My Pearl is quiet tonight. Aye, many foolishly dismiss her as just being a ship...that she has neither cognition, nor volition beyond what the wind and the Good Lord grants. That she's so easily reduced to sails and keels, and merely a thing of wood on the water. And, yet, I hear her sing to me. Oy, to the others who perchance, grace her deck for but a moment, they only hear the creak and moan of her decks settling, or the pop of her wind-swelled sails. In ages past, they would have heard the sea shanties of the crew, the scutter of bootheels and cursing and drinking, the sounds of life itself, fueled by commeraderie and rum, and brotherhood. My poor Lady's been without crew for far too long, unless ye count the ghosts, and shadows and memories that I've long kept in my weasly black heart. On a night like this, with this silence, it seems that there's not much left but me, Her, and of things now so sadly gone.
I hoist the last bottle of rum a bit higher and let the blessed manna from heaven ease my thoughts a bit. Never thought I'd find myself living to be this old, ye know that? Oh, I've aged well enough, I suppose. My charm is still very much intact, as are my wits, of course. I've enough of both, and gold to boot, to procure the attentions of the fairer sex if I'd a mind for it any more. I've still got my hansome mug, and a jaw that's been graced far too many times from the slaps of doxies over the years. I first realized that age had finally manifested itself with the discovery of a few greying strands beneath my scarf. Now, silver's no longer just the color of my coins, or my blade. It's a bit of a sad thing, you know, to realize that on nights like this, I'd just as soon stay aboard my ship. Tis been a long time since I've felt the warmth of a woman, the sparkle of laughter in Tortuga. Aye, friendship may be bought by a round of drinks. It may only be the rum that makes a man your brother for a moment, that's bloody true.
But, there's precious little that lasts any more, ye know?
The Pearl groans again, and it's a lonely, brittle sound on the quiet water. Mayhaps, like me, the old girl misses the lot of 'em- Gibbs, Will, and darling Liz, Anamaria, even that prim and proper Norrington. Oye, when I start craving company enough to welcome the ponce who tried to hang me, I know I'm lonely.
The old wounds make me wince as I slowly unfold my achin' spine to stand up. I count myself blessed to live long enough to amass the number of scars that adorn my skin. I've earned each and every one of them, you know. Some have faded a bit as the years have gone by, but not the memories. A pity, that.
Oye, you've never seen the "P"? Go ahead, love, have a long look at it. The only mark I never earned, and yet it became the one thing that shaped me far more than anything else. I was little more than a scrap of a lad,back then, and still largely unschooled in cruelty. It was the most noble and naive of intentions that I dumped the Company's property overboard, rather than transporting the slaves through the Main.
Now, I've done some acts of dubious, and questionable morality...and before you give me that disapproving look, love, recall how very vocal you were in your enjoyment of said questionably moral acts. It may not have been right, but it was bloody enjoyable.
I refused the duties of transporting those poor wretches in shackles over the Main. Before I turned pirate, I was just as much a law-abiding, respectful ponce as any member of the King's own. I know, who would have thought that Ol' Jack would be so charitable? But, there's still some depths of depravity, of said level I refuse to sink to. Being captain to a slaver's ship's one. Sobriety is the other. And, I imagine that you can deduce from my brand, and the amount of rum I've consumed, I've faithfully kept both promises.
Twas a simple thing, really, letting them go. They acted like I was a bloody angel of deliverence, sent forth by Providence to liberate them. Mayhaps it would have given me a bit more credence if I had parted the sea.
It would have been wonderful if I could have sent a plague of pox to the King's own.
It was on a drunken night in Tortuga, after much merriment, and dubious encounters I've yet to recall that I was caught.
Clapped in irons, dragged down to that dark, and dripping brig, while I was still a bit too inebrieated to fully appreciate the gravity of the situation. I don't believe I fully comprehended just how grave the situation was, truly, until those brocaded ponces cheerfully informed me that they truly would eviserate my innards and string me up on the yardam...
Oh, bloody hell, love, your bueaty almost makes your lack of cognition bearable. That means they wanted to gut me and hang me by my intestines. Are there any other inquiries that I should answer before I continue with my tale? Darling, you're enough to drive a man to drink, and I don't mean that in a kind way.
May I have your permission to continue? I thank you, then.
I still remember the bloody agony, the stench of my own charred flesh, and staring at the smoking mark on my wrist while they chuckled, and blew spit on my sizzling, open wound. It's strange how much I hated bearing that scar, and yet became the very thing they burned me for being now. The P is for pirate, in case you can't work it out on your own.
