Short Story Exercise Week #2

Yeah, this is way late in the day. That’s what I get for procrastinating. Hope you enjoy this though. Feel free to let me know what you think! (723 words)

The wind beats against the brittle wood. The walls of the boat groan in protest as they shudder. The storm let up hours ago, but the driving wind never did. Now it slices though the cracks in the stern, fights its way through my tattered blanket, and keeps my spine constantly chilled. I look around at the other men. Some are dead already. Some have a breath or two left in them. Then there’s me. I don’t know why I’m holding up better than the rest. I certainly don’t come from a cold place. But somehow it doesn’t hurt so bad. Each breath is a sharp stab of ice to my lungs, but that’s the worst it, and I can ignore it. At least I’m still breathing.

I lay my head back on my pillow, but as soon as I do the boat creaks loudly, as if to remind my of the cold pressing in. It was a fool’s errand. The whispers of gold were probably never more than that. But they were strong enough to bring me and the rest of this lot out to the ends of the earth, out to where the sun barely peaks above the horizon. The captain realized our mistake before the rest of us. As the days grew colder he grew more somber. One night he retired early to his chamber. When the first mate kicked his door down the following evening, the captain had long since expired. He was neatly laid out on his bed, a half-full bottle of poison in his hand. The others called him a coward, and maybe he was, but it didn’t matter. It was too late to turn back, and we all knew it. Someone pocketed the remaining poison. If he hasn’t used it by now, I’m sure he will soon.

A low sobbing reaches my ears, but I don’t look around for the source. I don’t want to see who it is, don’t want to share in the pain he feels. But it grows louder, and suddenly it’s too much. The ragged breaths and bursts of frozen air seem to close in on me. I huddle closer to the wall, slam my eyes shut and try to block it out, but I can’t. If I stay here any longer I swear I’ll go mad. I lurch to my feet and make my way to the stairs. I feel the frozen eyes of the remaining men on my back. They probably think I’m going to take my life, and maybe they’re right. I just know I can’t stay here any longer, surrounded by the dead and dying. The door is iced shut, but after a few stiff hits from my shoulder, it cracks open. The piercing wind cuts my breath away. I pull my coat up over my mouth and fight to refill my lungs. I walk slowly to the starboard side and look down at the wretched frozen sea. For miles and miles it glistens in the moonlight, beautiful and serene and sad. It should be roiling and flowing, but even the water is a prisoner here, and we’ll share the same grave.

I catch a hint of green out of the corner of my eye, and turn to see the most amazing sight I’ve ever beheld. The northern lights are blazing above me, green and blue and red. My breath has escaped me for the second time, but somehow I feel warmer. The wind still hammers mercilessly, so I lay down on the deck to escape the worst of it. I stare up and watch as the sky dances for me. The colors swirl and ebb and flow, delicate wisps of ethereal beauty. And suddenly I’m not cold at all. Just a little tired. I pull the coat down from my mouth. The air doesn’t sting so much anymore. I watch, entranced as the colors flow around the sky, the twinkling stars a backdrop for the magnificent display. To think I had to come to a desolate place like this in order to see something so amazing. I smile as the thought nestles softly in my mind. The green fingers stretch across the sky, reaching out to eternity, and I long to join them. I take one last long look, then let my eyes slowly slide shut.

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3 responses to “Short Story Exercise Week #2

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