...no, he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned -
He could be riding forever 'neath the streets of Boston -
He's the man who never returned!
Well, hopefully things won't get that bad for me. Actually, according to a conversation I had yesterday with the ship's purser, the end could very well be in sight; I should be go for departure the next time the ship pulls into port. When that will be is a matter of debate (and, when final word does come down, OPSEC), but with any luck I'll be headed for home pretty soon. Can't wait!
Things here on the ship continue much as they have been; we're through the Straits of Gibraltar and in the Mediterranean Sea now, the calm waves a startling contrast to the stormy Atlantic. The weather has been warmer, too, since we came into the Med - not my favorite thing, I'm definitely ready for cooler temperatures and looking forward to fall weather at home.
I've been having trouble sleeping again, most likely thanks to our changing hours - we're about six hours ahead of EST right now - and when I do get to sleep, it's often broken up as I wake at random hours, blink wearily at the clock, and try to get back to sleep. My dreams have been vivid and lifelike, fever bright, their subject matter strangely coherent and at the same time, almost too bizarre for words. Last night's had me as an immortal Roman soldier, sleeping for 2000 years, waking up in the modern age. One a few nights before that involved a vain house that wanted someone to care for it and keep it pretty, but hated children and women... so it ate my ex-wife when she showed up and started making noise about taking it from me (leaving me with the smaller, more comfortable house that had been ours until the divorce and which, in the subsequent time, she had pretty thoroughly trashed with partying and neglect).
Odd enough just on the face of it, nevermind the fact that I've never been married. O_o
Other than my dream life, things have been pretty quiet around here - just steaming steadily east, on our way to fuel up the Navies, US and NATO fleets alike. Today's moment of excitement came when a small bird flew into one of the bridge wings and knocked itself silly - dazed enough that my watch partners were able to pick it up and move it out of the way of traffic, and set up food and water nearby. By the time we were relieved of watch, it was recovered enough to hop around the wing and fly short distances, although still out of things enough for me to sit a few feet away and make a rough sketch in my Moleskine. It's not particularly good, but perhaps I'll post a picture at some point when I get back to the World.
I've been juggling a couple of books lately - M. John Harrison's "Light", a scifi novel about alternate dimensions, an anthology of travel stories for various destinations around the world, and most movingly, the first collection of Doonesbury's "The Sandbox", a collection of mil-blog short stories from Doonesbury's mil-blog of the same name. With a friend of mine getting ready to deploy back Down Range pretty soon - yes, I'm talking about you again, Alyson - the stories hit that much closer to home. It's a weird feeling, about to return from a deployment (however abbreviated) only to have a friend about to head out on one - one that will be much longr, and more involved, than this little vacation at sea has been. I can't help but worry for her, no matter how much I try to tell myself that everything will be fine. About all I can do, really, is enjoy the time I have, send her letters, stories, and encouragement while she's gone, and pray for her safe return.
Speaking of stories, I've taken a break from Twilight Exile - stuck banging my head against the walls of a fortified city - to pick up West End Blues again, which - perhaps unsurprisingly - flows much quicker and easier. Four pages, almost 2,000 words, over the last day and a half - not quite NaNoWriMo levels, but pretty respectable still. I may have mentioned a few entries ago that I was starting to get a grasp on the overall plot - what started out as an insight into the main character, Grey, and an overview of his life in the urban wasteland of Rhydin's West End is slowly shaping into a real story. That's definitely a positive.
So, tl;dr version: home soon, writing good, reading good, sleep intermittent and sanity bending, friend deploying, bird amusing. Also, I'm out of SmartWater and forced to return to the ship's desalinated, overbrominated potable water system. And that's terrible.