Sunday, January 20, 2008


Lizzie had began to think that she had added significantly to the ocean’s salty waves with her tears by the time she lost sight of both the Bonny Read and her dear cousin Alice, whose gentle face she now beheld in her thoughts touched with the warm white light of loss and regret. The violent stabs of lightning continued to rend the night sky, but the thunder seemed to be growing somewhat less tumultuous and the sound of the waves soon became that which filled her weary ears. She bobbed along the sea surface, although many a wave still o’er reached her head, dumping miserably cold water upon her wearied skull.

As she wiped her lips dry for the umpteenth time, Lizzie realized what important preparation they had not made: the securing of drinkable water. If she had known any oath stronger than “to the fiend with it!” (a phrase her late father had been much enamored of using in moments of extreme agitation), she would have used it then, for Lizzie knew all too well that without water to drink she and Alice would be parched in very little time and dead in not much longer, particularly if one gave in to the temptation to drink sea water. It was a death warrant, well she knew, but would Alice remember.

It was hard to imagine Alice coping on her own, paddling her way through the water alone. Lizzie sent up a desperate prayer that her young and often foolish cousin should not perish due to either her own neglect or Alice’s often inefficient thought. It was too much to be born! Lizzie could reconcile herself to the thought of death, full of regret as she might be to never see the King of Naples with her own eyes (for well she knew that phantasies were most often far more rewarding than realities ever proved to be), but she could not quite bring herself to picture poor dear Alice perishing in the cold waves, alone, confused and without adequate recognition and preparation for death.

If we are not near land, we shall perish, Lizzie thought with harsh simplicity. She looked in vain through the inky night but could discern no sign of stars or other signs but the occasional flash of lightning far in the distance. Did storms go out to sea or toward land, she wondered. If toward land, she might be floating in the right direction, for she was more or less moving in the same path as the storm was retreating. She hugged the barrel tightly, trying not to think of the lack of water, nor of the hungry fish that might be floating below her. She did not believe in sea monsters of any kind. Or so she told herself; when on dry land Lizzie had found the idea patently absurd and filed such notions away with the fancies of Gulliver’s Travels.

But now the idea of some ancient and tentacled monster rising to the surface, disturbed by her passage on the waves, not only seemed possible but entirely imminent. Lizzie anxiously tried to berate herself for her lack of logic, but found it impossible not to violently kick her feet whenever she imagined something brush against her leg. It might be only a fish, she admonished her suddenly wakeful imagination, but her increasingly frantic mind whispered back, it might not be a fish at that.

In such a way, Lizzie floated like a cork upon the wide ocean with not another soul in sight or within sound of her occasional pitiful cries. Done to a cow's thumb, exhausted by her fears and her struggle to survive, the brave young woman fell into a fitful slumber just as the first bright fingers of dawn began to lighten the darkness upon a much calmer sea.

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