45 comments

Your sodden clothing offers you no protection from the razor edge of the wind as you watch your home splinter and shatter. It floats in pieces for a minute before being swallowed by the uncaring mouth of the ocean. Parts of your ship, now relegated to driftwood, spread like litter. Some innocuously bump your little lifeboat but others are larger and pose more of a threat. You see a remnant of the main mast, tangled with rigging, fast approaching and there is movement around you to avoid the snagging tendrils. 


There is shouting - senseless, panicked shouting - and you know you should be taking more stock of what’s being said but your wounds are oozing blood and it’s making you lightheaded. A hand grabs your upper arm and you raise your eyes sluggishly. It’s Elissa and the look of concern on her face focuses you in a way that feels very much like you’re resurfacing from a long stretch underwater. With focus comes pain and you gasp loudly, which startles her. It’s been a while since she’s heard any kind of physical complaint from you. 


“Merde,” you spit, using language that isn’t native to you but that you’ve adopted in your travels. “Survivors?” 


Strangely, the profanity soothes Elissa and her frown sharpens as she switches from concerned lover to efficient first mate. “Seventeen including us,” she says curtly and though she tries to barrel on with explanations and a list of names, she cannot disguise the grief that flickers through her eyes. 68 losses is heavy. The heaviest you’ve ever endured. She doesn’t give recriminations but you can sense the resentment burning deep in her gut. Now is not the time to discuss it though. You press your hand to the wound in your side a little more tightly and use the sharp increase in pain as a way to maintain control. 


Looking around, you can see that there are three rowing boats, packed with crew in varying states of health. Some, like you, are looking singed and bloody. Others, like Elissa, seem relatively unscathed. Physically at least. Everyone looks a little weathered around the eyes and there’s a blanket of quiet that smothers. It’s a stark contrast to the recent screams. 


The sea is still rough, possibly even getting rougher, and you bark an order to truss the boats together. This far from land and with crew that are still reeling from a long, drawn out night of bloodshed and burning, the vessels could too easily drift apart and you find yourself fiercely, even desperately protective of your final seventeen. 


This is not your first time dealing with the total loss of everything (although the last time this happened you were a mere deckhand with no responsibilities) and you’ve prepared the little boats accordingly. Elissa had raised an eyebrow at what she saw as wasting of supplies but your experience of floating at sea for days as a green mariner had left you with a healthy respect for emergency kits. Under the roughly hewn seats are watertight packages of biscuits, basic medical supplies and even a few weapons. It was Barton’s job to check and refresh these each month but, scanning the faces of those around, you cannot see him. His bunk mate is there though and she slumps against the side, knuckles white against her oar. 


There is movement, between boats and on them: men and women following orders and tending to each other. Dimly, you realise that Cortez is wrapping bandages around your stomach and arm. The pressure on your bicep blurs the world around you momentarily and you welcome the icy water that chooses that moment to slap you from behind. Cortez swears profusely and swipes the water out of his eyes but continues in his task. You catch him looking at you with narrowed eyes and you avert your gaze to avoid the accusation in them. The time for that will come but in the present moment, your crew need strength. 


The sea buckles and thrashes under the little chain of boats and the occasional cracks of lightning illuminate larger and larger waves approaching. Waves that barely registered against the powerful galleon that you’re all used to now threaten to capsize your fragile lifeboats. There are more shouted orders and you manage to remind the survivors of their collective prowess mastering the sea. They begin to work together to keep themselves afloat and pride fills your chest. 


You haven’t forgotten the reason that your beloved home is now mere splinters and memories. While crew members fight the heaving of the water, you scan the surrounding area and use the moments at the top of crests to see further. At the top of one such swell, you see lights in the distance and bitterness tastes like bile behind your teeth. The bright spots bob up and down with each roil of the waves. Some are fixed in place and others move from one end of the ship to the other. You spend a vindictive moment imagining the holders of the lights frantically bailing out water and mourning their dead. You’d hoped that the other ship would’ve shared your fate but apparently the holes they created were bigger than those they’d received. 


“Extinguish all lanterns,” you snap and the order is carried out immediately. There were only a few that had managed to stay lit anyway but you’ll cut Elissa’s throat yourself before you allow the Navy to get their hands on her. Or on any of the souls that are currently putting their hopes of survival on your leadership. 


