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The Cabin Boy

“I’ve never met a werewolf before.” Kira tilted her head, watching the boy. The sailors had him locked in the brig, thick wooden bars the only barrier between them. Outside, seagulls shrieked their displeasure at the wind. Waves shredded into frigid, salt-laden spray. The decks were unsafe, frozen and canting, and even below, she could barely take two steps before needing to hold on to something.

The boy hung his head. “They say I killed those people. I…I don’t remember.”

The ship was at arms over a series of grisly murders. Bodies falling like logged trees, features riven by the furrows of razor-like claws. There’d been a lot of blood and quite a bit of screaming. Mummy and Dottie tried to keep her from most of it, but it was hard to miss the buckets of red-soaked rags and the copper stench in the bilge. Somewhere in the excitement she’d lost the bandage from her leg, but there were so many other people hurt, and Mummy said the sea air would do it good, and not to worry.

“What’s it like?” Kira took a step closer. She wasn’t afraid. Not really.

“I wouldn’t know,” he said. Had she imagined the flutter of pulse at his temple? “They say it’s what I am, but I– It’s just blank.”

“Dear Lord!” Mummy said, half-flopping from her seat. Her teacup clattered against its saucer, then rolled onto the deck, spilling tea across the table. “Bother! Reginald never said it could be like this. Curse him and his mother! At this rate we’ll never make Bombay.”

The ship rocked back the other way, jerking hard to port. Something struck the side of the vessel causing it to shudder, timbers bowing and flexing with a sound like the grunting of an enormous beast. Mummy fell to the deck on her side.

The sight of Mummy’s petticoats in disarray was funny, but Kira forced the smile from her lips. Dottie would be watching, always looking for an opportunity to prove her worth to Mummy. As if she needed a governess. They might all be drowned soon enough. Let her think on that instead.

“Are you well, Mummy?” She tried to take a step over to help, but the deck was too unstable. Somewhere close, sailors shouted and swore but most of it was lost to the storm.

“Hold on, precious.” Dottie was trying to use her governess voice, but it only sounded hollow and fearful. She’d wedged herself into a corner, arms braced against the bulkheads.

“I am!” Kira had latched onto a wooden trunk bolted to the floor.

Dottie seemed about to move when the ship plunged, the deck dropping from beneath them as if someone had opened a hole in the sea and they’d sailed right into it.

Something cracked, the sound louder than lightning. The ship shuddered, groaned and began to list. Swell propelled them forward, and Kira lost her footing, falling to her knees. Pain streaked up her legs, forking up her spine and stabbing at her chest.

“Kira!” Mummy was on her hands and knees. One hand reaching out. The ship plunged again, freezing water rushing in from above, sloshing through the cabin.

The cabin door burst open with a howl of frigid wind. “You’ve got to get on deck. We’re going down!” Kira barely saw the face of the sailor, but he looked pale. Terrified.

They scrambled onto the deck just as something dark and exceedingly large loomed above them. Light faded. It slammed down onto them, scattering bodies, spars, shards of wood and remnants of sail. Kira caught one glance of Mummy and Dottie holding each other as white water swirled around them, then she was dashed against something impossibly hard and the world turned to night.

She opened her eyes to a pair of sandy bare feet. The air was cool, but not cold. She could see shells and grit, like sprinklings of white, catching the orange light of a setting sun. Her head ached, and where she touched her ear, her fingers came away bloody. Water dripped from her hair into her eyes, and down her lips. Absently, she licked it away and tasted salt. Waves lapped at her feet. Looking up, she saw it was the boy. There were no bars between them now.

“What…?”

“It sank.” He reached down to help her sit up, then pointed to a tangle of wood and bobbing barrels. “I washed up over there. I just found you. There’s no one else. It’s just us.”

Sand crunched between her teeth. Mummy? Dottie? “The ship?” She rubbed at her aching temple, willing her mind to work. Why did it feel so foggy?

“It’s gone. They’re all gone.” He sat beside her.

Night was falling, the sun dipping below the horizon, its light barely visible across the narrow spit of sand. Kira turned back to the ocean, hoping for a glimpse of the ship–of Mummy. She ached and her head seemed to throb in time with the lapping water.

Before them the full moon rose from the ocean. The storm was gone now, the water calm. Pale light radiated across the tops of waves that appeared no more than ripples.

“The moon is full,” she whispered. She looked at him. “It won’t be long now.”

“It’s…it’s okay,” the boy said. “I won’t hurt you. I wouldn’t know how.”

She smiled. “It must hurt a little. The teeth, they would hurt. Isn’t that right?”

He shrugged, then looked down. “I don’t know. I guess so. I don’t remember.”

“First the fur,” she said. “Then the teeth.” There was an order to these things. The moon was higher now, pale light stretching all the way to the beach.

“I—”

“Then the biting. And the screaming.” Her voice changed, deepening. She felt her teeth lengthen. Her lip curled into a smile. The boy’s eyes widened, whiter than the moon itself.

“Then the blood.”

Copyright 2018 A.J.Savage

A. J. Savage was born in Australia where they trained him as a lawyer and put him to work. After escaping the sand and the sea, he now lives in Japan with his wife and two children. If you look at him silhouetted against a bright light, you might see the hole in his heart where he says his dog should be.

Published inFictionshort storySteemit

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