The Boat Of A Million Years

FROM The Boat Of A Million Years by Poul Anderson

AFTER THE long voyage north, past land that grew ever more rugged, ever more girded with holms and reefs, the coast finally bent eastward. These were waters as rough as the ground on which their surf crashed; the ships stood well out and cast anchor at sunset. It was better to huddle tireless than dare those unknown approaches. On the fourth day there appeared above haze the red and yellow heights of an island. Pytheas decided to pass between it and the main shore. His vessels battled their way on until dark.

Men saw no dawn, for air had thickened further. Aft of them a whiteness towered from edge to unseen edge of the world. They had a light breeze and visibility of about a dozen Athenian stadia, so they hoisted dripping sails. The sheer island began to fall behind them, and ahead, to starboard, they spied a murk that ought to be a lesser one. Noise of breakers loudened, an undergroundish thunder.

Then the white wall rolled over them, and they were blind. The breeze died and they lay helpless.

Never had they known or heard of a fog such as this. A man amidships saw neither bow nor stern; vision lost itself in smothering, eddying gray. Over the side he could barely make out turbulence streaked with foam. Water settled on cordage and fell off in a wicked little rain. The deck sheened with it. Wetness weighted hair, clothes, breath, while cold gnawed inward to the bone, as if he were already drowning. The formlessness was full of noise. Seas grew heavier, timbers groaned, the hull swayed crazily. Billows rushed and rumbled, surf roared. Horns hooted, crew wailed themselves hoarse, ship called desperately to unseen ship.

Pytheas, aft by the helm, shook his head. “What makes the waves rise when we have no wind?” he asked through the tumult.

The steersman gripped his useless tiller and shuddered. “Things out o’ the deeps,” he rasped, “or the gods o’ these waters, angry that we trouble them.”

“Launch the boats,” Hanno advised Pytheas. “They’ll give some warning if we’re about to drift onto a rock, and maybe they can pull us clear.”

The steersman bared teeth. “Oh, no, you don’t!” he cried. “You’ll not send men down to the demon-beasts. They won’t go.”

“I won’t send them,” Hanno retorted. “I’ll lead them.”

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Published in: on December 27, 2009 at 8:50 AM  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Anderson is one of the best. Thanks for reminding me of a great read.

    Nice sight.

    BBB

  2. Thanks, BBB. There will be at least one book excerpt posted daily, along with lots of other content, so stay tuned.


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