Prologue to The Lands of Forever

Prologue
Twist, over, under, through. Spin and pull. Spin and pull. Twist, over, under,
through…
Teresa Gordon, a young British girl on the good ship Cloudsail, sat on
the second deck crocheting a blanket for her mother. The year was 1802, and
she was quite excited about her quest to America at the young age of 16. She
sat up straight as she smelled dawn approaching, closed her eyes and savored
the aroma of morning mist and sea. The shady inside of the stuffy second
deck was watched with brown eyes sparkling with pride. It was still dark – the
air itself seemed to carry the color gray as she made out the dark figures of
the thirty-some exhausted people who had accompanied her and her family
(her father, her mother, and her) on their voyage. Somewhere along the deck,
a baby turned over restlessly and gave two little hiccups of warning before
crecendoing into a cry. The mother of the child awoke and took the baby in her
arms. The ship creaked and grunted, swaying on the ocean from side to side
like the young mother slowly rocking her newborn child. An icy breeze drifted
down the stairs from the top deck. Teresa smiled at the crisp, cool air, loving
every bit of it.
The poor girl hadn’t been able to sleep with all of the creaking timbers
(for the Cloudsail was indeed quite old), and the endless snoring and sounds
of people deep in slumber. Thus she had crept over to a specific wall of the
second deck, where she had discovered for herself her very own porthole,
and begun to weave together her yarns for her mother’s birthday present. She
liked the sound of rolling ocean waves, and the sweet, cool breeze that wafted
through the porthole. Her lantern was turned down low and partially covered
with fabric, so as not to disturb the slumberers. From the graying glow that
seeped through the thin material, Teresa worked on until dawn, never once
suspecting what would become of her.
~*~*~*~*~
Late morning brought dull, gray clouds and no sun. The winds had begun
to pick up speed, and everywhere on the ship sailors strived to batten down
hatches and tie up the sails – for they knew a good storm when it was brewing.
Teresa stood, her light, brown curls bouncing beside her rosy cheeks.
“What’s happening above this deck, Mother?” she inquired, approaching
a woman cladden in a wrinkled, crimson-red dress.
Mrs. Gordon lit a lantern and held it up next to her daughter’s face, for the
light below deck was still dim in the late morning clouds.
“A storm is coming,” Mr. Gordon answered calmly, stepping down the
last of the few stairs that led to the top deck. “And a dreadfully large one at
that. Funny, somehow I have never seen such an odd storm in my life!”
He stroked his bristling brown mustache and sat beside his daughter and
wife on a wooden box. Teresa watched her mother’s pale complexion from
under the flickering lantern light. A small rumble of conversation was growing
among the travelers. Teresa watched as a little boy ran crying into his father’s
arms, and an older group of boys gathered to peek outside through the stairway opening. Mrs. Gordon straightened, folding up her sleeping blanket and tucking it into her travel bag.
“Oh? How is that so?” she wondered aloud. All around Teresa could hear
the people on the ship talking about this strange storm.
“Lightning, my dears,” he said in a drastically awing voice. He put his
palms before him, staring strangely at the backs of his hands in a very surprised manner. “I’ve seen it in the distance, flashing before my eyes. Lightning striking the sea. ‘Tis almost spectral it is so odd!” he exclaimed. He let his hands fall to his lap as he leaned forward and looked his family square in the
eye. “There is never lightning on the sea unless it strikes a ship, and there are
no other ships about as far as Captain Blain knows.” he whispered.
Hearing the name of nature in her father’s quote, Teresa brightened considerably; her features lit up in delight and she asked,
“Oh, Father! May I go up on deck and see it? Please? May I?”
Mr. Gordon did not miss a beat.
“Of course not, you foolish girl! ‘Tis dangerous weather up there – it’s
only best that you keep down here!”
Teresa frowned, but nevertheless obeyed her father’s order.
“Yes, Father.” she mumbled and strode off to her abandoned blanket by
the wall as her mother and her father began to speak again. But she was no longer interested in their conversation. She seated herself next to the porthole once more, and with a sigh, glanced dismally out of the little opening for an instant.
She turned to a clay jug that she had brought with her belongings, and pulled
from its open mouth a little canvas diary, a quill and two tiny bottles of ink.
From under the flickering fire light inside her glowing lantern, Teresa
opened her diary to one of her last few blank pages, and described the awesome
scene that she witnessed through the porthole.
Dear Diary,
Blue lightning, ‘tis! There is a tremendous storm outside right
now, and I can see from my porthole the delicate strands of metallic
blue lightning flashing before my very eyes! The wind is no longer the
gentle, misty breeze that wandered through this same porthole earlier
this morning. Now it is colder, harsher, and the once-peaceful sea is
rising against us in rolling foam-crested tongues. The ship itself is tilting
back and forth frantically, maddened by the efforts of the raging
wind and sky. It is difficult to write as the ship is moving.
