I’ve always loved the sea, and this original piece of artwork matched the story perfectly.
The storm appeared from nowhere. One minute the elite of society were partying under the stars on the millionaire’s yacht, the next they were diving below deck for shelter from the raging torrents. Designer gowns worth a fortune were ruined in seconds by the torrential rain, and spike heels became hazardous on the slippery surface.
It wasn’t as if they were in tropical waters where sudden weather changes were expected; this was the middle of the Mediterranean. Normally the only major catastrophe would be running out of ice before they could sail into the next port to replenish supplies.
I was not one of the esteemed guests, just a lowly waitress who happened to be in the right place at the right time when a summer virus struck down the usual serving staff. The Head waiter had seen me working in a dockside café, and in desperation had employed me on the spot. I had jumped at the chance assuming the clientele on the ship would be better than the drunken louts I was currently serving.
Unfortunately, they were not a great improvement. Tetchy at having their idyllic lifestyle disrupted they took it out on the staff. The atmosphere became strained, and tempers frayed as the tempest continued throughout the night. Despite being such a modern vessel, the constant battering of the waves caused even hardy travellers to feel queasy, and I was one of the few unaffected. Surprisingly, although I had lived all my life in industrial towns I had always felt at home on the sea.
There had been some confusion at my birth and I had never known my true parents. The couple who found me when I was only a few days old had adopted me, and I only knew the minimal facts they had told me as I was growing up. They had been childless and nearing middle age, enjoying a cruise when the ship they were on encountered a problem. Taking advantage of the enforced delay, they decided to explore a remote part of a nearby uninhabited island whilst the ship was being repaired. They hired the services of a local fisherman, and spent a few happy hours enjoying the flora and fauna before returning to the liner to continue their holiday.
Navigating across the rocks to get one final photograph they stumbled across a tiny beach hut. A weak cry for help encouraged them to go inside, to discover a fisherman lying on the floor, surrounded by his catch. ‘Mer…Mer..’ he gurgled, struggling to speak.
The sound of a baby crying shook them out of their reverie; that’s when they discovered me, lying in a cot, covered in seaweed. There was no trace of my mother, and despite the best efforts of the doctors the man died, without ever uttering another word.
If he was my biological father, it might explain why I felt I had the sea in my blood. After all the formalities were complete they took me home, and brought me up as their own. They called me Merissa, assuming he had been trying to tell them my name.
Back on the yacht I was run off my feet trying to look after not only the guests, but many of the crew who were suffering from the effects of the raging storm. The next morning there was still no sign of the sun, and although the wind had eased, the rain continued to pour down from the heavens while the sea raged in protest.
By midday it was still as dark as night, as if the yacht had become marooned in a winter time warp. Suspicious whispers spread amongst the crew, and by late evening the Captain announced his intention of abandoning the trip and returning to dry land. There was still radio contact, and all other areas reported calm seas and glorious weather.
I had gone up on deck for some fresh air, and to escape the depressing atmosphere of the interior of the yacht, and the constant demands of the passengers. It was pitch black when I heard voices only a few yards away, although I could see no one.
‘We have no choice now Captain. With radio contact lost we are at risk of being marooned. I’ve never known anything like this.’
‘I agree. There is something weird about this situation. The sea might be cruel but she has always given signs if you know how to read them. This area is known to be placid; even in winter the weather has never been like this. You would think Poseidon is angry, and somehow we’ve been caught up in his argument. It’s too risky to sail tonight but inform the crew to be ready at daybreak. According to our navigator we are only 50 miles from shore, so if nothing else we can replenish the stores and make a further decision once we’ve anchored.’
‘Aye, aye, Captain. To be honest the crew will be pleased to escape this place. They’ve been nervy and unsettled ever since the storm hit. It doesn’t feel natural and they’re all a bit spooked.’
The two men returned below and I was left alone in the dark. The wind had eased slightly but the heavens were still releasing torrents to crash into the stormy seas. The boat rocked and swayed as great waves caught it up, then pounded it back into the turbulent water. I stayed on deck mesmerised, and although I knew it was my imagination I felt I could hear the siren’s song beneath the howling of the storm.
A blinding flash of sheet lightning suddenly illuminated the night sky, and in the distance I saw what appeared to be a small rocky island. Somehow I knew its craggy surface and hidden caves provided a haven for a myriad of sea creatures.
A deafening crack of thunder and the boat rocked, throwing me against the railing and nearly tipping me into the raging sea. Although it righted itself, another crashing wave hit almost immediately and I felt the yacht list to one side. Water poured over the deck forcing it even closer to the waves, and in that moment I knew it would capsize. Another flash of lightning revealed the gaping hole starting to spread along the side of the boat, and I knew the time had come. Taking a deep breath I climbed the rail and jumped. Behind me I heard shouts and screams as the seriousness of the situation hit the passengers, and the staff tried to organise the life boats.
Rather than hamper me, the waves pushed me in the direction of the island and I swam easily, not even getting breathless. As I neared the shore I turned for one last look at the doomed boat. It was now nearly totally submerged, but as the sun rose I saw people floundering in the water. For a moment I felt pity, but then I heard the siren’s song and I knew my mother was calling me home.
© Voinks July 2017
Artwork courtesy of Rosa Maria. You can find more of her pieces available for sale at the S28 Gallery