All about him was the writhing sea, and the sky, bloated to bursting with stormlash and rage. He shivered, brought the rain-slicked wooden beads to his lips in a parting kiss, bowing his head in a shivering, stuttering prayer.
All around him were the monsters-demons from the deep-mutilated creatures that emerged from the abyss sliming their way aboard the shuddering prow. Limbs and apendages in the forms of fins, and whiplike arms, hoisting what remained of the living into one shivering, terrified line, only to fling them down into a perverse version of a bow. Their heads were lowered in submission. A few ventured a nervous peek at the monsters who stood over them, a few were reduced to the trembling madness of fear. He did nothing but continue cradling the wooden beads, and raising his eyes to the heavens, that were now cloaked in the darkness.
He heard the gliding thump as the demon strode forth, the slimed features, the mollusk-pocked hat, eerily cocked over the patient tenticles that made a mockery of where a beard once lay.
He winced when he saw the brutal claw grip a helpless man in its grasp, as the man choked and pleaded for life with a strangling whimper for air.
It was to no avail. There was a bright arch of silver, the warm, sickly scent of scarlet gushing forth, and the dull thud of the body before it was flung to the wating ocean. The captain wore a bitter smirk of satisfaction.
"Cruel blaggart!" It was a futile protest, one heaved out from desperate horror at the injustice of it all.
He felt the icy claw, its strangling grip digging into the flesh of his throat, as he was hauled to his feet. He found himself gaping into the ruddy, weary eyes of a creature that had once been human, and it sickened him to see the reminder of sorrow rising in those tortured grey eyes. It was the last human renmant that Jones had left.
"Life is cruel. Why should the afterlife be any different?" The words were snarled out in a Welsh lilt, each laced with anguish and puncuated by a harsh rap against the claw where his human arm once was.
His eyes darted to his prayer beads, the cross gracing his palm in a silent reminder of all the ramifications of his decision. He gazed up to the scarred, tearing sky, the place where his faith was supposed to take him, and then, at the wretched creatures around him, who had faced such a decision as this, at one time. Men who had been reduced to monsters. A damnation for a few years of slavery. The weight of eternity, verses a few fleeting years of false security. It was a bargain too cheaply won.
"Do you fear death?"
Of the long line of broken men, men tossed on the waves like so much flotsum, he fisted the flimsy cross between clenched hands, felt the wood digging into his flesh, the rain falling down, mingled with his tears. He raised his throat for the blade, gazing steadily into the eyes of his killers,
with an unearthly serenity.
"No." It was softly spoken, amidst the cries of the dying and the tortured. He met the blade, like the rest. His voice was silenced by the cruelty, as the rest. But none noted the sad look of envy that crossed the captain's face as he watched his body being thrown overboard, watched the body waft over the prow, and then slowly sink to its watery grave. Jones turned away from the tormenting thoughts of what freedom and forgiveness used to be.