Log Entry 160528.180

I'm not going to pretend that Traeth was brave as the little boat cut through the water. In fact, he sat gibbering in the bottom of the craft, not sure whether to be more afraid of the sea to the left of him or the water to the right of him. It was strange water too. It rippled around us in rainbow colours, not like an oil slick, but ribbons of translucent watercolour that wouldn't mix. The sea couldn't have been kinder to us as we gently rose and fell on the gentle swells. The sun was shining brilliantly, warming our faces and drying our damp clothes, and a gentle breeze created by the journey caressed us softly. We couldn't have asked for better conditions as we slid across the water, relaxing in the idyllic conditions.
Takara Island rose from the sea like a rough, emerald gem. It was green and verdant with brown gullies cut into the sides—very beautiful and tranquil.
"Oo! Look!" squealed Al, her face alight with glee.
Just to the right of us (or is that starboard) a shoal of fish broke the water's surface like a school of dolphins, leaping out of the water in graceful arcs. Each one was about half a meter long and fantastically coloured in the blues and greens of peacock feathers, each scale dotted with a golden eye. Their bodies were beautifully streamlined but in place of pectoral fins, they had paws, almost invisible they were tucked so neatly against their slick bodies. A fantastical dorsal fin ran down the back, the rays of which were shimmering deep blue and fanned with emerald-gold skin between them. They were amazing! And just like dolphins, they chose to run along side us, as curious about us as we were about them.
Sadly, Traeth wasn't as impressed. When the creatures appeared, he went into hysterics. Terror filled his eyes and he screamed in sheer fear. He began to flail about in the boat, his arms thrashing wildly around.
"For crying our loud!" shouted Rutter, desperately trying to steady the vessel. Traeth attempted to stand up, unbalancing the vessel badly. It rolled heavily to one side, which sent him into an even higher state of panic. "We're going to capsize!" screamed Rutter anxiously.
Traeth fell and the boat lurched deeply the other way. Desperately trying to clamber to his feet again and again, he fought off our every attempt to settle him. The boat careened furiously from side to side, each roll more exaggerated than the last.
We fought him to the bottom of the boat once more and I straddled his body trying to hold his legs down while Al tried to use her body to hold his torso still, but our struggle caused the boat to continue to loll from one side to the other. Water sloshed over the sides, soaking us all. A fish, caught in the mayhem, leapt into the little craft with us. It flapped about in the bottom of the boat by Traeth's face, sending him into a state beyond hysterics. He was uncontrollable, flailing and screaming and fighting against us.
"Jeese, Al!" screamed Rutter. "Do something before we capsize!"
"Yes, sir!" she shouted back cheerily, somehow managing to throw a salute at the same time. She rose above Traeth and thrust her hand down onto his neck. She found the pressure point she wanted with ease and expertly silenced Traeth. The moment his body fell limp, she released her grip, flipped him over onto his chest, secured his hands behind his back and sat on him. His face, she turned to one side and tilted to make sure his airway was clear, was deathly white.
"Thank you," muttered Rutter as the boat settled again into its sedate passage.
"Bloody hell, Al!" I exclaimed. "I think you've killed him!"
A faint moan from his lips proved otherwise.
"Not at all," she quipped. "I merely applied enough pressure for him to loose consciousness. He'll be awake soon."
"And then what?"
"Then I sit we him until we reach land." She then signalled me with her hand. "Would you mind sorting that fish out and then you can secure his legs for me."
Obediently, I did as I was bid. The fish had grown weak from its own struggles, so I held it gently in the water so that the sea would swill through its gills. I felt it revive, its muscles tightening so I let it go, and it darted off into the mêlée of the shoal, re-assimilating itself into the group. I settled near Traeth's legs as directed. He had begun to sob.
"It's okay, buddie," I soothed. "You just lie there and close your eyes. Pretend you're sunbathing in the garden or something."

