Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pirates by G.A. Hauser

Justin stirred from his sleep to the sound of someone opening the door of the storeroom. He hid behind the crates and held his breath.

A man with a heavy black beard, peppered with specks of gray, had come in. He filled a large wicker basket and then went to check on the chickens. Justin waited, slipping out of the room and down the long narrow passage. A harsh smell of rot filled his nostrils, and he assumed he was heading deeper into the bowels of the bilge instead of upward. Stifling a gag, he backed away, trying to cover his nose and mouth, holding his breath. Having to backtrack, he heard the cook still rummaging through the storeroom and paused. He tiptoed nearer and tried to listen. Hearing voices approach, he stiffened in fright and backed up, with great reluctance, closer to the dank reek. Two more men were coming down the passageway. Justin leaned back against the wall, hoping the dim light was enough concealment.

They were laughing loudly as they greeted the cook and offered to help him carry some of the goods up to the next deck for him. Justin kept still, waiting. Within moments, they headed out of the storeroom and back to the galley.

Assuming the coast was clear as he listened to their footfalls recede, Justin straightened out his back and combed his hand through his long hair, getting it out of his eyes. He gasped, as a man appeared, intent on one more bottle.

“What the devil do we have here?” The large man stood tall as he inspected Justin.

“Sir, I would like to explain.” Justin trembled nervously.

The broad, hairy man brought Justin to the light to inspect him; his clean, white knee breeches and brown, pewter-buttoned waistcoat. “Well, shiver me timbers! How did ye get on board? How old are ye, lad?”

“Eighteen, sir…please…I must be allowed to sail with you.” Justin put his hands together to beg the man. It appeared all the men on the ship had facial hair and bandanas on their heads. It was difficult for him to tell one from the next.

“Argh! No young boys are permitted on board. Ye have no idea what these dogs are like when they have had enough grog. They would devour ye.” The man’s voice was as rough as sandpaper.

“They would eat me?” he gasped in horror.

The man laughed. “Aye, but naught the way ye thinks, naught over the spit. Come, lad, we must get ye to the captain and turn back.”

“No!” Justin shoved by him and ran down the passage. The man shouted after him as Justin ducked into a dark, narrow opening.

Feeling his way down several cramped passages trying to find a safe route, he could hear men’s voices in every direction. I can’t be let off back at port! I just can’t!

Jumping in fear as he felt someone put their hand over his mouth and around his chest, Justin was dragged back into the crew’s cabin. When he could free himself, he spun around to see his assailant.

“What a pretty boy! Ye stowaway for some adventure asea?”

Justin swallowed his terror as he studied this man. He was short and heavy-set with a large, protruding, hairy belly and a coarse, brown-matted beard. Equally matted was his greasy hair, tied back from his face with a grimy rag. He had large, gaping holes in his rotting teeth, and foul-smelling breath. Appearing like a hook at the end of his right arm was a hand missing its last three fingers, and his clothing was filthy and stiff from salt and sweat. His once-white breeches were now gray. His red and white knee socks were faded to brown and yellow, and no shirt did he wear to cover his furry obesity.

“Yes, sir, I did. Please don’t turn me in.” Justin was stalked hungrily and backed against a wall. He tilted his face away from the man when his misshapen hand caressed his cheek. “Agh!” Justin winced in disgust. “Do not touch me.”

“There be sixty on board, lad. No women. A pretty young boy hasn’t much chance in getting by unmolested. Ye were daft to come on board.” In a grotesque gesture of hunger, the man licked his two fingers after they stroked Justin’s face.

“What?” Justin gulped. “I want to be just like the other men. I want to help the captain get his gold.”

His mouth was covered quickly, and he was pressed back harder. “Ye’ve a lot to learn, boy, about keeping yar lips sealed. Ye don’t speak those words aloud. Ye’ll be lucky to leave this ship alive, and I mean ‘fore we ever meet the enemy.”

Justin managed to get his mouth away from the stifling, deformed grip. He panted to catch his breath. “Let me be. Let me just sail like one of the men.”

The grotesque man leaned back and fondled the clean fabric of Justin’s clothing. “Ye’ll get used to being handled, ye lovely thing. It’ll be the reason to keep ye on board.” With his hips pressed forward, he ground against Justin’s body.

Justin cringed in revulsion. “Oh, bloody hell...”