Harmony in a Box – 03-05

“Drink this, it will make you feel better and help you regain some strength.” The man spoke perfect English with a well-bred accent. “My name is Colin.” He makes a shallow oriental-like bow. I notice the man to be of white European features unlike the more Inuit mongoloid look of the others. “I am from the Harmony monastery. I will take you there for safety and shelter.” He looks at me and smiles, motioning me not to talk.

I muster a smile and nod of appreciation. For some strange reason, momentarily I slip into my glib bar persona and look at him and say, “I know I’m not dead – they don’t make angels that ugly.” Colin gives me a puzzled smile, bows then turns away. I hear him introduce himself to the others. Introductions completed, the sleds are loaded and we travel methodically over this barren landscape of snow, ice, and rock. I think how the snow-laden barrens look like an ocean storm in suspended animation. The snowdrifts appear like frozen waves.  The snow blowing over the drifts and across the land looks like frozen ocean spray.

Throughout the journey I drift in and out of consciousness for minutes, hours or days I couldn’t tell you. The time of day was difficult to assess. It was gray and dreary with overcast skies. It could have been a dark day or light night; we were in the latitudes of the permanent day or night. Lulled by the sound of creaking snow being crushed by the men and their sleds, these sounds become my reference point, my sonic blanket of existence. I was startled at the occasional command and encouragement directed towards the dogs.

We stop periodically to rest the dogs and receive warm liquids. Recognizing our weakened condition our guides strap us to the dogsleds to ensure our safety. Never venturing from the safety of the sleds none of us have the opportunity to talk to one another. The terrain is getting decisively more rugged and hilly in this desert of snow. There are protruding rocks and boulders at increased intervals with what seem to be a mountainous region looming in the near distance.

Travelling towards the dark ominous highland mountain area, which now seems to engulf my horizon, I sense a vision like I have been here before. A deja vu feeling, perhaps from a dream or past life, although I am not a great believer of psychic phenomena, witchcraft or reincarnation. Periodically I have had these similar visions. They are really unexplainable. I just accept them believing, as long as I experience them periodically, my life must be on the right track. Often, the actual circumstance and scene in which the original vision occurs has no bearing on the real-time event triggering my sensory recollection. I feel somewhat relieved at the vision; it feels like a comfort zone for me, something familiar in this unfamiliar situation. The organic movement of the sled makes my body feel heavy, gently being rocked by the unevenness of the terrain, slowly I drift into another sleep.

Harmony in a Box – 03-04

Time is passing at great cost. Everyone of us realize how bleak our situation is.  Creaks from the boat seem the only sounds to matter. The boat is lifting and lowering like a slow vibrating sound wave on the ocean. In my mind a loud buzz or hum begins to consume my consciousness, louder and louder like the white noise of an end of transmission TV station. The noise is deafening, then in the background beginning ever so faintly I hear the Blue Danube Waltz. A faint smile crosses my lips as in this situation of doom a musical joke dances in my head. Slowly it dissipates to a sense of defeat.

I begin to feel nauseated; pangs of hunger and helplessness snatch my attention. Staring into the distance, reflecting light blurs my vision. Like a baby in a carriage, destiny is determined by forces beyond my control. Subdued I drift into a hypnotic trance looking at some logs floating towards us in the ocean. At some point my eyes close and I enter into nothingness.

“Over here!” Virginia’s voice is faint and strained.

Too tired to open my eyes and feeling some comfort in my fetal position, I just lie there.

“Over here!” This time Virginia’s voice is a little louder. I feel the canvas move, stiffly shifting as it has become a frozen whole. The sound of the cracking canvas becomes irritating as Virginia attempts to get up. I am content to accept my fate. She’s delirious I think, yet with as much strength as I can muster I open an eye. Through the slit of vision I can see that our dinghy is surrounded by undulating waves, and that the logs are getting closer. No, not logs I think, but whales. An uninvited wave blocks my vision. I open my other eye wincing as I try to raise myself. Somehow the whales transform themselves into people in kayaks paddling towards us.

Now broadside, the people in the kayaks are talking to us in a foreign tongue. Gently but firmly poking at us with their paddles; they are trying to rouse us out of unconsciousness and to stimulate movement. They toss across a cloth bag. Inside we find some leathery meat. They motion for us to eat it.