But so calm and beautiful it all was just this morning! I went up
on deck before I came down to crochet my mother’s birthday gift. It
was still dark out when I reached the top deck. When I looked over
the railing, I could see nothing but the cream-colored morning mist. I
could hear the waves lapping tenderly against the side of the ship, but
could not see them.
Jacob Wisten could not sleep either. I wondered as the boy approached
me whether he had noticed the several sidelong glances I
will often send him when I see him and his friends talking close by. Oh,
I do dearly wish he would talk to me!
But of course, he did talk to me up on deck. He said to me,
“Do you see the stars?”
“Yes, they are beautiful, aren’t they?” I replied. He leaned lightly
on the railing and flicked a pebble into the ocean. A distant “plunk!”
told me that the waters were still there, hiding under their fluffy cottonwhite
coat of mist.
I hugged my arms, for it was indeed quite chilly in the morning.
“Of course they are. Tell me, Teresa, have you ever star-gazed
before?”
Surprised that he even knew my name, I answered,
“Yes, Jacob. But I really do not know any of their names. I don’t
suppose you would know any of them, would you?”
Flashing me a rather charming smile, Jacob drew me near to
him and stood in back of me. Then, with one hand on my shoulder, he
leaned forward a bit and pointed at the sky.
So beautiful was that sky, with all its twinkling diamonds knitted
into its purest velvety blackness!
Yet again, so beautiful was the voice of Jacob behind me, naming
off countless clusters of stars; so many I cannot possibly name them all
off again. There were the zodiacs, and the big and little dippers, and
so many Roman and Greek constellations! After awhile he stopped and
rested his hand on my other shoulder. I looked at him out of the corner
of my eye as he went dangerously silent.
“What’s the matter?” I whispered as he looked at me.
“That’s odd,” he puzzled, scratching the top of his black-haired
head “I can’t seem to find the North Star.”
I looked back at the placid sky.
“There aren’t any clouds out tonight, either. Why do you suppose
‘tisn’t out there?” I wondered aloud.
“Oh, I know it’s still out there,” he said, staring faithfully into
the inky blackness. “It’s probably just hiding from us at the moment.”
And so we went on to tell each other of our families and why we
were traveling to America. It turns out that he is a sailor, looking for a
career in the U.S. army. I chided him about the funny-looking uniforms
they had to wear, but he got me right back by stating that I wouldn’t
fit into one if I tried, I was so short. We giggled and jabbed each other
in the ribs a little more before I turned to leave, because I was getting
quite cold up on the deck. The wind was beginning to pick up a little,
and the ship was tilting ever so slightly more from side to side.
But he stopped me, and wrapped his large, heavy cloak around
me.
“Thank you!” I whispered, and he beckoned me to stay. I needed
no second bidding. The moonlight shone off his smooth, black hair, as
dark and calming as the night itself. His large, brown eyes were star lit
and dreamy looking. He stood and smiled at me, noticing my admiration
of him. I looked away blushing.
His finger curled under my chin and he lifted my face to look at
him. He brought his own beam-bathed face very close to mine, and
said,
“Do you want to know a secret?”
I didn’t need anyone to tell me that my face was a brighter red
than a fresh-picked strawberry. I nodded slowly. He leaned closer,
hesitantly, and he ki-
What has happened just now? The ship gave a horrible jerk, forcing
my back against the wall and knocking the air from my lungs! Oh,
dear, here comes Jacob, and he looks rather urgent! I must go.
~Teresa Gordon~
Teresa carefully closed her diary and held it to her chest protectively as
she soaked in the information that Jacob was revealing to her. She gasped
aloud, despite her shortness of air, at the newfound news.
~*~*~*~*~
Teresa slipped a pointed hand over her mouth, her large brown eyes opened
wide with fright.
“Are you sure?” she asked, unable to control the quivering in her voice.
Jacob nodded, looking about nervously. People from the top deck were darting
down to the second deck, rushing about and frantically gathering their families
to them. Screams and shrieks of dismay were heard all around.
“No!”
“It cannot be!”
“We shall all perish!”
“Curse this old ship!”
Jacob turned back to Teresa, who stood glassy-eyed and pale.
“Yes, the ship is damaged fatally. I’m afraid we’ve nothing more to do
than to go down with the faithful Cloudsail. Unless…”
He looked at a jutting board further along the wall. He pushed it outward,
and, after some consistent yanking, the board snapped, and Jacob held in his
hand a splintery plank of wood.
