Columbus Voyage: Part 4 finale

I hope you enjoyed last week’s continuation of the Columbus experiment. Here is the finale to the short-story project. Please note: This story contains profanity due to subject matter and character establishment.

Feel free to let us know what you think, and we’ll be back to Writing for Web next week!

Report of Deck Hand Alvaro Perez
May I speak honestly, sir?
(I encouraged Mr. Perez to do so to better help locate Ensign Prichard and to create an accurate record of events.)
It’s all horseshit. Everything that lying son of a bitch has told you is a colossal pile of horseshit. That weakling may have served under several captains, but this is the first real voyage he’s ever been a part of. I suspect that’s why he’s so hell bent on double, triple, and quadruple checking the damn ship’s inventory every other day. After all, what does he think is going to happen? Does he really think someone is going to run off with the ship’s precious materials, as if there were anything precious about this ridiculous venture. The truth is he has only ever served on vessels that patrol the coast. He’s never left the comfort of being able to reach the shore if the ship fails. The stresses you encounter on voyages like this one can break a real man easy enough, let alone a silver-spoon raised infant like him. He constantly boasts about his service record and recommendations but everyone knows the only reason those captains blessed his ass with sweet recommendations is because his father is a high-ranking admiral in her Majesty’s Navy.
I’m only pointing this out to you so you don’t take everything he has to say as the gospel’s truth. Besides, anyone who has been around that man for any period of time should know better than to listen to his ramblings because he is a constant drunkard. He craves the bottle’s bottom day and night and, I suspect, that is why he chose the job of Property Master. I mean, why the hell would he take on that job when he could have just as easily gone through the officer’s ranks to become a captain of his own vessel? No, the real value of that station for him is the convenient feature that it leaves him alone below deck most of the time which gives him ample opportunity to get loaded without punishment and sparing him the indignity of dealing with the lower class dregs like us.
In fact, I would wager a month’s earnings that his perpetual inebriation is to thank for our recent shortage of liquor rations.
(I point out that this report is not the appropriate place to discuss personal grievances and suggest he should share whatever knowledge he may have about the disappearance of Ensign Prichard.)
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get away from what I came to tell you. What I wanted to report is that I have heard Juan’s amazing tale and I happen to know its horseshit. I was awake last night and on the deck the same time as Juan.
(I indicate that Mr. Bermudez did not mention seeing Mr. Perez)
Yeah, I know he didn’t see me . . . that was on purpose. I was at the bow of the boat and barely saw him coming out from his cave below deck. When I saw him I ducked behind the forward mast so I wouldn’t have to listen to him blather on about how much he cares about his station and how he is working himself to the bone to ensure the ship’s rations are safeguarded. Everyone on the ship knows he promotes himself shamelessly at every turn. Hell, he even tries to make it a common thing that there is a rat on board hoarding supplies and that he is the only one who can catch the thief with his horseshit inventorying.
I heard it from a friend elsewhere in the Navy that Juan pulled this same scam on Captain Rousso’s ship in the Balearic. He even took the rouse so far that he got a man wrongfully flogged on deck with 15 lashes. That sort of scum has no place on a distant voyage like this. If I were in charge, I would relegate that son of a bitch to cleaning duties.
(I reminded the deckhand that the purpose of the report is not to attack the property master and that the punishment for inciting mutiny at sea is summary execution.)
