I came up with an idea on Thursday, in the evening. So I started typing. It ended up becoming a short story, five pages long, I forget how many words. I sent it to Dragon to see what she thought, and seeing as she might notice something I hadn’t. She did, two things in fact, which I fixed just now. The story is called Salty Death (the first few titles I thought of seemed horrifyingly lame), and I hope you enjoy it. A warning though, it’s darker than most of the stuff I post about. Just thought you ought to know beforehand. The diary writings shall be in bold, seeing as WordPress doesn’t have the fancy font (Altered) which I used.
The force of these words might seem nonexistent at times, but that is only because his illusions are timeless, and have clouded your thoughts so much that these things do not affect you much anymore. I am named Bovic, the last surviving rat-man, former mechanic of the ship Helen’s Glory. She was a beautiful ship, and I was proud to be her mechanic. She was also a big problem for him.
He isn’t some god, or some saint as he has made you believe, he is a master of illusions, who used to be a cabin boy on the Dread Seeker, a ship that looked wonderful, but was crewed by murders, thugs…. criminals of every kind. Growing up among that kind of company, it’s no wonder he went bad. Within the pages of this diary you will find the clippings of this story, I was only ever an observer on the sidelines.
You see a saint where I see the true thing, a boy with tentacles for hands, and gills on his neck. Pale, blind eyes that prefer the dark, and long, almost teardrop shaped ears that twitch at the slightest noise. Sail with me, in the seas of your imagination, aboard my old ship as we witness what happened, many years ago…
“CABIN BOY!” Looking across at the ship beside Helen’s Glory, the Dread Seeker, I could see a startled looking boy stagger up onto the deck. His name was Enrico, and he was something of a mutant. His eyes almost always remained closed, unless he was out of the sun. They were pale and blind, he had to rely on his ears, or sense of touch to figure out where things were.
“Yes Captain?” He asked, sounding vaguely panicked.
“What did I find in my bedroom this morning?”
“A… a cup of tea sir?”
“Wrong! I discovered a cup full of tadpoles! Tadpoles! I hate those things! Of course, I squashed all of them…..” I turned away and covered my ears, going below to my beloved engine room, where I wouldn’t have to hear poor Enrico being chewed out for something he obviously didn’t do.
“What’s ‘appening up on deck mate?” Asked our cabin boy, a nice boy with freckles, and what looked like raccoon mixed into him, judging by the “mask” over his eyes.
“Nothing much, except for the fact that poor Enrico is getting in trouble for something.” The cabin boy blew a sigh.
“Bovic, that kid ain’t no good mate. You don’t see ‘im in town. ‘E walks up to a person an’ if they don’t give ‘im what ‘e wants….. suddenly they’ve got cut marks all over their throats, and they’re dying on the ground, an’ ‘e doesn’t do a thing. Some ‘o the kids say ‘e uses ‘is tentacles before anyone can see.”
“There is no way that is possible, get back to your work Fredric.” Fredric shrugged.
“Just thought you ought to know mate, we’re all in the same boat ‘ere, ‘ent we?” To that I had no reply.
There is nothing quite like being proven wrong. You are so sure that you are right, you completely believe that your knowledge is correct, and that what the other person is telling you is wrong. I was proven wrong by Fredric, I saw it happen a month later. I’d actually developed a friendship with Enrico by then, and he vented his frustration in long discussions with me over a cup of tea and some cookies.
It seemed right, but when the incident happened, I realized I had been comforting and encouraging a killer.
I was holding my bags, on my way back to the ship. My nose twitched as I caught the scent of blood, hoping that it was just a wounded animal, I followed my nose. If it was a wounded animal, I could help, if it was a dead animal, I could cremate it and toss the poor thing’s ashes to sea.
When I finally came in view of the source of the smell, I stopped, as if struck dead. There stood Enrico over a baker, a sneer on his face. “Don’t tell me you don’t have the lemon cookies, I saw you making a whole bunch this morning. If you don’t want to die, you’ll give them to,” he heard my small squeak of disbelief and looked up. His eyes widened. “Bovic, this isn’t what it looks like.”
“No, it’s exactly what it looks like,” I replied quietly, before turning and pelting away, yelling for someone to help the baker.
When they arrived, Enrico, and the Dread Seeker, were gone, and the baker was sobbing crazily as healers checked on him. With Enrico was gone my small box of treasures, a picture of my family, a little pearl amulet, and a tiny notebook filled with modifications I’d made to the engine. But he didn’t have my diary, my most precious possession. Fredric had tea with me, but it wasn’t the same.
I was glad that he didn’t say “I told you so”, it made the horrible truth about Enrico’s actions somehow easier to bear.
It was four years before I saw Enrico again, four years for him to grow his power and start working illusions, four years for him to plot and finally overthrow his captain and take over the ship, four years for him to become a figure of awe throughout the land. But I knew Enrico, and this allowed me to see straight through his illusions.
