An Obal for Rhea
There may be more ghosts at sea than there are on land. Are these ghosts that wander the ocean lost? Or is there something carrying them to a place hereafter?
Rhea knew nothing about coins. She was only fourteen and coins were just those annoying things that took up space in her pockets. That all changed when her grandfather grew terribly sick.
Every week, she'd visit him at the hospital, doing homework by his side. After so many weeks of visiting, the staff there stopped bothering her for a visitor's pass. Rhea knew exactly where to go... and that was the saddest part about going.
One week, Grandpa grew noticeably worse. Rhea had never seen him look that fragile before. It was hard to visit him, but she knew it meant the world to him. And that's why, on a rainy afternoon, he asked her to get him something very important.
"A... a coin?" Rhea asked.
"Not just a coin," he croaked. "But an obal."
Rhea was confused. Of all the things he wanted... why an old coin? That's when he leaned close to her and told her a secret that hadn't left his tongue for sixty years.
When he was young and full of life, he was a sailor on a merchant ship. This was back when even the smallest ship could send goods back and forth between countries. His ship was just one of thousands of them at sea every day.
His ship was bobbing off the coast of India when a strange message came in on the radio. He didn't know Morse code as well back then, but four words stuck like a broken thumb.
"Mayday." "Stranded." "No survivors."
It was then his captain changed course. They began sailing out to the darkest parts of the sea. These were parts of the ocean no sailor ever went to unless they wanted to end up lost for days at a time.
After hours of open blue water... something jutted from the horizon. A ship.
Grandpa said it moved with the waves, not against them, and when they got closer, it bore no name on the side.
The captain told everyone on his ship that he received a distress call. Someone had to climb aboard so they could bring the ship back to port.
Straws were drawn. Grandpa lost.
As soon as his feet were on the deck, he could tell something was deathly wrong. It was the middle of summer, but the air clinging to the ship was ice cold. On top of that, there wasn't a soul in sight. None were there to share the deck with him. None were in the cabins, despite the bed still being warm. And none, not even the captain, had left so much as a fingerprint at the helm.
He searched high and low until he found what he assumed was the crew. They were in the cargo bay. All of them slept lifelessly on the steel floor.
Just what had done such a thing to them? What moved them all down to the bottom of the ship? And if they were all in the cargo bay... then who sent out the message in the first place?
Grandpa never found out the answer to those questions. If anything, he had tried to snuff them out of his memory completely. Still, one question remained...
"What is it?" Rhea asked, hiding the trembles in her voice.
"I found something under the tongues of the dead sailors," he said. "A coin unlike anything I'd ever seen before."
That coin was an ancient Greek obal.
"If that ship went where I think it went," Grandpa said. "Then I'll need an obal of my own."
He handed Rhea a pile of bills. She needed every single one. The only obals she could find were $160 each. And so, she bought her Grandfather one to hold onto until the time came when he needed it.
Rhea knew there was a reason why Grandpa gave her as much money as he did. That's why she bought a second obal for herself... because if Grandpa was right, she didn't want to be lost at sea.