Read the entire Tale Of The Sea Muse as it unfolds here.
Tale Of The Sea Muse
Charlie dreamed twice that night. The first was a familiar dream, one that always ended with him waking and biting back tears; tears he tried to hide from even himself.
Every so often, Charlie would hear whispers about his father. Mostly murmurs about how he had changed since the war- that Faluja took more than his leg, and hushed voices claiming he was bothered and his fast boat was his escape. Charlie had never known his father with two legs, nor did he ever know him not to have long periods of silence.
He was five and with his parents enjoying a beautiful late spring day on the calm bay water. His dad’s boat was sleek- built for speed and comfort more than it was for utility, which was different from boats owned by most of his father’s friends; those crafts were mainly used for fishing.
But that day, the day Charlie often dreamed about, his dad’s boat wasn’t fast enough.
The dream was always the same- A cotton candy blue sky, calm and busy waters, the three of them laughing as the boat cut the smooth ocean off the tiny harbor at Castine. The scene blended into darkness and a mix of the roaring sounds based in Thwump-Thwump-Thwump echoing off the water and the growling CRACK of wood being broken, snapped, and shredded. Water. Fear. A fading look at his parents being pulled into the murky depths as he bobbed in the water clinging to debris and crying
That was how the dream always ended.
He would wake from the dream and cry hard into his pillow, because big boys don’t cry and he never wanted to be anything less than a strong man for his Grandma Janie.
Charlie’s second dream that night also took place on the water, but was one filled with discovery and awe. He was so excited by the vision of that dream that when he woke up the next morning, he pulled his wheelchair to the bed, slid in, went over to the bookcase, grabbed a couple of encyclopedias, and rolled out to the hallway, snatching the magnifying off his desk as he cleared the room.
“Grandma! Grandma! Are you awake?” He called out as he wheeled into the elevator that was more of a caged lift.
Janie, wearing faded jeans, an oversized dress shirt that— one of the remaining memories of her proud, seafaring husband —and no shoes, walked into the living room to meet Charlie. Smiling wide at her ‘little man’, she said to him before the elevator came to a rest, “My, aren’t you bright eyed and bushy tailed. Exciting dreams?”
“It was more than a dream, Grandma. I was there- on the Sea Muse…or something like being there. Let’s get those sketches out, I have some things to show you.”
“Don’t you think we should eat breakfast first, young man,” Janie leaned to ask as she took control of the wheelchair from behind.
“No, it’s like you always say- explore what you find as quick as possible so all the details that led you to the find are still fresh.”
“To the chest it is then, Robin,” she chuckled as she stood straight and began to wheel Charlie into the kitchen parking him at the round pine table where he could tell her all about his dream and the mysteries about Captain Wolf and the Sea Muse he unraveled.
“Holy fairy tales, Batman- did I ever see some awesome stuff,” Charlie giggled.
The early morning sunlight coming in from the back door, through the white cotton curtains pulled back from the door’s window, struck the table just right. Without turning on the light above the table Janie could see Charlie’s excitement as he rifled through sketches found in the trunk. She watched her focused grandson for a few moments before glancing over her shoulder at the door. There is where she stood two years ago and watched as the horrific scene resulting in the death Brad and Charlene unfolded.
The incident that left Charlie orphaned and damaged.
It was in those moments of sudden remembering that Janie felt the most vulnerable. As she stared through the window of the door, and out onto the bay, a tentacle of guilt slid out of its cage and gripped her soul. Charlie was the last of the Reagan bloodline and it was her choice that ultimately made it so. A choice made on the sole merit of economy.
She too cried when no one was looking.
“…solar panels, Grandma. Solar Panels! Do you believe it?”
Biting back tears, she looked back at Charlie and smiled, “Are you certain?”
Charlie was looking up at her with an awestruck gleam in his eye, “Look for yourself.”
Taking the magnifying glass from his hand, Janie bent over and looked where he was pointing on the drawing of the Sea Muse. The ship’s stern was in plain view as the rendering was from an angle above and behind the ship. Sure enough, what Charlie was pointing at did indeed appeared to be solar panels, or some primitive version. What’s more, Janie noticed that one side of the frame holding the panels had piping attached to it.
“They certainly look like they could be solar panels of some sort, Charlie,” then she mused out loud, “I wonder what the good captain could of used them for?”
Squirming with excitement in his wheelchair, Charlie blurted, “I know exactly what he used them for, Grandma. Lights! Captain Wolf had a few light fixtures and one lamp in different places below deck. And those tubes at the side of the box,” Charlie laid his fingertip on the sketch, “Those are copper pipes that he pumped water through to be heated by the sun.”
“And you saw all this in your dream?” Janie knew Charlie’s imagination was vivid and he possibly created what he thought he saw in his fertile mind— but under the magnifying glass, the sketch definitely showed panels of some sort, and Charlie hadn’t looked that close at the drawings last night.
“That and way more,” He grabbed her wrist and guided the glass to the bow, hovering over the helm, “See those to levers to the left of the wheel?”
The view was partially blocked by the cabin, but Janie could see two handle like structures standing vertical and nearly as tall as the Captain’s Wheel, “Yes— barely.”
“Those are controls that allow whoever is at the wheel to turn and tilt the sails…”
Controls? Solar panels? Sun heated water? Lights? Puzzled thoughts bounced through Janie’s mind as she kept reminding herself that the Sea Muse was at least two hundred years old. This just can’t be, she thought, but there it is…I think.
