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Through the Fog

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A small, pearl-like jellyfish sped by as our pint-sized boat meandered through the smeared water. Soon, a swarm of the crystalline patches of jellied moonlight drifted nonchalantly in our wake.

The motor roared behind me, sporadically drifting between a mumble and a full-throated yell — as if it were a ravenous predator stalking our craft. Every now and again, the continuous buzz would evanesce from my hearing range, muffled by a thick sheet of impenetrable fog. Encroaching on my vision and blotting out any sense of direction, the fog rose up around us, replacing everything with an opaque grey wall — a fort without a drawbridge. I felt as though a hand were tightened around my throat. The liquid cloud muddled my body and iced my feet like the world had turned into one enormous, frigid washcloth.

At one point, the motor choked and died. A voice reached my ears, pushing through the fog, but trapped like a distant memory, uttered somewhere so far away that it could barely be uncovered. A sense of panic clutched at my brain, paralyzing my body in a chokehold. We were lost in the cloud of blinding foam; the slithering sound of the water as we cut through it would be the last sound I ever heard.

Grinding gears and a grouchy hum shot through the thick haze and slammed into my ears, shattering my fear. It took a moment to truly realize that it was all right; we weren’t drifting in circles, forgotten. My life had been pulled up by the collar and heaved right back onto the bow of our unshakeable little boat. I found my eyes flicking back to where my father should have been — but there was nothing but nature’s obliterating, natural smog. Again the nauseating pang of panic prickled along my limbs.

Scrambling along the perilous decking, clinging to each bit of metal webbing that held the mast in place, I pushed my way through the wall of the fort, finding a hidden opening. My dad came into view, bundled in a sodden sweatshirt and hunched over the spluttering motor. He picked up his head long enough to scold me for abandoning my post, before turning back to tinkering with the finicky engine, which was currently whirring in neutral, churning the endless tide of jellies — some got sucked up, roller-coastered through the inner workings of the motor and spat back out as if they didn’t taste very nice.

Resigned, I headed back to my station, jumping at every click and crack, ready to alert the preoccupied captain. Each dark smudge (a stick) and each drifting obstacle (seagulls) made me quiver, thinking that something bigger would strike the green-black hull of our boat, biting a hole and sending us screaming into the frigid depths that surrounded us on all sides. How much longer could I go on like this before my mind would snap, deprived of sensory oxygen? I was blind and deaf — even the sense that still functioned was distraught by the unchanging intensity of the soggy air that chilled my bones.

What felt like hours passed before I was ordered aft to confer with the captain. In fervent agreement, it was decided that we would turn back — two haggard sailors defeated by the elements. The GPS, which had been there all along (though it had escaped my mind, apparently fleeing with my senses), guided us back to shore.

Suddenly great pylons loomed ahead of us, spearing through the fog like giants turned to wood. Row upon row of the enormous, tired poles appeared before us, gathered in ordered ranks like soldiers ready to defend the rocky shore. This was not where we were supposed to be; the broken docks and pylons were unfamiliar — we were off course, and too far into land.

Coaxing our motor into reverse, my dad loosened the gears and the engine’s whine drifted into a low, content purr. After a few moments, another boat appeared, then a dock, then the whole harbor, welcoming us back with warm land air. The raw quality lifted from my bones as we finally broke free from the grey-white fort, no longer captives. The sun caressed the land and tresses of light fell through the air onto my body and into my eyes, making me squint.

Some of the jellyfish had followed us in and danced through the shadows in the water, their miniature light shows flickering together as they swam — synchronized swimmers, the saltwater version. I toppled onto the dock and secured the forward line, hastily cleating it. Giving into my rusted joints, I lowered myself onto the toasty, rough, wooden planks and reveled in safety, content to simply have survived. It had been enough harrowing adventure until the next day.





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