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Fiction

“So Blackbeard, what did you do when you were alive?” cackled one of the dead souls in R.I.P Tavern. It was just like any other day in the underworld. Dead souls floated to the counter to have their beers filled and everyone told stories, either stories that were real or not.

And everybody loved asking one another about their lives on earth. Dead souls could die of boredom too, you see.

Blackbeard grunted and turned his face to the interrogator, but the dead soul did not even flinch. Blackbeard wanted to sigh but he couldn’t. Ghosts don’t really sigh, do they? If this had happened when he was alive, a single grunt or a small stare would be enough to make even the bravest man cower before him.

He was Blackbeard, after all.

Infamous pirate.

Master of the seven seas.

Blackbeard.

…But here in the underworld, even if he glared at other people (souls) they weren’t fazed that much. They had died once anyway. And not everyone had heard of Blackbeard. It was safe to say that at least once a week Blackbeard would hear the question “Who were you one earth?” by some dead soul.

And he didn’t like it.

Well, there was one particular incident that occurred two months ago, which was particularly interesting. Some Eastern souls asked him who he was and he (proudly) told them he was Blackbeard.

“Who?” They had asked.

“Blackbeard, the most famous pirate of all times,” he had replied.

And then those people (souls) retorted that from where they came from, the most amazing pirate of all time was not “Blackbeard” but Cheng I Sao.

Blackbeard had never heard of this pirate (and he knew he had never crossed swords with her) but he was annoyed (and only a slightly bit offended) that someone else was more popular than him. He toured the underworld and finally found this Cheng I Sao. At first he had been surprised to find that she was a woman, but after hearing of her exploits and cunning, he had newfound respect for this fellow pirate.

Why, she managed to retire (safely) and live to her 60s! What kind of pirate was able to live the rest of their life peacefully? Blackbeard himself died in his late 30s!

Blackbeard was amazed. And after he met Cheng I Sao he met up with other pirates and soon, a Pirate Club was formed in the underworld. People like Calico Jack, Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd, The Barbarossa Brothers, and even Ann Bonny was included.

They marveled at each other’s tales and exploits. Not everyone agreed with everyone, but fellow pirates were still pirates, and in a way it had brought them together.

That had happened two months ago, and today, Blackbeard was feeling uneasy because of Hades’ sudden announcement. Yes, Hades, king of the underworld had announced that he would let every single soul come up to the earth and visit their descendants. Blackbeard gazed at the golden-brown liquid in his glass, ignoring other souls’ questions about who he was on earth. He was busy thinking.

He did marry Mary Ormond, but did he even have descendants? Wouldn’t they be long dead…? After all, they were the children of pirates. What kind of life did they have? How much time had actually passed on earth? Blackbeard’s head was swirling with questions. He gazed at the red bead in his hand. Every person (soul) had received one from Hades. According to Hades, the bead would lead them to their descendants. Hades had also explained that on earth, they would assume a “normal” human shape for around 24 hours so that other people wouldn’t notice anything strange.

What else did he say? Ah yes, Hades mentioned that they would come to the earth on “Halloween”. Blackbeard did not know what Halloween was, although he had heard of something similar in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. He also felt something like… excitement. Yes, his heart was slowly starting to beat again. He really wanted to know what his descendants were like.

That day Blackbeard met up with his fellow pirates. Everyone seemed excited to have the chance to come up to the earth; the world of the living was more interesting than the world of the dead, after all. Ann Bonny seemed especially excited, her maternal instincts were probably kicking in. The pirates talked about what their descendants were probably like.

“What do you want your descendants to be?” One pirate asked.

Everyone paused. Perhaps for some, this was a tricky question.

“I hope they’re kind. Running a charity organization would be good,” Robin Hood of the Sea muttered.

“Anything is fine, as long as they are good at designing,” Calico Jack grinned. He had designed the infamous “Jolly Roger” flag, so he thought it would be great if his descendants could design something cool too.

“I just hope they have a peaceful life,” Henry Morgan said after some thought.

“What about you, Blackbeard?”

Blackbeard paused. What did he want?

