What Happens On The Ship

The grand cabin door bore down on her and a nervous chill clutched at her spine. With an antique brass key in her trembling grip, she huffed and bit back woeful uncertainty, as she turned the lock and pushed the hefty door wide to reveal a dark and dusty cabin. She took a regretful deep breath, a waft of stale air filling her lungs. Straight ahead of her, at the rear or the room, a grandiose desk sat exposed by streams of duskening light through smallish viewports. She pulled her phone from the padded pocket of her coat and illuminated the immaculate cabin, long settled dust the only tarnish on its chic. From the perfectly placed knick-knacks and strategically set ashtrays, she felt more like she had entered a museum.

She meandered toward the hardwood desk and cast her light across the long-abandoned trappings. An outdated laptop, battery long dead; an ink well set and matching embellished pen; a small glass box displaying a ten Francs piece. Her sweep paused on a worn leather notebook and she slowly reached out, her fingertips brushing the dusty rough surface. She debated but for a moment, then, with her phone between her lips, grabbed the journal and worked free its clasps opening unto a random page.

“…I ignored a direct order; how could I not? Clesbe, sweet Clesbe – she came to me, with tears in her eyes, holding an orphaned child close to her chest, pleading to me for help. Of course, I said yes. We took the wailing babe and hid her away; the perfect little ship baby befitting our ship scandal. We decided to name her Sasha – a namesake after an old friend from Cles’ childhood. She’d be the Quiet Bastion’s own little stow away.

Not sure how long we’ll be able to get away with this.”

She shook her head silently and sighed heavily. Why either one of them wanted to bring an abandoned child into their shoddy solipsistic relationship, she would never understand. The Chief would go down with his secrets…

Phone back in hand, she scanned her light over the desk again and her eyes trailed over a grimy rocks glass and an aged bottle of brandywine. The young woman traded journal for bottle and wiped a layer of dust off the label, a distant grin on her face. The sound of his scolding tone almost clear in her mind; though, he just wanted to make sure she drank under his supervision, if at all. She was old enough to make her own decision by now, all-the-same, something in here pondered if this counted? A shrug followed, and she wedge the cork free.

A small swig and back to the journal: she reluctantly picked it up and flipped the pages until a small photo wistfully fell to the carpeted floor. She knelt and smirked at the jubilant trio grinning back at her: a crotchety old salt, somewhere between a reluctant snarl and genuine amusement; a primped and preened vixen, almost struggling to hold her perfect smile; and a rambunctious tween planted in between, visor cap hanging low over her freckled face and arms draped around her family’s necks, pulling them close, determined to never let go.

“…I suppose I’m not even surprised. We had both accepted a long time ago that this whole secret adoption thing was a mistake. Besides, the kid’s practically got a whole village looking out for her now and, well lets be honest: we were never great parents…

Hilariously enough, I’m not even pissed at Cles’ for wanting to get away from the lies and briberies – wanting to go back to an honest life with an honest family not constantly worried about being seen together. I just wish we hadn’t gotten the kid mixed up in our affair.

I never really felt like a father until now…I guess I have to tell her Cles’ isn’t coming back…

She doesn’t deserve to be stuck on this ship, lying and hiding because of the mess we made.”

Sasha took a begrudged swig from the bottle, the warm sensation melding perfectly with smoldering anger she felt. The old man had an honest way about him: she distinctly remembered him attempting to fumble together some meaningful monologue of how sometimes parents fight, however he eventually simply stated that mum…that Clesbe, just did not want to be part of their family anymore. It was doubtful that he had thought that would get the girl to want to do whatever it took to get off the Quiet Bastion, but that was the fire it set in her. She wanted answers that he did not have…or would not give. She had always wondered if he was just protecting whatever precious paradise Clesbe had run off to sew.

“Wulbin said he would take her in! Admittedly, I’m almost skeptical considering his background, but we are old friends, and I hear he is living out a rugged, yet stable, life in the suburbs of a coastal city in South America. He was initially reluctant, but a few hints at her mechanical knowledge and a warning about her hot-headedness and he agreed to meet her. The rest is paperwork, forgeries, and some well-placed favors and I think Sasha’ll finally have the chance to have a life her own.

If all goes well, she’ll be walking off this ship in a few short months.”

An audible chuckle escaped her, half way through her reading. A memory, clear in her mind: the four of them – Uncle Wulbin had brought his protégé, Descen, a boy a couple years older than she – sat down over drinks to talk. The entire thing had felt as a spy movie to her: deals underneath official noses. The actual “interview” with Wulbin was intimidating, in its own right, but ended with little more than him nodding, saying he would accept her, and then telling Descen to tell her about the life she would be leading. It was relaxing…her last cruise to date.