You’d only been half a day from Port Royal when this had started and you’d retreated some of that distance when the battle began. If you can remain undetected, there is a chance that you can make your way back there. With none of your cargo, your position and authority in the harbour may well have changed but you have safeguarded against this, too. You’ve made sure there is something at every major harbour on this side of the world that will get you started again - hidden wealth and useful people in your debt. You just have to make it there. Every person on these vessels can use the stars to navigate to some extent or another and the cover of night will hide you for several more hours yet. The odds are now in your favour though it feels like too little, too late.


You announce your plan and the responses are lost in the deep-throated growl of thunder. Those around you seem to have fresh energy though and the determination to reach safety has filled them with a kind of fire. They row with renewed fervour and the fear and dejection seems to have receded from most. Elissa, though, is looking intently at a bit of floating debris and will not meet your eyes. You notice a deep cut on her cheek and wonder that you’d missed it before. It distorts the tattoo that snakes up from below her collar and ends below her ear. Suddenly worried, you scan the rest of her profile, searching for any more injuries, but though her jacket is missing and her dark skin is smudged with ash, she is otherwise unharmed. 


You recall the conversation mere hours before, when you’d been standing on the deck, watching those lights approach. Her disdain, carefully wrapped in professional deference for the crew’s benefit, at your conviction that your new cannons would be able to deal with the approaching frigate with little to no damage to your own. Her insistence that their trial run should be on a smaller, more easily overpowered vessel. Preferably one leaving a harbour weighed down with spices or cloth to loot rather than a fully armed English warship. Her furious accusations that recent successes had given you a false sense of safety and that you’d started to belief the legends that had sprung up around you and your indomitable invincibility. You recall the look she gave you when you pulled rank and remember, with perfect clarity and no small amount of irony, thinking that she would owe you an apology when you were floating amongst the wreckage of yet another conquest. 


Sullen resentment flares in you and you think back to your life before Elissa arrived in it. Before she sauntered onto your ship in New Providence, white shirt billowing, tight black curls clipped close and a price of her head that did not require her to be breathing in order for you to cash it in. She’d demanded to be introduced to the captain of this vessel and you’d taken your time before answering. You had a reputation in certain circles and her appearance in front of you proved her to be either unspeakably stupid or incredibly brazen; it took her all of three minutes to show you which one. She knew you lacked a first mate and offered her services and her loyalty. You still didn’t know why you’d accepted but you suspected it had something to do with her hips.


She had softened you. There was no question of it. Before her, you would have found someone or something else to blame. The notion of regret, particularly regret at leaving words unsaid, would never have crossed your mind. But now, the apology that she wants - deserves - sticks in your craw and you feel something you thought you’d left behind on the shore all those years ago: shame. 


You touch her knee and in her gaze you see the choice between the smouldering fires of hell or the slow crawl towards redemption. You choose. 

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

45 comments

Rhonda Allen
20:42 Jul 02, 2020

Hi, I agree with the other reviews, you are very descriptive. I did feel like I was sitting in the boat with them. I was a little confused by : white shirt billowing, tight black curls clipped close and a price of her head that did not require her to be breathing in order for you to cash it in. / unless they are pirates and she had a bounty on her when they met. Otherwise very intriguing.

Reply

Laura Clark
21:01 Jul 02, 2020

They are indeed pirates and she does indeed have a bounty on her head! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment- I hope you enjoyed it 🙂

Reply

Rhonda Allen
01:40 Jul 03, 2020

I did :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Jonathan Blaauw
07:28 Jul 02, 2020

I really enjoyed this. Your saying endings are tricky, and I agree, only goes to highlight your talent because I feel you got it spot on here.

Reply

Laura Clark
07:52 Jul 02, 2020

This is so kind! Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Shayla Danielle
14:57 Jul 01, 2020

You have an awesome way of story-telling, you make it seem so vivid! I felt like this could be a screen-write of a scene in a movie. Perhaps a movie about ... pirates? I'm not sure! But that's what I pictured as I was reading. People shipwrecked while on a treasure hunt or something. Anyway, it was very captivating. And, GREAT TITLE.

Reply

Laura Clark
15:00 Jul 01, 2020

Thank you so much! This is so kind!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Ranya Navarez
21:06 Jul 15, 2020

That was well-done, Laura! I loved this!

