed across the deck and ripped the side of the tunnel open.  White light erupted from the gash and spread, engulfing everything in its path.

---------------

Wiggin awoke, an overcast sky hanging above him; a mass of grey clouds. He sat up, and his vision swam, a knot on his head pounded in pain and the hint of nausea tugged at his stomach.

He stood groggily and Raymond was there at his side, helping to steady him.

“You alright?” The man asked.

“Yeah, I think I’m okay, although now I think I know what a concussion feels like.” Wiggin rubbed at the back of his head and the tender spot. After a few minutes he looked around, they were standing next to a massive pile of brass tubing, in the middle of a muddy field, surrounded by trees.

“Where are we?”  Wiggin asked.

“Oh, come now, Professor, you know the answer to that.”

Wiggin scrunched his eyebrows together and after a few moments he revised his answer, “Alright, when are we?”

Raymond nodded and waved his hand around the area, “I’ve done a bit of scouting about while you took your cat nap.” Raymond ignored Wiggin’s eyeroll and continued, “and it seems as if we’re off course by about six hundred years.”

“What?!” Wiggin exclaimed, “we were only supposed to travel back two months, to the predetermined time!”

“Well, had we accounted for time beasties to attack the time machine…”

Wiggin waved him off and began to pace around the pile of brass tubing that lay nearby. “So? What’s the damage?”

Raymond sighed and picked his way through the mud and grass to stand next to his companion. “It’s not horribly mangled, and all of the important bits are in fine enough shape, but it will take time to put together, and of course, we didn’t bring the necessary tools to deal with such a large scale undertaking. With the right tools, maybe a year or two and we can head on back.”

Wiggin sighed, “What do we do?”

“Well, we can destroy the machine, and throw ourselves on our proverbial swords to spare the timeline, or we lay low, scrape up some twenty-first century cash to buy some tools and lodging and hope we don’t destroy the timeline so much that we can head home and not live like savages here in the past.”

“Ugh,” Wiggin said.

“Agreed,” Raymond nodded.

Wiggin thought for a moment as his eyes panned across the thick tree line. “A past version of the University is nearby, yeah? I could go back to teaching while we work on the machine, I’m sure a professor’s salary should be enough to buy the specialized tools we need.”

With a laugh Raymond shook his head, “First of all, you wouldn’t just be able to show up and say: ‘Yes, hello, I’m Professor Wiggin Hyrum Ansible-Mazer, I have mathematical knowledge from six centuries in the future, please give me a job. And secondly, you’re scatter brained enough that there is a high likelihood you’d go off on a tangent and reveal some high level formulae and some kiddo in class would disrupt the timeline with information that the world wouldn’t see for another hundred years.”

With a thoughtful nod, Wiggin agreed, “yeah, I could definitely see myself doing that.”

“We’ll have to lay low and scrape by. It won’t be glamorous, but at least there will be a future for us to return to.”

After concealing the time machine with an array of tree limbs, they hiked up a nearby hill and into the nearby woods, after about a half an hour, the pair came across an asphalt road weaving its way between the trees. Wiggin tapped at it with a shoe and fake gagged in disgust.

“Combustion engines,” he said, shaking his head.

“I know,” Raymond said, “that might be one of the worst things we’ll have to deal with here. Don’t they know how harmful pollution and the burning of fossil fuels is?”

“Oh, from what I remember, they know the risks and damage very well, they just don’t care.”

After a few minutes of traveling down the road Wiggin stopped in his tracks and sighed, letting his shoulders slump.

“What is it?” Raymond asked.

“The pollution won’t be the worst thing we’ll have to deal with,” he pointed toward a blue sign that had come into view.  In large white letters the name ‘Hervanta’ was clearly visible. “We’re going to have to learn Finnish.”

---------------

Knocks slammed against Wiggin’s door and he rolled his eyes. “What?” he called out, pulling the earphones down around his neck, “I’m busy!”

