At the End o' the Sea
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Ye know, yer not as smart as ye think. From time to time, one o' ye people finds me, as much as I try to hide meself where I know ye won' look. Ye people always ask 'bout me days in the brine. Days I've longed to drink away. I'll say this much; not many have offered me a drink o' rum for me stories. For that, I'll tell ye what ye want.

Avast ye, I'm only gonna say this once.

I've spent many a day on the high seas. Quickly found me life was for the sea, not for this here land. I was raised poor, with nothin' under me name. One day, I found meself on the deck o' a ship with a band o' buccaneers. Don't ask why, 'cause I can't recall. Nothin to lose, me thinks.

Anyways, I was on that ship for longer than I can tell. Journeyed far, looted kings n' princes aplenty. Me an' me hearties scored more'n we could spend. Wherever we sailed, luck was sure to follow. Once, our lookout spotted a Man-o-War on the horizon, lost after a bloody battle at sea. They'd run out o' gunpowder, n' couldn't put up a fight. They soon jumped ship, an' we'd pillaged n' plundered the night away, no trouble. We'd wanted for so little, we thought we'd been blessed by the sea. We'd drink to her, praising her in her beauty n' grace. Beggin' to keep our good fortune. Those were good days, they were.

Our Cap'n, bless his heart, was a brave an' bloodthirsty man.

Tall, confident, Cap'n was as respected as he was feared. He'd seen more combat an' survived more battles than I'd thought possible. He smiled for one thin' an' one thin' only: the sweet glimmer o' gold doubloons in the sunlight. The man was a monster on the sea. He could manage the ship better than any other man alive. Once I saw 'em square off against three o' the king's galleons an' come out on top. We lost not a soul, an' the king lost three galleons n' a million doubloons. Aye, we all drank like a Grog Blossom that night. But that was only half o' me Cap'n. One o' the scallywags, can't recall his name, we found 'em wrist-deep in a pot o' gold below deck late one night. Me Cap'n happened to find 'em. The next mornin', he was hangin' from the crow's nest. Cap'n wasn' a problem if ye didn' cross 'em. But in me line o' work, that was sometimes difficult.

So when Cap'n called the crew together, yellin' somethin' 'bout goin' to the end o' the sea, we didn' protest. We'd all thought maybe he knew o' some bounty or big score. He'd always been right in the past, he must be right now. Sometimes I wish I'd jumped off the deck then an' there. Aye, death from the sharks would've been a better end than what we found.

Get me another drink, would ye? Not many hear this part o' the story.

Aye, onwards.

So, me Cap'n gives his speech, an' we all stand there, the lot o' us, not sure what to say. "The end o' the sea," we said, "can' be reached!" He pulled a beautiful gold compass from his belt, all shinin' like the stars. "Not if ye know where to look," he said with a grin. So we scurried off to our posts, as usual. He told us to sail due west. After three days an' three nights o' sailin', we was gettin' anxious. "The Cap'n damn near lost his mind," we told each other. Never when he was 'round, o' course. When asked, he wouldn' talk details 'bout where we was headed. All he would say is that we wouldn' need another day's bounty again with the loot we'd find.

There was whispers of mutiny 'cross the whole ship by the end o' the week. Regardless, ol' Cap'n didn't let that change his mind. So we kept goin'. Past the farthest towns n' outposts, the farthest archipelagos. It was days between passin' ships. Then weeks. We didn' know where we was headin'. But Cap'n? He knew. Aye, he knew.

Halfway there, we noticed a strange silence creepin' 'cross the deck. Not one o' us could quite remember the last time we saw another soul that wasn't me crewmates. In fact, we couldn' recall seein' anything besides our own ship and the sea. Cap'n was holed up in his cabin. We rarely saw him, 'cept when he would come out with his compass to take our bearings. How he knew where we was, I can't say. None o' us had the strength to fight the Cap'n even if we wanted to. We was so bleak and lifeless, the joy for the coming bounty had worn off. Eventually, the sea itself lost its life, its sapphire waters tuning the color o' whale oil. The food started to go bad. Not rotten, no, just started to taste like the salt o' the sea. Couldn' catch anything either. Eventually, we stopped eatin' entirely. How we didn' starve to death I don't know. Maybe magic, maybe luck. Whatever it was, only made things worse. All I remember from those days was bein' surrounded by a tired crew, a grey sky, and the inky black waters.

Eventually, our lookout spotted land. Not an island, too big. We thought it must've been the mainland somehow. Too far to see clearly, so we sailed on, anxious to see what the Cap'n wanted with this place. Some lost it when we hit the bodies. Countless bloody bodies, floatin' out at sea. So many it be lookin' like land from a distance. Cap'n said to keep going, so we did. Lookout spotted ships out there, in the sea o' corpses. Hundreds o' silent ships. Cap'n said that's our bounty. Each ship was filled with doubloons, but not a soul on board. We took all that we could from each. Cap'n said we weren' leavin' 'til our hull was filled. We hit four before the bodies were too thick to sail. Cap'n tried to bring the ship around, but we was stuck in place, bodies surroundin' us. Men started panickin', yellin' 'bout how we was gonna starve to death at sea, blamin' the Cap'n for our misfortune.

He wouldn' have it. Told us he didn' know o' the bodies. But aye, me thinks he did. Me thinks his eye for loot mattered more than the lives o' his men. But that didn' matter. We was dead men anyway. An' our Cap'n knew it too. He started loosin' his sense, started tearing the ship apart, lookin' for a way through the bodies. But there was none. At least, none that would leave his ship in one piece. A small group o' us snuck out one night, while the Cap'n was asleep, seein' that we was doomed. We took the raft we had stored below deck an' as much food an' water, an' gold as we could carry. Then we jumped ship. The water was calm, but the sea be screamin'. 'Twas nothin' like I've ever felt before, as if the Lassie o' the Sea herself knew we was leavin' our mates to die. The water, the bodies, the noise. As we left, I thought I heard the wails o' our Captain an' the crew we left for dead, but I was never certain.

We clawed an' tore through the bodies, usin' whatever we could to push 'em aside. One o' me mates grabbed one o' the corpses to toss aside. It… they grabbed back. All o' 'em, springin' to life before me eyes, wailin' an' thrashin' in the water. The water, warm and oily, drenched the boat. All I could see were the arms of the damned clawin' at the raft as me mates were being pulled an' cast to the sea, one by one. I tried… tried to save 'em, but what could I do? I was a coward. I laid there, curled on the raft 'til I couldn' hear the screams o' me mates over the screams o' the sea. Eventually, the thrashin' stopped, and the sea grew quiet once more.

How long I drifted lost, I can't say. I can say that when I hit the beaches o' a small island village, I was the only one left alive. After that, I stole a boat an' ran. Ran from everything I couldn' explain. Ran from everyone askin' 'bout the crew. I felt shame, sure, but I tried to forget. Buried meself in rum. I think 'bout the bodies at the end o' the sea sometimes. 'Bout the lost ships an' their crews that float beside them. Whether me Cap'n threw 'emself off the deck or not. Whether me mates forgave us for leavin' 'em to die. An' I think 'bout how many other men will go lookin' for the impossible treasure at the end o' the sea.

I see the corpses floatin' out there at night sometimes. Hear 'em callin' me name. Callin' me to join 'em. One o' these days, I just might. Me days are runnin' short, but the sea got all the time in the world.

Aaarrrggghhh! Put away that paper, ye landlubber. I didn't say ye could write this down!

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