In 1898 - Trapped in the Ship's "Museum"

Submitted into Contest #242 in response to: Start or end your story with a character who gets trapped inside a museum overnight.... view prompt


Teens & Young Adult Kids Coming of Age

Waves splashing against the ship “Pacific Odyssey” echoed in the dark hold beneath the decks. It was anchored off the shore near the Mystic Lighthouse and the year was 1898.

A musty smell wafted in the still air. Dark shapes of the captain’s collections from faraway places created a twisted labyrinth. 

A rustle sounded from deep in a corner. What was that? A rat?

From the shadows one of the shapes began rising. It became taller, wider.

Slowly it moved closer.

What was that?

Where was the way out?

Elsie stopped breathing. Her heart seemed to pound hard and loudly. She froze as still as the shapes around her. Her eyes widened. Slowly she drew some air in when she felt like she was suffocating.

Had a wild animal found it’s way into the ship’s hold? Had one of the collected objects been something alive?

A low growl rumbled from her growing puppy, Teddybear, nestled at her side.

Elsie’s hand felt the tension rising in Teddybear’s neck. 

The shape stopped at the sound of the dog growling.

How long had they been locked in here? Would someone be coming to find her and help soon?

To a twelve year old little girl the time seemed to stretch for a whole night.

Earlier, she and her family were enjoying the proud captain’s tour of his personal “Museum” of objects from South American, Asia, the Pacific Islands and Alaska. 

She and “Teddybear,” her pup, roamed and played on the ship while her parents and brothers were treated to the objects in the captains locked storage part of the ship. He called it “The Museum.”

She followed them into the shadows of the “Museum” to see the statues, carvings, paintings, fabrics, trunks and treasures.

The captain’s voice bellowed out, “Strange things have been happening on this voyage ever since we came up from South America. Noises, things disappearing or being moved. The sailors are saying we have a ghost.”

Elsie heard her parents laugh at the idea of a ghost.

The captain continued, “I’m thinking we have a stowaway on board. He could even be hiding in here.”

He swung the kerosene lantern around the cluttered hold of the ship. “With all these trunks and piles of statues I’ve been unable to find anyone,” the captain said.  

While Elsie was investigating, the group moved to the doorway with their kerosene lantern, stepped through it, and the captain locked his precious treasures securely behind the heavy door.

Elsie tried to reach the door to pound and yell while they were still nearby, but she tumbled into something that banged hard against her knee. When she finally got to the door the group was already climbing up onto the windy deck above. Waves and wind drowned out her calls for help.

The midafternoon sun started to drop closer to the horizon. Soon Elsie’s family would get into the surfboat and sailors would row them back to the beach below the lighthouse. They lingered on the deck for a while, swaying while the ship rocked in the day’s gentle Spring seas.

Down in the hold inside the locked “Captain’s Museum” Elsie and Teddybear heard the shape moan when it banged against a statue.

The storage cloth covering the figure started waving. A head shape appeared at the top.

Elsie crouched in a small ball against the corner. Teddybear’s growling grew louder and rougher. For a growing puppy he was doing a good job.

“What’s there?” A deep, raspy voice said. “Who’s that?”

Teddybear’s growls became barks.

“I’m Diego de Iquique, Chile. Who’s there?” The accent was melodious and the voice sounded friendly.

Elsie still cowered in her corner.

“Come out, whoever you are. I mean you no harm.”

A narrow ray of light was escaping into the storage hold through the door. The figure stepped toward it.

A tangled cloud of white hair rose from the head and a tumbled mass of white beard flowed down the front of the figure. Elsie saw shadowy hints of large, dark eyes and a weathered, wrinkled face began to form.

“Get away from me,” she said.

“Whoa, whoa, little chica. I’m just a seafaring traveler, too old to be working as a sailor. I boarded this ship in Chile when she docked at Iquique. An enjoyable voyage this has been, without the back-breaking toil of a sailor and the few tasty vittles I’ve borrowed from the cook.”

Then the voice began to sing an ocean ditty in a soft, whispery, raspy voice.

