Hi, Welcome to Windhaven 27 and a couple story prompts for writers or the curious. This is a long post to catch up what I’ve done between surgery, school, and editing the fourth book in my Blood Justice series, Blood on the Mountain.
If you want to know what school custodians do while you’re all snuggy at home with your pet or spouse check out The Custodian Stories.
Windhaven is a survival adventure that could happen any day now. I’m not doing official chapters every post, just whenever. The numbers are to keep it all in order, sort of, for you and me. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.
To start Windhaven from the beginning go HERE
What if you were a digital genius type with an idea for a commercial website? You spend hours, days coding. While reviewing you work you come to some sections of code you don’t remember writing. But you’re tired, in a hurry and you skip over it. You launch. While checking it’s as you wanted you come across a section that looks like a tunnel, or a wormhole.
You click and suddenly you are looking at the bridge of a spaceship. Think Star Trek. You figure out it’s real. You’re watching a real future ship, and you can interact with it. The crew doesn’t know you’re there, but they feel you, think of you as a Ghost in the Ship. There’s a war going on.
The ship is hit and you’re the only one who can save it. The Ghost Hero!
What if a Werewolf lived in a small town surrounded by plenty of forest to run around in when necessary? Nobody knows what he is, but he’s a well known lawyer. He has a client, a woman, charged with murder. Right away he’s attracted to her and believes she’s innocent. Using his werewolf powers he investigates, easily finding another suspect.
Too easy. He asks a cop friend to check out the evidence he found. The cop finds different facts. The lawyer does some research and consults with other werewolves with Witch connections. He secretly meets with a Witch who casts a spell over him. When he visits his client he discovers she is a witch and has bewitched him, and others, and she is guilty. She becomes enraged, tries to kill him with her considerable power. The other witch’s spell protects him. She tries to escape. The cop is ready to stop her, but only slows her down. Outside two witches, cops, who have been searching for her stop her and take her away after making sure nobody remembers what happened.
To start Windhaven from the beginning go HERE
Noah plopped down beside Leigh. “We have some light air sails, don’t we? I suggest we drag one out and set it as best we can.”
By the end of the day they had a small spinnaker up and a South South East course set. All they needed was enough wind to move Windhaven.
They drifted for two days, one, two, three knots, barely any wake. They looked out for the occasional squalls that traveled random tracks across the glassy sea. They’d scramble about dousing the spinnaker then strip and use the brief downpour for impromptu showers while using a tarp to capture water for the tanks.
A day passed with squalls all around them but none coming close, and oppressive heat in the nineties. The next day, worn out by the heat, their attention faltered. They had managed a small awning over the downed mast. Leigh, usually vigilant to the weather, let the stress and heat and the fatigue of surviving the last months lull her into a deep doze.
Something woke her; Maybe a small change in temperature or pressure. Maybe a shshshsh sound that grew steadily louder. Her eyes were heavy, as if a lead weight was attached to each one. She didn’t want to open them; she wanted a few more minutes before she faced whatever woke her. She peeked through her heavy eyelids saw the usual washed out blue sky and distant squalls traveling over flat calm water. A shadow floated over her. Leigh began to wake up. She rolled her head to look the other way just in time to feel the first drops of a massive squall only a few feet away.
A wall of water pushed her down as she tried to stand. A blast of wind hit the sails heeling Windhaven and sending Leigh sprawling. Instantly soaked, she struggled to get to the helm.
Noah popped out of the companionway instantly blasted by wind and rain.
“Get that spinnaker down,” Leigh shouted as she turned the wheel to head up into the wind.
No need for words, Noah climbed out and holding tight to the cabin top handrails made his way to the mast. Leigh had headed the boat into the furious wind so Noah could dowse the spinnaker onto the deck. Noah let go the halyard and stepped forward to gather in the lightweight sail. He did not notice that a kink in the halyard caught on a cleat, keeping the spinnaker about two thirds up.
