My ideal existence didn’t last for long. The meals came less often, the plates came less full. I complained to Kidd but he seemed to be losing weight as well. My health began to fail and I lost the progress I made – it was a slippery slope back to the realm of illness and delirium. Eventually, I lost the energy to read. All I could think of was food.My eyes could barely on the words while I fell into a half dream state.
Puffins and feathers colliding, collecting into fractals I dived through. With a blink I was back on land, standing on the mountain that shadowed my home. I saw the Gnasher in the distance crash through sandbanks and paddocks – riding a wave of blood, bone and screaming souls – sailing upon the land as smoothly as on the sea. A shout echoed from behind me, I turned to see my mother pointing behind me. The Gnasher, a beautiful ship corrupted by some unseen evil, rumbled behind me with its bow cracked into a mouth. Its maw was lined by splintered wooden teeth but its insides were flesh. Someone screamed in the distance and I was consumed, sliding down its gullet till I came to rest in a warm pool housed by a cathedral of bone, its arched ribs were slippery and impossible to climb. My skin felt sticky and then gelatinous, dripping off my body like melted butter leaving my glistening muscles naked underneath. I screamed but the only answer was a breathless laughter. A man’s obese silhouette stood in the distance, he held a lantern and watched me with glee. This man was the source of the corruption, I was certain. He laughed while I screamed till my mouth bubbled away though my jaw bone still flapped away through the bloody stew of my face. I had no mouth, yet I screamed on- I was nothing at all but pain, dead, yet the agony continued, red hot pain pouring down my raw nerves which floated in the syrup of my remains.
I woke startled and swung my fist at the darkness. The punch connected with something that groaned and fell down to the floor.
“Who arr ya?” I spurt out, still half asleep.
“God’s blood! It’s Kidd, put down those bloody weapons,” he grabbed my shoulder and from the warmth of his hand I knew he was not a ghoul. I apologised and then he explained why he was sneaking around during the graveyard shift.
“I brought you some food I stole from under the quartermaster’s nose.” He handed me several loafs of bread and some foul smelling cheese.
“They’ve got all the stocks right under their noses, lucky for you I don’t smell as bad as the rest,” he grinned.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” I said shoving a handful of bread into my mouth.
“Just don’t punch me next time. And don’t worry about it, there’s plenty more where that came from. ”
“Plenty more? Why are we being starved then?”
The boards above us creaked, “I’ve got to go, we’ll talk later.”
Like a shadow diving into an inkwell, he disappeared without a whisper more.
I ate my fill of the bread and that stinking cheese (I was hungry enough to eat the paper out of my books at that point) and hid the rest inside under the behind books on the shelf. With my belly full I got some well-needed sleep. But it didn’t last long, I woke up again to the sound of boards creaking above. The footsteps of a very heavy set man paced up and down the deck while incoherent shouting went on.
“WHERE? You bastard— where the devil—-” was all I could pick out of the muffled argument among some curses that are too obscene to repeat to you.
More shouting echoed down to my cabin and I clung to the hammock. Was it a mutiny? Was it Davy Jones taking his tax; the souls of sinful sailors as they slept? I knew not until I saw the planks directly above me bend under the weight of the beast. The hairs on my neck stood up. It froze and began sniffing, softly at first, and then had its nose right on the floor so that I could see its horrid nostrils through the cracks of the floor. The sniffing stopped, beads of sweat rolled down my face and rested on the tip of my nose but I couldn’t dare move a muscle. The paralysis clung to the air and even the ship seemed to stop swaying, but it ended with a single word that he grunted through the boards, “Food!” I heard footsteps running down the stairs, and my door burst forth to a more frightening figure I could have imagined. There stood the silhouette of the man from my dreams. It was as if he had stepped out of the veil of dreams, he let out the same breathless chuckle I had heard before and pointed one chubby finger at me.