“…the Muse was fitted so one person could easily sail her in most— if not all —seas.”
“Did you see this in action, Charlie?”
“You bet I did. That was the coolest part of the whole dream,” Charlie reached into the chest and grabbed all the documents, sorted through them until he found what he was looking for, “I saw Captain Wolf at his writing desk, below decks, as he was writing this.”
As he handed the sheet of paper to his grandmother, Charlie recited:
Kissed By The Sea
Who else could hold me so dear
When her mood is dark
Or her smile so clear
I only sail to her hark
Who could hold me so smitten
Have the key to my heart
Lap where love’s bitten
Give my soul such a start
I aver to you, most stoic of men
You will fall like me
When her amor she sends
When you’re kissed by the sea
Janie trembled as she looked from the poem to Charlie, “Charlie…we didn’t read this one last night. Yet…you know it by heart. How?”
“Like I said, I watched him write it- in my dream,” Charlie pushed away from the table and started gesturing when he spoke, “But that’s not even the coolest part, Grandma. There were pirates!”
“Yes! Pirates! Captain Wolf was focused on writing that poem and didn’t hear the pirate ship pull up beside the Muse,” Charlie became more animated as the tale went along, “He only knew there was trouble when he heard one of the hooks tear at a rail of the bow.”
“Hook tied to a rope?”
“It was how the first five got on board— they climbed across before he could get top deck with sword in hand,” Charlie’s arm started making swinging motions, “First he cut the rope as he dodged the pirates’ attempt at slashing him with their own swords, then he went to work on those five…”
“What about the other pirates— the ones on the other ship —didn’t they try to shoot at Abra…I mean Captain Wolf?” Where did THAT come from, she thought to herself. First name basis? Maybe those old gossip hens are right; I need a man in my life. Somebody real- not twenty years younger, or two hundred years older…
“They didn’t have cannons or pistols, Grandma. Spears and arrows….do you believe it? Spears and arrows!” Charlie was flailing, the wheelchair rolled about wildly with his swings— running into the oak cabinets more than once as he simulated the captain’s struggle with the pirates, “Slash! Slash! Cut! Stab! One by one those five pirates fell without so much as a scratch coming to Captain Wolf…”
“Spears and arrows??!!??” Her heart was beginning to race at the excitement of Charlie recanting his dream.
“…and I guess the others were so shocked watching how he easily killed their men, he was able to move those levers and crank the wheel as far towards the port side as he could before they fired at him. One arrow struck him in the calf,” Charlie reached down and grabbed his own calf, “before he escaped below decks.”
Charlie calmed down and pulled himself back to the kitchen table, “When he got below decks— he didn’t even try to get the arrow from his leg, Grandma— he picked up one of his shirts, wrapped his hands and stood where he could grab the cables connected to the levers while looking out a starboard porthole.”
“He was sailing the Muse from below?”
“Exactly,” Charlie’s excitement was being traded for a more serious tone, “And here ‘s where the real strange thing happened. The Muse wasn’t getting too far ahead, but as we— Wolf and myself —watched, a crazy na-nar-nar….” He paused to open an encyclopedia to a page he marked and stabbed at a picture on the page, “One of these….”
“That’s it! A crazy narwhal kept running into the pirate’s ship, slowing them down. Captain Wolf let out a bellow of a laugh as he watched. All the while, he was getting farther and farther away from the pirates.”
“Didn’t the pirates try to shoot at the animal?”
“They tried, Grandma, and some of the arrows stuck, but the narwhal wouldn’t give up.”
“That’s quite a tale, Charlie. Even for a dream.” I have a hunch there is much more than a dream going on here, she thought.
“Not quite done, Grandma,” Charlie’s eyes looked deep and watery to Janie as he finished his story, “When he was sure the pirates gave up, the Captain pulled the arrow from his leg without screaming in pain— although he winced pretty good. He then went to the top deck and cleaned up the mess from the fight, and after he threw the last body overboard…he cried.”
Long moments passed before either of them spoke. Janie finally bent down to Charlie, hugged him and said, “Charlie, something strange is going on. I don’t think that was merely a dream and I believe all that really happened. Yet, I have no idea why you witnessed it, or saw the replay…or…hell, whatever it is you experienced.”
“It did feel more real than a dream, Grandma. But it all came to me when I was asleep.”
“We have to get to the bottom of this, and right now all we have is the trunk and its contents. So, after breakfast you and I are going to get in the van and pay Lars a visit. We are going to shake his tree a bit and find out about his uncle. Maybe ol’ Uncle Sven can shed some light on all of this mystery.”
“What about school?”
Janie swore on her life that she would raise Charlie right, make sure he got a good education, give him a foot up because he was two down, but the best choice, at that moment, towards those ends seemed to try and find the truth about Captain Abram Wolf and his ship the Sea Muse.
She stood up, put her hand on his shoulder, and replied, “I think you’ve earned the right to play hookey for one day,” she smiled a wink at him, “Besides, I don’t think you’ll rue over not seeing Ms. Tanner and that witch’s mole on her nose.”
Charlie giggled, “You’re right about that.”
“Good. You go get dressed and I’ll fix breakfast.”
As she watched him roll out of the kitchen, Janie said to herself, “I owe you the world, Charles Reagan, and by God I will do what I can to give you everything in it.