The Island and the Sailor
Charles C Cole
One night a sailor, Khondro Elisaf, fell overboard in a raging storm while at sea. Exhausted and bruised, he ultimately washed up on an uncharted island.
As it happened, the island, Iochetes, was sentient – due to a magical residue from when the glorious pantheon of gods often lingered nearby on a floating city. Without hands or specific ambitions, the island mostly monitored the weather, daydreamed or napped.
Yet Iochetes possessed a poignant awareness of greater possibilities, as well as an accountant’s passion for details, usually reserved for a monthly census of small mammals and forecasting the rate of erosion on the exposed northern shore. It was a mental diarist of its own existence.
Iochetes had long yearned for company and conversation.
Khondro was so surprised and appreciative to be alive that, upon dragging himself free of the waves, he immediately knelt in the sand and prayed.
“Thank you, Great Force! I would not have survived, except by your will.”
“Welcome, stranger!” cheered Iochetes, punch-drunk with his unexpected good fortune. Having read and memorized long passages of The Odyssey which had floated ashore in a steamer trunk, it continued, “First of all, be not afraid, for I am one of the safe islands.”
Khondra cautiously looked about for the owner of the commanding voice in his head. “My lord? You honor me. Tell me what you require, and I will do your will.”
Iochetes gasped to learn it could communicate telepathically with the human. Iochetes thought: Because I have no human form, my visitor clearly thinks I’m important and powerful.
“You heard me? I mean: you heard me! Yes, two-legged castaway, for my support you must…love, unconditionally, all cyclopes, for the rest of time, for they are much misunderstood,” Iochetes teased.
Relieved by the insubstantial request, Khondro responded, “I will, lord. But I have never seen such a thing, so please describe this creature.”
“You’ll know. One-eyed, man-eating giants. Never seen one? They might have died off by now.”
“Respectfully, your greatness,” began Khondro, “why would a god live way out here, with no temple and no worshippers?”
“Even I need a place alone sometimes, to ponder my future for the world,” said Iochetes.
“I am humbled that you would choose to communicate with me. May I ask, so that I can tell others when I am eventually rescued, what you are called?”
“I am Iochetes. The machine behind the wind, the force that subdues the waves. I am the lee in the storm.”
“I am Khondro, a simple sailor. A traveler from far away.”
“Far Away? What an odd name. I have never heard of this kingdom. Tell me more.”
“A place ‘far away’ means at some great distance from where you call home.”
“Just as you are today from the rest of the world, no doubt,” said the island.
“Exactly, Great Force.”
“I cannot address you by name like an equal.” Khondro strategized his next steps. “Great Force, though nature tends to be sacred for the gods, will you mind my burning dead trees on the beach so that someone might notice me, from the fire?”
“A grand idea! And we could do with a cleaning, yes. The gulls and the crabs are no help at all in this regard. If you promise it does not get out of hand, I allow it.”
“If I pile the brush and branches, you could use your godlike abilities to start a fire.”
Iochetes had no such abilities, but thought it unwise to lose face with this wilted ruffian who could walk and swim and, perhaps, make weapons. Keep him calm for now.
“Certainly, in due time,” said Iochetes, stalling, “gather the fuel, but then you must tell me more about ‘far away’ because the world may have changed much since my sojourn began, and it has been a great while since I’ve had company.”
Later, the island was amazed by the stories. So much more of everything. Islands ten times its size. Mountains that scraped the sky. Ships big enough to house a vast navy.
“You are a great teller of tales,” said Iochetes. “And now it is dusk. We need our rest to start anew tomorrow.”
“Will the Great Force, ignite my bonfire now, so that my friends can see me from the horizon?”
“Perhaps in the morning. You’re still tired from last night’s plight. I would not want you to fall asleep, and the fire get the best of you.”
At daylight, the remorseful island spoke: “Khondro, I misled you. I cannot make a fire. I’m not a god, just the voice and spirit of the island. I did not rescue you, but merely stood in your path.”
“I see. But standing in my path was surely a rescue.”
“Many years ago a small island, looking for adventure, drifted by me, like a boat. We communicated briefly, but at the time I thought him a mad daredevil. I bet that I, too, can accomplish this if you tell me which way to travel.”
“This quiet spot in the ocean is your home.”
“I didn’t know how much more there was to see. I can be your ship. You can be my captain. And we will sail after your friends.”
“I would be grateful.”
“When we overtake them, we’ll find another sailor, looking for adventure, who can assume your place here.”
And, with some effort, the island shrugged free of its heavy foundation. As it turned out, Iochetes had an instinct for managing currents and asking whales and dolphins for directions.
Khondro found his friends. Though they were much concerned to discover an island chasing them, they were heartened to see Khondro alive. There were many hugs and tears. Iochetes waited nearby, but not close enough to hear the conversations.
After a celebratory reunion feast, Khondro bid his friends good-bye and returned to Iochetes.
“Nobody wanted to travel with an island?” asked Iochetes.
“There was one. And he stands before you.”
“Grand!” said Iochetes. “Let our adventure begin.”