October 21, 2009
Deep blue water stretches infinitely in every direction, but the old man’s eyes take no notice. The brutal sun bears down on him relentlessly, and layers of his tender skin peel like onions beneath a violent crimson sunburn. His lips are cracked and bleeding. The fisherman opens his mouth to curse God yet again, but his parched throat produces no sound.
The harsh light casts dramatic shadows under a broken mast and torn sails. Tranquil waves lap quietly against the boat’s hull, cruelly supplementing the man’s thirst. He feebly lifts himself from the deck, and walks carefully through the skewed remnants of the storm. He trips over a torn net, and stumbles weakly to the ocean. The cool brackish water provides little comfort to the man as he dangles his feet from the edge.
I am going to die today, he thinks to himself. I’ve been stuck out here for three days and two nights. Today, I am going to die. Absently he throws back his head, his face a daffodil in the sun, and sinks back into the debris littering the floor. I am old, but has my life been full? Can I truly say that I know what it is to be happy? Casting aside ensuing thoughts, he yields his mind to the steady pull of sleep. He dreams intermittently about his first love, and memories of Thanksgiving with his family.
* * * * *

Something unfamiliar grazes the old man’s foot, and he is stirred abruptly from his sleep. Panicked with thoughts of sharks and mermaids, he sits up quickly, ignoring the dehydrated pounding in his wrinkled temples. The waning light of dusk filters through his eyelids, and he shivers slightly in the absence of the sun. Suddenly he feels another slippery confrontation with his foot, and another. The realization that they are far too small to be sharks comforts him. The school of slimy fish dance in and out of his ankles, mocking the helpless fisherman.

“Catch us now!” they tease him, swimming faster and inviting the water around his legs to swell and break. “Throw down your net, bait your hook, sink your fingers into our gills. Catch us!”

The frightened fisherman yanks his feet from the water, but the fish continue to swim faster, rocking the boat with their tremendous wake. Trembling, he extends his weak fingers in search of an anchor, but they fail him.
“Silly fisherman, why were you so foolish? All the rest were wise, but not you. Why did you venture out into the storm? Did you not see the waters darken with anticipation? Did your eyes fail to show you the clouds that filled the sky?”

The words bite into him, barracuda teeth lodged deep in his forearms. He hangs his head in shame. The old man shuts his eyes tight and covers his ears with his palms, but their laughing voices can’t be shaken. Like a small child, he curls into a ball, waiting for them to fade on the wind.
* * * * *

By the time the man wakes, the black sky littered with broken stars. He lies motionless on the bowdeck, praying to God that he is dead, but the constant song of the sea tells him otherwise. He allows the black to seep into each corner of his consciousness, and waits for it to overtake him. Today, I am going to die. His heavy heart sinks deeper into the floorboards.

The sea watches like a distraught mother as his final breaths shudder through his body. A seagull perched on the boom surveys the scene sadly, and a nearby lighthouse casts an eerie light over the boat. Maybe if the blind old man could have seen them, he wouldn’t have surrendered himself so easily to the vastness of the ocean.

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