КулЛиб электронная библиотека
Всего книг - 604514 томов
Объем библиотеки - 922 Гб.
Всего авторов - 239611
Пользователей - 109519


Stribog73 про Соколов: Полька Соколова (Переложение С.В.Стребкова) (Самиздат, сетевая литература)

Зае...ся расставлять в нотах свою аппликатуру. Потом, может быть.
А вообще - какого х...я? Вы мне не за одни ноты спасибо не сказали. Идите конкретно на куй.

Рейтинг: 0 ( 0 за, 0 против).
pva2408 про Грицак: Когда появился украинский народ? (Альтернативная история)

Конечно не существовало. Если конечно не читать украинских учебников))
«Украинский народ – самый древний народ в мире. Ему уже 140 тысяч лет»©
В них древние укры изобрели колесо, выкопали Черное море а , а землю использовали для создания Кавказских гор, били др. греков и римлян которые захватывали южноукраинские города, А еще Ной говорил на украинском языке, галлы родом из украинской же Галиции, украинцем был легендарный Спартак, а

подробнее ...

Рейтинг: +4 ( 6 за, 2 против).
Дед Марго про Грицак: Когда появился украинский народ? (Альтернативная история)

Просто этот народ с 9 века, когда во главе их стали норманы-русы, назывался русским, а уже потом московиты, его неблагодарные потомки, присвоили себе это название, и в 17 веке появились малороссы украинцы))

Рейтинг: -6 ( 1 за, 7 против).
fangorner про Алый: Большой босс (Космическая фантастика)

полная хня!

Рейтинг: +3 ( 3 за, 0 против).
Stribog73 про Тарасов: Руководство по программированию на Форте (Руководства)

В книге ошибка. Слово UNLOOP спутано со словом LEAVE. Имейте в виду.

Рейтинг: +1 ( 1 за, 0 против).
Дед Марго про Дроздов: Революция (Альтернативная история)

Плохо. Ни уму, ни сердцу. Картонные персонажи и незамысловатый сюжет. Хороший писатель превратившийся в бюрократа от литературы. Если Военлета, Интенданта и Реваншиста хотелось серез время перечитывать, то этот опус еле домучил.

Рейтинг: +1 ( 3 за, 2 против).
Сентябринка про Орлов: Фантастика 2022-15. Компиляция. Книги 1-14 (Фэнтези: прочее)

Жаль, не успела прочитать.

Рейтинг: 0 ( 1 за, 1 против).

The Strait of Death [Вадим Кучеренко] (fb2) читать онлайн

- The Strait of Death 1.97 Мб, 8с.  (читать) (читать постранично) (скачать fb2) - Вадим Иванович Кучеренко

Настройки текста:

Вадим Кучеренко The Strait of Death

– The sea, the sea, – grumbled an old man. – What do you know about the sea, boy? I mean the real sea, when you can’t even see the coast through the highest scope telescope, when the wind is a hundred knots and the waves are up to the sky…

The "boy" who was being scolded by the old sailor might have been not less than thirty-five. And it didn’t seem at all that he hadn't seen the sea – it had left too much of a mark on his face and hands, and had thoroughly tanned his skin with sea salt and squalls. But not a shadow of resentment flickered in his blue, like the sea in clear weather eyes.

They were sitting on the open terrace of the tiny wooden one-storied house where the old man lived, and from where they was a wonderful view of the port and the surrounding costal area. A cool breeze had been blowing steadily from the morning, pleasantly refreshing in summer, but very few people would enjoy it by the end of autumn. The old man was sitting ensconced in an old Voltaire-like armchair, cloaked in a warm blanket and resting his head on the back of the armchair, in a way that he was able to reach a bottle of madeira wine that stood on a roughly built lumber table. But he had no need in making efforts – his guest, who had one gifted him that armchair, brought the bottle and from time to time filled the old man’s glass with thick dark-cherry drink, raising himself for a moment from a comfortable old cane chair. The lower was the level of liquid in the bottle, the more talkative the host became.

– I’m telling you, Anton, – the old man continued his speech – that you’ll never understand what the Sea is, until you experience a dozen storms, like those when masts are bent almost to the water level, and, at least one shipwreck. Such a shipwreck when you are not saved immediately from the water like some soaked puppy, but being drenched to the skin for a couple of days in a devilish cold plunge pool. Then you will really be able to tell what the sea is, and how much salt it has per a square-mile.

The old seawolf himself survived a good deal of sea accidents during his long life, and never was onshore longer than one month at a time. He was very proud of this fact, and mentioned it whenever he could during a talk.

