The Storm is a very short story, and yet it still maintains three distinct acts. Thus far we have made it through the first, in which Oscar learns of Harry’s dilemma and sets out to find him. Now we come into the second, where he meets Harry and they begin their hard journey back to port. This act should feel very full and weighty, and should also maintain a steady escalation in the threat of the storm. Keeping these in mind, let’s forge ahead!
The waves did not merely rock Oscar’s boat now. They were long and deep, shallow mountains and valleys that his vessel now had to scale and descend in turn. And the longer he stayed out here, those mountains and valleys would only become greater and more treacherous.
Holding the wheel steady in one hand he grabbed the mic and began calling out through the storm.
“This is the Last Horizon. Repeat, this is the Last Horizon. Does anybody read me?”
Oscar reached to the throttle and pressed it up to full. Never mind the fuel spent, he’d have the surf to help carry him back to the shore. For now all that mattered was that he finish his duty as quickly as possible. Find Harry, or have done his due diligence and surrendered him to the sea, and then get straight back home.
With the extra clip of speed his trawler distanced itself past the point of the Broken Horn, to the point that he now turn back slightly north, cutting across the front of the cape. As he went by he roved the shoals and the cliffs with his eyes, searching for any sign of a freshly broken boat.
But again, nothing. Everywhere he looked, his vessel was the only white speck between that black abyss of rock vaunting up into the sky and that black abyss of water spinning below.
“Last Horizon calling Broken Wing. Broken Wing, do you hear me?”
A gust of wind picked up and Oscar let go of the mic as he used both hands to wrestle his boat back into its line. Being even a little bit broadside to the waves was becoming treacherous, and he didn’t like how much his boat tilted against each new crest. The gale subsided for a moment and he roared his frustration into the mic.
“HARRY! DO YOU EVEN HEAR ME?!”
All at once the crackle of static gave way to a small voice, timid and broken.
“Yes, yes, this is Harry here! I see you Oscar, I see you! Starboard side.”
Oscar turned his head from the cape and looked to his right. There, in even deeper waters, he could barely make out the outline of a white boat through the outer mists of the storm.
“What’s your status, Harry?”
“Engine trouble. It’s barely turning at all. I can’t make it around the cape, Oscar, so I’ve just been tryin’ to hold her steady for as long as I could. I don’t mind telling you I was real scared, Oscar.”
“Yeah, well I still am! Stay put, Harry.”
Oscar opened up the throttle and spun the wheel. For a moment his vessel rocked up and down without actually making any advancement, but then it built up enough momentum and lurched forward, pressing deeper into the storm.
The first layers of rain broke upon the windshield, large, heavy drops splotching across the glass. This heavy rain had a formed misty barrier around the edge of the storm, a wall to conceal its inner workings. But after a moment of clouding his vision the heavy rain subsided, and now that Oscar had pressed through those curtains, far darker forms were unveiled beyond!
It was a world of muddled black. Pitch skies hung low overhead, whipped by strong winds into long wisps, thin and fragile, but so numerous as to entirely crowd out the sun. Under that grim ceiling was a landscape of fomented waves, rolling in an endless agony. Oscar crested the outer ripples and saw leagues of the deep yawning wide. There was a great depression in the middle of that floor, pulling it down into a massive bowl some eight miles across. The water was the green-black of thick ink, the darkness of untold fathoms beneath. Seeing all at once the huge expanse of it and the under-weight of it was enough to make one agoraphobic and claustrophobic all at the same time! And across that rolling landscape several shocks of lightning bristled every second, each bolt immense but straight, efficiently shooting the immense energy above down into the darkness below. It was also the loudest storm Oscar had ever known. All about was the cacophonic din of sharp thunder mingled with crashing water mingled with screeching wind.
And there, caught within it all, was Harry’s vessel, twitching and swaying erratically, almost entirely at the mercy of the storm, but on occasion coming to life just enough to jerk back to a nearly perpendicular line to the rolling waves. The boat must be taking on water already, growing more sluggish every minute, growing ever more difficult for Oscar’s vessel to haul out of the foment.
Oscar’s heart fell, but he only allowed himself a moment’s dread before he grit his teeth and grabbed the mic. “You gotta hold it more windward, Harry! I can’t come up alongside just to have you swing into my hull!”
“Okay…” came the timid reply. “I’ll try, Oscar.”
Oscar spat and shook his head. It was a hard thing he was asking, even if it had been of a good shipman, but it was absolutely necessary. “Yeah, you gotta hold her straight. And I’m gonna come up on your starboard side and throw you a line as I pass. You be ready to catch it, and then run like anything to get it through your bow cleat.”
“Okay, Oscar. Okay. I’ll try.”
Apparently that was as good as Harry was going to give.
Almost all of today’s text was either completely new or heavily modified. If you would like to compare it to the original version you can do that here.
By far the greatest change has been how I have developed a sense of Oscar breaking through the outer layer and into the storm proper. I’ve been trying to stretch out the escalation of danger, with each act of the story presenting greater threats than the one before. In my original draft there was very little text between Oscar seeing Harry’s boat floundering in the storm, and then already being alongside of him, throwing out a line. With this second draft I’m really taking the time to describe how the stakes are being raised. This has the added benefit of making the reader feel the passage of time while Oscar closes the gap to the troubled vessel.
But given that I am writing so much new material, I wonder whether it will feel unpolished when laid alongside the earlier parts of the story. I also worry whether I have escalated the storm too quickly already, for I need things to get even more dire later on. So I’ll be very curious when I read the second draft as a whole to see whether these new parts already fit with the rest, or if I will need to polish them a fair bit more. I guess I’ll just have to see.