What's that, darlin'?
Aye, you're right, love. There's precious little that can be amusing about scars and burns, however old. There's just some things that don't neatly decentigrate with time.
It was not much of a shock to my rum-addled senses when said lady vanished, and I found myself alone, yet again on the deck. A pity, that. She was quite a stunning woman, with the proper ratio of squint to inebreiation and deliruim.
Mayhaps the fever's made me more delirious than before, or maybe she was there, I didn't really know, and couldn't really trouble myself to care. I've never been one to abide well with illness of any sort. My dear ol' ma used to say that I'd carry on like a whipped mule when I was still a lad and confined to bed with some childhood ailment. That saintly woman near lost me once to sickness. I lost her forever when I was only a whelp, still teething on the edges of the world, and staring with wonderlust at the sea.
It's a strange, bitter thing, the realization that I've been long grown and gone from that wretched time, and yet, I feel the sting of loss each time I trouble myself in remembering. I've few regrets in my life, but that severing without one more time for the one woman who loved me...
It's a shame. She deserved much better.
All of 'em did, ye know.. Anamaria,Gibbs, Ol' Bootstrap, the whelp, Will, and his darling Lizzie, even that endearing ponce, Norrington.
I always assumed I'd be the one to meet my ending at the end of a noose, a pistol, a cutlass to the gut...
Drinking myself merrily into eternity, with a doxie on each arm, and a gentle noddin' off, with the laughter as my eulogy, and the warm flesh of a woman..or preferably women..as a final send-off.
Never thought I'd meet my Maker, as it were, on my ship, drinking myself into sanity under this starless sky, and only listening to the rolling waves. It's not quite properly the fanfare I've wished. But, it's soothing, and somber, and gentle. With this bloomin' fever, I shan't expect more.
In the end, I truly do not know, or care which is the final author of my exit-the infected bullet wound to my guts, or this fever that is both setting fire to my forehead and making the whole experience mercifully delirious.
Where was I, love? Forgive my meandering thoughts...coherancy is becoming harder to maintain. Kindly allow me to consume a bit more rum, and I shall continue my tale. Is that agreeable to you? Good.
Bloody Norrington was the first of us to exit this temporal plain. He met his inglorious end at the literal end of Jone's blade...ran through and left to die after saving darlin' Lizzy and the rest from the Dutchman's bridge. Rather fitting and proper, the noble sacrifice for his lady love, and all that. God knows he deserved a better ending than that. He may have been a bloody conflicted soul and a treacherous bastard on more than one occasion, but he was still a good man. Let us drink a sip in his memory, shall we? Might as well make it last, as there won't be more after this.
A man doesn't bleed like this and merrily stroll away, not even Ol' Jack.
Gibbs met his ending, oddly enough, on a drunken night in Tortuga. Strange how many sad and tragic things happen on a drunken night in Tortuga, aye? He'd been complaining up a shine about the water in his lungs, plagued by the wet hacks and the sweatings, and the groanings. He clung to life at sea like one of those barnicles to the hull, and stayed there, long after his body was fit for it. I tried to secure him a safer existance, with a full pension on land, but he refused it, saying that the day he left the water was the day that he would be entering his grave.
How right he was. He met his end rather peacefully...simply gave me that tired smile, clapped me on the arm like a father might, and saluted me with the bottle, as he ambled updeck for the night watch. We found him the next morning, propped up by the mast, with an empty bottle, and the vague smile on his face. He looked at peace, like he had simply drifted off to sleep and found something so intriging that he couldn't be troubled to come back to us. We sent him off proper, committed his flesh to the water, and his soul to the happily ever after, complete with pistol shots, drunken salutes, and the raw, vicious sting of grief. I drank myself to oblivion that night, and I still don't recall if I shed a tear, or just caught a drip of spray. I'll just say it's the latter.
That's one scar that's yet to leave a mark, but still bloody hurts.