“I hope my descendants are pirates, famous ones. They should be expert sailors and fierce fighters, just like I once was,” he finally answered.

Everyone else seemed surprised.

“Are you sure?” Captain Kidd furrowed his brows.

“I wouldn’t mind if my descendants became awesome sailors, but pirates? Maybe not really,” one of the Barbarossa brothers said.

“Yeah,” Mary Read chimed in. “Pirating is fun and all, but times have changed. We don’t know what earth is like now.”

“Pirates and privateers may not be as welcome as they were last time,” Captain Kidd added.

“Well, I still hope my descendants are proud pirates sailing the seven seas, just like me,” Blackbeard remained firm.

That was somewhat the end of the discussion, and when he got home, Blackbeard pondered over his friends’ words. He knew that his friends were right about the earth changing and all. Who knew if men had discovered new things or pirates were unwelcome anywhere… He really wanted to know what his descendants were like.

“Halloween” had better come quickly, thought Blackbeard.

***

Halloween – October 31, 2035

Eduard Katz glanced at his desk and pinched the bridge of his nose. He was really tired even though it was just the beginning of the day. His black eyes scanned the computer and he smiled at the website he had made several years ago. Now his website earned him a lot of money, enough to live a stable life. Somehow it made his tiredness disappear. He just had to be careful…

Knock, knock.

Eduard’s heart leaped in fright. Was it…?

Knock, knock, knock.

Eduard pushed away his extreme thoughts. Why would the police show up at his door? No…

Eduard looked at his phone and checked the calendar. Right, today was Halloween. Maybe it was some kids doing trick-or-treating. No, do kids even do trick-or-treating this early in the morning?

Eduard walked from his desk and unlocked the front door. Warm sunlight pierced through the gap and caressed his skin. Eduard was greeted by the sight of a tall, plain dressed man who looked to be in his 30s. The man had a neatly combed black hair and hard face that seemed to have seen the vicissitudes of life.

Eduard raised in eyebrow at the man.

“Aren’t you too old for trick-or-treating?” Eduard didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“What’s that?” The stranger said. His voice was gruff.

“No, I’m here to meet my descend – I mean my distant family…”

Eduard felt his heart beating strangely, as if reacting to the stranger in front of him. What was this warm and happy feeling? It made him remember the feeling he had whenever he met his parents. A feeling that they were connected by blood…

Eduard sent him a questioning glance. Distant family…? Could they really be family?

“Well, who are you?” Eduard asked.

“Ah, I’m Blackbeard. No, you can just call me Edward,” the stranger said.

***

Blackbeard looked at the scrawny man in front of him and wanted to rub his eyes again. This man was his descendant? What kind of pirate was he? He looked weak.

Blackbeard was in Eduard’s living room drinking coffee. He marveled at the “coffee machine”. Such a convenient thing existed! Ah, but Blackbeard decided to get down to business immediately.

“So, Mr. Eduard,” he began.

“Please, just call me Eduard.”

“Alright, Eduard. So tell me… you’re a pirate, right?” Blackbeard was hopeful.

Eduard felt his heart jump with shock. Did this man know…?

“What do you mean, sir? I-I’m just a regular citizen… a law-abiding citizen…”

Blackbeard felt quite proud. This descendant was definitely a pirate! Too bad, he still needed to polish his acting skills.

“So you’re a pirate, eh?” Blackbeard grinned and slapped Eduard’s back heartily.

“No need to be ashamed… Did you have a run-in with the governments from time to time? Don’t worry, here’s my advice for a young’un like you. Money always does the trick, if you know what I mean,” Blackbeard grinned.

“Sir, I think you’re mistaking something,” Eduard said, furrowing his brows.

“I’m not a pirate. Well, not really.”

“You… don’t you have a pirate ship?”

Eduard shook his head.

“Well, a sloop at least! You gotta have a sloop, right?”

Seeing Eduard’s face, Blackbeard’s heart sank.

“Are you not a captain of pirates…?”

“Well, you could call me a captain, but…”

Blackbeard’s eyes lit up when he heard this.

“I’m not a pirate like what you think. I don’t do sailing.”

Huh? Blackbeard felt his heart drop.

