Wednesday, October 19, 2011

KekahJ Week 74 - The Deep Blue Sea


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KekahJ's Choice: 2


The Deep Blue Sea

The sun was almost blinding as it reflected off of the still water that stretched as far as the eye could see in any direction. He blinked in the almost harsh light as he surfaced from below deck, mug of strong coffee in hand.

Even after having been at sea for two months, it still took him a moment to get his bearings when he came on deck each morning. He was determined not to use the compass, though. Whether he liked it or not, he was a sailor now and he needed to start to think like one.

The cruel, taunting words of his father echoed in his head and he mentally pushed them down, determined not to let them deter him. This was his boat, even if his father had paid for it and practically forced him onto it, it was his. He would not fail.

He stared out across the rail into the ocean and thought for the thousandth time how ironic it was that he was here, given how much he hated the ocean. He hated everything about it. In fact, if he was being honest, he hated water in general.

Someone stirred behind him, pulling him from his musings, and he turned to see his first mate winding up the rope that was part of the deck’s massive rigging.

“Morning, Captain Barlowe,” the young man nodded to him, as usual never quite making eye contact.

“Good morning Mr. Hanson. Were you on duty all night?” he asked. He immediately wished he hadn’t asked that question. As captain, his crew’s duty schedule was something he should know. It was too late to cover up his mistake though. He saw the disdain in the other man’s eyes as he nodded.

Captain Barlowe lifted his chin and stared down his nose at the mate for a moment before moving on down the deck. Deep down he knew it wasn’t fair to treat the man this way, but it was the only way he knew to maintain his dominance over his crew. A crew that had been bought and paid for by his father, not hand selected by himself, as was traditionally done.

A little further on, his second mate was busying himself readying the sails to be unfurled for the day. He nodded curtly to him, but said nothing as he passed. He passed a few more men whose names he couldn't recall before he finally reached the dining room.

Like the rest of the quarters belonging to the captain, the dining suite was richly appointed with fine tapestries hanging from the wall and soft, plush carpeting beneath his feet. It was in stark contrast to the rest of the ship. He sighed heavily and sat down at the head of the mahogany table, grateful that he’d soon have something in his belly besides the strong, acidic coffee that was now churning in his stomach.

After a few moments, he furrowed his brow in confusion. Normally by now, his meal was in front of him. What could have possibly been the hold up? Annoyed, he pushed away from the table and crossed the room to the door that led to the ship’s kitchen. He was even more puzzled when he found it completely empty and devoid of the wonderful smells and sounds of food being prepared that it should be filled with at this hour.

“Hanson!” he shouted, stepping back into the dining room.

It was a few moments before the first mate appeared. “Yes Captain?”

“Please go and find out where Cook is, and more importantly where my breakfast is,” he said tersely.

Instead of jumping to action like the captain expected, Hanson continued to stand in front of him, shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other.

“Is there a problem?” Captain Barlowe asked, his voice measured.

“Well, begging your pardon, sir, but if you’ll recall the cook spoke to you yesterday about the food shortage. We’re on rations now.”

The captain’s face contorted for a moment before he worked to smooth his features once more and place a patient smile upon his lips. “Yes, I recall the discussion. However, I was unaware that it extended to myself.”
Hanson’s eyes grew wide and once again the captain could see hatred flash in them before he recovered himself and nodded. “I’ll go speak to the cook, sir.”

Captain Barlowe shook his head at the situation and began pacing across the soft, thick carpet as he waited. Behind the closed door to the kitchen, he could hear the cook banging around as he began to prepare the captain’s meal. To think that the crew actually thought that he, the captain, would go without food. The idea was preposterous.

He smiled as the cook finally entered the room, tray heavy with food. The captain sat down and picked up his fork.

“Now that’s more like it!” he exclaimed as he shoveled a forkful of eggs into his mouth. The cook eyed him but said nothing as he set the tray down and left the room.

A short time later, he was full almost to bursting as he made he way across the deck. He rubbed his stomach absentmindedly as he looked out across the water. How he hated the ocean. He wondered when they’d finally make land. He would have asked someone, but again, this was something that he probably should already know. His thoughts turned to his bed as he pondered taking a nap before lunch.

