by Pam Sears
What happens to the souls lost at sea
|“Caruthers! What’r ye about!” Snapped Jibs. He was the Boatswain and it was his job to be sure the rest of the crew did theirs. No slacking.
The man addressed, Caruthers, snapped around so fast he nearly fell over the railing, arms flailing to keep his balance on the gently rocking ship. Jibs had to grab his vest, snake quick, or he’d have been lost. You fall overboard with this captain you were dead.
“Boy, y’ best ha’ a good reason fer jes’ starin’ out over th’ water like that!” Jibs growled, releasing Caruthers once he regained his footing. “Y’er s’pos’ta be in th’ Nest on watch!”
Caruthers nodded, gulping, and glancing around over the currently calm waters. Gentle currents rocked the ship as they moved her along. They were in an unfamiliar area and his current assignment was to watch and be sure nothing in the water was a danger to their boat. That was best accomplished in the Crow’s Nest, or Nest, where a sailor could see great distances.
“Aye, Mr. Jibs.” He croaked. Like all the men, the salt water and wind had worn out his throat and made it scraggly-sounding from hollering at others over crashing storms or gale winds.
“Aye, sor.” He repeated. “But I tho’t I saw sum’mat a’fore I went up an’ stopped ta check…” he glanced over his shoulder at the empty sea again, shuddering.
“An’ wha’d’ja see ta set sech a mighty seaman a’quiver’n?” Jibs mocked although his eyes, too, scanned the horizon before darting back to the cabin boy.
Caruthers shook his head. “I… nuthin’, I guess, sor.” He croaked, hanging his head. “I’ll git up t’ th’ Nest, sor, an’ sorry I am I’m late.”
“Aye, well, ye’ll be sorrier yet if the cap’n sees ya. Now git a’fore I dock y’er pay or food. Whichever gets the most action outta ya.”
With another glance at the dark sea Caruthers turned and headed for the main mast. Moments later he swarmed up the ropes and over the edge of the bucket and into the Crow’s Nest, set near the top of the mast. It was a dangerous job because, if the ship were tossed too wildly by the sea, the one sitting up there had the greatest chance of being flung so far out they’d never be found. That’s why most tied on as soon as they were up.
Jibs watched until he saw Caruthers nod to the crew he was replacing and take the rope to tie on. It was a calm night but you never knew what the sea would do. She was a demanding mistress who could throw tantrums at a moment’s whim.
He glanced out at the dark swells once more, then up at the moonless sky. Not because there wasn’t one but because of the dark clouds that had been gathering the last hour covered it from view. The winds hadn’t picked up, yet, and the sea remained fairly calm but that could change in an instant.
Jibs glanced around at the crew. Several were whispering, heads close, and glancing out into the darkness. He scowled. It was their newest crew members. Time to remind them they had jobs.
“Back ta work, the sorry lot o’ ya!” He barked, heading toward the group.
The rest of the crew scrambled to obey but the knot of men he bore down on stood frozen.
“Wot’s all this, now?” He growled. “Ya start bein’ useless and useless ye’ll b’come. The Cap’n won’ stan’ fer it an’ ye knows it.”
One of the men gulped and pointed at the sea. Jibs followed his gaze and saw a heavy fog rolling toward them. It probably wasn’t moving that fast but they were headed toward it as it came their way so it appeared to be about to swallow them whole.
“Git aft an’ drop anchor!” Jibs barked. “Unless the Cap’n says otherwise we stand fast here until the fog moves away.”
“Tha’s not nat’rul fog.” The pointer accused.
“An’ what would’ja know ‘bout that, Hen?!” Jibs scowled while the other men huddled together, shivering in the cold the fog pushed ahead of it.
“This ‘er’s that part o’ the sea what drags ships to it’s depths and steals th’ souls on board t’ serve on Davey Jones haunted ship.” Hen whispered hoarsely.
Seamen were notoriously superstitious and anything to do with Davey Jones was bound to set them off.
Sure enough, those nearby began muttering darkly amongst themselves. Jibs, himself, felt a chill crawl down his spine that had nothing to do with the cold. He surreptitiously made the sign against evil with the hand semi-concealed by his trousers before scowling at the men.
“Be ye sailors er cow’rds?” He spat. “Tis naught but fog. Get back t’ y’er jobs a’fore I keelhaul th’ lot o’ ye!”
He turned a glare on Hen. “Git y’er’sel’ aft t’ th’ anchors. Ye have aft-watch ‘til I send relief. An’, Hen?”
The sailor stopped near him, a scowl on his own face, and Jibs snarled softly knowing how sound carried over water.
“Ye’ll stop wi’ scarin’ th’ men or I’ll more’n keelhaul ye. I’ll strip y’er hide from ye while ye scream an’ then toss y’re still breathin’ carcass t’ th’ sea as a gift!”
Hen gulped hard, glanced once more at the fast approaching fog, then nodded.
“Aye, Bo’sun.” He muttered as he headed to his post.
Jibs glanced up at the quarterdeck and saw a pair of glowing blue-green lights that appeared to be watching him just as the fog slammed into the ship. He shivered but turned back to the crew, knowing there was a job to do.
Barely half a candle mark had passed but it seemed like forever in the bowels of that heavy, roiling fog. The fog created odd shapes and low, mournful sounds echoed across the muffled waters.
The ship remained in one place since the captain hadn’t countered Jibs’ order to drop anchor. Jibs had finally approached him to ask if he wanted the anchor raised.
