Well Met by Moonlight - short story

Well Met by Moonlight

We were sailing our little barque on a straight four-day run from Domina to Carribtown. Grandpa bought the beautiful three-master the day I was born – so we both became Adeline.

With four nights at sea, we don’t trouble with harbours: it’s a lot of bother to detour, and squeeze in and out, tie up, and avoid the guy who comes round for the berthing fee. Generally, we find a bay to drop anchor, but that night the wind faded an hour earlier than usual, and we were becalmed, me and the four guys.

It was hardly the first time, so it didn’t worry us – it’s fairly routine to drop the sea anchor over the bow and let the cable out. Fore and aft lights on, plus port and starboard, and we relaxed in the cockpit with a few rums and pinyas. That’s standard practice up to midnight, yarning, strumming the guitar, chewing the fat and the jerk chicken. Plus keeping a general eye out over the water, keeping a measure of the weather before the guys bedded down. As I was skipper on that trip, I had the choice of watches, and stood the first one. I loved the tranquil warmth; the masts, sails and ropes silhouetted against the moonlit clouds.

It was the Cuba Strait; no sign of land or another vessel in any direction, even in moonlight as bright as it was that night. From what the experts said, the water there was almost as deep as it was wide – it was the Boxor Deep, a geological trench where the sea bed sank so, so far into the abyssal depths.

The hundreds of times I’ve sailed across here… rough seas sometimes, but the nights usually fall like this – warm and still, not so much as a murmur or slap from a ripple against the hull.

Flying fish skipped past, raising sparks of electric-blue phosphorescence – magical, mystical stuff. So quiet. The moon made perfect reflections of the scattered clouds on the black water. ‘I’ll miss nights like this,’ I said to myself, ‘when I give up sea-faring to settle with Rohan.’

Such a calm, soft night. Beautiful. Pace the deck, slowly, silently, lean over the rails for a while – one eye on the water, one on the sky, and both on the horizon. Yes… Rohan – Gorgeous great hunk. My gorgeous great hunk.

The fragrance of warm jasmine drifting in the air – my favourite. A swirl in the black water: a dreaming whale, perhaps? Or giant squid come up to feed? Moonlit ripples spread lazily away, so calm.

Close alongside, so close… a black mass began to rise from the water, glossed and wet. The jasmine scent became stronger. Tiny points and patterns of light appeared on it as the great mass drew level with me. They moved back and forth, more and more of them, changing colour, coalescing into circles like eyes a metre across.

Unable to move or breathe, I stood frozen, staring into the mind of a being from the depths, just feet away, silently studying each other either side of the ship’s rail.

Uncertain why, I reached towards it, as if for a high five.

Something stretched back, met my hand. For long, precious minutes an intense emotional awareness filled me. Such feelings and thoughts… My soul took flight… and swirled through unknown depths. The night stopped, poised.

Eventually, reluctantly I sensed, it withdrew, and slipped back beneath the ripples. I was left alone with a swirl of phosphorescence as the moon slipped silently behind the clouds.

I’ve never told anyone why I decided against a life with Rohan, or of my continuing strange, warm thoughts about new-found kin at sea. Deep within, I treasure the memory of those long moments when we joined and shared.

I keep wondering – is that what it’s still thinking, too?

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