CHAPTER XV

Panicky Jack and the three others were tearing at the ores, forcing them to violently cut through the Caribbean sea with big splashes. They were closing in on the beach, but they still had some way to go – and all of them were peering over the railing as soon as they had the chance. The many shadows seemed to be falling behind below Jack's and Elizabeth's boat. After all water is a pretty hard material to move through, and in boats a reasonably high speed could be maintained.

"Jack, how did they find us??", Elizabeth gasped as she also tore at the ores, making her slender arms smart from the effort she put in gaining even more speed. Jack shook his head as he turned his head to see how far away the beach was now:

"They just did", was his short answer, and Elizabeth frowned a bit.

"But...", she began, but Jack cut her off:

"No talk! Just row!", Jack spat annoyed and looked for land again. Now they had actually reached a water depth where a man could stand upright with water only up to his chest. Mr Gibbs and Will's boat buried its belly in the sand just at the same time, and they both jumped out of the small vessel and looked for Jack and Elizabeth. Jack immediately scanned the surroundings with his kohl-rimmed eyes:

"Don't wait for us. Hide!! We'll find ye!", Jack yelled and Mr Gibbs quickly turned around to run for the forest line up the white beach – however Will was hesitating. He couldn't just leave Elizabeth, who was getting closer and closer... he HAD to wait for her.

"Will, come on lad!", Mr Gibbs yelled over his shoulder just as he disappeared into a thick shrubbery behind some tall trees. However Will didn't move, but yelled:

"I will be right there!"

Then finally the other boat came close enough to land for them to jump in – the water reached their knees, and they started running for the beach. Will immediately ran into the water to grab a hold of Elizabeth's hand and together they now ran for the beach, Jack running too but falling behind a little.

"Jack!", Elizabeth yelled just as Will ducked and ran into a little hole in the same shrubbery Mr Gibbs had disappeared into. Here they squatted down and spread some of the dry, small branches in order to get a view of the beach... And simultaneously Jack stormed into the shelter of the shrubbery, almost knocking them over. Elizabeth let out a surprised gasp and looked at the very out-of-breath Jack:

"Oh, thank god, you...!", she began, but this time Will cut her off:

"SHH! Here they come...!", he whispered and all of them stared out at the beach again. The crystal blue water just by the shoreline started to almost bubble like it was boiling. Then an indescribable smell spread in the air... It smelled like dead fish. And then the surface of the water was broken as several heads appeared simultaneously, dripping with something which looked like blue goo and sea water. Elizabeth's eyes widened. These creatures were hideous. Ragged, razor-sharp teeth, green- and bluish skin, bulging fish eyes, deformed fins... And these weird fish creatures now started to walk up onto the beach by the dozen. She had to concentrate not to scream. This was like a nightmare come alive. Terrified she looked at Will, who was squatting just next to her, holding her hand. He looked scared too, but also kind of stern. She then looked at Jack who – on the other hand – was looking rather unaffected by the situation. In other words he looked like he was falling asleep, just looking drowsily from his compass to the monsters coming up from the sea like it was an everyday thing for him. But Elizabeth knew that it wasn't. In the meantime the sea creatures were circling each other, sniffing at the boats and the air... Could they find them?? Could they be seen from there?? Elizabeth's mind was racing, but she knew that if they just sat really still and...

"Did we lose them?", a low whispering voice suddenly said and everyone jumped, making some of the shrubbery's thorny branches crack. Immediately some of the monster heads turned and looked in their direction.

"Mr Gibbs, be quiet!!!", Will whispered hoarsely as he turned his head along with Elizabeth and Jack and discovered Gibbs lying on his stomach on the ground, facing the other way... Apparently he had just thrown himself there, not daring to look. Will then turned his head back and stared directly into the deformed face of what looked like a half-hammerhead shark and half-human creature. Will immediately froze completely, not able to move or speak. His gaze settled as if hypnotized on the ragged shark teeth in the smiling mouth of the creature.

"GOTCHA!", the shark creature then growled in a deep, inhuman voice – breathing heavily into Will's face – and right away Jack and Elizabeth snapped their heads back...

"OH MY GOD!!!", Elizabeth shrieked as she stared into the hideous face.

"Bugger", Jack just mumbled and Mr Gibbs, who was facing the other way, just burst out:

"Well, did we lose them?", he asked enthusiastically and carefully used his elbow to get up a little to turn his head in order to see for himself.

"Are ye deaf, mate?! We've just got caught", Jack said and watched how Mr Gibbs completely paled as he saw the creature with its face inside their hiding place... and the rest of the monsters coming towards them from the beach.

"I'm so sorry, friends... So ends the journey...", Mr Gibbs started, but was suddenly interrupted by Jack:

"Not if I can help it!" – and with these words he planted a solid fist directly in the monster's face, making it howl in pain and stumble backwards.

"RUN!", Jack yelled and this sudden outburst seemed to unfreeze the rest of them. Immediately Will got to his feet, almost violently pulling Elizabeth with him and they stormed past Mr Gibbs, who was also getting up from his lying position in the sandy shrubbery. Jack followed and now all four of them were running through the pricking, dry bushes causing loud cracking noises to spread all the way to the beach. They were now hunted as a dozen of the sea creatures were right on their tail, spraying sand to the sides every time their big, heavy feet hit the sand. Deep growling could be heard behind the fugitives, which only made them gain more speed, even though they were almost being ripped to shreds by the thorns on the small branches of the shrubbery.

