Infinite Aurous Ocean

Sailing on an infinite aurous ocean…

Pictonaut short story for July 2013.

Gold.

Waves of Gold. As far as the eye could see, only gold. It was an aurous ocean ebbing and flowing, rising up and dipping down in inexplicable dazzling dunes.

Beneath a black sky and ethereal wisping night clouds all was gold right out to the horizon and the unfathomable beyond. Infinite gold all around.

Capitán Néstor Ordóñez rubbed shaking fists into his eye sockets. He blinked again and gazed out into the gold.

Real? It must be. But how could it be?

El Capitán wheeled around and surveyed his shipmates. They too were agog. All onboard wore similar expressions and were clearly seeing the same surreal state of affairs. Surely they weren’t all experiencing the same delusion, sharing the same strange mirage?

The great galleon María Felicísima was sat in a sea of gold. Afloat on an impossibly precious ocean the ship bobbed upon the stormy surface and moved with its tides. No sign of a shore. No sight of land, animal or any other vessels. Only Gold.

Ay, my God…” Ordóñez whispered. He whispered it over and over as if magic words might help him comprehend this miracle. No instantaneous divine inspiration arrived and logical understanding continued to elude him as they remained, rolling through indefinite eons of time upon the surf.

Ordóñez glanced around at his crew again. They were still stuck in a transfixed state, wrapped up in an enchantment. Like their Capitán they could do little else but gawp gormlessly at the infinite gold stretching out interminably before them. Open mouths. Wide eyes. Some drooled, others muttered and some of the men were actually weeping. It may have been genuine emotional shock or it might possibly have been their eyes reacting to the sheer brightness.

The sky was pitch black but the sea was luminous, glowing its aurous glow like liquid sunlight. It rolled, peaked and troughed. Astounding lustrous fluid with no apparent limit or boundary to curtail its constancy or check its grandeur. Its character was that of the mighty wide sea. The boat floated on it and moved through just as if it was the sea. As far as Capitán Ordóñez was concerned, this must be the sea and the María Felicísima was still sailing upon the sea.

It just so happened that the sea was now pure gold.

How can this be?” asked Inigo aloud. Ordóñez turned to find his head lieutenant convulsing violently. The voyage had been rough on the veteran seafarer and his wits were fraying. The sight of the shining sea seemed to be pushing the elderly gentleman towards the edge, unravelling the wit ends at rapid speed.

I… I… ‘is gold… but h-h-how?” He appeared close to fainting, his hands grabbing at the side of the boat as he ambled over awkwardly to the captain.

Capitán… I… oh, sweet virgin Mother…” and then Inigo de Cienfuegos swooned and dropped to the deck. The other men nearby were too taken by the landscape lying before them to pay much mind to the unconscious elder statesman of the María Felicísima.

How did we get here?” chewed over Jimeno Sandoval, his fingerless left hand rubbing at his temple. Faces looked at each other trying to spy signs of special insight but all were absolutely baffled.

At last someone spoke up. “The mist,” offered Sosa the boatswain. “The great green fog. Remember? The waters were rough before sundown. The fog set in. Anyone recall the mist?

Heads nodded. Memories of the eerie, ominous clouding returned to collective mind. It had descended upon the ship suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. Fair conditions had fallen to weird bad weather that prevented clear vision and inspired tremendous anxiety.

It had felt unnatural. It had felt decidedly strange. Something was amiss and then an abrupt immense fatigue had set in. All onboard had been swallowed by sweeping sleep, overwhelmed into a deep slumber.

I remember the fog but then… nothing,” struggled Saucedo, the one with the scarred cheeks.

“Aye. It came down upon us and next thing I know I awake to this… this… whatever this is….” added the ship’s surgeon, el Hueso.

Silence on ship. The sailors simply stood facing the beguiling glory of the ocean, lined up like seagulls on a harbour wall, their faces burnished by the reflected light of the gold beneath the boat.

El Dorado…

A voice cut through the hush. The ominous low utterance caught all the men’s ears and drew them away from the silent singing of the golden sea.

El Dorado…” repeated again with the gravity and spiritualised awe of a preacher’s sermon. The voice was deep and haggard. Ordóñez swivelled to his left and saw that the speaker of the words was Friar Juan Ignacio .

El Dorado…” came the same refrain. Hands held out wide as if to receive the manna of Heaven or welcome angels into his own personal space. The Friar’s eyes were open globes of awestruck wonder, white and aglow in special revelation.

God’s paradise of gold… God has guided us to paradise…” A beatific smile blessed the face of the holy man. Euphoria radiated from his body reflecting the aurous ocean before him.

Stirred by the preacher’s profound pronouncements, the Capitán felt compelled to cut in. “But wait, Brother. El Dorado? El Dorado is surely a city…

The Lord works in mysterious ways, Capitán,” came the hazy response. “We prayed to God that we may find the legendary land of gold. He has answered our prayers…

I… but… I never thought that that Land of Gold would be the sea!” exclaimed Sandoval. “Tell me, how are we to get rich off a golden ocean?!

The Friar no longer appeared to care or indeed notice anything. He stood motionless like a statue envisioning a glorious inner picture of heaven, as if enlightened and all at once one with God. Touched by the transcendental, the Friar was no longer of this world.

Capitán Ordóñez rubbed his chest and squinted at the blinding gold beyond. Guided here by God? For what reason? Was this really the fabled El Dorado they’d set sail to discover? The City of Gold they’d intended to claim in the name of the Spanish crown?

He had to know. “What do the instruments say, Espejo?” he called aloud, looking about the deck for his navigator. But all Espejo could offer was a beffudled gestures and helpless headshakes. He waved a small bronze artefact in the air. “See the compass Señor Capitán! It… it… it’s just incredible…

Espejo dropped it to the deck, casting it away like a molten hit coal. It rolled towards Ordóñez’s boots and he saw that the needle of compass was in perpetual motion. It span and span and span, never resting at North nor South nor West nor East. The Capitán looked up at his navigator to find him scratching at maps – maps on which he would never find a golden ocean.

We are in uncharted waters, then” announced Ordóñez, doing his level best to act confidently and retain some semblance of composure. “We may in fact not be in Earthly waters at all,” he added with an eye on the Friar beside him. “We prayed that God may guide us to Gold and, well, now we have sailed straight into gold…

All the men were lost in the impossible, eyes blinded by the brilliance of the vision before them. El Capitán was lost in it as well. There was no horizon. Just endless gold, rising and falling and foaming and thrashing.

Capitan Néstor Ordóñez gripped the side of his ship and squinted at the sea. He had no sense of scale and measurements or dimensions of distance. All there was was gold and he was at a complete loss to comprehend or rationalise it all. “Yes, we prayed that we may sail and find gold,” he reflected to himself, “but is this God’s work or some devil’s?

Biting his lip he pondered the immense ocean of wealth and wonder that they floated upon. It never ended. They were lost. “Oh God…” he sighed solemnly, so quietly that no one could possibly hear even if they wanted to. “Have you delivered us to our heaven or is this indeed our hell?

The María Felicísima sailed on, flowing along with the whims of the golden waves. The shining sea sang silently, its supernatural laughter and lustre shimmering beneath a black sky.

All beneath the darkness of the heavens was infinite aurous ocean.

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  1. Pictonaut Short Story Challenge: ‘Sea of Gold’… | ENTER... JAMES CLAYTON

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