Story-A-Day May #14: Walking the Planks

Today we have a haunting challenge prompt, to tell a story about a character engaged in a mundane, everyday activity who encounters a ghost.

Mine features a lowly pirate, who’s troubled by a very unwelcome and persistent visitor.

***

Walking the Planks

The pirate ship lay becalmed on eerily still seas. There wasn’t so much as a whisper of wind to flutter the sails, or spell relief for the men up on deck, who cooked in the relentless sun. Blue skies as far as the horizon. By now, most of the men prayed for a typhoon over another day like this.

Having drawn the short straw, again, Doyle was busy swabbing the decks. He was beginning to suspect the others were cheating him, and if he ever figured out who, his knife would tickle their ribs.

His mop dipped into a bucket of seawater and splashed carelessly around the planks. It was hardly necessary. The salty sweat pouring off his dark brow and bronzed muscles would have sufficed. As if the whole ship would fall apart if some poor bastard didn’t do this everyday — he just wanted to know why that poor bastard was always him.

In tiny puddles, the sun cast blinding reflections. And between those puddles appeared a faint, shimmering image in the air. A man. A sailor. The spitting image of One-Eyed Eddie.

Doyle roughly rubbed his eyes with his knuckles, but it was no hallucination. Unfortunately. Yeller was the last person he wanted to see, alive or dead.

A ghostly voice spoke, “Hearken to me words, ye salty sea dog! I shall tell ye of me great treasure, and how it might be yours, if ye follow the signs I have left. Firstly, remember, X always marks the spot. Look for the X.”

Doyle had already heard more than enough of that bollocks. “Devil take you, Eddie! You never had any stinking treasure. You borrowed my last doubloon for those harlots in Port Terribles, and never paid me back.” He swatted at the ghost with his mop, to no apparent effect.

“Dare ye doubt the dead, who cannot speak false?”

“I always took you for a supernaturally persistent liar, even before you were a ghost. It’s obvious that death itself couldn’t stop you.”

“Beware, for me boon could become a curse, if’n yer not showing the proper respect.”

“Go bother someone else. You’re just bored and looking for something to do.”

Eddie’s hands went to his hips. “And ye aren’t? C’mon, me hearty, convince the captain I speak true, at least. We could be bound for adventure by sunset!”

He sounded awfully confident of that last part, under the circumstances. “…Are these calm seas your doing?”

“Har! That’s right, it’s One-Eyed Eddie’s Revenge!”

But Doyle wasn’t about to be suckered in by another fish tale. “Prove it then. Give the sails a rustle.”

“…I ain’t being in the mood.”

“I knew it,” said Doyle. “Shove off, Eddie. I got work to do.”

The ghostly image frowned and dissipated.

The next day, little had changed, except more aches in Doyle’s body. The seas remained still as glass, he’d lost another drawing of straws, and he found himself back up on deck beneath the scorching sun.

One-Eyed Eddie, too, returned. Swabbing the decks was bad enough, but this added misery seriously raised the stakes. If Doyle didn’t find out who was cheating him, and how, by tomorrow, he might just go mad.

The ghost moaned, “I have come to tell ye of foul deeds, so that ye may lift the curse upon yer vessel. The horrifying truth is that I was marooned by me own shipmates!”

Doyle leaned wearily on his mop and sighed. “Who else could maroon you? I only wish we’d done it sooner, in time to save my doubloon.”

“I forgive ye for that remark. And if ye were to avenge me upon those most responsible, I’d tell ye the location of me great treasure, on that isle where I perished.”

“Again with the treasure? If you’d had a farthing to your name, you would have tried to buy your freedom.”

Eddie sat on the bucket of seawater, or appeared to. He glumly cradled his chin in his hands. “Maybe it’s not being me own treasure, exactly. Maybe I just wanted to take the credit: One-Eyed Eddie’s legendary treasure. But there be a treasure on the isle where me bones rest, I tell ye true.”

It took him a whole day to come up with this revision to his fish tale? Doyle wouldn’t have believed it regardless, but he might have respected the man’s performance a little more. But maybe the ghost had a use after all. A way to kill two seagulls with one cannonball. “Sure, I believe you, Eddie. And I’ll tell the captain all about it, we can have that adventure like you wanted. Only first, you gotta do something for me.”

“Name yer price, me hearty. I’m, urm, not too busy at the moment.”

“Can you go anywhere on the ship? See what anyone is doing?”

The next day, Doyle sat on the ship’s railing above the quiet sea. He looked down at his hands, which were barely visible, like the rest of his body, but shimmered in the sun’s reflections.

At least he wasn’t swabbing the decks another day.

One-Eyed Eddie swooped down to sit beside him, wearing a bashful grin. “Chin up, me hearty. Us old shipmates got plenty of time to be pals, now. Who do ye suppose we haunt, first? I’ve been trying to reach the captain, but either he can’t hear me, or he’s too stubborn to give me the time of day.” An unexpected advantage — or in this case, disadvantage — of being a ghost was that one didn’t need to pause for breath. As Eddie proved by continuing without interruption. “Urm, but let’s get our stories straight about the legendary treasure, so they’ll take us more serious-like. Should ye have a fancy moniker, too? Plain old Doyle suited you as a plain old deckhand, but it don’t sound right for a ghost.”

As this rambling monologue dragged on, Doyle’s eyes narrowed. “Eddie, that sailor’s name you told me… he was the real cheater, right? You didn’t just choose the biggest, ugliest, most deadly knife-fightingest pirate on the ship, right?”

Eddie’s hand lay over his ghostly heart. “I swear on me life.”

***

Thanks for reading!

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