Monday, June 22, 2009
To say he was sleeping comfortably would have been an exaggeration, but he was sleeping soundly. It had been another very long day, the longest in a series of very long days. He liked days like that. As much as they tired him out, it was a good kind of tired; the kind of tired that comes from a long day spent doing good in the warm sun. The heat of the day had cooled into a perfect evening, and as they set off from the shore, he had soon found a spot to sleep in the back of the boat. The cushion was solid, but soft enough for a tired man.
Of course, other boats had set out to follow the moment they saw his leave the shore. This kind of thing often happened after a big day.
It took only a few minutes for the rocking of the boat to send him to sleep. He dreamed, and the faces of the people he had met that day drifted in and out of his consciousness with the gentle rocking of the waves. A moment of touch. A girl peeking out from behind the safety of her mother's dress. The hearty, toothless, and beautiful laughter of a beggar with whom he had spoken. The open sea of tired and hopeful faces gazed back at him, each one in perfect clarity. He felt his heart taking in each soul, until it all seemed to gather inside him in an immense feeling of affection and heartbreak. A bright light seemed to burst forth from his heart and over the people, scattering and falling as a mist upon them.
And then, screaming.
He awoke, his heart instantly racing. "What is it??" he said, trying to catch his breath. Slumber faintly held on to his mind as he tried to grasp what was happening.
"Don't you care that we're going to die?!?"
"The storm! The waves! We're taking on water! We're going down!"
Setting one arm on the back of the bench, he pulled himself up on one elbow and rubbed his eyes. Men were desperately trying to bail out water while others tried to hold the mast in position. He looked out at the darkness of the sea, and could make out through the rain the lines of at least two other boats violently rocking in the surging waves.
He wiped his face, still bleary-eyed and only mostly conscious, and spoke out, rebuking the wind. "What do you think you're doing? I need some sleep!"
He sighed and addressed the water. "Quiet! Settle down!"
And it did. The wind seemed to lift and travel on to another place. The sea grew gentle, until all that could be heard was the creaking of the boat, and the dropping of his friends' jaws.
"What are you so afraid of?" he said, settling himself back down into his cushion. "Do you still not have any faith yet?"
He turned on his side to the back of the bench. He was halfway to sleep before he heard the hushed voices of his followers drifting away behind him. "What the hell was....? Who is this man...?"
He dreamed again, of a river flowing from his side.