I wrote a Christmas story! It may be a bit bleak, but hey, that’s how Christmas is sometimes. I wrote it in a fury over the last few hours. The moment the story came to me, it poured out. It feels good to have that release happen all at once. I often have a hard time coming back to a story when I stop in the middle, so this was relieving.
I am adrift on this ocean. All alone. I stare out onto the endless, turbulent sea and realize just how insignificant I am. How quickly the waves can swallow me up and drag me down into the unending darkness. I feel like weeping and offering what little moisture I have left back to the sea, but I hold on, hold fast.
The ocean seems as though it is consuming the daylight. The horizon that was once a bright and brilliant blue sitting upon an ever-changing maw of cobalt has transformed into varying shades of purple, orange, and black. I suppose even the daylight is as battered by the fierce teeth of its devourer as I.
I cling to the edge of this small ship in hopes that it will one day carry me home. This wood has seen many years and traveled many leagues, yet I believe it may still have many more to go once I am gone; either as a saved man upon dry land or as a specter haunting its bow for all eternity. The ship is indifferent to my plight yet will help me along nonetheless. The sails vanished in the night and the mast is half the length it once was.
The ship’s wheel allows for small course corrections, yet this is only when the immense waves have met with the still seas and melded into a calm push. Most often, the waves are doing their best to drown me or throw me off of my ship, so the wheel acts as a life preserver to cling to. The waves jostle me port and starboard; still I hold firm to my wheel, though my confidence is shaken.
Though the ocean assails me physically, it is the mental games it plays that destroy my faith the most. The onslaught of sound from the swirling madness below pounds into my ears at all times and threatens to take away every inch of my sanity. I pretend not to hear it, pretend to carry on in spite of it, but still the noise reaches into me, finds my basest emotions, and presses upon them, threatening to squeeze them out of me until I explode in a ball of rage, screaming back at the unforgiving cacophony.
The maddening eternity I’ve spent peering into the ocean has left me bitter and scarred as well. There are faces in the water. Aye, I see them well. Cold, lifeless faces that shift from moment to moment. They stare into the sky and watch the ocean around them with conflicting emotions. Benign one moment, sorrowful the next. If I stare for too long their faces contort into fierce, demonic shades of humanity. The monsters hiding beneath the waves clearly do not like to be seen by my eyes, but I stare back at them in defiance of their very nature, saying nothing. Once in a while they will be brave enough to peer into my soul and in those moments I wonder whether I am the one spying upon their world from my ocean of air! Perhaps I am the fool for breathing in the air. Perhaps it would be best to drown and join those sad, repentant souls.
But still, I carry on. I carry on in remembrance of those who were once with me upon this ship. In remembrance of those who have left me here alone and who may one day return to me again as angels or messengers from on high. As I stare past the cold, harsh ocean there are times I believe I see other ships on the horizon. Sometimes they are simply mirages crafted by the demon-sea, yet sometimes I believe they are real. Sometimes it seems as though there may be other ships passing by, heading along their courses with nothing more than a glance in my direction. Their concerns are much larger than a small vessel stranded alone, so they continue along their paths, forgiving themselves for their damnation of me through non-action. Curse them! May the ocean’s salty depths rise up and fill their throats! I hate them for leaving me stranded and I hope no one takes pity upon them when they reach the same fate as I!
Yet there was one time, one brief, shining moment where I thought I had found salvation. Lydia. Her name is Lydia. Just the very mention of her name helps bring this incessant purgatory into clear focus and make it seem as though it were a joyful day at sea! Lydia guides me through the turmoil and gives me cause to find home.
The moment of salvation came many hours ago. I looked out onto the horizon and saw her ship! She sailed in close, close enough to speak with me, and asked how I fared. I mustered enough bravado to tell her these waves were nothing compared to what I have sailed in the past! I dared not tell her the truth, for what would she think of me then? I could not bear to see her frown at me for being a coward or seeming too weak to soldier on. She told me that she has seen fair weather as well and that soon it would all end for us both. I agreed, although I had to look away in that instant as her gaze met mine with a warmth that was almost too much to bear while handling the turbulent waves.
I told her to hold tight as I crested the next wave. I faced it with more spirit than I had shown in weeks! The ship coasted directly over the crest and sailed down the other side with ease. But when I looked for Lydia, she was gone, as was her ship. It was as if she had never been there at all. Had I gone mad? Surely I hadn’t. But yet she seemed so real. Those moments we were together were so bright in my memory and so fresh upon my eyes that I felt as if those thoughts alone, real or imagined, would help me find the shore.
But the ocean has sought to take those memories away. The damnable, devilish ocean! It continues its assault! The barrage refuses to cease! The constant tossing from side-to-side worsens as the peaks and troughs become so much higher and so much deeper! Each wave worse than the previous and the faces within the water seem to revel in my despair! The ocean! The Unceasing, Unfeeling, Hate-Filled Ocean!!
Then I found it almost directly in front of me! Land! My land! It came so suddenly in the dark of night and amid the swirling of the water, that I hadn’t even noticed until I was almost upon its shores! It was my home! My freedom! Everything I had longed for, everything I had sought, it was here! My soul felt freed from its watery prison! As soon as came within a mile, I dove off my ship and swam to the shore! I couldn’t guarantee that the ship wouldn’t be pulled back out to sea, so I had to make the final part of the journey by myself.
I swam as fast as I could through the sea, diving beneath the giant waves and using every ounce of my strength to reach the shore. I thought I might drown so close to my home, but I made it to safety. I pulled myself further up to the shore, far away from the reach of my nemesis, and took in deep, gratifying breaths. I had reached the end and survived my journey!
I took a moment to gather my wits and re-learn how to stand upon legs touching solid ground. With that skill mastered, I began to get my bearings and proceeded to head home, hoping to see my beloved Lydia along the way. Although I longed to see my home and, with good fate, possibly see my love once again, I still felt cold. There was a misery within me that couldn’t be lifted. A black veil over every brilliant and bright feeling. For I knew I would return. I knew that once again I would be back. Tomorrow, I would set out upon the ocean.