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No Soul - A Tales of the Black Freighter story

A few weeks ago, held the Tales of the Black Freighter fan fic contest. I wasn't able to submit my story due to time constraints, but for your reading pleasure, I now present you with what would have been my entry, "No Soul - A Tale of the Black Freighter"
No Soul
The carriage ride was jarring at best. As I watched the island town ride by in the afternoon sun, I cursed my brother for sending me on this fool's errand. Dear uncle, why can't you just pass in peace, instead you must take the time from my schedule.

We were finalizing the paperwork to buy out a section of Jonasville for new industry when the package was delivered. My brother and I originally ignored it's arrival. We expected it to be another dead rat from the poorer tenets who were removed from our new purchase. In business, you soon learn that when you light a candle, the cockroaches will eventually scatter away. Why give them undue attention?

While organizing our files, my brother had noticed the package was actually from out of town. Tearing the paper off, it was soon revealed to be a journal. Our uncle's journal. According to the accompanying letter, the package was actually sent from a mental institution where he was currently being housed.

Our uncle had disappeared just days after our father passed. He was known as the business baron of the sea. Many of us had expected him to buy out Poseidon himself. However, during a business excursion to Europe, his boat had been lost at sea. This did not overly surprise us though, as our father had tried to warn him of the dangers of the ocean. But our uncle would never let death stop him from a deal.

The carriage pulled to a stop in front of the gated three story building on the edge of town. I had hardly noticed, my tired eyes looking over the loosely bound journal in my hands, brown with wear. Many pages torn and protruding from the neat edge of the book. I stepped down onto the street as the driver pulled down my two bags. I handed him a shilling as he placed the luggage at my feet. A more than generous tip for the horrid ride. The driver glared as he bowed. Hateful respect, is still respect, and I certainly deserved it more than most.

A worn iron fence surrounded the rough brick building. A man in white greeted me at the gate, “Sir, we have been expecting you.” “Indeed,” I acknowledged, as I nodded toward my bags. The man pick up the wares and began walking, “This way sir.” I could hear the gulls and tide. The building sat in front of a cliff leading down to a dirty beach with a dilapidated bay. Inside the institution, the staff looked weary, no doubt from dealing with the wastes of society that resided there. The man hastily lead me through the first floor eventually ending at a room near the back of the building.

An open window looked out over the ocean on the rear most wall of the room. A single small table sat in the middle with two chairs opposite each other. The man sat my bags down next to the table and moved past me out of the room shutting the door behind him. He said no words and made no eye contact. My demanding presence often had that affect.

I sat with my back to the window all the way against the wall. The ocean air was a much more welcome scent than the musty building I now wait in. I laid the journal in on the table in front of me. Lack of interest kept me from truly giving attention to the book. Most of it was details on business dealings, and strategies. Overall, it was very useful information, at least until the last set of pages. Near the end uncle began to describe his plans for a partnership with a European fleet owner, but this fades into some rambling nonsense about a cursed vessel. I hardly have the time for childhood boogie-man stories.

Eventually, the door was opened by a young woman, her eyes bagged and worn. If she was born in a proper family, she might have been beautiful, but alas, here she was just common. An older man dressed in the same white as my greeter slowly walked in. He had more gray in his hair, and more wear on his face, but the same spectacles that I remembered. My uncle sat in the chair across the table from me as the woman exited, closing the door behind her.

We sat in silence for several minutes, my uncle staring down at the table with a sad look as if he was watching his own death play out inches in front of him. He rested his hands in his lap, leaving his arms eerily vertical with his perfect posture.

He finally raised his head and placed his glaze on the journal. “You brought it I see.” “Yes sir,” I replied. While he may be no more a loon now, he still shared the family name (unfortunately) and that demanded respect. “So they sent a letter requesting you to come?” “They did,” I answered. “Did you read the journal?” “No sir.”

The silence returned.

