Eye of the Storm
“What ye got there, give it me, give it me now blast yer eyes,” One Eye snarled, as he snatched the pretty bauble from my grip.
Ever since I had become his unwilling slave aboard this stinking, barely seaworthy, ancient pirate hulk a few months ago when his captain and crew has captured our ship, One Eye had made my existence sheer hell. No matter what I did to please him it was never enough. Whenever I found something I thought I could call my own he instantly took it from me. He constantly beat me, telling me that it, “was for my own good.”
“Get below and fetch me vittles – quickly now blast ye, else ye’ll be sorry!”
I scurried below, relieved to be out of his cruel reach, however briefly. I searched among the debris of the food locker and the bilge.
“To hell with him,” I muttered to myself.
My own hunger came first as I gnawed on some old brick hard, weevil ridden sea biscuits and on the half consumed remains of a wheel of mouldy cheese that had fallen between the loose planks of the locker’s deck, into the bilge below.
“Where’s me vittles blast yer eyes!” One Eye bellowed down to me through the open hatch.
I hurried back above to where he sat belching and picking his teeth, carrying as much of the cheese and sea biscuits as my young arms would allow. One Eye bit into one of the sea biscuits and broke a tooth.
“Ye young spalpeen, when I get’s me hands on yer I’ll flog yer to the backbone! I’ll rip yer gizzard out! I’ll skin yer alive and eat yer innards so I will!”
I didn’t wait around, but ran quickly back down below into the stinking darkness of the bilges; at least down here I was safe from One Eye’s murderous wrath. He was far too fat and lame to chase after me and because of the loss of his eye a few years back, his vision was seriously impaired.
The old hulk ominously creaked and groaned as it wallowed its way through the choppy seas. High above on the main deck, despite the howling wind, I heard the mate shout the command to shorten sail. Even down here I knew a storm was brewing by the way the hulk rode the seas.
I peered through the crack in the deck planks above my head towards the open hatch. My ears strained for any audible sign that One Eye was hunting for me. But all I heard from him was a low moan and a lot of muttered curses at the loss of the one good tooth left among the jagged stumps in his savage blackened mouth.
A strangely familiar odour wafted past my nostrils. Somewhere down here was some long forgotten discarded salt beef. Hunger took over my soul, temporarily freeing my mind from my fear of One Eye, I began searching along the entire length of the old hulk’s bilges.
I eventually found it slopping in the fetid water of the bilge directly below the captain’s quarters. The decking of his cabin was as loose as all the other timbers aboard this floating coffin. The salt beef must have fallen through the cracks. Here at last was a chance to fill my belly beyond One Eye’s reach. Thankfully, the stinking water trapped here had washed most of the salt away.
As I sat on my haunches savouring the exquisite delights of the salt preserved beef, a commotion above my head caused me to stop chewing mid mouthful and listen.
“Beg pardon Cap’n, ye need to come on deck, we’re too close to the rocks and the storm is gettin stronger by the minute, we daresn’t continue on our present course!” the mate’s voice quivered in fear.
“Storm sail mister mate, rig the storm sail. Order aback blast ye and bring her bow round across the wind d’ye understand mister!”
The old hulk began to scream in protest as the gathering storm intensified. I returned to my feast of beef. Three bells signalled the hour. The sound of men fighting flailing rotting canvas and frayed rope as the storm intensified, drifted down to where I sat in the dark.
The storm grew stronger. The old hulk’s timbers creaked and slowly her planks began to spring under the strain.
“Avast below – rocks, rocks on the port beam!”
Even before the lookout aloft had screamed out his warning to all aboard I was rapidly returning aft, back to the locker as fast as my legs would carry me. Water was rising below me as I climbed up the ladder to where One Eye sat still nursing his mouth.
Despite the fact that I hated him more than any other being alive, I shouted out to him as I grabbed the pretty bauble he had taken from me earlier.
“We’re foundering yer old tyrant, time to abandon ship – come on blast yer, lest yer want to drown!”
The morning arrived and the sea was calm once more. A graceful ship of the line hove into view from around the southerly point of the bay and sailed slowly through the wreckage that bobbed up and down on the morning tide. All along the shore the splintered wreckage of the ship she had been hunting could be seen. The bodies of its crew lay face down in the sea. Eagle eyes searched the rocky shore for any signs of survivors. A skiff was launched and the captain and some of his crew went ashore.
“Good morrow sir.”
“And to you sir,” the captain replied as he shook the local Revenue man’s hand.
“The Black Bess has led me a merry dance sir. I’ve been chasing her for months since her captain Red John and his scurvy crew boarded the packet that carried my dear wife and only child home from Gibraltar sir – damn his eyes!” The captain’s head lowered in grief, already realizing the sad truth.
“Sadly your wife and child are not here good sir, only the bodies of his crew. I found this locket on the beach sir; would it belong to your wife? Not even Red John’s body is here. I fear he and your wife and child are down below with Davy Jones. Good riddance to him I say sir,” the revenue man concluded, sad to give the captain even more bad news than he was suffering already as he handed over the precious bauble.
“Were there no survivors sir?” the young midshipman who had accompanied his captain ashore, anxiously enquired of the Revenue man.
“Nought but two ships rats young master – one old, fat, half blind and toothless that soon died – drownded by all accounts. The other young and well fed who scurried off as quick as lightening as soon as his feet touched dry land, dropping the locket from his mouth in his eagerness to be gone from here I shouldn’t wonder. I saw them jump ship when the eye of the storm briefly calmed the sea moments before the Black Bess foundered on yon rocks.”
I watched from behind the rocks feeling sorrow for the Captain, as he tearfully clutched the locket he had given his wife while his crew rowed him back to his ship. But at least I was now free…