Raymond pushed his way into Wiggin’s room and looked at the computer the man was currently sitting at. Raymond shook his head and sighed. “Really? Its been two years, we’re days away from completing the time machine and you’re streaming? Again?”

“I’ve got fans who watch,” Wiggin said defiantly, “and they like my hot takes.”

“We’ve got other things to do! You can’t sit in here and stream games!”

“Hey! I do other things too! I write and make video games, I’m not just streaming.”

“And what about the timeline? Do you ever think about that? You even use an acronym of your real name!"

“Ah, the timeline will be fine. I’ve got a secret identity here, I don’t even use Wiggin!”

Raymond rubbed at his eyes in frustration. “Well, you better say goodbye to your friends and fans, this will probably be the last time you’ll get to talk to them.”

“But I was gonna write-“ Wiggin started before being interrupted.

“Make something up and apologize, we’ve got to get to work. We’ve got one last component to fit into place and we can head on back.”

“Heh,” Wiggin laughed and wiggled his eyebrows,” Back to the Future?”

Raymond groaned and turned toward the door, “You know I hate that movie! It’s not realistic in the slightest! We’ve got to get you out of here Professor, you’re ingraining way too well with this century.”

“Alright, alright, let me grab my stuff. I’ll meet you downstairs.”

Raymond eyed him suspiciously and then with a nod headed out the door.

---------------

“And there we go!” Raymond beamed as he slid the last component into place.  It had taken two long years, blood, sweat and tears, but the machine was finally complete. They were finally going to head home.

He clambered up onto the deck and reached down to help his friend up. Wiggin took a step back and Raymond let his hand close slowly, confused.

“Look,” Wiggin said, “I’ll just come out and say it… I’m not going back with you.”

“What?” Raymond shook his head, “After all this, you’re just going to back out?”

Wiggin nodded, “I’ve got things to do now, here.  I’ve helped you with the machine and you can head back. I’ve completed what I wanted to do in the future, the machine is a success, and it works. I love it here, I can’t even see myself going back home, I don’t know what I would do there.”

Raymond pinched at the bridge of his nose in frustration.

“It will be alright,” Wiggin said, “Nobody will ever know who I am, I won’t disrupt the timeline, and if anyone ever suspects, or writes some kind of story about me on the internet, I’ll laugh and nobody will ever believe them, I’ll just be another regular ol’ Finnish guy making video games on the internet.”

After a few beats Raymond shook his head in defeat, “Fine. I can’t say I’m that surprised. You’re so well meshed into the twenty first century that I doubt anyone would ever suspect or ever find out.”

He reached his hand down again and this time Wiggin took it.  The two friends shook hands one last time.

Wiggin watched as the machine powered on, small electrical sparks shot out from random spots on the frame, but everything seemed to be in working order. Raymond lifted his hand and waved, and disappeared, machine and all.

-------------

Wiggin returned to his apartment and sat back in his computer chair. He was here, he was home, and barring anybody from the future taking control of the time machine and returning him to his proper place in time, this is where he would stay.

He clicked through a few tabs on his internet browser and his eyebrows furrowed together, “Ah crap,” he mumbled, “I totally forgot about that.”

He slid the keyboard into position and typed out a new post:

Haven't found the time to write, and truth be told I don't really have an idea, either. If I come up with one last minute, I might  give it a shot, but...

Sorry EjectedStar! :C

Loppu.
« Last Edit: 02 Aug 2021, 01:13 by EjectedStar »

Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #14 on: 03 Aug 2021, 02:04 »
I'm glad there have been a few entries because I'm not going to be able to submit mine. Maybe I'll do a rewrite in the coming days and post it after the voting.

EjectedStar

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #15 on: 03 Aug 2021, 02:24 »
For the record, mine is just a joke post that doesn't count! 

We've got two lovely entries so far, but there is still some time to squeak in an entry!

🪨🚤🪨 Wrecked 'em, damn near killed 'em!