I finally broke the tension between us, “So will you be coming back with me or not? The earliest departure out of here leaves at dusk and I've already had to endure one night on this wretched island.” He finally looked far enough up to match my eyes and softly replied, “No.” “No?!” I yelped, “Why the blast not?” “Did you read the journal?” He softly asked again, this time staring into my eyes as if they held the wonder of God. I took a deep breath to regain myself. “No sir,” I answered. “That is why not,” he softly returned.

I returned his tired stare with a confused look. “Son,” he asked, “have you ever heard of the Black Freighter?” “Aye, just children's fantasy to keep them out of trouble. What does that have to do wit-” “'Tis no fantasy boy, the ship is real.” His voice became more adamant. “Sails as black as the depths, with a crew to match. Captained by a demon with no memory of is own, only the thoughts of those murderers and rapists that populate the ship.” I released my confused look for a hint of a chuckle. It was obvious why he was here, and now I had to convince this fool to come back with me.

“My brother is dead, isn't he?” Unsettled at the sudden and unexpected question I replied, “Yes, he passed while you were gone to Europe. Did the staff here find out somehow?” Our family is well known, so that news could have easily traveled to this remote town. “No boy. I spoke to him.” I began laughing in the back of my mind. I was truly convinced now. It was not his life the sea tried to take. It was his mind. “Uncle, you're sick. We need to get you bac-” “He said, 'It shall come,' didn't he?” My jaw slacked. Those were my father's last words.

My confusion deepened.

“His grave is empty, isn't it?” Stunned at his last inquiry, my face traded confusion for shock. Even if this inbred island had learned of his death, only the closest family and trusted estate guards knew what had happened.

Not even a week after father's death, the family cemetery was robbed. His fresh grave being the only one disturbed, and no one was sure how. No guard saw anything, and the yard gate looked to be open from the inside.

My uncle moved his arms for the first time, intertwining his fingers and placing his hands on the table in front of him. He starred down at them as he broke his posture and began to slouch slightly. “We were coming back from Queensbay port. I was so excited about how much my new endeavor would make.” My uncle's face slowly shifted from sorrow to remembrance. “Money. All I could think about was the money. I remember watching the horizon shift from vibrant blue to a bright orange from the bow of our ship. It seemed almost unnatural, yet so beautiful. I thought to myself, 'how could anything be better?' The captain walked up behind me and confirmed we had but another few days journey until home. That was when the shout came from the watch.

“A body. Floating a few yards ahead of us. Then, just a few yards past that was another. Then another. It was the Devil's own breadcrumbs leading us in. The strange thing was that there was no debris. Only bodies. Eventually someone spotted the derelict that gave wretched birth to so much death.

“It was a perfectly sound colonial ship, but something had made the crew abandon with such haste that not even their own lives were a concern.

“Greed. All I could think of was salvaging what was left behind by the crew. Many times over have I found business contacts, or profited from where a lost crew left off. I managed to convince the captain it was a good idea for me to go with the search party. In case there was anything that might need to be 'deciphered.' Around twelve men and myself boarded the empty vessel's port side as dusk became dark. Many of the men scattered in an organized fashion, as if each a limb of a greater body. I headed directly to the captain's quarters with my single candle. I managed to fumble around the inside of the door until I felt a lantern on a post. Using my candle to give life to the lantern, it gave me light in return.

“I could feel the seas becoming unstable around us, yet I gave no concern. 'Just some rain,' I thought. I placed the lantern back on it's hook just above a desk. Immediately, I dropped the candle and began shuffling through the drawers and papers looking for anything that proved profitable. The lantern began swinging faster on it's hook, giving light to the corners of the room, only to take it away again.

“That was when I heard him speaking from the darkness.

“'It shall come,' he said.

“I jumped around, 'Who's there?' I demanded.

The shadows spoke again, 'I saw it just before I went, I knew it was coming,' Then almost as if Fate herself was toying with the light, the lantern flashed the edge of the room where I caught a glimpse of him. 'Brother?' I asked. 'Brother, is that you?' The terribly familiar voice replied, 'I managed to escape here William, but the Black Freighter leaves no soul behind. It shall come William. It shall come.' I snatch the lantern from it's unstable hook and thrust is before me.