He was so busy planning out the rest of his nap fiand food filled day, that he didn’t even feel the rope slip across his legs. Before he knew it, he was dangling upside down by his ankles, suspended from the ship’s massive lower yard. His head swam and his stomach churned, still full from his recent meal.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw several crew members approaching him. Embarrassed but grateful, he called out to them. “You there! I seem to have gotten my feet tangled in this rope. Who left this about? That was very careless, very careless indeed. Well, no matter. Help me down now.” As he finished speaking he noticed that none of them were springing to his aid as he’d expected. Instead, they were standing, arms folded across their chests, watching him. So they wanted to have a little fun at his expense, did they? Fine.

“Okay, yes. It’s all very funny. Your captain has gotten himself tangled up. Ha ha. Let’s all have a good laugh about it ...” he trailed off as he saw more men approaching. In fact, men were coming up from below deck. For the first time, his stomach twisted in fear. What was going on?

Hanson stepped forward. “Did you enjoy your breakfast, Captain Barlowe?” he asked, his voice twisting his name and making it sound like a dirty word.

Captain Barlowe gulped. “Why yes, I did, thank you.” He paused as realization dawned. “I’m sure you’re all a little hungry, and I’m sorry about that, but cook has assured me that you’ll have a wonderful meal in no time. Now come on. Cut me down. We’re wasting time. Some of you have duty posts to be manning!” he cried, a note of desperation in his voice.

Hanson smiled, but it was more like a leering grin than a true smile. He stepped forward and pulled his knife from his belt. But instead of cutting the captain loose, he turned to the second mate who had also stepped forward, another length of rope in hand.

Quicker than a flash, the second mate wrapped the rope deftly around the captain’s arms and torso, binding him tightly. Captain Barlowe thrashed and fought, but it was no good. He was outnumbered, and these men were strong. The kind of strength that came from spending ones life aboard a ship lugging heavy ropes and sails around all day. The kind of strong he was not.

“We’re not going to sit by and let you eat all the food while the rest of us starve,” Hanson sneered, his face inches from the captain’s. “This is what we call a mutiny!” he cried, and with a flourish of his knife, he severed the rope that was holding the captain aloft. Arms bound helplessly to his sides, the captain hit the deck hard, head first. He blinked as the world grew smaller and smaller and blackness closed in.

When he came to again, he was still bound tightly, arms to his side. However, as he thrashed around helplessly, he discovered that he now lay on some sort of wide board, the ropes binding him securely to it. He peered at the men gathered around, desperate to find a sympathetic face; someone who would realize he hadn’t really been that bad of a captain, or even someone who would just take pity on him. He found no such person amongst the crowd. Instead he found only the haggard, weather beaten faces of men who had known only endless days of back-breaking, hard labor their entire lives. The kind of work he had never known and never been forced to endure, even for a day. No, he would receive no sympathy here.

Despair gripped him, and he found himself babbling in order to try and save himself. He wasn’t even sure of the words that were spilling forth from his mouth as he pleaded with them. His cries fell on deaf ears. This was a jaded crew and he’d never fit in with these men from the beginning. But he now realized that when he had refused to assimilate and become like them he’d isolated himself completely. Then when he’d refused to endure the hardships they were forced to withstand, like food rations, he’d signed his death warrant.

Two of the biggest men in the crowd hoisted the board up over the side of the ship. Terror gripped him as he realized what his final fate would be. He would die amongst the waves that he despised so much. He would spend eternity in the very ocean that he had hated his entire life.

He screamed as the icy tendrils of water lapped at his toes and then up his legs. The board hit the water with a final splash, and for a moment it floated, suspended on the surface of the water. In that moment, he let himself hope that he might make it. Could he lie on that board and float to land? He almost dared to believe he could. But then, slowly, the board began to tip and he felt the water make its way through his clothes and skin and it seemed even to seep into his bones.

The board slipped further and further into the water and it wasn’t long before he was surrounded by nothing but blue. The only sounds were his gurgling and garbled screams and soon even those went silent as he sunk further and further into the hateful, dreadful deep blue sea that claimed him at last.