In the dark, on the open ocean, the creak of a cabin door could be timed to fit under all the yawnings of the other timbers. Footsteps lost beneath the lap of water against the hull. Wind masking cloth rustles under its symphony of canvas snaps. The captain closed the door, the knock of wood a beat in rhythm with the ship. Ducking under the low taut lines, he wended his way to the bow. Braced against the bow railing, he looked up at the stars.
Read the well known lines of astral poetry that gave direction to all sea travelers. He grinned. The paths open to him were few, but all of them were good. A star flashed and fell, leaving a bright wake, much like a ship on a dark sea. He followed its path across the sky. One falling star for luck.
Then another, then another. The captain’s smile faded. Both good and bad things came in threes… and the wind was picking up. He called to the helm, made a quick series of notes, and rang the bell, calling the crew to stations as the stars came showering down. They fell like opals rolling off a velvet cloth. They sparked and fired, and left the darkness smooth and seamless behind them. The music of the ship roughened with shouts, screams, and the crack of changing canvas. Keeping his last glimpse of the sky as it had been, he shouted orders, kept his cool, and calmed his crew. They fought their ship through the unnatural winds and toward the shore.
The captain ordered the stern lantern lit. If anyone could see it, hopefully they would follow.
They sailed through the night as the guiding lights of the world crashed down around them. When dawn broke the next day, they were one of only four ships that had made it back from the open sea.
That day, everyone waited in shock for more ships to come in. A few ships trickled in after navigating by the rise and movement of the sun. But far too few.
The port held its breath as night fell. Perhaps it had been all a marvelous show. And stars did wink into place in the sky. Those who never sailed cheered at the return until they noticed that the sailors were silent and pale. For the stars in the sky were new. The constellations, the bright points, the familiar poem that graced the dome of heaven, had been erased and replaced.
The captain looked up at the untranslatable pattern of the sky and felt a shiver in his soul. If the stars could fall then anything could happen. He looked away from the stars. Looked at the people staring in shock at the sky. And knew he was not going to hear the familiar music of a ship for a long long time.
I stole this first line from Gwen over at ApprenticeNeverMaster. Check out her blog tomorrow for the original fiction.