Just a short one...
She was having another dream. She knew at least that much.
The screams, the blood, the gore, the horror, the bodies…oh gods, oh Hades be praised, the bodies.
There were mountains of cadavers.
They all stared at her expressionlessly, motionless as a tree.
But she knew they were accusing her. They always did.
What would it be tonight?
A geyser of guts or a fountain of blood drenching her in her sins? Perhaps the ground beneath her would open and she’d tumble down (the twisted rabbit hole) and slide at bodies. Rotted, gooey bodies, skulls and bones, whole skeletons nicking and snatching at her as she descended to deeper madness.
Or worse, would this be the one where ghosts of her past came and waggled their fingers at her saying what a worthless, useless **** she was?
At least the bodies were fun. More than once, a painting had been inspired by taking a spatula to the twisted crevices of her mind and splattering what she found on a canvas.
But no…the tidal of terror was subsided…the voices and bodies fade…
She can see she’s on a ship.
Her old ship.
The faithful Lady Adventure.
Rocking with the water, as though the ocean were a vast dance floor and she was swaying with her partner…
Maybe it won’t be one of those dreams.
Then she hears a faint cry from inside…
Again, not a sound that was unfamiliar to her, awake or unconscious. Bloodcurdling screams of terror and pain. Anguished howls that stripped her of any armor and pierced the marrow of her bones.
Sometimes the screams came from none other than she herself.
Most times, she had been the root cause of the screams.
Now they came back to plague her.
This one…it sounds different.
Not accusing. Not entirely pained.
A scream that yearned to understand and be understood.
She didn’t know how she knew that, aside from dream convenience.
Scanning the deck and its surrounding areas, she finds nothing out of place. Motionless in their racks rest the cannons. These days, they don’t thunder; there’s nothing left to plunder.
The cry continues….this time a bit more insistent. As though it can tell she’s dawdling.
Gritting her teeth, she opens the door and takes a few steps down into the companionway.
Oh may Athena have mercy….the screams and wails are worse inside. It’s still the same, sole source…but amplified. Magnified. The howl bounces off the ceiling like a ping-pong ball gone awry on a mad quest to take out an eyeball.
The floorboards of the ship creak ominously, as though announcing her arrival.
This drives the cries into a frenzy, prompting a triple start scream. The first two attempts don’t quite pick up, but the third cry carries through with a marvelously ear-squelching finale.
(Squelching? That doesn’t make sense….unless the screams are so loud they’ve liquefied the ears to make them squishy?)
She’s aware she’s dreaming. Or quasi-aware.
It’s like when you feel you have the urge to pee, but are too comfortable in bed to leave.
Sometimes a false reality is a happier farce than the waking one.
She passes the old galley and for a moment, a thousand scents of past meals cooked here assault her noise. She can hear pans sizzling, Alain barking out orders to his sous chef…
A navigation and weather room. Charts and plotters limply lay on desks, dust layering them. Computer monitors sat dark.
The insistent scream continues, impatient and indifferent to her whimsical musings.
It’s so much louder down here. She can hardly think straight. Is this up or down? Does she go left or right? The wail sounds like it’s coming from both ends.
….got lost in her own ship, she did…
Angrily, she picks left and races down the path. She knows where she’s going. She’s known all along.
That room just off the starboard, not too far from her own quarters by the stern. It had an excellent porthole…
Outside the door, she knows this is the source of the impatient, insisting screams that seem to follow her over every inch of the ship. Gripping the door’s knob, she grits her teeth and turns it.
She’s never backed down from anything in her life, and she won’t start now.
Even if no one else was around to witness it.
Except you guys, but be quiet, hey?
Not that it makes any difference, the moment she opens the door, it’s as though Pandora has opened a box and a furious howl blasts out with a near-physical force, causing her to step back a pace.
Furious for having been made to wait.
The room is quaint. A tad on the tiny side, but that’s fine. Inside is a small crib, specially built into the room so that it sways with her ship’s movements, like a gimbal stove.
She smiles, thinking how hard her other half had worked on it, so proud at the creation, almost as proud as they both had been of the creature contained in the crib.