Out of control, the bow swung a degree to starboard. As the squall moved across the water the wind direction changed, catching the spinnaker’s starboard side. In an instant the sail ballooned to port, smacking Noah in the face and knocking him back against and over the lifelines.
“Man Over-,” was all he got out before hitting the water.
Like watching a snowy TV screen Leigh had watched Noah. For a few seconds she didn’t connect his scream with the faint image of the sail hitting him. Man overboard? How could that be? Then she heard, “Leigh. Help,” cut through the drum of rain on the deck. The call came from beside her and faded fast.
She jumped to the port side in time to see Noah slide past the stern and vanish into the maelstrom. Before she started cussing her long experience at sea took over. In seconds she yanked the release for the man-overboard gear cobbled together since the big wave: A floating yellow pole, a u-shaped life ring and an iffy strobe light.
“Shit, shit, shit. Thomas! On deck now.”
Thomas was already climbing the companion way ladder.
“Noah is overboard. Take the wheel. We have to stop this bitch or we’ll lose him.”
Not waiting for Thomas to slide over to the helm she spun the wheel and raced forward. At the mast she let go the mainsail halyard to drop the main then yanked the kink out of the spinnaker halyard. The rain beat the thin sail to the deck while the wind tried to blow it overboard. On her knees, Leigh scrambled to gather up the sail while not getting blown overboard herself.
Wind pressure prevented the main from dropping. As the wind swirled it caught the main and heeled Windhaven to one side. Thomas would try and keep them headed into the wind, then the pressure changed, heeling the other way. Every time the wind caught the sail, small in area as it was, Windhaven, big as it was, picked up speed. This made steering easier for a moment, frustrating Thomas as he tried to head up and not move any farther from Noah.
As Leigh finally brought the mainsail under control the sun broke through under the clouds. Suddenly, light to see what she and Thomas were doing. Then the squall, in all squall’s typical perverse way, moved on. In less than a minute the rain changed from deluge to drizzle to drops dripping on the deck.
Thomas asked, “Leigh, who’d you piss off enough to bring that fucker down on us?”
“Must have been you and Noah. Neptune doesn’t like it when you guys piss over the rail. You have any idea where Noah is?”
They stood on what was left of the stern rail and scanned the horizon. With dusk settling fast if they didn’t spot him soon their chances dwindled as fast. Leigh searched with a pair of waterproof binoculars that somehow survived the big wave, but Thomas spotted the flag first.
“There!” he cried out.
Leigh scanned of the port stern. Thirty anxious seconds later, she said, “Got him. Shit, he’s long way away.” The glasses had a small compass that gave a bearing to an object. “Bearing about 345 degrees.”
“You know, there is a slight breeze. We might be able to make a close reach work.”
“I knew there was some reason we had you along, Thomas. Let’s do it. Head up the old boat and I’ll get the main up. I doubt he can swim faster than we’re drifting.”
Minutes later Leigh had set the main sail and Thomas had Windhaven headed 345 degrees. They made slow progress, half to one knot, but it was something. Ten minutes later with the glasses she could easily keep track of Noah. The strobe light attached to the life ring started working so Thomas could steer directly toward him.
Maybe as an apology for beating the crap out of them the breeze increased enough to allow Windhaven to make two knots.
Using a large battery powered flashlight, Leigh guided Thomas to Noah. Just before reaching him Thomas spun the wheel to head up into the now miniscule breeze. Windhaven came to a stop ten feet away.
Noah wore the u-shaped life ring with the opening on the back. The Floating flag trailed five feet behind.
Leigh threw Noah a line with a small loop to grab.
“Have a nice swim?” Thomas asked.
“Get me the fuck out of here,” Noah said.
Leigh pulled Noah to a small portable boarding ladder. A few feet from the ladder Leigh’s light picked up a dark shape. “Noah!”
Noah’s eyes went wide with confusion. Then he was yanked underwater right out of the life ring. One hand managed to grab the flag line. Leigh’s light revealed a small shark of about five feet with Noah’s foot in its mouth. Noah kicked at it with his free foot, but the shark did not want to let go as it attempted to drag Noah and the life ring deeper.
