“The Storm” by David Villani

It was a warm, sunlit October day, and I was calmly fishing for sardines on my boat, the Tempesta, as I had always done. I was laying out the nets, a tedious, painstaking task. All of a sudden, a bored croaking voice spit into my radio. I jumped at its abruptness, and angrily let go the line. I walked over, irritated at the timing.

“This is the Coast Guard, there is a large storm headed your way. Dock immediately. I repeat, dock immediately.”

This did not alarm me, as I very frequently got such messages. These so called “large storms” usually amounted to five minutes of rain and a few gusts of wind. I was not even contemplating going back. It was five o’clock, so if I was to go back to dock, my fishing for the day would be over. Worst come to worst, I would simply have to weather the storm. I returned to laying the lines, all while unconsciously humming a tuneless song.

After forty minutes of hard work, I sat down on a barrel and took out a cigarette. The sun was sinking into the sea, painting the entire sky a golden, orange hue. As I lit my cigarette, I gently rubbed my temples. I had throbbing headache and I was dead tired, but I was not feeling miserable. It had been a very profitable day, and I was thinking of going back to dock early. It would be an hour to shore, and I was extremely hungry, as I had forgotten to pack a supper. I inhaled sharply, releasing the smoke in small puffs. The calm sensation of a day well spent soothed my aching body, and I smiled in spite of myself. As the smoke filled the air around me, I coughed lazily. I resolved to head home after a few minutes, and I slowly got up. As I leisurely glanced up, a sight made my blood freeze.

A terrible wall of silent storm clouds was advancing menacingly towards the Tempesta at impossible speeds. I cursed loudly, and ran towards the helm. As I rushed over, I tripped on a rope. I rapidly scrambled to my feet, mumbling obscenities, and set the boat in motion. As the engine slowly sputtered to life, I looked at my compass and set my course to shore. If I didn’t reach the harbor in time, there would be hell to pay. I tragically thought of the coast guard’s warning, and my disregard for it. This storm was definitely not going to be five minutes of rain and a few gusts of wind, I thought with distress. I turned the boat east, and set it towards the coast at full speed. I looked back at the fast-approaching storm clouds and a part of me knew it was futile. My boat reached a maximum speed of twenty kilometers per hour, and that storm was easily going at sixty. I also noted that it was about two kilometers away. It was nearly futile. I had to try, however.

The grey storms enveloped the sky, and a cruel darkness descended on the previously bright sky. A cold sensation pervaded the air, and the mysterious, salty smell of the ocean filled my nose. The almost magic spirit of the tempest assaulted all my senses. It felt almost living, in a way. The storm was like an evil horse, tearing across the sea, craving death. My death. I ran away quickly, but not quickly enough. I was driving the boat with my back to the storm, but I could feel its ghastly cold hands clutch at me, not quite reaching me, but getting close. I silently prayed, begging the Virgin Mary for my life. I was scared. I was scared like I had never been scared before.

Suddenly, approaching in the distance, I spotted a light. I enthusiastically cried in joy. It was a lighthouse! I thanked the Virgin for sparing my life. I was saved! The light peacefully moved towards me, and in the process, it shone on a huge rock. My hands suddenly clamped together. I realized why the lighthouse was there. The lighthouse was there to warn sailors about the famous Sant’Angelo Reef. It surrounded the lining coast for miles in all directions. I was baffled, as I was about fifteen kilometers off of my destination. I had strayed north. Many sailors much better than me had died trying to navigate the reef. I was doomed. If I continued in that direction, my boat would be torn apart by the razor sharp boulders, and I would surely drown. I had to turn around, and turn around quickly, or my death would be even more certain.

As I spun the boat around, I cursed. I cursed God, I cursed Mary, and I cursed myself. The lighthouse had given me hope, but instead of salvation, it only offered more danger. What a cruel trick had God pulled on me. I gripped the helm so tight my knuckles turned white, and then cursed some more. The storm had practically reached me by now, and rain was already drenching me. I did not care. I wanted to live, obviously, but my chances were slim. I had nowhere to go.  I had a reef of murderous rocks on one side, and a vicious tempest on another. I had to go towards the storm, or the wild winds would smash me against the rocks.

The waters were filled with great waves, and I was in constant fear of being capsized. Suddenly, a lightning bolt struck my mast, destroying it in a burst of wood. I was shocked by the abruptness, and an awed curse slipped my lips. All around me, waves were pounding my boat like hammers, and heavy rain was falling down from the heavens like fiery meteors. The sky was pitch black, with angry clouds blocking out the dying sun. My boat was floating helplessly, its mast shattered into a thousands shards. I was at the wheel, holding on desperately for my life, in fear of a wave that would tear me off into the sea. The dark green ocean was zealously trying to snatch me of my boat and to drag me to its mysterious depths.

I looked all around me. Shattered glass and wood was surrounding me. My boat was in a miserable shape. The rudder has snapped off. Huge, looming waves crashed over the bow and hit my face with furious passion. The salty taste of the sea filled my mouth. The storm showed no signs of calming, and only increased in power. My mind was leaping from thought to thought, like a monkey in a tree. I could not focus on anything. The boat was being tossed around on the water like a rag doll. The raging, implacable force of nature was throwing itself against me with full force, and I was helpless before it.

I returned to the matter at hand. Now was not the time to have existential crises. I gripped the helm harder, and looked ahead. All too close, I saw a huge wave, searing towards me. It was three stories high, and it stretched out as far as I could see. It had a teal tinge. The sailor inside of me was scrambling to save myself, frantically grasping at the helm and sending power to the engine. It was absolutely futile. The wave was simply too strong. As the boat glided over the sea towards my boat, I gave up. I simply closed my eyes as the wave exploded around my boat with a thundering roar. And suddenly, there was no more.

 

 

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