“This isn’t beer,” whispered Rawbox almost to no one at all, “I have been betrayed.”
Immediate fearful glances passed between all the sailors and everyone leapt backwards just as the heavy oak table was wrenched upwards. Rawbox heaved it over with the scream of a caught-bollocked bull, sending glass and sailors and sloppy booze splattering to all corners of the galley. They abandoned their pints and tripped and slipped in their attempts to get as far away from the raging captain as possible. The table had taken poor Smithened Willy over with it, him yelping like a crab under its weight, crying “not me not me not me not me”. Rawbox was to his feet now, bellowing a Nordic rhyme about the Best Vaginas in All of Scandinavia and throttling Duggen, who was forever slow to get to his feet after a childhood bout of cowpox took his shins. Rawbox’s hands, more like aggressively-arranged sausages than actual human appendages, squeezed and shaked and squeezed until Duggen went purple and floppy in his grip.
“Kraedi huoőorms,” screamed Rawbox, as Burmen, Gutteridge and Skaard tried to pull him off the struggling man, near corpsely flaccid. They wrenched at his arms, prized at his fingers and bit into his shoulder-blades, but nothing would stop the captain, a bulging skin-wrapped bear, powered by insane steam and boundless strength. A few terrible moments later, Duggen’s lifeless body flopped onto the wooden floor.
Rawbox stood there, panting, heaving and the size of a human wardrobe.
“I got him, lads,” he said with a voice meaty enough to put between bread. “We’re safe now.”
Rawbox bent down and lifted the table off of Smithened Willy, lifting it like it was paper. He wiped the sweat off Willy’s terrified brow and flattened his manky hair down.
“It’s alright, Willy,” he said, smiling with his salt and pepper teeth, “I saved you.”
Willy couldn’t look at him, but with a stammering voice and quivering lip, murmered his thanks.
“Thank you, Captain,” said Skaard, louder, speaking for them all. “You did it.”
Rawbox, nodded, helped the young half-table-crushed lad to his feet, stretched, and lumbered away to his cabin.
Burmen, Gutteridge, Skaard and Willy filled Duggen’s pockets with buckshot and stone and wrapped him in sailcloth.
Without a word, they carried him to the ship’s bow and placed him on the wooden rail. They looked down. In the moonlight blue, they could make out the shapes of two or three little sail-wrapped packages down there, floating in the water. Little bulging presents, greening over and sending up that ever-companion smell of rot. The bundles they threw overboard always returned, gathering around the ship, bumping softly into the aft, and their lingering deathly smell greeted them every morning. Every morning they would poke the oozing sacs full of holes, pelt them with stones, coat them with rum and set them ablaze. The little parcels would persist, floating there, bobbing with insistence. Always there.
They hauled Duggen over the side and he landed with a splash. And he floated there. Gutteridge sniffed and spat.
“Bed,” he muttered.
The next morning was clear, and the tang of turning meat was thick in the air. There wasn’t a breeze to be found anywhere and the sails just hung there as they had for the last four weeks, foreskin limp and foreskin useless.
Captain Westfield Rawbox emerged from his cabin and looked up at the sails. He face fell like a craggy landslide.
“The wind has not returned to us?” he bellowed down to Burmen.
“Its hasn’t, Captain,” Burmen replied.
“Well then,” muttered Rawbox, almost to no one at all, “what else can I do?”
They sat around the galley table, empty chairs piled against the wall. The windows were nailed shut, but the smell found them regardless. They spooned stew into their hollow faces, skin grey and hopeless.
Rawbox stopped, sniffed his stew.
Everyone stopped, their muscles tightening.
Rawbox sniffed again, then took another mouthful. Then another. Then a few more. The sailors, very slowly, very carefully, joined him.