The Unwavering Current - Part One - Fiction - By Michael Palisano -









In Memory
Sean Pettibone



The Unwavering Current (part two)

I took the last few steps onto the walkway and found myself at the other side of the ramp quickly. As I moved closer, it seemed to bow under the pressure, its boards creaking under my weight. At close range, I saw it swaying on the cresting tide, moving back and forth with the waves. How it got there and for what reason remained a mystery, but I didnít let that stop me. I looked it over and it seemed secure, I jumped over the railings onto the boat, it didnít seem to have changed from the last time Iíd been on it. Everything was still in its same place. I looked for something that might tell me anything about it, but there was nothing that I could find. For a moment, I thought she might be waiting for me somewhere onboard, and I looked around the corners to see if anyone was hiding there, but there was no sign of her. I spun and walked towards the left, scanning towards the engine which relegated towards the back. I walked towards the front and the steering wheel, with its assorted controls and levers. I tried to turn the wheel but it was locked in place and wouldnít budge. I tried to release it by pulling on some of the nearby sticks and levers but they werenít having any effect. I looked around and saw a small door which opened to reveal an empty cupboard. I wondered if there were any keys hidden inside another compartment, but there was nothing to see. I examined the boatís perimeter and searched for something else to use that might start the engine. There wasnít anything out of the ordinary, despite my efforts, there was no way I was going anywhere. I walked towards the center until I found the bench where Iíd sat previously.  I took a moment to rest and searched for something that might have been left for me, but nothing in the furrows of its wooden cabin looked different, there didnít seem to be a board or nail out of place.

It didnít seem like the boat wanted to leave its mooring, and there was nothing I could do that would change its mind. In some way, it seemed like it didnít really want me onboard. I felt a confused and lost and the opaque circumstances behind its reappearance made me nervous. They really couldnít be mitigated by any rationalization, which added to my trepidation. I was a reluctant passenger and didnít completely understand why I found myself in that untenable position in the first place. I was caught between two unpleasant choices. I could either wait out the storm, remaining vulnerable on the shore or venture into the unknown, risking a journey into the heart of the storm that offered no visible pathway out of its path. I sat on the bench and contemplated our previous journeys and wondered how Iíd ended up out there. The boat didnít seem overly complex, but there it seemed to have put up a barrier of some sort. She had controlled it intuitively, during our last encounter, but its function and purpose eluded me. It sat passively, and there seemed to be nothing I could do to bring it around. There seemed to be a barrier around it that I didnít know how to break. Understanding how to make it respond was something I couldnít quite figure out its mysterious code. I stood up and walked around its circumference, trailing my hands on its rails, looking for some sign and hoping that the boat would offer protection from the oncoming storm.

I closed my eyes and thought back to the events from that long night and tried to unravel the mysteries, going through but not finding any satisfying solutions. I found myself lost a little bit in time, but the spell was broken as I felt the rain begin to saturate the boat. It had caught up to me, but it was a reminder that it might not have been the best idea. Embarking during a relentless storm wouldnít be the best time to navigate the sea on my own. I decided to search the boat one last time and began taking a second look around. I looked above towards the sails they were still wrapped around their masts, but were blowing from the gusts, flapping above me. I swung around back towards the steering wheel, finding it still locked but now slippery thanks to the rain. I couldnít find a way to get a decent grip it, even if I could find the strength to turn it. The controls at its side were likewise covered by the rain. I stood back for a moment, looking at the configuration and couldnít figure out a way to turn it on. There wasnít an obvious method, there was no place to insert a key or buttons to press, The engine remained still, dormant in its slumber, offering me no easy way to ride out of the impending natural fury. I felt the wind begin to blow strongly, which tilted the boat and pulled it from side to side, throwing me off balance. I nearly fell back into the cabin but was able to maintain enough ballast to keep my footing.   

After becoming dangerously intense for several minutes, the gusts subsided, allowing me to stand up inside the boat, which regained its composure. The sails above stopped flapping and their silence was a welcome, if temporary, relief. I looked over the boatís railings and realized the water was still swirling in choppy pulses, surging fast, surrounding the boat. Withstanding the stormís unyielding assault, I felt the boards rolling beneath me but they seemed to have absorbed the first gush easily. Using the moment of relative calm, I surveyed the masts above and realized their might be another way to escape. I saw the ropes towards the bottom of each, tightly wound around their base. I took a few steps and slid underneath the swatch of heavy fabric, examining it closely. There didnít seem to be any rips or tears on its surface, but I wasnít sure I would be able to steer using them alone without aid. I grabbed one end of the rope, and tried to undo its heavy knot. Struggling for a moment, it was wet and heavy, resisting my efforts to release it. I tried putting pressure on it from different directions, upward, left and then down. Nothing seemed to work, it was too strong, or I didnít have the strength. The sails locked in place, like the steering wheel, they seemed to make little effort in repelling my attempts at unwinding them from their masts. They stood defiantly unmoved by my attempts to sway them, completely unimpressed by me as I looked up towards them. The masts changed appearance and now felt cold and sharp, standing far above. Indifferent to the raging storm raging below, they made no effort to assist me. They stood imperiously, detached from my frantic efforts to stay afloat.

