Welcome to the September 2022 edition of First Monday Free Fiction.
To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on the first Monday of every month. At the end of the month, I’ll take the story down and post another.
“Talk Like a Pirate Day” is September 19, so why not have a pirate story. Therefore, I give you Old Mommark’s Tale, the story of a pirate, a treasure and a mysterious island with a secret.
So take a seat in the most disreputable tavern in Tortuga and listen to…
Old Mommark’s Tale
Arr, my luvvies, let me tell you a tale. A tale that’s one hundred and ten percent true, honest to God, cross my heart and hope to die. And if my tale be just sailor’s yarn, then may I swing upon the gallows ere the week is through.
So buy me a cup of rum and I’ll tell you my tale. The true tale of how I escaped the island of horror.
’twas thirty years ago, when I was still a young whippersnapper, a cabin boy sailing under Captain Scarlet on the Bloody Skull and hoping for better things.
As ye may know, Captain Scarlet was the most feared pirate in all of the Caribbean in those days. He’d gotten that name both for the colour of his beard and the colour of the deck of a captured ship after he was done with her. Battle-hardened men shuddered and trembled when the Captain entered a room, while women fainted straight away. And when the Skull appeared on the horizon with its sails the colour of blood, many a sailor jumped over board rather than face Captain Scarlet. The Captain spread terror wherever he went, and that included us, his own crew.
The Bloody Skull was once again prowling the Caribbean, looking for booty, when the lookout suddenly yelled from the crow’s nest, “Ahoy, land ahead.”
Now that was very odd, cause there wasn’t supposed to be no land in that part of the Caribbean. Just sea and waves and sharks as far as the eye could see. Besides, the lookout was known to have indulged a bit much in the good old Jamaica rum the night before. So no one paid much heed to what he’d said and seen.
But then he yelled again, “Land ahead,” and again and again. And finally, the first mate Mr. Bones reached for his spyglass and peered through. He frowned and then handed the spyglass to Captain Scarlet, who peered through as well. For lo and behold, the lookout had been right. There really was land on the horizon. A small island, uncharted and not found on any map.
Now it just happened that Captain Scarlet was looking for a good spot to hide some treasure. And an island that’s not found on any map… well, there is no better place to hide a treasure on the Lord’s great big Earth.
So Captain Scarlet ordered the Bloody Skull to set course for the island. We anchored just off the coast. I still remember the jolt as the anchor hit the bottom of the sea. It was bad enough to knock several pirates off their feet and throw me down the staircase back below deck.
“Captain, something’s wrong,” Mr. Bones said, “I don’t like this.”
But the Captain would have none of it. He ordered a boat let into the water, a boat that carried Mr. Bones, Mr. Scrabbles, Captain Scarlet, the treasure chest and mine own self, Jakob Mommark. Mr. Scrabbles and my own self were rowing, Mr. Bones watched over the chest and Captain Scarlet stood at the bow, arms crossed, glowering at nothing in particular, as he was wont to do. The plume of his hat fluttered in the wind.
The sea was smooth that day, almost unnaturally calm. That should’ve warned us… but it didn’t. And so Mr. Scrabbles and me strained our muscles to row over to the island, for the treasure chest was very heavy indeed and Captain Scarlet not exactly light either.
Finally, we set the boat onto the beach. The Captain was the first to jump ashore, then Mr. Bones, then Mr. Scrabbles and finally my own self. As my boots hit the ground, I got the strangest sensation. For this was no ordinary beach. There was no sand, no pebbles, not even rock. Instead, the ground was smooth and springy like I’d never seen before and have never seen since.
The others noticed it, too. For Mr. Scrabbles had trouble keeping his footing, while Mr. Bones frowned and poked the ground with the tip of his boot. And in response, the ground — I swear to God that it’s true — the ground itself flinched and shuddered, as if it really did not like to be poked.
“I really don’t like this, Captain,” Mr. Bones said, “I think we should leave. Now.”
This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in Old Mommark’s Tale. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.