Written for Horror house Flash Fiction competition featured on Lucysworks.com.The inspiration for this story was taken from the above prompt image of boats on a shore. Hope you enjoy! 🤞
The harbour-master had predicted thunderstorms but Jack cast out anyway, ignoring his pleas.
“You’ll die out there! It’s not what you think! That place is…”
The last sentiment had been lost on the wind for he was already too far out.
The sea buffered the small rowboat Jack had commandeered, continuously, but he carried on stubbornly. Taking each wave to the bow, like a punch to the gut.
Jack’s destination; a small uninhabited island had been visible from the pier before he set off. Now it was obscured by a deep fog and the rain beating down.
Still Jack rowed, no compass to guide him and barely able to rely on his own two eyes in these harsh seafaring conditions.
Rumor and legend had been enough to galvanise him, converting his mourning to intense purpose.
The words of a woman came back to him now. His mother? Sister?
“You think we don’t want to see him?! He’s gone Jack, accept it!”
Who was she?
Maybe he was making a mistake, but it was too late now and using everything his father taught him, he’d reach his destination or greet the man in the afterlife.
The sky was a murky grey and getting blacker with each passing minute.
The storm began to worsen, the oars felt heavy in Jack’s hands and had blistered his palms fiercely.
Suddenly a bolt of lightning and the sound of thunder startled him. He released the oars bringing his hands to his face in fear before realising what he’d done.
It was too late. The sea had swallowed the oars up hungrily and with the storm showing no signs of abating, Jack despaired a moment.
Adrift on an unforgiving sea in the middle of a storm, Jack thought of the harbour-master’s warning.
“You”ll die… It’s not what you…”
Jack looked up briefly from his misery and saw a slim hope. The fog had dispersed and partially revealed the shore of the island. Probably half a mile a way or not much more.
His father had praised him as a young boy:
“You swim better than any fish I ever caught.”
And when Jack had humbly countered
“I’d rather be like the ones that got away.” His father had just smiled.
Would he get away now?
Jack pitched himself into the water and felt it’s punishing iciness. Shrugging it off with gritted teeth,he pumped arms forward and propelled himself along with violent kicks.
A couple of times he went under, perhaps for too long but when he fell gasping on the shore, he knew he’d made it.
Picking himself up and coughing lungfuls of water he surveyed the area, when he spotted something further down the shore.
A rowboat, not unlike his own had run aground. Had it been swept here by the storm? Had his death-defying swim been made redundant?
No on closer inspection, this boat had been here for some time, chipped paint and barnacles adorned the hull.
Had someone else come here for the same silly superstition? Stranded themselves here and died pointlessly?
“I’ll soon find out” Jack thought.
Jack headed inland in search of his true destination at the centre of the island.
He traversed overgrown thickets and felled trees from the storm with ease, making good time when he approached a clearing.
“Strange…” He thought how he’d recovered so quickly and made it hear almost without thinking.
The clearing adhered to the legend. He felt the heady atmosphere, the deliberate spacing between the trees and the odd markings carved into several of them.
Jack was considering one that resembled a serpent when he noticed he was not alone.
He could not get the word out before the image of his father standing before him raised a finger to its lips, hushing him.
“You shouldn’t have come.” The vision sighed
“I swam Dad!” Jack exclaimed, tears forming in his eyes.
“I lost my boat but it’s like you said, I can swim better than any fish you ever caught! Remember?!”
The vision smiled but looked pained, it’s own eyes filling up now.
“No! I did better than that! I was like the others, the ones that got away, don’t you see I-?!”
All of a sudden the vision was gone and in its place was the rowboat and the shore, except now it was restored. It resembled closely the boat Jack had began his journey in.
Jack took a seat in the centre of the boat silently and looked out to sea for a long time.
His head sagged, more breathless now than when he had swam, he whispered:
“He got away…”