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Fo’c’sle (English translation of the short story ‘Vooronder’

I see the full moon, shining brightly from behind a cobalt-blue cloud, a radiant disc in the darkness of a winters night. The sea, black, grayish and fifty shades of blue. Rolling waves with crests of white foam race by my porthole. Then I feel my body being pressed deeper and deeper into the mantras of my bunk. Whoosh! Water as far as I can see, green with bubbles of air rising up along the thick porthole glass. Then the pressure eases, I become lighter again until I fear that I might hover. Whoosh! The moon, the waves.

Here I lie in the upper part of a sailors bunk in our shared cabin, with a view to the ocean. My ‘maiden voyage’, from Bremen, Germany, to Hull on the shores of the United Kingdom, a stormy crossing with wind gales at force eight. A nauseating feeling in my stomach, tepid water in my mouth. I feel miserable and yet  elated at the same time. I am 19 years of age, just completed my secondary education back in the Netherlands.

Only two hours earlier I had stumbled over the decks of this passenger liner, together with Rocco from Italy. He, short but square, a block of muscles, I, skinny-bones with glasses. Between us we pulled along a tangle of rope and wood a meter and a half in diameter. “That rope ladder needs to go into the fo’c’sle. When you get there, tie it tight to the bulkhead”, is what 1st officer George from Cape Town had shouted in the wind. The fo’c’sle, or forecastle, to us is the storage room in the bow, above the anchor chain locker. There where that bow of the ship slashes the brutal waves one by one and their spray water hammers down on the deck in revenge. Hell on the way to Hull!

Berry good, va benne, berry good, Rocco said every time we had progressed to the next lower deck, had stumbled down another stairs. Maybe to hide the fact that he was just as scared as I was. Ever deeper, or higher, depending on how the swell and the strength of the main engine were pushing and pulling our one hundred and thirty meter long vessel up and down the wave valleys.

I fell, I crawled, I puked, I prayed…well, to make a long story short, here I lie. Scared. thrilled. I submerged, I rose again from the deep. I had never felt more alive than that day!

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