Baron

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #16 on: 03 Aug 2021, 03:26 »
The Survival Imperative

Churning waves. Wind-whipped rain.  Roaring and howling, like two wild animals at each other's throats.  Then nothing but a muted rumbling.  Jonah realized in terror that he was now under water, although in the muffled turbulence it was hard to tell exactly where under started and over left off.  A searing flash revealed the sky to be somewhere below his feet, and he instinctively inverted himself.  Breaking the surface brought the roaring and howling sounds back, now accompanied by a great clap of thunder.  He was heaved up on a rolling hill of water, but he could see little beyond the intense spray of brine that drove into his eyes like liquid nails.  There was a crash and a splash, and then suddenly he was flung bodily against something solid and the dark world went completely black.

*   *   *   *   *

   Moaning.  Not his.  He groaned, but the sound was swept away by a jealous wind.  Jonas opened his eyes again.  The air about him was white and angry, stampeding roughly over him like a herd of liquid ghosts.  It moaned resentfully at being driven from the sea, and he could hear not far off that it was trying to bring great waves along with it.  Jonah blinked, realizing that he was splayed in a nest of rocks.  He tried to sit up, but his hair was stuck to the rock beneath him.  He explored his aching head with a tentative hand and discovered that it was a crust of dried blood that held him in place.

   Slowly, painfully, and then all at once and even more painfully he was able to rip scab from stone and sit up.  He was bruised and battered, and the land beneath him seemed to reel as if it was itself being tossed upon the still violent sea.  He vaguely perceived flotsam on the land around him, and  here and there it bobbed on the waves offshore.  Even half-dazed as he was, it dawned on Jonah just how lucky he had been to be tossed up onto the land. 

   Slowly the world began to steady itself.  Although the splitting headache remained Jonah was able to tenderly drag himself to his feet.  He was on a rocky outcropping not far above the crashing waves, still violent in the heavy winds.  Behind him there was land, its full extent concealed by the blowing fog.  It was mostly clad in grasses, although here and there a twisted shrub defied the merciless winds.  He shouted out for help, but the wind snatched the words and smashed them upon the rocks up-slope.  Stumbling unsteadily, Jonah began to walk the shore looking for fellow survivors.

*   *   *   *   *

   There were five of them altogether, although four and a quarter might better describe their active roster after subtracting for injuries.  Viola, a slender woman with short hair and shorter temper, had made it to land entirely unscathed.  Xander, an older man with an eye that always stared askew, had like Jonah made it ashore with only minor bruises and gashes.  Cora, kind-faced but stocky like a rugby player, had broken her arm on the rocks.  Poor Roberto, who only recited prayers in Spanish to the crucifix clutched to his lips, was by far the worse for wear.  Both legs were broken, one with bone jutting alarmingly out from the skin, and he frequently coughed flecks of blood belying serious internal injuries.

   Their immediate plan was to patch themselves up and seek help and shelter from the violent weather.  Cora was trained in first aid, and with considerable ingenuity and one-armed dexterity was able to fashion bandages, slings, and splints from the bits of jetsam that could be found on the shore.  Jonah followed the shore one way, Viola the other, and Xander struck inland, with an agreement to turn back within three hours if they found nothing.  But within two hours Viola and Jonah had met up on the other side of what seemed to be an uninhabited island – virtually colliding as it happened, due to the tricks of the swirling fog.  They returned to find that Cora had built something she called a travois, basically a jury-rigged frame with rags tied in between as a way of moving Roberto somewhere more sheltered than the exposed shoreline.  She tied the last knot using her good arm and her teeth as they told her the sad news of their isolation.

   “Where is Xander then?” Cora sensibly asked.

   They decided that the blowing fog was probably disorientating in the hilly interior of the island and that he had gotten turned around, but as the island was only so big they were confident that he would find his way back eventually.  In the mean time they explored their near environs for a cave or at least a wind-break.  At last they found slight shelter beneath a low rocky ledge, which they were able to make somewhat wind-proof by piling smaller rocks along the open side, and then chinking the spaces between them with clods of grass and earth.  By then the air was darkening, although from approaching night or another storm they could not tell.  Jonah slowly lugged the severely injured Roberto up to the shelter using the travois while Cora and Violet followed, making arrows of stones as markers for Xavier.  A heavy rain returned just as they arrived back at the shelter, and there was still no sign of Xander, which was just as well for the shelter was barely large enough for the four of them squeezed together.  And thus they spent their first night shivering on the island.