Flat, cold gray eyes studied the fog then Jibs before the captain shook his head.
“We are where we need to be for now. I’ll let you know if that changes, Mr. Jibs.”
“Aye, Cap’n.” Jibs bobbed his head and turned toward the stairs to head back to midship. The captain’s voice stopped him.
“Are the new crew ready to do their jobs properly, Bo’sun?”
That shiver crawled down Jibs’ spine again before he nodded. “They will be, Cap’n.”
“Very good.” The captain’s voice rasped. “To your duty, then.”
Several more marks passed by on the candle used to keep track of time before any change occurred. Jibs had the newest men gathered around the main mast, explaining they would be following any orders given without question or they’d end up in the drink with an anchor chain wrapped around them.
Eyes huge, shivering from cold, fear and confusion, they were startled when the captain strode into their midst.
“A ship approaches, Bo’sun.” He barked. “Everyone to stations.”
The men around the mast stared, mouths hanging open. The captain’s eyes cut around the small group while others on the ship scuttled to do various jobs. His hand rested on his sword.
“I never repeat my orders.” He commented in a quiet, dead voice.
The group suddenly scrambled to the stations they’d been assigned, making ready for whatever was about to happen.
The captain glanced around. “Many of you are new and have yet to understand the purpose of this ship and its crew. Tonight you will learn. Follow orders immediately. Do not deviate. To do so will result in your immediate death.”
“You’d kill us?” One slightly braver sailor demanded.
The captain pinned him with his flat gray gaze. “I would toss you overboard. Trust me, to leave this ship for any reason is a death sentence. You would be dead before you hit the water.”
“Hsst!” Jibs snarled. “Never question the Cap’n. ‘E’s tryin’a keep ye alive. Disobedience requires sacrifice. Tis not ‘is rule an’ he canna go agin it. Do as y’er tol’ an’ ye’ll live.”
The newest crew members glanced at each other then back to the captain but remained quiet.
The captain strode back to the quarterdeck and stood next to the helmsman who gripped the wheel, ready for orders.
“Raise the anchor.” The captain spoke quietly but the order carried clearly.
Voices seemed to echo from the fog. Questioning. Nervous. Calling.
“Any signs of the ship yet, Bo’sun?” He called to Jibs.
Jibs looked up to the Nest and saw Carothers leaning out. The man shook his head in the negative even as he kept his eyes on the surrounding fog.
“Nay, Cap’n.” He called back.
“Very well. Let us help lead them in.” He responded.
The new crew glanced at each other, puzzled, but remained silent. Then one of them gasped.
A soft, eerie blue and green glow began to form around the captain. Soft, dim, it slowly grew in intensity and began to crawl outward from the captain to cover the quarterdeck.
As they watched it crawled slowly over the entire ship, lighting each part of it, but never touching the men. The newest crew members moaned in fear and it echoed out over the water, penetrating easily through the normally muffling fog.
In return they heard cries of fear from starboard and, looking that way, saw a ship looming out of the fog, almost on top of them. They cried out, sure the ship was about to ram them, causing them to sink.
Instead it seemed to pass through them to the other side. A moment later there was a horrendous tearing sound as the ship ran afoul of rocks their own ship had been sitting in front of. A hole was punched deep into the side of the ship, well below the water line and seawater immediately flooded in.
Voices cried out, begging for help as the ship foundered.
“We should-“ one sailor began.
“Wait. We should wait.” Jibs interrupted sadly.
The sailor looked around. The crew members who’d been on the ship longest also seemed sad but held to their stations, merely watching the dying ship.
“Longboats away, Bo’sun.” Called Caruthers from the Nest. His voice was resigned.
Jibs looked up to the quarterdeck and saw the captain’s nod. He heaved a sigh.
“A’right, ye sea dogs. Our job is ta bring on them what asks ta board. No’un else. They has’ta ask ta board. The ship will repel ‘em if’n they don’t an’ ye’ll die if’n ye he’p wi’ no askin’.”
The new men glanced at each other and gulped. Memories teased some of them. Memories of cold, dark waters and begging for help. Fearfully, they shoved the memories aside and nodded at Jibs.
Before long the entire crew was busy pulling men from the water. Some of those in the water didn’t want to wait for assistance and tried to climb the rough planks to the deck on their own. To their horror the planks would smooth and they’d fall back into the cold, dark waters beneath.
One sailor tried to save one of those falling and found himself falling with him. Both hit the water hard. Neither rose to the surface again.
Finally the last sailor who’d asked for help was pulled aboard and dropped to the deck. The captain descended from the quarterdeck as his crew all stepped back.
Eyeing the soaked men lying shivering on his deck he finally nodded.
“Gentlemen, I am Captain of this ship. As of today, you are all a permanent part of my crew.”
“And who’re you to decide that?” One man demanded. He stood shakily, defiantly facing his rescuer. It was obvious he’d been some sort of officer on the lost ship. “We wish to be put ashore at the first port we come to.”
The captain smiled. “All crew have a chance to go ashore again. But not until they have paid for whatever sins they have committed that brought them here in the first place.”
All the current crew, especially the formerly newest members, moaned in pain.
“And who are you to make that decision?” The speaker pressed although fear had entered his eyes.
That same eerie blue and green glow from earlier lit the captain’s eyes and he smiled. It was not an evil smile but neither was it reassuring.
“Why, son, I am Captain Davey Jones and this is my ship the Sea Locker. Welcome aboard. For however long that may be.”