The wind blew fierce, foreshadowing an angry storm which cradled the dark horizon. With each whistling blow my hair flapped in the air and the smell of a violent ocean brought gruesome thoughts to my weary mind. My crew loaded the ship with crates of salted meat and cheap liquors from my cellar; and sails blew wild, as if they were threatening to peel away from its mast. Today was not a practical day to set sail, but we had no choice. We are smugglers, we load forbidden goods onto small ships in secret cellars under the sleeping quarters. The orange glow from a waiting sun hadn’t yet settled over the looming trees, but this was the only time we could escape the heavily armed docks. Rain began to pound on the backs of the men and in the distance waves started to curl up to the shore. We made our way through a riled up sea and our chances of finding our way to the French land became narrowed as time went on.
As I sat in my cabin taking a rest from the icy winds, I heard one of my men bellowing a frightful sound. Quickly three others rushed to my quarters and knocked as I swung the door open. My ears rang as they all screamed at once.
“Quiet fools!” They silenced at the sound of my voice.
“One of you. Tell me what has happened.”
“It’s John!” the men pointed towards the helm as another man steadied the wheel.
“He’s fallen and is now quaking as if God struck him down!” I knew not what made him shiver, but when his body had settled, I assigned another man to his post at the helm as a group carried him to my quarters. They tried nursing him to health, but our prayers were not answered.
The night fell quick and we had no choice but to let him fly over the railing of the boat. With a cross strapped to his chest, we prayed once again, this time that he would find is way to eternal life. The night was quiet, bringing a mysterious flare to the atmosphere. The men barely touched their rations and I decided it would lift their spirits to pop open one of the crates of wine and indulge. It must have been around midnight when another man crashed to the floor. This time the crew was more chaotic than the last. I assigned another man to the wheel and we gathered round, trying to help the poor man up, but he was limp and heavy. His skin grew colder and pale through the night and by morning his last breath escaped his mouth and his heart gave out. My crew fell asleep but I stayed up, praying that God would keep the rest of us;. Tthat this plague would only affect the smallest of us.
Though my men we strong and valiant, I could see through their act. They looked just as weak as the dead that we were forced to haul over the ships ledge.
Time seems to be moving faster. Every few hours men drop like the flies that infest rotting meat. Each one colder and quicker than the last. Some of the men feel ill having to watch their brothers fall so quickly. I dare not think how I must go home and admit to their wives that they've been left to the sea.
My back aches with the work I've had to pick up after our fallen and sickly men. I can not go on. No one on this ship believes that I can lead them to shores. I barely have enough faith in my own leadership skills that we may make it to Franceench shores.
The day before we were destined to make it to shores, three more men fell leaving only four of us alive, but they were so sick I was the only one well enough to work. I looked to my books to find a source of this sickness, but none of my books held the disease that showed the same quick death and vial symptoms.
I woke up this morning to silence and more death. My men laid across the dusty grim deck, must have fallen in their early morning shift and in my slumber I was not available to be with them. It is I alone for the rest of a journey and at this moment my legs have gone weak and my eyes gone dreary. Every mighty ship that passes by makes my heart leap at the thought that they might be Scot pirates or British surveyors. I have lost all hope. Wherever I land I hope it to be safe for a white man.
I'm lost to my words. Writing has no meaning, for the weather that we had left has returned solely for me. God has taken my crew and is ready for my soul to join theirs’there's. My worst fear has arrived like a dog at my feet. Promising loyalty, promising death. All strength has been ripped from my body, but as the winds throw me back and forth on my ship, I see shadows ahead. I do not know where I am, for I have lost track of my compass. For a sacred moment I thought they might be the shadows of my ghostly men, come back to guide me through the clouds. The winds once again whipped me all the way back to the door leading to my cabin. And as I fought my way to the steer again,. I was reminded ofto my own courageous men. Those who didn't jump over, who didn't fall out knowing that they too would soon succumb to violent, painful illness.
I gathered their courage and in a single moment I was overcome with and almost deadly resilience. I swung the wheel around and faced the mighty ship toward the shore. As I arrived to the shore I found myself overwhelmed with joy at the sight of French ships on the coast. I was welcomed here, the French were our allies and would not turn me in for smuggling goods. I was greeted at the shore by a hard working crew that helped me off my dying ship. They lifted me up and carried me off and as the French captain stared into my own eyes I felt the sickness come over me. I looked down at my hands in horror and realized that what I thought were splinters in my hand from a lesser steer, were instead holes. My eyes became faint and before I laid myself to rest on the tan shores. I attempted to exclaim,
“The wheel! The wheel, it’s pinned with British poison!”
They jumped back and the last faces I saw were those of scared French who then casted off the cursed ship to die with the men that it casted away.