“W-what kind of pirate doesn’t sail?” Blackbeard felt himself losing hope for his descendants.

“Oh, oh, perhaps people sail in the sky now days? So pirating is done in the skies…?” Blackbeard stuttered. On his way here he had seen flying machines called “airplanes” here and there.

“No, not that either. I… I just steal and commit uhh… online piracy…”

Blackbeard was left speechless.

***

Several minutes later, Eduard had finished explaining how he sold and provided people with his pirated content and how he made money from his (il)legal website. Blackbeard did not thoroughly understand what Eduard was rambling about, but he got the gist of it.

“So you can’t even ride a boat?” Blackbeard asked for the nth time.

“I’ve ridden a boat before, sir, but I got so seasick that I have never stepped on a boat ever since,” Eduard felt the tip of his ears turn red.

“Y-you’re easily seasick… You’re not a pirate… Oh…”

Blackbeard felt his entire world crashing down. His descendant was… nothing like him! Eduard was a “pirate” all right, one who couldn’t even ride a boat! What was he to do? Blackbeard wondered. He tried to calm down, but he could feel disappointment piling up in his chest.

“You said online piracy is illegal, why did you tell me that you’re doing this?” Blackbeard finally spoke.

“Well, aren’t we… distant family?” Eduard asked. Somehow, even though there was absolutely no proof, Eduard felt that this man was indeed his family. He didn’t know why, but he just felt that way.

Blackbeard smiled faintly. That’s right… Family…

“Right, I have a nephew several miles away. Would you like to meet him?”

Blackbeard (who was still feeling crushed with the fact that Eduard was prone to seasickness) agreed. He had nothing to lose anyway.

***

Blackbeard was amazed. He had ridden a “car”, a seemingly upgraded version of a carriage (with no horses) that Eduard drove smoothly. They had stopped by a restaurant called McDonalds that served food Blackbeard had never dreamt of. They ate lunch there, and Blackbeard couldn’t find any liquor, so he had Coke instead.

“What kind of magical drink is this?” He shouted at Eduard after taking a sip of Coke.

“It’s simply divine!” Blackbeard cried.

Eduard chuckled. He didn’t know why but the man in front of him seemed to find everything around him new and interesting. Where did he live? Who was he actually? Eduard decided to ask these questions for later. He still had time, he thought.

They continued riding the car and arrived in a suburban area with white houses. Eduard led Blackbeard to one of the houses and knocked on the door. Soon, the door was opened by a slim, brown-haired woman.

“Ed?” She glanced at her brother-in-law and the stranger behind him.

“Who is that?”

Eduard gave a short introduction, saying that Blackbeard was a… distant relative. The woman was Mrs. Alexa, the wife of Peter, Eduard’s brother. The pitter-patter of footsteps announced the arrival of a little child, Eduard’s nephew.

The child seemed to be about six or seven years old. He was wearing a toy pirate hat and eyepatch. He grinned and called out, “Uncle Eduard!”

Blackbeard was surprised to see the child’s outfit, but he didn’t dare to hope that this descendant was a pirate. He was delighted to feel the red bead vibrating in his pocket – this meant the child was Blackbeard’s descendant. The child was really cute.

Blackbeard squatted down in front of the child and did his best to smile non-threateningly.

“Kid, what’s your name?”

“I’m Captain Charlie!” The child’s crisp voice rang out loud and clear.

“I’m Master of the Seven Seas… What’s your name, Mr.?”

“Black- eh no, I’m Edward,” Blackbeard replied. Eduard told him it was better not to tell anyone he was Blackbeard, or else other people would think he was strange.

“Wanna be a pirate, Mr. Edward?” Charlie grabbed Blackbeard’s hand.

Mrs. Alexa laughed and said, “Now, now, Charlie. Don’t be rude to Uncle Edward…”

“Oh no, it’s fine. I don’t mind playing with kids,” Blackbeard grinned. He wondered what his crew or fellow pirates would think if they saw him right now. Never mind, he thought.

“Captain Charlie, I am at your service!”

“Woah, cool! Ahoy, land-lover, let’s get ready to sail!”

