But it was not them that the sea had wanted. Their bodies remained safely secured to the raft.

Sea of Fire

A story of hope by Abel Chan
Singapore, Singapore

Everything that we have owned, everything that we have built, they had taken it all – our farms, our gold, our lives, our home.

Ancient heirlooms that have been passed down from generation to generation, standing trial yet surviving in the face of time, were taken as mere tokens of wealth, losing all its intended meaning, and with it, all intended value. They were squandered away on imported women and wine; the fuel that kept the high spirits of the enemy.

They took our lives, each and every one of them. Those that were not slain were made slaves, and those not enslaved were made fugitives, of which I was but one of many, as I have since found out. They also took our ideas, not to be squandered away like our heirlooms, but to be warped beyond recognition. Our peace became our war; our way of life became our past; and our freedom our hope. 

They took our ancestry; whose bodies were exhumed and burnt, whose books were torn and cremated, whose language was banned and forgotten. Our traditions were naught but ash, our songs of joy unsung, and our prayers to the spirits were unallowed to be spoken. They had erased us from existence. Or at least, that was what they had believed. For it was in this complacent belief that the enemy found peace. A peace that was to be but temporary.

It has been eighteen full moons since I fled on my raft, accompanied by the two that had shown me friendship. I thought it to be pitifully amusing, and often found myself laughing between my anguished screams. Atsuko and Shogo have always filled my soul with warmth. But try as I might, despite my sheer will, their bodies remained cold, and their souls remained departed.

I saw no land beyond the sea, and their bodies were starting to decompose, ingesting itself from the inside out. They grew stiffer and harder to shift around. And each time I lay between them to rest, the foul scent of decay grew harder and harder to ignore. Then it happened.

A storm brewed above the seas, blanketing the sky in pitch-black darkness. The only light that shone through came in cracks of lightning; whose roars echoed with unmatched ferocity. The seas threatened to swallow us up, tossing the raft around in violent disregard. I secured their bodies with rope and twine. I did not steal their bodies from the enemy only to lose them to the sea.  

But it was not them that the sea had wanted. Their bodies remained safely secured to the raft. It was me that was swept away. When I first fell off the vessel, they remained in clear line of sight. I swam towards them inch by inch, with every foot of distance that I covered made halved by the unyielding waves that threatened to tear us apart.

It was a painfully slow process, but I finally had the raft in reach. But before I could stretch out my arm in relief, the tide had pulled me away with vicious vigour. With my head no longer above the waters, I struggled to get a rough bearing of my position. It did not bear fruit. I could barely tell where the surface was, and no manner of squinting revealed where my friends and my safety laid waiting.

I found myself smiling as my vision started to blur. Perhaps the time has come for us to truly reunite. And with that, I gave up fighting and allowed myself to sink.

But the tide had other plans for me.

I awoke with the sun in my face, and a bed to my back. I left the room to uncover my fate, thinking that the tide had carried me back, to die in the village that I had deserted. To my surprise and confusion, the faces of my captors were not only friendly, but familiar.

I learnt that I had been washed ashore, on a neighbouring island that the villagers had fled to. That most survivors were common folk, with only a few soldiers that Atsuko had tasked, in hopes of ensuring the villagers protection as they escaped. She was a great leader to the end.

But, unlike me, these people were not deserters. They were survivors. Survivors who held no intention to settle down on this neighbouring island. Instead, they spent their time gathering rations and tools, crafting makeshift weapons and ships.

Our songs lived on. And our stories were still unfinished. Tales of freedom and of peace, we would share around a large campfire, reminiscing and plotting as each moon appeared. And with our stories and shared memories, every fist would curl in anger, and every eye would alight a fire – a fire not only of vengeance, but a hope for the future.

For they have taken it all – our farms, our gold, our lives, our home. But there was one thing that they could never take from us – our hope.

After eighteen moons, the day has come. Through clear eyes I watched, as the people gathered upon their ships, armed from head to toe with weapons of wood and steel. We were going to take it all back. Our farms, our gold, our lives, our home. Nothing was to stand in our way, naught but the sea that stood between us and the enemy we were to overcome.

And as we sailed across the waters, the sun had started to set. But a light continued to shine ever-brightly, as our hearts were set ablaze. With conviction and hope we made our way across a sea of fire, set ablaze by the very hearts of the people that journeyed across its surface.

by Abel Chan

Singapore, Singapore

Abel Chan is a writer from the Southeastern island of Singapore. Though mainly a writer of stories, Abel also crafts non-fiction pieces surrounding the topics of philosophy, politics and literature. He is an editor for A Philosopher’s Stone and has published works in other named literary publications such as The Writing Cooperative and The Ascent. Making his debut in the world of freelancing, Abel seeks to deliver both aesthetic value and the awakening of emotions through his writing where he weaves storytelling into technical pieces, and perspectives of reality into his fictional works.

Produced by: Eugenio Zorrilla.

Todos los personajes son ficción. Cualquier semejanza con individuos reales, vivos o no, es mera coincidencia.  All characters are fictional. Any resemblance to individuals, real, existing or not, is purely coincidental.

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