Our ship ran aground, on that cursed night. It was as though an island had sprung from the sea, for I cannot recall spotting land before retiring to my bunk. From there I was awoken by the sound a mariner fears above all others; the shattering of the ship’s keel.
I rolled from by bunk and onto the floor, the timbers drenched by frigid seawater. The chill stole my breath, and it took me a moment to realize the severity of my situation. The ship was sinking, and fast.
In the lightless hold my fellow sailors scrambled about, clawing at the walls like rats. Horrified cries bounded off the hull, accompanied by a monstrous burbling as the sea wormed its way in. Things were being thrown about carelessly in the gloom, and all around echoed a cacophony of destruction.
I, too, joined in on the mad dash for freedom, crawling through the hold in search for the ladder that would take me to the deck. Blindly I groped for first rung, pushing aside furniture and cargo that blocked my path. Now and again another crewman would boot me in the side as they passed, nearly toppling me. Whether I had tripped them up or not was inconsequential, all that mattered was that ladder. I painstakingly followed my mental map of the hold, months of familiarity guiding my mad scramble.
But when I had reached the spot the ladder was gone, knocked free by the crash and lost in the inky blackness. A thin border of moonlight framed the hatch above, singing sweetly to me with promises of safety.
Desperate, I searched for the ladder, my hands running along the splintered floor as the seawater rose ever higher. The sting of salt burned my nose, cutting through the stink of fear that permeated the hold. As the water reached my elbows it began to sap the warmth from me, and I shivered violently.
As I crawled, a great weight landed upon me. I have no doubt it was a crate of foodstuffs, knocked over by a fear-crazed sailor in his panicked flight. I was pushed prone by the immense force, flattening me to the floor and expelling the air from me. I gasped fiercely, and was rewarded with a lungful of briny water.
My heart racing, I drew my arms in, and heaved against the floor. All my strength was channeled into a desperate push as I tried to get a breath of air. But for all my efforts the weight would not budge, firmly planted upon my back.
Had I the breath, I would have screamed. But my lungs failed me, and my last memory of that damned night was my panicked thrashing.