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The Sea Giveth by Rick Haynes

The moon hung languorously in a dark blue sky.

The wind disappearing in an instant as the huge ship rode the swell, seemingly eager to beach on the sand.

Arms were stretched horizontally, expectantly. Excited cries echoed from many mouths and all along the beach, more and more villagers joined those waiting to pick the carcass clean. The burning torches gave light and the ropes, hooks, and lines would provide access. And all they had to do was wait.

I stood patiently but they would not ignore me this time.

At last the ship lay stranded; upright and proud it looked nothing like a wreck. Those closest ceased talking, their silence quickly spreading as all marveled at the wondrous sight. Thoughts of gold and jewels raced through my mind as I contemplated a prosperous future.

With cries of lustful intent, the spell broke and like scavenging dogs, we ran forward. As usual, they avoided me as they fought to strip anything of value from the mighty Dutch clipper.

I joined the search; anything that would make me rich was my goal. Yet from the top deck to the Captain’s cabin my journey proved as fruitless as theirs. Emptiness and mystery wafted through the ship like a heady scent, but our frantic lust nullified our senses.

Hearing a shout, I ran towards the aft hold.

Rusty iron chains were held fast by a huge padlock. As we crowded around my lips grew moist. I licked my tongue across them like a serpent tasting the air. The stench of sweat assailed my nostrils. I could see the desire building inside my neighbours for all of us wanted the hidden treasure, and none wanted to share.

Our village elder gave orders and a giant of a man swung his mighty axe. Again and again, the wood splinted but the trap stayed shut. With his strength almost gone he swung once more. The trap fell inwards and he followed. As his head hit the lower deck the snap made me wince.

Like the others, I edged forward and carefully looked into the hold. I could see a row of huge wooden chests laying in filthy seawater. They had shunned me so many times that I kept back, letting them do the work. It took many hours to remove each chest from the hold; even longer to haul them to our village as the horses struggled under their weight.

Once inside the great hall, the village elder, Henti, ordered us to bed and loyal guards to protect the chests. He could not fail to see the hatred in my eyes as he walked past me. Unable to sleep, I hardly noticed my weary body dragging me trance-like back to the ship. My brain was ordering me to hurry; to find the hidden gold it commanded. Refusing such power was impossible. I didn’t refuse.

The rope dangling over the side was frayed. I’d seen old fishing nets in better condition. Nevertheless, I climbed without hesitation as surely my reward awaited me within the Dutch Clipper. On pulling myself onto the deck I espied a shadowy figure standing at the tiller.

“Who are you?” I shouted, yet the wind took my words away. I tried again and saw the figure move into the light.

“I am, Triton, a son of Poseidon, the King of the seas and the Lord of the sea gods. I am looking for strong men, to serve me well and be rewarded. Otherwise, you can be tied to a rock and I’ll let the sirens serenade you with their cries.”

“But my home is here, amongst my people. As much as I hate them, I will never leave until I find enough gold from a shipwreck. Only then will I take a boat and never return.”

“You? Leave? You cannot. Their evil days of plunder are over as the villagers will die horribly for defiling this ship and stealing my treasure. You can join them or serve me.”

“Why would a living human serve a ghost?” I screamed.

“Because I only hire those in purgatory, and a convicted murderer recently hanged, will do nicely.”

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