Cool water tickles your toes, and you open your eyes to find yourself lying beneath palm trees on a beach of warm sand. The tide has just reached your feet, and you sit up as the waves withdraw again. A single, perfect conch shell remains when the water recedes. You pick this up and stand, scanning the shoreline for any sign of civilization.
You see no buildings or people, just the thick green foliage of a tropical jungle behind you and the expanse of endless blue sea before you. Shading your eyes against the dazzling sun, you spy dolphins frolicking among the whitecap waves and on the horizon what might be the sails of a tall-masted ship. Though you don't know how you came to be here—or where here even is—you feel safe, certain that you are in no immediate danger in spite of the mystery surrounding your arrival. You decide to explore this tropical paradise.
Setting out, you follow the gentle curve of the shoreline. Among the trees, you spy colorful parrots soaring from branch to branch. Limbs drip with sweet, fragrant flowers, and coconuts and ripe fruit tempt you to pluck and sample. Perhaps you will return later to do so, but for now, you continue your stroll.
The coastline curves into the sea as a rocky outcropping, waves crashing upon it with a spray of foam. At first, you assume you must turn around, but as you draw closer, you discover a narrow footpath leading up and over the rocks, safely out of reach of the waters. You climb this path as the sun warms the driftwood and stone about you. At the top, you find a hidden cove before you. The waters here are deep blue-green. A wooden pier, the pilings encrusted with barnacles and coated in seaweed, extends into the water and at this a ship is moored.
Curious, you approach the ship and stride out onto the pier. The gangplank is extended, so you call out, hoping to hail the sailors who man the ship. No one answers at first, but after a brief moment, a tiny creature comes to stand at the top of the gangplank. A sleek black cat, green eyes aglow, considers you. It meows and for some reason, you feel this is an invitation. After all, today is a magical day. Why not listen to the advice of cats?
Careful to keep your balance, you cross the gangplank and board the ship. Clean but rough wooden decks stretch out before you, empty of people. You stand as the ship gently rocks, waiting for the return of the crew. The sun slowly sinks towards the horizon painting the sky in deep purples and vibrant pinks that reflect upon the waters. The chirping drone of insects rises over the swell of the sea and the in and out breathing of the tides. Shadows grow long, and the sky fades from purple to deep blue. Stars alight one by one and the world grow calm and soft.
The cat rubs up against your legs and coaxes you to follow her again. She leads you to a door which opens up onto a fine cabin. Candlelight illuminates a table set with a carafe of deep red wine and plates filled with the very fruit you noted earlier within the jungles. Beyond this is a polished wooden bed with rich scarlet sheets.
You hesitate. This clearly belongs to the captain of this vessel, but before you can turn to leave, the cat jumps upon the table and you notice a carving in the shape of a shell upon its surface. It is the same shape and size as the conch you have carried since your arrival. You place the conch within the carving, and it fits like a key in a keyhole. A drawer opens in the side of the table, and you peer in to find a rolled up parchment. This unrolls to reveal a note. Welcome to our ship. Please take your rest and eat your fill. We know you are far from home, so this vessel will return you there while you sleep. Fear not, for you are safe here.
Comforted, you dine upon the delicacies before you. After your meal, you take up the candle and set it on the bedside table. Its light softens the room as you settle into the bed, thankful for your journey but trusting in the words of your unknown host. You gaze at the gentle, crackling flame until you fall into a peaceful sleep.
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