Bedtime Fiction Fantasy

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Warning: violence, gore and racism

Through the porthole Herman observed two dozen silvery-white flying fish skim the waves as the sun sunk into the horizon and the infinite sea turned a kaleidoscope of fantastic purples that glittered like gemstones. Though painfully beautiful, he sighed regardless. He blinked back more tears, wondering what it would feel like to dive into the hypnotic, churling, waves. He turned as the cabin’s door opened.

His Aunt Danika came into the cabin. She had a pigeon nestled in her hand. “Hello my darling. Oh, how it saddens me to see you so despondent.” She stroked the soft grey bird along it’s pink and green iridescent neck and it cooed softly.

Herman had heard many stories of her fantastic ability to communicate with nature’s creatures. ‘Pah! Stories for children.’ He was too upset to admit the communion between woman and bird appeared genuine.

She said, “Your cousin is so happy to have you come live with us.”

Herman sniffed and scowled. He had adored his cousin who had told him stories of adventure and magic, always adding at the end they were true. He had clapped and begged for another.

The last time he’d seen Andre, he had again insisted his story was a true one. But Herman was then ten years old, Andre, thirteen, and Herman had scoffed. “Stop teasing me now cousin. I know all these stories are made up…I’m too old for Santa Klaus.”

Andre had said, “But they are real. I do not lie.”

“You’re only three years older than I. Stop treating me like a wee babe!”

Andre had attempted to calm Herman, insisting that he could trust him. Herman, who had lost his mother during the birth of his little brother who had only lived three days, was angry and only wanted to hear truths. He felt as though everyone had been lying to him. His father ‘self-medicated’ himself and anyone could see he was dying. This angered and depressed Herman. ‘Am I so worthless and unlovable you’d prefer death?’

Herman’s father had worked a forge all day long and provided well, but when coming into a silent home devoid of the love of his life and the babe she’d tried to bring, he fell again and again into a whiskey jug. Herman could almost believe the drunken man had fallen into his forge on purpose.

“Why do you feel such dread coming to your new home? I thought you and Andre were close.”

“Auntie…he treats me like a child, like a wee babe hangin on his every word.”

“You do not believe the stories he tells you?”

“Witches and magic and sea creatures larger than this ere ship? I used to. I admit it. But I’ve grown up…”

The edges of Danika’s lips curved up slightly. When she came to look out the porthole next to him, her amber colored eyes turned purple, even reflecting the tiny bright sparkles that flew from the rippling waves. He shook his head, dark curls springing over his dark eyes. “You mock me too then?”

“No child. Never. Have you ever considered that perhaps Andre believes the stories?”

Puzzled, Herman frowned. “No. I uh…Is he daft in th’ ‘ed then?”

Danika laughed. “No child. He earns stars in all his lessons. He wishes to become a great writer someday.”

Herman decided his cousin was indeed daft in the head. His father used to say that all great writers had to be because their imaginations were too big to be contained in a skull. Herman used to read him the Weekly Gazette and books by Shakespeare, Milton, and Perrault…his favorite was Cervantes.

“Tis sad when a person loses their imagination. Even sadder to lose their faith. Alas, it is part of growing up I’m afraid…”

Herman broke from his reverie and saw that the stars were twinkling into view.

“Shall I bring us some supper Herman?”

“Can we eat in the galley with the crew?”

“Why not.”

Before going below deck to the galley, Danika and Herman decided to walk a circuit of the deck. The Caribbean night just past sunset was warm although the ship was now headed north, into the North Atlantic Sea.  A moon nearly full lit their way, and the bustle of life on the top deck was diminished to a man at the helm, a few crew members coiling ropes and stowing equipment, and a man in the crow’s nest. No one paid them any mind, although the men they did pass glared and made odd thumps to their foreheads with fingers splayed.

Herman said, “The men hate you because they believe a woman on board is bad luck. Do you fear them?”

Danika stepped daintily over a puddle on the deck then stopped to look out at the ship’s wake. “Do you think it rational to fear women?”

“No. It’s silly.”

“Indeed, it is. And no, I do not fear them. It is they who fear me.”

“So, they are grown men who believe in witches and magic and all that?”

Danika laughed, the sound as delightful as the warm breezy night that smelled of salt and fish scales. A star directly before them flashed brilliant green, then faded.

They continued on their way towards the galley. As they crossed midship, a faint crack rang out and echoed over them into the air. A scream followed. Danika gripped Herman’s hand tighter as a second crack came from below…and another high-pitched wail of anguish.

Danika quickened their pace and pulled her nephew along.

In the galley the men were all drunk. Herman was amused by them. They sang funny songs he did not really understand and then laughed uproariously at the end. Jugs were passed his way and he partook small sips, wary to not drink from the ones passed from men with mouth sores. 

As they made their way towards the cook pots, the men clearing away from Danika with black looks in their faces, a gravelly voice bellowed to his mates, “Aye! That young welp of a blackie had some lungs on im! Now ee’s got im some stripes on im too!” He roared with laughter and the others roared too. “Like a brown zee-bra ee is!”

