A blood curdling, ear piercing scream echoes through the late night hour, a sound so horrid it makes everyone jolt awake. Various crew members, above and below, come together just below decks, the stragglers peeking their heads out from their quarter’s doorways to try and discern the origin of such a sound.
“What in God’s name was that?” Ivonelfe asks, the woman looking down the hallway, the sleep still trying to hold onto her. She rubs her eyes and looks over at Tarnaa, the woman fearful of what it may be.
“You don’t…” Tarnaa’s lips form very tightly. “Where is Huff?”
It pains her to ask the question, Tarnaa hoping that the scream has nothing to do with their vampiric crew mate. They have come to an understanding as of late, so to even insinuate she could be involved pains her greatly. She shifts the walking stick in her armpit more comfortably, hoping she is foolish in her accusation.
“Did you guys hear that?” Huff, the woman in question, asks walking over to the two of them. She slides by Arlynne to join her fellow mates, confusion on her face. Tarnaa visibly relaxes seeing Huff coming from the opposite direction, not from the darkened corridor where the scream came from.
“Isn’t that..” Mejoltman asks from near the front of the group. “That came from the new members’ quarters. Arlynne..”
“Here.” Arlynne announces from her position.
“Jazz, who is no longer with us.” Mejo continues. “And Zoey…” Her eyes widen as Alex and Mighty walk out of the darkness, Alex’s face stern and hard edged.
“Just Arlynne’s room now.” Alex states. The big man shakes his head and looks up to everyone gathered. “Where is our so called ‘Captain’? Figures he would not be here to ‘grace’ us with his presence.”
Huff takes a step closer. “He is in the Captain’s… I mean he is in his quarters. I left him there after he fell asleep. Chances are he is still there.”
“Imagine that.” Alex grunts. “Mejo.” Alex looks towards his ‘sister’ who nods. “See what you can find. I warn you…” He says as she begins to move away. “It’s not a pretty sight.” With a slight hesitation, Mejo continues on towards the room that holds Zoey’s body.
Or what is left of it.
Turning the corner, Mejo instantly stops in her tracks as she gains sight of the room. Blood is everywhere. The floor, the walls, even splatter on the ceiling rafters, has the crimson stain. She shakes her head and slowly comes to the mass on the blood soaked cot. She gingerly makes her way over in order to see what remains of the woman.
It is really hard to tell exactly what happened, but Mejo looks at the chest cavity, torn open to reveal the organs inside, and cringes as the macabre scene sends chills down her spine. “By the Gods..” She whispers, a hand going up to her face, her hand horizontally against her lips. She swallows hard and continues her scan up towards the stump that is her neck.
But no head.
She cocks her head to the side as she examines the markings about the neck. They are rough and jagged, as if the removal was not entirely easy. Several sighs escape her as she is too shocked to think of what could have done this. The only thing powerful enough to tear someone apart is…
She doesn’t want to go down that dark path. Mejo holds faith that Huff is not the culprit. Besides, there are no punctures or any other indicators that say that is the case.
* * * * *
There is no knock. The Captain’s quarters door bursts open suddenly, the door swinging to bang against the frame behind it, the loud sound bringing Torrinda, asleep at the desk, up and awake with a startle.
“What the hell are you doing?” Alex asks stalking up to the table.
Torr, still groggy and totally confused, shrugs. “This is my part of the ship, as you have said, so I was sleeping.”
Alex slams his fist down on the desk, his teeth clenched tightly. “Well while you are in here, someone is dead down below.” He pauses to let Torr hear and understand his words. “Some leader you are.”
Still unable to fathom what is going on, Torr puts his hand up to stop Alex’s words. “Wait, you said someone is dead?”
“Did I stutter?”
“No.” Torr says with a sigh. “You know, I am the Captain of this ship now.”
“So, what does that have anything to do with the current situation?”
“Everything.” Torr says firmly as he rises out of his chair. “You know, Alex, it is proper respect to knock upon my door when you wish an audience with me.” He puts his hand up again to stop any comments. “But you insist on barging right in and getting in my face, insulting me, then demanding, whatever it is you are doing, that I take action upon a matter that is just now being brought to my attention.”
Alex opens his mouth to speak.
And gets cut off.
“So why don’t we try this again.” Torr says, feeling superior in the moment. “I want you to exit my quarters, shut the door, and then knock. Show me you are aware of my station as Captain and then I will give you my attention on the matter at hand.”
“You aren’t serious.” Alex says, his face red and on the verge of exploding.
