Life on the Flying Dutchman
by Mercy "Jones" Shawe
as told to A'isha Ishtar
Sometimes you gotta take control
Don't know what you can do
Or what you're capable
'Cause it's all up to you
Let your excuses go
It's time for you to show
I'll push myself with all I got
Gonna make it 'cause I'm ready
Don't care if you're not
This world won't give you what you want
Unless you take your shot
So give it all you got
Inside of me, I'll find my wings
'Cause I can be most anything
Inside of me is all I'll ever need...
I'm all I'll ever need...
I'm all I'll ever need...
I'm all I'll ever need...
~"Inside of Me", Cheryline Lim
It was Maccus who first found me, floating round the Dutchman. I'd been along with my father, on a fishing trip. We were on our raft, and usually this had been our place. My mother died soon after I was born, so this was where my father and I bonded. He taught me to love the sea, to respect the waters and be thankful for the fish we caught. We were close, naturally, and the ocean brought us even closer.
But we hadn't counted on the storm. It was an awful storm, with strong winds and pelting rain against us. My father braced me against the raft, tying rope around my waist so I wouldn't be washed into the angry sea, and told me he'd swim ashore to get help. It wasn't far, but he couldn't drag me, otherwise we'd never make it. But he knew this ocean like the back of his hand, and when he got help to tow me back, he would be able to find me. So he left, kissing my head one more time and promising that he'd be back for me.
He never came back.
I drifted for probably three days, out on that raft atop the waves. The storm I braved, but after that I had no idea what I was to do. I wanted to wait for my father, but I also didn't want to die out here. I managed to untie the rope from my middle, working it down past my hips and kicking it away with my feet. When I could move again, on the first real day I spent without my father since the storm stopped, the first sensation I felt was thirst. I scooped up some seawater in my hands and drank it, but a moment later I threw up violently. Three times.
Then I got hungry, on the second day. There were fish swimming close to the surface, and being a fisherwoman-in-training, I easily caught one. It wriggled fiercely, being out of the water and unable to breathe. That was quickly remedied, though, once I took a chunk of broken wood and killed it. Fish were usually supposed to be cooked first, but I didn't have any means of starting a fire (rubbing pieces of wood together rarely works), and I wanted to eat.
So once I picked out the splinters I'd accidentally left by staking it, I just ate it raw. I hesitated, but I did it. It got blood all over my mouth, cheeks, and hands, and it tasted terrible. I couldn't even force myself to finish it; after about four or five bites I tossed it back. It was about thirty minutes, but sure enough the uncooked fish made me even sicker than the water had.
The third day was pure hell. I was lost, tired. I was maddeningly thirsty and hungry, but I knew all attempts to satisfy myself would only make the situation worse. A few times I drank a bit of water anyway, though soon after I always vomited. On top of it, I missed my father... he wasn't coming back. I knew that much, stupid as I was. As the salty tears escaped my dry eyes, they ran into my equally dry, cracked mouth, but offered no relief. I prayed to the sea, to any of its rulers who would listen, and I asked for them, for the sea, to protect me, to send me a beacon of hope.
... I'll give ye one chance more, Davy Jones...
... Take care of de little one...
Like I said before, it was Maccus who first found me and took me aboard the legendary Flying Dutchman. He can be very brutal, and he loves to grumble before he does things, but don't let that fool you. He's got a soft spot in his hard, barnacley heart for children, and his mates.
I must have been way out of it, probably half-unconscious, to not notice that my raft was floating toward a giant ship. Even my little vessel bumping against her hull didn't faze me. I was nearly asleep, I think, and at that point I was hoping never to wake up again.
The next thing I knew, I heard someone yell, but they sounded foggy and faraway, and I could make out what they were saying. Then all of a sudden, there was a massive splash beside me, nearly toppling my pathetic craft over. I barely managed to hold on, but then I felt a hand on my face. It wasn't a normal human hand; it was cold, rough, and there were uneven bumps across it.
My chin was turned up, and I willed my eyes open. They were blurry and stinging from the saltwater, but the outline was clear. It was blue, and for all my knowledge it was a hammerhead shark. It was quite the fright, though, when he suddenly spoke, shouting up at the crew of the inhumanly large ship. "Hey mates! Shiver me timbers, we got a little lass overboard!"
