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The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty-One: “Hey-fah for the Sea!” (Continued)
Previously: A raging storm overtook the fisher folk’s boat.
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When Zack opened his eyes, Shelcor was nowhere to be seen. Neither was Maerith. A violent gash of orange was tearing open the horizon, but the remainder of the sky was a deep storm-bruised magenta. It was as if the sky had attacked the sea, and now the sea was fighting back: huge pellets of rain were beating the deck (even in the midst of disaster, Zack noticed the absence of thunder and lightning) and the sea was retaliating by thrusting big blades of water at the sky, which in turn crashed down onto the deck, threatening to capsize the boat.
“Zack?” he heard Gina scream. “Zack!”
He rolled to his right and saw her, still lashed down, her face lit by the angry sunrise. “It’s a sea monster!”
“No, just a storm, but where—?”
“I don’t know. Maerith said they’d save us, then she was just gone!”
“Shelcor said we had to abandon the—”
“So they left us? They just left us?”
A huge wave hit the deck, forcing the boat to heel half over. It hung in the air as if trying to decide whether to keep going, then crashed back into the water right side up. The next time it might not.
“We have to undo…” Zack began, but when he looked over at Gina, she was already fumbling to release her bindings. He loosened the braid from his chest and sat up, but just as he was reaching to free his legs, an immense wave pushed the selchie craft up onto its side. It hesitated and then, with an extra push from the wind, keeled over, its big wooden flippers helpless to stop the momentum. Zack heard Gina scream, and saw her fly past him into the water, the sword still firmly affixed to her back.
He was still bound to the deck, but before being forced beneath the surface he’d taken a deep breath. The moment the boat began to settle, he pulled his legs free, then pushed himself away and began swimming toward the surface. It was difficult with sneakered feet, but something told him he’d want his shoes later, so he resisted the urge to kick them off. He finally made it to the surface. The moment his head broke through, he heard:
“Zack!” Gina was holding onto the edge of the upturned boat, treading water. Her cry of relief was almost immediately followed by a cry of terror: “Zack! The sea monster!”
“What? Where?” At first he thought she meant the boat; with its keel in the air, it really did look like a giant shark or—
“No! There!” she cried, releasing one hand to point at the water near him.
Then he saw it: a bulky mass breaking the surface just a few feet away, it’s dark, slick fin longer than Zack was tall. It disappeared for a moment, but then through the churning foam he could see it circling around. He swam full-bore toward the boat.
“Don’t lead it here!” Gina shrieked.
Zack reached the edge of the boat and attempted to pull himself onto the upturned hull. The surface was too slick; there was nothing to hold on to.
“I tried,” Gina yelled. “It’s no good…
Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God! Look!”
Thoughts: “Might-be monsters” are nearly always worse than real ones.
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