September 21st, The Year Of Our Lord 1803.
The sun was quite gone now, and from the spectral moon’s glow above the turbid seas, I knew we had moved beyond the twelfth hour and into a new day. By that ethereal light I could see her. The siren, immersed in the waters not twenty yards from me, endeavouring to keep her head above the waves.
As I watched her essaying not to drown I was overcome first by a peculiar confusion, for, why could she not swim? She was after all a siren, a creature of the oceans, her fins were as plain as the nose upon my own visage. Yet she threshed in the water in a manner so lacking in coordination, that it was strongly reminiscent of a gouty duke who has been forcefully placed beyond his depth in the baths, on account of his health.
My perplexed stupefaction, however, was soon driven from my mind by the indubitable fact that she was bound for a watery end in Davy Jone’s locker. I hesitated but a moment longer, for who would not rather stand fast where he was when faced with such raging seas, perilous and rock filled as they were. But as I sat upon my sanctuary, the portion of the captain’s quarters, I recalled with true warmth of affection the moment I had first encountered her, and each moment I had been with her since, the brilliance of her eyes when she won at cards the smile upon her visage as she was presented with a new novel or trinket, and I knew (though I could scarce confess such a thing for fear of the asylum) that a deep regard for her had grown in me. Thus I was soon quite decided upon saving her. I abandoned the safety of my extemporary keel and cast myself into the waters.
Swimming even the short distance that lay betwixt us was a treacherous endeavour and one, I feared I should not survive, with the HMS forsaken splintering and fragmenting all about me, I was frequently forced to bilk large timbers. As soon as I cast myself into it, the storm rocked ocean caused me to lose sight of her. I laboured my way through the turbid waters, past young Frank who sat upon a large portion of our main mast as proudly as though he sat astride a hunter of exceptional bloodlines. To my dismay his delight at having evaded death did not seem to have done anything to improve the lad’s vocabulary, and though I could not full hear his effusive vociferations over the tempestuous winds, what reached my ear was a multitude of curses of surprisingly shocking variety, even for Frank. Yet for the first time since I had become familiar with Frank I did not find his imprecations objectionable, but rather agreed with him whole heartedly. This was indeed the most deuced feculent bloody storm that has ever been known to any accursed man.
With redoubled efforts I impelled myself through the waves until I was close enough to seize her. I extended an arm, expecting it to close about her person, but instead it met nought but the icy water. She was there no longer. I turned about, in sentiments of rising alarm, I could not see her. Where her aureate tresses had lately been observable, there was only a piece of the Forsaken’s stern. She had vanished as surely as though she were an accomplished cutpurse. I could not call her name, not merely because I did not know it, but because the squally sea was robbing me of my breath.
Then in a moment of such brevity and with so little forewarning that it rendered it nearly unseeable and almost uncivil, there came a movement just three feet from me. Her hand struck the surface of the water and was pulled beneath once more. I pitched myself beneath the waves pursuing my last hope. Under the crespucular aqua she was scarcely visible, as she slowly began to descend into the caliginous depths, sinking as surely as any shipwreck. The unearthly and phantasmal dance of the elegant muslin stuff of her gown acted my guide as I gave chase. I would not be dissuaded from this perilous task until I had reached her. With one final strike of my legs I moved towards her and she was once more within my grasp. Pausing only long enough to acknowledge the dual notions of propriety and convention, then promptly ignoring them, I encircled her waist with my arm.
With her drawn close I began our ascent back through the salted waters. At length we took our leave of that crushing mass and reached, once more, my refuge. Together we clung to that happy piece of Captain Quaid’s chamber, which still bore the ostentatious velvet chaise, as fiercely as though we were most devoted wards clasping the hand of an ailing guardian. We had not yet regained either breath or composure when Captain Quaid himself could be heard above the tempest.
“The tide, Gentlemen take heed, the tide is changing!” Called he from what was discernible as part of the HMS Forsaken’s forecastle. “Cling to whatever merciful timber you have found and pray for our souls to be saved!” Continued he as a wave of peculiar height and ferocity crashed down upon him as though it’s entire purpose was to rid the captain of his balance. “SAVE OUR SOULS!” He cried raising his arms heavenward and began to issue an unaccountably singular noise. Whether is was laughter or weeping I could not distinguish, but it was, quite plainly, hysteria.
