Chapter 9: Red Morning
As Esmeralda stood there trembling, there was an ominous boom of thunder in the distance. All of a sudden the old saying came back to her mind: Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in morning, sailor's warning.
Was it a bad omen? Esmeralda shivered some more, and not just from the cold. Asher stood solidly beside her, stone-faced, but as thunder rumbled again, this time followed by a crackle of lightning, his hand drifted from his side to clasp hers. Standing there, she was filled with calm. No matter what happened, she would face it with a friend by her side.
The entire boat was lit up by a flash of lightning. Esmeralda was terrified. The sky looked like it was bleeding. Gathering her senses, she remembered what Caspian had taught her about figuring out how close a storm was. She counted ten seconds before thunder crashed. 2 miles. But would it come on time?
The clouds opened up and let loose a deluge.
“Get on with it,” Captain Straton growled at his men.
Esmeralda and Asher were shoved forward. Esmeralda couldn’t help but let out a cry as she tripped on a wedge of sodden planking. A sailor prodded her forward, and as she looked up she saw Asher already on a stool, his head in the noose. His eyes were wide and his fists were clenched, but he said nothing.
She was shoved up on the stool next to his. The captain’s eyes glinted with bloodlust and some of the sailors were grinning, relishing the moment.
“Now, who first?” Straton said, rubbing his hands together. He strode forward, boots making a clop sound against the wet boards.
“Sir!” Eli came rushing up on deck. “Sir, we have a problem.”
Straton ignored him. “Alright, the boy first. I want to see this one suffer.” And he jabbed Esmeralda in the side with a long finger. She stifled her cry. The rope rubbed against her neck, and she was dreading the moment her feet would swing and all her weight would be on her neck.
“Sir!” Eli said again, and this time the captain backhanded him across the cheek. The cook reeled back, but didn’t leave. “The galley is flooded! I think one of the boards in the hull came loose. We must patch the hole while we still have time!”
One of the sailors had been peering out into the distance. “Cap’n, the storm is less than two miles away now.” Esmeralda couldn’t help but smile. Caspian knew his stuff. Well, had known his stuff.
Don’t think like that, she scolded herself fiercely.
A wave crashed up against the side of the boat. Water came pouring over the side and one of the sailors was swept over the side.
“Man overboard!” someone shrieked.
The captain swore. Then he kicked out the stool from beneath Asher’s feet. The boy’s eyes bulged and his hands came up to his throat as he swung there, helpless.
Esmeralda gasped and ran towards him. “Asher!” she screamed. He was still breathing. He was still alive. She must save him.
Then a huge wave came over the side of the boat. Esmeralda was knocked over by the stream of seaweed and salt water, and everything went black.
She was drowning. She couldn’t seem to move her limbs. Esmeralda watched, almost mesmerized, as a flurry of bubbles escaped her lips and disappeared into the gloom. She felt enveloped by a strange sort of peace.
Then the water was disturbed by a thrashing nearby. She drifted around and saw something float towards her. Its arms were waving and its legs were kicking fiercely. It was shooting up towards the surface. That’s not fair, she thought. What about me?
As it passed her, she caught a glimpse of its face. The boy looked strangely like Asher.
I must be dreaming.
Esmeralda closed her eyes and waited for herself to wake up.