The Firebird XVIII

Galleon 001



The great ship glowed like the sun itself with lanterns and torches and wondrous crystal lamps.  Her sails were striped with silver and gold and emblazoned in red and white with emblems of the sun and the morning star.  Very tall she stood above the water.  Along her flanks rows of ornately framed and warmly lighted windows opened out from her five lofty decks.

As she drew nearer I could look directly into these windows.  All were hung with curtains of gauzy lace that fluttered delicately in the wind and shimmered like silk reflecting the warm red light within.  Inside I saw the faces of people, laughing, smiling, talking; full, round faces, scrubbed and glowing.  The people were seated at tables laden with fruit, bread, red meat, wine, pastries, cakes, and pies.  I could see the rich clothing they wore, clean and pressed and brightly colored.

As the ship approached a cry burst forth from my cold and desperate heart:  “Help!  Save me!  I’m lost and drifting on the ocean!”  But no one seemed to hear.

As the vessel moved closer, I could clearly see the image of the sunrise embroidered upon the bosom of her cloud-like mainsail.  And now I could also make out that her figurehead was carved in the shape of the eight-legged horse.

This ship sails into the sunrise! I thought.  Her destination and mine are one and the same!  The people on board are loyal to the rider of the eight-legged horse!  Surely this was predestined!  Surely this is my one hope of safety!  I must get aboard somehow!

With that I began waving my lamp in wide arcs over my head and shouting more loudly than before:  “Help!  Take me aboard!  Take me with you to the place of the Rising Sun!”

I kept this up until the ship at length drew up alongside me, so near that she almost ran me down.  My shouts grew louder and more frantic the closer she came, but no one paid the least attention to them.  The eyes of the people who were feasting behind the lighted windows met mine, and I knew that they had seen me.  Some smiled, ever so faintly, then turned back to the warmth of their food and companionship.  One gaily dressed matron even raised her hand in what I thought might be a slight gesture of greeting.  Then she returned to the animated conversation in which she was engaged with a handsome gentleman in black coat and white tie.  After that the ship passed on into the glow on the horizon while I called after her, flailing my arms wildly above my head and kicking up the water with my feet.

The smiling faces were still visible as the gilded vessel drew away, leaving me alone in its wake.  I could make out the ship’s name now, engraved in gold script on the stern:  Sunrise.

At this my deep grief and frustration surged up into boiling anger:  anger at those smooth faces that smiled and smiled until they were lost in the distance.  They went on smiling until they and the whole ship were swallowed up the blur of light on the horizon.  I suppose they smiled until the topmost tip of the mainmast dropped over the edge of the burnished sky.

“They did not – they would not – take me aboard!” I moaned in disbelief.  “They left me outside – outside in the cold, cold sea, lost, alone, and without hope!”

Then, groaning again, I curled myself into a ball, wrapped the cloak around me, and cried myself to sleep.

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