Prologue: Myths of the Ocean
92 Days till Autumn
Day 5 At Sea
What is a home? Is it the one we’re born in or the one we make for ourselves?
In the water, the upswept bow and the flared sides break the waves, and the ocean spray crests the boat’s body, misting us with her salty droplets. No clouds in the sky and no land in sight, just a canvas of blue in front of us and behind.
On days like these, even the ocean winds and her waters are hot. The sun is not a friend, just a scorching foe for all sailors alike. But our worst nightmare is the vacant cry of the seagulls when land is our destination. It is then the unseen horizon that can break even the strongest of men.
And here I stand, looking out upon her vastness. Five days out and the excitement of a new life has ebbed. But we had all agreed to take sail and keep drifting further, not knowing if the ocean was never-ending or if the map I had was authentic. But that is how three boats amassing 250 passengers and 74 crew members have come to be a reality.
And it would have never been so if it weren’t for him. He is the one bringing everyone together. The first to give me this idea. That man...although currently, I don’t know where he is. Probably off napping somewhere or drinking.
My boat is the lesser beauty of the three, but as my father used to say, any boat that sailed well is a good boat. I just hope she holds in the storms.
I sigh silently, tapping my finger against the side of the boat, when I hear someone come crashing from the bunks below deck and running to the edge, while covering his mouth. One of my newest crew members – Eagan. A dark-haired man I have gotten to know well since he arrived on this boat a couple of days ago. He had one friend with him, a little blonde girl, traveling to this unknown destination that we seemed to be heading to.
We all share one dream, to find a new land that is kind and plentiful. A new world free of the monsters lurking back home. Whether they wear uniforms or not.
We had no idea if this entire journey would just be a folly when we started out. But, even now, we have hope and a burning desire to start a new life. One where we could find love and start families of our own and grow old.
Everyone in our world dies young, including most of the parents of the people on this ship. It is the same for Eagan, who, at this moment, is hurling his breakfast off the side of the vessel. I have heard from the blonde girl his parents died most horribly, though she didn’t share all the details. It is a shame, but it is our new normal now.
From the rumors circulating in the ship, Eagan’s parents took an experimental drug to cure their ailments, given to them by the royal Prince Kenneth, who is nothing but a scheming bastard. Never trust any of the blues. Each one is worse than the other.
Poverty, sickness, monsters... human and not. They all kill you before you reach 40. Maybe sooner.
I play with a strand of my blonde hair that is being tossed by the ocean winds. It was barely touching my shoulders when we started on this journey. Now it has grown. I turn around, leaning my back against the ledge, and watch Eagan as he continues to barf over the side. I smirk, my lips twisting. “Still haven’t found your sea legs, even after five days, have you? Even that little girl with you and Wilder seem to handle it well. Though...I have seen her in the bunks vomiting into a bucket in the first two days of our travel.”
My eyes drift over to the girl as I peruse her from head to toe.
She doesn’t look too good either. And to think, she had just started to recover from her earlier illness. Out of everyone on the ship, she and Eagan seem to have gotten the worst of it.
He glares at me after his bout of heaving, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. His green orbs, dark and eerie, seem to look deep into me. At times, I wonder what horrors he had been subjected to in the past.
He sneers, “Oh, shut up... I must have eaten something bad. On this ship.”
“Oh sure, you ate something bad. Then why aren’t we all getting sick? Huh? We ate the same thing,” chimes a good-looking blond man from where he sat on a barrel, sweat dripping from his forehead as he shines the boots his mother gave him before our departure.
My eyes turn toward his voice. The blond man, whom I have come to know as Camber, is too pretty to be out at sea. Not originally from our coastal town but further inland, he just wanted a journey to put his stamp on.
He seeks publicity to take it back home. I’m sure he will find some pretty little wife after he is done with the voyage. Eagan’s glare shifts to this blond, and he grits his teeth. “Huh? Did you say something, shit face? I’m not the one worrying about my damn looks when we all could be in danger. Fucking pretty boy.”
He shouldn’t be here is what Eagan is trying to say...and what many others think.