Anamaria...that woman could deal out a slap that could near break your bones with a feeling that would make you forgive her for it. Strange how when I think of her, my cheek still aches from her slaps, and something much more. She could never be shackled by the confines of law and land. Aye, she and I were both born with the sea singing to our souls and the call of wind and sail ever hounding us. She died the same way she lived...as she damn well pleased. Twas only a few years' time after she got her own vessel. Ana, dear Ana... she not only refused to surrender her ship, she took great pleasure in administering a tongue lashing and a few bullets to emphasize that they would get the ship after they pried from her cold, dead hands. There was a mutual exchange of fire, a sea-battle, after he fired the first shot. Ana was honorable in that one aspect...never eager to fight, but always eager to end said unpleasantries. Wounded as she was, she still clawed out enough existance to see the enemy ship sent to the depths, and cheered with her crew, before expiring a few hours later. The shanties that are sung of the Sea-Banshee still fill the ships with merriment, though it's been near twenty years or more since her passing. I miss that wench and her slaps to this day.
The bottle's getting a bit light now. I don't know now if it's because I've simply consumed more of the contents and neglected to pay attention, or if it is the irritating quake of my fingers. Best to put it down before I drop it.
Now...where was I? Miss Elizabeth Swann nee Mrs. Turner. She and the Whelp had two little whelps of their own, a boy and a girl, and they love being doted on by their dear old uncle Jack. I come to shore erratically, but I keep a weather eye on 'em for the Whelp. I don't see them as much as I wish, getting on in the years as I've been. Two more beloved children, you'll never find, even if they do give their ma a time with their mischief. Hannah's already showing the promise of being a great bueaty one day...and since she's the closest I've got to kin, any man who has her better damn well treat her more respectfully than I would at their age. Young Bill has the song of the tide in his blood, and mayhaps, he'll join his pa on the waves one day. But, dear Hannah turns her dark eyes to the sea with that same hunger as her ma. Pirate may well be in her blood, too. I just hope that when they do square with it, one day, not too long in coming, twill be with much more joy and less sacrifice than their dear parents. Elizabeth and I do chat on occasion, when I'm there. She still has her eyes fixed to that horizon, as does Will. They're bound by something deeper than the depths, you know. Darling Lizzy only roles her eyes and smiles with a gentle tolerance for this old pirate. I'm grateful, though, that I've been allowed to stay a fixture in their lives. Would be bloody lonely without them.
I look out to the darkness, as it swells over the water with a strange patience. And I scowl when I raise the rum, and see only the sliver of drink, shining in the bottom. It's strange how heavy it's become, like hoisting a boulder. My arm quivers so much that the bottle slips from my fingers and cascades into a bright, shining mess of shards and drops over the deck. Not that it matters much, as my legs quake beneath me, and I slump, hard against the mast, only managing to angle my spine to keep me upright. The wounds have stopped oozing, throbbing, aching, even though I can feel the dull pressure of powder and ball wedged neatly in my ribs, my stomache, my shoulder. It doesn't hurt at all, and I know that wounds such as these should hurt a great deal.
But, I'm too bloody weary, and spent to do much more than focus on my slippery, heaving breath going a bit longer. Aye, that's it, Jack. Keep the breathing and cognition a bit more, though to what point and purpose, I honestly could not deduce.
Breathing. It is such a basic necessity, much like food and substenance, and all the other things a man needs to sustain life. Were there any doubt that Ol Jack was finally taking his last voyage, it was erased when my breathing slid from my lungs, gently as a noose uncoiling. I didn't trouble myself with much more than the next instinctive breath, as they were becoming both harder to maintain, and less necessary.
The sunset's caught fire to the sky, and it's sinking to the depths now. The Pearl groans in mourning when I weakly pat her side to lend comfort to the old girl. We've sailed through hell and back more than what's fitting, proper, or believable, we've had a damn good run. I should be grateful for that. I am grateful for that.
I see the dark waters stirring, and the silent ascent of the Dutchman, as she rises from the deep like some mercucial goddess I once knew. Rather than being a mottled, rotting thing from the bowels of hell, she's glowing dimly in the waning light, the tacklines etched in vague silver. It looks more akin to celestial than naught.
The Pearl rises with a gentle moan, and rocks back downward, and the Dutchman creaks back in answer. Were my time here left not so short, the two old girls could have been chatting like sisters.
I remember the first time I thought I would exit for eternity, at the end of a noose, to the jeering clap of indifferent crowds, as I choked and heaved and fought to no avail. This is mercifully, blessedly different.
I'm not surprised to see Will gently ease his way towards me, his dark eyes troubled and sad, but not fearful. I suppose it's not pleasant to be charged with the duties of ferrying a friend's soul to the otherside, whatever lurks there. He halts a few feet away, with a tilt of his head as he kneels down to peer at me.
