The wind howled down upon their craft as Jim fought to keep the steering on the correct path. The storm had come upon them in a hurry, pushing them off course and pulling them deeper into the churning waves, which crashed upon the Patricia with hammering blows. God was truly showing his vengeance at Jim and his friends at this moment, but like always Jim saw it merely as an obstacle to overcome.
“Marty,” Jim yelled over the screeching gale. “Strap down the sail and hold her steady, bring it in quickly so we don’t lose her!”
“Yeah!” Marty yelled back, the thick man lumbering out of the cabin to aid Kelly and Scott in their attempts to pull back the sail so as not to lose it to the storm.
Scott was a teenager, merely seventeen years old and whip thin, his lightly muscled body toned from years running in track and field. This was a trip where he was supposed to learn how to become a true man, just like his brother Kelly had gone through when he was on the verge of his eighteenth birthday. They were sailing to the Aleutian Islands, where Scott’s father owned a cabin where he went trapping, hunting, and fishing. The island was thick with Caribou, Deer, foxes and some of the largest bears one could imagine.
That was why Marty and Jim brought several guns for each of them, rifles and pistols that they could carry in the wilderness for self-defense from animals and, namely, people. Jim had encountered less than friendly folk stalking the woods on the islands, The Aleut in particular weren’t kind when they encountered White men alone in the woods, often making them “disappear” if given the chance.
At least according to the stories Jim and Marty told Scott. Scott didn’t know whether or not to believe them, but Jim rarely lied about things that pertained to survival in remote locations in the wilderness of Alaska. He’d trained Scott in how to track and travel animal trails to find rabbits, foxes, and deer. Kelly had never taken to tracking, instead learning how to shoot like his father, becoming a true marksman with the old rifles his dad preferred. Kelly could tag a buck from a hundred yards without a scope, dropping it with a single shot.
Jim could do so with his .45 Magnum.
The Pensées were a family that were not to be trifled with, and were all accustomed to life in the wilderness. Marty was like an uncle to Scotty and Kelly; Half-Algonquin, he often served as a guide for rich men wanting to hunt in his woods. He’d help them set up traps for their preferred game and would allow them to bag the elusive animals they sought. For a price he’d even skin the animal, tanning it’s hide and curing furs for his employers trophy collection. Thanks to Jim and Marty, Kelly and Scott were men amongst men, true pioneers in the wilds of Alaska.
Almost, in Scott’s case.
Scott pulled on the line to bring the sail in while Kelly fought against the spray of the ocean to tie the sails down. They didn’t want them getting torn in the sudden storm that had swept over them. A sudden wave slammed into the boat, causing it to rock back and forth, salt water spilling over the deck, coating the boys in frigid waters that were only made colder by the bone-chilling winds buffeting them, pelting them with tiny bits of hail, sharp as nails against the boys what little exposed skin the boys showed.
Marty came up behind Scott, gripping the rope over the boy and tugging it hard, pulling the sail back and moving it flush to the mast. Scott scowled, his pride hurt by the fact he had been struggling with the task that Marty made seem easy.
No, Scott told himself, staring at the behemoth man as he tied down the line. Marty’s been sailing up and down the coast since before I was born. Of course he could do it better than me.
Kelly finished with the rigging and ran up to Scotty, shouting in his ear. “Head below deck! I need to check with Dad and see if he needs us for anything else, but Marty is handling everything now!”
“I can still help!” Scott shouted back shivering as the wind picked up, a small wave tipping the boat to the side, causing the two teens to slide into the railing of the starboard side of the boat.
“No, you can’t. You and I will just get in Marty’s way!” Kelly said, pointing to where Marty, long coat flapping behind him, tied down the barrels of salted fish they’d already caught and planned to trade once they reached Dutch Harbor. Jim had said the five barrels they filled would be enough for them to fully kit up for their hunting trip.
Scowling, Scott fought against the wind, heading towards the lower deck while trying not to slide along the slickened wood in the process. Marty was re-doing a knot Kelly had done, tying down the sails tighter so they wouldn’t flap while bunched up. The weather report had said that there were to be blue skies for the coast, with no mention of any storms brewing in the already choppy waters.
Scott finally walked down into the narrow hall below deck, half thrown done there by the wind. He adjusted his yellow-slicker, dripping patches of ice and water everywhere. He slid it off and shook it three times to ride it of any lingering ice before hanging it up in a small closet. Heading towards the bow of the ship, Scott grabbed the coffee pot from the burner and poured himself a steaming cup before taking a tentative sip.
Bold, bitter, with the flavor of overly cooked leather; just how Dad likes it, Scott thought as he lowered his mug. Looking around the galley for a moment he took a seat, his back to the bow of the ship. The constant churning of the boat rising and falling on the thrashing sea was something that would have normally made Scott seasick, but not today for some reason.
