(as received by Ariel DeAngelis, January 21, 2013)
Mid-journey; more than halfway through, they had come to rest in stillness several times already, and though now they were clearly still underway, the seemingly inescapable perception of stillness lay all around them. The depths were glassy smooth, the winds but a gentle wisp of breath in the sails that were still deployed. Near apathy had prevented the crew from bothering to stow them properly; the prevailing current carrying them on toward their destination ensured forward movement.
The course they were following had them spiraling like the lead and pitch of a giant screw as they traversed the vast distances of the seemingly endless void. The majority of those aboard seemed unaware of the actual movement of the vessel; it’s size and inertial dampers compensated for any possible perception of movement.
Steady as she goes… a tall ship and a star to steer her by. A cluster of blue diamonds in a sea of black velvet being the force behind their charge.
The journey up to that point had not been uneventful. Many a wondrous landscape had they passed by and landed upon to gaze in awe at what their sight beheld, and even to disembark periodically and partake of adventures that only the bravest of the brave would so dare. Such had been their experience up until now. Caught unwary in the lull, even board-game-like pastimes and imaginative visualizations left them wanting for more. The Captain watched absently from the aft terrace as his crew and some of the others aboard wandered aimlessly about the main deck like a horde of rats drunken on fermented grain. He wondered casually how much longer it would be until they reached their destination.
“Soon…” a familiar sentiment rang in his head.
Though ever patient, he was a bit reluctant to allow such behavior of ones who had volunteered for such a noble cause. It seemed he had no choice. In light of the minor storm they had just weathered, albeit not so tumultuous as to require preventative measures to avert peril to their wellbeing, but strong enough to have engaged their attention for a significant period of time, he knew they were deserving of some kind of respite. He took note of the decided contrast of the fore and aft, allowing his gaze to track back and forth along the main deck.
In a partially concealed corner near the fore of the vessel a movement that seemed out of place to the current ambient mood caught his attention. He stared a while trying to discern what it was. It had been a few days now since the lull had set down, and he had to admit that now even his own attention seemed to wander, set adrift by the promise of what dreams might come and the inevitable conclusion this journey would bring them all to; the home they were once and once again to know.
Down over up, down over up, down over up, down over up… the pattern repeated over and over again with barely a pause at all.
A small child was sitting on the deck at the fore of the vessel with his back against the paneling, bouncing a small ball, scooping at something on the deck and then catching the ball again in his hand. Jacks! The Captain recalled many childhoods past playing at this very same game to pass the time of long summer days caught well between the lessons of life and the sureness of a peaceful sleep to follow… those days were long past him now and the faint sound coming across that short distance brought him back from his reverie…
Tap sssss click tap sssss click tap sssss click tap sssss click – as the ball was bounced, jacks collected and ball caught in the same hand. The rhythm possessing almost a musical meter… The Captain tapped his finger on the terrace railing in time to the game, a sudden urge for something more than the prevailing frame of mind currently being offered overtook him, and he strode down from the terrace onto the main deck keeping his steps in time to the cadence of the game.
1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 his steps fell one foot in front of the other until he reached the fore. With one arm folded across his chest and the other elbow propped up on it, he put forefinger to chin in a thoughtful gesture as he stopped a couple of feet short of where the child sat playing the game. The Captain’s rather massive form cast a large shadow over the child as he stood there looking on. The child looked up and upon seeing the commanding officer staring down at him in what he assumed was a stern manner, stopped what he was doing and moved to get up, thinking that, even no one else was, he’d better appear “busy” if he knew what was good for him. The Captain however motioned to him,
“No, no, stay where you are. Carry on…” and then putting forefinger back to chin, stood and watched as the child, with a questioning look on his face resumed his game.
Tap sssss click tap sssss click tap sssss click tap sssss click; slowly at first, but then the rhythm too resumed its previous tempo. Feeling a rush of delight the Captain began softly tapping his foot in time with the rhythm of the game, the toe of his boot coming to light on the deck with every down beat.
Tap 2 3 tap 2 3 tap 2 3 tap 2 3…
Of course, what was taking place hadn’t escaped the notice of some of the crew and others aboard who were also secretly hoping for some signs of “life” to break up the monotony of this near dead calm, this Sargasso Sea of fertile expectations. The overhead light rested warm upon their shoulders as they gathered round and watched, some squirming with the almost irresistible urge to move in time to the rhythm, but no orders or permission had been issued implying allowance for them to take opportunity of this time to make merry… or so they thought.