Another man, in a heavy hooded black cloak, said, “Aye. Lost another to the stench. Ad to run through the two bunkin wi’ im’ justa make sure it don spread.” Herman recognized him as the first mate.

Danika accepted a kettle of fish stew, two stale flatbreads, and a couple rinds of cheese. She said to Herman, “Come.” Her face was red, and her hands were shaking…he didn’t argue.

Up on the deck, she told him, “Go to the cabin, I’ll be in shortly.”

Herman made his way to their cabin below deck two stair lengths and aft over the wake. Danika had paid three times the merchant’s cost to see her and her nephew had safe passage.

Herman left the kettle and went back to the ladder his aunt had descended. She’d gone all the way to the bottom where it was damp and pungent with eyewatering putridness.

He listened for her voice…and it came.

He followed the sound through near darkness and sloshing floor. He was aware that the walls were alive with faces. Faces so dark, they were more like phantoms, only the whites of their eyes gave them away as they followed his progress through the squalor. He ducked behind a barrel- his aunt was there, passing out bread and cheese she had pilfered. Also, her own rations. He now understood why she’d grown so thin during the last two months at sea.

He watched as she held a young man’s hand. His dark skin so beautiful in the light of her lantern, he was reminded of tales Andre had told of the far east, of genies and camels. A woman with chestnut colored skin wept silently beside him, holding his other hand, and petting his head. Herman saw another girl who looked as if she might be the woman’s sister sitting wide-eyed at her side…she looked barely older than he was. Danika had wrapped an ivory-colored under-skirt around the man’s torso, as he leaned forward, he saw blood seeping through the fabric like blooming red poppies.

She stood, wiped the wetness from her cheeks, and came towards where Herman was concealed. “Come child. Tomorrow is a big day.”

Back in their cabin, Danika gave the fish stew to Herman and the remaining bread. She pulled an old biscuit out from another of her many pockets and gave it to the pigeon. She said, “His name is Cirrus by the way…”

“The captain named him?”

“No child. He does not belong to the captain. He’s just visiting us until dawn.”

Herman gently stroked the bird and smiled. Sad that the smile felt odd on his young face. Danika nodded at his untouched meal and said, “Come now. You’ve got to eat to stay healthy.”

“What did you mean about tomorrow bein a big day?”

“Oh yes. Tomorrow we will be putting our feet on dry land.”

“But we’re not due to land in Bermuda for another week at least…”

“…A little detour is all. I’m afraid this ship will not be safe for us after this night is through. Now, that’s all I can say for now. I’ll not have ye worrying and fretful all night. Eat up and get to bed…”

“I’ll eat only if you take my bread.”

Danika studied her nephew’s earnest face and said, “All right. Oh. And Herman?”


“Do not wear your bed clothes this evening, please lie down as you are, boots an’ all.”

Four hours later Herman was awakened by a loud noise.

It came again- ‘WHUMP!’ A loud thump, the sound like a giant’s meaty fist pounding on a thick wooden door. ‘WHUMP WHUMP!’

Shouts arose above the cabin, men’s voices, and the thump of heavy footfalls up the stairs to the top decks. Herman’s breath quickened along with his pulse. He turned the wick knob to brighten the cabin. Danika rushed into the room and tossed a heavy black hooded cloak onto the bed. “Put that on and grab your bag.” She pointed to his small duffle. Come on, Hurry now!”

He did as she said and in seconds, they were racing up the stairs. A tremendous thump nearly tossed them back down as the ship jerked upwards and sideways at the same time. Sea water splashed over the deck at their feet as they emerged from the hole in time to see the lookout tossed from the crow’s nest and two others tossed overboard. The lookout’s head burst like a ripe melon as it hit the deck.

The ship keeled the other way and more chilling water sprayed over their heads. Men were running in every direction: some ran past them and down to the bilge room. Some climbed the rope ladders in an effort to figure out what was happening.

The captain stood at the wheel with the helmsman and first mate. There was a crowd of crew members looking wildly about and bracing themselves as the ship was heaved upwards again.


Danika and Herman went to the side of the ship and looked out over the sea. The waves were choppy but not storm frenzied. On the eastern horizon a thin line of yellowy pink hovered, it was a resplendent dawn.

Behind them, a man shouted, “They’re gone! The darkies! Vanished!”

Herman looked up at his aunt. She was smiling, the faint sunlight brightening her luminescent eyes like those of a cat. She looked like one who had just swallowed a canary.

The man pointed at Danika and snarled, “Her! She’s done this! Cur-sed bloody witch!” He fell as the ship lurched again.

The ship slugged nearly sideways; it was obvious she was taking on water. A man stumbled out of the hold as another quake rocked the ship. He shouted, “It’s too much water! The damage too great! We’re goin dun!”

Another crew member said, “The lifeboots!”

From above them, a man who had climbed into the crow’s-nest pointed to the northwest. “The boats! The bloody boats!”

The captain took the spyglass from the first mate and turned in that direction.

