The storm’s masterstroke came just after dawn. What actually happened, I never knew for sure. Perhaps some freak combination of waveforms resulting in a rogue wave much higher than the others. Perhaps the waves had changed their period and the Wahini was out of synch, and caught still rolling to port under the influence of one wave when a second one added its force to the first. The reason was irrelevant; only the result mattered.
I was shocked fully awake by a sound like an explosion, a shudder that ran through the hull and the sickening feeling of overturning. I sat up so quickly that I slammed my head against the overhead, but my curses were cut off by a firehose spray of salt water in the face. Before I knew it, I was out of the bunk and standing with my feet on the side of the cabin, looking down through the portholes into green swirling water that went all the way down, miles down, to the deep ocean floor.
Wahini was lying on her side. Raven’s bunk hung above me. Her eyes were like twin coals glowing in twin caverns, her mouth worked with fear but no sound came out. She clawed at the ropes that held her canvas restraint in place and came slipping out like the sudden, final rush of birth. I caught her as she fell.
Wahini’s masts must have been nearly horizontal. If she had had even one stitch of canvas set, it would have driven her down that last degree to her death – and ours. Instead she hung there for agonizing seconds that felt like years, mastheads just above the surging waves, rail buried, cabin sides buried so that we could look down between our feet out the porthole into the green depths where Leviathan sleeps.
There was absolutely nothing I could do. Not even pray. Raven’s hands were making furious crosses, forehead to waist, shoulder to shoulder. Please, God! Please! Another bucketful of water came in the broken hatch and washed the canned goods, ketchup, and coffee grounds around our ankles, covering the portholes and hiding the sight of the depths that lay beneath us.
We braced each other up, arms wrapped around each other, trembling in the darkness, helpless as mice beneath a lion’s paw.
Slowly, regally, Wahini found her feet. The cabin side slid sideways beneath us and we scuttled back to the narrow floorboard. Wahini groaned around us.
I swallowed my heart, and as the fear-buzzing numbness faded from my ears, I became aware of the fact that I was holding Raven in a close embrace. She had buried her face in my chest and the scent of her hair was strong. Raven black. Long, firm body pressed close and trembling. And I had no time for her! I disengaged gingerly, cooing reassurance and cursing our timing. more tomorrow