The mass of the group gathering around the child created a swath of shadow as it grew in numbers. One by one curious onlookers stepped forward for a closer look. The child paused for a moment letting out a sigh, half in relief for the cover of their shade, and half feeling perplexed that perhaps they had never seen someone playing jacks before. The Captain looked around at the attention that had been attracted, and then looked quickly a time or two back and forth between the child and the crowd that was gathered, noting that the rhythm had stopped. Abruptly, though almost matter-of-factly the Captain repeated his previous order,
And so the child followed the Captain’s request. The Captain also resumed his foot tapping, keeping track of rhythm with the very next drop of the ball. He smiled his face-splitting smile, lighting up the whole fore as if there were a second sun already shining in the sky. Relieved to see their commanding officer caught up in something other than the dregs of boredom as they themselves had been just moments earlier, the crew and others aboard forming the now quite large crowd began to allow themselves a bit of leeway. Some of them swayed to the rhythm, others of them tapped out their own 1 to the down beat. And then, almost as if on cue, a sharp whistle rang out, also in time to the meter of the game turned spectacle. A crew member pushed way to the front of the crowd and burst into the open brandishing a small flute which she then began playing at the beginning of the very next measure. A bright and happy little motif flowed from the end of that unexpected instrument.
Smiles began to light up along the front of the crowd and someone else broke into song upon hearing the strains of that familiar tune. And then another and another and another joined in. Soon one of the others aboard came forward producing a fiddle upon which he played the expected counterpoint to the tune being played on the flute, and then others in the crowd began singing the corresponding counterpoint with those who also raised their voices in song. Then two then three then four began to dance, interlocking their elbows and twirling each other around in a sea shanty jig. Others came forward and joined in the dance.
From somewhere in the bowels of the vessel a few of the others aboard had produced several jugs of an unknown liquid consenting to take long swigs from them before passing them around … until one jug was handed to the Captain. He reached out and took the jug that was offered to him, and upon realizing what it was, a look of consternation momentarily came over his face. The music, singing and dancing suddenly stopped, and many of the participants fearing they had broken some long standing protocol looked on, anticipating the end of the impromptu party.
The Captain looked down at the jug as if deep in thought. For a moment a small frown furrowed his brow, and then … he tipped the jug back took a long draught from it and when he was done, held the jug out to the person next to him, and motioning to the crowd commanded,
“Carry on!”, frown turned back to face splitting smile.
A cheer went up from the crowd and music and merriment could be heard coming from the vessel long into the evening hours when the stars shone brightly ahead and the current they were nestled in began to pick up speed. On through the night the pervasive feeling of Joy could be sensed far into the vast reaches of the void through which they now traveled, the vibration they had set impacting their progress in a profoundly positive way.
In the wee hours of the morning, after the crew and others aboard had wended their way to their respective quarters to spend some time recovering from the night’s exertions, the Captain sat in his chair on the bridge patiently awaiting what he could only imagine. He stared at the view and mused over history having repeated itself; a child had once again led the way…
A sudden and sharp jolt in the movement of the vessel alerted the Captain to the next expected leg of the journey having been reached.
“Almost there…” the thought rang out loudly inside his head. His first in command standing next to him shot him a knowing glance, locking eyes with him for just a moment. A gentle smile curled up around the corners of her mouth, and then they both returned their attention to the view. Inertial dampers held fast as the vessel nudged into the slipstream that would propel them almost instantly to their final destination. A very slight sense of dislocation could be felt as the vessel suddenly appeared at the plotted coordinates and preparations for deceleration were made. The first in command looked at the Captain and patted her hand firmly once on the Captain’s shoulder in acknowledgement of a job well done. The Captain reached up and gently laid his own hand over hers, holding it there for a moment, smiling up at her his own gentle smile.
They both returned their gaze to the view. A Star shone brightly there, its slightly bluish color illuminating the bridge… Nearby stars twinkled, responding to their presence in awareness of long anticipated greeting.
I AM Archangel Michael incarnate as Ashtar Sheran. God Spede You and Welcome Home!