by Zach Sneddon

I've got three ships
And sixty men
Opening doors of perception
We cruise

My men and I
We sail the seas
I navigate
We explore

In harbor
The men sleep
I stare glassy-eyed at the heavens
Looking for a star
I scan the horizon
My telescope pitiable in its poor resolution

One eve I spy a star
Pulsing bright
The men I rouse
The quartermaster gathers supplies for a long voyage
We hoist the mainsail

Leaving harbor
Men in good spirits
Morale high
Wind brisk from the Southwest
Foam crests on our bow
Porpoises dance beside us
Clouds threaten in the distance

The days go quickly as we take a northwesterly tack
The star, ever bright, burns on the horizon
Enticing, calling, I seek the lands beneath the star
Fair lands
Russet hills
Lush river valleys

My mind careens on a rollercoaster
My stomach is calm through rough seas
Will I find this fair land?
Sages hypothesize its existence
Many claim to have found it
Ship's logs rich in the
Wealth of knowledge
None of it helps me

The star looms ever on the horizon
We jibe to the south
Wind shifts points
The ever-threatening clouds depart
The wind lessens

The fresh water becomes a problem
Poor forethought brought ill rationing
The men and I are thirsty always
Lips dry
Nostrils smarting
We parch under the oceanic sun
Skin peeling like overripe grapes
And red, we burned

The wind ever lessens
Our pace slows to a creeping march of slow knots
The clouds on the horizon never aproach us
We calm

At night the moon crests over the sea
Moonshadows make the rigging dance
Our hammocks creak gently in the tidal swell
The ships cease to move

Moist air thick as a lead blanket
Drowns us in our own sweat
The star
Pulsing gaily on the horizon
Planks squeak
Ropes creak
The water lessens as we grow thirsty

Storm clouds scud by on the edge of our vision
Scans of my telescope reveal life-bringing
Rain in the distance
We cannot go further
The wind has left us
We have no oars to speak of

I ponder my ending days
Wonder where my mass and strength have
I dry as a bone
Skeletal I ponder
My weight as a feather
Hoping for a breeze
Hoping for wind to take us to far Arden
Hoping to fly as a kite before the thunderheads
Hoping to drink the rain in long, slow gallons

I begin to hallucinate
The rhymes and rimes of ancient mariners
Chant incessantly in my skull
Where is the wind
To take us there
Where is the rain
To swell our blood

I awake one morning in a green fog
A dying seaman groaning beside me
His haggard visage
Grim, a reaper
Ribs jut out, and sternum
Hips a girdle of bone around a thin knot of gut and sinew
I run to the mirror in my cabin, look
I am he
Wasted to nothing
Tripping the verge of death
Or over?
I look a zombie
Eyes dead and lifeless
Salt sores erupting
From my lips
Hair limp, matted to my eyes

The mirror frowns back at me in an angy clown's face
I look him in the eye, and tell him to go fuck himself
The clown honks his horn at me
And squirts me with his trick flower
I punch the clown, hard, soaking the red foam nose in a hotter crimson
Shattered, the clown falls to pieces and cries gibberish
I bandage my hand

I despair, yet cannot end it
The sailor's hope
Prevents death on the end of a yardarm
I weep, dead eyes producing no tears
Sun sets
I look up
Through lifeless orbs I see
The star
Ever nearer
We carried by the tide

A catspaw ruffling the water
My men spy movement
From due West a wind arises
The men rejoice
The ships begin to dance
We fly before the wind
My men are glad to be going home

But wait!
We cannot return!
Weeks after voyage's start
The star so close!
Can we turn about now?
Arden awaits us!
We cannot!

The men do not listen
The first mate laughs
I am a madman
And I know it
But we cannot abandon our voyage!

But the wind, it blows from the West
Blows us away from the star!
It is a sign!
We must return
It blows us home!

It cannot be!
We must not!
I demand it!
Hard about!

I am tied roughly
Tossed in a longboat
With an oar
And a goatskin of water
Cut loose
The men dare mutiny!
They shall all hang in London for this!
They shall all!
They shall...
But wait
That light, shining around me?
I turn
My gaze ascends heavenward
The star is floating
Descending to claim me
The star
Your star
It beckons
My body fails me
I cannot move my arms nor legs from the deck
No strength to row
No strength to row those last yards
The star awaits
I struggle toward it
You beckon with promises of cool water
Tender caresses
I will my broken body to ignore
The pain
Of dehydration, the muscles spasm and cramp
Tearing from their own strain
I ignore the rent flesh
I row to the star
I row
I row
I row
I row
I row
I row

"Forever Rachel," from Final Fantasy III


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