by S. E. Mabson
Revenge best given fiery hot!
|“Alright brother,” Adam wrapped his arm around his brother Ronnie. Gazing out at the open blue. “You ready to give this baby a go bro?”
“Yeah man, it took you a long time to fix this thing up. Your boss and the rich guy y’all fixed this rust bucket up for don’t mind you taking it out on the water without them? Hard to believe they wouldn’t want to see it off. ”
“Yeah man, it’s just like a test run, or whatever. Rich guys, you know, have to have someone take that risk of dying before they will touch it, so he sent a guy.” Adam pats his chest proudly “And let him bring his brother. Besides, it’s the grand reopening he cares about. And the boss gets seasick.”
“Haha, I don’t blame them, this thing is ancient.” Ronnie leaned his back on the rail of the boat and shook his head.
“The hardest part though,” he paused, “disposing of all those corpses.” Adam turned around and leaned against the rail alongside his brother. He tilted his head down and stared into his glass for a moment before breaking the eerie silence. “Sooooo, many corpses man. Bossman couldn’t take the sight of them. Made him sick. The rest of the crew wasn’t far behind them.”
“Dang man that’s awful.” Before Ronnie could get to his apology Adam intercepted the conversation.
“It’s all good man, this is supposed to be fun. It just turned into some funeral vibes real quick. Haha.”
The guys chugged down the rest of their drinks and poured another. Then they chugged them again. Adam took his brother on a tour of the old historical ship turned luxurious private cruise ship. Mostly pointing out changes he made himself. They dove into some of the activities and amenities the cruise had to offer then met the cruise staff for a pre-grand-reopening party.
Ronnie, having switched to water, hours ago, noticed the party numbers were dwindling pretty rapidly way too early. Initially, of course, he assumed people were just exhausted from the rebuild and turned in early. Yet, there was a nagging that pulled at him. A feeling in his gut that something was...off. He left the bar en route to the railing for some fresh air.
When his feet crossed the threshold the tug squeezed at him like he was tied up. Like someone was playing tug o war and didn’t fill him in. He took another step and the intensity morphed. Like burning rope. Another step. His skin tingled, followed by a fiery meltdown. He flailed his arms only to realize he was fine, but he couldn’t shake that nagging, burning, tug that something bad, very bad was coming, or already there. Another step. Nothing. He shook it off and continued on.
Ronnie leaned over the rail, breathing in the salty air, allowing the tension to melt away. He closed his eyes and embraced the cool air wafting around him like a cocoon. The wind swirling around him faster then stopped. Swirled then stopped. Tighter and tighter the whirlwind spun around him. His breathing straining, the whirlwind cooler and cooler. He saw them. Tighter and tighter. Ronnie felt that nagging, burning, tug again like his skin was melting. All of them. Soon, his body drifted to the floor, he grabbed onto the railing to steady himself, but he just kept falling as if someone had pushed the slow-motion button on a television. Burning, they were all burning. His toned yet slender honey glow 5’11 frame thudded on the floor with a conscience shaking gasp!
Ash, all he saw in the darkness was ash. The sight drifted away, but Ronnie laid there still as the floor he crashed on. Adam found Ronnie laying on the floor stiff and pale and ran to his side.
“Ronnie, bro, I thought you switched to water? How are you possibly still this drunk? Haha. Come on bro, let's get you to your room.” Silence. Adam lifted Ronnie to his feet and bore most of his weight. “You alright bro?” Silence coupled with dead eyes. Adam leaned Ronnie up against the wall. Tapping his face, “Ronnie! Bro! Wake up, dude!” Ronnie was looking through Adam. They were all staring at him. Crowded behind Adam looking into him. Searching him, begging him.
“What do you want!”
“Hey bro don’t get mad at me you looked half-dead there for a second.”
“Not you, them.”
Adam looked behind him and saw nothing but the big salty blue. “The fish?” Ronnie snapped his head at Adam, eyes wide “You getting teased by dolphins or something, hahaha” Adam pulled Ronnie off the wall steadying him again.
“I got it, man, let go. I’m fine.”
“Aight my bad bro. You sure?” Ronnie looked again, eyebrows furrowed, lips pursed. “Ronnie?”
“Yeah man, I’m fine. You go on back to the party. I must have hit my head too hard when I fell.”
“What party? Haha. I turned around from the bar and everyone was gone. Looked back and the bartender was gone too. Figured it was time to head on out.”
“Strange, it’s not even midnight yet is it?”
“Nope, but I guess exhaustion hits when it wants to haha.”
“Yeah, I guess you're right. Good night man. And thank you. Sorry about snapping at you too.”
“Bro, it’s fine I get it, one too many plus a nasty fall equals bruised ego. Haha. It’s all good bro.”
“Yeah, my ego is bruised alright.”
The brothers went their separate ways to the cabins for the night. Ronnie flopped down on the bed, head still pounding from hitting the floor. He rubbed his eyes, then his temple.
