For a moment, after you have been shaken awke, you lie still in your hammock, senses alive to the small world around you.
Several things are immediately evident, it seems.
First, the weather outside has gone to pot, the hammock was still 3 hours ago when you climbed in, now its swinging through a good arc, and sound of swells slapping against the hull mere inches away, loud and clear.
Crash, Zuiho shoulders another one aside, and the rattling and banging is well under way.
Double damn. Its going to be a difficult watch.
You glance at your watch, peering hard in the dim red lighting, 0335 hours. So easy to just stay here.
So impossible to do however.........
With a groan, you swing your feet onto the cold deck, automatically securing your hammock for action, motions so practiced you are not even aware of doing them now.
But you do think carefully your passage to the small communal area, careful of every step, zuiho is rising, falling, pitching like the pig she is.
You ease down onto the bench, accruments of the day about you.
Others, always silent others join you, nobody ever has anything to say at this hour, weariness rules.
Socks, pants, shirt, boots, belt, first aid dressing, cap, torch .
You contemplate the ladder out, zuiho crashes again, lurches, falls.
Some stomachs (but not yours) will be twitching.
This is next.
Up the ladder, into the corridor, a corridor rolling heavily.
You go forward to the baths, join others, do what needs to be done, splash water on your face.
No need to look at it. The dark circles will only be darker, the eyes even more blood shot.
Aft now, swaying with the roll, judging the men coming the other way, all this automatic, the hand that steadies, the judging of the doors, the hatches.
The galley , an island of light in the red, and tea, and blessings, a sweet roll.
Waves thump still outside.
Damn. No smoke for now...............
The tea is good, the roll, better.
Conversation...............lousy as always.
Time to go.
You go up again, the lower hanger stinks of gas. Stokers pass you, open a door, and you feel that wave of heat, the noise assualts you.
They laugh, and slam the hatch behind them.
No way would you contemplate going down there................
Hanger deck, alive with movement, the flight crews already at their work, the arc lights burning brightly
You adjust your dres, seat your Cap, and enter the bridge.
take a minute, and the utter darkness softens, greys, turns to shadows, men, wheel, binnacle, the windows, the sea, white caps, the full moon.
You silently slide to your position.
The Captain is on the bridge................is he ever not?
"Seaman Ashigari requests to take helm sir!"
The man you are relieving merely points -course 180, speed 126 revolutions.
The wheel, that familar object you curse so much, rests under your palm.
You steer 750 men through the night
"Seaman Ashigari has the wheel sir, course is 180, revolutions 126 sir!'
'very good. watch her closely seaman, its lumpy, and Yamato is on our port aft quarter"
And now, as the clock slowly crawls on, you concentrate everything on just one object, that heading. 180.
Not 182, or 178, but 180.
Zuiho is a pig.
her bow rises, falls, crashes, bangs. Water at times hammers the screen, the wipers thump, thump, thump, endlessly.
And the horizon lightens.
A men brings the captain coffee, not tea, coffee and that hard barsted Hidaka joins him.
They confer, yes, CAP again, no, only 3 fighters today. No bombers.
And only the best .............
Dawn action stations.
You don your lifebelt, replace your cap with a tin one, and are relieved.............to lookout.
The bridge wing is cold, and wet, but so much better. here, at least, the air is fressh, and you can stretch.
And, of course, as the sun comes out, there will be the fleet.........
0600, and you rotate again, now you are Quartemasters mate, a glorified messanger.
It is the best job. You will, always, fid yourself below, seeking someone (gods, minobe, do you know how your cabin reeks), or, better yet, getting the endless cups of tea.
But all too soon, the last hour, and back onto the wheel.
The sky is bright, the sea angry.
'Bring her into the wind OOW!" barks the captain.
(yes, he terrifies you no?")
'Port thirty!, revolutions 230!", new course 090degrees!'
You move automatically, your voice singing as you repeat the orders, dance your dance.
Zuiho, under your touch, slews to her orders, the spray flies, smoke stink, and she is coming around.
"passing through 120 degrees sir!'
'very good, starboard ten!"
"Starboard ten sir!
and you settler her in, and now she is really piggish, rolling awkwardly..........
'Ready to launch sir"
You have eaten. Scrubbed the mess. Now you are forward, wind biting, passing ammuntion, drilling, drilling, and rilling some more.
1200 hours, the rope is biting, hard and wet and burning in your hand, as the jackstay goes across to the destroyer alongside.
The weather has worsened, and this job is a right barsted.
1300, and you are at the gun for real now, tin hat hard on your skull, and a hundred pairs of eyes scan the angry grey. There is a sub out there.............
'Bring her into the wind OOW!'
And you spin the wheel again
The day will pass. You will rest, for a while, just after midnight.
How many days now?. How many more?
They are merging together now. As they do. For this is life. Routine, crushing routine.
And in a way, I suppose, you must find this good.
For out here, in war, only one thing can ruin routine