He was feeling fine, if not a tad cold from his wet jacket and sweater. The slicker had provided only so much protection from the storm and the waves… it was a wonder his feet weren’t frozen!
Kelly stumbled into the galley looking like he’d been raked over the coals.
“Dad’s angry,” he said as he poured himself a cup, glugging down the scalding coffee in one long swig before refilling the mug. “Looks like we’re off course…”
“By how far?” Scott asked, leaning on the table with his elbows.
Kelly shook his head before sliding into the bench seat opposite Scott. “Who can say? This tub is as old as Dad is. He may have added some fancy devices to it over the years, but it’s still only got one kind of compass, and the motherfucker is spinning in circles.”
“What?” Scott exclaimed, setting his mug down.
Kelly made a cross symbol over his heart. “Saw it with my own eyes,” he said as he took a long sip of his drink. “Dad was whacking at it with a wrench last I saw, cursing worse than any sailor I’ve ever met.”
Scott groaned. Dad being upset was never a good thing, as he was somewhat abusive in nature. Now that his kids were old enough to get into fights, he’d bully them and test them, make them stand up for themselves until he could get a few good whacks in. Marty would normally intervene and try to calm Jim down, but even he wouldn’t stop him if Jim was on a rampage. The fact that he had a .45 Magnum strapped to his chest was a probably indication as to why.
As both boys sat in the galley in tense silence, they could hear Marty’s bellows over the howl of the storm. The words were unintelligible but his tone was that of worry and confusion. The shouts in reply were higher in pitch, their father likely ordering Marty to do something in regards to the fishing nets or the anchor. He’d always told the boys to strap everything down in case of a sudden storm, and today they’d failed to do so.
Scott stared into his coffee with a distant look, thoughts drifting to the rocking of the boat. His eyes drifted up to look past Kelly into the hall leading up to the deck, where water was splashing down in great blasts. Marty’s hat, an old straw thing with a wide brim that he only wore when he came out fishing. It came down with the surge of water, floating down the hall until it came to a stop maybe six feet from the galley.
Kelly turned at the splashing noise, making a choking noise at seeing the hat. “Marty!” Kelly cried, getting up from the bench and running towards the stairs while Scott just sat there and stared at the hat. The leather thong that kept it around his head or neck was broken, as if it’d been pulled forcefully from the giant Algonquin. Scott stood up, his body moving on its own as he ran above deck, just in time to see the fifty foot wave rushing at the boat. Kelly was trying to hoist up Marty, slinging one massive arm over his shoulder to hold him up. The sails had come loose and were whipping in the wind, torn asunder by the sheets of sleet raining down on the tiny vessel.
Scott looked over at his father, who had walked out of the cabin and was staring at the wave as well. He moved first, grabbing orange life vests from the side of the boat and shoving them into Scott’s freezing hands.
“Put this on,” he ordered, the command falling on hollow ears. Scott watched as Kelly and Marty slowly put on the vests, time seemingly slowing of its own accord. Jim was pulling several life preservers from the railings, passing them out as the wave grew ever closer. Scott slowly pulled on the life vest, buckling it and pulling the ties together to make certain the buoyant material would provide him the protection he needed when the wave tossed the boat. Jim slammed a life preserver into Scott’s hands and shouted something, but Scott couldn’t hear it over the raging storm around him, the beating of his heart thumping in his ears.
“What?” Scott yelled at Jim, earning a pained look.
He never got to answer as the swell of the wave caused the boat to lift up, throwing everyone to their feet as they rode the wave. The curved ceiling of icy water above them blocked the icy rain partially. Slowly but surely the boat tipped sideways before spinning, submerging into the frigid waters with a crash that was deafening.
The sudden shock of the cold water knocked the air from Scott’s lungs, causing him to cough and gurgle beneath the churning waves, slowly drifting up thanks to the life preserver that Jim had forced into his hands. He felt as if the surface would never come, his eyes stinging from the salt water and the cold, spots dancing before his eyes as he strained to hold his breathe.
Breaching the surface he gasped, coughing and scrambling to pull the life preserver over himself, forming a small circle of protection for the freezing boy. Looking around, he didn’t see anybody popping up alongside him, but as another wave grew beneath him from the churning waters, Scott found himself riding the crest of the wave, fighting to stay atop the curve and not to fall face-first into the gigantic wave.
The crackle of thunder and the flashes of lightning in the distance made Scott dimly aware of an island in the distance. Cursing as he fell over the tumultuous crest into the swell, he swam with numbed limbs to the surface, to where he could barely see the crags of the island off in the distance.
Putting years of swimming in the grotto during the summer to use, he began paddling through the chaotic waters, diving beneath waves which pulled him ever closer to his destination. The island was dominated by a large mountain surrounded by trees.
Hopefully Dad and Kelly make it there… Scott thought as he swam frantically through the bone-chilling waters.