A/N: ATTENTION: THIS STORY IS CURRENTLY BEING REWRITTEN. For the love of all things holy, go read the new rewrite The Second Rise of Cutler Beckett ( fanfiction net/ s/9521492/1/The-Second-Rise-of-Cutler-Beckett) instead of this old, poorly written version. Please and thank you.
The wreckage had been washing up on the shore for days now. The timber was useful for cooing and building fires, but it was the bodies that got in the way. Stinking of fish left in the sun too long, the drowned Redcoats' coming was hailed by a rising cyclone of seabirds, pecking at their remains. I close my eyes and tie a kerchief around my nose as I do what's necessary. There are three bodies to be piled in the skiff today and taken round the leeward side of the island and out of the shelter of the bay.
I survey each body with pity. If I were a god-given wench I would pray for them, but god's got no place in the life of a fisherwoman, so I settle for gently closing their eyes before hauling them over the side of the skiff.
But as I come to the last fellow, a bloke around 30 or 40, I stop. Something about him is different. For one thing, though his clothes are badly torn and charred, I could tell he was dressed a lot nicer than the other's I've seen. For another, it's the manner of his death that draws my attention.
Whereas all the other young British Navy men were clearly either stabbed, shot or drowned, this one's got not a wound on him. Well, then again, that's speaking relatively, as his whole face is covered in horrible burns and seems hardly like a face at all, more like something half eaten the dogs bring back from the jungle some nights.
And for another, his body's not all bloated and water-logged like the other sailors were. A faint suspicion rises in me. So far everyone who'd washed up on my bay was dead, but what if this man had survived?
I had raised him into a sitting position while deliberating whether or not to toss him overboard with the rest when I saw his eyelids flutter.
I am taken aback, and my hand goes automatically to my paring-knife by my side, but I chide myself for being silly. The man is obviously, by some miracle of fate, still alive, but even if he were to have violent designs on me, he was in no state to carry them out.
I guess all these years living alone, without father, have made me paranoid. Fending for myself, nary a contact with another human soul has made me strong, but sometimes I wonder if father was wrong about the world being such an awful place.
The dead-but-not-dead man in front of me suddenly coughs, splutters, and retches up a stomach's worth of seawater.
"There, there, easy now. I can't quite tell what happened to ya, but I can see you've had quite a time of it." The man spoke through white, salt-dried lips.
"Who are you? Where am I? Where's Jones, what happened-" he tries to move, but his body is so weak he can barely stir. I figure this would be a good time to get back to my hut on the bay, so I grab the oars of the skiff and start rowing, keeping one eye on the man and one on the shore.
"Say, what's your name, anyway?" He looks at me- or at least tries to- like I'm an imbecile. Dunno what I've done to deserve that.
"I'm Lord Cutler Beckett. You don't recognize me?" I scoff.
"I daresay not, not with what's been done to your face." When I mention his face his hands creep up to feel it, and when he does, it's like pain has suddenly dropped from the sky and right onto his shoulders. He falls back on the bench of the skiff and moans,
"Argh! The pain- my leg is bloody killing me-" and indeed, it should be, for it's only now I remember the piece of wood impaled in his calf that I first noticed hauling him aboard. I figure shock and fatigue have taken the edge off, not to mention dehydration and starvation, for I've no idea how long he's been adrift at sea nor how much blood he's lost. I row faster, for it's clear if he's to be saved I'll need to exercise what little first aid skills I have as quickly as possible.
I tear off some fabric from the hem of my ratty dress and tie it above the wound to try and stop some of the bleeding. Lord Cutler Beckett makes no sound, and I realize he's passed out again.
It's no mean feat to carry him ashore without jarring his leg, and I'm not sure I am very gentle, for he moans once or twice as I drag him to the hut.
It's a sorry thing, but my dad and I built it with our bare hands almost ten years ago. It's got three rooms, the main room/kitchen in the middle and then my room to the left of it and father's off to the right.