She picked herself up, the journal, as wells as her new best bottle, and wandered the cabin. With every passage turned, she learned about the life her father lead after she had departed. The entries were few and far between, most of them referencing letters the two of them sent back and forth. It sounded like he was happy to have some quiet in his life again, anchored the ship, and left sailing behind.

Sasha wondered into his personal cabin. It was quaint and orderly – long abandoned like everything else. By his cot, she found her old engineer’s cap resting on his night stand accompanying a photograph of her freckled adolescence, and a picture of the say he was promoted. Next to that, a peaked cap.

A simple note lay underneath them.

“To my baby girl, Sasha

I know that a big fancy boat and a shitty letter aren’t enough to make up for my actions, but here they are anyway.

 If the Port Authority has not told you that this ship is yours, you take this letter and shove it in their pretentious, penny-pinching, heartless, faces. Particularly Mr. Cavens; he’s a skeptic. Just tell him my ghost will haunt his soul forever…

I’ll write a second letter, that does not mention those assholes and leave it in my desk. Don’t use this letter.

I’m sorry and I hope you find this. I hope Wulbin is keeping you safe. In my desk, you should find a record of every crewmen loyal to The Bastion, as well as a half decent way to contact them…I just hope they aren’t all dead by the time you read this. Tell these people who you are, and they will help you. And if they refuse, you can refer to the documentation of the bribes they took. Slide the desk back and tap each corner.

I’ve always wanted you to be safe; but most of all, I’ve wanted you to be free.

The ship is yours. Take care of her. Take care of yourself.

P.S.

Welcome home, kid,

‘Chief’ Saiter.”

 

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Prowling Through

A bit of a rework to Desire Faces Resolve used for the purpose of Challenge of the Week CXXV.

~~~~~

Adrenaline raced through me only empowering the clinging humidity that surrounded and weighed heavy on each and every lumbering step. I had turned my knuckles white gripping at my traveler’s stick – my eyes straining to catch a glimpse of anything moving through inexplicable creeping in the encroaching darkness.

Coal Wood they called it, after its tightly knit canopy and the darkness that surrounded; but I knew better than that. This was no natural thing. Even the shimmering light of my lamp began to dim to nothing, fighting against the shroud. The further I walked the closer a chilling smog enclosed on me.

Through it all, I had lost the trail I was following.

My body and gear were betraying me. I pushed myself to continue but the squelching of my footsteps and the rustling of my rucksack sang in my ears nearly as loud as my raging heart beat and…damns-all, was I quivering?

Every part of me was screaming, my eyes burned, my skin crawled, and my jaw had since cramped under its own pressure.

Another shadow caught my attention. I turned my head, peering, and that was when I lost my footing. I dug my heel into the moist shifting soil just long enough to turn my gaze forward to see the sudden slope and down, just beyond the edge of my light, the stale reflection from the water I was approaching.

I had half the mind to curse aloud; though, a smattering of sense took me and I breathed deep anticipating a depth unknown. I had a moment to consider how much worse everything was about to get.

My boots hit first, the worst being I would have pruned cold feet before this was all over; my pants instantly soaked, a feeling I would vexingly detail to the old man once I found him; this went on until I sat, wet dirt covered ass, nose deep in stagnant bog water like a damn crocodile lady.

~~~~~

I stopped it here to work on later as I felt as this portion was best for the challenge itself.

Get back to work…

They’d call me insane
but my brain’s just untamed;
or resistant to the frills
of the pain,
and gain,
but it’s all just the same!
I’m shackled by the same chains
and can’t do a damn thing.
Eventually, I’ll be like the ones they kill.

The Hollow Men (Pt.3)

Previously

“Flee this place,” it outstretched its hand.