*   *   *   *   *

   The next day dawned white and bleak, although at least the pelting rain had tapered to another driving mist.  Roberto had taken a turn for the worse over night, and could now only whisper his prayers between bouts of wheezing exhaustion.  The rest of the group met just outside the shelter where the wind would muffle their words.

   “He won't make it without serious medical help,” Cora stated flatly.

   “Maybe we can use driftwood to start a fire?” Viola asked, still shivering.

   “It'll take days to dry out that wood,” Jonah said.  “And there's no room for a fire in the shelter.”

   “It wouldn't do any good,” Cora frowned, shaking her head.  “I think his wounds are already infected.  He needs help.  We all need help.”

   They agreed to trek inland, all three of them, while Roberto slept.  They spread out just far enough that they could still see each other through the howling fog.  They shouted Xavier's name as they began to climb up the slopes of rock and grass.  As they climbed higher the air became whiter, as if they were penetrating deeper into the heart of an endless cloud.  They thus had to close ranks, until they were almost holding hands.  They could see nothing, and hear nothing, and were about to abandon their search when they stumbled upon an unnatural line of stones in the grass, running straight as a taught string.

   “Well, someone's been here, at least,” Viola shouted to be heard over the wind.

   They followed the line of stones over several hills before arriving atop what must have been the highest point on the island, for here the wind whipped at such speed that it nearly swept them from their feet.  They found shelter behind a massive mossy boulder which seemed to anchor not only the line of stones that they had been following, but also several others which radiated like spokes into the omnipresent fog.  But besides the bizarre rock patterns they found no other sign of a living soul.

*   *   *   *   *

   They followed another rock line along its entire length, discovering that it terminated just shy of the coast.  Perhaps at one point it reached right to the water, but large storm waves had dispersed the lowest stones.  By following the jagged coastline they were able to find their stone arrows from the previous day, and by following them they returned to their shelter beneath the rock ledge.  Upon arriving, however, they found it entirely deserted.

   “What the.... Where'd Roberto go?” Jonah asked.

   “Maybe he went out looking for us?” Viola shivered.

   “There's no way he moved himself, not in his condition,” Cora said, hugging the slender Viola with her good arm. 

   Jonah crouched to examine the shelter more closely.  “The travois is still where we left it,” he commented.  “Maybe he dragged himself down to the sea?  You know, put himself out of his misery?”

   “There'd be marks on the grass,” Cora said, shaking her head.  “It must have been Xander.”

   “Fuck Xander,” Viola cursed.  “Why wouldn't he stay here if he made it back?  Or at least leave a sign?”

   They scoured the surrounding landscape, but could see no sign left by either man.

   “Fuck Xander, and fuck Roberto too,” Viola spat, her whole body quaking.  “I'm fucking cold, and I'm fucking hungry.  What are we going to do to look after ourselves?”

   “There's nothing to eat here but grass and rock,” Jonah said, as apologetically as he could.  “I haven't even seen a bird since we arrived.”

   “What about seafood?” Cora wondered.  But that option was soon discounted due to the slipperiness and steepness of the sea rocks and the ferocity of the waves.  Neither Viola nor Jonah had seen anything resembling a sheltered cove or bay on their travels around the island.

   “How long can we last without food?” Viola asked miserably.

   “More than a month if we drink lots of water,” Cora recited.  “Of course, it depends on activity level, and temperature....”

   They spent the rest of the day gathering dead grasses and what little driftwood they could find that was pushed high enough onto the rocks to retrieve safely, and then rubbing their hands raw trying to ignite it by rubbing and grinding various combinations together in the relative dryness of their shelter.  By evening they were exhausted, hungry, and miserable.

