Nightmare on stormy night

Friday June 14 2019

They’d been tossed overboard like rag dolls, their boat smashed to pieces by the monstrous wave and immediately pulled under. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA


The ground was moving beneath her feet, sideways then forward and back. How could that be? Genevieve tried to walk to her car, but she could barely take a step. She giggled. This is silly, she thought, stumbling as the ground heaved suddenly again.

“Andy!” she called out to her husband who was watering the lawn, “Andy, look at the ground… Ha Ha! It’s moving!”

Just as she said the words, Genevieve realised with cold horror that just seconds earlier her husband hadn’t been standing there. He seemed to have appeared out of nowhere... This is a dream she thought. As the realisation took hold on her, awakening her with ice cold ferocity, one thought after another hit her. She was lying on the floor and it was wet, not wet like damp, but flooded. And the floor was pitching, alarmingly so, because…she was on a boat.

“Oh my…” it was a breathless whisper as a huge wave slammed against the side of the boat, rocking it violently; she was thrown up against the bunk, hitting something.


She mustered her shaking limbs and took a deep breath to calm her panic, and balance herself as she grabbed on to him and tried to force her husband awake. He’d had to take sleeping pills to help him sleep given how intensely seasick he’d been in the afternoon and the subsequent night’s choppy waters, that had now clearly turned into a full blown storm.


“Wake up!” she screamed practically in his ear, punching his ribs, as all around them the boat groaned under the battering of the waves.


He was groggy, but he could register his wife’s panic. He tried to sit up, but couldn’t. It felt like he was rolling on jello.

“Andy! Please…Get up! The boat’s going under!” Genevieve was now scrambling to control the sick, panicky thought forming in her mind, We’re going to die…

Hearing the sheer terror in his wife’s voice, Andy somehow managed to get himself to full consciousness and forced his muscles into motion. He sat up, reached over to her, allowing her to throw an unsteady but helpful hand around him. Together they fell and stumbled over to the door of their cabin, when Genevieve suddenly turned sharply around, knocking them both to the ground. Crawling quickly back over to the bed, she pulled two bright orange lifejackets from underneath the wooden frame and her small ruck-sack which she deftly strapped to her waist. Then she was swiftly back at his side, pushing his heavy arms into one lifejacket and securing him intently, before throwing hers on.

“Ready?” he squeezed her clammy fingers.

She nodded, getting her control back. Together, maybe they’d be okay. Holding on to one another, they pushed open the door, facing the full storm outside. The night was pitch-black aside from the tiny glow of a light on the broken mast, the rain relentlessly pouring down in sheets. Their boat rocked, swinging between cresting the tops of high waves and plunging into the depths of caverns that had walls of water on either side; so high that for a few seconds as they stepped out into the melee, Andy, the experienced sailor, stared dumbfounded and frozen in fear.

“What do we do?” Genevieve screamed over the din. She was way more alert than him and in her heart she had a feeling they were sinking, or that they would certainly, if they just stood there holding on for dear life, doing nothing.

But Andy knew. He knew the second he’d stepped outside the cabin. He’d made the fatal error of underestimating a warning he’d seen, a land bird blown out to sea… it must have been caught in a really strong wind, and now they were finding out just how strong.

“I’m sorry!” There was no point lying to her, it really never was their thing anyway. “Our mast is broken, our sail is down, see? The wind...” He didn’t have time to say more as they slid off the top of a gigantic wave into a trough; instead wrapping his arms as tight as he could around her and hunkering down. It was as if time froze for a few seconds as they fell, even the powerful and chilling roar of the waves ceased in that moment. Genevieve looked up to see a deep blue wall of water, standing almost motionless it seemed, majestic and stoic. It doesn’t care, she thought as the wave slammed into them.


Water…water, could there be so much water? And for so long… she was tired of struggling, but she knew she’d die if she didn’t keep kicking. They’d been tossed overboard like rag dolls, their boat smashed to pieces by the monstrous wave and immediately pulled under. As it sank, it sucked them down with it, a pulling sensation that added to the terror of being in the cold, deep, dark water…and suddenly being alone, as they were ripped apart too.

 Kick… Kick… Kick…

“Ahh!” Genevieve resurfaced with a gasp and what was almost a yell as her lungs fought to take in oxygen, after what felt like a watery hell. But it wasn’t over yet; now she was at the mercy of the cold water, wave after wave and she couldn’t see him…

“Andy!” She tried to scream but her voice was only a whisper in the howl of the wind, “Andy! Please, oh no… please no…” The sinking feeling that washed over her came in tandem with another wave that simply buried her under layers of cold despair.


She was sure she sputtered to consciousness, ungracefully so. She couldn’t quite remember it now that she lay awake here, on this gorgeous white sand under the warm sunshine, but her throat was sore so she was sure she’d been coughing, or screaming…

The boat. The storm…Andy.

Genevieve was up with a start. Then she stopped dead. Where was she? The beach was beautiful, white, spotless and… completely devoid of life. Behind her was thick, jungle canopy, thick enough that she couldn’t see into it at all. Breathing deep to keep her nerve, she unstrapped her lifejacket, loosening it to breathe freely and groping for the pouch she still had at her waist. Drawing a knife from it she began walking down the beach, searching or her husband. She thought about screaming for him, but she didn’t want anything in that dark forest stirring. Scanning the beach and stopping to look off into the sea and to the horizon, Genevieve walked until she dropped suddenly to her knees, bursting into silent sobs. What if he really was gone?

It was a while before she realised the sun was getting low. Getting up, she found herself aimlessly walking back the way she’d came, walking till her legs began to cramp, till… wait could it be?

“Andy!” It was a silent shout in her heart and though she was too exhausted to run, her pace picked up to where he was lying in the sand.

“Hey.” He was weak but managed a smile.

“Hey,” Genevieve exhaled. It wouldn’t be perfect, but things would be fine.

(Next week: Part 2)