Part the Two Hundred Fourth: Storm Tossed
Hope didn’t remember falling asleep, or waking up.
Or when night turned into a dark day.
Or when the storm broke.
The rain that pelted her face brought her wandering mind back to her body. For a few moments, the shock of striking drops transfixed her, and she stared up into the darkened skies. She watched as the drops got bigger, taking in every detail of the ones that grew as they went straight into her eyes.
Without thinking, she opened her mouth to try and catch the fresh water. At first, there was barely enough in what her open mouth caught to coat the back of her throat, but when the skies opened violently, she had to turn her head to spill out the overage, to keep from choking.
It had been so long since her last drink, she thought in passing, that it seemed funny her end might come from drowning.
Now sated, Hope paid more attention to her pitch. She felt her head and shoulders rise with each swell, each new pitch showing her more of the sea over her feet.
She turned to put the flotsam under her belly and grabbed it tight as the waves got more violent. At first she held on, trying just to stay above the waves, keeping her head above water.
As she felt the motion buffet her float, she hugged it with one arm as she used the other to align herself with the direction of the waves. Once she was lying a-hull, the pitch became more tolerable, one of the few improvements she could affect for herself beyond the rain and wind.
Hope saw, felt she had no better options than to start paddling with the waves, using them to move her forward. The rain was lashing her backside like the cat-o-nine-tails applied while kissing the gunner’s daughter, and the occasional blown splash of water in her nose and mouth tasted like the salt used to dry pack cod at sea; both sensations required any action other than waiting to die.
And, she hoped, doing something would banish images of her being scoured in shame, then filleted for eating…
She fought for a new image, of being on the deck of the Gale with a ramrod, keeping time while the crew lowered the boom to reef. Stroking in time with the ramrod in her mind, she got a rhythm going to move her on.
Hope focused on the strokes, keeping the pace, trying to keep the flotsam with the current. Forward, ever forward, moving ahead-
She stopped when she saw something in the distance. A break in the sky? A large wave? A sail? Whatever it was, it was a patch of white that stood out in the grey drizzling skies before her.
She stroked harder, double time, working her float as hard as she could. The waves became rougher as she bore ahead, moving as quickly as she could towards it. It was no longer enough to keep moving to keep from dying; now there was something to move towards.
Very quickly, Hope realized, as it came up so suddenly that she banged her hea-
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