I had not time to reflect upon my conjecture that the captain had taken leave of his senses, for I had noted with great trepidation that the tide had indeed turned. The current beneath us grew in strength with decided haste and had altered it’s course entirely, threatening to pull us back beneath. Lunatic though Quaid may be he was, indubitably, correct in his assertions that we ought hold fast to whatever hap’t to present itself and pray to the God’s for salvation. I handed the siren onto our jury- rigged vessel, where she gratefully retired to the chaise, in apparent admiration of the brocade. I followed her thither, but sat upon the floor, as I believed that even such circumstances as these would not render our sharing a couch quite proper.
From hither I witnessed what remained of the Forsaken be cast violently upon the rocks of the reef below, where she was shivered and severed further, afore being wholly claimed by the sea. I knew not which of my shipmates remained alive and which had perished, for surely we had not all survived such a shipwreck unscathed. Nor knew I where this redoubtable tidewater would bear us. All I knew was that the maelstrom shewed little sign of abating. We were thrown hither and thither upon the agitated ocean as rain fell so heavily we could scarce see beyond our own visages. The wind howled above as though it were some savage beast of legend. To my left, though I could not see him, I could hear Frank as he resumed his earlier assertions; ” Damnation to it all. I’ll be damned if our doomed fates aren’t the makings of that feculent deuced knave, the Kraken! Ye mark my words that deuced, wretched beast’s carcass will soon be lying at my feet as dead as the King’s own father.” He called as he passed by, still atop his mast, carried aloft by the oceans swell.
That same swell bore us too, with a swiftness that was in truth, everything disconcerting. churning our small vessel as though we were nought but the inconsequential insects caught in a milkmaid’s butter churn. Onward we were impelled through the storm, our hopes for survival growing ever more frail until they were but little stronger than the vaguest inclination of affection, which can be only too easily ruined by one ill placed look askance to another young lady.
These delicate sentiments were not to be soothed by the next white topped comber, which was of entirely unnaturally vast proportions. It rose so high it seemed to meet the heavens, and began to curl as beauteously as one of the siren’s own well arranged tresses. As it loomed far above us and fear grew with all rapidity within me, I could summon to my mind only one possible way we might not be instantly dispatched by the falling of that watery wall. Rising to my feet I called to all that might hear; “Dive, gentlemen, if we are to have any hope of eluding it we must dive! Dive!”
Then, seizing the siren once more, I threw myself from my keel. I plunged neath the water just as the wave crested and began it’s thundering descent, crushing whatever remained of the Forsaken.
While we did not expire we were did not remain uninjured, for once beneath the water we were thrown about in a manner reminiscent of a barrel of mead being cast down a steep hill. Over and over I rolled, until my sensibilities, which had suffered from grievous detrition since I first boarded the Forsaken, declared themselves overwhelmed and I abandoned myself to oblivion.
When I awoke I knew not where I was, or indeed if I lived yet. I lay in a state of dubiety and a hazy incertitude of severest profundity. Not yet able to open my eyes, I lay motionless endeavouring to ascertain if I had suffered any mortal wound. Concluding I had not my senses began to return and so did my belief that I had not expired. Beneath me was the familiar and welcome sensation of sand, from above the peal of the gulls and from some distance the incomparable sound of young Frank’s oath ridden soliloquy.
“A Woman! We harboured a woman on board! What damned bad luck it was! That be the cause our deuced ill fate, we took her aboard and damned our souls!” Cried he as I slowly parted the lids of my eyes to find my self upon another shore of exotic climbs.
As Franks anguished words reached me, I became overwhelmed with pity for the young boy who had plainly become as mad as any sea dog, for his talk of harbouring a woman was so wholly illogical as to be nonsensical. Concluding that I ought attend to the fellow afore he ran mad, I rose to my feet with all the caution of an invalid who has lately been told he may leave his confinement and walked among the surviving crew, as Frank continued his sermon.
“A deceitful wretch of a woman so lacking in honour she be no better than a highwayman! It was ne’er the Kraken that tormented us but her, that she devil, we ought dispatch her!” Said he, pointing a cutlass at a form upon the sand.
My eyes followed the blade until they fell upon the object of Frank’s wroth, and was instantaneously wholly consumed by feelings of such shock as I had not yet encountered. There upon the sand was the Siren, yet she was the siren no more.
For protruding from her muslin gown, with so great a want of dignity it was quite alarming, were a pair of ankles and feet. Next to her upon the sands was a small quantity of some iridescent stuff that I recognised as what had been her tail, it was nought but some fanciful and elegantly embroidered fabric.
The Siren was, sans question, human.
To be continued …