Tales from the End of the World

from Tyler Martin

June 19, 2013, 6:46 p.m.

I was recently struck with an overflow of creative inspiration, and as such, I'm sharing it with y'all. I am writing several short stories that all take place in the same fictional universe and will be telling one a week until they are all done. Hopefully you'll enjoy them because I am very excited about the future of these!


Paradise

Finally. Finally, Ray had found the crisp sea breeze that he chased for so long. With each breath Ray inhaled the salty wind and an intangible sense of satisfaction. Each inhalation filled his lungs with the air, and for a moment, that air was a part of him. For several minutes Ray just stood at the stern of his tireless companion and just breathed. He then maneuvered his vessel until it was around a hundred feet from shore. With a practiced expertise, Ray walked up towards the bow and dropped anchor. His search was over. He had found paradise.

When things started getting hectic all around, Ray decided to up and leave his admittedly trite lifestyle and get away. He had prepared for the collapse, everyone had. His preparation was just different than the usual shelter in the basement. Ever since he had been young, Ray dreamt about the sweet sea and her alluring promise of an escape. So as soon as he had the means, he bought a 36-foot sailboat. The wooden hull was a deep blue, the sort of blue that one would see on a night with a particularly bright moon. The deck was made of fiberglass painted white, but the masts were solid spruce, and the sails were a faded seafoam orange. Quirky, yes, but it gave the boat personality. What it lacked though, was a name. Ray had recalled something about renaming a boat being bad luck, but as far as he could tell, his lovely lady of the water had never been graced with such an honor. Feeling as she deserved a name befitting of her beauty, Ray christened her “Vahine” after the mythical Tahitian goddesses that supposedly lived on the uninhabited islands of Tahiti, and her name was painted in golden letters across her stern. He began learning the ropes of sailing, and quickly became proficient at the art. His thoughts were her actions and they sailed as two partners would dance elegantly across the ballroom floor.

Not too long after, things started deteriorating rapidly. Ray grabbed all the supplies he could manage and set sail alone in search of safety and a future. The Pacific, he believed, held the best chance for his survival and, hopefully, the best chance to thrive.

Days passed. Nothing. Weeks passed. Nothing. His confidence was beginning to drop, and his mood beginning to sour. He would find a new home. He would, and nothing could stop him. His Ahab-like drive would carry him to his white whale.

Sleep became difficult. Ray’s sanity was soon eclipsed by a deep paranoia. His decisions became impulsive and rash. One day, Ray snapped. Ray jumped overboard as his Vahine continued moving in her own direction. As the water engulfed Ray, he was hit with the gravity of what he had just done. He had abandoned his last hope in the open ocean. He began swimming frantically toward his lost love. Deep down he knew it was in vain, but he was compelled to keep chasing her until he drowned from the exhaustion. Just as he began to lose sight of her, he saw her sails suddenly go slack. She started to slow, and soon came to a complete stop. Ray was renewed at the sight and swam even harder until he managed to miraculously catch up. Luckily, Ray had the foresight to install a ladder on the rear of the ship in the event of him falling into the merciless ocean. After climbing aboard, Ray made himself a promise that from that day forth, he would never give up as long as he had his lady. Two days later, Ray found himself staring at the pearl white sands of a small tropical-island.

Each morning, Ray would swim to the island and explore it, mapping locations of essentials along the way. He found a stream of freshwater, plenty of vegetation bearing fruit, several coconut trees, and a reef full of aquatic life on the far side of the island. Life wouldn’t be easy at first, but given enough time Ray could thrive. At the end of each day Ray would swim back and spend the night with his saving grace.

One night in particular, Ray could hear a squall in the distance. The low rumbling accompanied by the slow bobbing of Vahine on the ocean soothed Ray to sleep. He felt at peace for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime.

The next morning awoke Ray with a small shower. He took the opportunity to collect rainwater on Vahine before swimming to the island. He spent the day collecting food and water until the squall from the night before had drawn closer. Soon it was on top of him. The storm thrashed the island with the intensity and wrath of a god scorned. Lightning cracked the jet-black sky and the resulting claps of thunder left Ray breathless. One bolt in particular struck close to shore. Terrified, Ray ran in that direction. He hoped against all odds that what he just imagined did not occur. Deep down he knew, though. He knew before he made it to the pearly white sand, now drenched and off-beige. He knew before he dropped to his knees in futile desperation, praying to wake up. His Vahine was struck and breaking up quickly from the tenacity of the storm. Ray sat on the shore in disbelief as he watched the only thing he truly cared about anymore sink to her watery grave. She was close to gone when a large wave struck her hull, rolling her into the depths for good.

The storm had passed but Ray still sat on that forlorn shore he had once called paradise. Hours passed before Ray finally stood up and started walking. His feet sank into the cold Pacific water. He kept walking. Next, his thighs met the ocean. He kept walking. By the time he was up to his chest, Ray began swimming to the spot where his love once sat. Ray looked up to the sky, uttered a quiet, “I’m sorry,” and took one final breath. He dove down to meet the wreckage about thirty feet below the surface. He swam to the helm, and as his vision started to blur he grabbed the wheel. The last thing Ray felt was an odd sensation of overwhelming peace.


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