Im Dunkeln

Im Dunkeln

A Story by Josh

The reflections of a sailor and incidents witnessed aboard the sailing vessel of the St.Carlena


There are two types of men aboard a sailing vessel. Those who live for the life of the open ocean, yearn for the break of waves and the bestowment of freedom, and pursue such a life to its fullest. And then there are those who remain loyal to the life in-so-far as they are paid when due and with exceeding promptness. I, myself, lay claim to the first, but those reading this account must also acknowledge that aboard every ship there are those who sail these oceans for nothing more than mere profit.

There is really no way to describe the feeling�"well, no way that I know, or am within such capacity, for laying down upon the page. The ocean, or perhaps sea depending on one’s relative geographic location, is as close to freedom as we may possibly venture in this life. Many would brush this notion away as nothing more than the abandonment of worldly burdens in favor of being led into childhood fantasy that allows our escape of reality. However, in gaining the fullness of my account, you, as my readers, must surely reject these prejudices and understand the importance of those who seek out such employment aboard these vessels. Our role is key in the transport of goods from one place to another, and merchants actively seek the surest ways of getting their goods into hands with coin to spare. We understand that this life will be spent ferrying goods to cities across the world, and occasionally venturing into lands too far removed from what has been deemed worthy as the civilized world. In reflection, we find this duty to be a negotiable trade in the pursuit of a life spent surrounded by the blue vastness of ocean, and the abundant sense of freedom that thrives within our souls. This is not say that we, sailors, are not exposed to our shares of dangers. With so much time spent aboard these waters, it is an eventuality of sailing into the veil of the unknown. You grow to expect the unfamiliar: lands seen by few eyes and lost amongst the world, whirlpools that will send ships to the depths below�"and sea monsters. Ah, yes, sea monsters. While that last term is not entirely accurate, it was introduced through the literary merits of some author back in London some years back and the term stuck. I am aware that a great many of you believe I have lent my narrative to exaggeration, as a means of romanticizing this life, but I have told no lies, and heed not to when you’ve seen the sights that these eyes have beheld and the shrill cries that echo within the darkness. I bring forth this narrative as a warning to all those with even an inkling of curiosity in pursuing a life much as I have lived�"there are monsters that lurk within the blackness of night, that glide through the depths of the waters where our sight falters to venture, and strike when one is least expecting. It is this that I, with a foreboding wistfulness, begin this tale in recounting the horrors of that night.


The lull of waves broke against the thick, wood hull of the St. Carlena, serving well in rocking most aboard into a dreary sleep as the sun settled below the blue horizon of the ocean that stretched into, what I dare say to be, infinity. During those hours of darkness, one finds the impossibility of separating the two darknesses�"the sky and ocean blend into a single body, each mirroring the other in perfect detail. We had stowed the sails for the night, as the wind had calmed to less than a gentle breeze insufficient for moving her through the water, and for the fact that we were in no haste during our hours of slumber. I and another of my companions, Casey, swept over the deck a final time before working our way back to the cargo hold and into our hammocks; excuse the cliché, but there really is no other way for a good sleep aboard a vessel other than a hammock, rocked by the waves lapping against the hull. I cannot tell you, truly tell you, how much the shrill cry some distance off the portside can turn the blood within one’s veins as ice, and stir fear within the depths of a man’s soul. Waking from my walking slumber, having already begun to drift into sleep before reaching my own hammock, I awoke into the nightmare. The shrillness came another time, closer, and I picked my way toward the bow hoping to gain sight of whatever disturbed the waters and stillness, but alas such was hopeless as the thick fog that had rolled in hours before cloaked all within a meter or so.

            With such astonishing speed, the likes of which I had scarcely seen even with many years spent in waters uncharted, the creature emerged in a spray of water behind myself, raining down fine mist as what our eyes beheld froze our hearts within our chests. Clad in thick, finely blackened scales that blended darker than the pitch of night, the muscled frame of the serpent lifted half from the water until the massive, block head bore down upon us with fiery eyes peering down as though we were mere ants upon the earth. About this time, Casey began screaming, his stare gone wild, an unrelenting fear having seized him, and this was what brought about those from their slumber below deck. As those from below emerged into the nightmare I gleamed toward them with mischief in my eye (though I have only been told this through others that were present at this incident), a plan having vaguely placed itself within the mind.

            “Get to the cannons,” I yelled, forcing my legs to move, picking up speed as I approached the bulk of the creature, “Fear not, death has not come for us this night.”

