by Jessilyn Rich
By the time golden rays began to crest the horizon I was the only one left on the docks. The crowds had trickled off, some returning to sleeping children nestled in their beds, completely unaware of the terror that floated on the crests of the waves; others returned to the warmth of their own homes and beds. The Fishermen had returned in clothing caked in ash, faces tinted with the remanence of smoke and regrets. No one spoke as boats were tied back in their slips, heads hung in defeat as they made the slow walk off the docks and into the streets of the village. One by one they had returned and disappeared into the darkness. I was the only one left on the docks by the time the harbormaster and his crew returned, each one looking exhausted to their cores. The harbormaster was the last one to to come down, and spotted me sitting on the planks, feet dangling over the edge above the water. I was frozen from the chill of the night, but fear and desperation had kept me from returning home. He sat down next me on the edge without a word, the silence hung heavier than the mist of the dawn on the shore. His face like the rest was black from the smoke. The aroma of the smoke and engine fumes was thick on his clothing. I looked at his hands, scraped and dirty. His nails stained black from the nights work. I could see his face changing as his eyes scanned the horizon, smoke still hung above the morning waves.
“ We were too late, Ellie” His words were so soft, I questioned for a moment if I had heard them at all. A tear carved a streak down his dirty cheek, and I knew, I really had heard what he said. It really was happening again, this was real, the night before hadn’t been some horrible dream. The morning sun, brought with it the horrors of reality. There is no horror like awakening to smoke haunting an empty harbor, no horror worse except sitting helplessly and watching it burn the night before. The smells of a charred hull suffocated the salt air. A ghostly reminder of what once was. Even the sea birds seem to know that this morning, something was different.
“Hew, “ My voice cracked as I tried to speak, he didn’t look at me and for a moment, I wondered if I had managed to make any sound at all, but I continued anyway. “ It’s happening again isn’t?” I asked the question already knowing the answer, it was happening. A lump crawled into my throat as I chewed my bottom lip. I tried to distract myself watching a seagull taking a bath on one of the dock posts. Hew had been the harbormaster here for years, and his father before him. He knew these waters and what they held within them better than anyone else. He didn’t respond, just gave my shoulder a hard squeeze before standing up and disappearing down the dock and back home. He was one of the few who knew what I had lost to the unforgiving darkness, and what I stood to lose this time, because it was happening again.
Categories: Arts & Culture