This story is based on the album “Mariner” by Cult of Luna featuring Julie Christmas. Titles “A Greater,” “Chevron,” “The Wreck of S.S. Needle,” “Approaching Transition,” and “Cygnus” are creations of Cult of Luna, Julie Christmas, and properties of the band and Indie Recordings. Give the album a listen along with the chapters: (Warning: METAL!!!)
Mariner: Chapter 1
It was called The Greater Call, after the made-up tales of the sirens in the ocean. Many a mariner had seen it from their ships as they followed the currents between the lands east and west. Like the aurora in the north, it would appear, lighting up the sky, day or night. Those who gazed on it for an extended length of time from their vessels often found themselves truly awestruck, unable to move or think, and only by the force of their crew-mates were they able to return to cognizance.
Every sailor had their version of what it was, or what it could represent. A path to a hidden, ancient civilization beneath the water. The reflections of unknowable riches and treasure from the deep. The rays of light leading up to the heavens, where one could communicate with God, or see their future, or to speak to the universe and be answered with any wish or desire one could think up. Those of skeptical minds only could say it was a trick for those with foolish minds.
Whether it was a natural phenomenon of light, something supernatural, from the sky above or the depths below, nobody knew. No person or craft in our time had even ventured directly into its glow, or even near it. The seemingly random currents and blowing winds surrounding it were too strong, despite what seemed to be calm ocean beyond. But the Luna was built differently, built in hopes to reach the Call.
The Luna was a ship that dwarfed even the vessels of the navy back at home. The lapping of the waves was barely felt through the mass of the ship, and her sails hung to a mast that seemed to pierce the clouds. But the wind was not the only driving force of The Luna- to defeat the treacherous currents that guarded entry to the domain of the phenomenon, the expedition included two dozen oar men, who could push the speed of the vessel to fifteen knots or more- according to Captain Fredrik, at least.
You may wonder, yourself, how such a voyage was brought about- it was no country, nor governor, or any other great power of that sort. Our financier was a sole mysterious woman, who we came to know as Ms. Julie. I only met her proper shortly after setting out on the voyage, one late night while at the helm holding the Luna’s heading along the still calm seas. “Young mariner?” Her sudden words surprised me, as my mind had already given way to my eyes to stare up at the night stars. “I thought I hired only the most experienced of sailors for this venture.”
“I’ve been on ships for as long as I can remember, milady.”
“I see.” She nodded as if accepting my answer, then marched down the stairs and back to the main deck to look out upon the dark horizon before us.
I spent the days trying to sleep off the late nights. On the deck below, I could hear the rhythmic calls of Thomas- STROKE, STROKE, STROKE, STROKE- keeping the time for each of the oarsmen- STROKE, STROKE, STROKE, STROKE- running drills and keeping them limber for the eventual arrival at the unpredictable currents. With each deep command, the Luna was swept forward in a rush of manpower.
We were a few weeks into the journey across the sea when we first saw it appear. Johannes, the bosun, gave everyone direct orders to keep their minds on their work of keeping the ship moving safely forward and to ignore the luster of the shimmering rainbow of lights. Nevertheless, we had a few incidents of men swabbing the deck lose their focus and fall to the wiles of the Call, only to be brought forcibly down to the lower decks to shake off their stupor. For myself, on those mostly lonely nights at the helm, it was the stars and their guiding light that kept my focus on where it needed to be.
When the wind picked up and began to toss the sails about, we knew it was time to batten down and begin preparing for what was to be the first challenge of the expedition. Ms. Julie, with the help of Captain Fredrik, rallied all the men about her and offered her kind yet stern words of encouragement: “This is the first step to reach the infinite. What lies ahead is unknown. It’s a quest for survival, past all other frontiers. But we of the Luna will soon heed this Call.”