            Here, during the heat of battle in which nightmares most assuredly strike, is when one is given sight of who their companions truly are; more specifically, those who remain loyal to the life of freedom given by the ocean, and those who follow for nothing more than the coin put in their purse. I’d like to reflect in saying most were loyal to the life, but this would be a lie in and of itself as most fled toward the dinghies near the aft of the St. Carlena�"several men freely spilled over the side and were wholly lost in the dark waters�"but there were admittedly those few who rushed forward, in pursuit of me, without regard for their lives. The creature swept across the ship, the thick coils of its serpentine body wrapping across the hull, fastening tight, its jaws snapped at those closest within reach. The screams and agonizing moans of those unfortunate to escape the monster’s massive jaws held within my ears as the cannon was at last turned onto the serpent.


            The cannon erupted from the dormancy of its sleep, the very sound filling us as the ball left with unwavering determination before ripping through the serpent’s iron-clad skin. The serpent recoiled and it shrieked, and I feared that my ears would surely grant me mercy of deafness, but the dull ringing within my head cleared. Glancing across the deck, I found four cannons readied, in addition to ours, each trained  toward the creature whose attention was now solely directed onto us. Slithering across the yard arms, spread horizontal across the masts, it peered down from its loftful perch with red eyes lit aflame, smoldering with fury. Now above us, we could hear the thick, nasal inhalation that filled its presumably massive lungs before releasing it in a visible cloud of steam that drifted lazily into the air before vanishing in the black night beyond. I hurriedly, and without thought, slid a second ball down into the barrel of the cannon, and the fuse was fitted before we again angled the barrel toward the creature.


            This was the unspoken command the loosed five cannons in near perfect unison with one another, ripping through the creature and the thick mast  upon which it perched, rendering it of no further use; the serpent hissed, its blood pooling across the deck, seeping in-between the gaps in the deck that dropped to the cargo hold below.

            By this time, and in peering back to that incident, I may only venture in guessing that those who had sought shelter with the dinghies, those small vessels that had seemed to offer some degree of hope to those loyal to no one but the coin, were a great way off in the distance, as my eyes could barely glimpse what most have been, without doubt, the faintest glint of their lanterns, which appeared much like the stars above. I know only this in the end�"the creature swept into gaze from us, and our resistant nature, onto those glinting lanterns of the vessels in the distance, and slithered from our ship in pursuit of them. I may only lay reason that those in their haste in saving themselves, now held all appearances of being more exposed than those who had remained with the vessel; those who remained loyal. And, I will rightfully speculate that they appeared as easier prey when compared to our cannons. Waiting beside the Captain, whose eyes peered out toward the open ocean, in the general direction of the impending doom of those having abandon the St. Carlene, “Lower the sails, and pray she’ll catch the wind.”

            “But Captain,” I remember one companion said within the fading blackness, “We’ve lost a sail.”

            True enough we’d not been keen on sacrificing a sail that was much needed, but in defending one’s ship (and those lives aboard) it had been deemed a necessity of laying waste to the rear mast, and as of yet, two remained intact.

            “Then two will have to do.” I sighed.

            The Captain nodded and I made haste to encourage those men in readying the ship, “Two will have to do�"we’ll have speed yet.”

            My companions, as well as myself, echoed this sentiment, shouting for all our worth, and with little time wasted the sails were dropped into place, and a fine northerly current flooded into the thick canvas, forcing the ship to slice through the bitter waters of fading night. The last we’d heard as the night began to give way to the approach of dawn were the frantic screams of those isolated vessels, and a single shot from the flintlock lifted from the ship by those who believed their chances better elsewhere, and favored casting off loyalty, and the freedom granted upon these waters.

© 2013 Josh

Author's Note

Written for a writing contest, but I went over the word limit, so I'm sharing it here with everyone. Reviews and critiques are very much welcomed...

My goal was to write a piece that mimicked the style of serialized stories printed in newspapers during the late 19th and early 20th century.

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Added on August 10, 2013
Last Updated on August 10, 2013
Tags: Adventure, Sea, Ocean, Water, Waves, Serpent, Monster, Attack, Escape, Flee, Night, Nightmare, Blackness, Darkness, Souls, Integrity, Honour, Ship, Vessel, Sailing, Battle, Cannon, Victory



Penrose, CO

Currently residing in the colorful state of Colorado, I can be found either hiking, writing, or...working. more..

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A Story by Josh