The Salt Of A Captain
Staring at the alabaster stone carving of Poseidon sending a lightning bolt at an unsuspecting ship in the sea, I pondered what ill news the day possessed. Unlike the ship that sailed without knowledge of its soon to be doomed fate, I was all too aware of the one I was soon to meet. If only I had not visited the supposed goddess I too may have went on unsuspecting. However, now I could not avoid the conflict that must take place. Of course I could choose not to believe the witch - many doubted her abilities anyways. Though, I knew better than to not heed her warning. I had failed to follow them before even as the events would begin to unfold just as prophesied. I knew this time I could not leave the future open to such possibilities.
Bringing the glass again to my lips, the highly acidic liquid seared down my throat as if scraping off parts of my esophagus along the way. As I had entered the bar perfectly named The Wreck, the thickly bearded man with a husky voice and anchor tattoo plastered on his massive hairy shoulder asked what I'd have. I only said "strong" leaving the choice of the drink and therefore the immediate evening within his control.
His upper lip lifted slightly revealing two yellowed and ill tended teeth as if humored for the first time this night with my short retort. Nodding with approval the burly man set down the well-worn mug he was pretending to shine and reached behind the displayed row of usual bar room liquors most commonly poured. Brandishing a clear cylindrical bottle with no label, the no questions asked tender uncorked the mysterious brown liquid brew and poured a mouthful into the whiskey glass that he pulled from overhead. Sliding the water spotted glass towards me, the liquor bounced around its container as it made its way over the warped pieces of connecting wood that the establishment used as a bar. Corking his special reserve back he waited as I tiredly moved my eyes from the glass - to him - and back to the liquid that produced an odor which I could only fathom was a mixture of alcohol and gasoline.
Picking up the glass I sloshed around the brew to debate how bad things truly were before downing the awfully scented drink. Mere seconds later I knew the answer to my question - quickly rose the glass to my lips taking its entire contents in one swig. An inferno felt like it had entered my body as the powerful concoction made its way down my throat sending painful signals of fire to every limb that I owned. I clinched my fists trying not to choke on the engine degreaser until it settled as well as it could in the bowls of my stomach.
The bar man showed his full set of hideous teeth as I gasped in my first breath of air after swallowing his homemade elixir and set up my glass for another round. It was indeed strong, strong enough for me to forget my immediate future for a few seconds though not strong enough to erase it away completely.
Soon enough I would have to leave this decrepit tavern and return to the Sicilia Ann in order to face him. The lawless brigand that he was - I had taken him in and given him a second chance. Who was I to judge, I was no less of a tyrant in my youth though I had come to love the sea, the men or beings rather that I depended on to run the ship alongside of me, and of course the fitful captain who saw the salt of a seaman in myself. It was he who had taken me in amongst his men. I only tried to do the same but now my rule - my life was being challenged by the mere man whom I had tried to save and salvage. I guess not all refuse was meant to be re-used; some needed only be used once and discarded when it first smelt fowl. Little did I know how truly evil his presence was till today.
Slamming the glass down on the counter as if having just accomplished some great feat with my third and final mouthful, I paused before leaving my stool. Setting a gold chip on the counter, I waited for an acknowledgement from the gritty bar man that my payment was acceptable then descended my stool and sluggishly strolled towards the hat rack near the bar's exit. Lifting my worn leather black captain’s hat off the prong, I carefully sat it on my head. Carelessly glancing around the mold scented room, I hoped that this was not the last sea fairer bar I would see in this lifetime.
Throwing open the door, the spirited wind whipped crisply across my chapped cheeks and blistered lips as I bowed my head below the raised collars of my jacket. We had just landed the night before last yet the wind ripped across the small piece of land just as if I were sailing in the dead of sea. As my chin lay nestled on my chest, I thought of when I last experienced such gales of force.
It had been on such a day that Davy had been found...the irony was not altogether surprising given the eerie tide that Davy had carried along with him since his arrival. Having run off course due to a lackadaisical crewman whom fell asleep on the wheel that night, the Sicilia Ann had drifted off a few miles due East of our intended heading. New Acadia was our mark and we should have made it shortly after dawn if not for Kroasley's ill-timed nap. As a result, rather than wake up to the bustle of a trader's port and with the excitement that filled every sailors chest at the thought of a day’s leave we instead awoke to the thundering of waves against the ship and the angry howl of mother nature's fury as she blew destructively with her breath across the Sicilia Ann.
