‘This is bullshit!’ Syndra fumes. ‘We’re pissin’ around, waiting for that scaly fucker to build up his appetite ’fore one of us gets picked for munchies!’
Torren thumps the railing, gazing out at a rosy sunset. ‘It ain’t like that!’ He points ahead to the horizon, where the lights of a small populated island glimmer in the far distance. ‘Fayden, see? Closer by the minute. Then deserted islands beyond. Two more days at most.’
Rey slouches against the helm, arms folded. ‘And? We get there, we let it loose, it finds out we’ve double-crossed it … then what? It storms back onboard and slaughters us all? We’ve only got the one lifeboat!’
Torren massages his temples. ‘I’ll make it work.’ He turns to the others. ‘Now, I know morale’s running low, but this nightmare is nearly at an end. I swear.’
Kebble slouches forward, hands on hips. ‘And tomorrow, sir? If your friend below us gets —’
They turn as Derik’s bloated corpse is hoisted through the hole by a giant claw, swaying back and forth. The decomposing mouth chomps and drools. ‘Torrrrennn! Torrrennn!’
Torren hurries downstairs into the dank hold, slowing as he takes in the deserted space. Blood and guts lie strewn across the damp briny wooden floor. Empty hooks dangle overhead, stripped of their meat. Torren steps forward, eyeing the shadows. ‘You rang?’
A rumbling clatter behind him. He turns as the monster looms out of the gloom, clinging upside down onto the ceiling. Fluid leaks from the rotting corpse-puppet in its grasp. ‘Fayyyydennn Issslandddd.’
He swallows. ‘Yes.’ Steels himself. ‘Patience is the watchword of the day, my friend. We are well on our way …’ He trails off as the sound of scuttling fills the air.
Baby thanapods, like giant white six-legged ticks, crawl out of the shadows. Dozens of them. Torren stares aghast as they scuttle closer, covering the floor.
Well, this complicates things.
‘Hunnngryyyy,’ the adult groans. ‘Hunnngryyy.’
Torren slowly back away, sick with dread. ‘Of course … so many mouths to feed …’
The thanapod crawls across the grated ceiling, Derik’s putrid torso swinging in its claw. ‘Musssst … feeeed … soooon …’
‘… Right.’ Torren nods and retreats upstairs. He emerges on deck, gazing ahead at the dark landmass sprinkled with lights.
Time’s running out …
‘Well?’ He turns as the other sailors gather around, looking uneasy. ‘Maintain course for the uninhabited islands! Wake me at the toll of the hour.’ He strides away towards the captain’s quarters, missing the surly scowls aimed at his retreating back.
Later, four figures slink along the quarterdeck, weapons in hand. Syndra. Kebble. Gaven. Rey. Under moonlight their long slanting shadows stretch before them as they approach the captain’s quarters. A knife slips between the cabin’s sliding doors. Pops the latch.
The sailors silently creep inside.
On a bed at the far end of the room, Torren’s boots protrude from beneath a heaped blanket. They creep closer, readying their weapons. Syndra pinches out the bedside candle.
With a sudden roar Kebble plunges his harpoon down. Galvanized, the four sailors stab and beat the lumpen figure in the bed, hacking and spearing in frenzied rage, billowing feathers clouding the air. Panting, Kebble yanks back the torn blanket, revealing …
Nothing. Just several slashed cushions beneath.
Behind them, among the shadows … one straightens up.
© 2022 | Tom Burton