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Little Men In Ships
One day, the men decided it was time to explore. They filed into a large wooden ship and waved to their wives and children from the decks as they sailed away. On this same day, their lives began.
Life was simple. People lived forever, and the land grew with every new child that was born. The ocean would push the new dirt and rocks out from deep within itseslf, and they would begin to build. The people of this land were happy, and knew no sadness. The men on the ship were eager to find more worlds like their own on the other side of the mountains.
They sailed through the night and the day. Their ship's bow cut through the sea smoothly, and when the water ended and they came to the sand, they trimmed the sails and moved fast over it. As the moons rose, the white spheres pulled up the ship high with their strong gravity, above the waves and the fish. They slid along the night sky slowly; the foamy stars the boat pushed away sighed as they rolled over each others' brightness and smooth points.
When they neared the land of the mountains, they posed for a picture next to the frozen tips, then continued to sail under the rocky ridges. No one had gone past this point, and they pushed to the other side of the mountains and broke out and fell into the sea. It was a dark sea.
Here the bow held onto the ocean. The moons did not pull them up to rustle the stars. For three weeks they sailed in excitement, for they could only touch the sea. This made sleep strange, even to the most ancient men. For food they went out in small boats and caught silver fish. Some had long horns coming out of their noses, and cut the men's hands and arms. At night the winds calmed, and the ship seemed to sleep regardless of the frantic men. They stood at the railing in fear of the dark shadows they saw beneath them.
The men became sick, and dreamed of home while they pulled ropes and climbed masts. They patched their holy sweaters and made warm socks for the cold nights. With the sharp wind in their beards, they thought of the families waiting on the docks. Smiles smeared onto their rough faces when they thought about how much the city would have grown. The ocean would've added a new shoreline by now.
A quarter of the way into one cool day, they saw on the long horizon the docks and houses of their own city. When they got close, they saw their wives waving, holding their children's hands. The elder men on the ship sank into a sullen state when they did not see their families. Their hearts fell and slowed.
As the ship tapped the dock, the children screamed and then ran forward. The old men hung back, looking around and waiting. Finally, one had the courage to ask a young woman with many children where his wife was. Her eyes fell from his and she pulled her children close. Everyone near the two hushed until almost no one was talking.
"She died!" said her littlest son from behind her arm. His mother glared at his small face and he turned red. He covered his eyes and began to cry.
"What is death?" the old man asked. He looked around and saw all the sad faces. None of the men had known such sorrow. He felt his heart slow even more.
"She isn't alive anymore." The young woman said, stroking her daughter's hair and looking at the sea. "Her land just fell back into the ocean. Our city is small." With this the men knew it was time to go. Too many of their families were gone, and they heard stories about small children falling back into the ocean. These people called it drowning.
The ship and the men left, and the sadness hung in the air, crawling into the sails of their ship. For three weeks they sailed back, over the dark sea and under the mountains. When the moons rose and their bow lifted out and landed in the stars they felt slightly better. With each mile they grew distant from the city of death, and the old men's hearts began to quicken until they could rise off the decks and help the ship. They scooped up small stars to bring back to their children at night, each man silently hoping their family was still there.
The day was warm, and each chin was lifted just enough for the men to see their large city. As the ship tapped the dock the children screamed then ran forward. The men held back. But each family was there, and even the woman who had been dead was there, with all her children and new wrinkles sprouting around her large smile. No one was sad.
The old man's son ran up and tugged on his beard. "Some men came here one day. They said they were you. But I knew they were lying because you weren't on the ship when it came in. They left after that. But momma cried." He looked over his shoulder at the old woman, and then let go of his beard and ran to her.
"We have a strange tale to tell you," said a young sailor who stood on a pillar. "We went to the other mens' land. There, their city is small, and they have death." People were quiet. "Little children and old men die, and when they do, the city falls back into the sea." The sadness that had been folded up in the sails of the ship blew over the city with the rough wind. Women began to cry, and soon the children understood and let small tears run down their cheeks. Even the stars in the men's pockets didn't help.
Soon the sadness was pushed away by the strong winter wind. The men never went exploring, and everyone began to forget the strangeness of that summer long ago. Children were growing up, and the city was changing. After school they played by the sea, throwing rocks at the frozen edges. One day, a small boy was playing tag by the water with his friends. He ran onto the ice and fell into the bitter ocean. His friends laughed and waited for him to pop up.
"Hey! Peter!" the boys laughed.
"He fell into the ocean!" they pointed.
"I bet I can hold my breath longer than you!" The children taunted him from the rocky shoreline for a few minutes until they were bored. They stood and watched the water.
"I wonder what he's doing." a small girl picked up a rock and threw it in.
"Come up, Peter."