*   *   *   *   *

   Midnight.  Or at least the middle of the night.  The winds howled on relentlessly, but the timbre seemed to have changed to suit the darkest hour.  Viola had woken, shivering as usual despite being sandwiched between Jonah and Cora for warmth.  She could not say what possessed her to leave the shelter, but soon she was on her feet outside, the wind playing roughly in her hair.  That's when she saw the dim light through the fog.  She shouted and waved her arms, forgetting in her excitement the deafening winds and near total darkness.  Recklessly she ran, tripping over rocks, reaching longingly for the light that always seemed to be two hundred paces further on.  Finally she caught up to it, on the highest height just above the mossy boulder where it seemed to hover, unsupported, in the air.

   Mesmerized by the enchantment, she attempted to find a handhold to climb the boulder, which was easily two stories tall.  But the moss came off in her hand, the rock below being too smooth to give much grip for animal nor vegetable.  That's when she heard the voice.

   “Hello?” she asked, peering around into the gloom.  “Is anyone there?”  The half-light emanating from above the boulder played tricks with the her eyes, for the windy night-time fog seemed to churn with a supernatural energy, like the gassy storms of Jupiter.  Some of the eddies even wound back up-wind, as if she were in the eye of some grasping, sinister vortex.

   “Viola!” came the voice again, rasping, struggling.  She turned and was suddenly face to face with Xander, but his eyes were black like the inky depths of the raging sea.  Still, he seemed to stare directly into her soul, and wherever the rays of his stare landed seemed to turn to frost.  Viola tried to scream, but the vortex seemed to have sucked the air right out of her lungs.  She tried to recoil from the  ghostly face, but Xander had grabbed her arm and now pulled her even closer so that he could whisper in her ear.  “Hungry,” was all he said.  And then suddenly there was air in her lungs again and she shrieked in terror.

*    *   *   *   *

   Viola kicked and screamed and writhed, trying to escape.  And then she was slapped across the face, and the world was lit by the half-light of dawn.  She was in the shelter, and it was Jonah that was holding her by her arms, and Cora whose hand now caressed her face instead of slapping it.  Viola looked around the tight confines of the shelter, half expecting ghosts and ghouls to come seeping out of the chinks in the wall.

   “You just had a nightmare,” Jonah soothed, gently releasing her.

   “She's soaked through,” Cora said, indicating Viola's sopping clothing.  Viola's breath caught again, as if the vortex had returned, and her face drained entirely of colour.  Cora's forehead creased with concern, but followed Viola's stare.  Her legs below the knees were not just wet, but covered in mud and matted grass, as if she had been tramping about the island for half the night.

*   *   *   *   *

   “I know what I saw,” Viola cried, trying to keep the shrill panic out of her voice.  Her hands were shaking, although now not from shivering.

   “You were right between us the whole night,” Cora repeated.  They had returned to rubbing bits of driftwood together, although even if they succeeded in lighting a spark they had barely enough dry wood to burn for a couple of hours.

   “What about the mud?!?” Viola gestured at her tattered pants, although the upper reaches had by now caked to dirt.

   “We all have dirt on our legs from walking around the island in the rain yesterday,” Cora said, waving at her own legs.  “You just had night-sweats that got it wet again.”

    “What about the Xander, hmmm?  What about Roberto?  What about the rock lines, and how does a boulder get to the highest hill of an ocean island?” Viola asked.  “Something is seriously fucked up here!”

   “I'm sure there is a perfectly rational explanation for all of it,” Cora said with a tone of finality.  “Listen....  You are stressed.  Your body is cold and hungry, and you are dealing with the trauma of losing people.  The mind starts to hallucinate in these conditions.  It sees things that seem real, but are just the result of physiological stressors.  Try to keep an open mind and just relax.”

   “What?!” Viola spat.  “You think I'm stressing over losing Xander?!?  I barely knew that old guy, and his wandering eye really creeped me out.  Tell me this, Rational Explanation Lady: what was the name of the ship we were on?”

