Kay Townson – Deakin University
Licks of flame spiral towards the sky, burning blue at the base the fire turns yellow and orange as it climbs higher and higher almost seeming to touch the churning grey clouds of the storm above. The heat is blistering against my skin and the light burns my eyes until they water but as the flames cackle and leap with glee I am unable to back away; to tear my eyes from the sight. Its tendrils overlap each other, flicking first one way and then the other, mixing and burning higher and hotter as it pulls in more oxygen to feed itself, daring the torrential downpour to try and stop the burning.
The rain falls like needles and blurs the edges of the flame but cannot mask it as it jumps closer and closer, folding in upon itself just to jump out again. The acrid stench of burning wood fills my nose until it’s a taste in my mouth. A choking cloying feeling creeps down my throat leaving me unable to breathe. The wood beneath my feet groans and begins to pull apart, cracks showing deep, the pressure of such tremendous heat too much for it.
Ships were meant for the trials of the sea, not fire.
Looking around, I see the sources of the smell almost covered by the smoke. The scent of cooking meat came from the injured crew, who, one by one, had given up on their ship and leapt for the sea. Land was too far away, they’d never be able to swim, but one feisty man, his features indistinguishable through the pillars of smoke, had taken a rowboat and was staring at the ship from his precarious perch amidst the storm where the sea tossed the small vessel back and forth as if actively trying to toss the man inside overboard.
What a sight it must have been from the sea, the mast broken and caught against the rigging, sails and ropes aflame, spreading the fire across the deck. Another crewman was pinned against the balusters where a cannon had broken free and trapped him. His face screwed in determination and pain, he heaved against the two tons of brass and iron pinning him, over and over even as his attempts to free himself became weaker, the break between each attempt longer.
A flash of lightning illuminated the men in the water, over a hundred in total, they tried to keep themselves afloat. Nothing will ever truly described the awful din they made as screams of terror, despair and maddening fury blended together. They were struggling to breathe as each wave tried to pull them under and yet they screamed as if voicing their pain would somehow make it stop.
For the last time I looked upon the ship, the hull had failed and the ship was tilting backwards as water rushed through the lower decks. The bow rose from the water in a last salute to the power of the storm and I almost laughed as the irony struck me. This ship had been named for the fear it inspired in sailors across the seven seas – its name, thus far untouched, was engraved on the side; Ignis.
Kay Townson is a student of writing, literature and history. She spends her spare time reading, writing and spending time with close friends whilst juggling full-time study and a part-time job. She is a passionate feminist as well as a lover of ancient mythology and history.