THUMP!’ The ship surged upwards.

Danika grabbed Herman’s hand and said, “Come on!” She turned to the northeast and pulled Herman with her. The snarling man had gotten to his unsteady feet and was lurching towards them along with two others. All the crew but the helmsman were looking at them now with daggers in their eyes.

The snarling man pulled a gleaming, curved blade from his boot. A medley of faint sunlight glinted from many hands as the mob backed the man who was now just twenty feet behind them.

They made it to the railing facing the northeast. The snarling man stopped at the railing a gaped out at the sea. He was nearly toppled by the men coming up behind him who also stopped in their tracks to stare.

The four lifeboats were on the horizon. Each held six to eight dark figures.

The captain made his way to Danika and Herman. “What have you done!” He roared. His sword drawn.

The crowd bawled all at once:

“---She’s a witch! I tole youse all along!”

“---Aye, saved iffen she die---”


“---runner through Mack!---”

Mack lunged towards Danika. She ducked and covered Herman with her body.

A long thick shape rose from the sea side of the railing, like the trunk of a slick barked tree…it rose over them swiftly then curled, revealing large pale suction cups, some as big as a man’s head. Before Mack could turn around, the thick dark greenish tentacle slammed down through the railing and deck, taking the man down with it.

A second and a third raised up… and down, bashing the deck and splintering the wood. The ship rocked towards the side where the creature lurked, and eight men tumbled through the space where the railing had been.

The first mate lunged at Danika and pulled her to him, swinging her around to face the captain.

Herman snatched up a short sword that had clattered to the deck and got caught up against the rail. He slashed at the first mate’s knee backs. The first mate howled like a hyena in heat and dropped the woman. 

The captain raised his sword in a two-fisted grip and brought it down as Danika pulled the first mate down and rolled towards the captain’s feet. His sword plunged into his first mate’s head. The captain savagely roared. As he worked to free his blade, an immense shadow rose behind him. 

The tentacle annihilated all three masts and the captain. Fat ropes twisted and flailed like writhing snakes in the air, beams crashed to the deck, the ship appeared to be breaking in two.

The few remaining men dove overboard. As their bodies entered the sea it frothed in a roiling boil until only a hand, a hat, and a boot inhabited with a knob of white bone, remained floating on the surging waves.

Herman stared in wonder as a dark shape swam under the boat slowly. It seemed to be as large as the ship, its long tentacles waving behind its pointed squid shaped body. It turned over just under the surface and he saw an enormous pale silver eye nearly the size of his torso…it closed for a second as if winking. ‘Impossible.’

At fifty feet away, it flicked its trailing arms, causing it to propel out of sight like a shooting star.

As he followed the path it had taken, he saw one of the lifeboats re-appear on the horizon. “Look!”

“Yes darling. I told you we would be fine.”

“But…where are we?”

“Well, over that way…” she pointed once again northeast “…is an uncharted island. That is where the dark-skinned men and women went, slaves no longer. We will camp with them for a few days.”

The lifeboat reached the dying ship and Herman tossed one of the rope ladders from the broken center mast down.

Danika nursed the handsome young man who had been whipped back to health and showed the new women of the island which plants were good for healing as well as eating and cultivating and weaving. The man’s sister-in-law turned out to be with child even though she was just twelve years old. Danika vowed to return in eight months to help with what would surely be a difficult childbirth.

She cared for the ones recovering from dysentery and the ones showing signs of scurvy. One young man of about sixteen, had broken his arm on the ship when he’d been beaten with a rifle; Danika was forced to re-break it so it would function again properly when healed.

Herman helped when he could. He was particularly fond of foraging as a way of exploring the forests and freshwater ponds alongside some of the younger dark-skinned people. They communicated through hand gestures and traded words for things neither had ever seen before. He smiled and laughed a lot.

Just before sunset on their sixth day, a ship appeared on the horizon. Herman was alarmed at first. ‘Them! They’ve come for revenge!’ But then remembered they were all dead.

“That will be your cousin Andre.”

“That’s his ship? And how’d he know to come?”

“Oh child. Andre is fifteen now…a little bird told him to come.”

As the ship neared, Herman saw it was a frigate, much smaller than the ship that they’d been on the week before. It was much faster and able to pull in quite close to the shore. Regardless, a tall fair haired figure dove into the turquoise cove and swam for the shore.

Herman splashed through knee deep water to reach Andre whom he hugged like a bear. He cried, “Oh cousin! Have I got a story for you!”

November 10, 2022 21:19

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Tanya Humphreys
22:48 Nov 17, 2022

Thanks Kevin, for your critique. Yes, I agree with your comment about the first sentence, I do tend to be 'wordy.'


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Kevin Alphatooni
02:59 Nov 17, 2022

I like this story, it really takes the reader on an adventure. I like how you gave all the sailors their own accents too, it was a nice touch. If I were to change anything I would say to trim up the first sentence of the first paragraph. It was a bit wordy/much and gave me the impression that the rest of the story would be the same (Which it wasn't).


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