I’m not criticizing the Captain. He has his obligations and the whole crew, myself included, respects that. I’m just saying Juan can’t be trusted. The real reason I’m talking to you is to explain away the good Property Master’s fanciful observations. Like I said, I was on deck at the same time he was last evening. The only difference is that I was sober whereas he was stumbling about the stern back and forth. He stumbled about for a great deal of time but eventually stopped and began staring out at the sea. After a long while, he suddenly jerked his head skyward as a gust of wind grazed the ship. When I glanced up, I saw nothing but the same calm night’s sky that accustomed the rest of the evening. As for the somewhat unusually sharp gust of wind that he attributes to the flight of some magical creature, anyone who has sailed these long range quests can tell you that sudden winds at sea can easily catch a sail causing a rush of air as the ship jars with the wind’s breeze. That’s all that happened last night. Juan was drunk and mistook the wind for something fantastical, plain and simple.
As for the disappearance of Ensign Prichard, this is a dangerous business we’re in, especially climbing the nest at night. If it hadn’t been for the evening’s storms, Ensign Prichard would have never been sent to the nest because we don’t usually send men there at night because it’s too dangerous. We only send them up there at night if we’re in extraordinary conditions.
(I asked what some of these conditions might be)
We would send a man to the nest at night if there is bad weather like last night to watch for rogue waves, or if we are in battle conditions to watch for enemies on the horizon, or if our charts suggest we’re close to land. So knowing how dangerous it is to be up there at night, Ensign Prichard might have slipped or had some accident causing him to fall to the harsh ocean below, or he might have jumped on his own accord to escape the pressures that we’re all facing thanks to the Navigator’s seemingly aimless wandering around the ocean. In any case, Ensign Prichard is hardly the first person to be lost at sea from the nest, and everyone should stop gossiping about and focus on their duties instead.
(I ask if this is the only information Mr. Perez has to report)
Yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say.
Post-Report Notations
Based upon my own observations and numerous informal comments from crewmen, I should like to report some relevant collateral information. First, it should be noted that both Property Master Bermudez and Mr. Perez have reputations for taking heavy amounts of liquor. No one seems to know whether Bermudez or Perez has embezzled more than his allotted share of liquor rations, but it is well known the two men were involved in a confrontation roughly one week ago. The verbal argument stemmed from a report by Mr. Bermudez to the first officer suggest his concern that Mr. Perez might be hording liquor rations. Mr. Perez apparently confronted Mr. Bermudez informally and their verbal argument was heard by three crewmen. Mr. Perez received no formal punishment as the incident went unreported to officers.
I remain concerned about a particularly unusual note. After the storm passed last evening, the sea became unusually calm, which blessed us with some of the most stable sailing conditions we have thus far encountered. When reflecting upon the report of Mr. Perez, I cannot help but wonder why I felt no jarring event last evening as he described is caused by as sudden gush of wind. In fact, I do not recall the vessel so much as rocking let alone jarring. I have asked some of the more experienced men aboard if they have witnessed such jarring winds in their times before and they, indeed, have. However, those men report perceiving no such event last night and, in fact, strongly insist there was no tumultuous event following the storm.
The report of Mr. Perez seems logical, but the current evidence does not adequately support his explanation of the whooshing sound both he and Mr. Bermudez perceived. The conclusion I am left to draw, therefore, is that something caused a sudden whooshing noise, but that cause is unknown, like the fate of Ensign Prichard. Until I discover further information to supplement this log, I leave the interpretation of this event to the authority reviewing it.