   Cora glanced at Jonah, who was frowning.  “I... bumped my head,” he murmured, tenderly poking at the bandages Cora had wrapped around his head.

   “We've been through a lot of trauma,” Cora spoke up, trying noticeably to keep her tone calm.  “It's not abnormal for the mind to mis-remember moments of extreme stress.  We're all probably suffering from PTSD.”

   “Admit it, you don't know!” Viola shouted.  “None of us do.  And what ever happened to the ship, anyway?  Who was the captain?  Who were some of our crew-mates that never made it ashore?  Why do none of us have a cell-phone?  Why does this storm never seem to end?  How come whenever any of us are left alone they seem to disappear?”  Her last line of thought seemed to linger in the air like the light she had described from her dream.

   “You're hysterical,” Cora said, shaking her head.  “You are asking me to believe in witchcraft and horror stories and disjointed dreams instead of the sensible logic that has explained everything in my entire life.  Did you and Jonah not walk off alone and meet on the far side of the island?  Make her see sense, Jonah!”

   But Jonah was lost in thought, trying to remember the details of the shipwreck two nights before.  They sat in silence for a long while before finally Viola spoke, her tone cold and calculating.

   “So you would believe in something that was proven scientifically, yes?”

   Cora eyed her skeptically, but nodded.

   “How about a little experiment, then?  Jonah and I will go explore the boulder together in the daylight, while you wait here.  Right here.  Without leaving the shelter.  And if you are here when we get back, I'll admit that I am crazy.”

   Cora merely shrugged her indifference.  “And if I'm not here when you get back, then you can eat my dinner.”  Unfortunately her two friends were too hungry to laugh at the joke.

*   *   *   *   *

   Midday, judging by the brightness of the blowing mists.  Cora had already been out and about a few times, despite her bet with Viola.  She hated being cooped-up with nothing to do, and thought she'd try her hand at scooping sea creatures or at least seaweed with a net and pole she had adapted from the travois.  All she caught were tiny bits of plastic, the origin of which she could not ascertain.  And still Viola and Jonah had not returned.  Really, what could take so long in examining a bunch of rocks?

   Cora resisted the urge to follow them up the slope.  No, she would not give Viola the satisfaction.  Let her take as much time as she needed to see the nonsense of believing in boogeymen in the dark.  Instead she turned her mind to food.  Surely there must be something edible on the island?  She knew that grass was indigestible for humans, but perhaps she could dig up roots that would be more tender?  The thought of digging made her consider all the other things that lived in typical soil: worms, grubs, and all sorts of insects.  She wondered if an isolated island might have such animals, and decided it would be well worth her while to search.  Lacking anything that resembled a shovel, she began to turn the larger stones in the vicinity to see if there was anything living in the soil underneath.

   Alas, the roots she found were bitter and stringy, and she never found so much as an ant.  And that's when she saw Jonah wander past, a dazed look in his eyes.  “Where is Viola?” she called out, but he ignored her question entirely.  Confused and just a little worried, she stood to follow him down the slope.  “What has happened?” she continued.  “Jonah?!?”  To her horror, Jonah reached the rocks adjacent to the frothy sea and kept on walking.  In an instant he had disappeared beneath the violent waves, never to be seen again.

*   *   *   *   *
   
   Late afternoon.  Cora had managed to sharpen the end of her net-stick into a point by grinding it repetitively against a rock.  Now, spear held ready in her good arm, she began to ascend the mist-shrouded hill, determined to discover what had become of her fellow survivors.  She was certain that the answer lay at the great mossy boulder at the centre of the island and soon came upon a line of stones to follow inland towards it.  As before the mists seemed to gather more thickly the higher she climbed, until it was hard to see more than a few steps ahead.  It was thus all of a sudden that the boulder loomed out of nowhere to tower menacingly above her in the swirling brume.