Without hesitation, Leigh handed the light to Thomas, grabbed a heavy winch handle and dove in. Her momentum took her right down to the shark where she smacked it on its sensitive nose. Disliking being hit on the nose more than it wanted to eat Noah, with a quick wiggle, it vanished into the now dark water.
A minute later Thomas dragged Noah over the rail.
Leigh threw the winch handle on deck then scrambled onto the deck and dropped to her knees, bent over, breathing deep. “Anyone else want to take a moonlight swim?”
The boarding ladder creaked and jumped. Thomas grabbed it and pulled it aboard. “I think big momma is pissed her baby didn’t get his dinner.”
Thomas wrapped a towel around Noah’s leg as the others caught their breath.
“Thomas,” Leigh gasped.
“I know. Get the first aid kit.”
Noah lay on the end of the settee with his wounded foot hanging over the edge. Leigh knelt on the floor working on the shark’s teeth marks, three wounds about an inch long on each side of the leg just above the ankle.
“This is going to hurt,” Leigh said, not waiting for a response. His leg twitched once as the alcohol ran over the gashes. “You should have stitches, but the doctor has gone home for the night.” Still not receiving any response she looked up at him. “Are you…?”
Noah was crying. Head pressed into the settee corner, his whole body quivered, tears rolled down his cheeks as he struggled to breathe with tiny hiccup breaths.
“Noah, Noah are you hurt someplace else?”
“Cold?” She touched his arm.
He jerked away. Issued a pitiful moan.
“Noah, what’s the matter?”
He barely managed a single word, “Scared.”
“Noah, you’re safe now. Out of the water.”
“Still scared. Coward, always a coward.”
“Coward? No way. With all the shit we’ve been through I haven’t seen any of that shit. You went up the mast. I know that took some fucking bravery for you to do that.”
“Fake, all of it.”
“Bullshit. What do you mean by ‘always a coward’?” She handed him a not-to-stiff-with-salt towel. “You want coffee? Sure you do.”
She could see him from the galley as she made coffee, while wondering in the back of her mind how long the gas would last. She added a hearty dollop from the last whisky bottle in one mug.
Noah curled up on the settee, knees pulled up, hugging himself.
Leigh took a covered coffee mug up to Thomas.
“How’s he doing?”
“He’s freaking out.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen that. A first timer in a big storm doing what needs to be done on a scary deck then they get down below and safe. That’s when the fear hits.”
“I think this is more than that. He’s calling himself a coward.”
“That’s not the way I see him.”
“Get him to talk about it.” Leigh throws him a look. “What? Psyche 101. I wasn’t always a boat bum.”
Leigh chuckled, patted his cheek and returned below.
Noah sniffled and snuffled and wiped away the remaining tears and his nose. He wouldn’t make eye contact with Leigh.
“Drink this.” She has to bump his hand to make him take the doctored mug. A couple minutes later the tears have stopped though the sniffing has not. He still won’t look her. “Noah. Noah!” He glances at her. “Tell me about this coward bullshit. I know about the tree, but there’s more to it, isn’t there?”
Noah tightened up, eyes searching for a way out. It took him half a minute and a long sip of coffee to speak.
“When I was thirteen and my brother was fourteen he slipped on some rocks, hit his head and fell into a river. I saw him floating away. I should have jumped in after him but I was too afraid. I tried yelling for help, but it came out as croak.”
“Could your brother swim?”
Shrug. “He was on the swim team.”
“Not so much.”
“What happened to him?”
“He swam to shore about a quarter mile down.”
“If you had gone in the water could you have helped him?”
“You might have drowned?”
“Maybe….” Shrug. “Probably.”
“That seems smart, not cowardly. What did you do.”
“I ran along the shore, helped him out of the water.”
“That was good.”
“He called me a coward for not jumping in the water after him.”
“That sucks. You should’ve pushed him back in.”
“He kept calling me that. Told my parents….We used to be close, but after that….”