I recoiled and fumbled into my father’s embrace – grounded in reality.

~~~~~

I yelped at the contact and snapped around to see the concerned look on his face.

“Sorry,” was all I could muster and I turned back to see the figure had not left. Still it sat, motionless, by the window. Its visage tilted and featureless, its attention lingering. I clutched at my phone, pressed it to my chest, and when my father inquired, I knew that only I could see.

“Its nothing,” I offered, skimping on the details. “Not enough sleep, I guess.”

He gave a contemplative ‘hm’, “Well, take your time,” and turned to make his leave. “We’ll save you a plate.”

“Wait, no.” I rushed to turn the faucet then meet his side. “I’ll join you,” and trailed behind, out of my room and toward the stair case. I looked back and the figure lingered there, long fingers gripping the door frame; yet it but peered and did not give chase.

I turned my attention on my phone once more:

Olivia
a damned feast going on in there? Hurry up we’re starting to bore.

I twisted my mouth and deleted what I near sent before: ‘just tell me what is going on.’

“…and I know that the apprentice exams are high priority,” I zoned back in to hear my father rounding up a lecture, “but your health is number one. Understand?”

“Mhmm.”

We had reached the base of the stair and his following sigh was only overshadowed by the call of my youngest sister responding to a knock at the door: “Got it!”

Father and I entered the breakfast room to see Jun, stepping through the frame with Olivia in tow, the former practically dragging the latter by her hand with a familiar smokey scent rolling in with them.

“Olivia’s back!”

Near no one shared Jun’s enthusiasm. My eldest brother ogled while the rest of the census geared into awkward greeting. Following a handful of brief exchanges, I was alarmed to see mother offer Olivia to sit down with us.

“Actually, I was hoping to take Nichelle away for a bit,” Olivia started. “We talked a bit and she had some questions about…the mortal repercussions of some substances.”

“If it’s just studies, they can wait,” Father interjected. “At least let the girl eat and shower. Your discussions kept her out at the crack-of-void’s-all last anyhow.”

My chance to speak was interrupted by yet another knocking at the back door. Jun exclaimed with her practiced cadence, “got it!”

Attention flocked in Jun’s wake toward the hall leading toward the door. Olivia quickly followed and I found myself at her heels.

“Good morning! Who’re you?” Jun’s grace just as we rounded the corner.

The woman’s muted shawl practically engulfed her body. Her mane of silver hair, wrinkled expression, and hazy eyes betrayed something otherwordly.

As I looked upon her, I felt a chill crawl through me, following a nagging from within – a whispering sensation, a voice not my own: “Understand the urgency; now is not the time, but you need to hurry.”

My face twisted up in confusion, distrust, and anger all at once, “I don’t know what this is but I’d like answers before I go running about doing void’s-all-what,” and then to Jun: “Tell everyone I’ll be back at the table in a bit, just wanna talk to my guests first.”

Jun groaned while scampering off, “well, I’m not waiting anymore, we’re gonna start without your forreal this time.”

“Would you like to step outside?” The elderly woman offered and I shrugged my shoulders: “sure, I guess.”

As soon as we were out of the door, Olivia pulled a thin cigarillo from her pocket and began to light it.

“I can only assume this is your mentor.” I started and looked between them, “look, I know I agreed to meet and all, but this is…well it ain’t right.” I made note to keeping my voice down, practically whispering and slightly leaning in. “I’ve been hearing voices and seeing figures, like hauntings, ghosts or something.”

The both of them nodded and the elder women responded, “we have as well.”

“So then, what the hell is – ”

The woman cut me off, “we don’t have time for this. I can, and promise to, answer you, but not here – not right now.”

“I’m not just going to take your word without you explaining anything – ”

The elder woman sighed heavily and nodded to Olivia. I barely looked toward my gloomy neighbor before a thick cloud of smoke engulfed my head and senses. She leaned in toward me and our faces hovered but inches apart. I looked into her eyes, as my body ceased to respond, and heard her muted voice, “I apologize.”

Feeling slowly left me before all turned black.

 

Sith Sinks

It’s crazy to think nobody can help me,
I’ve friends and family,
willing to wade deep;
suffer my darkness and inconsistencies.
Friends willing to seek something more beneath
the inadequacy and how I’m like sleet;
ground between teeth,
unwelcome and hindering –
just crap, basically.
The terror of disappointing enrages me,
so I’ll tear forward until a compliment sinks.

The Hollow Men (Pt.2_rework)

Previously

“Fair warning,” she turned a sidelong glance on me, “she doesn’t get along with the living, much.”

~~~~~

I had spent the majority of that night rationalizing what I had experienced. It was easy to tell myself I had been dozing off and envisioning the paranormal; however, there was no rationalizing Olivia’s knowing proposition. Was it possible that her mentor, and even she, could commune with The Breathless Land?

Exhaustion had finally begun to wrestle me to sleep when a chime and flash of light snapped me awake once more. I gave a ruffled groan and reached for my phone. A second grumble escaped me – time was rounding on dusk. Annoyance faded to anxiety when I saw the ID on the message:

Olivia Locquinn
The wrinkled scotch says shes interested to meetcha. She pretty much lives at the crematory so we gotta go there. Wanna meet at the Viscount Trinity stop for the 10:45 rail?

I smashed back ‘sure thing, cya there’ without even thinking. My heart was racing. I hit send and slammed my phone on my bed. There was no way I was going to get any sleep before ten ante midday…

Raucous rhythmic knocking jolted me awake from the dark haze I had lulled into.  No sooner did I sit up did my bedroom door swing open with my youngest sister, Jun, standing just beyond its frame.

“Breakfast is almost ready!”