Unwilling to offer me any assistance, the sails seemed to have their arms crossed, emphatically standing in my way. I looked downward towards the other side of the boat and looked across at the beach. Even though the shoreline was losing its visibility and quickly vanishing beneath the surging tides, it still looked like a safer place than the mysterious, yet suddenly vulnerable boat. I walked back towards the dock, and looked towards ramps, which were being over-run by the cresting waves, barely managing to stay above water. It looked like theyíd be completely submerged within a few more minutes. It would soon be far too dangerous for me to cross the shaky boards, but the boat didnít seem to offer much protection, either. It was swaying under the pressure. I examined its ropes closely, examining their paths. It was tied directly to the dock, and it seemed inevitable that the boat would join their fate and sink if I stayed there much longer. I waited a moment to decide where to turn. Turning around, I walked towards the other side of the masts, hoping to shield myself from the wind. Just as I reached the outward position on their starboard side, I heard a loud snapping noise. My heart sank, I knew what happened immediately. I lunged back towards the railings, looked over their side and watched nervously. One of the mooring lines had snapped from the increased pressure. There were two others, but they were threadbare. The boat began listing and tilting, losing its balance in the process. I felt my heart sink. The wind began to pick up at the worst possible moment. I could hear the lines squeaking against the added force. The lines anchoring the boat were shriveling; their stretched lines were buckling under the pressure. It looked like their metal strands could snap at any time. At that point, nothing would be anchoring the vessel.

It took some effort, but I reached over the side for a closer examination. Attempting to figure out what was occurring boats wasnít such a good idea, I found myself trying desperately to protect myself from the onslaught by holding my arm across my eyes to shield them from the onrushing wind and rain. I could barely make out what was happening, but I could see them dodging up and down in the water, barely visible, but what I saw wasnít reassuring. The mooring cables werenít   withstanding the stormís onslaught. I saw their metal strands straining, their lines badly frayed, nearly coming apart, nearly stretched to the breaking point. I saw their remnants unwinding quickly, coming apart with each passing second. I stepped back a few steps and crouched down in the center of the boat. Preparing for what I knew was coming. A minute passed and then there were two loud burst in quick succession. This jolted the boat backwards, pulling its masts back and forth like a coiled spring suddenly released. There was nothing to hold it back and the boat swirling back from the docks. It had gotten loose and freed itself from the ropes. Nothing was holding it back. Nothing in the river could have prevented it from floating uncontrollably downstream towards the churning seas. The current worked quickly, propelling it into the river, unencumbered from its moorings. It burst through its locked position, crashing over the surface, slicing through the heavy waves in random directions, moving unexpectedly north then south, east and west. It was spinning shaking and swirling the entire time with nothing standing in its path. I knelt down in the well of the boat, with no way to affect its path. There was nothing I could do to control the boat or the hold off the storm surge that looked to subsume the vessel.

The steering wheel in front, the masts above and the engine behind me all stood still, ignoring the quickly escalating wind and rain surrounding them. I felt the boat hurtling downwind, pushed into the rapids, with nothing in its path. The waves began to overrun its edges, splashing me with water. It began to pounce, slashing through the exterior barriers, cutting through the left and right sides. Each subsequent wave threw the boat in another direction, tilting and spinning. Its waves seemed to grow ever stronger, making it more difficult to stay in place. I felt their currents pushing with increased velocity. There was no way I could fight them, I was alone and they were too strong for a tiny shrimp of a kid to battle. The stormís wind blew without impediment or dissent, using its relentless power to move across the ship, effortlessly forcing it to bow and surrender to its demands. I knew Iíd be blown off my feet if I stood up for longer than a few seconds. I felt a strange pop in my ears as the pressure only seemed to grow. The stormís dark clouds grew until they completely surrounded the ship. I watched for any signs of a break but there was respite in sight. The clouds seemed to grow, their heights climbing farther into the sky as they rushed inexorably towards my position. I felt the velocity and strength increase at an almost supernatural rate. I couldnít stand up straight and the sharp rain kept my head down, forcing me to maintain a low profile.