“Indeed I am.” Torr answers. He folds his arms over his chest and waits for Alex to do what has been asked. When he doesn’t move, Torr adds, “Show me, Alex. You wouldn’t do this if Greg was still here.” He motions for him towards the door.
“Is this some kind of joke to you?” Alex yells, spittle flying from his mouth. “A game?”
Torr shakes his head and looks at Alex calmly. “I assure you, this is no joke. This is no game. I take a crew member’s death very serious, but until you treat me as your Captain…”
“You are no Captain.” Alex snarls as he storms out of the cabin. Torr just watches him leave, shaking his head wondering why Alex feels this way towards him.
“One of many, no doubt…” Torr states, to no one in particular.
* * * * *
“I think it’s safe to say something horrible is aboard this ship.” Ivonelfe states, then winces as she looks at Huff. “No offence.”
“None taken.” Huff replies with a wink. She knows it is bad because she can smell the blood from all the way down the hall. She had wanted to check it out, but she has decided against it. One, she doesn’t want to get too worked up seeing all the blood, and two, she wants to let Mejo conduct her findings without being bothered.
Still, it has been sometime now and no word or anything.
“Ah.” Torr’s voice cuts through the ominous silence as he walks down the stairs to stand by the group of bystanders. “A fair turn out. What do we know so far?”
“It’s Zoey.” Ivon states, a frown on her fair face. “Something terrible has happened to her.”
Torr nods, looking to the others for anything else that they can add. “Who saw her alive last?” He scans the faces to see if there are any clues.
“I did.” Arlynne says coming forward. “I left the room to attend my turn of midwatch. When I left, she was asleep on her cot.”
“Ok.” Torr slowly nods, thinking it through. “Did anyone else see her after that?” He asks hopefully.
Unfortunately they all shake their heads.
“Is there anyone in there now?” He asks, looking to the hallway.
“Mejoltman.” Tarnaa answers.
“All right. You all stay here.” He turns back to them. “I will go to Mejo and see what there is to see. After I have heard what she has to say, I can go from there on what we do next.”
“Wow…” Torr says with a profound sadness as he enters the room. He whistles loudly as he takes it all in and nods to Mejo as she looks up to regard him. “This is bad.”
“Very.” She agrees. “It appears we have something aboard the ship.” She sighs. “And here I thought we finally were able to catch a break.”
“Are you certain that this is Zoey’s body?” Torr asks as he examines the open chest cavity. “Hmmm. No heart.”
Mejo stands tall and looks inside the body, wondering how she missed that earlier. She jots the notes down onto a piece of parchment, filing away the details.
“And the head?” Torr, looking at the neck, asks. “Do we know where it is?”
“I have not searched, but by my early conclusion, it is not near the body.” Mejo states.
“What are your thoughts?” Torr asks, shaking his head at the state of the body.
She takes a long moment to consider all that she has seen. Looking up to the ceiling she shakes her head. “All I know is it had to take someone abnormally powerful to mutilate her as such. You see the splatter on the ceiling beams?” She shrugs. “To get a spray of blood that high up is a mystery in and of itself.”
“So, what are you saying?”
Again Mejo sighs. “You and I both know what it appears to have happened to her.” She looks to Torr, not wanting to admit where the finger points.
“Abnormally strong.” Torr echoes her comment from earlier. She nods, a frown creasing her face. “Body ripped apart, the heart gone.” He begins to piece the thing together, coming down the same line of thinking as she has already done. With a sigh, he looks to her. “You are thinking Huff did this?”
She remains silent, only shrugs in response.
“I don’t think it was Huff.” Torr suggests. “After all, she was with me. She has been watching over me when I sleep ever since the nightmares have started. It couldn’t have been with her.”
“Then I am at a loss.” Mejo says realizing they are back to square one. “There are no bite or puncture marks upon the body, so that does give me doubt that Huff feasted upon her.”
Torr, shaking his head through the whole statement, doesn’t believe that at all. “No. That isn’t the case. I have been helping her with the feedings and cravings.”
“Perhaps she succumbed…”
“No.” Torr says, his tone cold and harsh. “I refuse to believe Huff has anything to do with this.”
Mejo throws her arms up. “Then what, Torrinda!? What else could cause this much carnage?”
There is a moment of silence that passes by both of them, neither one of them able to come to terms with what the truth may be.
