Island of Ashes

by Ella Sherry

 

He swung from the high ropes of the ship’s three masts, shielding his face from the piercing rain. The dark sky thundered, sometimes being ignited by crackling bolts of lightning. Swarms of sailors skidded on the wet boards of the deck below, yelling over the sound of monstrous waves and the buckets of seawater that threatened to choke them. The water looked black, but caps of white surfaced each and every wave, moving in the direction of the wind. 

  “The main sail needs to be tightened!” the Captain called from the ship’s wood wheel, at the bow. 

   The young man gracefully lowered himself into the crow’s nest, and then took another damp rope in his hands, swinging and sliding down to the main boom, where he landed with practice. He took a rope in his hands, pulling it downwards with all the strength he could muster. 

  “Sir!” he called to the Captain. “The main sail is tightened!” 

  The Captain’s response was drowned out by a chilling scream of the wind. The ship suddenly went silent, all the sailors frozen with fear of the haunting sound. 

  “Peter,” the Captain called to the boy with uncertainty. “Get down from that boom.”

  With his eyes still on the water, the boy—Peter—slid down a rope, placing his feet lightly on the water-soaked deck. A nearby sailor handed him a slightly warm blanket, which he wrapped around himself, but his green eyes never left the sea. 

  He whispered to the sailor. 

  “Are the cannons armed?” 

  “We’ve only got twelve men down there. I fear they’ll need more than that to blast whatever we’re heading towards,” the sailor replied gruffly. 

  Peter shoved the blanket into the man’s hands, and made his way down to the hull. The inside of the large ship was dark, lit only by candles. Peter reached one of the many gunports along the broadside of the ship, whispering to people about what was going on outside. 

  After he had spoken to nearly everyone, he walked back up to the deck, and went over to the Captain. 

  “The sailors below need more men,” he spoke. 

  “We need more up here,” the Captain argued. “Tell each man to get a sword, or gun. I sense there’s something coming towards us that we’ll need to fight.” 

  Peter bowed his head, beginning to turn away, until the Captain suddenly grabbed his arm. 

  “Peter.” 

  The young man turned around, but froze when he saw what the Captain was staring at. 

  Mountains. Trees. Rivers. Land. Forests. Beaches. Sand. All dripping with water, and still rising from the dark sea. 

  “Sir, it...it’s grey,” Peter breathed. “The island...everything...it’s grey.” 

  “Get a sword, Peter. An island of ashes is never a place of heaven.”