Shipwrecked

This story was inspired by the Hint Fiction for this month.  It doesn’t fit with the others at all, but it was fun to write.

**

It had started off very much like any other voyage.  The crew knew their duties and were not the sort to dally at them.  Captain Kirkland was a stern man, but not a cruel one.  His nature won the respect of the men who served under him.

The ship was not quite halfway to their destination when Lukas sensed something that made him shiver.  Scowling, he hurried to the main deck to find the captain.  He found him on the bridge, speaking softly with the boatswain.

“Sir,” he said, when the two men looked at him.  His brows furrowed.  “A storm is building, Captain.  I don’t think it’s one we can avoid.”

The man’s ample brows drew down low over his eyes.  “Then we’ll have to do our best to weather it,” he said.  He nodded his thanks to Lukas.  Then, he began barking orders to the crew.

By the time that the clouds overhead had darkened into thunderheads and the harshest winds began to blow, they were anchored off the shore of a small island and the sails had been furled.  Lukas had known the storm would be bad.  However, nothing could have prepared him for the ferocity that raged around them.

Waves battered the ship and washed over the deck.  More than once a crewman was nearly washed overboard.  Lukas had just pulled Henry away from the edge after one incident when he felt his hair prickling.  “Lightning,” he called, pushing the younger man down on the deck.  Barely a moment later, a bolt of lightning struck the mainmast, cracking it in two.

Moments later, Captain Kirkland was ordering the crew into the longboats.  The ship was in danger of capsizing.  Somehow, they made it off before the ship was swept under by the waves.  Of course, the longboats were hardly more secure than the larger vessel had been.  Now, they were being tossed in the waves like a child’s playthings.

Lukas lost track of the other boats as he focused on keeping the men with him safe.  Somehow, they made it to the small island.  They dragged the ship onto the beach and huddled under it throughout the rest of the storm.  As the rain and winds quieted, the crewmen fell into fitful dozes.

As the sun began to brighten the sky, they surveyed the damage.  Their ship was wrecked on the rocks out in the bay of the little island.  There was no sign of the other longboats.  Lukas glanced at the other crewmen.  “Search,” he said, nodding.

They broke up into small groups and began to search along the shores of the island.  There was debris from the ship that had washed up on the island during the storm.  However, the only body they found was that of Captain Kirkland.  They found nothing of the other longboats and the rest of the crew.

Gunter used a tattered tarp to wrap the captain’s body.  Then, he sighed and looked among the group.  “Are we all that’s left?” he breathed.

“Who can say?” Lukas said, shaking his head.  He turned to Matthew and Leon.  “We’ll need to dig a grave.  Go back to the ship and see about getting shovels.”

“Aye, sir,” the pair said.  As they set off, Lukas wondered how he had come to be in charge.  Was it because they knew he had more experience or was it his weather sense?  Whatever the reason, they seemed grateful that someone had taken the situation in hand.

It took the better part of the day to dig the grave in the rocky soil.  However, they finally decided that it was deep enough to deter even the most persistent scavengers.  Then, Matthew and Henry lowered the captain’s body into the hole.

Once he was buried, Leon set a large flat stone at one end of the grave.  He sighed deeply as he moved to his feet.  “We should… say a few words,” he murmured.

For a moment, no one moved.  Finally, Gunter said, “Captain Kirkland was a good man.  It was an honor to serve with him.”  He looked around at the others.  “May he rest in peace.”

“And his soul look down on us from heaven,” Matthew added, his voice faint.  A few of them murmured amens.  Then, they returned to the ruin of their ship.  Who knew how long they would be there?  They would need to salvage what supplies they could.

Working together, they loaded casks of ale, a couple undamaged crates of food and what trunks the found in relatively good shape into the longboat.  A few personal items made the trip as well.  Among them were the ship’s log, along with some ink and pens, and the Victrola from the captain’s quarters.

Lukas frowned as Henry set the Victrola on a broken board.  The mahogany was ruined, but it was in one piece.  As the young man stepped away to help Matthew lift a trunk out of the boat, he turned the crank on the Victrola.  As music echoed out of the horn, he smiled.  He glanced over at Matthew.  “We should celebrate,” he said, his voice soft.

A scowl touched the younger man’s face.  He shook his head.  When he spoke, his voice was strained with the effort to keep his emotions in check.  “What is there to celebrate?” he asked.  “We’re stranded out here!  We have no idea when – even if – we’ll be rescued.”

Shrugging, Lukas glanced around at the others.  Then, he looked back at Matthew.  “We’re alive,” he said.

For a moment, the others just stared at him.  Finally, Henry laughed.  “Let’s celebrate life, then,” he said.  He grabbed Leon by the wrist and dragged him over to one of the chests they’d salvaged from the ship.  In moments, he had it opened and was pulling out dresses.

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