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The Silent Cry by James Somers
SUMMARY: A young sailor is cast overboard during a sea battle and must struggle with a furious sea and its hungry denizens in order to survive.
The Silent Cry
Samuel shuddered as a sound awoke him from sleep brought on by exhaustion. It was not the sound of cannon fire he had been dreaming about only moments ago. That dream had been carried over from the terrifying reality he had known only hours before. The unknown enemy vessel had fired on them in the night as they emerged from a fog bank. The sound of flashing gunpowder had just reached their ears as the first volley of iron smashed into the side of the Lucky Jack.
"Man the guns!" was the Captain's cry and it was echoed by the first mate just before several musket shots clattered around them and they spasmed to the deck bleeding; their eyes staring into oblivion. The other vessel had a greater range with her guns and had continued to pound the British ship to splinters and broken bones while remaining just out of reach.
Samuel had just fired a ten pounder with his gun crew when the shell hit their position square on. Fire and splintered wood erupted all around him and then he was in the water. The Lucky Jack continued on without him with her pursuer in tow; still battering away with all her guns blazing in the night. He tried to swim after but the current fought him and he seemed to gain nothing from the struggle.
Samuel had noticed quite a bit of drifting lumber from his damaged ship floating in the area around him and something more. A battered dingy was close enough to swim to and he urgently made his way for it. He had continued to listen for the raging battle but soon enough the sound faded to nothing and he had wondered if his shipmates had survived at all.
Sleep had come at some time, though he hadn't been aware and the noise that had stirred him from it was familiar. He heard it again. He was sure now that it was a voice crying out for help and he answered immediately. "Hello!"
In the darkness he heard a reply over the waves. The person was speaking English and he surmised it must have been one of his own shipmates. The sound grew louder as he replied again and was answered again. He could hear the splashing now as the person flailed against the rolling current to come in Samuel's direction.
"Please help me!" said the voice again and it seemed very close now. "Who are you?" shouted Samuel to the figure now becoming more visible in the moonlight. "William Hutchinson!" was the reply through the gurgle of swallowed seawater. "Young William!" said Samuel recognizing the man as one of his own gun crew. His body undulated with the waves as he tried to tread water toward the battered white dingy.
Samuel leaned down over the side of the little boat and extended his hand to urge the young man onward. Hutchinson was still some thirty feet from him, hammering the sea with one arm; the other apparently injured. Samuel could begin to see his eyes as the moonlight played off of them.
A flash of something only half seen above the waves caught Samuel's eye and then it hit young Hutchinson. He cried out and began to hyperventilate with panic. He stopped swimming just then and Samuel shouted for him to keep going.