The Angel Ship (A Christmas fic)
by Merry Sailor
Shakespeare wrote "There is more between heaven and earth, Horatio, than is understood in your philosophy". Even in our modern era, there are mysteries and miracles. Of some we are aware and can stand in amazement or awe. Of others we may be a part and yet never know.
Electricians Mate Katy Shuman grumbled while she went about her work stringing the decorative electric lights aboard ship. "Stem to stern, mast base to topsail and cross every yardarm" were her orders. The light display required a lot of work. It had to be done at altitude in safety harness. But she had seen the display before and the effect was worth it. All would be ready for the evening cruise requested and required by the United States Coast Guard Academy's commandant.
Petty Officer Antwan Johnson had the helm of the USCGC Eagle that night. They were on course and making good time for the scheduled ‘sail-by' display. Mother Nature had not exactly been cooperating. They had hoped to make their appearance with sails unfurled but tonight the sea was almost like glass. The little wind was insufficient to sail by and running contrary to the needs of a tallship, so the ship was relying on its diesel engines to move her.
Even so, it was a beautiful night. The cold air was gorgeously clear; crystalline, optically perfect. The Eagle's display lights shone out on the water. Johnson felt it could reflect on forever.
"Sail ho!" came the cry.
"Where away?" called the lieutenant of the midnight watch. Lt. Horatio Hornblower drew his telescope from his pocket and listened for the response.
"Astern to starboard, sir!" the lookout bellowed.
"Is it possible one of Napoleon's fleet has found us mid Atlantic?" asked his friend, Lt. Archie Kennedy. He joined the tall officer astern on the quarterdeck and took out his telescope to assist in identifying their new travelling companion.
This was not simple to do at distance in broad daylight. It was even more difficult to do in the pitch black of the midnight watch. Though the wind was fresh the seas were not heavy. It was Kennedy who spotted the vessel and pointed it out to Hornblower. They gazed at it through their glasses.
Both knew it was important to identify this visitor quickly. Captain Sawyer was not a man to tolerate insufficient information. More and more of late Captain Sawyer was not a man to tolerate anything, sometimes even things that made sense. Though the crew appeared oblivious to the small changes to the man's mental state, the officers had noted his erratic moments becoming more frequent. They were growing concerned for the eventual safety of ship and crew.
Hornblower and Kennedy watched the ship. "She glows," said Archie. "Is she afire?"
"Aglow she is," Horatio answered, "but white, not red."
Kennedy grew concerned but kept his voice low. "Horatio, she's moving fast, far faster than we."
"I see it," Horatio replied. He lowered his glass.
The ship was plain to see now. It glowed upon the waters. Lines like strings of silver and pearl ran up the stays, across the yardarms and along the upper line of the hull, illuminating its furled sails. The hull glowed blue. The light of the ship reflected on the glassy sea around it.
The two officers and those crew who had happened to see it stood at the starboard rail in awe.
"Horatio," said Archie, an edge to his voice.
Hornblower's mind was processing what he saw. "The sails are furled but it moves faster than we. The waters about it are smooth yet we experience swells. We hear not a sound from it. The light that is about it. It is not fire."
"I find it reassuring that it bears no gunports," observes Kennedy calmly, apparently controlling his fear.
They can hear a couple of sailors on the deck. "Perhaps it be a ghost ship," says one with trepidation in his voice.
"Look a' it," says his companion, gazing admiringly. "Tis no will'o'the‘wisp, all vague and a'fearing. It's clear light that it shows cleanly, even proudly. Sense you any harm of it?" he asks his mate.
"No, naught a bit. There's a peaceful sense about it."
"There," says the other sailor. "It's nay a ghost ship. I'd call it an angel ship."
Kennedy turned to Hornblower, his face relaxed. "An angel ship," he said quietly, admiring the shining vessel still aft and starboard of them. "I do like the sound of that."
"Fog again," came word from the forward lookout.
Kennedy drew Hornblower's attention back to the other ship. Though neither ship had not entered the fogbank the vision of the beautiful ship of light was rapidly fading. It was gone before the first wisp of fog crossed their bow.
Those that had seen the ship of light stood a moment, letting the vision settle into memory and sense of peace rest upon them.
Kennedy turned to his friend. "And just how are you going to put "that" into your watch report?" he smirked.