"Hold on, Maccus!" came another voice, this time from above. "We'll toss ye the Jacob's Ladder, mate!"
The shark-man's arm was wrapped around my waist now, but I didn't struggle. It reminded me of the binds during the storm; I was just too tired and weak to care. I likely looked like a ragdoll, flopping about, as he carried me up the rope ladder. He was strong, and only using one arm to carry me.
After a moment, I was set onto the wooden deck of the ship, on my back. For a moment all I could do was cough, since the air was thicker and saltier here. All I could see were blobs of color, the world spinning and faces a mystery, though the shark-man was the most prominent to me. He leaned down, shooing the others back a bit, and slapped my cheek. Hard. He couldn't be blamed, though, since he thought I was asleep. (Good thing was that, in my haze, I hardly felt it.) "Show a leg, lass! Wha' be yer name?"
I groaned, then coughed again before answering. "It's Mercy. What... What's your name?"
"I be Maccus, first mate o' the Flyin' Dutchman. Ye been out there long, lass?"
"Three... Three days, I think, sir," I managed to wheeze out, blinking in an attempt to see clearer. "There was a storm..."
My attempt worked. I could see better, and I saw that the shark-man, Maccus, had only on real, human eye. The other was on the side of his head, like a real hammerhead shark. He was staring at me, and if his head shaking was any indication, he didn't like what he was saying. "Palifico," he called, briefly turning away from me. "Go get Koleniko. I don't like the way the little lass be lookin' - she need help."
One of the crew, who looked to be entirely made of coral but still built like a human, nodded his head. "Aye, Maccus. Jus' be a minute." He hurried off, toward the belowdecks area.
"Who's Koleniko?" I mumbled, fighting to keep my eyes open.
"Our coxswain. He navigates, helps keep order. He was a doctor, 'fore he became a pirate. He ought ta be able ta help ye."
"Is he nice?"
"He won't be holdin' yer hand the whole time, if that's wha' ye be meanin'. He don't coddle, that's fer certain, but he'll find out wha's wrong with ye."
I managed to nod, but I was too focused on trying to fill my lungs as fully as possible to try and say anything else.
A few more seconds passed before the coral man, Palifico, returned. He had another man with him, whose face half looked like a puffer fish. He knelt down by me before glancing up at Maccus. "What the hell did ye do ta 'er?" he demanded.
"Didn't do anythin'," Maccus grunted. "She was jus' out in the sea, 'n' I fished 'er out. She not lookin' too good, eh, Niko?"
"Shut yer yella trap 'n' let me look at 'er then!" the puffer fish man, probably Koleniko, snapped. He looked back down at me, his mismatched eyes softening just a little. "Alright, lass. I'm jus' gonna look at ye. Savvy? How long was she in the water, Maccus?"
"Round three day, she said."
"Right." He put a hand on my forehead, though his hand felt more like a fin than fingers. "Feels like ye got a bit o' fever. Can ye tell me wha' happened, lassie? Why were ye out there?"
"My dad and I were out fishin'," I answered, leaning in and wanting more of his cool touch, even though he hadn't pulled back yet. "That's what we do. Then it started stormin'. He tied me to the raft so I wouldn't fall in, and left to get help. But he didn't come back, an' I been out in the sea since."
"I see. And ye managed ta untie yerself? By God, wha' a strong one ye be. Haven't had anythin' to eat er drink, have ye?"
I blinked sheepishly. "I... drank some seawater," I admitted. "Then I caught a fish an' tried to eat it, but I couldn't keep it down."
"Aww lass, bein' a fisher I woulda though' ye'd know not ta do tha'," Koleniko groaned, frowning. He drew his hand back and put it on my stomach instead. "Bein' out in the sea fer so long's made ye sick, 'n' drinkin' the water there 'n' eatin' raw meat... ye've made yerself sicker." He pressed down a little on my stomach. "Does tha' hurt?"
I nodded; it felt like a knife was tearing through my belly when he pressed on it. "Aye, sir," I managed through gritted teeth, now using seamen's colloquialisms.
"Aye, I figured as much. Wha's yer name?"
"Mercy, sir. Name's Mercy."