Camber narrows his eyes and tosses the wet cloth he was using to shine his boots at Eagan’s chest. The impact makes a wet flop sound as it hits his chest and then onto the deck. “Shut the fuck up, you smelly bastard! I’m just as worried as you are about being surrounded by nothing but water, but at least, I groom myself.And try not to think about it.”
I look at them. “Wait. What are you guys scared of? Not finding land?”
I can’t believe it. We all knew there was a possibility we would find nothing. Either be lost at sea or trapped. We knew the risks, yet these grown men are now squabbling about it.
Shit! I’m not that confident about finding land either, but I am their captain, even though I may be leading them to their deaths, not the bright future we have all desired. Regardless, I need to think of something to say, to ease everyone’s nerves.
A chubby woman with rounded cheeks and curly hair, whose father I took on as the head cook butts in, “Miss, truth be told, they aren’t afraid of not finding land. They are scared silly about what is in the water. We all are. Thanks to that girl.” She points to the blonde girl next to Eagan, who has just arrived to check in on him. “She has been telling us all these stories since the night prior about the things called Sirens. Beings that are half-fish and half-human. They are said to lure men and women with their songs and then go on to devour their flesh.”
I start snorting in an attempt to hold my laughter in, but I can’t. Camber becomes flustered as a result, his cheeks gaining a ruddy tinge on them, while Eagan’s glower is shared between us.
Camber yells in response, “It isn’t true. Only this idiot Eagan believes in them.”
Eagan grumbles back. “I am not scared, but it is nothing to laugh about, regardless. It can be true.”
My laughter dies down to a chuckle. “Sorry. Sorry. I didn’t mean to offend. This story is a new one for me. I have heard of mermaids back at home, but not these Sirens. Come on. Tell me more about these creatures. I am intrigued.”
Eagan replies with a frown, “You probably have never listened well to the story of Gimgar as a child. I don’t know why I should be telling you this if you are only going to mock it. Have this fucking shit-face tell it to you.” He then walked away, dragging the blonde girl with him.
The story of Gimgar...I want to ask him more, but he is already gone below deck. I purse my lips and frown slightly before turning my attention to the blond boy. I whisper.Gimgar...I like the way it sounds out loud. A place where myths are made.
I sigh. “I think he means you, shit-face,” I tease Camber, giving him a smirk. “So, are you willing to share with your captain the story that has all of you spooked?”
“Captain, I will have y’know my name is Camber,” he corrects me formally before slumping his shoulders and crossing one leg over the other. “Anyway, it was her grandfather’s story, who supposedly had watched one of his closest friends walk into the sea, one day, for no apparent reason. When the grandfather went to stop him, a naked woman, sinfully beautiful, arose from the waters and started to touch his friend intimately, singing a haunting melody like no other. He had to stop in his tracks. Suddenly, out of nowhere, she smiled widely at them both, her mouth full of sharp teeth, then proceeded to rip into his friend, tearing his body into pieces.”
I gain the complete picture from his words. And, as much as the storytelling is good, I don’t think it’s true. But I do see the addictive appeal to the whole tale, another story to pass the time with. “Sounds like her grandfather had quite the imagination. Don’t you think so?” I ask, turning to the plump woman.
She gives me a sheepish look. “I don’t think Rose is the sort to lie or her grandfather.”
I scoff, flicking her with my finger, then put a hand on my hip as I walk away. “I haven’t seen any such creatures, and I have been traveling up and down the coast with my father for a long time. The only matter we have to worry about is how things are back home.”
She grows quiet on hearing my words, so also Camber, not saying anything more. I can’t believe these idiots have placed their faith in such myths and tall tales. The blonde girl Rose, or whatever is her name, is probably seeking attention on this long trip with such stories. All our lives, we have been told the ocean is evil and that the waters are just as bad as the lands we live on. We have been warned if we ever left home, we would be damned forever.
I think they are full of shit. I am not blinding myself to the danger the sea offers, and I do know there are worse things than these Sirens. Things like starvation and dehydration. If we don’t find land soon. I fear that it is these things that will take our lives, not the stupid tales or myths. Mermaids and Sirens do not exist. They are only told to make us fearful. I know that for sure.