Gale force winds tore the mainsail from the mast, leaving it in tattered shreds. A cabin boy was knocked out by a swinging boom and his pruned body was carried overboard by a wave that swept over the deck. But Columbus wouldn’t let mere weather shatter his resolve. He made his way across the deck without getting swept overboard himself.
He was screaming through clenched teeth.
“Get the men to take down the other sails! I don’t want to lose the masts!”
The sun had long since disappeared behind heavy grey clouds. The sea was dark and violent, only sporadically illuminated by bursts of lightning. The Santa Maria’s crew were pelted by rain that seared like hot ash, while the wooden hull of the Spanish caravel creaked and flexed due to the constant war of attrition waged on it. If the Devil ever swam, that sea would have been his pool. The crew had not seen the Nina or Pinta since the storm began.
“Rodrigo!” Columbus screamed at the top of his lungs. “RODRIGO!”
A man in tattered, soaked clothing stood before Columbus while holding on to some rope.
“The sails, the sails! Take ‘em down!”
The Santa Maria continued to be rocked by the vengeful Atlantic Ocean. The crash of the ship’s bow ploughing through the massive waves caused the air the vibrate violently in Columbus’ ear with every impact. He made his way back to the front elevated deck of his assaulted ship.
“You won’t sink me like you did Atlantis! Not my ship! Not today!”
The Atlantic didn’t seem to care for the trivial ambitions of one man and his dream of Oriental riches. The ship drove further into the darkness.
Alfonso, the ship’s first officer, clawed his way to his captain’s side.
“I’ve never seen a storm so fierce! The Devil must have a hand in this evil tempest. We should never have voyaged so far!”
“Keep the faith, Alfonso! The Lord is with us as He is with good King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. They tasked us to bring the spices of India back and we will not fail!
A lethal wall of water crashed over the deck and carried ten seamen overboard, their screams being swallowed by the howl of the storm. Columbus clenched his fists until his knuckles turned white. He cast his defiant gaze to the surrounding storm.
“Is this all you have to throw at me? You cannot keep me from my prize!”
Lightning crashed, followed by a thunderclap that would have shattered the ears of a lesser man. Then all of a sudden, silence. The wind stopped blowing, the rain stopped falling, and the sea calmed. The hazy sky grew brighter. Crew members who had sealed their eyes shut opened them as if they were new-born babes. The ship’s fool Pedro began to dance a jig.
“Praise be to the Lord! Praise to the Lord!” he repeated, running around and kissing his fellow mates on the cheeks in jubilation.
Others emerged from their hunched positions to stand tall in the peaceful air. They had made it. They were alive. India was within their reach.
Columbus unclenched his fists – and focused. He blocked out the celebrations on the deck below and scanned the ocean before him.
“It’s a miracle captain,” whispered Alfonso. “The Lord has spared us.”
“Yes...a miracle,” whispered Columbus in cautious response.
The emerging smile on his face quickly faded when he heard a faint sound in the distance beyond his vision.
The sound grew louder. The sound of…crashing water. The ship emerged from the mist into the dusk sun.
“The sea, it ends. I look to the horizon and see...nothing...”
The jubilation of the crew faded to silent horror. Their gazes frozen on their oncoming doom.
Atop the mainmast, Rodrigo began to speak in a voice that all could hear.
“Our Father, who art in heaven...”
The crew dropped to their knees and joined in the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, resigned to their fates.
“...Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven...”
Columbus stood alone, silent and pale.
“I was wrong...wrong...”
The Santa Maria fell over the edge of the horizon-spanning waterfall, enveloped by the surrounding cascade of falling ocean. The prayers and Oriental dreams of Columbus and his crew descended with them into the cold, lonely darkness. They had reached the ends of the earth.