The world was a wet, full-throated, howl. The hermit was at prayer in a stacked stone oratory that did well to stand against nature’s onslaught. The hermit failed utterly to maintain his concentration on the offices. Not that he could have heard his own voice above the wind and the rain, but his mind was roiling with more existential concerns than even mere existence.
Gospels was doubting himself. Self examination is the stock and trade of a hermit, but he had felt the anchorite call so sure and strong only to be cast up not just once, but innumerable times on the same rock, this rock. Far be it from him to question his Lord, but on a clear day his new anchor-hold was within site of his old abbey. Worse yet, in a few weeks, his brothers from that very abbey would come for spiritual retreat to this place and he would have to explain his presence.
Surely this was a lesson in pride, its dangers, its pitfalls, and its inevitable destination, shame. Though he should be in prayer. Though his duty was to praise the creator. Though his life had been rigidly laid out ever since he joined the brethren, tonight he could not give himself to ritual. He felt compelled, as he had felt compelled to enter the coracle, to leave his shelter and go down to the sea.
But heeding that call had cast him here. How could he trust it? The doubt was strong, but the compulsion was stronger. Gospels rose from his knees and walked into the storm. The ferocious blast caught at his clothes, ripping the hood from his head, it lifted him completely from the ground, and then smashing him down hard with his head and shoulders up against the stacked stone of a beehive cell.
In moments he was drenched. The howling wind made a chorus of shrieking across the uneven stacked stone buildings around him. The hard rain was in his eyes, but worst of all, with the wind so strong, he could barely draw breath in it.
He was no stranger to discomfort, but the storm seemed capable of drowning him where he lay. He struggled to gather himself using the support of the wall behind him and managed to get feet below and head toward the gale. He balanced with his body against the wall and with both hands pulled his hood back over his head.
Gospels moved carefully along the rounded beehive cell into the lee of the oratory then crawled to the shelter of that downwind cover. Panting, he paused only a moment, then clinging to the ground and the stacked stone of its wall he made his way around and back into the full force of the wind and rain. “Lord God preserve. . .”
The hermit, bit by tortuous bit, worked his way through a cut and onto the windward face of his stone island seeking the small leather covered boat that had carried him to his solitude. The ocean waves were enormous, they battered the island with concussion that Gospels felt through his whole body as he lay buffeted by the wind. The heaving swells looked tall enough to top the whole island and then they were dashed to foam upon the rock.
“Lord!” cried the monk, “I can’t find it!” He scanned where he thought the little boat should be, but there was nothing familiar there. The wind continued to roar, mixed with that of the sea, but the rain subsided. There was wreckage in the waves, but not the ash frame and hide of his coracle.
“Oh God no,” Gospels saw among the tangled remains of a larger craft than his, a body. The huge wave lifted and lifted, he saw that it was a man, and then the wave struck the island with a boom, sending spray up and obscuring all else.
The sea water cascaded off the island leaving bits of what may have been a boat and there also feebly clutching the rocks, trying to hold to them, was a man. Gospels scrambled down the wet rocks toward the struggling figure only to watch in horror as the sea tore him from the rocks and swallowed him again.
Again the sea rose in a wall and there among the foam was a terrified face for a moment and then all was white. Gospels cried, “Lord Jesus save him. I can not!”
The rushing water receded leaving the man, caught between two rocks by his foot wedged there. Gospels moved closer, but was nearly pulled off the rocks when the next wave turned everything to foam and the wave sucked hungrily at him as it returned. “Jesus, save us!” Gospels took hold of the man’s leg, but couldn’t imagine what he could do to lift him free.
The wave broke over him, lifting him, The only thing that wasn’t water was the man’s leg and he clung to it like it was life, like it was salvation. He was slammed against hardness. Sickeningly he felt the strong pull of the sea dragging him across the roughness of the stone. He spread himself, desperately, seeking some purchase and found here a hand hold and there his foot caught and held, the dead weight of the man struck him but he was not dislodged, with his other hand he clutched at the body.
The Abbott and the Djinn chp 1.2 available HERE