The sound of droplets echoing in the darkness gain in magnitude. The source cannot be seen through the smoky shadows, but it’s there, the constant drip, drop. He puts his hand up to his face, but in this place, void of any light, he cannot see, not even when he moves it from side to side, inches away.
This has to be the fourth, or fifth, time he has ended up in here, his dreams trying to show him something. An endless wasteland of darkness, except for those drops somewhere. He continues on, one foot in front of the other, listening to the echoes, and tries to locate the origin of the droplets.
He stops, again, and moves his hands out before him, grabbing the darkness as if it is a tangible thing, and tries to pry it apart. Little balls of it break away, floating away as they are tossed behind him. He picks up the pace, digging now, through the wall of shadow.
The wall becomes more thick, just like the last few times, but a small scratching sound, just audible enough to be registered, comes from within the curtain of darkness. More and more handfuls, more and more chunks flying away with reckless abandon, the scratching getting louder.
He stops suddenly. That is not like the last time. He slowly turns around, expecting to see something, anything, in this darkness. But only the solitude of black nothingness shows. He turns back to the ‘hole’ he has been digging, placing his hands and readying himself once more. He reaches in…
And is grabbed on the left wrist!
His muffled scream is silenced in this place, no voice or sound breaking through, except for that water. He tugs backwards, but is held firm. He slaps at the clutching object and tugs again with all his might, the grip released at the last second to make him fall over backwards to land on the shadowy ground.
But the horror isn’t over.
The small wisps of shadow begin to roll over him, swallowing him up! He slowly sinks into the ground, the shadows encasing him!
Torr wakes up suddenly, thrashing wildly. He slowly calms down as Huff puts a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Shhh. Thor.” Huff calls out softly. “Thor, you are all right. You are safe. Wake up.” The soothing voice does the trick and he slowly opens his eyes to see the woman, sitting in the chair, next to his hammock.
“It happened again, didn’t it?” She asks, her hand removed from his shoulder. She nods when he does as well. “This is the fifth night in a row. Anything different this time?”
“No.” He says, but remembers something. “No, wait. A hand, or something, reached out and grabbed me!”
Huff looks to Torr, wondering what must be going through his mind while he sleeps. Is it Malakai? Is the shade still tormenting him from beyond, since they once shared the same body? It’s confusing at best, but five continuous nights, he has found this dream, this state, or whatever it is.
“What do you think is causing this?” Torr rubs his eyes, sliding his legs over the side and sits up. “Any insight?”
Huff chews on her bottom lip trying to solve this riddle, but there is nothing much to go on. She looks at Torr and shrugs, her facial expression telling him she is sorry she cannot figure it out.
“Don’t worry yourself over it.” Torr says, dropping to the floor. He stretches slightly and smiles. “After all, it’s only a dream.”
She smiles and nods, not fully believing it to be the case. With nothing else in the way of changing the line of thinking, there is nothing else to be said. She follows him out of his room, the two of them heading for Mejoltman’s quarters to report another episode.
“Five nights in a row?” Mejo asks, more to herself than anyone else. She shakes her head. “I was hoping that things would pass, but now you say not only do they persist, but they seem to be changing ?” Torr nods as he sits in the chair, looking to the mystic for any insight she can give.
“He said a hand.” Huff answers.
“Well,” Torr interrupts. “What I believe was a hand. It is so dark that I cannot see anything. Hand, claw, shadow. It could have been anything.”
It is Mejo’s turn to nod, carefully examining the information. “I do know of a way to watch your dreams from afar.”
“What?” Huff and Torr say in unison.
“It is a sacred ritual, mostly to watch a troubled soul that is possessed by an otherworldly force.”
“Like maybe, Malakai?” Huff asks, looking, fearful, at Torr.
“Perhaps.” Mejo concludes. “Or maybe it is a manifestation of the troubles we have faced these last few weeks. How are you sleeping, Huff?”
Huff looks at her incredulously. “Me!?” She asks. “I… I don’t sleep.”
“And why is that?” Mejo continues.
Huff wonders that herself. With the threat of Bladen’Kurst ended, she had believed that there would be a final calmness to her, but since the transformation had not ended, her still being a vampire, she has submerged herself in various tasks that will not allow her to rest. Looking after Torr while he sleeps, being there to bring him back safely, has taken up her nights. And the days…
Lets just say she does not enjoy the days so much.
