I have been checking in on the blog for author Chuck Wendig for some time now. I have enjoyed his articles and rants, and I’m sure his books are fine too.
Every now and again a flash fiction challenge appears, with creative subjects to delve into. I rarely do this, but I felt obligated to try a recent challenge after discovering a website called The Idiomatic through Mr Wendig’s blog, where random idioms are spliced together.
The task; to write a story that features one of the many Frankenstein’s monsters of idioms that appear from the Idiomatic’s churning belly.
My first visit had this jumble of words staring back at me: “A drowning man is an island”. I adopted it with drying arms which inspired the less-than-thousand-word story below.
My father pointed to the sea. Start a life out there, he told me, but I was reluctant. I wanted more.
But the ocean was slick; it lured me from land onto the sea, like a backwards siren. Like a hissing serpent asking me to take a bite. I did, and it was a salty one, and before I knew it I was drawn from land onto a mighty vessel that pierced the waves. With promise of riches, women and power, I trusted my gut.
I could be a sailor, my father said.
I wanted to be more.
I started to miss how coy the land was; how familiar and small it was, and how the word “lost” differed from back home to here. And there was the noise, the crashing, creaking, tumbling roar that pierced my head. I would pine nightly for the silent breeze of a summer morn, but ever deeper we sailed though.
That was me but ten years ago. The ocean is now the coy one, and my captain is no more. I had endured a carnage fuelled by forces and elements to which no god could conjure. The beast from the ocean was the ocean itself, and it devours any man that dares ride on its back. But now…
I am the captain!
I am the master!
And the sea knows it! At night I can hear the sea crying to me, offering surrender to my cold reign. But I laugh, and I sail on, scarring the ocean’s bare skin with every inch I sail over it. I cut it deep. I watch it bleed it’s salty blue blood. I hear it hiss, and I savour every second, for soon it would let me stare into its very mind and witness every wave before it could ripple. I can become one with the ocean.
But something stirred in the abyss. I woke to a sound I had not heard in an age.
The sea purred as a pastel dawn oozed through the dark horizon. The air was dead and hanging. The familiar hiss and crash of the blue beast below was absent, and as I crept from my cabin onto the deck the silence continued. Where is my challenge today, I pondered.
I waited for the sea to play its move, to initiate today’s skirmish as it always had. The morning sun became a piercing midday flame, roasting my skin as I stared into the turquoise waters below.
I couldn’t get past the surface. I only saw myself. I was old, puny and weak. I stared back.
No, that couldn’t be me. That’s not me!
I pulled me eyes from the sea, dragging myself backwards and off my feet onto the warm deck of the ship. I crawled backwards, scuttling away from the gaze of the ocean. My heart beat to a rhythm that I hadn’t felt in years… My breaths were short and empty.
No, this is a ruse. This is the ocean’s doing! It is tricking me!
“You cannot fool me! I am the captain!”
I pulled myself up and marched to the edge of the ship.
“I am the master!”
But the beast was staring back from beneath it’s still, blue skin. Was it smiling? No longer was it hissing or begging, but it was proud and glowing.
My head fell into my neck, my heart into my stomach, and then my balance as I fell forward. I felt breeze for the first time today as I saw the deck disappear and portholes pass as I tumbled towards the great blue.
I caught my reflection one last time. It was old, weak me again, getting closer and closer.
I was no longer the master of my fate; it is now the ocean’s place to decide what to do, where to take me and when to end me. But as I hit the fluid skin of the great blue beast I remembered; something my father used to tell me of lost souls at sea… a drowning man is an island.
I watched my world fade away, as the sun, my ship, and the sky became ever more bluer than usual. My eyes dimmed. The sea called.
No father, I wanted to be more.