AFRICA

. August 5, 2012.

The sun tormented him every moment it slid across the sky.  It baked his skin, turning it pink-red.  It felt tight and cooked.  The rays reflected off the surface around him, making it hard to open his eyes and look out at his fishing line.  He had to wear his long sleeves and pants, even as he sweat drops as big as buttons.  
    

He knew which way was East, that much the sun had given him.  The current he had been set in moved him favorably towards the Ivory Coast.  He only needed his paddle to keep the raft going straight.  Then, once he saw the coast, he would paddle with all his might.  He would race those last few miles to land.  His Parents would be looking for him and Africa might even be as big as the sea.  He would need every moment on land to hunt them down before they left to sea looking for him.  Jacob’s hunger kept him from fantasizing too much about his parents, and he jerked his line to try and put some life into it.
    

Cookie pieces were the best bait Jacob could come up with from his backpack.  He gently skewered the chewy chocolate-chip onto a bent piece of metal Jacob used for a hook then cast out his line and waited.  So far, his cookie pieces had dissolved before anything came near.  Cookies that could have been in his stomach.  There hadn’t been one tug on his line.
    

Jacob became frustrated with the sun.  He could drag the line towards the fish if he could see past the glare.  He could see if he was wasting his time if he could look below the wake, into the water.
    

There was a spot where the shimmer on the waves didn’t reach, but Jacob was terrified to look.  The keel of his vessel.  The sun was blocked at least on one side at all times.  Straight down into the water, and only a foot above it.  There could be a shark there, a Great White, waiting for his head to peer over.  Then WHAM!  Jacob put his hand on the yellow wall, he gripped a piece of rope.  Inching himself over, he stuck out his head so that it was just over the side.  He tried imagining a school of colorful, small fish, waiting to be plucked out of the water.  Instead, all that ran through his mind were dark shadows, swimming under him just outside the light; black fins cutting their way through the bottom of his vessel.  He closed his eyes.  Not knowing what was around him was worse than whatever could be there, Jacob reasoned.  He took a deep breath, ready to be pulled over by suction-cupped tentacles, and looked over the edge.
    

Nothing.  Just blue.  Light blue in his peripheral, the same shade that lay under the glare around him.  It condensed into a navy black in the center of his view.  It wasn’t totally dark, not like a black floor, more the kind of darkness that a storm cloud bears, letting Jacob know there was more down there, beyond what he could see.  Deep down, there was a whole other plane of monsters Jacob could not fathom.
    

The boy leaned back.  He propped Obsidian up, using him as a pillow, afraid to let his head touch the thin lining that separated him from the sea.  He felt sick. He wouldn’t be looking over the side again.
    

The moon didn’t come out that night.  Previous nights he had sat up until it was very late, staring at the waves as they went past him.  They moved differently in the dull yellow glow.  They crashed into each other, churning up white foam that sprayed up like rabid spit.  The stars’ reflection was a thousand eyes watching him, waiting for him to fall into the maw of the sea.  Now Jacob huddled below, so that he could not see the ravenous water unless a wave tilted his raft enough to look out.  Then he saw the darkness where the monster usually crept and instead saw nothing, only the occasional wink as a star peeked out from the clouds, letting him know that it wasn’t gone, it was there, waiting.
    

It took the boy hours to fall asleep.  Not that he slept well on the raft anyway.  He had no blanket, and without the sun it was surprisingly cold.  The raft blocked the wind well enough, but that was about the only comfort he had.  Obsidian became damp with morning dew.  Jacob hoped he would not mold.
    

Jacob woke that morning to the sound of an alarm going off.  It seemed like it was coming from his raft, but when he searched for it he found nothing capable of making any noise.  Then it stopped.  Jacob sat up, afraid his ship was sinking.  He looked out to the water, it looked to be at the same level to him.  There was nothing new around him.  No buoys, no freighters, certainly Jacob wasn’t lucky enough to have crossed a lighthouse.  He stood up, wobbling, and got a better view.  Still nothing.  Jacob turned to Obsidian, who stared back innocently, not taking the blame for the alarm either.
    

Then it shot out again.  The high pitch came from every inch of the raft and Jacob was now sure it was sinking.  He swept over every inch of it with his hands.  He pressed his ear against he inner-tube, listening for the hiss of escaping air, but there was nothing he could find to prove he was going down.  Still the alarm came.  Jacob gulped hard.  If the boat was leaking, if it was trying to warn him of his vessel’s demise, then the leak must be coming from the hull of his craft.  On the outside.  He would have to look straight down again, into the deep that went on forever.
    

The boy took the plush rhinoceros under his left arm as he leaned over the edge.   A colossal, dark figure passed below him, too large for Jacob to see both ends at once.  It rose up as it went under, and Jacob could see the leviathan’s skin as it rolled in the ocean, jet black but covered in pale grey streaks that must have been scars.  Then he saw its eye open.  It was only ten feet below the surface, at thee most.  It looked directly at him.  Jacob jumped, dropped his rhino, and fell into the sea.
    

