A shivering demise in the ocean's haunting depths was the last thing McKane had ever expected on that lonely, starry night. The waves struck softly against the ship's hull. Its rhythmic swish and swash mollified the troubles in his mind as he struggled to keep his eyes open.
Once more, McKane shook the sleep from his eyes. He took another warming swig of rum and raised the cold, metalic telescope to his eye. His magnified gaze scanned the calm, inky waters. Rocky protrusions and rogue ice bergs are a sailor's worst nightmare in these icy cold waters. Pirates weren't much of a problem, though. No sailor in his right mind would be dumb enough to chart these unforgiving seas. No sailor but the daft ol' Captain McKane.
But what McKane lacked in wit, he made up for with sheer luck. But little did he know that his luck would surely run dry by the end of that particular night.
McKane sighed, watching his misty breath diffuse into the night. He wiped his brow and stretched his arms. Soon, the slender claws of slumber would grab hold of his tiring mind.
Ophelia… Oh, sweet, lovely Ophelia.
Her face glowed bright in the dark. A dim halo of light highlighted the rim of her silhouette and ignited the crimson in her hair. And her smile… her smile was the shining light at the end of his daunting tunnel.
Ophelia… Oh, sweet, lovely Ophelia.
He reached his hand and caressed her cheek. Her skin felt warm and soft in his calloused hand. His heart melted as he watched her face turn rosy. His lips curled softly as the sweet melody of her giggles filled his ears. McKane stepped in closer and ran his finger underneath her chin, eager to plant a kiss against her velvet lips. He closed his eyes and leaned in closer, only for thin air to glaze his face.
McKane opened his eyes. The love of his life was running away from him. Her giggles grew louder the further she got, and her figure grew blurry as she disappeared into the halo of light in the distance.
McKane tried to run after her, but an army of dark, decaying hands grabbed hold of his legs from below. He tried to call out for her, but the skin on his lips had melted into each other. So he rose his arm for his love in desperation. Soon, the light disappeared, leaving him to bask in the dark. His body sank deeper into the abyss, accompanied by the searching hands that rose higher over his body.
McKane wiggled and thrashed. But it was no use. Unable to scream. Unable to run. Unable to hide. This was his end.
But everything suddenly stopped when, “McKane.” A sweet, disembodied voice whispered from the abyss. “Soon, my love. Soon we’ll be together.”
The voice sounded familiar. McKane’s face whipped left, right, and center.
“Ophelia!” he called.
“Soon, my love,” the voice whispered again. Soon you’ll be mine… forever… and ever… and ever… and ever…”
A large wave hit starboard, rocking the boat sideways and yanking McKane from this sleep. He staggered to his feet and grabbed the bulwark to his side, the swaying ship almost tipping him overboard. He braced himself as another wave hit. The icy waters building high over the ship and pummeling onto the deck and drenching McKane from head to toe. The water receded violently back to the sea, pulling on McKane’s legs, threatening to take him along.
McKane’s maintained his grip, screaming in agony against the cold as the water dragged his feet from underneath.
And just then, it all stopped. The sea was suddenly calm once more.
McKane panted in desperation. The bitter cold of the night seized his limbs, and he shivered against the icy breeze. The lamp that once hung on the ship’s main mast was no more. Darkness had descended upon him.
“Jameson!” He called.
But his mate remained silent in the cabins below.
McKane felt his way along the gunwale, making his way toward the door that would lead down to his mate’s cabin. But as he approached the door, his eyes made out a figure by the ships bow. He squinted at the dark figure, “Jameson?”
McKane wiped his eyes and squinted harder into the darkness. The silhouette had its side to him. MacKane could make out its head. It’s figure swayed softly with the swaying of the ship.
A chilly wave cascaded over McKane’s body as the cold penetrated another layer into his body. He swallowed hard, closing his eyes and shaking his head for another confirming look.
It was gone. Nothing was there anymore.
What the… damn cold be messing with my head!
McKane turned for the door and began making his way down the stairs when a dim, yellow light appeared in the end of the hallway. A dragging sound shook the deck beneath McKane’s feet as the light floated towards him.
The dragging grew louder… closer. And so did the bright light.
Shivering with wet, bitter cold, McKane stumbled backward, collapsing over the stairs. The cold had seized control over his body. He could barely move as he struggled back up the stairs.
A strong breeze blew over him from the door behind him, slamming it shut. He turned to the light before him. It was gone with the breeze. Darkness prevailed. But the dragging… the dragging was now right before him. It was close. Very close.
Then, there was silence.
Something grabbed MacKane's shirt. It had claws, and they ripped against the skin on his chest. McKane’s screams filled the hallway.
* * *
The crash came loud, jolting the ship to its core and sending sleeping Jameson flying off his mattress, smashing head first into the wall over his head.
The shock was riveting for the quartermaster as he scrambled to a seating position, panting with his back and arm against the wall. The other arm arm nursed the nauseating pain that cascaded from his head to the pit of his core. His head scanned left and right, expecting nasty sword swingers to come pouring through his door, guns in hand.
But only stillness ensued.
He gasped at the ship’s cry. A continuous, rhythmic, battering persisted on the deck above, like small pebbles pelting over the ship. The sound of crunching wood intermittently interrupted it. But the sea thrashed differently against the boat’s hull. And the boat’s sway… something was off with the boat’s normal rhythm.
