Suddenly the raftsmen’s cries of alarm rang out above the howling of the gale. I looked out from beneath the edge of the tarp and a flash of lightning showed me the reason for their dismay: directly ahead a huge pointed mass of black rock rose up out of the sea. Quick and sharp as the lightning itself, a bolt of cold terror flashed through my heart. But the man beside me went on talking in a calm, quiet voice as if nothing had happened. Perhaps he is insane, I thought.
“My story is probably much like your own,” he was saying. “So is theirs, though they won’t admit it now. All of us started out with a burning desire to reach the place of the rising sun, but people have a way of changing. I’ve been traveling for a long time now, and have become a very old man along the way. I’m sure you wouldn’t think so to see me. But the farther I travel, the younger I get.” His smooth young face smiled, but something in his eyes impressed me with the thought that they belonged in a frame of wrinkles and bristling white hair. “You yourself must have been quite young when you started out,” he added, “from the look of you now.”
As he spoke, the cries of the men became more desperate. “It’s all over!” I heard the steersman shout. “We’re lost! Every man for himself!”
I threw the tarpaulin and cloak aside and help my lamp aloft. Above us loomed the great rock, the air above it filled with the black shapes of wheeling and soaring seabirds. A huge wave nearly overturned the raft, then sent it shooting towards the craggy face of the outcrop at breakneck speed. Men were jumping into the water on all sides.
“Well,” I shouted bitterly, “it seems you’re going to have your way! Not that your story has convinced me. I hope you’re happy!”
Again he smiled through the rain. “Does this mean anything to you?” he asked, pulling open his ragged shirt. There across his chest, over the place of his heart, was a long white scar. I stared, remembering my own wound; and as I did, it grew burning hot.
I was about to speak when the sky above flashed bright white and the thunder exploded as if in my ear. A huge wall of water arched over us and fell upon the raft in a rush and roar or foam and spray. All in a moment my friend and I were swept into the sea while the raft was smashed to pieces against the face of the great black rock. Then the waves closed over my head and I knew no more.
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