   And there it was, a giant boulder, all loom and no bite.  Slightly disappointed, Cora walked the perimeter around it, scouring the ground for any clue, any sign of what might have happened.  She walked the perimeter twice and then three times, each time successively more disappointed in the absence of any resolution to the mystery of the misty island.  Eventually she stopped pacing, and allowed herself to wonder what on Earth she was going to do now.  Continue her search for food, she supposed.  True survivors had a strong survival instinct, after all.  Idly she poked at the moss on the boulder with her spear, wondering how it might taste, marvelling at how easily it peeled from the surface.  In fact, the boulder itself seemed much too smooth to be made of rock.  Furrowing her brow, Cora peeled more and more moss from what seemed to be a metallic surface.

   And then, horrified, she stepped back, for there sculpted in metal was the effigy of a human face, eye sockets vacant, expression frozen in a look of pure terror.  Or perhaps not so very frozen, for it seemed to contort slowly, mouthing unheard words.  Cora stared in shock at her discovery, mind churning through possible explanations.  Was it magic or advanced technology?  Was the boulder a magical prison, or a spaceship, or some sort of creature itself?  She watched in disbelief as the spear traced further through the moss, revealing more and more human forms, sculpted like some ancient frieze except that they moved and writhed in a macabre slow-motion dance.  More and more moss fell to the ground and then there she was, a sculpture of Viola, eye sockets empty, face contorted as if bracing for a killing blow.

   “So there you are,” Cora said, half-expecting Viola to speak back to her as she had related in her dream.

   “I told you,” the likeness of Viola rasped back.

   But of course it all made sense now to Cora.  It didn't matter what exactly the boulder was.  What mattered was that it was stranded on this island now, shipwrecked just as she was.  And there was only one imperative for survivors of a shipwreck.

   “I know, I know,” Cora said patiently, hefting her spear higher as her own survival instincts began to take over.  “It is hungry.”
   

EjectedStar

  • I'm Bobbin Threadbare, are you my mother?
Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #17 on: 03 Aug 2021, 15:53 »
Ahoy, I see you louse-infested rabble rousers have pulled yourselves from the rocks and are ready to vote! Mind getting any seawater on the tallies, since these are made from the remaining pages of the books we managed to save from the wreck and they're in short supply!

Here are our lovely entrants in reverse order of posting:

Baron - The Survival Imperative

Sinitrena - Wavedancer

Mandle - ROSE IS LOVE


Yada yada yada, you forced landlubbers know the drill, and if ye don't, spread 10 votes around to the entrants, all are welcome to vote.

Drop yer votes off here in the mayor's shack, and keep yer mitts off me shells!

Now, someone bring me some grog, and none of that diet stuff, it does a doozy on me digestives!

Voting ends at sundown, Friday, August 6th.

EjectedStar

  • I'm Bobbin Threadbare, are you my mother?
Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition - Shipwrecked!
« Reply #18 on: 03 Aug 2021, 17:13 »
Mandle

Spoiler: ShowHide
I loved this. I was quite drawn into Holdington and Kenneth’s descent into the game world, from simple beginnings of just moving hunks of plastic around, to ‘real’ characters living their life. The quick shock of Kenneth either realizing the futility of his little world, or his bending of the rules causing that futility leading to his return to the mooring rope was great. 

I give this entry three hearty coconuts, ready for cracking.


Sinitrena

Spoiler: ShowHide
This was beautiful. I really enjoyed the imagery and descriptions throughout. The way you described the mermaids was awesome, lithe and beautiful, but dangerous and weirdly alien. I really enjoyed the revealing of information of the narrator, from hapless rube, to conniving mastermind. The world felt quite deep, enough information to show thought out backstory and worldbuilding, but not enough to be confusing or info-overload. 

I give this entry three pearlescent shells, gently floating in the surf.


Baron

Spoiler: ShowHide
The characters in this were great, even though we only knew them for a short time, their personalities shone through and I could easily pick out who was who in only a few paragraphs. Definitely something that isn’t easy to do. The island and foreboding was a fun read, the further you sank into the story, the clearer it became that it was no mere island. Purgatory? Some kind of hell? Or maybe some kind of alien object damning these wayward souls to a horrific end. 