I haven't used dad's room in ages, but I supposed the musty sheets on the long unslept-in bed will have to do.
I set Lord Cutler Beckett down harder than I mean to and he wakes up. I can see the pain in his eyes, and I feel the kind of pity I feel when one of the dogs has a sliver up his foot. I'm gonna treat this here lord like I do the dogs, I decide: just pull it out fast and no one will remember the next morning.
"But this ain't a sliver, and he ain't a dog," a voice in my head whispers. I tell it to shush and I make preparations. Clean cloths, boiling water, a stick for him to bite, some rum for disinfecting, some cool water for the burns on his face and hands. I momentarily hesitate before I use my knife to cut off what remains of his trousers, but I figure, what's modesty when a man's life is at stake?
Lord Cutler Beckett is looking at me now, something akin to fear joining the pain that I already see in his sightless eyes.
"What are you going to do?" he asks with impeccable English diction.
"I've gotta get this 'ere piece of wood out of your leg. This is gonna hurt, but no more than it did goin' in, I'd imagine. In any case, take this." I press the stick into his hands and he seems confused. Honestly, do these proper English men know nothing about field medicine?
"You bite it," I instruct, demonstrating. "It's for the pain." Now I know there's fear in his eyes but he doesn't flinch or hesitate, just does as he's told and nods for me to continue. I grasp the wood at the top and slowly work it up and out of his leg. His muscles contract with the pain and I tell him to relax. Once the foot-long plank is out, I breath a sigh of relief. The hard part is over.
Now time for the cloths, water and rum. My hands are slick with blood and it's all over my dress now too, and I think ruefully that it'll be the flames for this one when I'm through.
I clean the would best I can and bind it up tight to try and stop the bleeding. I'm sure it's going to fester, though, as he's been at sea who knows how long and I am certain even a skilled nurse would be hard pressed to stave off infection. Sighing, I turn my attention to his face.
Whatever happened to that ship made a ravage of his face. His skin is black, blistered and burned, his eyebrows, lashes, and most of his hair are charred off. Strangely though his lips are intact, and I study them wile I apply cooling water to his burns. They are soft, well-formed, yet I would say with a cruel tilt to them. His eyes are sightless, destroyed by whatever burned him. It is a strange sort of mercy that the fates have not spared his eyes. When- if- his burns heal, his face will not be a pretty sight.
I know he is dehydrated, so as soon as I have finished wrapping his face in clean linen swaths I get him some water from the spring out back. He gulps it eagerly, and I have to restrain him, for I know that to much water at once in a dehydrated body will make a man sick. I hold the cup and press it gently to his lips while I slip a hand behind his neck to support him. His bandaged hands wrap around mine, holding the cup steady.
He says thanks as I retreat to the kitchen for more water and some food. It is like taking care of a baby, feeding the helpless man before me. I wonder who he is. Lord Cutler Beckett- a name and a title. What good does that do me?
I could ask, but the poor man is out like a light in heavy sleep the instant he has finished the last morsel of bread. I cover him with the blankets and leave the hut.
The sun is setting and I call for Tuck and Bull. The dogs come charging out of the jungle at my call, each carrying something tasty in its mouth for supper. I set the remainder of the water in the kettle over the firepit out front to boil so I can cook the rabbit and quail they've brought. An idea hits me. Lord Cutler Beckett shall need clothes once he has healed. I had scrounged some of the items of drowned soldier's clothing that still seemed usable, as I had only three dresses of my own. Dresses were expensive, and I only made trips to the mainland to resupply and sell my meager wares every half year.
The red and blue jackets, trousers, and boots are tucked in a small lean to with the wood against the back of the house. I pick the nicest of them and carry them inside with me, laying them at the foot of the bed. Lord Cutler Beckett still sleeps peacefully, dead to the world. I imagine he will stay that way for a few days at least. It gives me pause to ponder- had I really thought this through? I, a woman alone on an island, barely with the means to support herself. Cut off from the world by choice, passing the days in chores and meaningless rambles over the island. Plenty of time for daydreaming, but naught much else.