(Author chooses to remain anonymous)

Columbus Voyage: Part 3

As a special treat this week, I received permission to post the final two stories from the Columbus experiment. The final piece will be posted next Sunday. It’s interesting to see the writing style and story differences even though we were writing about the same topics. I hope you enjoy these next two stories, and we’d love to hear what you think!

Report of Ship’s Scribe Juan Valdez
With today’s log I have the regrettable duty of reporting what may be our expedition’s first loss of life. Upon appearing for duty at first light to relive Ensign Prichard of the high post’s watch, Ensign Angelito ascended the mast to discover ensign Prichard missing from his post. Ensign Angelito immediately conveyed word of Prichard’s absence to Officer Valenz, the acting junior petty officer on deck at the time. Officer Valenz called for the Sargent at Arms to initiate a search of the vessel and punishment proceedings for the charge of abandoning his post. A thorough search of the ship failed to produce any sign of Ensign Prichard. The Sargent at Arms has subsequently questioned every crew member, but none report having any knowledge of the Ensign’s present whereabouts. However, two crewmen who happened to be about last evening have come forward with information that may relate to Ensign Prichard’s disappearance. The reports of those crewmen are included below.
Report of Property Master Juan Bermudez
I would like to preface my statements by pointing out that I have been a faithful and diligent servant of the crown for more than thirteen years. It is my hope that my service record and personal recommendations from four respected captains serves to add credibility to my admittedly peculiar report. Last evening, just past sunset, I reviewed the week’s provisions inventory four times over. While I know the standard procedure for this task calls for the cargo to be inventoried twice over once per week, my custom has always been to review the inventory three times to ensure that petty greed does not sabotage the voyage.
However, I counted the inventory four times over last evening because I have received word from a crewman that a person has made it practice to regularly steal rations of liquor beyond that which he is entitled and without permission of his superiors. The week’s inventory turned out to be accurate, but the task left me stiff and awake later than usual. To stretch my legs before retreating to slumber I climbed to the deck and approached the ship’s bow. The night was dark black by that time as the evening’s twilight hours and rough storms had long since passed. At this hour there was scant illumination provided faintly by the moon through the heavy cloud cover overhead and the four dim evening lanterns at the corners of the ship.
I paced about for a brief time below the stern’s sail until my legs began to limber up. Although I was quite sleepy by this time, due to both the increasingly late hour and exhaustion from the day’s work, I did not retire to sleep. I do not know how to accurately describe the feeling I experienced, and in truth I feel some embarrassment at attempting to do so, but I felt in the most peculiar way an overriding sense that I could not leave the deck for fear of missing some event that would alter both myself and the divine machinery through which the world operates.
It goes without saying, of course, that only the one true Lord controls the universe and the fates of his children within it. I do not intend for my statements to suggest a doubt as to that fundamental and clear precept. I am simply trying to describe an unusual, fleeting feeling that happened to overcome me last evening. It reminded me of the feeling one gets when, as a child, a person passes through a cemetery and, for a moment, secretly wishes to see the remnant of one passed return to life or when a person approaches a high, steep decline and for the briefest of periods gives thought to taking the plunge to experience the sharp change in perspective that such an event would surely command.
(What happened next?)
Well, nothing happened next really. I remained on the deck for what seemed like forever after the long day. I kept waiting for something, anything to happen but nothing ever did.
(I asked Mr. Bermudez if his odd feelings were the only information he had to contribute)
No sir, that is not all I wish to report. I find myself torn between fearing that I will be ridiculed or denigrated in my service and feeling compelled to report what I truly witnessed. I wish you could give me some assurance that what I convey to you will not impair my station.
(I explained to Mr. Bermudez that I am simply responsible for recording the voyage’s transactions and have no control over the way the information is used. Mr. Bermudez became instantly willing to discuss his experience after I pointed out that I am reporting the remainder of his statements and that it would be suspect to leave the report at such a precarious position).
You are correct, sir. I did not mean to suggest that I would not fully cooperate with the search for Ensign Prichard by conveying what I saw. It’s just that the thing I believe I witnessed was rather extraordinary. I do not wish to give anyone reading my report the wrong impression of myself. My service record and recommendations show that I am a competent steward and do not easily lend to flights of fancy. I also do not partake of heavy drink or narcotics that would alter my senses.
(I interrupted to advance Mr. Bermudez’s report. I pointed out he already described the reasons for which he is trustworthy. I then asked him directly what he experienced.)
I think I saw what appeared to be a bird. As ridiculous as it sounds I saw what looked like a large bird-shaped creature. As I have said, it was dark and I was exhausted, but from what I believe I saw, it was a massive being that had a wingspan at least twice that of a grown man. I was on the deck, about to go below for rest, when I heard a noise above like a whoosh of air, the same way a sudden breeze sometimes blows through a meadow during the end of autumn. I instinctively darted my attention upward and saw what took minutes to comprehend. I witnessed a massive hawk-like entity with a wingspan at least 20 feet rapidly dart over the very top of the ship and cut toward starboard, quickly escaping the light of the deck’s lamps and slicing through the fog that engulfed the ship after the storm. I only saw this being in that one instance and never heard a cry for help or witnessed any sign of a disturbance. In truth, I thought I imagined the encounter until I awoke this morning to learn the young Ensign went missing. Sadly, this is all the information I have to report.

(Author chooses to remain anonymous)

Columbus Voyage: Part 2

As promised, here is part 2 of the Columbus Voyage experiment. This one was my favorite, and I found it much easier to write. I felt a little darkness inside of me oozing out while typing this up. I hope you enjoy it, and as always, I welcome feedback. Have a great week!