I give this entry three colorful hermit crabs, each eyeing the other two with suspicious intent.
« Last Edit: 03 Aug 2021, 17:19 by EjectedStar »

Sinitrena

  • Mittens Serf
  • Wheel of Fate
    • I can help with translating
    • Sinitrena worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Sinitrena worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Oh, this is difficult, two entries that are nearly equal in quality, and yet so different, though both rather bleak. It's interessting that their set-up, though both dealing with a shipwreak (obviously) could not be more different: Mandle's story had the protagonist have just about everything he needs, while Baron's castaways have absolutely nothing. Mandle's Kenneth knows exactly what happened, while Baron's group has nearly no memories. Mandle's takes place over a fairly long time, Baron's is just a few days.

Mandle: Why the spoiler tags? I didn't notice anything particularly ofensive, brutal, sexual, etc that would make them necessary, or a twist that could easily spoil the story. Yes, there's a bit of a twist, but the story works just as well if you already know it.
Anyways, I think you use the setup of the shipwreak very well to tell your story, though I don't think it's necessary. Having only the part of someone meticulously following the rules of the game
Spoiler: ShowHide
and the game than loosing all meaning when he sheds the rules
could work in any other setting as well, it might even be a stronger messege without the already dire situation Kenneth is in. I noticed a whole lot of backstory for Kenneth, explanations why he is alone, why he is rich, etc, that seems hardly important to the story you set out to tell, which makes the beginning a bit slow and leaves some of the focus off the game, which is arguably far more important and could use some more details, so that we better feel with Kenneth, so that we actually feel with the people in his story. I can't exactly explain why, but despite all the things we know about Kenneth, I never felt really close to him. The ending was - I can't say predictable, I don't think it is. But I did know where it was going pretty quickly, so it wasn't exactly surprising either. Overall, I like the concept of this story very much and think it works well.

Baron: I was very much reminded of Lost - the mysterious island, even more mysterious fog, people who seem to carry secrets, in general strange going-ons. Unfortunately, I was also reminded of the worse parts of Lost: answers only leading to more questions, answers that make little sense in the context of the story, questions that are never answered, unsatisfying ending. Well, your story is not as bad as Lost in these regards, but there are hints of these problems. First of all, like EjectedStar, I like your characters and find them distinguashable, despite knowing very little about them. While I did not feel close to Mandle's Kenneth despite all I learned about him , I felt fairly close to the three main characters of yours (Viola, Cora and Jonah) despite knowing little about them. I think the story would have worked better for me if you had stayed with one point-of-view-character, though. Jumping around the characters made me feel like you deliberately decided to skip over the parts of their lives that would have revealed more of the mystery. The mystery itself is... illogiacal. if the
Spoiler: ShowHide
stone is hungry
why would it send Jonah into the sea? Too many questions remain unanswered, for example why they all ended up there and why they cannot remember where they came from. Interesting enough, I just started to wonder what ship they actually were on and if they knew each other before the wreck, when the characters decided to discuss these questions in the story, so good timing on that one. The descriptions are great, as always, and the atmosphere is pretty strong, but in the end the story leaves me rather empty, unfulfilled (or, let's call it "hungry"  ;)).

While I like both stories, I give Mandle a slight edge here.

EjectedStar: Your story is out of the contest, but I'll still comment on it: It was certainly the most fun of the three and the one with the most unexpected course. Reading until about the last third, I wondered if the title had actually anything to do with the story or was more of a placeholder. It's interesting where inspiration can come from, isn't it? But to reveal WHAM's name like that, how dare you?  8-0  ;) On a more serious note, I enjoyed the description of the accident and wreckage. While Baron and Mandle only showed the aftermath (and I cheated), yours showed the whole chaos of the event. I found the second part of the story, after the accident, less interesting and also less descriptive and less detailed, as if you spend a lot more time crafting the first and than just wanted to come to an end. If this story were in the contest, it would be the third place after both Mandle and Baron, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. As a matter of fact, it would be a close third place.

So, well done to all three of you.

Going to send in my official votes now.