“That was one instance–.”
“My wife called me that. One time some drunk guy said nasty things about her as we walked past and she wanted me to beat him up. He was just some guy. Who cared what he said about someone he didn’t know shit about? But she called me a coward.” He sipped his coffee. “Six months later we were divorced. The last thing she said to me was, ‘Pussy.’” Noah’s jaw clenched and he turned away, staring at nothing.
Leigh took his mug and refilled it, handed it back. “Noah why don’t you–?” Noah interrupted her and she realized that he needed to get it out of his system.
“I’d already started writing by then. Guess it wasn’t a manly enough job.” A wry smile crept over his lips. “A few months later I sold one of my books to the movies. So I bought a boat.” He chuffed at that, shook his head while peering into the past. “That title of ‘Coward,’ still lingered. I could only sail with friends who were experienced sailors. I sailed it singlehanded once. I had convinced myself I was too scared to do it again. Soon I couldn’t go with anybody. I lived on this nice boat and I was too scared to use it.”
“What about the races? Red said you were an excellent helmsman.”
His expression slipped into a scowl as he shook his head in wonder. “For some reason I’m good behind the helm. I liked it because I could keep my feet on the deck. Did he say he had to practically kidnap me? Just like here, the last one picked. Those races were short. I could hide my chicken-heartedness for that long.” His face bunched up, his mouth twitched as if searching for the correct expression of disgust of himself. A tear glistened on his cheek.
“Christ, Noah. You’re just talking yourself into it. Why the hell did you come on this little trip then?”
“I finished my last book and had no idea what to do next. I should have sailed to Mexico, but I was scared to go and didn’t have any body to go with and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.” He sat up and squared his shoulders. He flashed her an insincere smile. “I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t a coward. Those were shorter races with experienced crews. This race a big difference – it’s dangerous, you know. You see how that’s working out.”
“It’s working out fucking great. Stop putting yourself down. Whatever you were before you’re not him anymore. So suck it up, take a nap and be the brave, and frustrating, son of a bitch you are now. Finish your coffee.”
Noah was surprised as he went over the rail. Once in the water terror took over as he watched Windhaven passing by and he saw nothing to grab on to. Relief came next when Leigh let go the man overboard gear.
Though the rain pounded him as he climbed into the U-shape float he thought No Problem. He thought they’d bring the boat around and pick him up in a few minutes. His no problem thoughts turned to concerned thoughts when Windhaven zig-zagged away from him, quickly vanishing into the obscuring downpour.
The rain beat down on his head with a sizzle sound like a frying steak, making it hard to think. The hard rain threw up a foot high barrier of mist that blocked his view in all directions. A few minutes later, like switching a fan from high to medium to low to stop, the rain moved on, taking the obscuring mist with it.
Disoriented he spun around and watched another squall passing north of his position. A spin again and he spies the big squall going away with Windhaven inside. Suddenly he felt what it meant to be utterly alone literally a thousand miles from anywhere and his boat out of sight, swallowed by a freak squall and never coming back for him. His chest seemed to cave in and his body trembled while he desperately searched around and around for some hope.
Finding none, Noah pulled his legs up and breathed slow and deep until his heart slowed and he could think. Strangely enough he wasn’t scared then, as long as he didn’t dwell on the possibility of a sea monster reaching a tentacle up and dragging him down. Supposedly one could last three days without water, but he had a whole ocean of saltwater around him, so maybe four days if he pushed it. He wondered if floating for four days was worth the infinite chance of being rescued. Well, the saltwater would probably make him crazy before that and he’d do something like throw his arms up and slip out of the u-shaped float to go visit the monster waiting below.
He thought about thinking about his past, but really the only notable thing was some success as a writer: That first published book, first bestseller, the movie sale. Otherwise a fairly unnotable life. That done, he thought he might as well move instead of just floating. He could barely see the remnants of the big squall so he started paddling backward, the easiest way, in that direction. Except for the trailing flag he had no way to tell if made any progress.