Arriving shortly after the captain on the main deck, it did not take long for the captain to ascertain that we had fallen off course and who was to blame. He knew that New Acadia should have been reached by this time regardless of the fact that the storming sky said it was still night out. Quickly berating Kroasley for his costly nap, the captain promised that a he would be properly dealt with should we all survive this ordeal. Sending him back to the wheel knowing that he was still the best to steer the ship other than himself, he barked for the rest of the crew to make haste and secure what was vital to the ship.
Hydroplaning across the deck to the main mast, I quickly began my challenging ascent up the massive column of wood in an attempt to tie down the few bits of the main sail that were not torn to bits by the ceaseless wind. The usually easy climb turned into a most challenging feat as I struggled to grip onto the soaked wood and netting amidst the violent swaying and erratic wind gusts. Finally making it to the main boom, I lay myself down on it and began my crawl across the long piece of timber in order to start binding the main sail to the boom when I caught sight of him as he magically emerged from the depths of the ocean.
Straddling the boom, I tried to shield my eyes unsuccessfully with my hand in order to make sure that there truly was a lifeless body floating atop the raging sea which our ship could barely stay upright on.
"Foster! What's the matter with you? Sightsee some other time you - that sail ain't going to tie itself in this storm. I'll have you for supper if you let that sail..." the captain began before I chimed in.
"But sir, there is a body floating alongside the ship," I said pointing over the edge where he could not see.
"Aye?" He questioned following my outstretched arm to the other side of the ship. "Mind that sail first mate! If we lose that sail we are as good as dead ourselves," He growled, heading across the slippery deck to the side of the ship where I had pointed.
Struggling to finish up my duties, I looked towards the captain minutes later who now stood at the side of the ship with another member of the crew. The captain was pointing out the lifeless body - no doubt discussing whether it was worth the effort to attempt a rescue in the violent storm as the unfortunate soul may already be dead. However if anyone could do it, it was Vise whom the captain was consulting. Unlike the rest of us normals as we were called, Vise was a water man which meant that he had gills and webbed fingers and toes so he needn't worry about the drowning aspect like the rest of us. Vise was the only water man on our ship though I had heard that they were becoming ever more present on other births.
Vise could no doubt make it to floating man, but with the water so turbulent we may not be able to recover him from the sea. He was assuredly too important of a crew member to risk losing especially if the person was already beyond saving.
Securing the last bits of sail that I was able to salvage amongst the raging mix of water and wind that continually pelted the ship and everyone on it; I scurried as fast as I could back across the boom and down the main mast. Arriving at the forecastle deck just as Vise dove into the sea, I peered over to the side to watch his pursuit just as a rogue wave struck the part of the ship where the captain and I stood.
The titan of a wave had appeared at an all too disastrous moment as the Sicilia Ann was just coming up from a low dip in the wave’s direction. The wave’s sudden onset left the captain and me helpless to the it’s powerful grip. Flailing my arms about in order to grab anything available, I thankfully caught a banister of the ships railing with my left hand as I dangled over the ships edge. As she rocked to the opposite side, I took advantage of the slight hoist given to me by the ship and grabbed hold of another banister and then the railing to bring myself back on board the forecastle deck although without the captain.
Turning my attention once more to the raging sea as I had done moments before, I searched anxiously for the captain amidst the ever cresting waves. After moments of desperate searching I had almost given up hope, thinking that the captain may have been knocked unconscious and drug to the depths of Davy Jones's locker by his heavy apparel. Though, just as my confidence waned I caught sight of a familiar blue jacket floating on top of the water followed by the captain himself. Who had somehow managed to place his now unconscious body atop a piece of floating debris. Yelling in vain across the screaming wind for Vise, I could not find the water man in the midst of the storm to divert his attention to the captain. I kept a tight eye on the horizon for any sign of him while making sure to keep a visual on the floating captain as well.
While many first mates would let their captain end their journey on such a note in order to take the charge as the ship's new leader, I had no such plans.
"Man overboard!" I yelled anxiously not willing to peal my eyes from the sea and the captain. "Bring the rope and float!" I said competing with the screams of the wind for the crew’s attention.
