Carl

Carl

A Story by Amanda
"

A young boy learns a hard lesson about being the son of a pirate captain.

"

“Carl!” My father’s voice roared above the violent thrashing of the waves. Rain pummeled the deck. It was the type of rain that hit the skin so hard, it seemed more like a solid than simply water. I could feel it through the canvas I lay beneath, a thin layer of protection from the both the weather and my father’s view, but completely benign against the frigid bite of the evening wind.

“Carl!” I could hear the stomping of his heavy leather boots on the deck, so close I was sure he would be able to see how the canvas trembled with every muffled, labored breath I took. But he didn’t. His eyes had been troubling him in recent years. Be it because of cataracts or the cloak of heavy rain, he could not see me. I heard him pass by my hiding spot, his footfalls traveling the length of the deck, towards the crew’s lodgings.

“Carl!” he repeated. “Carl!” His voice was louder, more urgent. Gone were the traces of anger that first drove me to seek shelter from that intimidating, threatening bellow of a voice. His calls rang like gunshots through the wind, across the waves. They were the cries of a man afraid, frantic, horrified.

“All men!” I heard him roar. “All men on deck!” Almost instantly, I could feel the very frame of the ship begin to shake with the thundering footfalls of twenty and more men clamoring out of their barracks below deck. My heart thumped wildly in my chest. If one of them was to discover me hiding, it would be a thrashing for sure.

Quickly but carefully, I pulled the canvas down below my eyes. My father’s shadow lingered just barely in sight, around a corner. The dingy I lay in was secured towards the bow, invisible to prying eyes on deck, lest they venture round the captain’s quarters, near the lacquered staircase that led to the upper deck. I felt the dingy sway slightly as I quickly pushed the waterlogged canvas from my body. I gripped the side, gazing out over the water, black and empty to my eyes. Rain hit my exposed arms and face like a thousand tiny bullets. I would have welts on the morrow, I was sure of it.

I could hear my father barking out the orders to begin searching every hold, nook, and cranny on the ship, then turn to another group and give them more quiet instructions to search the waters.

 This was my chance. Without another moment’s hesitation, I lifted myself up by the ropes that secured the dingy to the side of the ship.

And then I dove.

The water hit me like a wall of solid ice. One moment, I was flying, slicing through the wind and rain head-first, an arctic bird of prey diving for a morsel lurking just beneath the waves. The next moment, I was fully immersed, knocked breathless by a blanket of needles that wrapped itself around me, digging long, sharp fingers into every surface my flesh. I sank further and further, slowing with every second. And then I stopped. Water pressed in on me from every angle, the currents lazily sloshing my body to and fro.  

Despite the sudden numbness that penetrated every muscle I possessed, I forced my arms to reach skyward. I forced myself to swim for the surface. I knew they would not have heard the splash. The weather was far too violent for anyone to have picked out the sound of a ninety-pound boy hitting the water over the crash of waves driving into the hull of the ship like the angry fists of Neptune. I needed to reach the surface. I needed to scream. I could only barely see the inconstant glow of the lanterns on-deck, squirming and blurring like jellyfish through the water.

What felt like an eternity later, I broke the surface, inhaled cold, salty air into my starved lungs. I could not feel my arms, nor any part of my body. I could only pray that some instinctual part of my brain would keep them moving, keep me afloat long enough for someone to fish me out of the sea.

“Help!” I screamed, a wave filling my open mouth with bitter salt water. I spit, yelled again, louder, “Help!”

The glow of one of the lanterns fell on me. “Help!” I continued to cry. “Help!”

I heard voices on deck, frantic exclamations as more and more lanterns crowded the banisters on the side of the deck. Salt and rain clouded my vision, so I could not see their faces, just the vague outline of their shadows across the rolling sea.

I heard a splash close by, and knew that one of them had dived into the waves to fetch me. In my frantically beating heart, I felt a small flutter of relief. Within a short minute, I felt a strong pressure through the numbness that encompassed my body, and saw that a man’s arm was wrapped around my waist. I allowed my body to go limp as the man pulled me against his chest and tugged hard on the rope around his waist. The group of men on deck who held the other end secure began to heave and drag the two of us up the side of the ship. I did not allow myself to feel fear once my toes left the water, as we were suspended, dangling from the side of the ship. All I could feel was pride, pride at my own cunning, my daring, my willingness to face Poseidon head-on. But not my father. No, I was not quite that daring.

Once within reach, some of the crew grabbed my limp body by my armpits and hauled me aboard. Their faces were blurred, unrecognizable. One of them dragged me farther from the edge, propped me against something sturdy, the mast I guessed. Within moments, another had thrown a dry blanket across my shoulders. Within another moment, it was as thoroughly drenched as I was. Nevertheless, I pulled it close to me, hugged it close to my chest like a long-missed friend.

“Carl.”

Like whipped dogs, I saw the men shrink away from me, parting as if struck by the very staff of Moses. Even the rain seemed to slow a bit, as though it too were commanded by my father.  I blinked away the salt until I could clearly see his face before me, bearded, calloused as a piece of old leather.

