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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Action/Adventure · #2251850
A treasure tale with all the mixings of greed, mystery and satanic curse.
Editors pick, 9/8/21 Mystery Newsletter. 998 word Entry for June’s "WEIRD TALES CONTEST earned 25,000 award points.

There is a passion for mystery, legend, and lost treasure that stirs a man’s blood. Steeped in growing drama spread across generations, the tale of The Black Island lured me on. Pirate graves, coffins filled with gold bullion guarded by satanic curses were the cause of my wanderlust.

A few such coins washed ashore, found by Pegleg Tom, spun before my dazzled eyes. The beer-soaked, Shipwrecked Pub, plank of a table reflected the shining gold in my eyes. “Satan lives there, they say.” Tom smacked his wet lips, saluting me with his tankard of brew. A bit of foam washed over the top curling into a popping stray wave.

I toasted him back with my raised tin cup. “I’ve seen the hot lava flow from the mouth of the island’s hell hole volcano. The captain refused to come closer, stayed a safe westerly distance from the stink of deadly sulfur, blinding ash cloud and ever-changing depth of its natural harbor.”

“Paid dearly for that dead-end trip, from what I hear,” Tom’s voice became a guttural whisper tinted with hidden secrets yet to be heard.

“You could have bought your Spanish gold or more likely stolen it. How do I know it came from the Dark Island?” I prompted as he fell into a gloom of silence.

“You take me there. We split the treasure in half if we both survive.” Tom slapped a leather volume down, sliding it towards me for inspection.

I’d seen the like. Journals purported to be written by the hand of brigand robber ship captains feasting on Spanish galleons overflowing with Aztec and Mayan gold. Easy to come by and as fake as the promise of love in a prostitute’s eyes. “This, wash ashore as well?” I led the man on.

He had joined my table, not I, his. We were watched with amused interest by the slovenly bunch of diehards frequenting the dismal place. Used up sailors with no berth and their hanger-on women too old to ply their trade waited to see how gullible I was for easy pickings.

The news of my adventuring appeared to be rampant to idle ears. Perhaps, Tom tested the waters, being the first to trade the tale for plunder. He guzzled the last of his drink, swayed like he was still on board, and winked. “Open the pages. Read on.”

The words inscribed line by line were half coded in an old form of Spanish, English mixed with Latin. In places, the leather pages were stained with what might be, spilled blood. I turned to the last entry, a curse for a curse. I raised my brow in question, never having seen the like before.

“Can’t hurt to try it, captain,” Tom’s smile revealed sharp broken teeth grating against each other. “If it works, no lava or Satan’s guard can stop us. What say you? Any better offer waiting in the wind?” Tom closed one eye, turned his head, and motioned to the human vultures awaiting their turn for my carefully hoarded savings.

At dawn, Tom met me before the eye of the rising sun where silver waves washed, rippled, and sighed around his craft he slept in. It groaned at my approach as I walked up the gangplank, shivered and let me by.

“Will it stay afloat?” I had my doubts.

Tom laughed, “Long as the wind stays high. Uses sails. Can’t afford no motor. Ready to cast off, captain?”

I had no choice. Tom kicked the gangplank away as he cut the single rope tying us to land. A question occurred to me as we turned into the wind away from the harbor. Why wasn’t Pegleg Tom doing this on his own?”

As if in answer to my thoughts, he turned, face skyward, hand reaching up to point at a black cloud of flying bats. “There’s the first of harm on its way, telling The Dark Island of our approach. We have one chance only to gain the upper hand. I swear the chant and you get the treasure. I am a pegleg at great cost.”

“That, and I pay you the agreed-upon fee if we fail,” I mused. But, why me instead of a known accomplish. Again he read my thoughts. “Others tried before you. There is some secret within the secret of the curse against curses yet to be revealed. They paid their price with their lives. The word is out that I kept their money with a false promise. None will go with me, now.”

The island appeared in full bluster. Lava exploded in fountains, dripped, flowed into pools of steaming heat. Sulfur wind swept tears into eyes, clogged noses, making each breath an agony struggling to survive.

Any second would be our last. Tom gasped what was left of the air into his lungs. He could not speak. I’d memorized the chant and gave it utterance. The wind shifted, opening a passage, revealing passage between tongues of lava to a natural gap in the shore.

Tom followed. His pegleg caught between the teeth of two boulders, holding him fast. “I’ll get you on the way back,” I lied.

A fissure opened up revealing broken headstones littering the space before me. Exultant, I cried out, “Mother Mary”, forgetting any word voiced after the chant might lead to my doom.

The opening caskets with dead, gold, and jewels were open to me. I used my empty bags I carried to fill each. Around me the island quickened in nervous alarm. The fissure was closing, lava leaping up around me, I heard a new curse in the hot blast of wind.

A Ghost-like Tom stood before me. It was not he who voiced it as he pointed at the treasure leaning against my feet. I looked down, noticing my hands, now luminous, transparent, as ghost-like as Tom.

We had our treasure, but what good was it? The Dark Island had won, once again.

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