“Maybe,” Torr says, finally breaking the awkward silence. “Maybe if we find the head, there will be more answers to this problem. Gather all the information you can. Search the body thoroughly, make sure we don’t leave anything out. Search the room, the items in the room, the belongings. Leave no stone unturned. When you are done, I will have this cleaned up.”
“And what are you going to do in the meantime?”
Torr thinks it over, weighing his options. “By my estimation, with our injured sails, we should make landfall by tomorrow, the next day at the very latest. That gives us two days to figure this out before the culprit can escape to the freedom of land. Hopefully we can find the responsible person, or thing, before then.” He turns to leave, but calls over his shoulder. “Oh, and Mejo.”
“It was not our Huff.”
* * * * *
“So you both think it was me, don’t you?” Huff asks when Torrinda and her are back in the Captain’s quarters some time later. “Would you believe…”
“I believe you, wholeheartedly.” Torr interrupts. “I never thought it was you. I have been beside you enough to know your grace of the kill. The body in that room was thrashed beyond comprehension.”
“Mejo does though.” Huff adds meekly.
“Mejo does not know.” Torr clarifies, leaning back in the chair. “That is what is bothering her. She fears that with all her knowledge, she cannot figure this enigma out. Therefore, she is trying to grasp at anything that fits.”
Huff sighs and closes her eyes. She props her feet up on the desk and rubs at her temples. “What if It was me?” She opens her eyes and looks broken. “What if my control was lost and I turned into the mindless monster, only focusing in on the one thing above all others; the thirst? And I found a sleeping Zoey…”
“And I ripped her heart out of her chest. After all it wouldn’t be the first time I did something like that.” She shudders remembering the two tribal members she did that to in order to protect Ivonelfe and Tarnaa back on the island. “What if the scream was her seeing her still beating heart in my hand before she died?”
“What?” She asks, quietly, on the verge of sobs, clouded by her inner turmoil.
Torr smiles, trying to bring her back down to a calm state. “I know it was not you. Besides, you were with me, watching me sleep.”
Huff’s gaze goes to her feet, her silence speaking volumes.
“Huff?” Torr asks, leaning up in his chair, placing his elbows on the desk. “You. Were. Here. Watching me, were you not?”
“Well…” She admits, then looks up to him quickly to explain. “I mean, you were sleeping, not thrashing around, so I thought you must have finally had a different – better – dream. So I went out to the rails to watch the night sky roll by.”
Torr twists this new information every which way he can. Now that she mentions it, his sleep had been very deep. No nightmares, no smokey darkness, nothing. He seemingly fell asleep only to be woken up by Alex slamming the door open. He wonders what that signifies and nods on that behalf.
“I did not.” Torr answers, easing back into his chair. “You are right. Strangely enough I had no dreams at all…” He folds his arms over his chest as he thinks on that revelation once more. Still, a nagging thought comes to him. “Where was, is, Andy in all this?”
Huff looks at Torr confused, then realizes she did not see her down below the decks when everyone had gathered after they had heard the scream. She ponders the last time she saw the woman and nods.
“I haven’t seen her since I came to talk to you last night.” She blushes ever so slightly. “And you took me out to dinner.”
Torr nods, knowing that was the last time she saw her too. He looks down at the oaken desk, wondering what Greg would do in this situation. After all, things went south pretty quickly when Malakai appeared looking for Shimmergloom and he was trapped inside a mirror, not really being able to see what was happening around him.
“I think in the morning,” Torr begins, a plan of action coming to him. “We gather everyone on board. Bring them in here one by one and try to see what they know.” He looks up to her, a small grin on his face.
“What?” She asks, seeing that subtle grin.
“Huff, you can sense heartbeats, can you not?”
She wonders why he would ask such a question and doesn’t respond right away. As she thinks about it, Torr’s grin growing wider, she nods. “Yes? I mean I can when I am thirsty.”
“Good.” Torr says, hoping for something along those lines. “I will close the windows, ensuring you will be safe, and you can join me for the ‘interrogation’ of the crew. I will ask them various questions, ones that are easy, and ones that will make them uneasy. When they are allowed to leave, their answers given, I will look to you to see if they were being truthful, or if their lies caused their hearts to beat a bit faster.”
She catches on suddenly and shares his grin. “It looks like it’s going to be a fun day ahead of us.”
“That it will be, Huff. That it will be.” He looks to his ring on his finger and then back to her. “How is your appetite? Care for a late night snack?” He laughs at the irony of the situation, Huff sharing in on the joke, the woman laughing with him as well.
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.