Summer Water Challenge Honorable Mention
The sea is a fickle mistress. Deep and dark, ever-shifting with the currents and sand. She takes whatever poor souls and treasures fall below her waves, burying them deep within her depths. To rest, to be kept and worn down, so that should they ever see the light of day again, they are forever changed.
She claims all who breath salt, who train themselves to walk steady on ever-shifting surfaces. She is deadly and wicked, yet beautiful and full of life. She is a mischievous and unforgiving mistress.
Especially when her lovers in the sky play such glorious music.
The sea churns, angry and dark, mountainous clawing waves crashing down against the hull of a great ship. It rocked against the force, water spilling over the edge, splashing across the deck, only for the salty water to be washed away by the downpour rushing from the heavens, drenching the wood.
“Captain!” cries the first mate, skidding across the deck, past the crew rushing back and forth, working tirelessly to keep them all afloat, to the doors of the Captains cabin. He pounds his fist against the wood, and above, thunder booms, a bright flashing light following a second after, illuminating the area, showing the nothing that stretches for miles.
“Captain Ares!” he screams again, pounding even harder against the wood. Skin bleached white, a stark contrast to the blue and purple blooming across his knuckles. Again, the thunder booms, the sound echoing in the chests of the crew, and the ship rocks violently, throwing him off balance, fingers slipping out of his feeble grip as he stumbled backwards. Immediately after, as the lightning is again flashing across the darkened clouds, a figure, tall and curvy and wrapped in a crimson coat steps out.
“What’s all this noise, Knox?” calls the Captain, voice ringing above the raging storm. A Cheshire grin stretches across her lips as she takes in the shaking man before her. Blinding white teeth flash in the dark, famous wild hair pulled back tight, drifting behind her like a low flame.
“The storm, Captain,” he cries, rushing to her side as she marches up towards the wheel, boots thudding as loud as the thunder. “We’re rushing right into the thick of it, and it doesn’t seem like we’ll be able to break free.” The man shakes his head, face drawn grim and pale. “I’m not sure how much more the old girl can take.” The Captain dismisses her crewmember, taking the helm herself, eyes narrowed against the oncoming spray, yet her lips remain pulled up in a predatory smirk.
“I see what ye mean,” she replies, tugging effortlessly on the stiff wheel. “Well,” she clicks, tongue flicking out and licking the salt-water from her red lips. “We head for the Eye, then,” she calls, spinning the weather-worn wheel, rushing straight for the worst of the storm.
Around her, the men slip and shake and cry out in alarm, but she pays them no mind, barking orders over the deafening thunder, eyes flashing in time with the piercing lightning. Though terror fills the air, the crew know better than to question their Captain, regardless of how insane she may seem.
The rush, crashing into each other, sputtering under the steadfast spray, from both above and below, and fulfill her orders. Calloused, bloodied fingers heaving on thick ropes, squinting under the endless spray, fighting against the ghastly storm to safety.
Captain Ares cackles, as the waves seem to rush her beloved ship, falling like fists of rock, the wood of her vessel creaks and groans. The ship trembles, and sweet murmurs fall from the Captain’s lips, words lost to the wind. Then, just as Ares catches sight of their sought haven, an impossibly large wave rises before them in challenge, and the men freeze, eyes wide, mouths gaping at the sight.
The crew scrabble, make any and every attempt to evade that, as their captain bares her teeth in challenge. But despite their efforts, the ship goes under.
Waters fills the men’s lungs, burning their ribcages as they fight for air. The waters swirls, icy claws curling around their arms and legs, dragging them deeper into the dark.
But one soul refuses to surrender. One burning, brilliant immortal soul.
Captain Ares is renowned for one thing in particular. Known more than her impeccable skills with a blade, more than her chaotic strategies, more than the thousands of graves she alone filled, more than her wild red hair, said to flicker like fire.
No matter how often her torso is filled with holes, no matter how many times one cuts off her limbs or tears out her burning eyes – she will not die. And if you walk with her, if you join her crew — you will be bound to serve her insatiable hunger forever.
Under the dark water, a fire lights. Crimson eyes burst open, and a maw filled with a predator’s teeth spreads wide. Captain Ares speaks, bubbles rising from her red mouth.
“By No Sword Or Stone Will I Fall,
By No Rope Will I Hang,
By No Storm Will I Drown.
No Chain Will Bind Me,
No Cell Shall Hold Me,
And No Word Will Bend or Break Me.
By the Eternal Flame I Will Stand,
I Will Run and Fight.
I Will Never Falter nor Fall.
I Will Rise Forevermore,
As Long as the Song of War Rings in My Veins.”
Her words ring, and with a spin and a kick, her heels thunk against the deck of her ship, which is steadily rising from the depths unimpeded. She walks, hands clasped behind her back, hair, now unbound, swirling around her head like a cloud of blood. As the ship continues to rise, her crewmembers heave themselves over the edges, hands reaching for bars to cling to, loose rope to tie around their hands, bubbles falling from their lips.
They do not gasp or flail, they question not their leader’s power, nor gasp for air as mortals should; the dead have no need for such things. They only hold on and wait, faces flickering with their bleached bones, eyes glowing with the ethereal fire keeping them ‘alive’.
The ship crests, bursting from the water and settling under the circle of haven; they are in the eye of the storm. The crew cough, expelling salt-water and blood, and march back towards their stations, feeling no chill, no weakness in their flesh and bone limbs. It had been a long time since they felt mortal.
As they move without prompt, the captain turns to stand at the bow of her vessel, hands curled at her hips, lips pressed and pulled up in a content smile. She stares forward unflinching, eyes flickering with her inner fire. She then spins, marching back to her cabin, hands clasped, hair and coat-tales fluttering behind her, a wordless hymn falling from her lips.
As their captain promised on every single crewmember’s judgement day; no weapon nor creature nor any challenge on this earth will strike them down.
Rachel Racette, born 1999, in Balcarres, Saskatchewan. Interested in creating her own world and characters and loves in writing fiction. She has always loved books of fantasy and science fiction as well as comics. Published in the anthology; The Spelunkers: A Chipper Press Anthology, Route 7 Review Issue 8, Underwood Press Online Journal.