In the beginning we all felt like conquerors and adventurers. Our ship was traversing the very deep seas that the explorers of centuries gone by had done. Tranquil currents and clear skies greeted us that first day, but so too did a dark shape in the water, as one of the crew members pointed out. We neared to find an old man clutching onto a makeshift raft. Once we got the man on-board, he remained conscious just long enough to tell us his name was Benjamin, and then collapsed onto the deck. The ship’s doctor took him to the infirmary were he would look after the man until he awoke. Feeling like we had done some good, even the unscheduled rain that fell in the evening could not dampen our good spirits.
On the second day some of the men on board started complaining about stomach cramps. The inclement weather compounded matters, as continuous rain and turbulent seas attacked our ship. Benjamin did not awaken. The doctor feared he may be out for awhile as he had suffered much punishment drifting out at sea.
On the third day one of the men claimed to see another ship far in the distance. I didn’t spot anything, but one or two more of the men also said they could also see the vessel, and it was coming towards us. Other men complained of nausea and dizziness, I still felt fine. I did however wonder if the illness some of the crew were suffering from and the sudden sight of the ship that was not there were interconnected. I ordered the doctor to perform a health check on the entire crew. Benjamin would sleep through the third day.
On the fourth day our cook died in his sleep. Pools of blood stained his bedding, as he had bled from various bodily orifices while those around him dreamt. A crowd of the crew paraded on the deck at lunchtime. The ship that the few had seen the day before had apparently pulled alongside us and some of its crew had boarded us. My Chief Officer and I were now of the last few who could not see anything, yet we pretended that we could, so as not to rattle any of the deluded men. As evening came, we watched some of these same men entertain the guests, some spoke to the air, some offered drinks and food to the nothingness alongside them, while others played cards with the empty space before them. Benjamin did not awaken on day four.
On the fifth day I awoke to the news that three more members of the crew had passed away during the night. The other ship and its crew were still with us, apparently. One of my men even tried to introduce me to one of the other crew members, and I had simply nodded and greeted the air beside him. Benjamin did not awaken on the fifth day. The doctor, however, did inform me that Benjamin was mumbling incomprehensible words in his sleep.
On the sixth day I saw the other boat and its crew, except they were not ordinary men, nor was the ship a regular ship. There is no other way to put it, but to say they were ghosts. Feeling my body gripped by the frigid paralysis that this realization rendered, I forced myself to see Benjamin. The man was doing better according to our doctor, yet all I saw was a man rambling broken words over and over. I also learnt that another four members of the crew had died. I made my way to my Chief Officer’s cabin, where I told him that I could now see the ghost ship and its crew. He confided in me that he saw the same. He mentioned to me that some of the men had told him that members of the other crew were interested in working aboard our ship. I knew we had to do something, this could not go on. Further, my Chief Officer told me he had understood a few of the words that Benjamin mumbled. It was Portuguese, and Benjamin was repeatedly asking for forgiveness for starting a fire that had sent the ship he had been aboard down into the ocean, along with the rest of its crew.
On the seventh day my Chief Officer and I threw Benjamin overboard. We had given him no supplies and no raft. He was no longer our problem, as we had decided to let the sea sort him out. It didn’t take long for our ill to recover. The other ship and its crew had greeted us and left by lunchtime. Peaceful seas and clement weather would be ours the rest of our journey. The only mishap came when one of our very own—the same man who had first spotted Benjamin floating in the ocean and who had been the first to help him out the water—fell overboard. We were not concerned. We simply ignored his cries until we were out of earshot. All of us had learnt our lesson. It is not for us to interfere in the sea’s justice. On these dark blue waves, it is the sea who is judge, jury, and executioner. This is another realm, where one’s sins are not merely forgiven as they are on land, and where spirits do not find rest among the clouds. Here, they ride the currents of forever.
Calvin Demmer is a crime, mystery, and speculative fiction author. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe. His work has appeared in a variety of publications including Sanitarium Magazine, Morpheus Tales, and Devolution Z. You can find out more at www.calvindemmer.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter @CalvinDemmer.
Tim Bougger is an artist living in Des Moines, IA. See his artwork at www.virtualtim.com.