Occasionally he glanced over his shoulder, though by then the squall had disappeared into the approaching evening. The sun dropped closer to the horizon and he wondered if he’d ever see it again. Then he looked back and saw… something. A flash of white. He looked back at the yellow sun, was it playing tricks? Looking for the white it had vanished, along with a small surge of hope. Settling back into the life ring he stared at the horizon. Oh well, just a trick by the sun and clouds.
“God damn it!” Noah really didn’t want to die a prolonged death out there. “Just a damn trick.” Nevertheless, he looked again.
It was there! The white sail grew smaller then slowly larger. He caught a glimpse of the boat. Big sailboat, little mast. Windhaven coming for him. He resumed paddling, this time with purpose.
Windhaven’s progress was slow, but making way toward him as he paddled toward them. The sun set as Thomas maneuvered Windhaven within feet of him.
“Have a nice swim?” Thomas asked.
“Get me the fuck out of here,” Noah yelled as Leigh threw him a line.
While Leigh pulled him closer Noah felt water pressure against his legs. He concentrated on Leigh and the boarding ladder she’d lowered. A few feet away he felt a strong swirl of water on his legs. That got his attention. Then, pain around his ankle and a half second to grab a breath before the shark pulled him under.
Still gripping the tether between the flag and the life ring he kicked at the shark with his free foot. The hungry fish ignored him and tried to drag him deeper, but it fought against the floats Noah clung on to.
Then another body entered the water. Heart pounding, Noah forgot he was running out of breath as he watched Leigh dive down to the shark and smack its nose. The beast didn’t like that and with a shake of its head sped into the dark water, leaving a cloud of blood behind.
Dazed, out of air, Noah stared at Leigh gripping his arm, pulling him to the surface. He gasped for air, flailed about for something solid to hold on to. Leigh guided him to the ladder and pushed him up as Thomas pulled.
Noah spilled onto the deck, coughing, blood pounding in his ears, blood polling around his foot. Unable to move he watched the winch handle fly up and clatter on the deck.
Leigh rose in sight and kneeled on deck bent over, breathing deep. “Anyone else want to take a moonlight swim?”
The boarding ladder creaked and jumped. Thomas grabbed it and pulled it aboard. “I think big momma is pissed her baby didn’t get his dinner.”
“Too bad.” She shot Thomas a look.
“I know get the first aid kit.”
Breath back, heart slowed, Leigh said, “Come on Noah let’s get you down below so I can patch you up. I can’t run this boat with two one-legged crew.”
“Funny.” Noah sucked air through clenched teeth as the pain grew.
Leigh wrapped another towel around his ankle. “Not so funny if those bite marks get infected.”
Noah barely remembered how he got down below. He did remember hopping down the ladder, each hop a stab of pain in his wounded leg. Stripped of his soaked shirt and wrapped in a towel and a blanket he settled in to the settee. Warm and safe he glanced at the teeth marks and remembered his fear when the shark dragged him under and then the fear he should have felt while alone flooded in.
His heart rate jumped and his chest constricted causing him to moan as he fought for breath. His body shook and tears came. He heard his brother’s voice, “Coward.” His mother, “Don’t be a crybaby.” His wife, “Pussy.” He was a coward and ashamed and what Leigh was saying couldn’t be true.
With both trembling hands Noah sipped his coffee and although he’d never told anyone before he spoke about his brother and his wife, ex-wife, and what they said and he thought about all the things he hadn’t done because he believed he was too afraid. A coward.
Leigh wasn’t having it, “Suck it up!”
Easier said than done. But she did save his life a time or two. Suck it up! That’s what brave people did. Could he do that? Talk himself into being a brave son-of-a-bitch? He sipped his coffee, and closed his eyes, thinking: I’m a brave son-of-a-bitch, I’m a brave son-of-a-bitch.
Thanks for reading this long post of Windhaven 27. Comments and suggestions are always welcome. email@example.com
To check out another sailing tale, Girl at Sea, Click HERE.
My other books can be seen to the right or HERE.