* * *
Smoke struggled against the weight upon him as he had the weight of the heavy sea. But this was not the sea, it held him against hard rock unlike the wash of the sea that he had been unable to press against, then too, he was warm. He ached all over from the beating against the rocks, but even pain meant nothing now that he was warm. No need to fight, Smoke slept.
Where? That question came to him from his fevered dreams or memories. He had been thrown against the rocks enough times for him to have given up on land as salvation and come to terms with his death. That he remembered.
He had a vague memory of a calling for salvation from God, but that didn’t fit with his remembered resignation. He remembered white hands, no, before that he remembered calling on God and then being hauled from the sea by one foot. He remembered seeing the angry sea above him, falling toward him, but that was his perspective. Then he was lifted by the sea. . .
. . . and then white hands.
There was no light where he lay. His bed was hard. His battered body ached beneath some covering, heavy, warm. There was music, or at least a voice in the dark that chanted words he could not quite catch. Here and there in the chant, words came clear on the wind, praises to God, thanksgivings, strange as the sea falling from the sky, he thought, he was hearing the Psalms of the Hebrews in the trader’s tongue.
The cadence changed, the words became indestinguishable to Smoke in the night with wind and the distant roar of the sea and then only that. Whorls and patterning burst on his retina, but there was nothing real to see in the night, nothing but the night to hear.
Then, as suddenly as silence, there was a presence. Smoke heard a whisper of feet on stone, a sigh. “Hello?” His voice sounded like the croak of a scavenger bird, meaningless except that he knew what he had meant to say.
“Oh, you are awake.” There was shuffling, a trickling of water, and he could feel the radiant warmth of the figure near him. “You must be parched.”
“Yes. . .” he attempted an answer, but it was just crow talk again.
He felt fingers lightly brush his face, a thin arm lifted his head, and then cool sweet water filled his mouth and he swallowed. A few more sips and he was laid back.
The warmth moved away and he waited for more conversation that never came. “How odd,” he thought or said but weariness carried him back to slumber.