Just the thought of being in the sun sends shivers through her body, knowing full well what would happen if she were to be caught in the sun’s rays.
“Huff?” Mejo asks, by her tone it was not the first time she had done so. Coming back to the conversation, leaving the thought of her ash covered body deteriorating in the breeze, she smiles meekly.
“I asked you why haven’t you been sleeping?” Mejo asks, a look of trepidation on her face.
“Well,” Huff begins to answer, thinking how to put her emotions into words. “I have kept myself busy so I do not think of the thirst taking a hold in my mind. The less I am forced with dealing with it, the easier it is to keep it contained.”
“Yes.” Mejo agrees. “But, that only means that when the thirst does, and it will, gain a hold on you, it will be so fierce, so complete, that nothing anyone of us can say, or do, can bring you down, or out of that. Do you realize that?”
“I am always aware of that.” Huff answers with a nod. “It would pain me greatly to see my actions result in any one of my family here to have been hurt or,” She swallows hard. “Die by my hand.”
“Then you know the importance of being able to control your cravings, to sedate the thirst like we attempted to do before.” Mejo states, feeling for the tormented woman wholeheartedly.
“Ughh..” Huff groans, remembering the ‘weaning’ process they tried with using rat’s blood as her sustenance. “I don’t, didn’t, care for the fur being stuck in my mouth.” Subconsciously her mind tells her there is some stuck in her mouth right now. She pulls at her tongue, thinking – feeling – there are some where there isn’t.
“Regardless, Huffette,” Mejo adds, using Huff’s full name to show her how serious this is. “You need to consider a means to an end. Rather it be rats than Torr here, or myself.”
“Yep.” Huff answers, aware of the dangers, feeling like she finally got the elusive fur hair out of her mouth.
“And find some rest. What good are you if you are tired and hungry all the time?” Mejo smiles as she finishes, showing Huff that this was not a scolding by any means. “And you.” She turns to Torr. “We should be coming back to land soon. Could you go seek Mighty and see how much longer it may be? We are running out of rations and I do not wish to survive this recent madness to die of starvation out here on the seas.”
“You go.” Huff say, smiling at Torr’s unanswered question of her accompanying her up to, where the sun is. “I’ll hang out below. Maybe I’ll check on Tarnaa.”
* * * * *
A heavy sigh escapes his lips as he looks at the door in front of him; the Captain’s quarters. He replays the scene of the man slowly deteriorating in the purple light cast by the ring on Bladen’Kurst’s hand. Hesitantly he places his hand on the doorknob, Torr regretting how everything had played out, wishing he isn’t stuck inside a mirror when his friends needed him. Slowly the hand turns the knob, the door coming loose from its perch to creek open, the sound adding to the weight of loss. With a heavy heart, he takes a step inside, his eyes adjusting from the light of the sun to the darker room before him.
The room sits as it has, empty, devoid of life. Small specks of dust flitter through the sunlight, Torr looking around the room, almost as if for the first time, even though he has been in here nearly a hundred times. He looks to the walls, the battleship gray color he had used to cover Huff’s prank when she painted this all pink. He smiles briefly as he notices a small area where he had missed, the pink just visible.
Running his hand along the oaken desk, his fingers tracing the beveled edge, Torr makes his way to the chair, almost expecting to see the Captain as he turns it around to face him. Another sigh comes out, looking around at all the trinkets and items the man had collected and set out on display, knowing his more valuable treasure safely locked inside a chest in the room off to the side of this one. Reluctantly he finds himself sitting in the chair, looking at things from the Captain’s perspective. The meeting with Might didn’t really go as well as it could have, and because of what was said, Torr finds himself in this room, in this chair. He closes his eyes, recalling when the man had kicked him out of the room for messing with his treasure and asking about Shimmergloom.
“Oh, you are here.” Alex says, waking Torr out of his history recalling. “And getting comfortable I see.” The big man folds his arms over his chest, the arm still bandaged, but very much healed, showing it has been changed recently. “Let’s get one thing straight. Protocol calls for you to take over as the Captain, now that Greg is gone. But don’t expect the same relationship from me as I gave to him. If it were up to me, hell, I would have Mighty, or myself, take on the mantle, but the line of duty puts you in charge. This is all your responsibility now.” Alex stops, to let the words sink in.
Responsibility? More like a burden. Torr thinks to himself in light of Alex’s words. Mighty had told him much the same, that he now becomes the leader of the crew. He looks up to Alex, the big man shifting from one foot to the other, awaiting a response.
