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Increasing Danger)

Oscar spun the wheel to the left, coming thirty degrees from perpendicular to the waves. The next crest rolled into them and there was the unsettling sensation of being tilted far to the right as they glided up it, then rolled steeply back to the left as it left them in its wake, the boats threatening as they sloshed back and forth to roll all the way over at any moment.

“Whatever fuel we’ve got left, burn it now!” Oscar ordered, turning his throttle up to maximum. With new life the vessel churned forward…then came a jerking halt as the line ran taut and Harry’s vessel dragged Oscar’s back.

“I’m trying, I’m trying!” Harry grunted as he struggled to get his controls to respond. “There we go!” he crowed as his engines came fully to life. “Oh wait, no!” they cut out again after just a few seconds, causing the rope between them to snap taut again. “I think–maybe–” the engines came back for another moment. “Oh come on!” the engines cut out once more.

Oscar ground his teeth together. This relaxing and tightening of the line would snap it in two in no time. Much as he wanted to surge on ahead, he would just have to pace himself with what Harry’s boat could handle.

“Is it steadier at lower speeds?” Oscar asked.

“Yes, the engine holds if I don’t throttle over twenty percent.”

“Alright. You keep it there. I’ll tug.”

Oscar slowed his boat down until both he and Harry were travelling at the same, slow speed. Then he gradually sped up, until the line between came back to full tension. From there he added more power, but only in small increments, accelerating both boats together as one. It was working…but they were less than half the speed that Oscar’s boat could have gone at on its own.

Just continuing along our way in the final act. I’ll be honest, I’m not paying very close attention to my review notes as I add one new scene after another. I just know that this part of the story needed to be developed further, so I’m feeling my way through , then I’ll cast the same eye of scrutiny on this new material as I did on the original.

I know that reading through a story and writing through it are two very different experiences, but I do feel encouraged that I have had far more of a sense of actually being in the storm alongside of these characters. And that’s exactly the change that I’ve been working for: making the audience feel like they’ve been through a long and momentous struggle. And now I’m just going to keep ratcheting up the tension. Here we go!

Ratcheting)

“Come on, Harry, come on,” Oscar mumbled, willing the other man’s boat to spring to greater life. Every now and again he looked over his shoulder to keep bearings on what was going on behind him, and each time he saw Harry’s boat being an anchor, weighing him back into the storm, and he despised Harry for that. “How many sailors have to die under your hand before you’re through?” he muttered darkly.

Then he looked to the front, still watching for any sign of the cliff-face, or better yet, of the lighthouse. He saw neither, yet by looking so earnestly his mind started playing tricks on him, making him think he had caught a glimpse of one or the other out of the corner of his eye.

Oh was that a moving light?! No, just a reflection of sheet lightning on the rolling wave. Was that a rock springing out of the dark in front of him?! No, just one cloud moving past another.

“Turn deeper, Harry. “Let’s bring it to forty degrees!”

“Alright…if you’re sure…”

“No, I’m not sure of anything anymore.” Oscar replied, but only to himself. He was surprised that they still hadn’t seen either the saving light or the damning rock. Had he become more turned around than he realized? Was he actually headed away from the shoreline? His compass said no. Had he somehow travelled further south than the lighthouse, so that now it would be on his starboard side and not his port? But he looked to starboard and nothing was there.

The next wave rolled under them. Harry gripped hard to the wheel and planted his foot against the side of the wheelhouse to keep his balance as he careened to the right and then the left. But his ship still held steady through it all.

“Forty-five degrees, Harry! Make it forty-five!”

The next wave seemed an eternity. By slicing up and down its sides they were spending a lot more time tilted precariously, which meant a lot more time for the water in the hold to collect on the downward side. Oscar tried to feel through his boots how near the floor was to spinning out from under him, his hands twitching on the wheel, ready to throw to starboard at the first sign of trouble.

But then, all at once, he felt a sharp tug from behind, and without even looking he knew what it meant: Harry’s boat had started to roll, and if it did so it would take him down with it! Without thinking about it, Oscar threw his wheel all the way to port, swiveling his boat to be fully parallel with the wave. A sudden torrent of water slammed against the side of the wheelhouse, flooding over his vessel and threatening to swamp him at any moment! But only for a moment, and then the boat burst through the crest of the wave, hung suspended in the open the air, then crashed down on the backside of the wave, hauling at Harry’s boat until it had pulled him back from his roll without a moment to spare!

One thing I’ve been meaning to improve from all these changes is to really push Harry into having a solid reason for coming forward with the truth after all these years. I wanted the likelihood of both men drowning to be very real to finally compel him to come clean.

And, at this point, I think I’ve given him a solid enough reason. So, starting with next week, I’m going to rejoin my original draft of the story where Harry finally makes confession. I can’t wait to pick things up from there!

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