With one on each side and three in front they tow our lifeboat to shore. The shoreline is rocky and barren. Beyond the shore a frozen wasteland stretches as far as the eye could see. Weather beaten rock ledges and boulders spaciously dot the white canvas scene. We are ushered from the boats by a series of hand gestures accompanied by instructions in an incomprehensible tongue. We are wrapped in blankets and furs and then motioned to be seated onto some awaiting dog sleds. From a covered sled a figure appears and approaches the sled I am on. Another person brings over a cup of warm liquid, judging from the steam rising from it, and hands it to me.

Harmony in a Box – 03-03

We hurry up the narrow staircase to the upper deck steering room. “Captain Wiggins! Captain, where are you?” we all call out in unison. The ocean, although still a bit choppy, had lost most of most of its violence over the night.

“Where’s the Captain?” Virginia looks around, stating the obvious, “There is no sign of him or crewman Waites.” The helm is deserted, the floor still slick from the ocean waves that had at the height of the storm driven sheets of saltwater through the small quarters. That the boat is listing to the starboard side is very evident from this vantage point. We have to get off.

A small dinghy is strapped mid ship and secured by cables. Quickly we cast off the boathooks and with minimal confusion and a concerted effort we lower it into the thrashing ocean waves. Herb boards first and helps us all on. A few minutes later we release the cables tying her to the Angelica and find ourselves afloat in the North Atlantic. Slowly we are distanced from the Angelica; time has no parameters at this point. As we drift into the horizon we watch in horror as a wave swallows the Angelica leaving no trace of her existence. We are motionless; having succumbed to a trancelike existence as we try to digest this twist of fate.

Herb finally breaks the silence “What do you think happened to the Captain and crewman?”

“They’re dead, and so are we!” blurts out Jitters, looking frantically over the ocean, almost rising to his feet.

“Get a hold of yourself man, we are not done yet.” I reply trying to convince myself and everyone else that all is not lost.

“We’ve got no food or water, I’m freezing and we’re adrift in the North Atlantic.” Jitters, his voice on the verge of panic, ruthlessly sums up our situation.

“Hell, the brochure said it would be an adventure you’d remember for the rest of you life. I’ll tell you I won’t forget this.” Herb spoke trying to add a little levity to this remarkably grave situation.

Surprisingly, Virginia appears to be holding up rather well. “How are you doing?” I ask her.

“As well as can be expected coming out of that terrible storm. I hope the Captain and crewman are being taken care of, God bless their souls,” Virginia makes the sign of the cross on her chest.

“You are doing remarkably well.” Herb directs his comment to me.

“Christ what is wrong with you people, we are all going to die in this miserable hell hole!” Jitters, upset by the mundane conversation, predicts again.

I look around at the endless distance of sky and water, while we sit in a small boat bobbing in the North Atlantic like a bottle in the ocean. Suddenly I am aware of the cold wind ripping through me to my bones. We are not dressed appropriately and we are all soaked to the skin. Virginia instructs us to wrap up together under a canvas tarp she found in the boat. At first we were all shivering and holding hands for warmth, but we all realize that we are slowly succumbing to the cold.

Harmony in a Box – 03-02

Determined to make my way to the steering room I cling and grab anything to get to the upper deck. My eyes grow large as I ascend. Through the windows I see ocean swells 20 meters high; like massive watery headstones, searching for their next victims.

Captain Wiggin’s forehead is wrinkled with concentration. Seeing me from the corner of his eye he shouts, “Seems Neptune is trying to claim another soul. This gale brewed up from the Northeast. A bad omen. How’re the others?”

“Don’t know for sure, I haven’t seen Taylor at all,” I yell as a large wave rolls across the deck.

“The Angelica taken on some water, but she’s a dry boat. Aye, that she is.” Wiggins says, mainly to himself.

“Look!” I shout, pointing ahead through the darkness, hope rising briefly in my chest only to be ripped away. “It’s gone. For a moment I thought I saw lights of a boat or town off in the distance.”

