In which the story begins.
The pen is mightier than the sword, they say. Well, I think it depends on the hand holding it. You can do a whole lot of good, and a whole lot of damage, and a whole lot of nothing with a pen.
The result entirely depends on the author.
Call me Ish-
Wait. I get mixed up sometimes. I’ve got all of these stories bouncing and flitting about in my head, and as you’ll see, it’s stranger than you can comprehend and very, very loud. This is a bit complicated, so I hope you’ll bear with me. I’m breaking all the rules by writing this. And when I say that, I mean, I’m breaking the most important rule I hold myself to: Don’t ever write. It’s too dangerous. For me. For you. For everyone.
But if I write this story. This tale. Then I’ll always remember who I am and the banner I hold. If my mind fails once more; if something is lost in the translation of time, we will always have these pages to remind us; to warn us against the power of the pen… or rather, the Authors.
I suppose I should start at the beginning.
Call me Vincent.
That’s the name the sea gave me. When she was wild and sick with the blood of a battle I couldn’t remember, she gave me the name Vincent. I sunk into her red depths, tugged along by the ebbing tide and my own fear. Fear is a very strong incentive. I moved my limbs, and it felt like hot fire but I kept on swimming and swimming until I could not any longer.
I had to escape from whatever it was that I was so afraid of.
It only occurred to me later that I didn’t know what it was. Soon exhaustion weighed down my limbs. So I floated there. Under the water. In the ever consuming red.
She named me then, in my oxygen deprived state; half conscious. Vincent, she whispered. Don’t worry, Vincent.
And I didn’t.
The world became very quiet for the first time in forever. No one whispered in my ear. No bubbling voices itching my ribs. Just silence. I remember thinking that if this is what it’s like to die, then I didn’t mind it so much. Why was there so much fuss about staying alive anyway? It was just… staying. And this? This was leaving.
Like traveling. Somewhere. Throw a dart on a map. Spin a globe and point. Catch a train at first light. Adventurous. Rebellious. New.
No, I didn’t mind the sinking darkness. At least, it wasn’t red. I’d prefer any color to the color red.
So it’s no wonder I didn’t explode into fantastic gratitude the moment someone wrapped a thumping arm around me and tugged me up and out of the sweet red sea’s embrace. I couldn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t tell my savior that he needn’t bother. I really did not care that much about breathing anymore. My lungs felt heavy; stuffed with cotton. Hello, I thought, my name is Vincent, and I don’t like red. After that, I remember nothing. Nothing until I woke.
Spewing water from my lungs, I sat up suddenly and puked. It was not a pleasant experience. As is typical of one’s stomach up-ending itself. I distantly registered someone’s hand on my back. “That’s it, lad. Just breathe.”
I did, shuttering and feeling numb with cold. “Wh-?” I started.
“Shh. Just keep taking deep breaths, you got it?”
I nodded, gulping thickly. Wrapping my arms around myself, gray blanket wrapped around me as well. Blinking, I breathed in carefully and deeply. My throat was raw from the salt, and my eyes stung, but I got a glimpse of the scene around me. I was on the deck of a boat. Fishing boat? Going by the net and the crane, yes.
The man spoke English. He sounded Scottish, maybe? As I wrapped the blanket around me closer, the man shuffled nearer. “Let’s get you inside. Ruddy lucky, you are. I almost never fish this way. Can you walk?”
I shrugged and attempted to stand. Quickly, the man grabbed hold of my elbow to steady me. He smelled like fish and cigarettes and leather. “Come on, lad. What’s your name?” We walked toward the door of a cabin, and the man quickly let us in and sat me down on in a sturdy wooden chair which was bolted to the ground.
“Vincent,” I said scratchily.
“My name. It’s Vincent.” It wasn’t. It most definitely was not. But I did not want to think about the fact that I couldn’t remember what my actual name was. A shrill of terror slipped through me, and I shivered.
“You still cold?”
“I’ll get another blanket. I’ve got one around here somewhere.” I merely blinked in response, watching him fish through his cupboards. He was a stocky man with a scruffy pepper and salt beard. His hands were lithe as he searched, and I imagined he spent more time on sea than land. If I had to guess, I’d say he was in his mid-fifties.
Around me, the little cabin sported a hammock, a table, two chairs, and a sheet of polished metal for a mirror, a sink, cupboards, and drawers. They were all unadorned but well-used. Out the window, I spotted the retreating clouds of the storm that rocked me in the sea’s cradle only a little while before. A single beam of sunlight rippled across my lap and swayed back and forth with the movement of the vessel. I noted, after a moment, the strange silence that seemed to seep from the room despite the noises that the man made. It was strange and relaxing and I didn’t want it to stop. What was it? How to you identify the lack of something?
“Here you are,” the man finally said. He tossed me another grey blanket, which I caught clumsily and wrapped around myself, the thought abandoned. I felt less stiff now; less jittery and numb, too. I still started when the man sat down open legged in the remaining chair. “Name’s Ernest.” He stuck out his hand. I shook it hesitantly. It was warm, calloused, and it swallowed my pale, long-fingered hand entirely. “As I said before, a ruddy lucky lad, you are, Vincent.”
“Thank you for saving me,” came my quiet murmur. Gratitude was probably in order.
“Of course. I saw something sort of bobbing about in the water and I thought to myself, ‘Well, I’ll be! There’s a man out there!’”
“I’m glad of it.”
“Yes. Yes, I imagine so.” Ernest hummed thoughtfully. “Well, I ought not to talk your ears off. They’re probably still clogged with water anyways. You should get some rest. I’ve got some dry clothes sitting in the hammock. Put them on. Nearly drowning, is not something you bounce back from easy like.”
I nodded slowly. I still felt nauseous. “Where should I-?”
“Oh, you can use my hammock for now.” He waved dismissively in its direction. “Although, that’s not a standing thing, you hear? I’m sure you’re mighty afraid and have questions. As do I. We’ll ask ‘em once you’ve recovered a bit. How does that sound?”
Again, I nodded. Then carefully, I stood. I felt like a wet sapling. My legs wobbled horribly but I made it to the hammock.
“You jus’ rest, boy.” Ernest left me.
I obeyed, and I doubt that if I wanted to resist, I could have. I quickly changed into warm clothes far too large for me, and my eyes closed of their own accord. Wrapped in those scratchy, fish-smelling blankets, I fell into a deeper sleep than I have acquired ever since. As I dropped deeper, the sea rocked me and whispered, the silence won’t last long, Vincent. Not long.