Log Entry 160514.179

Traeth studied the little blue and white boat quizzically as it lay on the beach.
"So how does it work?" he asked, shuffling his feet nervously.
I didn't understand the question so asked him what he meant.
"Well, look at it. It's wonky. We'll all fall out."
True enough, as it lay on the sand, it was leaning at an angle, but all that proved was that Traeth had literally no understanding of how a boat floats upon the water.
"When we get it in the sea," I explained, "the keel drops below the waterline so that it's level."
Traeth looked horrified. "You mean it sinks!" he exclaimed.
"I suppose, in a way, a bit of it does, yes, but the bulk of it remains above the water. The bottom board," and I smacked it with my hand, "ends up about level with the waterline."
He still looked unsure.
"Look, we'll show you."
Rutter, Al and I rolled up our trouser legs (for what good it did us. We still got soaked) and dragged the boat into the water until it was floating in the shallows.
"Ah!" exclaimed Traeth when he saw how it floated in the water, but then he became anxious again.
"Come on then," I smiled. "You said you were going to get in."
"Yes ... but how?"
I grinned.
"You can either wade out and climb in ... or, if you don't want to get your feet wet, Rutter can give you a piggyback."
I knew that neither option offered much comfort for him. The Dirrians aren't big on physical contact with strangers (they're not that keen on hugging their own family) and I remembered how shocked Traeth had been at the orphanage. We have no thought for how often children touch each other, be it playing tag in the park, brushing each other's hair or huddling in the corner of the library looking rude words up in the dictionary. Then I remembered how I had hugged him at the palace earlier. He had returned that embrace warmly, so he was right, he had changed.
"Come on," I encouraged and held out my hand. "I'll help you."
Traeth didn't take it but stood studying the water suspiciously.
"Look, it's not deep. You can still see my feet on the bottom. Take my hand and we'll get you into the boat first."
I could see Traeth summoning up his courage, but his face was pale and he gulped air. Then he swallowed hard and reached out. As his fingers touched mine, they were cold and sweaty. He gripped my hand hard, really hard, so hard it hurt, but I said nothing. Al came forward and held out her hand for him too. He took it and between the two of us, he took the tiniest, little steps edging cautiously out into the water. It barely covered his feet and he stopped. A bead of cold sweat trickled down the side of his face and dripped into the sea.
"It's okay," I soothed, encouraging him on another couple of steps until he was ankle deep in the warm ocean.
"You're doing great, Traeth. You've come further than any other Dirrian before you."
Traeth began to laugh, a strange mix of hysteria and exhilaration. His grip tightened further and I winced at the pain. Traeth was oblivious to it; he was concentrating on his feet as he took more steps. Now he was shin deep and I could feel his whole body shaking. His breathing was strained and erratic and his hands where slick with sweat but he didn't relent. He was determined to do this.
The water licked at his knees and his eyes darted back and forth to the little boat bobbing up and down before him. He suddenly let go of Al's hand and grabbed the gunwale. The boat swayed furiously at the sudden movement and he squealed.
"It's okay!" I shouted. "That's normal. It'll be settle when we're all in it."
Al grabbed his arm to steady him, and we, rather clumsily, helped Traeth into the boat. We set out quite gently but as our fumbling turned into manhandling, Al suddenly took matters into her own hands and quite unceremoniously picked him up and tossed him into the boat. Poor Traeth squawked as he landed and lay there, giggling maniacally and clinging to the bottom boards like a newly-rescued shipwrecked sailor.
Al turned to me and mouthed an apology. I replied with a sheepish grin.
Rutter held onto the bow line while Al and I returned to the beach and picked up our equipment to load it into the boat. Finally we boarded, and Rutter too. We took a moment to organise ourselves and encourage a jittery Traeth into a sitting position in the middle of the boat, his buttocks on the bottom board. We wanted to keep him as low in the boat as possible where he would feel the safest and help us maintain the little vessel's stability.
Rutter fired up the engine. It roared into life, startling Traeth for a moment, and then it settled into a deep, throbbing purr. Finally, we were on our way.

Log Entry 160507.178

The completed sandcastle stood proudly on the beach. It looked as though it would stand for eons, it was so well built but, as with all sandcastles, it would be gone with the next tide.

The sun was high in the sky and the warm, salty seawater sluiced leisurely between my toes. Traeth was standing beside me, eyeing the sea with deep suspicion as it lapped gently at his feet. He leapt gingerly back at every lick, giggling nervously.

"So what is it that makes you so afraid of the sea?" I asked.

"Look at it!" he exclaimed. "It's so big!"

"Well, yes. It is big but the land is big too, and you're not frightened of that."

"But the land won't drown you."

"No, but it has this nasty thing called gravity that'll kill you if you fall off a high bit."

Traeth laughed. "Yes, but land is honest. You can see what lies at the bottom of its mountains and cliffs. The sea is deceitful. It looks so beautiful, like a sheet of glass sparkling in the sun. It looks solid and tangible, but beneath its surface, what manner of secrets does it hide? How deep does it go? How dark does it get? What creatures does it hide?"

"Nothing too sinister. My scans show fish, crustaceans and various large mammals for the most part; very similar to Terran sea life in fact."

"You scanned our seas?"

"Yes, of course I did. I wanted to know if your ingrained fears stemmed from something in your ancestral past. On Earth, we have lots of stories of sea monsters—kraken, giant squid and octopi, mermaids and sirens—most originating from some factual creature. If your ancestors were terrorised by such animals, it might explain that instinctive fear."

"Oh! I suppose that does make sense."

We stood for a while longer, watching the gentle sea undulate. Al and Rutter were messing about further down the beach, Rutter threatening to dunk Al. He had his arms about her waist and was swinging her around. She laughed, giggled and screamed but it was all in good fun. If she wanted to, Al could easily floor Rutter with a single blow.

"They get on very well," remark Traeth.

I laughed. "Yes they do. Now they do. They used to be sworn enemies, though." I laughed again. "Once upon a time, he was my sworn enemy, too."

Traeth sighed heavily. "Things change," he said. "People change."

"You mean me. Have I changed?"

"No. I didn't mean you; I meant me. Since my return to Dirria so many years ago, I just don't fit in any more. I'm a bit of an outcaste. Earth changed me. It made me ... different. I don't know how, but it's true. I know it, my family knows it, everybody knows it."

There wasn't anything I could say. His experiences were his alone. I hadn't been there to feel what he felt.

Traeth took a deep intake of breath and exhaled slowly. "And that's why I'm going to get into that bloody boat and we are going to sail over to that bloody island."