Bosley was the first to arrive with the rescue float which was nothing more than a circular life preserver with a rope tied around it. "Stand here and do not lose sight of the captain, you hear?" I said leaving Bosley at the watch and heading to the wheel where Kroasley was trying to navigate. "Kroasley, head towards the starboard side. The captain has gone overboard!" I yelled while ascending the stairs.
"I can barely keep her afloat as it is. Trying to go that way will surely sink her...you'll have to find another way,” He challenged.
I stared at Kroasley incredulously but knew better than to not trust his instincts.
"Aye. Keep her afloat then," was all I could think of to say and hurried back down to the main deck where members of the crew began to show up.
"Man the side with Bosley the two of you," I said pointing to the side of the ship where he watched from while holding on to the banister for dear life. "The rest of yuz man your normal stations and tie down anything that appears loose."
"You still have an eye on the cap?" I asked arriving alongside the ship’s edge again.
"Barely, he's a drifting further away. We won't be able to see him much long..." Bosley started but stopped mid-sentence as we all watched. The captain suddenly was pulled under the water along with the piece of debris he floated on as if pulled by some powerful force other than the ocean. However our astonishment did not last long as another voice came from below the ship.
"Hey, pull the dang line you twits!" Vise yelled from below with the still limp body floating alongside of him.
He had tied the line around the man's waist and waited in the raging water below as the three crewmen pulled up the lifeless man before returning the line over the side to retrieve Vise.
"Where's the cap?" Vise inquired once aboard the ship again as if needing to report in that he was back from his rescue mission.
"You’re looking at him," Bosley said flatly as Vise had asked me the question and was therefore looking at me for a reply.
"What happened?" Vise asked emphatically looking at the place where he had last seen the captain.
"The ship dipped into a rogue wave and took us both over the side. I grabbed the banister but came up without the cap. We had had an eye on him up until the time you hollered which is when he got sucked below." I said plainly, trying to rid myself of any false motives.
"That's impossible!" Vise exclaimed
"Yeah mate, I know we ain't altogether strangers to the weird but it was plum extraordinary what happened before you yelled up here. It was like something was below them waters," He said obviously still worried about what was out there.
"You all know that thing was destroyed years ago, along with his master. As for the new cap..." Vise started uneasily, pausing to look me over as if trying to figure out if I had actually been honest in my story. "Good luck getting us out of this one...sir." Vise said discouragingly while looking back down at the man he had just rescued. "Does this guy not seem oddly familiar to you gents?"
The crew who had been with the ship much longer than I agreed that there was something eerily striking about the rescued man who incredibly was beginning to cough up water now and awake from his comatose.
"He sure looks a lot like that brigand Farvor, don't you think?" Ranchor said staring at him intently "I saw a picture of him at the last port. He apparently is quite the criminal. I think we should give him the heave ho...err captain."
"Aye," Bosley agreed.
"Let's give the man a chance to speak, maybe he ain't this Farvor," Vise said wisely through the torrential wind and rain.
"We'll do as Vise said. Who's to know if this is Farvor. Be a dang shame to throw an innocent man overboard especially after Vise went all the way out there to retrieve him." I said
"But cap, what if he is lying? What if he truly is dangerous?" Ranchor and Bosley almost asked together.
"Then we'll find out, and deal with him accordingly," I said confidently.
How I wish I would have just listened to Ranchor and Bosley that day. Had I known then what I know now I wouldn't have hesitated to strike down the infamous creature arrogantly parading around as Davy. He indeed was not that Farvor, but something far worse.
We eventually survived the storm and made it to New Acadia. Surprisingly the crew warmed to the idea of me being there Captain as I strived to lead a strict yet pleasant ship that stuck to her duties. However, as the years went on, Davy seemed to become more resentful of me and my abiding crew. I should have caught on sooner.
Wincing as another icy blast ripped across my frozen frame, the site of the Sicilia Ann's familiar sails alleviated any residual effects of the bar keeper's secret brew as my present plight filled my thoughts once more. It had been ages since I felt the ground below not sway to and fro as I mainly kept to the sea save this trip once a decade. I knew Davy meant to arrive at port before willing a challenge, so that any decenters to his reign could leave should I fail in the challenge. Or maybe he just wanted to give me once last chance to set foot on land - either way it didn't matter...the time had come.