We were not granted a second look. A hailstone smashes through the window into a large rack of electronic gear. Frantically the Captain grabs a curly corded microphone from the emergency radio. Clicking a button on the side of the mike and turning knobs he begins repeating a Mayday message, but to no avail. “Radio’s out,” groans Captain Wiggins. “Get below and brace yourself – its going be rough.” Just then a wave crashes into the boat and we both are tossed to one side. The Captain, slammed into the wall, grimaces in pain, but shrugs it off and grips the wheel tightly, stagger stepping his feet as an additional brace against the ferocity of the storm. He stares with fierce intensity into the gloom of night, the sky sliced by lightning every few seconds casting an eerie light. I return below joining the others including Taylor. All were now sitting around the galley table with their lifejackets on.

I yell to be heard. “We are in a bad storm. The radio is out. It’d be a good idea to brace yourselves against the table.”

Virginia directs my attention to a lifejacket for me, motioning me to put it on, which I am happy to do. The endless roar of the ocean and the deafening sound of hailstones against the boat make conversation impossible. We all take turns drinking from a bottle of rum being passed around.

We bobbed and heaved through the ocean’s awful torment, knowing that at any minute our lives could be snatched from us, without even a plea for mercy. Jitters predicted our fate many times throughout the night. We held hands for strength and reassurance. I was surprised by everyone’s relative composure throughout this unforgiving event. We were tossed about like a mechanical bull, diving and pitching, defying gravitational norms. This turbulence was accented by bouts of sea sickness that all had succumbed to. The occurrence was so regular no one left the table. I don’t know if I fell asleep or passed out from exhaustion or the rum, but I was brought to by Jitters voice, “We’re sinking.”

Harmony in a Box – 03-01

Harmony in a Box Chapter 2, Part 5

Awoken by a sudden jolt I felt I like I was being smeared against the wall like a helpless insect. Cupboard doors sprang open, articles in the cabin slammed into the wall. I shielded my head with my arms as protection from scattering debris. Pressed against my bunk and wall, I wonder what the hell is going on. Did we hit an iceberg, another boat? The roar of breaking surf was deafening as it subsided into the groans of twisting steel. Loud screams and moans come from within the darkness of the cabin.

“Stay below! Brace yourselves! The wrath of Neptune is upon us!” bellows Captain Wiggins.

I lay there attempting to shake the cobwebs out. Suddenly there was a tremendous roar that penetrated any thought, swallowing the screams and moans of the others. I tried to sit up but was catapulted to the starboard side and tossed to the floor. Again I shielded myself from the oncoming debris. Anything not battened down was now flung across the cabin. I felt a trickle of water at my feet. Every sense I knew was being challenged in this situation of chaos.

“She’s taking on water!” Snippets of conversation could be heard coming from the upper deck, “For God’s sake’s man, turn on the bilge pumps, Lenny boy!”

I could feel the wind vibrating the side of our boat like a stretched canvas. With a sudden jolt the boat, which had been listing heavily starboard, shifted back into a prone position. It was like it had been dropped from a great height, plunking heavily into the ocean waters. Usually taking pride in remaining calm under pressure I suddenly was unsure of myself and my very existence. I wanted to hide from this dance with the Devil and wake up miraculously in my mother’s arms, protecting me from harm. Struggling to my feet I stagger to the cabin door. In the hall I find Virginia taking an inventory on her own condition.

“You okay?” I say reaching out to steady her.

“Yes, and you?’’ she asks. I nod to her, reassuring my well being

“My God what’s happening to us?” Virginia asks with panicked concern.

Before I can respond, we hear a muffled voice from an adjacent cabin. “Anyone there? Help me!”

Using the walls for balance, Virginia and I follow the sound of Jitters voice. We find him pinned to the floor by a mattress and his suitcase.

“We’re going down, I feel water for Christ sake.” Jitters’ panicked voice echoes in my head, saying aloud the very thoughts in my mind. “Where’s the Captain? Christ almighty – what’s happening!”

“I’m getting some lifejackets.” Virginia says and leaves to find some.

“What are we going to do?” Jitters’ insistent tone was verging on panic.

Suddenly the boat tossed forward, rolling nose heavy on a breaking wave. A bang, like a sledge hammer on steel pierced the air. Another bang and then another.

“Hail!” hollers Captain Wiggins. ”The size of golf balls.”