“Alex, I understand.” Torr states, leaning back in the chair, his fingers interlocking as the elbows rest on the arm rests of the chair. “It would be unfair of me to ask you to treat me the same as the Cap’n. To your argument, because you feel angered that the duty falls to me?”
“Is not misplaced.” Torr continues. “I, too, would be angry at anyone else in this role. The shoes I am intended to fill are great indeed, but I do not wish to fill them.” Alex cocks his head, intrigued. “I only wish to put them upon a pedestal and hope that one day I can be worthy enough to wear them.” Alex, seemingly relaxes, a little.
“I know I can never be as great as the Cap’n, hell, I don’t think anyone can! But, as you say, I have been called upon to act as the head of this wyrm. It will be difficult, it will be struggle. Just know I may come to lean upon you for support and opinion from time to time. Can you at least give me that much?”
Alex shakes his head, his arms dropping from off his chest. “Just because you can spin a good yarn, doesn’t mean anyone wants to hear it.” He points to Torr. “You are still unable to be trusted. Keep that thought in the back of your mind. Who will follow and untrustworthy fool?” He grunts and turns to leave, nearly bumping into Alexandria in the process. She watches Alex storm off, then looks back into the room and knocks on the door jamb.
“Hey. Torrinda, right?”
Torr nods, bringing a weak smile to his lips. “You can call me Thor. Most of them do around here.”
“Captain Thor.” She states, walking into the room, her red hair bouncing on her shoulders.
“Don’t.” Torr says shaking his head. “Don’t call me that.”
“But it is your new title, is it not?” She smiles, trying to break the somber mood. “That is not why I am here.” She sits on the desk, one check firmly on the table. “I have introduced myself to everyone on board and have asked for some feedback on the previous Captain of this crew. Now, I didn’t get to know him all that well, but from what I could figure out, and help from everyone here, his exploits were incredible. I am – I would – like to take these stories because I think they would make an excellent book someday.”
“So, you want to get rich off the retelling of the Cap’n’s trials and tribulations, am I getting that right?” Torr asks, a bit of venom in his voice.
“No!” Alex gasps, her left hand going to her chest. “No, that is not what I mean. I just thought the world needs to know about the man we – you – all lost.”
“And this money that would come from the sales of said memoir…?” Torr asks, still skeptical.
“I would give to the crew, or do with it however you see fit.” She leans in closer to Torr, putting that left hand on the desk for support. “I do not need the money, if any does come in. I have traveled to the ends of this world. My wealth is measured in the sights and sounds, the freedom and experience I have been privileged to partake in. Monetary gain is of no concern to me.”
Torr digests everything and comes to believe the woman. “Fair enough. What is it I can help you with?”
Andy smiles, that warming – disarming – smile, and slides up on the desk more. “Tell me something about the Captain, Cap’n, you call him?” Torr nods, letting her continue. “In your glimpses, your recollections, tell me something that will make my jaw drop.”
Torr sits back rubbing his bottom lip with his left index finger, staring off as he tries to think of something. He grins seconds later and leans in closer, Andy readying her pencil.
“Andy, let me tell you about the time the Cap’n stole a certain jewel from a certain demon…”
* * * * *
Under the canopy of the night sky, the stars dotting up to the distant horizon, Huff makes her way to the upper decks, looking for Torr. With the afternoon to contemplate a few things, she is in need of the man, or rather something he has. With the thirst on the edge of her consciousness, she sees Andy exit the Captain’s quarters. Finding it odd, she watches her walk away and up to Arlynne, the wiry woman going through some offensive maneuvers on a bag of sand, her daggers poking, slashing and cutting the bag so sand can escape. When a conversation strikes up with them, Huff walks over to the door, hesitates, then opens it up and walks in.
“Ah, figured you would come up eventually.” Torr says, seeing Huff, glad she is above the gloom of her room.
“Yeah.” She looks out the door and points.
“Andy?” Torr asks, receiving a nod of confirmation. “She came in and asked some things about the Cap’n.” His face turns into a frown. “She also said that everyone is pretty down after… You know.”
Huff nods, a frown on her face as well. “She ran into me, too, when I was checking on Tarnaa.”
“How is she?”
“Getting stronger.” Huff laughs softly. “She has a walking stick she is supposed to use, but she doesn’t. Ivonelfe is there to make sure she doesn’t get hurt, or rather to watch over her since Tar-nation does not want any help.”