The smile on his lips is warm and welcoming. And thenm he glances down my torn, bloody side, and sees the dull gleam of blood through the mussed tatters of my linen shirt. He scowls at the wounds, sighs with a bitter shake of his head, and he looks at me, agonized with guilt. For what, I've yet to to understand.
"I'm sorry, Jack." Will says it softly, as he timdly peels the bloodied rags I've stuffed around my wounds in the failed attemp to staunch the bleeding. He cringes, and looks away.
"Mr. Turner, I am well aware of the fact that I'm dying, and the wounds are fatal. Please don't insult my intelligence by pretending otherwise."
The bloodied rag is slack in his fingers as he stares down at me, in tears.
The sorrow is tangible, and not manufactured or assumed. The Whelp is truly apologetic about my tragic demise, even though he had no hand in it. Rather nice, that.
"It's good to see you, whelp, even though I wish the circumstances were under far more pleasant conditions."
The words were slurred far more from exhaustion and the simple act of dying far more than me at my most eniebrated. I find that thought strangely humorous.
Will stares at me with a look akin to a codfish, eyes huge with incomprehension, mouth slack, before his lips quirk into a slight smile. "It's good to see you, too, Jack."
There's only the sound of the water rolling against the hull, soothing as a lullaby, as Will says nothing more. He gives me a patient, tolerant smile before he carefully lowers himself to the deck and seats himself beside me. When I start to slump on my side, he says nothing again, but carefully slides himself next to my uninjured side, and props me up again. At that point, my spine is curling with the weight of the rest of me, and I find, to my annoyance, that I've now lost the ability to remain upright. Were it not for Will's very kind assistance in keeping me seated and not sprawling, I would have went as slack as a tackline. Mercifully, I was spared that final insult on top of all the injuries. It's a bit unnerving, knowing now the only thing that is keeping me here is the steadying arm about my shouder. Will only smiles with a sad patience, infinitely gracious and waiting for the mortal coil to slip. We both know that twon't be much longer now.
The Pearl groans beneath me, and she sounds like she's singing a dirge. Ah, my lady knows my departure is nigh, too. The sails pop sharp as a whiplash, and the wood under my splayed palms feels worn from the years of my boots going over her deck, of waves washing away the blood and memories that the rum couldn't.
The wind feels like little more than a lover's caress as it sweeps over the dark water and carries with it the scent of salt, brine, promise and freedom all intermingled with the occasional tears. I can't help the coy grin that lights my lips as I recall the many doxies who've peopled my life with the steadying anchor of flesh in the chaos of womankind. Glorious fury, erratic swells and curves, ever churning and unchanging, as the sea. I've had too many to recall, too many slaps and nights bought with a promise and a coin, while I found a bit of comfort with the flesh and warmth of companionship.
Bloody hell, I've had it good.
I feel Will ease me towards his shoulder, with care, as I tiredly slide open my suddenly leaden eyes, and squint up at him.
"Shall I be boarding your vessel now, Mr. Turner?" I meant to blink my eyes coyly, treat my last moments to grace this world with flippant nonchalance.
My voice falters into a weary rasp, and my blink somehow slips into another half-lidded gaze on the darkening water.
Will says nothing for a long moment, and turns his face towards the ocean. He shifts his arm as leverage against my slackening body, and draws me close. I'm both shamed and grateful to realize that he's intent on keeping me upward, even if he has to hold me like a child. The Whelp's been a true friend.
"Jack, you don't have to leave the Pearl, yet. Not until..." His voice trails off to an awkward whisper, and I feel his arm tighten with unease about this novel situation.
"Jack, I can't stop this from happening, but I can make sure that you're on the Pearl until the end."
I force my eyes open at that, in weary, weary appreciation. It's truly a kind gesture, and really the only farewell that's in any way fitting. The Pearl is silent, and kindly waiting. She lays still, ceases the groaning,and even slows her pitching to a soothing cadence. I let the sound and the sway lull me to sleep, easy as a babe in his mum's arms. She was always a gracious lady, you know. I'll miss her dearly.
Will's infinitely careful, as he lets my bowed head lay across his shoulder. It matters little now, my body feels all torpid and pleasantly light. I know he wouldn't flog me now...wouldn't be right, but I have my doubt I would even notice it. His shaking fingers are cold against my back, as he holds me against him, and whispers my name as a requiem.
I can do little more but groan out an acknowledgement, for I've found myself both unable and unwilling to carry on any more conversations that would disrupt my transition from dying to dead. Lingering now seems pointless and grows more impossible with each breath.
