This month’s Furious Fiction! Proudly brought to you by . . .well, me again. And possibly my first day at sea for a few years. As I’m no longer in the Navy as a full time gig, and with a number of other factors in the background, I don’t get many chances to get out into the Fleet anymore.
But as luck would have it, I managed to get a couple of days while Furious Fiction was on. It may have influenced my entry. This month’s conditions:
1. As normal, 500 words or fewer.
2. As normal, 55 hours.
3. As normal, some strange and out there condition that COMPLETELY THROWS ME FOR IDEAS! Must include the phrases, with one in the first sentence and rest wherever:
- ‘shiny, silver’
- ‘cold and greasy’
- ‘scratched and weather-word’
- ‘sweet and pungent’
- ‘shrill, piercing’
I ended up having a bit more fun with the story as I (quite literally) travelled across the country on planes, trains, and automobiles (and a ship) over the 55 hrs. Of course, that may have also been a sleep-deprivation fueled delerium. Who knows.
The shrill, piercing call of a the bosuns’ call carries the warning through the messes and summons gooseflesh to the arms of even the most seasoned veterans. Three short. Four counts high, one count low and two more short. Scratched and weather-worn steel rattles as equally scarred and weathered guardians of the ship take to arms.
The creature seems to know – it’s only ever sighted on a return, and even then only after a bloody war or a sickly season. Times the crew is too stretched to fend it off. Times like now.
The sleet makes for a cold and greasy battlefield, but before long for the blood runs slick and hot over the decks. The fight is well and truly underway. Sailors slashing and stabbing, the creature swinging tentacles at the foremast and wrapping others around the fo’c’sle. No-one knows why it attacks. It doesn’t feed from the ships – the shiny, silver beings flitting through the water below take the sustenance of the fight, never the creature itself.
Maybe it’s personal. After all, the more ink-stained decks seem to attract more attacks than newer constructions – ironically making the cost of a new ship as unaffordable as it would be safe.
But this crew don’t care for intent. They care to survive. The new joiners pray for a miracle, while the older sailors know the battle-rhythm as well as anyone – that is, not well at all. But they know the creature will eventually, if inexplicably, withdraw.
Only one fighter seems to relish in the battle. With his once-white apron mow stained beyond recognition and a blotched face covered in soot from the ovens, the Cook laughs as he slashes chunks off the beast, collecting them as they fall.
He has plans for after. The meat stores and cooks well – a sweet and pungent flavour he adores. No-one is making plans for an uncertain ‘after’ though. Wishes? Of course. The younger ones only want to be given the chance to renounce their services and live long lives on the monster-free dirt of home. Others draw strength from thoughts of loved ones, and some simply whimper, waiting for the apparent inevitability.
Yet eventually, the creature releases them, slithering away towards deeper waters. It leaves as many bodies in the water as on deck.
“Come back, yer coward!” The Cook is alone in his disgust, the remainder either leaning heavily on gunwales or collapsing where they stand. The cook has his supplies, but the rest . . . a new mast, repairs to the decking, replacing the unfortunates of the crew. It’ll cost as more than they made.
Which means little, if any, profit.
Which means a few days ashore, then back to sea
Same ink-stained ship, same conditions.
The same burning desire for riches, but never the corresponding guarantee.
But with the ship in such a state, one thing was certain
On their return, the Cook would again replenish his larder. Just as the crew would again be replenishing personnel.