Goin' Dry

Submitted into Contest #8 in response to: Write a story about an adventure on the water.... view prompt



Ship’s Captain’s Journal, September the 25th, 1717: 

It’s been seven days since the tempest left us dead in the water. Sails are torn, oars broken. Me men took to lashin’ blankets and towels to the mast but nothing will catch wind. Had we some weavers on board, we might be able to stitch the sails up. Alas, we’re but a band of rotten pillagers and scallywags, not craftsmen! Even my first mate, Lena, claims to have never picked up a needle in her life. The men thought it was bad luck when she first came on board, but she’s proven to be a godsend. Some might blame her for the tempest, but they’d ne’er say it out loud, leastwise where I can hear them. They know they’d be walkin’ the plank! Holdin’ the crew together she is, while I’m hidin’ in me cabin like a coward! 

Ah, tis a blessing and a curse to be lost at sea. The open sea is where a pirate naturally belongs. Free from the laws and labors of land livin’. The air is fresh, the gentle waves soothing, when it’s not bloody stormin’! And yet, I feel more trapped now than I ever have, like my men have staged a mutiny and tied me to the mast. Aye, maybe they ought to do just that. It’s that cursed poison! I can’t stop thinking about the stuff. 

The crew ran out of rum before the storm. A few more days and we’ll be out of food. How they’re holding it together is a mystery. Thanks to Lena crackin’ the whip on them I imagine. We were only another day from the next port and set to stock up there, till the storm blew us off course and crippled the ship. Now we’ve no idea how far from port we are. Still a day? Two days? A week? We don’t even know if we’re drifting in the right direction. And I’ve only got one bottle left in me private stash. 

I’ve been trying like hell not to drink it. After all, who knows when I will get more? But I never knew goin’ dry was such a nightmare. Mayhap none of us did. Every sea-fairin' man what’s worth ‘is mettle drinks rum! I don’t know a single good sailor who swears off the stuff. We always thought it made us strong, gave us vitality, but now I know the truth: It makes us weak. My bones ache. My skin is clammy. I haven’t eaten in days. And I can’t bloody sleep! 

I can’t take it anymore. I’ve just gotten the bottle out of the cabinet and opened it. Mayhap it’ll be the last one I ever drink. Tomorrow is a new chapter. But tonight, I will sleep like a wee babe. 


Kaliban woke up with a splitting headache. He was hunched over at his desk, face buried in a pile of maps other pieces of parchment, a bottle of rum about one-third full still clutched in his hand. He jerked upright and turned around to look out the window, squinting against the excruciating sunlight. Eight in the morning he wagered. When he turned back to look at his desk, he could have sworn his cabin was flooded. The room was swimming just like the waves outside his cabin window, and the steady movement of the ship almost made him lose his footing. He quickly grabbed the desk, and realized that the pain in his head seemed to be shifting to his stomach. He resisted the urge to regurgitate what little supper he had had the previous night, and slid slowly back into his desk chair.

He waited for the sick feeling to retreat back to his head, and then brought the open bottle of rum to his mouth. Hair of the dog that bit me he thought. The smell of added cinnamon made his stomach clench up, forcing him to hold his breath while he took a big gulp. A burning sensation slid down his throat and settled into his belly. He held his eyes tightly shut and waited for his body to reject the liquid. When the burning subsided, he opened his eyes, and his cabin started to come into focus. The far corners of the room were still blurry but he could make out the words in his journal, which was still open on the desk. With less apprehension, he took another large gulp. Now the room was fully in focus, and he felt light-headed, the painful throbbing in his temples becoming more of a dull buzzing. 

Suddenly, a voice from on deck carried into his cabin: “LAND HOOOOO!” Bottle in hand, and only half comprehending what he’d heard, Kaliban stumbled toward the door and exited his cabin. 

He squinted raised a hand to cover his eyes as the sunlight washed over him. The light blinded him for a moment but his eyes adjusted quickly. The breeze felt like pin-pricks on his skin, and aided in making him feel more fully awake. Several pirates were swabbing the deck, and Kaliban noted how they eyed his rum bottle, a ravenous lust in their eyes. His first mate Lena was on the bow, looking through a spyglass at a small dot on the horizon. He lumbered toward her, doing his best to appear stable. 

“It’s land, cap’n. Which land I couldn’t tell ya.” Lena handed Kaliban the spyglass. He held it up to his face with one hand. Through it he saw a non-distinct island. A beach, trees, some cliffs. No signs of settlement.

“Doesn’t look inhabited. But we should be able to find some food and shelter there. Mayhap with full bellies and a bit of rest, we can figure out to patch up the ship and get back to civilization.” The spyglass made his headache suddenly flare up again, and he handed it back to Lena. 

She glanced at the captain with an expression of concern, then resumed looking through the glass herself. “Aye. The tide’s taking us in, I reckon we’ll be marooned by midday.” 

The ship lurched from a heavy wave and Kaliban grabbed the guardrail to steady himself. He felt sick to the stomach again, and realized he was sweating profusely. He took another swig of his nearly-empty rum, and regained his composure. Behind him, one of his crewmen had stopped working, and was staring at the captain. He spoke cautiously: “You okay cap’n?”

Lena turned around and barked: “Eyes on the deck yeh mangy cur!” The crewman jumped and quickly resumed swabbing the deck, eyes averted from the captain and first mate. Lena leaned in toward Kaliban and boldly whispered: “With all due respect cap’n, pull yourself together or get below deck. Yeh don’t want the men to see ya like this. They’re liable to mutiny.”

“Aye. Maybe they should.” Kaliban replied. “But I’ll only allow it if they put you in charge.” He passed her the bottle as he spoke, a sign of both gratitude and respect. 

She glared at him, disapproving of his apathy, but affectionate toward him nonetheless. She took the bottle and pulled hard, nearly draining what was left. “I don’t suppose there’ll be any rum on that island. D’yeh think?” She said wishfully. 

Kaliban laughed. “If there is, I may just walk the plank.” Lena’s eyes went wide at the statement, clearly not seeing what the captain found so funny. Kaliban laughed harder, suddenly feeling his vitality returning. The haze he had woken up in was fading away, and the growing island in the distance filled him with excitement. He downed the last of his rum, tossed the bottle overboard, and turned around to address his men. “Alright yeh scurvy dogs! It’s time for an adventure!”

September 28, 2019 01:09

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