Clouds

Dark, menacing clouds
covered the restless sea. The gentle whoosh of the breeze was slowly replaced by a much
more aggressive roar, thrusting the waves of the sea into chaos. 


Crashing into the side of a small orange raft,
spray from a wave flew through the humid air. Hundreds of tiny water droplets
soared before landing on the cheek of a young boy. The young boy grimaced as he
grabbed onto the side of the raft. A particularly violent wave knocked him off his
feet. Suddenly unbalanced, the raft tipped to one side, nearly flipping. The
salt from the water soaked into the boy’s eyes, filling his mind with a
stinging pain. Crawling back to his feet, the boy forced his eyes open.


An endless sea of angry waves met his sight. A
relentless stream of rain soaked his hair, making it hang down over his eyes.
Brushing the strands of hair to the side, the boy’s eyes twinkled, defiant of
the stinging particles of salt. A sign of hope, a world away beyond the raging
sea, met his gaze. Gripping the edges of the raft with a stubborn
determination, he set his eyes on the distant goal.


First, a sole ray of sunlight peaked through the
blockade of dark clouds. Soon, the sun itself pushed its way through, returning
a sense of calm to the angry sea. Relieved, the boy laid down on the
still-wet surface of the raft. Staring up at the bright blue sky, he let his
tense muscles relax.


The moment of calm made him remember.


He remembered the taste of his mother’s fresh
bread, and the blank taste of weeks of hunger. He remembered the beautiful re
light of the setting sun, and the bright orange flash of a faraway explosion.


However, what he remembered most was the last
days. The careful planning, the sneaking suspicion, and the nagging feeling of
guilt. He remembered sitting on his small bed for the last time, staring at the
blank, concrete walls of his room. He remembered waking up in the dead of
night, and sneaking down the stairs of the apartment building. Running his bare
feet over the still-cold sand, he remembered finding his cousin’s raft in a
small cave by the shore. He remembered-


The loud noise of a horn shattered the peaceful
moment. Jumping to his feet, the boy stared out. A giant white boat approached
from the distance, accented only by a single line of red paint. A sense of
panic flowed through the boy’s veins. Laying down over the raft, he desperately
tried to kick his feet to propel himself away. A reckless flurry of kicks threw
the boy fully off the raft, into the icy cold water of the sea. Abandoning the
raft, he tried to remember his mother’s lessons, but his uncoordinated kicks
and flailing arms failed to resemble her graceful breaststroke. 


Wildly thrashing his limbs, the boy’s head
slipped under. Swallowing a mouthful of water, his lungs were set on fire. The
burning pain felt out of place in the endless sea of water. Kicking his legs,
the boy forced his head to burst through the surface.


“He’s over there!” A gruff, masculine
voice rang out from the deck of the boat. Reinvigorated with a sense of
immediate danger, the boy began to swim. Forgetting his previous failures, his
strokes and kicks thrust him forward through the water. The noise of the boat’s
engines were close, but the boy kept his eyes peeled on the horizon whenever he
raised his head to steal a breath of air.


“Get the ladders ready!” Another
voice, this time that of a woman, called out. “You’ll be safe with us!
Please come back!”


The foreign words meant nothing to the boy. Just
as soon as he had remembered, he forgot how to swim. Refusing to fall under
again, he violently kicked his legs to stay afloat. Whipping his head around,
he saw the boat slowly approaching him. Two imposing figures stood on the deck,
wearing bright red lifejackets over dull green uniforms. Harsh light from the
setting sun peaked out from behind them, forcing the boy to squint.


Accepting his failure, the boy closed his eyes.
Once again letting himself relax, he floated to the surface of the water.
Calmly laying down on the water as if it were his bed, the boy was finally at
peace.


A splash sounded out from next to him as a rope
ladder dropped down from the boat. A woman descended the ladder, tossing a lifejacket
down into the water. Content to float by himself, the boy kept his eyes closed.
Nearing the bottom of the ladder, the woman jumped into the water. The spray
from her dive splashed onto the boy’s face. Still, he kept his eyes
closed. 


With an impressive show of strength, the woman
hoisted the boy onto her back. Signaling up to the man on the deck, she climbed
back up the ladder. 

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