Even in that defensive posture, I could barely keep my eyes open. The wind seemed to blow right through me like I wasnít even there. I squinted and looked upwards. The edges of the sails were flapping relentlessly, drawing their layers closer as they swooned across its shaking masts. Another giant wave hit the side of the ship, causing a huge gush of water to flood the inner cabin. It began to rise and the boat began to sink rapidly, quickly losing its buoyancy. I looked around and the back side had gone almost completely under, its engine nowhere to be seen. I grabbed onto the bench as tightly as I could, waiting for the inevitable when entire ship got pulled under. In a stroke of luck, a second wave hit from the rear, pushing the back over the boat in the opposing direction. It tilted and drained the well of the boat, the water flooded out, granting the boat an unexpected reprieve. Surprisingly resilient, the back portion seemed largely unharmed and it quickly regained its balance as the boat re-stabilized, though it was uneasy and probably temporary. Things seemed to have stabilized enough that I was able to stand back up. The waves pooled then flooded the railings. The liquid overflowed, nearly swallowing vessel with buckets of thick, colorless ocean water. Every position on board was suddenly vulnerable to the waters. Theyíd overcome its defenses and suddenly, it didnít matter where I stood. The waters rose rapidly, it was inevitable, the flooded ship began to buckle. The water overwhelmed my position, rising and had reached past my ankles before I realized what was happening. It felt like I was sinking and there was nothing I could do to prevent it from happening.  

It was enough of a respite that I was able to catch my breath. I looked up, and the back sail seemed to have taken the worst, its edges in tatters and shredded, but the base mast and the other sails towards the front seemed largely undamaged. It was a relief until the winds came back from the opposing direction. It seemed to blow it backwards back towards the center of the storm. The waves resumed their assault on the ship, crashing through the sides, the resuscitated winds came back with renewed energy, swirling through the air, spinning and tilting the boat, turning it in different directions and seeming to maneuver it at its whim. I tried to maintain my balance but found myself knocked off my feet several times and had to kneel down, the wind gained renewed strength and I heard the woolen sheets above smacking ruthlessly around its narrow masts. The boat struggled to stay afloat, unable to fight the unassailable forces strenuously moving to sink or displace it. I felt its boards buckling under the unwavering currents, but somehow theyíd managed to withstand the encroachment, providing enough strength on it surface along with an inexplicable resilience underneath to push through the maelstrom of air and water.  

I felt yet another gust of wind oncoming and this was an especially strong one, it pushed up the surf, causing a huge wave that made the boat stand almost straight up. The unexpected jolt left me sitting almost sideways. Gripping the bench as tightly as I could manage, I held my breath as it seemed to levitate. The current pushed a massive wall of water straight at the boat, propelling it above the surface for moment. I was floating in the air, jumping out of the sea, above the waves below for a few seconds. The wall quickly dissolved and scattered, the wind turned direction almost immediately. It caused the vessel to plunge downward back into the churning seas. I felt the impact shattering the surface, dislodging a great deal of water below, shaking the entire boat with an unexpected force. It slammed into the water and it felt like it was going to shatter into splinters. I closed my eyes for a moment, expecting the worst and waited a few precious seconds to open them again. Much to my surprise, the boat seemed to have survived its encounter with the sea sustaining no visible damage. It took a few seconds for the boat to settle and regain its balance in the water. I looked around and it felt unbowed, nothing seemed to have changed. Everything was in the same place. It was still an uneven journey. The storm continued its ferocious attack, there were constant jolts from side to side as additional large waves flowed towards it, but it had managed to preserve itself. Somehow, it had navigated through the storm and resumed sailing over the choppy surface, manifestly undeterred.

Sequential waves continued to assail the boat, but it hadnít been thrown off course completely, and it returned to the path, and it had begun to adjust against the thick currents. It anticipated the stormís thrusts and dodged them with increasing effectiveness. While it wasnít entirely successful, it made it easier for me to believe that Iíd make it through. There were several additional bursts but they didnít really seem to cause a dent. I crouched downwind and felt the winds slowly begin to subside, throwing less velocity at the ship with each minute. I could see the sails swirling around the masts, but they didnít seem to be rolling around themselves as quickly, churning slower and causing less disturbance. I kept an eye on them until they seemed to have largely settled back in place, occasionally lifting under the wind. The alarming circumference seemed to have passed over the boat, leaving behind a minor disruption on the surface. The waves and their massive walls of rain seemed to diminish as the center worked its way beyond the immediate area. I waited for a few minutes, hiding underneath the masts for awhile longer until I was sure that the harshest portion of the storm had finally passed. When I stood up, I noticed that my clothes were drenched, my shoes were heavy and soaked straight through from the water. My heart was still beating quickly, and I noticed that I felt a little shaky. I was grateful for the boatís endurance. I was relieved that despite its initial struggle, the vessel had managed to emerge from the storm intact.

