A cry in the darkness
by Rose de Sharon
Disclaimer: sadly, the recognizable characters don't belong to me, but to Mickey Mouse. I do own Orlando Bloom, however… in my dreams! ;-)
- English isn't my native language and I don't have a beta-reader, so all mistakes are mine.
- This story takes place five years post-AWE.
- Angst, adventure and smarm ahead! Don't like, don't read!
Feedback: flames will be ignored by order of Captain Jack Sparrow, savvy?
Chapter 1: A call of distress
"It has been a long night", thought "Bootstrap" Bill Turner, First Mate of the Flying Dutchman and father to its Captain. The tall, strongly-built man glanced at his surrounding and saw nothing but bone-weary sailors, getting ready to get a well-deserved rest in their hammocks. The ship, currently heading for the north, was completely different from all the other ones sailing on the endless ocean: originally a cargo vessel, the Dutchman became a ghost ship years ago by the demand of Calypso, a heathen goddess. She had entrusted her lover, Captain Davy Jones, with the task of ferrying the souls of those who had died at sea to the afterlife, with the promise that after ten dutiful years, she would relieve Jones from his mission and remain with him forever. Unfortunately, the unreliable Calypso didn't keep her word and missed their decade-scheduled appointment. Heartbroken, enraged, Jones had forfeited his duty to turn into a monster, terrorizing the seas and press-ganging dying sailors into his crew.
Five years ago, Calypso had found an exceptional young man with a touch of destiny within him: William Turner the Second, son of ex-pirate Bill Turner and slave to Davy Jones. Through her scheming, the ocean had gotten rid of Davy Jones and his abominable cruelty, but Will had been forced to become the new Captain of the Flying Dutchman for ten years, thus coercing him to leave Elizabeth, his wife and true love, behind him.
For five years now, Bill had acted as Will's devoted father, First Mate and confidant. His steadfast presence had been a blessing for his son, since soul-ferrying was a hard task. As the new Master of the Seas, Will had been "gifted" by Calypso with a keen hearing that allowed him to locate the souls' cries of anguish miles away, and also to "transport" himself from a ship to another, in a blink of an eye. Those abilities were very useful for Will to find dead or dying people floating on the ocean's surface or trapped aboard half-sunken, burned ships. But the job of transporting souls seemed to be endless. How many lives could be brutally ended by wars, tempests, or accidents? How many souls had drifted relentlessly for years, vainly hoping Davy Jones would guide them to the Other Side so they would finally reach peace? The monstrous Jones had only left desperation behind him, and now it was up to the renewed Flying Dutchman to repair the wrongs of its former commander. The younger Turner had often said that without his father's love and companionship, he would have been driven mad by both his duty and his forced separation with Elizabeth, since she couldn't come aboard to the Flying Dutchman (apart from its crew, only ferried souls were allowed aboard) and Will's inability to step on land for ten years (as requested by his new, supernatural status).
Bill Turner blushed slightly remembering his son's words of praise: he still considered himself unworthy of them. Even if Will had forgiven him fully for abandoning his family to go pirating, which had ended in catastrophe with Jones' press-ganging Bill into his crew for a hundred years of service, there was still a part of the older man's heart which remained inconsolable – even if he kept a stolid silence about it. Will had enough sad tasks to accomplish to be burdened even more by his father's regrets; besides, Bill had vowed to help and protect his son until the day he'd die, and he considered it a part of his promise to stifle his grief deep within his heart.
Bill raised his eyes and saw the Dutchman's Captain standing at the helm, observing the horizon which was getting slowly illuminated by the first rays of the sun. The Captain, his Captain, his beloved son…. his child! The elder Turner felt a smile spreading on his lips, like every time he looked at his cherished William. He remembered Will as a baby, comfortably nestled in his mother's arms; as a toddler, walking hand-in-hand with his Papa; as a young boy, learning how to swim in the ocean's waters under the supervision of his father, while Mary was watching them from the beach… but those images faded under the vision of Will as a grown-up man, sentenced by Davy Jones to receive a lashing after the youngster had been tricked to climb aboard the Flying Dutchman.
Bill violently shook his head: reminiscing the past won't help his son in any way! Inwardly scolding himself, the former pirate climbed resolutely the helm's stairs, ready to receive his commanding officer's instructions.
"Orders, Sir?" asked Bill.
William turned around to smile at his First Mate, making Bill's heart flutter within his chest. Even after five years, he couldn't grow weary of this beautiful sight: his son showing his affection to him!
"The men are weary, Mr. Turner," answered Will out loud. "We have ferried more than a hundred and twenty souls this night, they must rest."
"So do you, son" thought Bill Turner. During the night, the Flying Dutchman had crossed the path of floating souls who had been Spanish and French sailors. Their respective countries were at war about land possessions in the Americas and the meetings of their vessels - the Santa Cruz slave ship and the Marie-Galante corsair frigate - had ended in a bloodbath. And, as usual, it had been a tedious work to transport the distressed ghosts to a better world.
Bill could see their latest mission had taken its toll on Will: the young man's face was pale of fatigue and sorrow, as if he could still hear the cries, the supplications of the dead sailors who had pleaded for a chance to live again. But his son wasn't Davy Jones: unlike his predecessor, Will refused to enslave dying men to serve under the mast with a false promise to cheat the higher powers. He consoled and ferried the souls with such compassion and tenderness, they wouldn't leave the Dutchman afterwards without tearful marks of gratitude to the young Turner.
