The world sounded strange in the sudden calm. Norrington almost missed the feel of rain against his face. It felt like days, weeks even, since he'd seen clear skies free of dark clouds and torrential rains but he knew, by the lack of rumbling in his gut if nothing else, that the storm had lasted hours at the most. Not many hours at that, since the sun was shining just above the horizon. It had just set when the storm had started.
It shouldn't be possible for so much to change overnight.
Captain Jack Sparrow stood in the same spot, as he had for the entirety of the storm √ either his own shock or the magic on the wooden box open in his hands keeping him in place despite the harsh rocking of the ship. The Black Pearl still swayed drunkenly, heaving dangerously from side to side. It had been doing much worse minutes ago.
He was glad that he wasn't prone to sea sickness. The ship reeked enough without his own contribution, and it was a bad of pride √ as if pride really meant anything at this point √ that he was one of the few that hadn't vomited.
One of the ropes swung slowly across deck and at first, he thought they were about to be tossed again but it was just Will Turner, the first to break the stillness of the crew, releasing the tether he'd clung to throughout the storm. Will stared out at the ocean, emotion heavy on his face. Norrington could empathize with the blacksmith's thoughts √ he felt the blacksmith's loss as well. It was almost an insult to his own character that out of all those on the ship, Will was the one he empathized most with. But, given the choice between his former rival-in-love and a group of pirates, it was hardly surprising.
They were both relieved that the storm was over and also nervous. Was there something else coming? How much damage had been done? More importantly, was there anyone outside of this boat and her crew still left alive. Unlike the pirates, they still left part of their hearts on land.
"That," Will's voice wavered as he took a step towards Jack, "was a bad way to make sure there'll always be pirates."
The pirate captain looked between the open box and the sea around them. His lips parted and then stopped. He raised a finger, as if to forestall his own speech, and then lowered his arm back to the box.
"Bad," Jack's voice carried over the entire deck. If his imagination were broader, Norrington might have imagined that the pirate captain's voice carried over the entire sea, which by current standards, meant most if not all of the world. "...is a relative term. Bad for whom? Certainly not for me, and I think not for you either, savvy?"
He wanted to get mad. There was certainly a lot to be mad over. He thought of his mother, in her manor home in northern England, and his father, still at command high in the Navy ranks. His brother, Albert, also at sea, and Dantes, just starting school. Elizabeth, home with her father in Port Royal. Names and faces flashed through his mind, too many to count, too many to really feel the pain of loss just yet √ all of them people who may now be dead.
"Don'cha worry." The witch, the one that had started all of this by giving Jack that infernal box, sashayed across the deck, fabric and seaweed swaying at her hips as she crossed to stand at the rail, palms out to the sea. She closed her eyes, breathing deeply of the wet air, and smiled. "The world is better than it once was. Remember now, how it was the flood that set the world clean."
"Meaning no offence, Tia dear, but I am no Noah, and we're a little light on livestock."
Laughter overtook him. It was absurd. Everything about this was absurd and if he were in his right mind, he wouldn't believe any of it. But he did. The witch said that opening the box would release the sea as it had been, half over as large as it was now. Then she'd said something about power and fate and bloody, thrice-damned pirates, and that was all it took to make Captain Sparrow open the carved little box. Then came the rain √ certainly not forty days worth, but enough, it seemed, to make him believe the world really had flooded.
His back hit the railing and he sank down until he was sitting on soaked wood. Water pooled under his hand √ the one that was not held to his face and he covered his eyes as he laughed and laughed and laughed until his stomach hurt. Or maybe he was just hungry, finally. Maybe time was finally deciding to catch up with him.
"I think he's lost it."
The fact that it was Jack, of all people, questioning his sanity just made him laugh harder. Dropping his hand to his side, he smiled up at the madmen he'd somehow landed himself with.
This wasn't how he pictured his revenge on the pirate.
"Don't you see," he told them, "they're all dead." As he spoke, he knew it wasn't entirely true. Hope still held onto a little corner of his heart, whispering that someone, somewhere must still be alive. He'd truly go mad if the only humans left on the planet were bloody pirates.
Tia's hands clenched on the wooden rail and her smile dropped. "Not all." His laughter stopped, dying so fast he wondered if he'd even made a sound or if the laughter had just been in his head. "No, not everyone. The race of man still keeps its breath, though its tracks... much lighter on the world."
"And Port Royal?" He asked. His eyes met with Turner's. "What of our dear Elizabeth and her father?
"It's a port. They've got boats." Jack spoke defensively, as if he'd just realized not everyone he cared for lived at sea.
"That's hardly comforting." The anger that had escaped him previously welled up. It felt good. It felt familiar, normal. Was there anything more normal than a navy man hating pirates?
Jack shrugged and tossed the empty box onto the deck. Wood clattered on wood and half the crew jumped. Norrington flinched √ not quite a full jump, but he was sitting. He'd half expected the ship to explode, or everyone to turn into monkeys, or even the world to turn upside down.
Seconds passed. Nothing happened and he felt safe to breathe again.
The wheel turned easily in Jack's hands and the ship lurched to the side √ purposely this time.
"What's done is done, I always said." Jack leaned against the wheel. "Best we can do now is head back to land, assuming we can find it, and see who's left."
The smell of seaweed and clams hit him as Tia Dalma stood beside him. She stared up at Jack as she spoke, but Norrington had a feeling her words weren't entirely for the pirate. "And those that are left to the sea, thee and thine kin and those that would dare brave Neptune's wrath, from thee shall the rulers be chosen."
Norrington turned away. The sea stared back at him from beyond the rail, vast and empty. There was nothing left to say, and certainly not a thing he could do to reverse this mess.