Captain Charlie grabbed his one-man crew inside the house and into his room, where his makeshift boat lay. Soon, Captain Charlie and Blackbeard were playing together. It was definitely a new kind of experience for Blackbeard. He found out that pirates were associated with eyepatches, something he found really strange.

“Why should I wear this eyepatch?” Blackbeard motioned to the eyepatch made by Charlie.

“Ahem, of course, that’s because I, your powerful captain, master of the seven seas, Captain Charlie, said so!”

“But I don’t remember wearing eyepatches as a pirate! And I don’t think the other guys wore eyepatches either…”

“You just have to wear it!” Captain Charlie pushed the eyepatch into Blackbeard’s hands.

“Or else, you’ll walk the plank!”

Walk the plank? Even though he was a pirate, this idea, too, was foreign to Blackbeard. But since the cute fierce Captain Charlie had threatened him so, Blackbeard could only oblige. Mrs. Alexa and Eduard could only shake their heads as they heard merry laughter coming from Charlie’s room.

***

Blackbeard did not know how many hours had passed, but he had dinner with the entire family and was invited to go trick-or-treating with them. It was Halloween, after all. Blackbeard agreed.

He watched as Captain Charlie dressed himself up as a pirate, complete with eyepatch, cutlass, and

“Who’s your favourite pirate, Charlie?” he mustered up the courage to ask.

“Well… Blackbeard, I guess,” Charlie answered casually.

Blackbeard felt his heart jump.

“Why do you like him?”

“’Coz he’s famous, of course. He’s super cool. What about you, Uncle Edward?”

“I like… Blackbeard too.”

“Right? He’s awesome… everybody knows Blackbeard. Well my friend in school said Captain Jack Sparrow is better, but he ain’t real, so…”

Blackbeard secretly felt proud. His descendant considered him the best pirate ever! Is this what it feels like to be a proud parent?

“Are you ready, Charlie?” Mrs. Alexa asked.

“Coming Mother,” Charlie adjusted his collar and ran out of the room.

Time to go trick-or treating!

***

23:00 – Halloween – October 31, 2035

“Ch-charlie,” Blackbeard was panting.

“Slow down, please…”

I’m old!! Blackbeard almost yelled.

For several hours or so Charlie had dragged Blackbeard (and Mrs. Alexa and Eduard) around town doing trick-or-treating. Blackbeard was beyond exhausted. He sat down on a bench and took a while to catch his breath. Charlie sat down next to him and shook his head.

“Uncle, you’re really so weak. How can I have a pirate like you in my crew?” Charlie complained.

The Blackbeard was told he was weak and wasn’t needed in the crew.

Oh well, there’s a first time for everything, right?

“If you keep being like this, I’ll have you walk the plank.”

“Oh yeah? Then you won’t have any crew in your pirate ship, right?”

“Uhm… I’ll just demote you... to become a cabin boy!”

“…” Almighty Blackbeard as a cabin boy?! As if.

Blackbeard remained silent for a while.

“You know, I think I changed my mind.” Blackbeard murmured.

“You don’t have to be a Captain of a ship. You don’t need to be a pirate. You don’t even need to be a sailor…”

“I’m glad just seeing you like this, kid.” Blackbeard smiled.

“My friends were right. Just because I was a pirate doesn’t mean you all have to be one.”

“Wait, you were a pirate?” Charlie cried.

“Yes, but don’t tell anyone. I’m Blackbeard.”

Charlie’s eyes were as big as saucers as he stared at Blackbeard.

“Anyway, just live your life how you want to, okay?” Blackbeard grasped Charlie’s hand tightly. The warmth of a living person’s hand was comforting for both.

Blackbeard realized that he was fading away. Hades had said that they would only have 24 hours in the human world. It was almost time to go home.

“U-Uncle? No, Blackbeard…?” Charlie saw his uncle fade away.

“Remember what I said, Charlie. Your happiness comes first.”

Blackbeard was almost gone, but he mustered his strength to add one more piece of advice. Life advice. Important advice for a youngster like Charlie…

“Remember!! Blackbeard never wore an eyepatch!!”

And then he vanished.

***

September 17, 2021 08:31

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