Will was separated from his physical heart – a consequence of his acquired captaincy – but, paradoxically, he wasn't heartless since he was able to show altruism towards the souls, fairness to his crew and, above all, to feel an immense love for his family. His son was a walking miracle and, over the years, the Dutchman's sailors had earned absolution for their past deeds, since they were copying closely their actions on their Captain's. Bill glowed in pride when the men showed their utmost respect to Will… and it happened about a hundred times per day!
"Aye, Captain," answered Bill. "Are you going to get some sleep, too?"
Will sighed, and then he turned back to stare at the eastern horizon. The dawn's pure light enhanced his features and, for an instant, Will looked like a messenger from the Heavens. That impression was reinforced by his long dark hair floating gently in the morning breeze, escaping from the deep green bandana tied around his head, and the puffy white shirt he was wearing. Even the long scar on his chest got illuminated by the morning sun, looking more like a thin ribbon of ruby gemstones than a painful reminder that his heart had been carved out.
"He looks like me when I was his age," thought the elder Turner, "but in a handsomer version. That's because you have a diamond soul that magnifies your beauty, my wonderful darling; you shine, and you bring hope to everyone who has the chance to cross your path. My William, you look and act like an angel… And you're my secret angel."
But his son was also human, and right now Bill could see the twin dark shadows circling under Will's chocolate-colored eyes.
"I don't know, Mr. Turner," answered Will with the protocol tone they both used on deck, when the Turners assumed their roles of Captain and First Mate in front of the crew. "There are probably more souls needing our help out there. There is a war currently raging between European countries who want to gain the upper hand on American lands, and the cost of lives is high…"
"Son?" interrupted Bill with a more discreet voice, while placing his hand on the small of Will's back. "You need to rest, too."
Will sighed again; he hadn't slept for two days because of his work so deep down, he knew his father was right. But the despair of the deceased was also hard to ignore. Once more, once too much, political rivalries had been paramount to the people's well-being, and innocents paid the price of blood and tears for their sovereigns' ambitions. Will's chivalrous nature wanted to order his men to get ready for another round of soul-seeking since he was revolted at the idea to abandon anyone to the ocean's immensity, but his body felt older than his years… much older.
"Please, Will?" asked his father, keeping his voice low to avoid being overheard by Greenbeard, the Dutchman's navigator who was at the wheel. "It won't do any good to the crew or to the souls if you wear yourself to the ground. I'll stay on deck and supervise while you sleep. Get a few hours of rest, son, and you'll see! Your help will increase tenfold."
Will remained silent for a few minutes, and then he turned to look at Bill's concerned face to ask in a whisper:
"What about you, Papa? You're probably tired, maybe even more than I am."
"Don't worry about me, son. My old carcass is still strong, and I don't have the burden you bear! I'll go below deck as soon as you're finished, I promise. But right now, the Flying Dutchman's safety depends on a well-rested Captain… which you're not."
Will had a small smile: "Father knows best, eh?"
"Aye," answered Bill with a wink at his son.
"Very well!" said Will out loud, "I am retiring to the Great Cabin for a moment, Mr. Turner". But he barely had the time to walk two steps towards the stairs that he suddenly stopped.
"Captain?" asked the elder Turner, unnerved by his son's sudden stillness.
The young Captain didn't answer; instead, he headed for the helm's rail on the port's side of the ship to look deep into the western sky, still untouched by sunlight. This portion of the heavenly dome was still jet-black in color, giving an eerie impression of infinite darkness to those who were watching it. And Will's gaze was fixed on a point at this somber horizon, acting as if he had heard something that only he had been able to hear.
"Which is probably the case, by the way," thought Bill Turner. He approached his son cautiously.
"Will?" asked the First Mate in a quiet tone.
"I've just heard a soul's distressed cry, Papa" said his son. "It's a young boy, by the sound of it, and he is close to death."
"Where?" asked Bill.
Will pointed straight at the west, but for his father it was useless to try to spot anything in this darkness. Besides, since Will had become the commander of the Flying Dutchman, he had earned the ability to "hear" the sobs coming from the core of every dying human being, and unfortunately he could never make mistakes. This gift was more used than compasses, a sextant or world charts to navigate the ghost ship on the Seven Seas.
"Mister Greenbeard?" called Will out loud.
"Yes, Captain?" was the immediate answer.
"Change of direction! Head for the west!"
"Aye, Captain!" said Greenbeard before turning the Dutchman's wheel on the port side. The ship docilely glided on the waves, its square-rigged sails giving a swift response under the winds; its boom, attached to the mizzen-mast, moved slowly until the pilot had reached the correct direction ordered by his Captain.
"Son?" asked Bill Turner, a bit worried.
Will's face was drawn, but his voice was resolute when he answered his father in a clear voice, "Another soul to ferry to the Other Side, Mr. Turner! We will head west until we find it. Get the men ready!" just before adding for only his father to hear: "I can't ignore the cries of a child's soul, Papa."
Bill was somehow annoyed that his William would forfeit his much-deserved, much-needed rest to collect another soul, but his son's decisions were his law, both out of love and respect of his commanding officer. Besides, he knew better than to try to keep Will away from his duties. In fact, it'd be as pointless as to ask the moon to fall from the sky!
"Another soul to ferry, and afterwards you'll get your rest, son of mine!"
Bill Turner saluted his Captain, before turning back to shout orders at the crew.