How would a full grown man, a lord, take to this lifestyle? He wouldn't. And he will want to go to the mainland before long. Sure, he'll be grateful to me for saving his life, but really, what will be the consequence of that?
I had not thought this through, and for a moment, I almost regret not chucking him off the edge of the skiff with the others. Then I shake myself mentally, admonishing myself,
"But to be a killer? You have done the right thing. And who knows. This man may turn out to be less of a burden than you anticipate." It is true that on some days it is all I can do to successfully keep my house in order. And I have perennially dreaded what would happen should I someday fall ill.
Dinner is ready, and I am about to eat it straight from the pot when I think twice. I dish it onto a wooden plate and carry it into my father's old room.
The man is awake, which I had not expected. When I offer him my food he takes it eagerly. When he tries to get up, though, he falls back against the bed in weakness.
I come to his side and I am taking care of a baby again. I see the resentment in his eyes at the way he is being fed like a child, but damned be his pride if he wishes to survive. Between bites he asks,
"What is your name?"
"Winnifred Dayne, at your service. Are you feeling any better?"
"My leg hurts like hell, frankly, and my face feels like its on fire. I have not eaten in at least three days, so whatever you are feeding me at the moment tastes like heaven. What is it?"
"Rabbit quail stew," I respond, waiting for his reaction.
"Quail, eh? Haven't had one of those since I left England. Where are we? And how do you have quail in this season?"
"You're on a small island in the Caribbean. I'm not sure exactly where. I have lived here alone for…" I trail off. I don't actually know how long it's been since father died. The years, months, seasons, have all blurred together in the beautiful blue of the sea that occupies all my days. I suppose its been at least ten years, for my body has grown much taller and the dogs are beginning to show marked signs of age. "A while," I finish.
"I see. And how did I come to be here?"
"You washed up on shore this afternoon. I thought you were dead, like the rest, but you weren't."
"Aye. Bodies 'ave been washin' up on shore all week, along with a load of debris."
"Miss Dayne-" I cut him off.
"Winnifred, if you please. I'll not stand on ceremony when its only us two to consider."
"Winnifred, then. Do you have any way of contacting the rest of the world?"
"Well, Lord Cutler Beckett…" he smiles. It is a nice smile. I don't find his mouth cruel anymore.
"Call me Beckett." I smile too, even though I know he can't see.
"I row to the mainland every half year. That's the only time I leave the island, if you don't count my daily fishing trips."
"So you live here alone? Why?"
"It wasn't always just me. It used to be me and my dad, making a living away from the cruelty of the world. That's what he always described the outside world as. Cruel." I realize I am waxing poetic, and I stop. "But he's dead now," I say, blunt and to the point.
"I'm sorry," Beckett says. He sounds genuinely sorry. "I agree with your father." I look up at him sharp-like.
"I agree with him. The world is a cruel place. Even when it seems like everything is going according to plan, fate throws a wrench in." He sighs. "I'm blind, aren't I?" He says, abruptly changing the subject. I wonder what cruel turn, besides the obvious injuries, fate has dealt him. It would be rude to inquire so I just answer,
"I'm afraid so." There is a silence pregnant with pity. He finishes the stew, and I am painfully aware that this man will not be able to eat by himself for a long time. I wonder once more what kind of a burden I have taken on myself before I take the dogs in, clean up the dinner, and go to bed. I have no appetite for my share of the stew.
A/N: My first POTC fan fiction. I originally started writing this only for my own enjoyment, but I figured that other people might like it too and decided to post it. Constructive criticism is appreciated, because I rarely write in first person and have never written in present tense before. For some reason though this story demands to be told that way, and who am I to argue with my muse?