They were half a generation beyond the end of oceans. Half a generation since the elders had seen one, and half a generation since the young could only imagine them. It was half a generation, down to the very day of conception, when the tides of fermented blood rolled across ancient shores, turning parched deserts to dripping beaches.
Upon this gory tide rode a ship. It flashed no bearing and collided with a sandbar that, for half a generation, had been a popular hill. It rose, and it shuddered, and they fled, and they sang warnings inland. Its hull heaved for breath, and every groan of its sundry structures contributed to the songs of the natives, until warnings turned to invitations.
There was not a soul aboard, nor a husk through which a soul might have conducted seaworthy business. Yet there were many fine armors, which the middling and young shared and donned, not for war, so much as for fashion as only new varieties can afford. Beneath decks lay exquisite weapons, spears that made the air bleed, and swords with epic poems etched along their edges, verse honed to unparalleled sharpness. These, the natives beat into ploughshares, and rapidly set about tilling and sowing before the gory tide could dry up. Already it was fleeing into the horizon, as though happy to be rid of the vessel.
They stripped, too, the skin of the ship, and fashioned it into new bodies for their elders, so that Grandpars and Grandmars could join them in the fields. They stripped the bones of the ship’s mighty underhauls, which they fashioned into the outlines of new houses. When, at last, the ship was naught but an empty indentation in a sandbar, every individual, young and middling and elder, scooped up a handful to keep in memory. They pocketed their handful of the ship as they set to work.
For this culture didn’t trust the ship had been a miracle. If it were a miracle, then there would be two more, for miracles always come in threes. One miracle is happenstance; two miracles a coincidence; three, a confirmation. More, none alive had ever witnessed, and none dead had spun songs about.
The uncertainty of miracles meant labor, raking the scabs over the desert, tilling and churning, and planting the warts and rust from the former hull, along with the thumb bones of their ancestors, which had been set aside for just such an occasion. All this planting meant making music.
So they spun songs of who built the ship, who raised its marvelous hide, who operated its great oars and gills, and every song of every sailor was at the behest of a hero. They spun many songs about this hero’s journey, about the madness that had driven him to jump overboard, or feed himself to the ship so it might still live, or his pursuit of a love that had launched a thousand such ships. None was particularly good, and none was repeated, thus disqualifying them from truly being songs. If it’s only sung once, a song might as well be an errant miracle.
They sang to work, which is the duty of song, to render long labors brief, and render brevity pleasant. They erected fine homes of the ship’s vast bones, and they patched every elder’s new body, and they marched the rows of their uncanny crops in numbers only songs had ever referenced. It could well have been the music that caused their crops to sprout.
They smelled the wrong rain coming. First a few seedling squelched, and then rows belched brine. By noon their fields showered blood upward, so many geysers as to terrify the elders. Their entire culture was sprayed, and their entire world flooded by bounty. Sandbars disappeared beneath viscous waves. The middling sang the young and elders into their new homes, with solid ceilings, and the pores of their windows fastened shut, and their rich floors rose. The riding tide lifted every home from its roots, settling them to bob like corks in global liquor. Some elders fell into the maelstrom, nerves feeble beneath their shells, yet their shells were as buoyant as the hero’s ship had once been. It was the first opportunity in half a generation that anyone had to drown, and not a soul took it.