Will's so bloody understanding about it, patiently waiting for me to expire with his face ravaged by grief that's far, far more than the occasion calls for.
He's in tears as he heaves out the words, "Jack, it's alright. I came so that you wouldn't face this alone. Trust me, Jack."
Words seem far too burdensome to speak, and breath now seems too much bloody work to keep up any longer. So, I exhale the last one, little more than a sigh of weary surrender. I wish now that I had some pleasant, witty last words, or something more. In the end, I felt it a bit too pretentious. In the end, there was really nothing left but the dirge of the Pearl that she sings so sweetly in the rising swell and the quiet roil of water against her wood. In the end, there was no witnesses except the flicker of white birds as they winged their way to the celestial heights unseen to the abysmal sky. In the end, there was nobody there but the Pearl, the Whelp, and the Almighty. The Pearl unfurls her sails like wings, and she arches upward. I hear her sorrowful cry from her depths as she rises against me, and bids me farewell. I can do no more than grace a palm over her, only a scrape of skin against wood now smooth from wind and water and the passage of the years. We've had a good run, she and I. I'll miss her. God knows I'll bloody miss her.
Will still clutches me with the tenacity of a drowning man. Surely he's been around the dying well enough to know that he's only moments away from holding vigil over a corpse. It's a humbling thought, to think of all the poor souls he's ferried over these waters, how many departures, willing and unwilling, he's been forced to witness. And yet, here he is, allowing me the peace of saying my farewells aboard my beloved Pearl, the one place that's been haven and home in my meandering path. If my ending had to come, there's hardly a more gracious exit than the one he kindly provided.
All is still now, waiting, and so very quiet. Will speaks the next words with the reverence of a prayer.
"Jack, it's alright. You...you can let go." It's warm reassurance, and permission. It's a bit of grace from one of the few I've counted as friend in my time.
And at last, I do. The last breath, to my surprise, is sweeter than rum, softer than a woman's kiss, and gently surrendered with a long, drawn out sigh. My heart lurches in my chest, shudders through a few more throbbing attempts and then just bloody ceases. I feel the last flutter of the muscle quiver in fear, and then lays at peace with the stopping.
My eyes stare vapidly at the star-swollen sky, before the world blurs and fades with the finality of a crashing wave that easily engulfs all that I knew. I guess tis true that hearing is the last sense to go, because I hear Will's broken voice, soft and teary and anguished as he sweeps a hand over my eyes and shuts them for me.
"Be at peace, Jack."
The water writhes as if in anguish, before it parts. The moon politely sends down a slender thread of pearled light over the serene water, a brightly lit road to home. The wind, once it rises, whispers bright laughter of friends sorely missed and long departed. I'm pleased, but not suprised to feel the familiarity of the tackline in my fingers, the beloved deck beneath my feet, as the Pearl greets me once more with the tenderness of a mum with her child. I stare out at the waters, all silvery and awash with starlight, and gape in wonder at their brilliance. They seem so close that all one had to do to touch one was simply reach out a hand. The moon, by then, had arched a straight path over the shimmering water, and then illuminated the grand ship that was sailing towards me with a speed no wind could match. I watched as she glided over the waters, propelled onward by forces that I could not comprehend. My heart swelled when I saw the beaming faces of Gibbs, and Ana, as they stood over the rigging. Gibbs gave me a warm, welcoming smile, as he tilted the bottle of rum high in triumph. Ana, dear Ana kept up the glower that melted into ecstatic rapture as she almost hoisted me off my feet. She was teary-eyed,but blissful as she flung her arms around me.
"Jack, ye daft, damned pirate..." She stares at me for a long moment, with those tear-brightened eyes, as Gibbs ambles over, claps me on the back, and gives me the rum, which is now and truly the manna of heaven.
We stare at each other, with an amicability and a familiarity that death didn't quite sever, and life never tainted. We exchange those slow, weary smiles of understanding, as he finally burst forth in a merry chuckle.
"Welcome home, Jack. We missed ye, Captain." I give him a knowing glance with a coyly raised eyebrow. We all stand in silence, in peace as the Pearl graces the gloaming water like an angel heading homeward. The wind picks up, carrying with it the tantilizing hints of freedom, of unsailed waters, and distant horizons that I've yet to see, and now have chance to explore.
Aye, love, bring me that horizon, if you please. I've waited bloody long enough.