By Valerie Brown.
Black waters crashed against the ship’s barnacled hull, rocking it side-to-side. The wind whipped up sea spray, leaving the men soaked and sails taut. Captain Pierce stared out over the shifting waters at a distant mass of swirling clouds.
“Hurricane, sir, two miles off the stern.” Officer Tolson closed his spyglass and slipped it into an interior pocket of his woolen coat.
“We can’t outrun her.” Captain Pierce rubbed his chin, then slid his hand back through his wet hair. “Raise the sails.”
The officer’s eyes widened. “We’ve a while yet, sir, shouldn’t we keep them down, perhaps the winds will aid us.”
“The winds are against us! Everything’s against us. Raise the sails!” The captain turned away and stomped down the stairs. His cabin was cold, but dry. He lit a candle, then caught it as a wave sent his ship into a deep curtsy.
A hollow moan echoed on deck, followed by the splintering of wood. Captain Pierce extinguished the candle with his calloused fingers. Throwing open the door, he ran out, wind and rain cutting his face. He knelt and grabbed the forearm of a man pinned beneath the fallen mast and canvas sails. “Get the other sails up!” He shoved a young deckhand out of the way. The boy clambered up the remaining mast, followed by several other shipmates. Together they hoisted the final two sails.
A wave crested the side of the ship, washing away two men. “Men overboard!” Captain Pierce raced to the side, but never saw where the men landed… never heard them scream. The water dressed the decks in murky white lace.
“Should we abandon ship, sir?” Officer Tolson gripped the side-rail as another wave tossed them backwards.
“Abandon it for what?” Captain Pierce gestured to the whole Atlantic Ocean. “We have but one lifeboat … and the cargo…”
Officer Tolson’s eyes hardened. “They’re just slaves, sir. We’re your men.” His voice was tinged with ice. “One lifeboat will save those who matter.”
A gust of wind ripped the captain’s hat off his head. It disappeared in the gale, like his two men. His black hair clung to his weathered cheeks. “You’ve no conscience, Tolson. You’d kill your own mother if it meant you’d live.”
Officer Tolson glared at him, his jaw a hard line. “I’ll not die for savages, sir.” He turned away, then spun back on his wet heels, “the men won’t stand for it, either.”
The ship slid down the backside of a wall of water, only to have the wave turn and break over their heads. Captain Pierce snatched a loose rope from the fallen mast as the torrent tried to wash him over the rails. There’s nowhere to go. Nowhere to escape to.“Everyone below decks. The storm’s upon us!” He turned into the wind, shielding his face with his forearm. Water spilled through his cabin door, wetting the carpets and floorboards. The fire was out; the room utterly dark. From the window he watched the grey rain splatter against the panes, watched the sky whose dark hues blockaded all hope.
He fell forward as another wave tossed the ship aside. “Damn it!” Bashing his bad knee against the floor, Captain Pierce choked as he tried to block out the pain.
“That’s not very appropriate, especially when I can help you.”
The wind, the spattering rain, the storm itself ebbed into silence. Captain Pierce stared in alarm, his breath quickening with the chill. A pale blue light illuminated the far corner of the cabin.
Willing his bad knee to work, Captain Pierce stood, meeting the piercing blue eyes of a dark creature. The being stood silhouetted before the great window, its features strong and steady on the rough seas. From the middle of its forehead protruded a long horn, like that of a narwhal, trimmed in a delicate pattern of silver. This man, for his posture and build conveyed as much, was naked.
“Who are you?” said Captain Pierce.
“That is not the right question.” The creature blinked.
The captain swallowed, his sweat mixing with the ocean spray on his forehead. “What do you want?”
“There we have it.” The creature’s tone remained cool. A wave tossed the ship, but his stance remained solid as a mountain. “I want to help you. I want to save your ship, your men, and your cargo.”
Captain Pierce’s bad knee wobbled. He wanted to slump into a chair, but fear kept him poised. “How can you save what God condemns?”
The dark creature stared at him with large eyes, his expression unreadable. The horn dipped a little lower as he inclined his head. “Perhaps God has sent me.”
Captain Pierce stepped carefully backwards, towards the wall and his pistol. He reached them without incident, the creature watching him all the time. “You are no creature of God. Whatever you have to offer, the answer is no.”
“But the price is so small,” the being stepped forward, “and you haven’t even heard what I have to say. I really expected more hospitality from the English.”
“Have at it, then!” Captain Pierce wrenched the pistol from its sack and aimed it at the being. “What do you want?”
“Your soul.” The creature crossed his arms. “For such a trifling thing you could save yourself, your boat and men, those slaves below. Think of your wife and child, Captain. Who will take care of them if you perish?”
“Who are you?” Captain Pierce held the pistol before him, his arm wandering with the ferocity of the waves bashing against his ship.
“Leviathan, The Just.” His glowing eyes narrowed. “Your answer, sir.”
My soul for the welfare of everyone else … Through the floors of his cabin broke the muffled screams of his men and the pounding of their fists against the hold’s doors. Captain Pierce clenched his teeth. The ship lurched sideways and this time did not right itself. Leviathan’s position before the window didn’t change, only now the sinking ship gave the illusion that he stood on the wall.
The Atlantic rushed through the cabin door and pooled ferociously around the captain, flooding the cabin with a foot of dark water. Leviathan stepped aside as the great window shattered, spilling glass and cold death in heaping gallons.
My wife and Annie … my soul …The water climbed up his waist, the cold bit into his flesh. He could no longer hear his men. God is just in all things … Captain Pierce crawled up the wall, onto his feet. He squared his shoulders with Leviathan. “I will not condemn myself to Hell for a few more earthly years. Go devil, you’ll have no victory today.”
Leviathan sneered, then, as though he’d been supporting the ship’s slow descent, the hull groaned and snapped, as water gushed through the splintering joints. Captain Pierce was breast-deep in water within seconds. But the blue light was gone. Leviathan was gone. And his ship sank quietly below the surface.
Valerie Brown has been writing for five years. She loves creating character driven stories in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction.
She lives just north of Richmond, Virginia with her husband, rowdy two year old daughter, a golden couch potato/dog, and two wired tabbies.