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The Castle in the Clouds
By Jo Janoski
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Rated "G" by the Author.
A Whimsybuggs Writing Assignment
THE CASTLE IN THE CLOUDS
The mighty pirate ship, the Resolute, with sails billowing against a gray blue sky, bounced recklessly on the turbulent ocean waves. An expression that turned any good sailor's heart to stone, "lost at sea," hung in the dark air aboard ship. They hadn't seen land since escaping from the grip of Her Majesty's Navy three weeks ago. Now the great vessel swished day after day in this strange world of endless water.
"We're never going to see land again, you know," Stretch, the gangly, six-foot pirate said.
We've got to keep looking!" Robbie, his younger counterpart insisted.
The two stood on deck studying the view, hoping against hope to spy land in the distance. Some of their mates were acting daft, and it didn't make the two men feel any better about things.
"They say the Captain is talking to himself in his cabin," Stretch commented.
"Well, it gets lonely at sea," Robbie replied, setting his gaze on a cluster of speeding gray clouds in the distance. Normally, he wouldn't mention clouds to his mates, because it wasn't a manly thing to talk about. These clouds, however, were particularly fine and unusual. As he watched, the gray puffs stopped and the innermost one shivered and pulsated before spitting out four tiny spires along its top edge. The spires disappeared, and reappeared again several times over before finally the cloud expunged them totally in a jolting movement. Soon the cloud receded to reveal not just four spires, but the gray, stony figure of a castle as well.
"What the devil is that?" Robbie murmured, gawking straight ahead.
"What are you talking about, mate?"
"Those clouds...Look, there is a castle in those clouds! Could it be land ahead?"
"Ah, laddie! Don't be fooled! It's only a mirage! You've been at sea too long!"
"NO, NO! It is a castle, I tell you!" Robbie watched the formation as the clouds danced and shifted to reveal more of the stately structure. To his surprise, the cloud moved away further to reveal a tiny window in the castle. With a jolt in his heart, Robbie knew within the window someone waited for him. As if to confirm it, he heard a silky voice chanting, "Come, Robert! Come to me!"
"Stretchy, LOOK!" he pleaded.
"I don't see nothing, and I suggest you make yourself see nothing, too--before your mates make you walk the plank for your madness."
"I hear a woman's voice, Stretch, calling to me! Don't you hear it, too!"
"Damn! I'll have none of this," Stretch said, bending over and lifting a trap door to go to the lower deck. As he crawled down into the hole, the haunting cry followed, "Come, Robert! Come to me!" My Gawd! Now he was hallucinating! His heart pounded in fear, all the more reason to leave. Maneuvering the steps with a sailor's agility, he took them with great speed, landing at the bottom in record time. Pausing at the base, the haunting voice still reached his unwilling ears.
"Oh, curses! I can't leave the boy up there to be in harm's way," the old pirate murmured, and took the steps back up again to return to the deck.
As he neared the trap door, the awesome chanting grew louder and louder, "Come, Robert! Come to me!" A chill gripped his entire being as he lifted the door to the deck. But as soon as he opened it, the voice stopped.
Crawling onto the deck, an eerie silence slammed him in the face. With a startled gasp, a quiet trembling took over his body as he surveyed the deck and saw no sign of Robbie.
"Robbie, boy! Where are you, sailor!" he cried. "ROBBIE! Where are you?"
"Stretch! Come to me, over here!" The voice of his young friend flew in on the wind and circled him like an exotic breeze. But it was only a voice.
"Robbie, where are you?" he cried.
"Here, out here!" the young voice replied. Stretch's gaze followed the sound to the ocean. The cadence came from the castle in the clouds, a tiny voice growing fainter as the wispy puffs sped away. Stretch watched in horror until the gray vapors had vanished. Nothing was left, not even the castle. The clouds had taken it with them. Stretch never saw Robbie again.
A story for the Whimsybuggs Writing Workshop: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/whimsybuggswritingworkshop/
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