Reply

Laura Clark
02:43 Jul 16, 2020

Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mr Jingo
21:03 Jun 30, 2020

Another excellent nautical tale:) As per usual, your diction and imagery are clearly outstanding, effortlessly sucking the reader into the world. Everything from the injured/deceased crew members to the merciless waves work conjointly to portray the idea of this uncaring entity of the ocean. I also really like how you incorporated the central themes of arrogance, grief, and shame into the story, and your characters do well to further these themes. A few other quick things to mention: There’s a minor typo in the fourth-to-last paragraph ("t...

Reply

Laura Clark
21:27 Jun 30, 2020

Thank you for brilliant critique! As always, super useful. I originally had her apologise but I felt it weakened it. I always feel like endings are really tricky. I can’t see the comma issues though - could you give me an example?

Reply

Mr Jingo
23:08 Jun 30, 2020

Sure! https://examples.yourdictionary.com/compound-sentence-examples.html This might help. For example, "A hand grabs your upper arm and you raise your eyes sluggishly," would have a comma after "arm".

Reply

Laura Clark
02:18 Jul 01, 2020

Ah, this might be a regional difference in comma use then. I’ve been taught that conjunctions replace commas. A comma before an and is an especially big no no. It’s called an Oxford comma and grammaticians all have an opinion about it. Personally, I think there’s a time and place for an Oxford comma but I wouldn’t ever put a comma in that particular sentence. It’s so interesting how punctuation differs though - if you’d put a comma there, I’d pick it up as wrong! I honestly had no idea that there was an American English and a standard Englis...

Reply

Mr Jingo
04:55 Jul 01, 2020

Gotcha. I always thought the Oxford comma only referred to the optional comma in relation to things in a sequence of three or more (e.g., the milk, wheat, and honey), while a coordinating conjunction that links two independent clauses requires a comma before it. Very interesting! In high school, I had grammar drilled into my head, so it's always surprising to see how things are done in other regions.

Reply

Laura Clark
05:03 Jul 01, 2020

The Oxford comma is used to prevent misunderstandings, wherever they might appear. It’s the unsung hero of grammar! I’ve been teaching grammar for about ten years so I was quite worried that I was making consistent mistakes (I know I make the odd one. Despite my best efforts, I’m still human) that were repeated and across a few pieces. I did some critique for someone else on here who is doing an American grammar course though and picked him up on his commas before conjunctions. He told me basically what you have, which really surprised me. Y...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Sierra Butler
14:17 Jun 30, 2020

I enjoyed reading this. The way you worded this allowed me to paint the picture in my head. Good job!!

Reply

Laura Clark
14:18 Jun 30, 2020

Thank you so much! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Steve Stigler
21:15 Jun 29, 2020

This was great fun to read, well done. I wanted to know more about these characters, and that's always a good sign. Maybe you can expand on the world you created here if you haven't done so already.

Reply

Laura Clark
21:17 Jun 29, 2020

Thank you! I envision this as the same character from my other piratey story - The Phoenix of the Sea. Obviously at very different points in her life though!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
13:06 Jun 29, 2020

Another great story Laura! Your stories are really great! Would you mind checking out my stories? I'd love to have your feedbacks on my stories! Keep writing Laura! :)))

Reply

Laura Clark
14:41 Jun 29, 2020

Oh thank you! Of course I’ll have a look at your work. Is there one in particular you’d like me to read? Any any particular style of feedback?

Reply

14:47 Jun 29, 2020

You can check out my recent story ' Forever Yours' and give feedbacks on it, Laura! I highly appreciate your help, Laura! Thank you! :)))

Reply

Laura Clark
14:48 Jun 29, 2020

No problem, will do!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Roshna Rusiniya
06:09 Jun 28, 2020

This is so beautifully written! As usual, you have used great descriptions. The last paragraph is my favourite!

Reply

Laura Clark
06:30 Jun 28, 2020

Thank you, Roshna!

Reply

Roshna Rusiniya
06:50 Jun 29, 2020

You are welcome Laura. And when you get time, have a look at mine too. Thanks!