Well, creature was a bit of an alliterative abuse, but she’d be hankered if the whaling infant inside didn’t sound like some anguished beast caught in a bear trap.
Cooing softly, she scoops the small charge from its custom crib and reswaddles the infant.
Bahaha, it’s like putting a crazy person in a straitjacket…
She patted the child and told it that it was okay, that everything was fine. Clumsily, she went to another table in the room and withdrew a small bottle, attempting to coax the little beastie into imbibing a sample.
It wasn’t having any of it and somehow managed to free a leg and kick the bottle far away as if she were trying to force the ungrateful, squalling infant to drink acid or poison.
Maybe it wasn’t an import issue…but an export one? Gingerly, she hooks a finger (haha, hook) onto the ominous diaper. No odious scents or unghastly sights.
So what’s this little schnitzel’s problem?
Tiredly, she’s resigned to rocking the little child in her arms, patting its tiny head
(a tiny head, like a grapefruit, easy to crush)
telling it the usual lies.
It’s okay. You’re fine.
Perhaps the little one was having some cabin fever. A trip topside would be the ticket. Feel the wind and fresh air, cool droplets of water from the seaspray…
She smiles, the picture of tranquil.
Then the infernal infant screams again.
She sighs and travels back on the main deck.
It’s just as she can imagine it. Crystal blue waters with perfect clarity. A few dolphins off the port splash and flash their tales as they easily keep pace with the Lady.
“You see how they swerve and jump there?” she told the smaller human, propping it up to see. “That means there might be an obstruction, like a reef…or maybe some treasure.”
The screeching continues.
A wave causes the vast Lady to buck ever so slightly and she grips on a railing. Perhaps harder than necessary. A transferal of frustrations.
“You know, I’m really trying here, but you’re not making it easy,” she informed the child.
Gods, she thought the screaming…the screaming…the bloody screaming!
It was worse out in the open somehow.
Louder, as though the open space allowed the cries to expand and grow in volume until they seemed to enclose and encompass and crowd upon her.
That’s not scientifically possible.
Maybe it was wakeup time.
Okay, sun’s getting real low, sun’s going down…c’mon!
Meanwhile the infamous infant seemed to vibrate with an unhuman amount of energy for so tiny a being. She could feel the small form trembling with each scream that rolled from its lungs.
In a dazed haze, she walked up and down the length of the ship, stern to stem, port to starboard. Why was it crying? It had everything it needed, it wasn’t hungry, it didn’t need to be changed (she had checked again), it was warm enough in the swaddle, but not overtly warm…
So why was it doing this to her?
Those screams, those infernal, irksome screeches.
Like a banshee.
Like so many she’s killed before.
Thousands, hundreds of thousands. All screaming and pleading, begging her for life.
All of them would have slain her without batting an eye had she given them the chance.
(Would they have?)
Wasn’t that all this thing right now was doing? Begging for its life? On the most primal level it was capable of?
More inarticulate than a Greek god cast off Mount Olympus, unable to muster more than a piercing howl, a shrill shriek…
It made her skin crawl. The hairs stood on end. She wouldn't have blamed them if they simply uprooted and ran off.
She wanted to run too.
But she couldn’t.
An anchor was weighing her down. Holding her back.
Driving her crazy.
A fleshy anchor.
How did that poem go?
She refused to sink, she was alone at sea in a storm, a tumult, a mighty maelstrom…but still the girl in the poem refused to give in.
The girl had decided to survive and kicked her legs, swimming for shore.
The girl had felt an anchor caught around her leg. The girl cut it and was free.
She cut her anchor now, hearing a dull plop as it dropped to the ocean below.
Finally all was silent.
Oh god, what did she do?
Her breathing hitched and dropped, a panic dragging at her heart. It thudded madly, liable to burst from her chest.
Okay, she was ready to wake up. Come on, wake up, wake up….
(you already know the truth)
She was awake.
Horrified, she looked down again, finding only a few bubbles to mark the spot where her baby sank.
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- LEP Commander
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