X marks my Home

Submitted into Contest #31 in response to: Write a short story about someone heading home from work.... view prompt

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General

The wind was blowing. It was almost always blowing. When you were a pirate, you always wanted it to be blowing. It was just one of those things, innocuous things really, that life on the sea made you accept as normal.

Of course, it was worse if the wind was blowing against you and it was awfully hard to tack when in a dinghy. I pulled on the oars. The chest was empty, at least. I had just been to the X, dropping off our last shipment of plunder. I liked calling it a 'shipment' because it was somewhat of a pun. The crew always moaned whenever I made a pun, and had really started to curse me when the parrot started picking them up. Now it was just generally accepted that puns were a part of life.

The oars scraped the bottom, lifting small clams, shells and shiny things that no one questioned or touched. The bottom of the dinghy was rather flat, which made it perfect for navigating the shallow, dangerous tunnels of the X. The wind whistled through the tunnels, laughing to itself the secrets of our plunder.

"Corsets..."

The sweat piled on my brow before falling to my lap. The wind seemed rather keen on my not reaching the ship today. Breath hissed through my teeth, though with none of the panache as the wind in the tunnels.

"Skirts and petticoats..."

"Shut it, you good-for-nothing peg-legged ninnyhead," I cursed. Beads of sweat fell from my shoulders like precious pearls. I tugged the oars. Looking over my shoulder I could see the bright light of the sun and sea. It may seem strange, but by looking back I was in fact looking forward toward my destination. I tugged again. The oars moaned as they were dragged against the side of the dinghy, like this was some sort of personal affrontery. Like the dinghy and the oars had had a matrimonial quarrel and couldn't stand the close contact. The shiny things glittered.

"Necklace...."

I wasn't getting anywhere. The wind was taunting me now. I pulled at the oars again, thinking hard. If I stopped rowing, I'd be pushed further into the cave. If I kept at it, I'd stay here. The choice between two evils. Of course, I could get out and push but I'd never actually seen any of my crewmates set foot on solid ground anywhere in the X except for the tiny black island on which the plunder was stored.

"String and shine... beads and strings..."

My heart was hammering. Shakily, but taking care so as not to tip the boat, I lowered one foot over the side. It submerged with a splash. My blood pounded in my ears. The water was cold. It rippled against my ankle in small eddies. Eddies like snake's tails, like ropes.

"Shiny... shiny shiny... "

Quickly, so as not to loose my nerve entirely, I jumped out of the dinghy. Ferociously, I landed. Brackish water splashed up marring the hems of my pants. I could feel things. My toes clutched at loose pebbles, shells, and sand.

"The shiny..." whispered the wind, almost reverently.

For some obscure reason in my primal brain I knew that it was not talking about me. I stared wildly back into the X. The water eddied. The shine swirled. A long, thin bead of sweat sliced its way down my spine, severing nerves which then spiraled in on themselves perceptibly.

"Iiiiiiiiiiit..."

I couldn't bear it. My feet scrabbled on the loose bottom. I cried out as my stomach hit the edge of the dinghy. Fingers scrabbled at the edge. The wood was rough, it splintered and stuck and where it stuck blood pearled. I watched the red drops fall eternally, blending into the water where they hit and-

there was shiny there.

".....Cooooooomes..."

I jammed my hands onto the dinghy, if possible I would that they were nails. I pushed and ran, shoved and swam, whatever it took to get me out of the X. The light was tantalizingly far away, the wind laughed maniacally in my ears, pushing my hair back almost lovingly. Foolish child, it seemed to be saying, foolish foolish.


The sudden brightness was blinding. I gasped like a fish out of water, like a dying man, a drowning man. Tears pooled from my eyes. I scrabbled into the boat, and rowed back to the ship. I didn't feel the splinters, and the wind was a kindly memory.

Getting back on board was a dream. The crew laughed at my story. But the boatswain had me sit in the sun by the boom, and the cook brought me a glass of ale. I drank it, glad for the surge of courage it always brought, slopping most of it down my chin. The parrot screeched it's usual din.

The soles of my feet were sore. I pulled them toward me and saw embedded in the thick callouses thin, almost glass like cuts. In one of these, on my heel, was an innocuous sliver of a scale.

The parrot screeched again.

"Corsets!" it said. "Corsets!"

February 29, 2020 00:11

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