“I think we’re in deep shit,” gasped Manso, as he struggled to keep the boat steady.
“Thank you Mr. Obvious! Keep hold of the rudder!” Juno, his companion, snapped back, hands straining at the oars to no avail. A huge wave crashed upon them, drenching them in saltwater. The waves were just too big, the current too strong. The two were at the mercy of the sea.
This morning was supposed to be perfect, Manso thought. Before dawn, when the world was still asleep, they had slipped out to sea in their dad’s fishing boat. They had hoped to catch some tuna, although it was not yet the season for it.
Fat chance of that now, he thought dourly. In their excitement, the duo hadn’t noticed dark clouds gathering on the horizon and were caught in the path of the storm as they attempted to flee.
Another wave washed over them. The world turned ocean blue for a moment. Spitting seawater, Juno snarled, ”You got any bright ideas now, Mr. Genius?” Wearily, Manso scanned the horizon, then sat up straight.
“I see the lighthouse! We’re close!” Manso exclaimed. He almost stood up to get a better look, but the perilous rocking of the boat gave him pause to reconsider. Juno renewed his efforts at rowing, trying to guide the boat towards the lighthouse. We’re so close, Manso thought desperately. He could see the outline of the lighthouse set against the early morning sun. Somehow, it looked dark and forbidding, shrouded in black. Like a reaper standing in wait.
The sun’s behind it, Manso suddenly realised, we’re in the shadows! The rocks – we can’t see them!
“Sideways Juno! We can’t see the rocks! Move, move!” he heard himself yell. Manso threw the last of his strength against the rubber, desperately hoping that they could make it in time. Juno immediately switched sides and paddled frantically. The lighthouse loomed ominously above them.
They could see the rocks now, glistening as the sunlight reflected upon the surface, sharp and jagged – ready to embrace them. The boat propelled towards one of them, helpless in the sea’s embrace. Manso could see the edge of the rock. It twinkled seemingly in devilish delight. We’re so dead, he thought, we’re so dead, we’re so de-
Suddenly, the boat dropped. They were riding a wave, holding on for dear life – and then the wave broke. One moment the rock was almost upon them, the tip unerringly zooming towards Manso’s face; then it was gone – disappearing behind them and sinking into the next wave.
The boat drifted into the harbor behind the lighthouse, buoyed forward by the strength of the wave. A ring of piers surrounded the harbor, shielding it from the rage of the sea. Calm descended upon the water. The waves crashed upon the lighthouse behind them, the force causing water to pelt them in a light drizzle.
After a moment, Manso realized he was still gripping the rudder. He tried to let go. Stings of pain shot through him as he released his grip. There were splinters in his palms. Beside him, Juno was storing the oar under his seat, his face grey and haggard.
“You alright, Juno?” Manso whispered, too spent to raise his voice. Even the pain from dipping his hands into the sea did nothing to him.
Juno turned and did not reply. For a long while, silence reigned. Seagulls circled them in the air, their cries deafening in the silence of the harbor. Manso could see Juno’s back heaving from his breathing, his weariness evident even from a distance. A slither of fear crawled into Manso’s heart, what if –
Juno abruptly turned around, causing Manso to yelp.
“Next time…” Juno hissed. “…let’s just take the one with a motor, I don’t wanna paddle ever again.”
Written by Lim Shen