The Last Hunt

Chapter Four

By mid-afternoon the storm showed no sign of abating. Other crewmen had replaced Bryan and the Captain from time to time. I never left the cabin. The struggle went on and on.

I heard a crashing noise from below decks. I immediately ducked down and descended the small ladder. The mess hall was in shambles. Chairs and table cushions skittered and rolled across the floor; the galley resembled a mad chef’s revenge as pots, pans and crockery went slicing and rocketing everywhere. The four sailors were hanging on to stanchions and uprights. It was a total mess. We needed a break and needed it soon. We got it shortly but what we received was even worse.”

“The lady stopped talking for a while as she looked out into space. She accepted a fresh cup of coffee, thankfully. The three-listeners maintained silence and waited. The woman picked up the story.”

“When I returned to the cabin, Bryan told me that the wind was dying down and it seemed as if we had come through the storm. I relaxed and we chatted for some time, feeling quite smug about our narrow escape.

A crewman on watch was the first to shout the alarm

He was at the bow and suddenly turned and pointed off to the south. We all looked, and my spirits hit bottom once again. It was Skull Island all right but most of it was covered by a thick fog even though the air showed signs of clearing. The island was now about five miles away and the Captain took up his glasses and began an inspection. Suddenly we heard a sound, a deep, mournful and funereal noise that blotted out the conversation and turned my brains to mush. It was different that the noise from the wind and even more ear-splitting than the crash of the waves had been against the boat. I had never heard a sound like that before. It sounded like the sepulchral drumbeat of death. I felt total despair and believed we were all doomed.

We all looked astern to locate the sound. What we saw made even the Captain turn white as a ghost. Bearing down on us at high velocity was a dark menacing cloud that covered the entire horizon. It became so dark in the cabin that we could not see a thing. Then the biggest wave imaginable hit the Maiden and completely washed over it. The thought of drowning flashed through my brain. I threw myself flat on the cabin floor and Bryan landed on top of me. He saved my life. For some moments we were completely deluged. I will never know how the Maiden remained afloat. But it did. In time we got to our knees and looked about. The mast was gone and with it the radio antenna. We were now blind, in fact if not in deed. But a new danger became evident. Another tidal wave followed the first one. It picked up the Maiden and carried it aloft for some distance. The Captain pointed straight ahead and shouted something that sounded like a pool, a whirlpool!

Before anyone could react, the ship came floundering down and took a sharp turn to starboard. We went speeding in a new direction.

Our little boat began to tilt—slowly at first but gradually increasing the list until I estimated the inclination at 45 degrees to portside. I glanced down and my heart went along with the view. Several ships of all sizes and descriptions lay at the bottom of the funnel into which the Maiden was now picking up speed. I could also see pieces of furniture, broken masts, boat cabins all laying in a jumble several hundred feet down. We moved around the outer wall for perhaps an hour being unable to take the ship out of the funnel even with the full power of the engine. Each circuit brought us closer to the inner rim. The noise was so deafening that even though Bryan shouted in my ears, I could not hear him. The boat appeared to be hanging in mid air, like a drifting leaf. It was an awesome feeling.

I looked down again, but I could not detect anything because of the heavy mist that blotted out the view. I realized that the spray came from the smashing together of the walls of water at the bottom of the pit. Then we hit the inner abyss.

The first surge carried us some distance down in an even motion. We went round and round, the boat ends oscillating and swirling but still keeping straight into the current. We moved in spurts, sometime a few feet, sometimes a few hundred yards; nevertheless, our progress was ever downward.

In the meantime, the crewmen had all crammed themselves in the cabin and were hanging on to whatever they could grab. The Captain, in a fit of despair, shut off the engine. It was useless to fight against the pull of the vortex. No one spoke. We just hung on. I looked out the portside window and observed that we were not the only prisoners. Trees, several ships, boxes and barrels floated along with us and from time to time disappeared from view. Once a large cargo ship went zipping past us and tumbled down and down amidst screeching noises. Then I saw something that made me hope that perhaps we could escape our certain doom.

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