The long gleaming white cruise ship idled next to the long white pier, beside long white pathways. Bare legs moved leisurely down the gangplank. Short shorts and sandals, sunglasses and sunscreen adorned those descending. Shuffling feet walked along worn pathways toward the bungalows. Each guest wore a corded string around their necks that held a key. The energy of youth prevailed.
Reaching the complex of rooms, people checked their key numbers, some veered left and some right along warm corridors. When they found their cubbyholes they tossed in their light travel bags carrying bare essentials and went to look for fun.
In the open spaces were tables protected by umbrellas or awnings. The tables held loaves of bread and bottles of olive oil for dipping. Bottles of wine, in multiple shades of gold and roses, adorned the tables. The sound of laughter and general gaiety decorated the air.
Kathryn stopped at a table and tore the heel from a loaf of bread, she spilled garlic infused olive oil onto a plate and dipped her bread. The taste was fresh and enriching, even magical. She spotted people heading down a staircase and decided to follow. In a few moments she found herself in a populated little area, of sand and rock, where she was overdressed in shorts and casual top. Her blush subsided by the time she again reached the top of the stairs.
She twirled the key around her neck with her fingers, as she enjoyed the setting sun and the rich colors dancing in the crystal blue waters. She watched as people seemed to skip along the walkways in their anticipation. The food galleries were filling up, so she walked in and sat down at a table with others she met on her cruise. Dinner was seafood, breads, and wine. Torch lamps were lit as the sun fully set in the Adriatic.
Kathryn licked her fingers as she got up and wished her dinner guest a good night and fulfilling vacation, which brought peculiar looks from her dinner companions. She emptied her wine glass and walked up the pathway towards her sleeping nook.
The sleeping nook was a small space. Barely enough room to stretch out. For a brief moment, she thought about the money her father had spent on this. But what caught her attention were the ten, glass front mailboxes in front of her. Each had a highly polished wood frame and a keyhole. She moved to her knees and peered into the first one, then the second. She was aware of the key dangling from her neck. She scooted down looking into the third then the fourth mailbox window.
Her attention was broken for a moment as ‘oohs and aahs and female giggles, and male bluster’ drifted through the corridors. Still on her knees, she all but pressed her nose against the glass as her gaze was caught by a great library and a man sitting at an enormous desk stacked with old tomes. The shelves reached out-of-sight in all directions. She reached for the key around her neck and twirled it nervously. Scooting around, she peeked out the entrance of her nook. Some nooks were lit up and some nook entrances were dark. She turned again and pressed her nose against the glass. Then inserted the key and swung the door open. The light from the mailbox spilled out into the hall.
“Hark,” it was Librarious, the man at the desk. He did not hear him rustle, but sensed it, “Not another word out of you, Thesurious.”
This made Kathryn smile.
Through a door at the far end of the room a short man led another man into the room. “I have located Professor Pimbleton.”
“Thank you, Nerdious,” called Librarious. “Come girl,” he waved toward Kathryn.
Kathryn looked at Librarious, Thesurious and Nerdious who were all wearing white togas. Professor Pimbleton wore brown corduroy trousers, an unkempt white shirt, a checkered vest and a worn corduroy suit jacket, out of style for decades. He held out his hand to Kathryn, “I am your guide. Are you ready?”
Before the word ‘Yes’ was fully formed on her lips, she and the professor were whisked into a swirling wind. Opening her eyes, Kathryn looked out on a great vista of sea and clouds. She was in the rigging of a three masted sailing ship. She wore a pair of breeches tied at the waist and calves with a bow knot and a scarf about her hair. The wind blew the remaining wisps of hair outward behind her. The air warmed her through and through. The speed of the ship exhilarated her depths.
At the far end of the same mast in the rigging, was the professor, now strong and young. He too was barefooted, with breeches tied at waist and calves. His shirt billowed as it caught the wind, and there was a belt with a sheath that housed a silver blade.
“Where are we?” She called.
He smiled ear to ear and raised his hand to his ear.
“Where are we?” She called again.
He moved toward her along the rope that he perched upon. When he thought he was close enough, he called to her. “This is a ship of souls. It is returning from God’s College. You have chosen to be part of the escort.”
She moved closer to Pimbleton. “Tell me more.”
“We will make our delivery to the Island of Kythria. We may face Illyrian pirates along the way, so keep a sharp eye on the horizon.”
Pimbleton’s smile fascinated her. She looked out along the horizon of the Adriatic. She looked down at a different perspective of the ship's deck with men tightening the lines and cleaning the decks. She looked with intrigue at the Captain, behind the helm, wondering who exactly steered the ship of souls.
Pimbleton, showing off, climbed upon the yardarm and sat. He held tight onto a rope and took in what he viewed as the creation.
Kathryn stood on the ropes looking out at pure majesty. “Look, she lifted one arm and pointed. Ships!”
Pimbleton returned to the ropes and gazed in the direction that Kathryn had pointed.
“Pirates aft,” he called. Looking down, he had not received any attention. Kathryn and Pim, swung down the ropes, hand over hand. “Pirates,” they called. Second in command on the bridge looked at the two young mates, then looked past them towards the horizon.
Pim and Kathryn quickly climbed to the crows nest and resumed their watch. The captain surveyed the opposition, judged their capable speed based on their sails and determined the ship of souls could not be overtaken. Nevertheless, he stationed his contingent of Marines both starboard and port.
“I’ll be back soon,” Pim told her, as he descended the riggings.
Kathryn stood and watched him go. Then watched the three ships that were following. She felt assured that the ships were not getting closer as time went by and realized what the captained had accessed hours ago. In a very short time Pim returned carrying a small basket. Inside were bread, and wine; imagination and mystery; romance and rhapsody.
“Too bad this has to end,” Kathryn lamented.
“It does not have to end immediately,” he replied. “Look at that island, we are going to pass fairly close. It will be close enough to swim. No telling what we will find there. Do you want to go for it?”
A most mischievous smile came to her face.
A few hours later their replacements arrived in the crows nest. Kathryn and Pim climbed down the rigging. They walked along the starboard side. At the exact same moment, they turned and gave each other a reassuring smile and both gracefully dived overboard toward adventure and the unknown.