– Where the hell are we?
He peered out into the gloom. The worst of the storm has passed, but the small fishing boat was hopelessly lost. Gale had blown them east, deep into North Sea and they had no idea where they were. Water must have got into the wiring somewhere, because both GPS and the radio behaved rather erratically. Nevertheless, they were in luck. Many vessels must have been caught in this sudden spell of bad weather, some of them fared much worse than them – as the raving, barely conscious man they fished out of the water a few hours ago could attest. Well, he could if they’d manage to get a coherent sentence out of him anyway.
He tried the radio again.
“The shipping forecast issued by the Met Office at 0130 on Sunday the 31st of December…”
Weather forecast, whatever good it will do them now.
The visibility outside was practically zero. Only thing he could see from behind the steering wheel were wind blown patches of fog, colored by their own running lights. He doubted that the lookout on the bow could see much more. If they meet a ship now, it’ll run them over without even noticing.
He turned his attention to the radio, out of sheer habit – they were most certainly not where they started.
“Southeasterly 5 to 7, occasionally gale 8”
– Gale, don’t you say? – he thought with a sneer.
“Caution veering southwesterly later. Goosebumps, dizzy spells. Still good.”
What. The hell.
This is not a weather forecast.
“Dover, Wight. Southeasterly veering southwesterly 7 or severe gale 9. Head-on impact. Continents collide. Atoms split. Dilated pupils. Elation. Vertigo. Visibility zero.”
He stared at the radio, dumbstruck.
– Skipper! Skipper, there is something ahead!
Through the tear in the fogbank he saw it too – a small island not far ahead. On it, a forest of aerials, with St. Elmo’s fires dancing on them. A black structure stood high on the bank, strobing beacon at the top – impossibly slim, it looked unlike any lighthouse he had ever seen. Through binoculars in his shaking hands, he could just make out the shapes of bunkers, warning notices and beach obstacles littering the waterline.
He barely registered a clatter of pans from belowdecks and shouts of the crew. A man who was barely alive two hours ago was now struggling with two of his men, screaming “Heligoland! Heligoland!” at the top of his lungs and fighting to get on the deck to – swim towards the island? Away from it? He had no way of knowing.
He put down his binoculars next to frantically spinning compass.
“Heligoland. Planet-struck and spellbound. The wreck of matter and the crush of worlds.”
(the text in italics are lyrics to “Heligoland”, by Overseer)