Jameson lunged for the sheathed sword by his bedside unleashing its blade to shimmer in the dark. He stormed out to grace the darkness of the hallway below deck.
The door fluttered open and banged shut at the top end of the hallway, right above the stairs. Torrents of moonlight and slanting rain poured through each time it gaped open.
He turned to the crew cabin to his side and thrust the door open. The darkness inside was blinding.
“Billy!” The quartermaster called. “Rusty!”
Thunder struck, coinciding with the opening of the shutter door at the end of the hallway. A flicker of light momentously filled the crew cabin. A horrendous sight lay for Jameson to see.
Fuck! Jameson cried, losing his grip on his sword. His feet went feeble. He tumbled the closest wall he could find. He leaned over and gagged, spilling his guts and carpeting the deck with the putrid remains of his last meal.
Another flash of lightening filled the ghostly halls, exposing the horrified faces of lifeless crew that lay inside the cabin. Skulls were cracked open with brain matter trickling over their chests. Jaws lay hanging by the shreds of skin, exposing the innards of throats with bony trachea hanging out in the open. Rib cages had been flattened, and guts torn open, spilling intestines to pile over the bodies. Disfigured bits of torn limbs lay hither and thither, dripping blood to pool the floor. More blood was splattered over the walls, decorating the room with the ominous scent of impending death. And the stench… oh, the putrid stench of rotting human corpses.
Jameson hung over himself to spill more of his guts. His stomach rose to his chest. His intestines pushed and churned. But no more content was left to spill.
He wiped his jaw with the back of his hand and staggered to his feet, reaching to cover his mouth and nose.
Scream! a familiar voice called from the top deck.
James grabbed his sword from the floor and ran, dashing across the hall to the few stairs leading up to the main door. A human silhouette writhed over the third step. His cries of agony were as loud as they were visceral.
He leaned over to check, “Captain?”
He felt the silhouette turn, smacking him stark in the face, rattling his jaw, and twisting his head. For a moment, the world seem to revolve around him, collapsing in over him as he fell to the hard, wooden floor. He could hear the pang of his sword as landed somewhere back in the hallway.
The captain’s voice seemed to call out from the distance, “Get back, you monster!”
Jameson shook his head, struggling to regain his sentience. He pushed off the floor and found his footing. Turning to the captain, he called, “Relax, Captain. It’s me-“
“Get back, you monster. I will fight you to my dying breath!”
The flash of lightening illuminated the silhouette.
He was drenched in blood. His clothes were torn, and a ghastly gash ran across his chest.
“Get back, you vermin!” he called.
Jameson felt the acid build inside his stomach, churning his innards, and rising up his throat. His chest heaved. Visions of his mates flashed through the back of his mind and his fists tightened.
“How could you?” Jameson accused.
The silhouette staggered to its feet. “I’ll kill you where you-“
Jameson lurched forward, coiling a fist over his shoulder. He released it as soon as his front foot made hard contact with the floor, letting his bare knuckles crash against the bony protrusions of the silhouette’s face.
The impact coincided with the crack of thunder as pain shot through his arm, exploding at the tip of his skull. A flash of lightening followed shortly afterwards with the flinging open of the main door, allowing the storm to invade the hallway. It washed over them both, blinding Jameson as the captain toppled over the stairs.
“Vermin! Is that all you got?”
A crippling numbness festered through his arm. He tried to move it.
With his arm hanging to his side, Jameson struggled to wipe the water from his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. Another crack of thunder obscured his hearing so he couldn’t sense his opponent. He tried to open his eyes, only to be blinded by the flare of lightening.
A blow landed hard over his brow, bashing hard against his eye ball. Spasms of pain splintered through to the back of his skull as he staggered backward. He tried to open his eyes, but they had long betrayed him, subjecting him to a blinding abyss. However, his ears could register the rush of footsteps toward him.
Jameson held out his arm, desperate to keep his assailant at bay. He gasped as his arm was pushed aside.
The air was pushed out of his lungs as he felt hard knuckles dig into his ribs. Another one followed immediately afterwards, landing square over his temple.
Jameson went flying sideways, landing face first over the hard wood floor.
He could taste the blood as it spurted over his tongue. He grabbed the floor before him and crawled, praying he was moving away from his assailant.
“No!” came the Captain’s voice. “Ophelia, darling. What have they done to you? I’m here now. I’ll keep you-”
A giant wave hit port side, teetering the boat and smashing the captain hard against the wall. Something metallic skidded over the floor, landing onto Jameson’s grip.
Jameson fumbled for the handle, and the captain tumbled toward his court master. Jameson turned onto his back. He swung hard into space. The sharp tip ran clean over McKane's throat, nipping it just by the jugular.
Jameson groaned as a thick liquid splashed onto his face, penetrating his mouth and eyes. He chocked at the metallic taste and puffed against its smell. A heavy heap of mass followed shortly afterwards, crushing him hard against his aching rib. He shoved the captain off his ribs and sighed.
“Jamie,” a sweet, melodious voice called from beyond the flapping door.
“Come to me, Jamie. Please come to me, darling. I’ve been waiting for you.”
To be continued...