It hadnít disappeared on me, which was a relief. I stood up and watched the storm dissipate, its fury at long last placated. The waves began to settle into slower rhythms. Slowly decelerating, collapsing until the surface regained a tranquil posture. I felt its wind gradually diminished as it set its path away from my position. I watched the clouds abating and diminishing their currents reversing course, moving in the opposite direction. I waited for a few more minutes to make sure that the worst was over, then stood up and walked around. I could still feel the waves beneath me, but they seemed much more relaxed, swimming gently along their way. The boat felt like it was surfing above the water, almost gliding through the waves. I took a deep breath and held onto one of the railings, allowing myself to relax and for a brief. The atmosphere seemed to have calmed down, and the quiet was reassuring in some strange way. I didnít mind that there didnít seem to be a clear path forward, or any tangible destination. I was just happy to have gotten through. The vessel continued onward without fear, meandering through the water, sliding over the calm waves lazily. Even this forward motion slowly dissipated as its momentum gradually diminished, until it finally fell silent and stopped completely. Then I came to an unsettling realization that made me step back on my feet and wonder if getting on the boat in the first place had been a huge mistake.

I found myself marooned, standing alone in the center of an unceasing storm. There was nobody around to guide me to safety or clear a path for escape. That was frightening enough, but my fear grew even more pronounced when I scanned the skies beyond my surroundings. I couldnít see the shoreline or the docks. The storm had blown the ship off course and I was far from land. I had no idea where I was. The surrounding waters felt inescapably vast, a huge barrier surrounding the boat, an endless expanse. The night skies seemed to be closing in, darkness saturated the boat. There seemed to be no way out, I was completely surrounded. I looked at the flapping sails above and they gave no indication of how far or long Iíd traveled. It had gotten dark and there wasnít much I could do. I managed to make my way back towards the center of the boat, but it was still flooded and there was no place for me to sit. My clothes were heavy, drenched by the water while my shoes suddenly felt like anchors. Iíd managed to survive the onslaught and its accompanying danger only to find myself worse-off in some ways. I couldnít understand what was happening and how I was supposed to get out of there. It seemed that I had walked right onto a trap and there was no way out. Deciding to take one last chance, I quickly moved towards the front of the ship to re-engage with its steering wheel and assorted levers, switches and, dials. They remained stuck in place but I decided to try one last time, wondering if the many hits from the storm might have dislodged them from the locked position.

I tried to grab the wheel but felt a sudden jolt when I made contact, causing what felt like an electric shock. I reflexively jumped back from the unexpected reaction, and stood back for a moment. I knew it wasnít going to co-operate. I waited for a few minutes more until the atmosphere felt less charged and tried to maneuver across, walking through the boatís radius looking for something that I might have missed. I found nothing and found myself standing right where I started. This was getting frustrating, and I needed to take a step back. Nothing seemed visible and there was nothing obvious or visible beyond the horizon when I looked towards the darkened skies. I looked closely and noticed something inexplicable beginning to occur far above the masts. It seemed both strange and familiar, though I couldnít figure out precisely what had changed. The last remnants of the thick clouds above had finally begun to fizzle out, fraying far over the ocean. Retreating back into the night, their shadows fell away, revealing the partial outline of the moon. It was very faint at first, but as it came into view, there was something different about its appearance. Its upper portions were the only half visible, it seemed larger than usual and a strange glow surrounded it. It emerged from behind the clouds and lit the sky in its unusual spectrum, saturating the atmosphere with a nocturnal force field. I went back towards the steering wheel and felt another shock, this time before I even touched it. It was an odd feeling and something didnít feel right, my fingers were tingling and pulsing with a strange energy.

I nervously lifted my arms up towards the moon, carefully maneuvering to avoid blocking its radiance.
I was immediately thrown off-balance by the shadow floating above the horizon. It took me a moment to figure out what was happening. It seemed to have happened while I was distracted by the storm, sneaking up from behind, working the entire time without me noticing. It didnít register immediately and I couldnít quite believe what I was seeing. I pulled my arms back, stretched them out and held them up towards the moon at a different angle, but what I saw still didnít make sense. My heart plunged into my tired, wet feet when I looked for a second time. I quickly realized something inexplicable had occurred during the storm. I had no idea how it happened or for what reason but the truth was inescapable. I no longer recognized my hands.

- Michael Palisano