The ship sank.
It wasn't like it is in the movies. There were no fancy explosions or any of that out of control pomp and circumstance. After three days at sea, it simply slid beneath the glassy surface of the water like a retreating shadow at dawn.
There were two survivors floating in the turpentine waters at the time of the sinking, both girls, one with white-blonde hair and star-filled, blue eyes, and the other a red-head with a round face like a full moon. It was just them and an endless panorama of pre-dawn and the sea. They huddled together for warmth and comfort.
The sound of something slapping against the rough waters of the ocean reached their ears from behind. “What's that ... I wonder?” the girl with blonde hair said, the words frozen on her lips as she spoke them.
“Something in the water,” the ginger turned her head dully, like a statue thawing in the sunlight. “A boat. Look, Stella. A boat.”
She, too, turned her head. “So it is.”
“We'll have to swim for it.”
It was floating amidst the ghostly debris, a few pieces of flotsam, buoys, planks, rope. The red-head counted the distance from them to the boat, more of a dinghy, overturned in the water. She judged it to be fifty feet and no more than that.
They let go of each other and swam against the water until they reached the fringes of the debris. They grabbed ahold of the slippery hull and tried to climb onto it. The paint, slick with ocean water, glistened in the rays of the rising sun. It still smelled fresh, and it wasn't even chipped.
“No good,” Stella said. “We'll have to turn it over first, I think.”
“No, wait,” the ginger said, looking around her. “There's a rope,” she pointed. “Maybe we can use it to pull ourselves up if we attach it to one end of the boat like this.”
“I'll swim for it then.”
The red-head watched her friend go, swimming a few feet. Something brushed against the bottom of her boot as she lightly treaded water. In the sluggish water, it felt like a fin. She shivered at the feel of it.
Stella returned, and, hooking the rope through one end of the dinghy, pulled it lengthwise from bow to stern until it was taut. Stella then used her body to shimmy up the side of the dinghy, with the rope as a guide.
The other girl watched her, and when she had climbed on top, she held out her hand to her. She took it and Stella hauled her up, carefully, so as not to upend the boat. It sank a few inches into the sea under their combined weight, dipping their legs, which dangled over the sides of it, into the water. Their torsos were out of the water, however, but the cool air around them wasn't much of a relief from the ocean's late spring chill.
They collapsed next to each other, exhausted and drained.
There was silence for a long time; only the sound of the dinghy lightly bobbing in the waters stirred the air.
“Stella,” the girl said after some time.
“This is stupid.”
“I have this horrible, selfish, nagging question that won't go away at all, in spite of our situation.”
“What is it, Kitty?”
“Do you think...that we'll ever fly again?”
She said nothing in response, lying on her side on top of a half-sunken dingy. Slowly, she began turning her head to face the sky. It was glowing above the horizon. The clouds covered the surface of the sea there, little rays of light bursting through red and yellow puffs. A big, flat purple disc fanned out over the sea above them. Beyond it, the sky was still filled with night, but growing lighter.
Beyond it, she thought.
Beyond all of it lay the answer to the question...