“Never have I regretted such an action.

“There against the wall sat your father. Or rather, what once was your father. His skin appeared as green leather and crawling as if he were shivering. His gold lined garb was covered in dirt. He looked to be crying as he gazed directly into my own spirit. Terror kept my view until I realized he was not shivering or crying. It was the maggots. Maggots pouring out of his sleeves and from behind his eyes. The smell hit me instantly. It was not emotion that had stricken my dear brother. It was rot.

My brother was dead.

“I ran out from the quarters and to the deck with unmet haste. I gripped the lantern as if it was a pass into Heaven. The cold rain shocked me out of my panic in time to hear the call go out. The search crew was running back to our ship. I ran to the derelict's starboard edge to see what horror faced me now.

“That was when I saw it.

“Satan's personal freighter was barring down on me and I could do nothing but drop to my knees. The weight of my own cowardice pushing me down.

“I sat, rocking, with my eyes shut, praying every prayer I knew to every god I had ever heard of. Fright provided me with invincibility against the now raging torrent around me. I could hear the crew on my ship calling for full sails. They were leaving me. I would leave me too. At that point, my mind retreated entirely and I fainted.

“I awoke expecting Hell's personal welcome for my wretched soul. Instead, I witnessed the most gorgeous blue sky I had ever seen. After I managed to gather myself, I realized I was completely alone on the ship. I began scrounging for what rations I could find, but not even nourishment is safe from that rotten ship's curse. Almost all of it was spoiled. What the Black Freighter had not done, would be by thirst and starvation.

I had to find something to occupy my mind. I felt my journal in my coat pocket, though I had no quill or ink. I thought I might find what I need at the captain's desk, when I was reminded of what wait for me before. I'm not sure if it was disregard for my sanity, or a bout of courage, but I dared to the quarters again.

“In the light of the day I was able to survey more and more of the room as I walked toward it. I peeked inside. Empty. In one of the drawers I found a set of quills and several pints of ink.

“A full day had past before I could stop writing. The more I tried to recall the horrible events, the more my mind slipped away. For some reason though, this never deterred me. For three days I sat in the quarters and wrote. Page after page, until I eventually ran out of ink. At that moment, I heard sounds stirring on the deck.

“It was a group of fishermen who had found the abandoned ship while out trolling. I tried to greet them, but something had locked my voice. Whether it was God demanding silence, or fear wringing my tongue, I could say nothing. I let them read my journal to try to give them some idea, but that only proved for naught. After giving me food and drink, watching me as a thief mind you, they had brought me to this institution where I sat for weeks.

“After constant rest and regular nourishment, my voice finally returned. I was able to explain to the staff of our family. Immediately, they demanded summoning you to take me home, but I was ready to resign here if only to protect you and the family. I tried every bit of reason I could muster to convince them to send a warning to you, not a summons.

I shook my head, breaking myself from the trance my uncle held on me. He was looking into my eyes, and had been for sometime, but I had not noticed. I was lost in his tale. He slowly looked down at the table again mumbling, “I told them not to summon you. I wanted them to send the journal so you would understand.”

I looked down at the journal, now in my hand, and then back at my uncle, “But, I –don't– understand. You said that the Black Freighter leaves no soul behind, yet it left you on the abandoned vessel.”

He raised his gaze back up to me, this time not just with sad eyes, but almost a sympathetic gaze. The orange dusk sky from the window behind me lit up his glasses revealing a black speck on the lens.

No. It was not a speck. It was a reflection from the ocean. A reflection of sails.

Black sails!

–Then– I understood.

The Black Freighter leaves no soul behind, and it was not my dear uncle the damned sought.

It shall come.

It shall come...

For me.

Thanks for reading folks!

Your friendly neighborhood Falcon,
John "Falcon" Ayers

The Falcon's Nest
1 Yes
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J. "Falcon" Ayers

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