Samuel and the Pirates

Once upon a time, long long ago, a ship sat at anchor just off the shore of a small, deserted island. The ship’s masts and tattered sails reached up from the dark sea like mummy fingers clawing out of a murky grave.

Pirates had boarded the ship just before dawn. They had easily disposed of the sailors on watch and quickly routed the captain and his crew from their bunks.

The pirates were now swaggering possessively about the ship poking into barrels and bins, squabbling over loot, and kicking bodies off the deck.

A small boy named Samuel cowered at the ship’s railing. His soft brown eyes were wide with terror as he watched three burly pirates push a coffin overboard. One of the pirates shouted “An take yer captain with you!” The pirates cheered.

Samuel’s eyes followed the coffin as it tumbled overboard and splashed into the sea amidst a handful of sailors floundering to stay afloat. Instead of sinking, the coffin popped up to the surface and bobbed in the waves. Splashing and gasping, the sailors struggled toward the coffin.

Samuel couldn’t tear his eyes from the water. He counted the men. Fifteen. Most of them could barely swim. The coffin made a poor life raft. It was a plain pine box without any handles. The floundering sailors could do little more than hold on for a few seconds before they slipped back into the waves.  

On the ship, the triumphant pirates faced their captain, who stood boldly at the ships helm tapping the handle of a whip impatiently against the palm of his hand. His shifty eyes swept over the rag tag group and came to rest on Samuel.

“You boy!” he shouted.

Samuel froze. He had been the cabin boy for the merchant ship. The old captain, whose body had been unceremoniously dumped overboard in  the coffin, hadn’t been such a bad man. This pirate captain―Roarsh was his name―had a cruel look about him.

Rough hands pulled Samuel to his feet and spun him around to face Captain Roarsh.

“Your captain is dead, boy,” bellowed Roarsh. “Now you’ll serve me.”

Samuel knew he should respond with a courteous “Yes sir!” but he was too frightened to speak.

A pirate with a necklace of human teeth smacked Samuel’s head. “Cat got your tongue?”

A pirate with blood-smeared hands brandished a set of manacles. “If him ain’t gonna serve we kin lock him in da hold. Him fetch a pretty penny at da next port.”

A scar-faced pirate pointed the tip of a rusty sword at Samuel’s cheek.  “If him get there.”

A fat pirate oozed very close to Samuel and stroked his hair whispering, “Just leave the boy to me, Captain. He’ll soon do your bidding.”

Samuel’s mind refused to work. It just shut down. He didn’t want to think about life on board ship with this gruesome crew. His eyes darted in every direction looking for some way to escape. The deck was crowded with filthy, leering pirates. The ship that used to feel like home had quickly turned into a nightmare.

There was only one thing to do and Samuel’s body took action before he could think it through. Squirming out of the fat pirate’s cloying grasp, Samuel darted to the railing, squeezed his eyes shut, and jumped overboard.

Momentarily stunned by the cool water, Samuel remained motionless as the deep rumbling sound of the ocean filled his head. He felt weightless and disoriented. Was he sinking or rising to the surface? Small bubbles formed on his clothes and fizzed upwards. Samuel exploded into action. By churning his arms and legs he followed the bubbles until his head splashed out into the open air.

Samuel was not a strong swimmer, but he had been in deep water before and knew he could stay afloat for a little while. He glanced over at the coffin. It was sinking and the sailors were clawing at each other to keep their heads above the waves. Samuel began to paddle desperately away from the coffin and toward shore. “I can do this,” he told himself. He was determined not to die.

At first, the current and waves seemed to help Samuel make progress toward shore, but he soon realized that the current was pulling him toward a dark crevasse that sucked in foam and water with an ominous slurping sound.  

“Not good. No,” thought Samuel and he struggled to change direction. He tried to head toward a turtle-shaped boulder where might be able to scramble out of the water. He managed to turn toward the boulder by kicking hard against the current.

“Got…to…keep…going,” he commanded himself. Samuel kicked and paddled with all his heart, but he could not break free of the current’s relentless grip.

A few yards from the crevasse, Samuel understood there was no hope. He was exhausted. His shoulder muscles burned and his head kept drooping below the waves. He inhaled a mouthful of salty brine and coughed it back out.

“Time to give up,” Samuel seemed to hear his own voice coming from far away.

“Time…” gasped Samuel. He spread his arms and took one last look at the sky before the water closed over his head.  

The current pulled Samuel violently into the crevasse and dragged him through a rocky underwater tunnel. His small body tumbled through the middle of the tunnel, narrowly missing menacing barbs of spiny sea urchins and stinging horns of mustard-colored fire coral.

His lungs were about to explode when the churning current suddenly released him. Samuel’s cheek scraped against sand. He raised his head and greedily gulped lungfuls of air.

Samuel slowly got to his feet. He was in a cavernous rectangular chamber. Its walls were covered with detailed carvings the shone with a pale blue glow. Some carvings looked like trees, birds, animals, and fish. There were sky objects, too, suns of various sizes and moons in different phases. Samuel was puzzled by some of the other carvings. They looked like ships, but seemed to be flying high above the earth and deep below the sea.

Samuel’s attention was ripped away from the strange carvings by water licking at his ankles. He looked down. His feet had been out of the water moments ago. Now they were submerged. The chamber was filling with water! Samuel looked around wildly. Was there a way out of this strange chamber, or would it become his tomb?

To find out what happened to Samuel, read Dead Chest Island!