Get it together man, he thought. He closed his eyes and there they were. A whole horde of people. Mixed ages, genders, hard to tell their ethnicity beneath all the dirt and grim they were covered in. A seemingly limitless room filled to the brim with shadowy darkness as far as the eye could see. And then there was them. A sickly group. All groaning, and rubbing their stomachs, vomiting, and crying. He sat up and looked around the room. Nothing. Just darkness? I didn’t turn out the lights yet. He swung his legs off the bed and came face to face with a single filthy man in ragged clothes.
“What do you want?” Nothing, the man just tilted his head in short jerks as if his muscles wouldn’t allow him to move. An intense smell of unbathed men, vomit, and burning flesh filled the room. Ronnie gasped and choked it down, hoping not to offend. The man turned and went through the door. Ronnie followed him to the lower levels. Adam turned the corner behind him and walked right passed Ronnie, eyes dead set on...something.
Something in the distance. Something calling to him. Something teasing his senses enticing him onward. His light gray eyes determined, focused, intentional. Ronnie just watched him continue on. Then they appeared at the end of the hall facing him, all of them. The man that led Ronnie down there at the forefront. Adam joined them. Ronnie’s heart sped up rapidly, his thoughts racing to make sense of it. Thoughts racing to put his body in motion but he was standing perfectly still. Staring back at the distorted clan of filth, stench, and old ripped clothes. Many of which were...not? The staff! They’ve been recruiting?
The group turned and headed to the boiler room. Ronnie followed. Adam and the staff, still, hyper-focused on something beckoning them, separated from the gruesome herd at the door and headed for the boilers. Ronnie waited and watched at first. The corpses! The crew woke them up. How though? Is this about some kind of revenge? But not me? I don’t understand. “Adam!” Ronnie ran to Adam and shook him, slapped him, punched him. Nothing. No eye contact. Not even a single miss-step. He just continued on his path. Nothing Ronnie did woke any of the staff up.
“Adam! Man wake up! It’s me, Ronnie! Your brother! Wake up, man! Ignore them! Keep them out of your head, man WAKE UP!” Nothing. The staff was climbing into the boilers releasing a cloud of steam. Sweat dripped down his face and he felt himself growing weaker from exerting so much energy into Adam. Ronnie powered on, trying to reach Adam until he was the last of the staff left standing. But Adam persisted, his feet a set pace, perfectly focused on the boiler. Oblivious to the heat or his brothers' call, Adam kept moving his feet like a wind-up toy that never winds down. Ronnie turned on the herd and demanded they make him stop. Adam froze. A chorus of demented screeches rang out.
Ronnies eyes were as wide open as they could possibly go and his mouth was too. Adam though, motionless, was still glaring at the boiler as if his brain was still sending signals to his feet to meet with the boiler's heated embrace. A voice rang out from the hidden stairs beyond the boilers. “Ronnie and Adam Flanning. Descendants of the great Captain Ron Flanning. A pleasure to finally meet you, Ron.”
“What’s going on?” Ron murmured, eyebrows furrowed.
“It’s uncanny how much you look like him, your great great great...great grandfather, I believe?”
“What! Is! GOING ON!”
“The crew here woke up when construction turned to mass graves by fire to get rid of their corpses. They wanted revenge and their captain.” He closed in on Ronnie and whispered. “He escaped the ship. That’s why his body isn’t here to greet them. However, Ronnie, you look just like him. See where I am going with this.”
“They think I am the captain.”
“Exactly!” He flung his arms out in an embrace of pride. “Now, this cruise will commence without a hitch once I have satisfied this.” He turned slightly toward the crew behind, then grimaced at Ronnie. “ghastly crew here.”
“And how do you plan to do that?”
“By giving them their captain.” The mysterious man looked to the right then back at Ronnie. He lowered his head and smiled. At that exact moment, Ronnie realized the slim 6’2 man had eased him next to the boiler. A bunch of hands grabbed him and threw him into the boiler alongside his brother before his brain could send the ‘RUN!’ signal to the rest of his body.
Everything went quiet for days. The ship remained docked. The mysterious man, the owner of the ship no doubt, returned to the ship every day to check on...things. On the night before the grand reopening, he had yet to see or feel any signs of the ghastly herd of misfits. Smiling, feeling completely victorious, he went to the bar. While relaxing in the lounge area, he felt a gush of wind from behind him. The man scrambled to get up, spilling his drink, then slipping on it. Scurrying across the floor, eyes wide, eyebrows furrowed, mouth dropped low. He knew he miscalculated.
Revenge needs no fire to ignite a soul to rise, it was the fire. A blazing figure hovered slightly over him. Then vanished. He stood to his feet and brushed his clothing. The owner of the ship strutted his false confidence to his cabin for the night to rest for his big day. When he entered the room his facade cascaded down his face into intense fear. Ronnie wanted him to know he was there but didn’t try to kill him. Haunting, a fate worse than death. When he turned out the light and was good and comfortable, a fierce light illuminated in the center of his room. Ronnie. His body steamed from the heat radiating from Ronnie. Smoke filled the room and he couldn't even gasp for breath.
The ship set sail and sank to the bottom of the ocean where it had sat for hundreds of years.