Growing up on a fishing boat docked in this small northwest coastal town brought stares from townspeople and jeers from classmates. She desperately wanted to escape but, with competitors driving down charter prices, she knew her dad would never be able to afford a replacement. As she sliced open the belly of yet another Salmon, her eyes widened and she dropped her knife…

(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)

We were doing just fine without her. Before he made her a permanent part of my existence, I thought only of the coolness of the gentle sea guiding my hull, the wind massaging my stern, and the warm grip of my captainís strong hands on my helm. His presence, along with his daughterís, was as constant as the tides. With them aboard me I was full of purpose; my mission was to keep them safe and navigate them through the temperamental sea to the bounty kept within its grasp.

His face exuded a joy I had not seen in years when his daughter presented her to him: a figurehead in the shape of a beautiful woman. His daughter explained to her father that this would be a new beginning for this old fishing ship. She purchased the figurehead at the local town fair from a woman who said it had been recovered from an old fishing boat in Spain, which was said to have had many fortunate voyages. I sensed gloom in the air when they embraced but I did not concern myself with such matters. I was focused on the old ship comment more than anything at the time.

The old man kissed the porcelain beauty, placed her upon my bow for eternity and, in doing so, condemned us to a fate we could not escape.

It was quite strange having some foreign object suddenly become a part of me. I resisted my first instinct to immediately reject her, seeing how happy she made him. I should have known to trust my initial impressions of the sea witch. Upon closer inspection, the long, streaming locks of her hair were intertwined with slithering serpents and, although her left hand pointed towards the horizon, the finger of her right hand subtly pointed downwards towards the depths of the ocean.

One night while I gently rocked my captain and his daughter into a deep slumber, the beautiful figurehead began her torment. She whispered to me of the past, the present and the future. I knew from that first night that she was nothing more than an evil temptress, bound to me forever, endlessly spatting her rancorous words. Her delicate skin and longing eyes were only a mask to hide her true nature. She told me her name was Hera, created by the goddess of the sea to be her indentured companion. After a lifetime of servitude to the goddess, Hera rebelled and tried to escape. She was found soon after and punished to be frozen as a shipís figurehead, cursed with an eternal longing to be immersed in the salty embrace of the sea. Her mission was the opposite of mine; she wished to lead us with her right hand, I wished to follow her left.

She explained the troubles of man, the struggles of my captain, his desperate nature, and his sadness. I resisted her taunts, refused to believe there were malevolent forces that could destroy my happiness of living a simple life on the sea. She teased me further, forcing me to look at the shiny new fishing boats that started to crowd the harbor, the lines of people waiting to board them and the lack of activity on my deck. She gave me respite from her poisonous hisses for two days, just long enough for me to truly absorb her venom. I found myself trying to figure out the last time my captain had painted me, taken me out for a ride, or filled my decks with music and laughter and most of all, fish. Where were all the fish?

When the generous Pacific delivered a peace offering, my fears were put aside. The screeching of my planks as they struggled to support the weight of the salmon seemed to ease the infectious worries implanted by the wicked enchantress. Perhaps the goddess of the sea was on my side, keeping us safe from Heraís whispers, shielding us from the woes of man. I was wrong.

The tides changed quickly, fiercely and without forgiveness. The seductress continued her tales of sorrow which eventually corrupted the soul of my captain. The young girl could not stand seeing her father so despondent, so she stopped coming aboard.

The end began when the pretty boats slowly started their migration towards the safety of land to await calmer seas. My captain used to give me the same courtesy when storm season approached. Surely this one wouldnít be too bad because he would never put me in danger. There werenít many boats left in the harbor, which should have been my first clue. When he untied me from the dock and set out into the stormy sea, the creases on Heraís face inclined slightly as if to make her version of a smile.

Itís cold down here on the bottom of the ocean. I miss the sun. I do not know night from day anymore or feel the wind on my stern. My captainís warm hands have been replaced by cold bones, still clutching the helm. My only solace lies in the silence; Heraís virulent prose has been permanently stifled by the salty liquid. It seems the goddess of the sea holds grudges.