One man believes he saw a monster. His name is Roberto Guzman. Guzman has since been detained due to our belief that he is a threat to the ship and crew. His account follows:
I was at the helm. Captain was giving orders, trying to save us from the storm and ourselves. I held the wheel, and used all my strength to keep it from losing control. The rain poured down on us; it burned my eyes. But I saw it. Through the waves, the rain, and the men running for their lives. I heard the scream, not from a man, but from the beast. I saw its claws. I felt its breath.
No one saw it coming. I couldn’t scream or warn anyone. I saw it circling our ship over and over again as we were tossed, trying to avoid overturning or losing any men. The clouds enveloped the ship, and lightning struck all around us, but in the shadows … Yes, in the shadows you could see the blackest of black of creatures looking for its next prey.
Its wings spread wide, but it was faster than the light from the sky. It knew I could see it. Its eyes, as big as the sun, glared at me as I struggled to speak, to tell them to take cover. The claws, easily as wide as our biggest man, stretched out wide. A tail, sleek and deadly hit the sails, ripping gaping holes in it, but everyone thinks it was the storm. Everyone but me.
I could hear its scream when the lightning came, but there was no color in the sky. It was a shadow monster. A monster you fear, one you cannot see. The smell of rotten fish and flesh emitted from it; it came up behind me, changing shape … getting smaller to get inside of me. I knew it was coming. The hair on my neck froze, and it was gone. It taunted me, telling and showing me I could not warn the others. There was no saving them. I begged, “Please spare me. I beg of you, do not take me.”
The storm ended. Whether it came with the beast or our prayers were answered, I do not know. It was over though, and we were safe, but I knew different. I knew it was looking for a victim; a beast like that doesn’t need food; it wants blood and only blood.
The men began celebrating and checking for their crew-mates. I pulled myself upright at the helm; captain came by and patted me on the back. “Good work, Guzman,” he said.
Good work, indeed. I heard someone tell Juan, Little Juan as we called him, to go up to the crow’s nest to check for rocks or land. We lost our bearings, but I knew we weren’t far from the mainlands. Our lady held up, and we would be able to repair any damage.
I peered up and saw Little Juan climbing up. I knew it was too late … I thought to scream out, to yell that it would come back, but no one would believe me. Many men have gone crazy in these waters and on these ships because our journeys are so long and sometimes treacherous. Little Juan was only supposed to be up there for a moment, just enough to make sure we weren’t damaged up top and to check our path was clear.
The night became even darker. Death was coming. The air became thick and heavy; it was like I steered us into a fog that we did not see coming. I couldn’t see my hands, the crew, the nest, nothing. The monster brought the fog; it wanted no one else to see it. No one could shoot it; it swooped in and took Little Juan before anyone could even hear his scream. I heard it though; I heard it in my mind. The beast was inside me; it knew I couldn’t fight it and was weak. It would spare me to use me again, to give away our location, and I would show it who was the weakest.
The air was cold as snow. It was its breath, and I could smell the dead souls in the air. I smelled the pain, the suffering, the loneliness … I smelled the rotting flesh. I saw a hump of a man lying on his side trying to protect himself from the monster, and I knew he saw it, too. His knees were up to his chin, and in the fog he could be confused with a pile of scraps. He would scream, but no one could hear him; he couldn’t warn Little Juan. In only a second, Little Juan was gone.
I relaxed my grip; it was over. I saw the fear in Little Juan’s eyes; he saw the giant claws and evil eyes. I saw the beast through his young eyes. He now knew death. The beast swooped in unseen and took what it wanted. It was hungry, hungry for fresh blood and rejuvenation. My weary arms felt strong again, and as the fog lifted Captain shouted for me to head north. I stood there in a daze and Captain grabbed my arm.
“Guzman! What happened to Little Juan? The men say he’s gone,” Captain said.
I replied, “The beast was hungry.”
“What are you going on about?” Captain asked.
“I saw the fear in his eyes. I felt the death on his breath. The monster took him.”
“What monster? No one has seen a monster,” Captain said.
“I am the monster.”

