The Crippled Vessel

It could never happen to me… that was what I thought. Twelve hours ago I was told I was to lose my arms. I knew the storm was bad, and at times it DID seem futile to keep rowing. Regardless, the slave masters cracked their whips and tell us our life DEPENDS on it. Is it ours collectively, or just theirs? I wonder.

My right arm was first to go. It was a good, strong, useful arm… which I was forced to place into the machine. It was quickly and painfully ripped out of the socket. Pain shocked me through the heart, cutting deeply into my very soul. The lifeless arm was unceremoniously cast overboard… “We’ve got to lighten the load”, I was told. As the gravity of my situation was still sinking in, I wasn’t even allowed time to stay the blood flow with my left arm. It had to go too. It hurt no less than the first… God… isn’t shock supposed to lessen the pain?

I was allowed to bid my limbs goodbye as they were cast overboard. “Try not to let the others notice until it is their turn”, they tell me, “let’s keep it quiet and dignified.” God, how can my heart keep beating when it hurts so badly? As I watch my lifeless limbs float into the distance, I can’t help think that they didn’t really weigh THAT much.

The other slaves in the galley try not to notice my two bloody stumps… in fact; some are already nursing their own wounds. While taking in the carnage, I notice a few of the slaves who seem unscathed and overweight… but whom am I to judge? I took my seat to continue rowing… as the drums started thrumming the new cadence; salt is rubbed in my wounds. I am told to get up and help move the heavy gold ornaments into the captain’s quarters, and hang them on the wall. I am chided for getting blood on them. That is where they belong, I am told, since his decision saved us all.

As I returned to my rightful place, pain once again shot to my very soul. I looked overboard at the shark frenzied waters and wondered if it would be better to swim for it. I fell rather than sat, my head swooned and I numbly looked at the oar. How the hell was I supposed to grip it with no arms? I thought I could try using my teeth, but the wood is too big and hard. I assumed a strap would be added so I would have something to grab on to when the new seating arrangement was announced. I looked down at the water lapping at my bare feet… it felt strangely thick and warm. It was awful red and deep… a pretty good incentive.

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