Captain Culastrax came crimson-faced, stomping from the wheelhouse. Each night the same sickened and stormy visage bellowed from the handrail, marched towards the capstan and howled seven furies into the fog. His daily pantomime: extravagant origami until another ship’s chart was aeroplaned into the ocean. Next he would begin his trudge towards the gunwale and hurl the sextant into the mist and froth of forbidding seas with a cry that the stars had abandoned us.
Lt. Manfridge paced the main deck while Calves and Alsace settled in for their game of draughts. I remained in place on the mast, watching, awaiting the return of the horrors. It was routine to us now, we lived on repeat. Manfridge had come to eagerly await the monsters’ rising, incubating new plans of attack & subversion. Culastrax was, conversely, becoming lost to madness. I favoured the lookout position. In the fog and iceberg I would catch glimpses of our former lives, Calves laughing with his lover, Culastrax building sand castles with giddy children. The enlightenment was always different: if we survived again I would share my findings with eager faces. I fancied I was restoring their humanity, though the sapping vapours around us outpaced my efforts.
Another boat in the distance packed with grey faces counting the seconds to death. They were aged and bearded, flesh sinking into their skulls like footsteps into flan. They did not scream when they lurched into the foam and vanished quickly below the waves: they had no such want for survival. Perhaps I even heard a joyous sigh. Once I had seen us but not us. We were all together; armed, in uniform, faces etched with disgust, guilt and duty. Calastrax stomping up and down our iron fish, laughing at gurgling faces in the surf. I had not shared this with the crew.
Culastrax was raving tonight: “The Sea God” was coming and his wrinkled palms would envelop us. He was fading faster than the rest, perhaps responsibility weighed upon him. Perhaps, again, he was developing a keen internal clock, for in the distance I saw it then: mottled pink with dreadful flesh-trenches. “The Sea God” had come for us and we were ready with resignation. The water whipped around the ship, the displaced suction of a terror rising from the depths. Five sausage tentacles wrapped about the plastic galleon. Calves slammed the gaff down into death’s own grip as it tugged at us. We began to list violently to the side and the bubbling froth washed over the deck.
As the guiding hand of the heavens forced us ever deeper, we prayed. We prayed that soon, at this our darkest hour, the seas would drain as the plughole would be opened. It would all be The Sea God’s final joke. We prayed until the artificially blue waters filled our lungs and the cylindrical sailorman bobbed past, dye dripping from his massive conical hat.
In the distance it bobbed, with mocking smirk: the yellow duck of fate.