Aye, righ' pretty." He put his hand now on my hair as he looked back up at the first mate. "Maccus, she got a nice slew o' problems, eh? She needin' water 'n' food, 'n' lots o' rest. Cool water on th' head too. We have an empty hammock belowdecks?"
"Aye... can't think o' a reason we wouldn'. Gonna have 'er sleep down 'ere?"
"Aye. If ye can get it ready, I gotta walk 'er down." As he waved Maccus off, he looked back down at me. "Think ye can get ta yer feet, lass?"
"Y-Yes." With a bit of help from him, I struggled to stand up, and eventually did so.
Koleniko made sure I could take a few steps on my own (tentative and wobbly though they were) before he began to walk ahead of me. He wasn't very far away, but to me it seemed like miles. "C'mon now, lass. Keep up, I'm righ' here."
I had a bit of trouble staying with him, but I feel I should have been commended for my effort. I was slow, and I was shaking quite a bit. I thought I was safe with Koleniko, with all the rest of the crew around... yet oh, how wrong I was.
I wasn't expecting it, nor could any warning have prepared me for it. Because all of a sudden, out of thin air, I was struck by something slender, but sharp. I cried out bloody murder as I fell to my knees, alerting Koleniko as well as the others. It took another lash from the same weapon for me to realize that I was being whipped.
"Stop it! Righ' now!" Koleniko immediately rushed to my side, yelling at whoever was wielding the whip. "Jimmy, stop, she's jus' a little lass!"
The sting of the cat was taken away for a moment, as my tormentor walked to my other side. "All th' more reason. Teach 'em young, 'n' you never 'ave a problem wit' 'em." He knelt down, and I could see the eerie darkness of his inhuman face, but it wasn't friendly like Maccus, Koleniko, or even Palifico. No, he was hideous, like a piranha, with rows of sharp teeth glinting at me from his smirk. "Ahoy, lass. I'm Jimmy Legs, the bo'sun on the Dutchman. Ye won' be any trouble, lassie, now will ye?" His voice and tone scared me, and for good reason.
Not ten seconds after he uttered the last syllable, he resumed whipping me. I was screaming and sobbing, because I'd never been whipped before, but not even Koleniko could make him stop hurting me. I couldn't tell what the rest of the crew thought, since I couldn't see them; I heard a few laughing, it seemed, and I thought I heard someone - besides me - crying. It was a long, painful sort of initiation, but to tell truth it was only five lashes, including the first two. Jimmy Legs was just so strong and sadistic about it, and I'd never experienced it, which had made it seem longer and more excruciating.
Once it was over, I had just enough strength left in me to collapse on the deck, near landing on my face. I was now permitted to feel the full, unabridged pain of the session, burning and stinging and worst of all itching, across my back. It felt like bits of skin had been completely torn off, or at least were hanging on by very little. Every little skirting of wind seemed to whip again, reawakening the agony of the new gashes.
Jimmy Legs was done, though he cracked his nine-tailed cat once more, if only to remind me never to cross him. He'd only used one tail on me, but that only meant there were eight more waiting for me should I ever so much as look at him the wrong way. "Well," he snickered cruelly, walking away. "Looks like ye're worthy o' bein' a cabin brat after all. Didn't think ye had i' in ye."
I felt as though I could have easily passed out right then. I was halfway there, in fact, sprawled over the stiff dampness of the deck. I didn't even bother trying to stand, as I knew it would only end in disaster.
Koleniko hung back in hesitation, watching Jimmy Legs swagger off toward the helm, then came and knelt beside me. "'S alright, Mercy," he whispered, scooping me up in his arms. His spines pricked me, inciting further fury from the wounds on my back. He couldn't help it, though, if he was to comfort me; the quills were all over his left side. "He's left. He won't be hurtin' ye anymore righ' now."
"W-Why did he want to in the first place, Koleniko?" I sobbed, leaning closer against his chest. "I never done as much to him! I barely know him!"
"He lives off o' the fear, lass," the answered, standing up with me. "The screams. An' he went easy on ye... be grateful ye're not missin' an entire layer o' skin."
He carried me down, belowdecks, and then it was universally but unofficially decided that I became the Dutchman's cabin girl.
Oooh! Davy's not gonna like that. Something decided unofficially without HIM? *cue music from Jaws*
Happy reading, hope you liked! Any questions, feel free to ask! ^^