“Father,” I whispered, trying to sound a little weaker than I actually was, which was pretty weak to begin with.

He did not venture to stoop to where I did not have to strain to look up at him. He just stood, towering above me. For a moment, I thought I saw a glint of concern in his dark, inkwell eyes. But it vanished as quickly as it came.

“What happened,” he demanded. His brow was creased, furrowed in thought, his lips pressed into a thin, stony line. I blinked again, licked my lips. Was he angry? Could he really be angry?

“What happened,” he demanded again, much louder. I flinched.

I looked around. All the eyes of the crew were on me, some pitying, most groggy and sore that they had been dragged out of bed in a storm just to fish the captain’s brat out of the sea, when many of them probably would have seen me just as easily drowned.

“I,” I stammered, my voice weakened from the salt water. “I slipped,” I lied. “Fell.”

If my father believed or did not believe me, his eyes betrayed none of it. They simply stared, boring into my forehead for a moment that could have easily been an eternity. I wouldn’t have known. I was small, smaller than I have ever felt.

I moved my arm as if I would reach out to him. “Fath-“ I began.

“Help him to his feet,” my father barked at a nearby sailor. He turned from me and strode several paces away, the wind whipping at his loose, matted braids. I felt more hands beneath my arms. Two men lifted me up and waited as I struggled to gain a solid footing. My legs shook violently beneath my weight.

“Rope,” I heard my father say.

Rope? I blinked, looked around at the men. No one moved. My father, hearing no movement at his orders, whipped around to face them. There was anger, the same deep, consuming anger I had seen countless times before. It was plastered across every wrinkle, every hair, every skin cell on his face.

“I said, ‘Rope!’” He roared.

One of the men closest to me broke away from the crew and dashed across the rain-slicked deck. He found a loose length of heavy, waterlogged rope coiled near the banisters, slung it over his shoulder.

“Father?” I squeaked.

“Bind him,” he directed at no one in particular, though his hard, heavy gaze was fixed squarely on me.

This time, there was no hesitation. I did not struggle as more men seized me, spun me around so my chest and face were pressed against the mast, my arms stretched around the thick timber. As one of them forced my wrists together, and I felt the heavy rope hit my arms, my father said, “No.”

No? Mercy? Perhaps he was having a second thought.

“You,” he sneered. The men that held me released their grip. I slowly turned to face my father. He had to crane his neck to glare down at me. “You are a stupid boy,” he spat, loud enough for the whole crew to hear. I flinched. “There is no place on this ship for boys or fools. The next time you are foolish enough to find yourself overboard in a storm, I will let you drown, and drown with you any man that aims to help you.”

A long, heavy silence fell over the deck. The only sound that could still be heard was the indifferent rumbling of thunder, the howl of the wind, and the constant drumming of rain as it hit the deck.

“Bind him facing this way,” he ordered. “Hands behind his back.”

Again, I was grabbed by rough hands, my arms yanked behind me. I yelped with pain as my father’s orders were carried out. The mast was so thick, and my arms so short, that the men had to pull them so they nearly burst from their sockets, just to get my hands to meet behind me. The numbness fully eradicated, I felt every rough grain in the wood, every scratchy, serrated fiber of the rope as they secured me to the mast. I did not cry out, I did not allow a single tear to escape my tired eyes. I bit my lip to hold it in. I tasted blood, warm and salty.

His orders carried out, my father turned to the crew and said simply, “Back below deck.”

One by one, the men began filing back to the lower barracks, some flashing me remorseful looks, but none to where my father could see. My father lingered, until they were all out of earshot and only the two of us remained above. His face was stoic, a perfect mask of intimidation and malice. He stared at me, hands behind his back.

I stared at him with an expression that could have been either loathing or pleading. Nothing but the rain and ten feet of air hung between us, though it might as well have been all seven seas. For a moment, I thought I saw his eyes soften, the line between his brow waver, just slightly.

“Grow up,” he snarled. In a flourish, he marched past me, his heavy boots carrying him to the warmth and comfort of the captain’s quarters. I heard the door whine as it was forcefully opened, then slammed shut. The sky overhead lit up, then a snap of thunder filled the air. As if on cue, the rain began to drive harder into the deck, harder into my flesh. My knees buckled and I sagged slightly, held up only by the searing ligaments in my shoulders, those which were yet refusing to snap and be done with it. A gust of wind slapped at my face, whipping my hair across my eyes. Overhead, the last lantern above deck was doused, leaving me with nothing but lightning by which to see across the murky waves.

© 2011 Amanda


Author's Note

Amanda
I wrote this today just-cuz. I don't yet know if I'll expand on it, though my inclination is, "Hell, why not."

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Added on October 26, 2011
Last Updated on October 26, 2011

Author

Amanda
Amanda

About
I'm a small-town business student who loves to write. I have just recently completed the final draft of my first-ever manuscript, most of which can be found on my page under "The Race of Kings: The Dr.. more..

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