It was a shock to see him in the tavern, people listening to what he had to say, adoring him and offering him free food and drink. He saw me before I saw him.
“Send some of your hospitality over to the rat-man, he’s an old friend of mine.” This didn’t really make me wonder who the stranger was, I had plenty of old friends, quite a few of them dead in a war that lasted for only a week. Soon I was enjoying a delicious dinner, and the stranger came over to sit by me. “You know, I was only trying to get the cookies for you for tea, I knew you’d run out.” He said in a quiet voice, shocking me into looking up.
“So you can tell, even through the illusion?”
“You’ve got an illusion on? Where’d you learn to do that?” Enrico ignored the question.
“Look, Bovic, all the business people treated me like a freak, while you didn’t. The pirates taught me to take what wasn’t offered willingly by force. You were my only friend, I knew you’d run out of your favorite cookies, and I wanted to give you something in return for all the times you listened to me.”
“And encouraged you to go commit crimes,” I added, voice slightly hollow. Enrico groaned, a smile on his face that didn’t reach his eyes.
“Bovic, you didn’t encourage me, the pirates did, and I…”
“Save it for those who believe your lies.”
“Don’t make an enemy of me, Bovic, if you want to reach old age.”
“So, from friendship to threats? It didn’t take you long to switch over. I wonder if we ever had a real friendship at all…”
“If this is the way it is going to be, then let us at least part one last time as if we were friends.”
“We can pretend, but it’s impossible to really do it. Our friendship ended when you threatened the baker, Enrico.” Enrico’s face became cold with fury.
“You will meet a salty end, Bovic.” I gave an amused smile.
“I thought it was a sticky end,” Enrico snorted.
“Your end will be in the sea, I know you still sail on Helen’s Glory. You will sink with her.”
“Oh how clever, telling me your brilliant plan so that I can easily avoid it.” Enrico smiled.
“That’s the thing though, you can’t bring yourself to stop sailing, and Helen’s Glory is the only ship you’ve ever sailed in. You won’t sail in others. So I will find you on the sea eventually, and then you will die.”
“We shall see.”
Indeed, we were to see this not even a full month after this exchange took place. My seeing through his illusion had revealed him to the others at the tavern, and word of his illusions had spread. Folk did not trust a charming stranger who came from the sea when he walked in.
He was questioned and had his neck prodded and hands touched to make sure his appearance was real. Only once this was done would the actions be explained. Rat-men do not live long, I was eighteen years old, which is the age of a middle-aged rat-man. Enrico, being a sea devil, I discovered, would outlive me even if I didn’t die in his domain.
Enrico wasn’t feeling charitable when the ship wandered into the waters where he was at that time.
A heavy boom sounded through the ship as something struck it. “Just a shark lads! Nothing to worry about!” I had come up on deck, knowing it was no such thing.
“It’s Enrico, sir!” I called, but a sudden wind whipped the words away before they reached his ears. The captain continued shouting encouragement to his men, and Fredric darted around, handing out rope for halters as a storm slowly, but surely rose around them. I struggled to the captain over the now slippery deck. “It’s Enrico!” I bellowed. “He’s causing this storm!”
“Nonsense! No cabin boy could…” A giant tentacle came out of the water and swept him away, my last glimpse of the cheery man was of his terrified face as he disappeared below the side, stabbing at the tentacle with his dagger.
The crew were horrified, and worked harder to make the ship move, to my surprise, I found myself taking the wheel, even though I had never done such a thing before. I heard a laugh and in a plume of water beside the ship, rose Enrico. “So, Bovic. How does it feel to know that you will die the moment I choose?” I did not reply, I simply surprised myself by pulling out the thin, almost bookmark-flat, rectangle of dynamite that all engine workers are given, and throwing it. It was a one in a million chance, that will probably never be repeated again. It lodged in his gills as they rose, and blew up, taking away half of his neck and part of his jaw.
As he fell, clutching at his jaw, surprise and confusion were all that were on his face. “How…?”
“Survival instinct I suppose. I’m sorry Enrico,” and for a moment, Enrico looked angry, then his features relaxed.
“I’m sorry too Bovic,” he said before he disappeared beneath the waves, forever.
Despite making up with him in a sense, he still haunts my dreams. And he is the vision that comes to mind when I hear the word death. I am now fifty-seven years old, a very old rat-man, and death should be coming for me soon. It was when I realized that this would happen that I took the time to add the last few paragraphs of the story to this diary, so that it would be there, with the rest of my life’s story.
I am Bovic, a rat-man and proud of it. I do what I have to, even when I can no longer stand up without something to lean on. I tell those who visit for a cup of tea and a cookie what they need to hear. I can no longer sail the seas and tend engines, but I can still help the lost, as I once did for Enrico, even though he took my words in the wrong direction.
– Bovic Aggrin
Hope you liked it. 🙂 I hope it all made sense, seeing as it’s the first short story I’ve ever written, other short stories I attempted grew a lot longer.