Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Writer: Paul de Denus

The Amber Sea

The blizzard has picked up in intensity. It stretches along the horizon, fusing clouds, snow and iced air into one. It blasts up the drifts like white dirt dug from the earth, a frozen burial ground encircling our thin tent, entrapping us. It may well blow us clear off this floe into the arctic sea. Captain Wells has stepped outside to secure the rigging; “batten us down for the night ahead,” he said. St. John is bundled up beside me, asleep. His eyes twitch and roll as he escapes into the warm safety of his dreams. Lucky him… able to drift off so easily.

My fingers tingle. Frostbite I’m sure but what do I know for certain? They are remote from my hands, floating just beyond but I can still see them move. I can barely keep a clutch on the pint bottle. It is my true savior. My insides burn with its fire as it consumes my being, dulls my thoughts. If I could only climb inside, immerse myself in its warm amber sea. It is the color of the earth. Oh, the earth. What I wouldn’t give to have it under my feet again… green grass and the hot soil… the smell of clean rain… the seed of life bursting everywhere. There is no life here, only a bleak slab of frozen desert and a sorrowful wind that calls for me to venture out.

How have I come to such a desolate place? Was this not what I wanted? An escape? Her letter spelled out her wishes, a biting end to our engagement, pure and as cold as this foreboding landscape that surrounds my heart. Oh Emilee, I have tried but you… I cannot escape or forget.

I stare into this bottle and the calm amber rolls in a gentle wave, back and forth, side to side, leading my thoughts to a safer place -- oblivion -- slowly taking me down. I can hear it now, clearer, just behind the flap, a whispering call beyond these thin walls. The isolation has crept in; I can’t keep it out. It is colder, though only to that of which I can feel. Captain Wells? He should have been back by now. I lean into St. John but he doesn’t stir and his eyes no longer move. I’ll wait a little longer… before I go out. The wind is insistent though, with my amber all but now gone.

© Paul de Denus 2010

Paul de Denus is a graphic artist by day, writer by night. He has been published at Six Sentences (the Love Book, Word of Mouth & 6Svol3), Smith Magazine, Fictionaut and Espresso Stories.
The Amber Sea and other writings, and self published books appear at his blogspot:


  1. The appeal of the amber sea - well evoked in such chilly climes - but please stay put in that tent.

  2. This has a tight Jack London feel crossed with existential dread. How many of us have courted frostbite, alcoholic coma or internal blizzards for our Emilees?

  3. Hanging out at the North Pole with Paul. That's what I'll tell people who ask me what I did today. You took me there. Somebody should tell the dude though that the alcohol will just make matters worse! Dehydration, ouch.

  4. Dread and a feeling of drowning, of surrender. This was quicksand on steroids, sucked me in from the first word and had me cold and craving whiskey. Knocked it out of the park, Paul.

  5. Hold on Paul, don't drink it, you need water. A pack of dogs and a helicopter are on the way. This is so visual and I felt his suffering and bewildering thoughts.

  6. Terrifying scenario. You made it so real I'm EXTREMELY happy to be in my 83 degree Texas today. You made my glass half full! Great work!

  7. Bravo, Paul. You conveyed hopelessness in such few words, I'm envious.

  8. Bleak and desolate as this is, it is so well-written that we feel we are there keeping company with the last survivor. It is clear he did not join the expedition for the spirit of adventure, but it seems he made the most of it, and now as even his last consolation is nearing the bottom of the bottle all we can do is listen.
    I am glad this is a brief flash because it would be too sad to witness the true conclusion. However, despite its brevity, this is indeed a large story. Kudos, Paul.


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