Legacy of Cold Water
94 Days…. 94… That’s what the man on the far side of the hold had been muttering at the end. The end when the slaver had beat him to death because he wouldn’t be quiet. You can still see his eyes staring through you, expression unchanged, muttering that same phrase with the last little bit of breath the gods would grant him. He’d laid there for days with those open eyes before the smell got so bad some of the crew put him over the side. That had been two weeks… three? It’s so hard to tell time down here. The veil of dark only broken by the intermittent arrival of the thing that brings mite ridden ship’s biscuits and water that leaves the acrid taste of pitch in your mouth.
A drop of water lands against your neck like an icy needle. You’d almost forgotten about that, the endless dripping. Little shards of salty liquid ice that fall, adding to the misery of the chafing chains and that accursed collar. Great, you thought about the collar and now you notice its inane buzzing. Faint, like the wings of a mosquito about to land for a taste, but there enough to keep you from sleeping on the bad nights. You raise your hand to its chilled surface to feel the zap… just to feel something. You’re hands and feet are so numb you begin to wonder if they’re still there in gloom.
The hatch rattles and the thing walks down the stairs. The light of the lantern hurts, like trying to peek a glimpse of the sun though your fingers as a child. Must not be day… it’s worse then… when the blazing light of the sun threatens to blind you even through your tightly shut eyes. The light, the the lantern squeaking on its ring, and the rasp of thing’s chainmail against his armor at least break up the monotony of quiet darkness and the wheezing of the woman dying of consumption down the way. When they first locked you down here you had all spoken with each other, tried to keep your spirits up, but that waned when the first beating happened, and stopped altogether when the thing had hacked a man apart with a boarding axe. That was a lifetime ago when it was so hot you thought Kossuth himself must be chained in here with you, and the sound of gulls and calm water washed against the boards at your back. Now the gulls are gone, and the waves crash and pound at the ship like a blacksmith, the blows of his hammer forging the life from you bit by bit.
You consider the thing again but still can’t work out what he is with that alien sounding guttural language and strange mask made into the helmet that is designed after what you imagine a demon must look like. He walks along tossing moldy biscuits from a sack and kicking anyone too close to the walkway, though he knows they have not the energy to move. You hate that your mouth begins to water at the thought of those foul lumps, but it stills the clawing of your stomach for a while. However, as the thing draws near the sound of men running on the deck above can be heard and a voice comes from the hatch above. “Ka puta mai te tupuhi” it shouts in their strange language, and the thing turns, yelling back “He aha te mea nui”. “Tupuhi ah whiro” the voice above responds with what you think might be a hint of distress in his voice. To your dismay the thing drops the bag of biscuits and runs for the stairs. As the hatch slams shut behind him, plunging you into that familiar void once more, you hear the faint sound of thunder reverberate through the ship.