“A raft!” he crowed. Teresa looked up from her diary, which she had
opened once more to hurriedly scribble her last message.
“A raft?” she exclaimed. The plan dawned on her like a bucket of bricks
had fallen on her head. “Of course, a raft! Oh, Jacob, you’re a genius! You
must tell our families the idea; my father can help you piece one together!”
“Yes!” he panted. He grabbed the girl and kissed her, and then was gone
through the howling crowds. Teresa’s father and mother found her.
“Pack your things, Teresa!” said her mother in a frightened voice.
“No – ‘twon’t do any good, now. Best to dress warmly, Mother – Jacob
has a plan!”
“Jacob? Jacob who?” gruffed her father, bustling with packing food items
in his duffel bag.
“My Jacob!” said a nearby father, and Teresa’s parents flooded over to
where Jacob was ripping floorboards and boards off of boxes with help from
his parents and friends.
Teresa overcame the sudden shock she had endured, and bustled about
tying up her diary with hair ribbons. She enveloped it in a small velvet bag,
mummifying it in the last of her boot strings and then trussing it up into a tight,
waterproof bundle. She reverently placed it into a wide-mouthed, thick-walled
clay jug, and took a cork, pounding it down fast as though she wished for it to
never be removed again.
Teresa stayed very calm, ignoring as best she could the thundering of her
heart. The next few moments seemed to fly by in slow motion: the lightning
illuminating the scene, screams and cries filling the air, and over all, her heart
pounding in her ears. She clutched the jug to her chest as she sloshed through
the ankle-deep water that was quickly rising. As she approached the steps,
the ship gave another lurch, forcing her back. Like lightning, she leapt up the
stairs, barely catching herself as the ship tipped back to sink stern first into the
deep blue foam of the raging ocean. People on both sides of her scampered
about in chaos, wailing, praying, and flooding to the top deck to say their last
good-byes to their loved ones.
On the top deck, Teresa spotted Jacob scrabbling about with loosening a
board, and next to him were her own father and a few others doing the same.
In revered silence, she walked to the prow of the vessel and whispered,
“God be with you!” to the jug, then flung the object dramatically into the
tumbling sea with a cry of departed dismay.
Teresa stood, the rain splattering on her face, the winds making her skirts
and her curls fly about frantically, as though trying to join the wind itself in its
journey over the roaring seas. She stood on the stem of the Cloudsail, willing
her last prayers that the jug would make it safely to the land of America – even
if it meant that she herself would not be able to go along. She opened her eyes
skyward and looked up at the angry storm clouds that frowned down upon her.
Her rosy cheeks were becoming wind burned, as were her nose and forehead.
She grasped a bejeweled cross necklace about her neck and closed her eyes,
praying with all her might.
Then something extremely odd happened – a strand of blue lightning tore
through the blackness and struck her hand. Immediately, her eyes opened in
shock, and her hand leaped away from the pendant as though the lightning
itself had picked it up and thrust it off. The tip of the lightning then struck the
cross pendant, and Teresa was forced to look away from the blinding light.
She expected at any moment to be electrocuted, but when nothing happened,
she opened her eyes and forced herself to look back at her necklace. One thin
tendril of lightning remained, flickering down from the heavens to touch the
pendant of her necklace, which was rapidly changing. First, the cross widened
and changed from gold to a transparent jewel. Then, it shaped itself into a
smooth shape, but was shining so bright that Teresa again had to turn her face
away. When she drew up her courage and looked again, she saw that it was a
sideways eight sort of character, made out of diamond and held on the chain
at the very center. The metallic thread of lightning shrunk into the necklace to
flicker forever and more, full of life, and then it withdrew from the sky quickly
with an ear-piercing sound that Teresa had never heard before.
~*~*~*~*~
Teresa turned around and found every eye of the floundering immigrants
watching her in awestruck wonder. Chaos resumed, and Jacob paddled over to
her on his new (and old) craft.
“Are you alright?” he asked immediately. Teresa nodded, still speechless
from the strange situation she had been presented with.
“Yes…” she breathed finally, clutching the new necklace that encircled
her neck. Jacob removed her hand from the jewel, and gasped when he saw
that it had changed.
“Wasn’t this the jeweled cross your aunt gave you for your birthday?”
“Yes…” was her stunned reply as she stared deeply into the heart of the
beautiful thing. “Yes, it was,” she whispered, gingerly stroking the smooth diamond.
Teresa smiled at the strange but beautiful object and set it down gently
on her chest.
Just as the water began to lap about her toes, Jacob snatched her up and
gingerly lowered her onto the floating cluster of boards he had hastily snapped
together, and then paddled off with her to join the other survivors of the tragic
wreck.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s