Reply

Laura Clark
07:24 Jun 29, 2020

Will do!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Ilona Thomas
22:59 Jun 27, 2020

This is great, I love depictions of sea and chaos. It's great to see one that isn't also confusing to read. I was looking for your twitter handle, I'd love to follow you on there if you have one.

Reply

Laura Clark
18:04 Jun 28, 2020

Thank you so much! I don’t actually use twitter - I think I might be one of the only people under 35 who don’t. I have an Instagram but it is exclusively baking related. It’s sweet of you to ask though!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
A O
04:32 Jun 27, 2020

You can really paint a picture. Bravo. Please check out my latest and tell me if you think it's too crass.

Reply

Laura Clark
07:03 Jun 27, 2020

Well this is intriguing.

Reply

A O
17:29 Jun 27, 2020

Beg your pardon, I don't understand. Do you mean my comment about yours or are you commenting on my latest? Regarding yours: While reading each of your shorts, I've been struck with your ability to paint the scene. In your latest , your talent is well displayed.

Reply

Laura Clark
17:49 Jun 27, 2020

I meant it was intriguing that you thought yours was crass! Sorry, it was an ambiguous response! Thank you so much though - this is really kind of you.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Courtney Stuart
14:22 Jun 26, 2020

I love this so much! I'm especially impressed by how you created a contrast between the captain's world of conquest and the redemption they could have if they chose Elissa. I think it was very effective to start out by describing the wreckage they brought into their life and then ending it by having them choose to walk away from it - it really brings out the shame they experience, and I just feel as if you captured that feeling extremely well! I also really like the ambiguity of the captain, and how you allow the reader to envision them howe...

Reply

Laura Clark
14:32 Jun 26, 2020

Oh wow, thank you! It’s tricky to show character growth in a short piece but I hope I managed it. Thank you so much for your kind comment!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Batool Hussain
13:20 Jun 26, 2020

Hello! As promised I'm here(again). I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is a great story, Laura. WONDERFUL! Also, the title says 'Splinters of Shame' but you said it was 'Splinters of Sadness.' Now, I'm confused. `_`

Reply

Laura Clark
13:23 Jun 26, 2020

Ah thanks! Yeah I’ve had a few titles!

Reply

Batool Hussain
13:26 Jun 26, 2020

Okay.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Batool Hussain
08:08 Jun 26, 2020

Wow! A great story. Do you mind checking out my stories especially the most recent one 'You and the train' as I'm new here? Thanks.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Jannene Macneil
15:51 Jun 24, 2020

Well done... I am, admittedly, being a coward about this 2nd person pov prompt... but you tamed it!

Reply

Laura Clark
18:38 Jun 24, 2020

Ha! That’s sweet of you to say - if you have any constructive criticism though, I’m all ears. I found this one pretty tricky.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Praveen Jagwani
01:49 Jun 23, 2020

Congratulations on your baby :)) The second reading brought out the subtler flavours. Some paragraphs are sheer genius - the one that has "Her disdain..." You brought out the personal and professional angst of the Captain very nicely. I struggle with capturing emotions in my stories. The title is perfect though Shame would have worked equally well as does Blame. Did Black Sails inspire this ;) ? The story would have ended on a deliciously romantic yet enigmatic note even without 'You choose'. Superfluous, methinks. Oddly, you've w...

Reply

Laura Clark
07:02 Jun 23, 2020

What a kind comment! Thanks re: baby wishes. I’m pretty pleased with her. She’s got the best smile and she largely sleeps through the night. Could do worse! I like the sibilance of Splinters of Shame so I’m shamelessly stealing it (thanks for the suggestion!) Black Sails didn’t - actually this painting by Marek Rudzyk (http://www.ruzyk.pl/galeria-iii#&gid=1&pid=1) did. He has an INCREDIBLE eye for light on the sea and the sinking ship just sparked something. Ooh interesting! I think a lovely thing about writing in second person is th...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Praveen Jagwani
17:01 Jun 22, 2020

Do you pop stories like corn in a microwave? Merde!...it takes me hours. This is a nice Pirates of the Caribbean meets Titanic story. Its 1am and my brain is mush. Need to read it once more :)

Reply

Laura Clark
17:05 Jun 22, 2020

I’m on maternity leave! When she is asleep on you, there’s nothing else to do. I’ve exhausted Netflix.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply