Two ships pass in the night, and try in vain to transfer cargo, hampered by fog and darkness.
“Son of a BITCH!” one captain growls, a lean, restless woman, green eyes and a pierced eyebrow, t-shirt reading Hard Rock Cafe: Armageddon. The other captain, long eyelashes and a tattoo of a pineapple, Southern symbol of hospitality, on the small of his back, sits in meditation, driving his ship through languorous force of will.
Dolphins, the reincarnate souls of drowned sailors, slip effortlessly through the waves between the ships, nosing the rusting hulls. The waves are steep walled, so high that sometimes the ships are on entirely different planes. The second captain murmurs drowsy recipes to the wheel spinning by itself. His counterpart, face intent, holds hers, pulls the ship around like a balky shopping cart.
Sailors rush around the piled boxes, cubes of fragrant wood held together with copper bands strewn with runes. “Hard a-PORT!” the captain screams over her shoulder as the ship turns again, deck tilting, loose items tumbling, sliding into the water’s dark embrace. Once again the ships rush past each other, diving deep into the troughs.
Until at last, a careening crate hits the railing, splits open, spills its contents. Both captains look up, their faces caught between despair and joy as a thousand goldfinches flutter, flying free into the darkness. They are the birds of the heart and, once loosed, can never return.
Cat Rambo lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest, in the shadow of doomed Mt. Rainier. Her short story collection, Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight, appeared from Paper Golem Press in 2009. She is the fiction editor of Fantasy Magazine.