World Without End

In midnight waters one hundred miles off the western coast of Africa, a mountain of clouds glowered on the horizon, lightning rending the darkness in a fierce display. Our boat, forty feet of wood and fiberglass in four thousand miles of ocean, stalled in its course, the sails flagging in the vagarious winds of the approaching storm. Tossed around by huge rolling swells, the ship pitched and yawed in spite of my frantic attempts to steer, turning slow circles as the wind died completely. It was quiet now, save for the creaking of the hull and the halyards clanging the mast like a broken bell. The radar showed a two-mile wide red swath tracking across the range lines, moving inexorably closer with every sweep.  I didn’t like what I saw on the screen, but looking up at the real thing was far worse. I distracted myself with the sails instead and managed to catch enough breeze to get back on course—directly into the storm, as it happened. Continue reading

A Sense of Wonder

Ten years before he was stabbed to death on Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii, Captain James Cook paced the sands of the Tahitian shoreline, his eyes scouring the horizon for clouds that would ruin his carefully planned mission. Nearly a year prior in 1768, he had set sail from Plymouth with the goal of observing the transit of Venus across the face of the sun, a task commissioned by the Royal Society of London. HMS Endeavour had traveled over 14,000 miles for this event, and Cook was understandably nervous of things going afoul. In fact, considering that their viewing equipment had been stolen weeks before and only returned after tense negotiations, the mood on the beach that morning was a decidedly anxious one. The captain looked toward the east where the sun was just beginning to rise, and waited. Continue reading

The Harrowing of Halfmoon Lake

“I used to be crazy, now I’m Pinhead,” is not a reassuring phrase to hear under the best of circumstances, and especially so when you find yourself in the dark of a primitive campsite deep in the forests of Central Florida. Of course, more troubling than the words themselves was the knowledge that the person who had said them, “Pinhead,” actually lived out there in the pines, far beyond the reach of what passes for normal society in Florida. In the hands of a ragged stranger that just appeared out of the darkness, that statement was horror incarnate. Continue reading