A/N: This is something I wrote for the season. Hope you enjoy and happy Halloween!
After a while, the cold and the dark lost their meanings. The water pressing in around him could have been the sky and the salt in his lungs, the snow.
Bootstrap Bill Turner could not sleep yet even awake, he dreamed. He dreamed of being a strand of seaweed swaying in the current and he dreamed of the water pushing its way into every crevice and every pore until there was more water than flesh and he dissolved. He dreamed of the eels, their small, sharp teeth and blunt snouts nuzzling his ribs, the whips of their tails.
The seabed was not as quiet as he would have thought. Sometimes, as he teetered on the edge of one dream and the next, something would moan, low and long and it might have lasted days.
Several more days would pass before he realized it was silent once more.
One day, or night or somewhere in between, he dreamed of returning to the world above. He dreamed of a ship coming for him, of a hull crusted with barnacles and rot buffeting him.
He dreamed of air.
Pain exploded in his lungs as he coughed up sea and salt. His throat burned and he collapsed in a wet huddle on a deck worn smooth by sea and stone.
The dream was no longer a dream.
Heavy footsteps thudded across the deck and the overpowering stench of decay and fish made him flinch. Something grabbed him and shoved him against the wall and he caught a glimpse of moonlight.
A face blotted it out, one that reminded Bootstrap of his dreams of slithery, slimy things hidden away from the light. Tentacles coiled lazily and the eyes that studied him were wet and red.
"Curious," the monster muttered. "A live one. And so far from shore." He made wet, popping sounds as he spoke. "Tell me now, what manner of curse is this that would spare you from death?"
Bootstrap tried to speak but it was too painful. Salt lodged in his throat.
"The captain asked you a question," another monster said, one with a face like a shark. Water dribbled between pointed teeth.
"What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?" That elicited cruel laughter from the crew.
A coldness trickled down Bootstrap's spine and he thought he knew who he was facing. He'd heard the stories.
This was a ship of the damned and the captain… The captain was Davy Jones himself.
The laughter died quickly.
"I can see neither death nor pain hold any power over you so I will offer you this choice. Join my crew. One-hundred years before the mast. Or…" He adopted a mocking tone. "Back into the drink you go." Another wave of laughter rippled over the crew at that.
It was no choice. This was a ship of demons, a cursed ship of cruel, twisted men. He wanted to refuse them. For fear of a higher judgment, he wanted to say no.
But now that he'd woken up, the thought of returning to the dreaming terrified him so that he trembled. He couldn't sleep. He couldn't…
"Well?" Jones demanded. "Will ye serve?"
He thought of Jack and Barbossa and of Will. To them, he was already dead.
"I…I will serve."
Jones' face twisted into a cruel expression and the crew roared.
Bootstrap let out a breath, shocked at what he had done. He stared down at his hands. As the moon passed behind the clouds, skin crawled over bone and sinew.
He closed his eyes.
He prayed he had not just traded one hell for another. Then he opened them. Either way, surely no God could hear him in this place.
A crewman shoved a mop into his hands and he looked up into a grotesque visage bloated with quills. "Welcome to the crew," he said and laughed.
Bootstrap cursed himself for a coward. He shouldn't prefer this. But he did. Deep down, he did. He would sell his soul to escape the endless dreaming. It just so happened, the Devil had gotten to him first.
As the Flying Dutchman tore through the waves, Bootstrap set the mop to the deck and got to work.