Columbus Voyage: Part 1

Break time! I want to use this week to share an experiment.

A friend and I were testing the waters to see if we could collaborate a series of horror/sci-fi stories about the Columbus voyages. The assignment was to use one situation and write two points of view, and we chose a flying beast for the monster. I admit, I am not a creative writer, so feel free to offer feedback and thoughts. I hope this will inspire you to branch out and write about something you have to research or write in a genre you are new to. This is the first of two, and don’t miss the second one on Monday!

It has been a quiet journey so far. That is until last night. The men say that a young man named Juan Lopez, also known as Little Juan, is missing. There are only a few accounts of what happened, but I spoke to Carlos Sanchez, a crewman aboard the Santa Maria. Here is his story…
The sea was angry. The skies were black as death itself, and the rain came crashing down on us with waves crashing around us from below. The ship rode the waves as best it could, but we fought to keep it afloat and stay on board. Men were running around everywhere. It seemed to go on for days. This storm was violent and enraged, and I knew we may lose our men. The sky lit up with revenge and roared like a hungry beast. We could barely hear our orders, and I thought it would never end.
I prayed. I asked God to spare the men and ship. Our journey was long, and we had much work to do. We needed every man we had for these travels.
Then my prayers were answered. The rain stopped, and the waves calmed. God heard my pleas and cries; He had a plan for us and our ship. We were safe again. But only for a moment.
Little Juan was missing. Some say he fell overboard during the storm. Others say he is hiding somewhere on the ship, but I know the creature took him. The creature no one could see. Men say I’m crazy, but I must tell you what happened. I have nothing to hide, and I know we are in danger.
After the storm, the waters were calm and Little Juan climbed in the crow’s nest to make sure the ship was in a path free of rocks or land. He was keeping a watchful eye and only supposed to be up there a short time. The few of us who were left working were watching him while cleaning after surviving the raging waters.
With no warning it became very cold. I could feel the sweat on my brow freeze as the night became silent. It was as if I had gone deaf; there was no sound, not even the sails or the creaks of the ship. I looked at Little Juan, and he looked as frozen as an iceberg. His eyes were wide with fear.
We all stood still, feeling as if death had wrapped its cold hands around our necks. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to, but the air hurt going in my mouth. I clutched the cross that hangs around my neck. I heard something in the distance, something that sounded like a person in unbearable pain. It was a faint scream; maybe a cry. Whatever it was, it wasn’t coming from our ship. It was coming from the sky.
The night sky rose open above us, and we could see as far as our eyes would allow. There was a loud crash of noise. It wasn’t a noise I have ever heard; it was so monstrous that even nature herself would tremble. It was the noise of something angry, something hungry. Something hungry for a soul.
It was the sound of the devil itself. With the rumble, we sailed into a great fog. It came out of nowhere!
I was pouring in sweat, but my hands were so frozen they could barely move. My filthy hands glowed white with fear. I began to pray again. Something evil was coming, and it was coming fast. Most of the crew was below, so the few of us left laid there on the deck cowering for mercy. I could no longer see anything; the air was so thick I just laid there holding my legs close to me praying that we wouldn’t be lost to the sea.
I worried about Little Juan. I never saw him come down, and it all happened so fast. I felt rage in the air; a kind of evil only a man knows. I know I heard a scream from the distance, but I never saw him fall or the demon that took him. He was gone. I shouted for him, but no one could hear my cries; I couldn’t hear my own screams.
The fog began to clear, and I knew it was over. Fear consumed me, and I looked myself up and down to make sure I was not missing anything. My legs, as numb as they were, were still there. My cross was imprinted into my hand. I slowly picked myself up and looked around. We were all confused. My body hurt from the cold.
I asked if anyone was hurt; everyone seemed like they were dead. I looked up to the nest, and Little Juan was gone. I yelled for him. We searched what we could. Other men came up and asked what happened. Panic set into some, but some don’t even remember him being in the crow’s nest, but he was there. He was supposed to come down. He wasn’t supposed to be the sacrifice.

For extra fun check out this Cinemassacre video for The Giant Claw, which I kept in mind while writing these stories.