Crossing the pier and then up the makeshift ramp to my ship, Davy stood up from his seat atop a box that lie in the middle of the main deck. He gave the appearance as if the ship was already his and that the battle that was to take place was merely a formality in his ascent to or rather...back to captain.
The crew whom only slightly murmured upon my arrival, now backed away slowly from the two of us in order to not interfere - afraid to anger either of us due to the uncertainty of who may come out their superior.
"Enjoy your leave...captain?" Davy asked sarcastically.
"Aye, though I gather I'll enjoy my next one much better. Less to deal with you see." I said crossing across the main deck so that I was only a few feet away from him.
"I'd say so...cause you'll be dead!" Davy exclaimed brandishing his sword.
Without hesitation I withdrew mine as well and quickly raised it to counter his striking blow from overhead as the two swords clanged together fiercely. Davy wasted no time in furthering his assault swinging blow after blow with his sword though I was able to defend them all.
"Give it up Foster - I have watched you run my ship long enough. The sea brought me back so that I could take her over again. You can't fight fate you fool!" He said between intensifying swings.
I could see his teeth gnashing and his eyes were glowing a fiery red as the desire to kill overwhelmed him. His bushy grey/blonde hair and beard swirled round his head as the wind around us continued to blow forcefully while he moved about the deck thrusting his sword at me.
"Aye, the sea did bring you back mate. But only so that I could end you once and for all."
Deflecting another attempt at my head, I sent one of my own deathly close to his chest. I could have brought forth my gun though I knew the crew would think it cowardice to present such a weapon during a sword fight.
"She is no longer the Dutchman you see, my former captain and myself have chosen to sail her as she was meant to be sailed - carrying out her duties. The Sicilia Ann is a ray of light in these troubled waters, while the Dutchman was only a vessel of fear...Davy...or should I say...Davy Jones." I hissed as we stood locked up momentarily with our swords pressed against one another in a competition of strength.
“Arhh!” he growled losing his sword from its locked state and coming full force at me with a series of deafening blows. Using anything that came to his aid, he flung or kicked loose objects at me to distract from his ever advancing sword. With his rage now at its peak, I continued to deflect the swipes of his blade. One finally made its way through and caught a good part of my left shoulder though I did not submit to its painful effects. A sinister smile came over his face as his blade struck flesh, when all of a sudden a glimmer of the man he once was flashed over his present appearance.
The crew who had remained silent up to now, gasped at the site. Realizing just now who it was that I was battling – his tentacles briefly appeared instead of Davy's normal beard. The witch had said that a past evil would be exchanged for a wholesome soul as the job had not been completed before. Indeed the heart had been stabbed but the body remained whole in the ocean depths. This time though, I knew what needed to be done.
Patiently waiting for the legendary fear monger to make a mistake, I defensively fought Davy until the opportunity finally arose. As the captain of old swung again towards the same arm he struck before, I left it open to his blow knowing that by doing so it would let my sword free and able to take advantage of his unguarded chest. Thrusting my right hand forward with my sharp blade, the end pierced his chest just as the familiar burn of his entered my arm once more.
Davy's half hazard smile quickly left his face as he stared unbelieving at the sword in his bosom - not willing to believe what had just taken place.
"How can this be?" He asked no one in particular. "It was fate...the sea had brought me back to the Dutchman...I was sure of it."
"Aye, fate may it be," I said still holding onto the handle of my sword. "Just not the one you intended."
Extracting the sword from his chest, I swung a final swipe at his side. Falling lifelessly to the deck — he lay just like he first arrived upon this ship. Except now the sea emptied from his side rather than that which you would expect to come from a man. Indeed he was a creature of the depths and no longer a normal as he once was.
The crew joined around me clamoring over the site as I stared at the evil legend that lay on his former ship. Men of the sea would never again have to fear his presence or the ship he commanded. I was its captain now, and under my charge her name brought a comfort to those at sea. My arm was a small price for such a result.
Looking around at the dumbfounded men I quickly regained my composure. "Throw this heathen overboard; it's leaking on my deck. You others prepare to leave port, we have another decade of saving sailors’ souls...and the rest...will just need ferrying."
Copyright © 2010 Blake A Collins