Although the word “talk” was not suitable for uncle Egor (he went by that name along the whole coast). He wasn’t keen on listening to people, and every discussion would have been possible only in case he had been the one to talk. Falling that, and the old man became silent, started yawning or simply turned his face to the wall, snoring loudly, showing his brazing disregard. Uncle Egor considered that no one could tell him anything more than he had already known about the sea and seamanship. The other topics were nothing to him. As there was nothing except the sea in his life.

– Do you remember how the old walnut-shell “Fortune” was cracked in two parts, virtually like a nutshell, near the Cape of Hope? – In his excitement, the old man wanted to change his position in the armchair in order to be able to gesture with his arms, and Anton helped him by putting a pillow behind his back. Uncle Egor impatiently pushed away caring hands and continued. – It was made of wood and as light as a feather, both of her halves were getting out from the sea for a long time since, as if they didn’t want to rest in peace. And the whole crew of “Fortune”, starting from a sailor boy up to the boatswain perched there like hens, including the captain himself. It was a laugh!

Anton heard about that very first and thus unforgettable shipwreck of the old man so often that he thought that he would be able to see it with his own eyes. But he never mentioned that.

– We had been sitting there for two days until a passing boat took us aboard, – the old man became silent for a moment, as the story was over. But it wasn’t typical for him to drop the leading role in the talk, and having finished another glass given to him, he immediately started a new story.

– But what was that? Was it really a shipwreck? As if, pah! There were a lot of us – young fellows having fun as if we’ve had too much rum, and weren’t going be fish food soon. It is known that when you have buddies by your side, death is not scary at all. When you are alone – that’s when real fear comes, especially at night. I remember being washed away from the "Infanta" deck during the storm, don't remember how. The wave swallowed the ship and dragged me with it, hitting me with such force that I got knocked out. I woke up in the sea, holding a life savior. I still don’t know where it came from. Thrown around like a fishing buoy in the dark, swallowing mouthfuls of salt water. And then suddenly the sea became still, and the water began to glow as far as the eye could see, as if it was set on fire from the depth, and the flame reflected on the surface. I have never seen such a beauty, but the fascination was short-lived. I felt someone soft touching my leg as if it was a puppy. “What if it bites me”? And I can’t risk screaming. Who knows what could come out from the depths and what for? So I waited till morning when "Infanta" rescued me, I nearly died from a heart attack. God bless the captain. He was a good man, always taking care of his crew. Nowadays you can’t find a man like him. I was young, didn’t know much about the sea: is it kind or cruel.. Now I would not have been so much frightened, of course…

The old man began to grunt, sniff and turned in his chair as if he tried to get up. But he was soon exhausted and fell back on the pillow again. His illness was called aging, and uncle Egor had no strength to fight with it. But he refused to give up and often repeated: "Once I go to see one more – then I’ll lower my sails for good." But he was the only one who still believed in it. Having spent most of the time at sea he never got a chance to start a family. As he would sometime say: “I am married to the sea, but it can’t give me children”. However, there was one girl who he used to like, but she wouldn’t wait for him and got married to a longshoreman. The profession is not as romantic as a sailor, but it’s more appropriate for a family life. Uncle Egor never blamed her because of that.

He lived out his final years alone in an old house with a view of the sea on which he had spent almost all of his savings. And the money he had left was just enough not to starve. It was enough for him. Since uncle Egor “brought a ship to anchor” his life lost any meaning. He was in his final days, and if it were not for the cherished dream of sailing one more time, he won’t survive even a week on a shore. Sometimes he was visited by friends from the ship, but yet, less and less often. A distant relative occasionally came to help him to do household work. It could have been a granddaughter of that girl who refused to marry him but who still cared for him and told her descendants to take care of him. Uncle Egor had little knowledge of this and he didn’t want to find out more about this. This was his only connection to the bigger world.

Anton listened to uncle Egor all this time, without interrupting him. He knew that when he leaves, the uncle would fall back into his memories of the past. But he took advantage of a short pause and asked:

– Uncle Egor, what do you know about the Strait of Death?

– Everything, – the old man suddenly got encouraged and was now all ears. – What do you want to know about it?

– Was there ever a ship that managed to pass through it during the season of autumn storms?

– No, – uncle Egor said confidently. – Not a single one. Never. In all my life – and I, boy, have lived at least three times more than you – I have not heard from anyone about this. All of them were dragged to the bottom. Whether by themselves, or by some unknown force, I really don't know. And nobody knows. It's just that the ship suddenly loses its buoyancy, and that's it. Even the wreckage of the shipwreck would never found later. One thing I will tell you – it is beyond human understanding.

– Have you tried it yourself?