A smile, genuine, is on Torr’s face at the mention of Tarnaa’s many nicknames Huff has given her. “That is good. Very good.” He looks up to Huff, his eye locking into her orbs. “Huff?”
“How, how are you doing?” He asks. Knowing how close there were, he knows that losing the Captain has to be very painful. With everything happening so suddenly, there has been little time to check up on her to actually see how she is handling it.
“I’m fine.” She smiles, lying and hiding it painfully.
Torr, knowing if she wanted to talk about it, she would, so he doesn’t press it any further. “Your thirst? Mejo is right you know.”
“I said I was fine.” She answers firmly.
“Ok. Ok.” Torr concedes, placing his hands down under the desk, reaching for a hidden dagger. “So, if you saw blood, you would, ‘be fine’?”
Torr nods, positioning the blade in his palm. “And if I did this…” He winces as he cuts into his palm, bringing it up for her to view, watching her reaction.
She could smell it before he brought it up to view it, the sweet smell slapping her senses profoundly. With a tight grip on the desk, she licks her lips as the red line slowly beads down the length of Torr’s forearm.
“I shouldn’t worry, right Huff? Because you are ‘fine’.” He clenches his fist, a second bead of blood filling and trickling down to join the first, the larger, combined bead trailing down towards his elbow. “Because..” He looks up to her, seeing the struggle clearly in her, the eyes growing bloodshot, then slowly receding, then back again.
“Why..” Huff asks, breathing deeply. “Why are you doing this to me?”
Torr puts his arm away and stands up. “I am showing you that you are, most certainly not, fine. I want to help you.”
“By teasing me!?” Huff growls, that demonic side drawing ever closer, still smelling the blood even though she cannot see it anymore.
“You are right, Huff. Since you will not speak about how it is affecting you, I had to show you. Now that I have woken the beast inside of you, how will you put it back in the box?”
He watches as the struggle might be more uncontrollable than anyone thought. He wonders if he has overstepped and has put everyone in danger. He looks to his ring, thinking about a possibility.
“Do you trust me, Huff?” He asks, still wondering about Alex’s claims from earlier. He begins to form the doorway as she is in the throes of choice.
“AaarRrggGhhHh!” She grabs the sides of her head, angry, hunger, and everything in between.
The doorway finishes behind her, the entrance to the hellish island they had escaped from a week or so ago. “Your salvation. We can go through the door and find one of those tribal members, or you can give in and feast upon my arm.” He brings his arm back up for her, the blood right in front of her face.
She turns to the doorway, then back to his arm.
Torr nods and jumps over the desk to take her where she needs to be…
* * * * *
Digging, digging, the small clumps of shadow giving away as he tosses them behind him, picking up the pace.
The hand grabs him once again, but instead of freaking out and screaming, he tries to pull away, but bracing himself so he does not fall backwards into the waiting shadows. Tugging harder, Torr reaches in with his other hand and grabs a hold of the solid mass and pulls with all his strength, the mass slowly coming through the solid wall of shadow.
“I knew it..” Torr says, the shadows distorting the sound, making it muffled – like always. He continues to pull, the scratching sound echoing more and more. “Cap’n, is that you!?” He tugs as hard as he can thinking that the mass on the other side is the Captain, trapped inside the shadow realm. Maybe this is why he is coming back here night after night. The fates are trying to tell him that there is something here he must take care of.
The tension breaks away, the hand disappearing suddenly, causing an overbalanced Torr to fall back down into the shadows. Like clockworks, the shadows begin to crawl over him and take him down into the darkness…
“THOR!” The voice, Huff, isn’t like before. This time it is strained and sounds like she needs help. He slowly opens his eyes to find that he is holding Huff’s arm, tightly. He realizes it and lets it go, shocked and a little embarrassed.
“Huff, I’m sorry… I… I.”
She rubs her wrist, the tight grip bringing a bruise to her arm, but it begins to fade. “What happened? You were thrashing like always, then when I tried to wake you, you grabbed a hold of my arm. I couldn’t get you to let go of me…” She looks at him skeptically. “Me. The vampire, couldn’t get you to let me go.”
“I pulled it through…” Torr states, seemingly ignoring Huff’s claim. “I think…” He looks into Huff’s eyes, a look of sorrow forming on his face. “I think it’s the Cap’n. I think he’s still alive…”
Buried At Sea by Matt Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.atramentous.net.