A chime followed and I begrudgingly sought out my phone:

Olivia
Stuff that crematory visit. Just meet me in the courtyard, ASAP.

And then my sister again, “I don’t feel like waiting on you, so hurry up.”

“I’ll be down in a minute, ‘kay! Go lick the spoon, if you’re so damn hungry.” She shot me the finger and I turned my attention back to my phone: ‘It’s going to be awhile. Breakfast family thing. 30-40 mins?’ With that sent, I pulled myself out of bed and into the shower.

With steam filling the room, I peered through the blinds and into the courtyard to see not Olivia but a shawled figure looming over the fire-pit. Nearly as quick as my curiosity welled, the figure turned its head and eyes toward me. I ducked away and sat on the edge of the bath, rubbing at my eyes and questioning my own sanity. My phone chimed again:

Olivia
We don’t have time. Grab something on your way out

I began a message back, ‘tell me what the fuck – ‘ but was interrupted by a knocking at my bathroom door.

I had barely opened my mouth to speak before I heard tapping, like a gentle knocking, from within the bathroom – from the window. I turned my head to see the same figure perched there, holding a single finger to its lipless visage.

“Nic? Is everything alright?” It was my father’s voice from the other side of the door.

I was frozen again.

“Flee this place,” it outstretched its hand.

I recoiled and fumbled into my father’s embrace – grounded in reality.

Wade In Madness

I’m only at home when I’m lost,
stumbling alone in the darkness,
unaware of the cost of a singular mind.
In time I wonder,
what was thrown by the way side.
I plowed forward into the unmined,
seeking ought what was left behind.
I’ve dreamnt it, and I know, in time,
I’ll join my meandering home again.

The Hollow Men (Pt. 1_rework)

I sat within our families conjoined courtyard, hunched over my studies, accompanied by nothing more than the hushed rustling of withering leaves and the crackling from the fire-pit. My eyes trailed lazily over the text in front of me, my mind fixated on the pin-prickling feeling that accompanied the silence whenever I lingered there. That and the echoes, like whispers, that trailed on the wind.

It had always just been the voices, a low, slow chorus – a cacophony or tones incoherent yet persistent…

Shuffling in the grass caught my ear. I looked up and the flames went out. The trees seemed to bend forth to encroach around me and I looked on into moon brushed darkness, ethereal shapes breaking through the pluming smoke before me. The voices enclosed from all around speaking in broken tones and meandering speech.

“Flee…this place…you must…must be forever rended.”

Ebon hands reached out from the darkness toward me; disembodied eyes hovered ever closer. I strained yet no voice left my throat; my body was frozen, quivering but uncontrollable.

A smoky haze forced its way forward, the scent of tobacco, theine and mint, and the ebon hands recoiled rapidly. A singular voice reached me, distant yet grounded in reality.

“You always sit out here in the dark like a creep?”

I recognized the voice and the mixed aroma that accompanied: Olivia, the Locquinn family’s eldest. My eyes shot open to see the embers of the cigarillo hanging from her mouth, as she knelt by the pit-fire, working to reignite it. I scoured the darkness for the shapes I had seen before, but all was still and silent except for rustling leaves and the efforts of Olivia’s work.

A small spark took hold and the fire slowly grew, pushing back the hazy darkness around us.

“Nichelle, yeah?” She broke the silence, meandering her way over and picking up the book I had been studying. She offered the hefty text back to me.

I simply nodded in response and took the book back. The smoke rolling from her cigarillo lingered in my nostrils and proved to snap me awake. Had I just been dozing off before?

“So, what’ve they got you pegged for?” She plopped down next to me and I could feel her gaze lingering over me – she was motioning towards my studies.

“Social work and substance counselling.”

The chuckle that followed was hindered by a cough. I raised a brow as she collected herself, taking another puff before speaking once more, “so, you’re supposed to be like the model citizen of the Commonality, eh”

I twisted my mouth and furrowed my brow, “I guess so.” It was easy enough to see she was mocking me, but I was not sure if it was personal or not.

“So,” I offered back, “what’s your vocation?”

“Cremation mostly. Coroner, when something interesting happens. My mentor is a hag – always talking aloud, supposedly, to the dead. She goes on about spirits and what-not.” She shrugged but turned her eyes on me with a wry grin as if expecting. “You wanna meet her?”

I could do little else but nod my head. Her grin only grew before she took another long drag and then snuffed her cig and began to stand.

“Fair warning,” she turned a sidelong glance on me, “she doesn’t get along with the living, much.”

~~~~~

I have posted the piece on Prose. as well, for feedback. If you’re ever looking for more writing sites to get involved in, I recommend this. They have weekly challenges as well as many challenges through the week for those just itching to write.