Chapter 4: Premonition
Gusty winds pummeled the square sails. The same howling wind carried the rain in blinding sheets. White capped waves rose and fell but not before splashing over the hull, spilling onto the deck. The crew was at the mercy of the sea. Their howls for Poseidon to calm the sea were drowned by wind and rain.
"Throw the anchors down! Throw it down!"
"It is too late to turn back. We are not going to make it." Another voice shouted.
A huge wave from the left smashed against the side of the vessel, creating a gaping hole in the hull. Some men were knocked off their feet at the direct assault of the waves. As the cry came that the boat was flooding, some men abandoned the ship, plummeting into the icy sea below. The remaining men clung to the wooden railing or mast.
The high winds snapped the second sail in half, plunging two men into the depths of the sea. As water quickly gushed in, the stern lifted high above the water at a steep angle. Once a spectator looking from afar, I now found myself on the sinking ship. Loose articles along with men began sliding to the churning sea below. My fingernails dug into the mast to keep my hands from slipping. I could feel the stinging stabs of the heavy rain and the wind working to undermine my grip. The swirling waters were getting closer, and closer! I had to jump. I loosened my grip and slid down to the hungry sea below.
I flailed around, only to realize I was floundering in wool sheets. Slowly, I lifted my stiff neck off the feather-stuffed pillow before exhaling a chilled breath. It was just a dream...it was only a dream I told myself. I rested my head against the pillow before glancing around at the fresco-covered walls and then at the empty ceiling. Again, I was alone in my room; alone with my thoughts. Why did that feel so real? Suddenly footsteps converged. I lifted my head to see the figure approaching me. It was the man I would call "grandfather." I sighed.
"Good morning Troy. The slaves will be in shortly to tend to your needs," he began. I just nodded. He must have read my unspoken fear because he remarked, "You look a little shaken."
"Oh, it was just a bad dream; nothing more," I said softly.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I shook my head. Grandfather pursed his thin lips together. He pulled a chair from my writing desk and brought it to my bedside to sit.
"Whenever you want to talk I am ready with open ears. I know you do not remember much. Why in fact you cannot even recall me. However I know you are upset and confused, and I just want things to return to the way things were." Whatever that was I thought. "I can help you, as well as the team of slaves, and the rest of your family through this tumultuous storm." I nodded.
"How do you feel?"
"Lost," I said, heaving a sigh. "How did this happen?"
"It was a mere accident. You lost control of the horse; and you fell right by the gate. There was nothing you could do. You were on the edge of Hades' grip. It was the worst day of our lives, when we received the news. Your father was highly troubled to the soul. I have not seen him that upset since your brother Barbarius disappeared last year." My eyes widened.
"He is your oldest brother… or was your oldest brother I should say."
"Why did he leave?"
"I assume he wanted to explore the world beyond Aegea. He wrote another letter while out at sea speaking about his travel to Rome, but we have not heard from him since."
"How long has it been?"
"I believe it has been six months ago." He sighed.
"Will he ever come back?"
"I do not know. There has been speculation that the ship he set sail on was 'lost at sea.' Tales have it that it got caught in a bad storm. It is a terrible thing to be caught in the wrath of a storm at sea. It is all too real of a reality for a sailor. But his existence cannot be proven or disproven since we cannot find the body nor has any survivors spoken up. Records are hard to get a hold of in that fashion." This revelation only brought more unanswered questions but I was too numb to speak.
"I know this is a lot for your mind to process. I should not have brought it up. Your father wants to forget anything ever happened," He looked me in the eyes, "but I felt you deserved to know." I did not know what to say so I just nodded. "Anyhow," he continued, "I can ask one of the cooks to bring your food over to your bedside."
"Thanks, but I am not that hungry. Maybe later. Oh, and grandfather," I said as I reached for his hand, "thanks for telling me. I apologize for the way I acted yesterday. Could you tell me how I was before the accident happened and inform me of my past?"
"Certainly. I would be delighted to do so," he said. He gave me the biggest grin that I could remember.
Recovery was slow at first. The days seemed to drag on until a week passed since my fall. My bruises on my face were slowly healing, but my mind was still bruised. I tried to gain closure to my life before the fall. One day I was reminded by Apollus of the carefree things we did when we were children as he came to visit me in my room.
"Oh I remember when you were ten and we went to the wooded sanctuary by the seashore. I remember it so fondly. We were surrounded by fireflies and we were trying to catch as many as we could in our little jars. I think one time you tried to open Barbarius' jar…" Apollus voice seemed to trail off.
"What happened next?"
"Oh um, I meant it was my jar that you opened to allow the fireflies to escape," he answered.
"Was not Barbarius there too?"
"Forget I mentioned him," Apollus said briskly.
"You do not have to pretend. I know about him." Apollus must have been stunned because he excused himself without saying a word. I tried to push aside Apollus' peculiar behavior as the dinner party approached. Apollus had recently turned eighteen I was told, and since I was still alive to see it, father went ahead with his plans to host the feast. I was still too feeble to make it to the dining room. So I was forced to stay in my room and be served in bed. Not long afterwards a male slave arrived with a silver platter of food.
"Eat up. You need to gain your strength." He was right. I tried to nibble on the bread and figs I was given. I could hear the faint sounds of laughter and music playing in the dining room that traveled all the way to my room. What a wonderful way for them to press in my face that they were having fun, while I sat alone and ate my food in silence! Could they at least make less noise? But this was Apollus' day. It did not matter what I thought. Perhaps it was a good thing people did not see me in the state I was in. Then suddenly as if they could read my thoughts the laughter and music stopped. What happened? Did the party end early? Oh well! Just then I heard talking outside in the hallway by my door. There was something about a ship. Maybe they found Barbarius. My heart was racing to hear more! I leaned in, pressing my elbow against the lamp stand.
"Out of sixty-three, sixty-two men perished in the sea. What a shame their life had to be cut short," one man said.
"They should have known better than to travel beyond the mandate of the king. The heavens gave them signs; you dare not cross paths with that storm." The other man replied. My heart sank. Was that the same ship Barbarius was on? But was not this news just coming now? I felt horrible about the tragedy, especially such news on what was supposed to be a special day. And worse yet I had dreamt it all! As my elbow retreated from the lampstand, I accidentally knocked the glass cup. Before I could react, it smashed against the tiles, shattering into many pieces. The disturbance drew murmurs from the men. Then a nearby slave rushed in only to find broken shards littered in a pool of wine.
"I am so sorry." I flushed. He disappeared briefly before returning with a husk broom to sweep the pieces. I looked down at the clear shards of glass that littered the floor. It was the beginning of a shattered reality.