Jules did not count himself in when he told the crew that there was enough room on the life boats. And when the ocean's rage punched a hole in the deck, it was Jules who guided the passengers to safety. It was he who harnessed the buffets of wind into a purposeful direction. It was he who ensured that the life jackets were secure.
And it was only he who saw the light.
"Captain!" screamed Tom. His voice strained through the lashing rain, raw and cracked against the shrill cries of the struggling passengers.
But the crew heard the scream like an echo from some other lifetime. Had this moment played out a million times before? Had Jules been struck in the back of the head in another world? Had it happened before? Was it even happening now?
From the perspective of the crew, it was as if death had reached a skeleton arm out of a hole in the sky and claimed their captain without a word of consent. The metal rod swung from the rigging like from a slingshot, and Jules fell like a rag doll. He slipped neatly over the railing as his body crumpled, and before he could even fall, the ocean reached up and swallowed him.
But to Jules, it was a moment of astounding beauty. The light parted the clouds, hissed through the pelting rain, and stayed the restless wind with a warm embrace.
The light sparkled upon the surface of the boiling black waves, causing them to glimmer and ripple like the well-formed wake of a schooner, free and youthful.
He felt the calm movement of the tranquil waters beneath the hull. He felt the warmth of the summer sun. He watched as the clouds shrunk into the distance like vanishing puffs of smoke, and he breathed as the wind whistled through his hair until the echos of screams and calls had all but been forgotten. He turned around.
His crew and passengers were gone. The ocean was empty and smooth. The deck was polished and new, slipping pleasantly beneath the sky, rocking gently beneath the full, rippling sails.
Gazing back to the horizon with a grim smile, Jules allowed his pleasant bemusement to slip away as he spotted land.