– You bet! – The old man replied, but there were no longer those boastful notes in his voice. Now there was a genuine respect for that place pernicious for ships, which everyone on the coast called the Strait of Death, not even remembering its official name, marked on the maps. – I survived by a miracle. The only of the whole team. And this is just because, when those weird things began, and our ship suddenly began to crack at all the seams, as if someone was tearing it apart, and everyone started rushing about the deck madly, I tied myself tightly with the tackle to the mast, having kept a flask of water and a few crackers in store.

So, I was carried around the sea for a week, until this damn strait, had played enough with me and threw me ashore, two hundred miles from the crash site. I myself was already like that mast, the skeleton covered with skin, crazy and without memory. But I’ve survived. However, since that time I got blind – either I hit my head, or the sea salt corroded my eyes. And, as I understand now, it was still a small price that the Strait of Death took from me for my life saved. Later on, when I got recovered, I still went to the sea for some time. The only thing I swore not to do is to go to this strait again, no matter how much money I was promised…

In his youth uncle Egor was considered to be the most daring and successful sailor on the entire coast. Many breathtaking stories were told about him, which were still alive today, but were covered with old dust turning into so-called sea stories. People would readily listen to them, but very few would ever believe them. But Anton had no doubt that the old man was not lying. At one time, a quarter of a century ago, he even sailed as a cabin boy on a ship where uncle Egor was a captain, and knew firsthand about his courage and human decency.

At that time he was sure that the old captain was the most fearless person of all who had ever plowed the seas since the creation of the world. Since then, he has grown up and rethought a lot of things. But he still considered uncle Egor his godfather, who made him related to the sea.

– After that I swore no to pass the Strait of Death, – the old sailor repeated. He clenched his small, feeble fist as if threatening someone unknown. – Damn it! How many sea souls it has ruined … No, it is better to pass it by, waste time and money, but reach the port of destination.

– That's right, – Anton briefly confirmed.

But something in his voice made the old man wary. His infirmity of old age had taught him to recognize the true intentions of people, which they tried to hide behind their false words.

– Anton, my boy, – the old man's voice trembled. – What are you up to?

– Nothing, old fellow, – he smiled tightly. – It was just interesting for me to talk to you about the sea. I will never know it the way you do. For real.

– When are you planning to start your voyage?, – asked the old man and even turned to him with his ear that was able to hear better, fearing not to hear the answer.

– Probably tomorrow. Autumn storms have already detained me so much in the port, and there is perishable freight on board. It has never happened before that I couldn’t manage to fulfill the terms of the contract and did not deliver the freight on time.

– Are you going to sail through the Strait of Death? – the old man even hoarsened from a sudden guess.

Anton tried to smile as convincingly as possible shaking his head. But the old sailor did not see his smile. When he heard his stingy “no”, he guessed right.

– Anton, my boy, – the old man suddenly choked with excitement and, overcoming a cough, croaked. – You must take me with you, do you hear me? You must!

The old man's voice was almost begging. Anton lowered his head to hide the tears that involuntarily came to his eyes. An invisible imperious hand squeezed his throat and for some time he could not utter a word.

– My boy! – the old sailor continued in an agitated patter, fearing not having time to say everything he wanted. – I'll help you, do you hear? I remember everything as if it was yesterday. We have sailed through the Straight of Death the farthest who has ever tried to do it in the hurricane season. That's why I managed to survive then, the strait had almost released our schooner from its deadly clutches.

The old man's voice faltered and died down completely. He finished almost in a whisper.

– I have to try again. Go out to sea for the last time …

Uncle Egor's head was powerlessly thrown back against the back of the chair, and he stared at the plank ceiling of the terrace with his sightless eyes. But the old blind sailor saw not the plank ceiling covered with lime – but the endless sea, and the billows rising on its surface, like a woman's breast, sighing deeply and excitedly in the rush of feelings…

A tear fell on Anton's hand and burned it as if it were red-hot. He raised his head sharply, wiped his eyes with his palm in one decisive gesture and said:

– Okay, old man. Get ready! Tomorrow either two days later, we go out to sea.

He easily got up from his chair , which creaked piteously without listening to the grateful words of the old man, gently stroked Uncle Egor on the dry shoulder, not daring to kiss him on the hard and sunken unshaven cheek, since the old man did not like such a manifestation of feelings, calling them "womanish" and unworthy of a sailor. Then he walked quickly from the terrace. Only when he stepped onto the stairs leading down from the terrace to the foot of the hill on which the house was built, he looked back for a moment – and if the old sailor could see, he would have guessed the unspoken word "goodbye" by his trembling lips. But he did not see and even more he couldn’t hear what wasn’t spoken out loudly.

Nor did the old man see that two hours later a ship with the beautiful and proud outfit lines was leaving the port, the only one of the those many ships that had stuck at the berths waiting for good weather. The old sailor was asleep. He was dreaming about the sea… And that was just him who really knew it best of all along the whole coast.