In ocean's morning haze,

Our ship rests in distant bays.

At every destination,

My heart fills with elation.

Dreaming like a child,

My heart goes far and wild

My heart and spirit uncontrolled,

Voyages and quests so bold. 

Ocean winds and swelling tides,

Dancing heart that flies and glides. 

The voice began humming.

Outside the door Elsie heard bumps. Someone was unlocking the door.

“She’s a curious girl. I wonder if she followed us into the Captain’s Museum Collection and we accidentally locked her in.” The voice of her father, Joseph, came from outside the door.

“Elsie, are you in there?” Elsie’s mother, Jeannie, called.

“Yes, hurry, there’s someone here.” Elsie’s voice rose to a high pitch.

The door swung open and Joseph swept Elsie into his arms. Teddybear still stood growling softly at the stranger.

“What’s this, the ship’s ghost who’s been robbing the cook?” The captain’s voice hollered.

In the doorway light Elsie could see a skinny old man, wearing rags, hair and beard like tangled ocean whitecaps, skin wrinkled like a lizard.

His eyes blinked in the light. He did not look threatening but instead appeared forlorn.

“Take it easy, Skipper,” he said. “I’m just an old sailor who sings of the sea, with nowhere to go, too weak and injured to work on deck, spending my last days on the sea that I love.”

The man limped painfully toward the captain. 

“You don’t remember me, I see that. Many were the days I lifted cargo and climbed up the riggings doing repairs for you.”

“Diego, is that you, old friend?” The captains mouth dropped open, he leaned forward and looked into the man’s eyes.

“I would hardly know you. Come with me, we’ll figure out what we can do.” The captain used an arm to assist Diego while they walked out of the hold and up to the deck.

"First, I'm going to get a hearty meal of our cook's seafood strew into you," said the captain. "I could use another assistant navigator, no heavy work involved. You're just the man for it. You can watch for lighthouse beacons through the telescope and sing sailor's songs for the crew."

Diego gave a big sigh. The tips of his teeth showed as a smile began to grow.

Elsie drew in a deep, long breath. Teddybear wiggled all over and made high pitched yips.

“Come on, love,” said Jeannie to her daughter. “It’s getting late. We need to take the surfboat back to shore. Your father has lighthouse duty tonight.”

Jeannie gave Elsie a hug and Teddybear joined in so all three shared the moment.

After they plunged over the ocean swells in the surfboat and landed on the beach, their neighbor took them in the horse pulled wagon up the long sloping trail. There they went to the lighthouse keepers' houses on the high bluff overlooking the sea.

When night was falling, Elsie looked out at the anchored ship from the veranda at their Victorian house.

"Good night, Diego, and good luck," she thought.

The image of the caring captain taking care of his old friend made her take a long breath.

Teddybear cuddled next to her and she stroked his neck.

"I'll always take care of you too, Teddybear," she said. His big, dark eyes took in her voice tone and body language.

Lifting his ears, he gazed into her eyes and wagged his tail, the dark fur of his body rippling with his happy wiggles. 

The night winds of the sea blew softly, and Elsie thought she could hear a sailor's voice singing songs to the ocean he loved.

March 19, 2024 21:39

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Mariana Aguirre
01:43 Mar 20, 2024

Love it


Kristi Gott
18:09 Mar 20, 2024

Thank you so much. I am glad you liked it! :-)


Mariana Aguirre
22:00 Mar 20, 2024

Aw np 😁


Kristi Gott
22:19 Mar 20, 2024

Thank you for commenting!


Mariana Aguirre
00:48 Mar 21, 2024

Aw ofc 😁


Kristi Gott
02:48 Mar 21, 2024

Thank you


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J. I. MumfoRD
01:24 Mar 20, 2024

So sweet. Good job.


Kristi Gott
01:27 Mar 20, 2024

Thank you very much, :-)


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Alexis Araneta
14:17 Mar 20, 2024

You really know how to weave adorable stories. Great job !


Kristi Gott
16:02 Mar 20, 2024

Thank you very much, Stella! :-)


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