"Where are we headed?!", Mr Gibbs yelled, out of breath, and Jack retorted:

"Away!", was all he said under his breath as they continued to run into the forest – it got darker and darker as tall trees shut out the sunlight. Suddenly the shrubbery seemed to finally end and they reached a clearing with lush, green grass under their already sore feet. Panicky all four of them stared to the sides, uncertain in which direction to flee. Jack tore out his compass and stared impatiently at the spinning arrow:

"This way!", he yelled and started running to the right towards the deep forest of the island. Everyone followed him without any questions and soon the forest closed its heavy branches behind them, just as the monsters of the sea broke out of the shrubbery and stopped just where they had been standing seconds earlier. Loud, angry growls could be heard behind them and loud sniffing in the air. Jack, Mr Gibbs, Elizabeth and Will kept running forwards frantically without looking back.

"Keep together!", Jack whispered and they all joined hands as they ran through the tall, green under bush consisting mostly of grass and small, young trees. It seemed like they ran for hours... Sweat was not only dripping, but running down their strained faces. Even though every single sound from the weird creatures had long ago disappeared from behind them, they kept running. They reached another clearing, this one much bigger – and Mr Gibbs suddenly stopped and rested his hands on his knees, totally out of breath. Will and Elizabeth looked back and stopped too:

"We have to keep going! They will catch our scent!", Elizabeth almost shrieked, still almost out of her mind with fear. Mr Gibbs lifted his red face and looked at her:

"I can't go any further... but ye keep going! I'm old and I'm slowing ye down..!", he gasped, but Jack interrupted:

"We've... lost them... I say we take a break... savvy?", he whispered under his breath and also supported his hands on his knees. Everyone then seemed to calm down a little and now all of them were just standing there in the clearing in a small circle, bent forwards gasping for air. Elizabeth and Will sent each other a this time genuine smile of relief.

"We lost them!", Elizabeth gasped and hugged Will. He almost immediately hugged her back, feeling her soft touch. Will was still not entirely comfortable with someone touching him in any way... But Elizabeth had his complete trust. As the only person on this earth, except his father. Which reminded him – they had to find the heart. Kill Davy Jones and set free his father... Then Will thought carefully:

"How do the monsters know where we are??", he asked and Jack snapped his head up, looking at Will:

"Well... because they do...", he just said and in the same second some cracking noises came from the forest line they had just come out of.

"Damn!", Mr Gibbs spat and Elizabeth's eyes grew wide in fear and anger:

"I thought we lost them?!", she almost yelled. Jack shrugged:

"Well, I... Besides Gibbs wanted a wee break, didn't ye?", he asked Mr Gibbs, who simply shook his head in frustration. This was too much for Elizabeth who quickly walked up to Jack:

"You are hiding something, Jack Sparrow! And maybe YOU don't mind dying, but the rest of us happen to have a wish to live!!", she spat and pierced Jack with her light brown stare.

"Aww, easy now, puppet. They haven't got us, have they? Not yet anyway", he said in a plain voice.

"You disgust me!!", Elizabeth yelled and reached for his hand to pull him along with them into the forest on the other side of the clearing. Even though she hated him right now, she couldn't just leave him behind despite of his shady behaviour. But when she grabbed his hand, she accidentally tore at something else – a bandana wrapped around his hand. As Elizabeth ran, the bandana was torn off with a 'riitsch' and she stopped surprised and looked back. What she saw made her stomach turn in fear. Mr Gibbs turned completely white:

"The black spot!!", he gasped in fear and something that resembled awe and stepped backwards. Will's eyes widened. Mr Gibbs looked Jack up and down:

"That's how they can follow us!! They are after YOU, not the chest! Why didn't ye tell?!", he asked and both Elizabeth and Will nodded as they looked at Jack, who just looked kind of sad. He had that dreamy stare again.

"Too early to say", Jack just said in a low tone of voice. Everyone was utterly surprised and couldn't seem to find any words to use. Jack then added:

"Go south-east. I will throw them off yer track...", he said and waved at them to start running. Hesitantly the three of them looked at Jack. Was he really capable of such a selfless act and gesture?? He seemed to have been lying until now... so how could they trust him?

"How do we know that you don't just throw US off the track and find the heart yourself?? You have both the compass and the key", Will said suspiciously and eyed the captain up and down.

"Oh!", Jack burst out as he reached inside his shirt, grabbed the key and threw it to Will, who barely was quick enough to catch it.

"There ye go", Jack said and waved at them again to get moving. The rummaging about in the under bush and the sound of running footsteps were coming closer and closer. It was now or never.

"Thank you", Will said and grabbed Elizabeth's hand – and started running. Mr Gibbs reluctantly followed and picked up the pace gradually. Soon they disappeared into the forest line to the south-east while Jack stood back and watched the forest swallow them in its green darkness. He then ran to the direct south... he had to stay near them, but not too close. Just enough to throw the fishy maniacs off their track. With an aggressive growl the first monster broke out of the forest and looked around – just in time to see Jack Sparrow turn around and mock him by sticking out his tongue with a childish grin and then disappear into the forest. Furious screams filled the air, and immediately the gang of hideous sea creatures stormed after Jack. Apparently the plan was working.