His heart stopped the moment he splashed into the water.  He would be eaten for sure.  There was nothing else around and a monster as big as that would surely swallow him up whole.  Despite the salt-water’s stinging bite, Jacob opened his eyes to see the titan before him.  
    

It was even larger now while the boy way in the water.  It passed him by in a slow, relaxed gate, allowing its massive body to be truly appreciated.  It had a broad head, shaped like a brick but as large as a bus.  Its jaw was lined by a row of cone-shaped, sharp teeth.  The alarm went off again as the creature opened and shut its mouth.  It rolled again, Jacob could feel the water move around it, pulling him under further.  He was too close now.  He would be eaten.  In his mind, the boy apologized to his parents for not making the journey.  He hoped life inside the belly of a whale was better than what the stories he had read.  Then, one of its flippers, broad and bigger than Jacob, struck him across the back.  It was gentle, about as gentle as something that big could be.  All the air escaped his lungs and shot up to the surface in a swarm of bubbles.  Jacob, not wanting to sink down to where the giant came from, swam after them.
    

He reached the surface just before his mind blacked out.  The alarm went out again, this time it was deafening.  The whole sea must have been able to hear it.  His raft was yards away now.  He swam against the waves, the raft kept its distance.  Jacob began to panic.  He would never reach Africa without his boat.  He kicked his legs as hard as he could.  His muscles burned from the effort.  His arms reached out and down, shoving the water behind him, pulling him forward.  He kept a rhythm to his breathing.  The thought of the monster behind him kept him moving, beyond the exhaustion that all too quickly set in.  After what seemed like an hour, Jacob felt the plastic side of his raft and clung tightly to its side.  Even though he was still in the water with the whale, even though he could still see its dark outline just under the surface, he had to take a moment to recover his strength before he pulled himself aboard.  When he did, it still took him three good heaves to get out of the water.
    

Jacob turned around to the giant.  The shadow of its form slid out further from his raft.  He began to feel relieved until it surfaced.  It exhaled from its blowhole, and a rainbow shot out over him as he felt the warmth of the creature’s breath.  If Jacob had that power, he would be able to reach his parents for sure.  If he was that large, then the sea would not seem so big.  The tail end of the whale rose up, out of the water.  It shot into the air ten feet or more, a skyscraper on the barren landscape.  Then it came down with an ear-shattering crack and Jacob ducked down and covered his ears.  Water sprayed in from the splash and the boat rocked from the blow the beast had given the sea.  When Jacob looked out next, it was gone.
    

If the sea held things that massive it was too big for the boy.  He would never be able to cross it.  He cried, remembering how long it took him, what effort it took, just for him to make it back to the raft.  He tied one of the ropes strapped to the raft to his ankle, so that it would not happen again.  Inside his pack, there was only one small box of crackers left.  The sun began to bake his skin and clothes again, soaked as he was.  He would die out there, in the middle of the ocean, before his parents would ever find him.  He sobbed heavily, staring out to the East, his tears mixing with the salty water that still lingered in the raft.
    

Hours passed.  Jacob did not bother putting out his line.  The only things in the water were too gigantic for a boy like him to catch.  He opened the crackers and ate them.  He grimaced, he was tired of the taste of salt.  Jacob thought about what he wanted engraved on his tombstone when he was eventually found, but pushed the thought away.  He had no pen or paper to make a will with.  He stared out to the horizon, his mind empty.  On it were clouds that billowed up and looked like a mountain range to Jacob.  
    

The mountainous clouds barreled at him much faster than any he had seen back home.  A gale came in.  It rocked the boat and churned up the waves.  Before he knew it, the clouds were on top of him.  Lightning struck and hit the ocean, illuminating it a fiery white, just long enough to be seen and then gone.  Jacob spread his weight out, attempting to keep his ship aright.  His ears hurt from the battering wind howling around him.  Out in front of him, the clouds dipped down, spinning towards the water.  A tornado hit the sea, and water sucked up into the air.  It was frightening to watch but Jacob could not turn away.  Even with hard raindrops smacking his face he did not blink.  The twister shot towards him, like it knew he was there.  
    

Just before it reached him, Jacob realized it did know he was there.  The sea had found him.  It knew he did not belong on the open water, away from his family, away from the land.  It was uprooting him, taking him to where he was meant to be.  It had been trying the whole time.  The creature at night had not been waiting for a meal but for a direction.  The whale had tried to drag him along but could not.  Now the sea had found an answer.  He had come from the air and to the air he would return.  The twister would shoot him up to the sky, where he could see his parents, and the storm would take him to them.  It was rough and it was frightening, but that was the sea’s way.  Anything so big would have a hard time being delicate to one as small as Jacob.  The twister was right in front of him now.  Jacob took hold of Obsidian and cut the line on his ankle.  The twister came over him and the boy was gone.  
    

Off on a trip to Africa.
 

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