After all these years of guessing and pondering on my father’s fate, I believe I am finally making some progress. He had vanished late one starless night, leaving me and my mother with only a fleeting memory of him and an obscure journal with a perplexing warning.
My father was a sailor and the sea was his mistress. I knew that much even back then, yet I failed to grasp the importance of it. His journal had shed some light on his travels and I begun to understand him a bit more, even though he was not around any longer. I could never forgive him for choosing the vastness of the ocean over his family, over me, yet I couldn’t blame the old man either. The seas held wonders and terrors beheld by few and he was a man with a sense of adventure.
Adventure is synonymous with recklessness, my mother would say. And recklessness is, in turn, more commonly refered to as death.
My mother was wise, alas, I was of a different mind. I had always wanted to set out in search of him yet I could not bring myself to abandoning my mother. Somewhere deep in my jaded conscious, I knew my father was dead and no voyage would bring him back. Nonetheless, I craved the opportunity to see it for myself. And now that she has passed away, I could finally do so without feeling neither remorse nor regret. But I would not leave unprepared.
My father had set out on a hunch, loosely based on an illustrious urban legend – or rather sea legend – of a cursed captain cruising on his phantom ship. Why he had done that I might never know, yet I refused to abandon this personal quest of mine. I did, however, take on a different approach and did not follow on the beaten path. Instead, I searched for clues and information where one would expect them the least.
It was not all in vain. Recently, I have stumbled upon a name, or rather, address, in some of his old paperwork. Schwarzhund Strasse. It was in portside Germany and, as it turned out, my old man had visited whatever establishment lay there quite frequently.
I arrived there on the early morrow of a chill September day only to discover a secluded asylum nestled on the outskirts of the city, near the sea. A sense of unease overcame me and, with a heavy heart, I walked in and promptly explained the purpose of my visit to the orderly on duty. He said nothing but stood up motioning me to follow. We walked in silence for a bit until we finally stood before a solitary wooden door at the end of a narrow corridor. I eyed the sallow man in the white apron inquisitively but he remained silent and gently opened the door. His clouded sight prompted me to continue on my own and, responding to his unspoken invitation, I stepped into the room. It was pearl-white, with little to no furniture save a small bed, a coffee table and a rocking chair. An old woman also sat there, swaying back and forth, her gaze fixated on the windowless wall as if in some kind of trance. I turned around, but the sanitarian was already gone. I sighed, pivoted and slowly inched toward her carefully, gently placing my hand on her shoulder as to make her aware of my presence as I neared her. Anxious as I was, I did not want to appear rude in front of a stranger – after all, I was fishing for information and you know how they say a kind word can open up the heaviest of doors. A chilling wave washed over my body as I suddenly found myself on an enormous ship. The roar of the seas and the shouts of the crew echoed in my ears as I balanced myself on the prow.
‘Weigh the anchor, snails!’ barked the distant voice of the captain, ‘Hoist the sails! We have work to do! This beauty ain’t gonna sail itself!’
I eyed him curiously but could see little with him being so near the rudder, on the other side of the ship. There was an air of fearlessness and boldness about him I could catch even from here, and a tinge of madness was permeating from him, slowly, but steadily enveloping the rest of the ship. I looked around and saw the crewmen, some huddled close to the paddles, others frantically rushing about to carry out the orders, and saw no fear, no remorse, no hesitation. Instead, I was struck with a pesky and intrusive sensation of pure glee to which I was generally unaccustomed. And yet, in this very moment, I embraced it without hesitation and was fully aware of its cause.
Why have you forsaken me so? Was your love of the sea so great that you failed to resist her urge and set sail that faithless night? Or had the lust for glory and fame consumed you?
I ask, yet I dare not hear the answer.
I yearn for the days of old, back when the forlorn waif that I was would look upon the marvel of your galleon as it passed by and sigh in dumbfound content at the sight of her majestic ornamented hull. I’ve lived my life on the sidewalk ditches, groping at whatever I could find, gazing longingly at the riches of the noble and fortunate, cursing, but wanting to dive into the lawless and promiscuous life of the elite. Those were but dreams I’d wish upon a star, like a child, to come true, yet secretly dreaded for them to come to pass. I had never imagined a life on the galleon, not before you came and plucked me from the dirt.
And I had certainly not imagined becoming the concubine of the most feared pirate captain to ever sail the seas.
You were not always so. I fondly remember this time, the time when you would holler and roar at your crewmen, and ignite their spirits with righteousness and courage, for the sake of everyone’s profit.
Sadly, profit proved to be your downfall. You stocked the hold with your precious gold, fabric, spice and gems; you adorned the cabin, and the ship, with jewels from far-off lands, but I knew better. I knew you. I knew that despite all you’ve accumulated, all you’ve gained, all that you have plundered and pillaged, you remained hollow still. Is that why you picked me up that day on the portside?
Prithee, be still my beating heart, lest I make a fool of myself. I know I was not what you longed for and I could not have possibly filled that gaping hole in your heart.
And yet, I loved you.
What sorcery was this?
I pulled away from the old woman in shock. Was this hallucination? A vision? A memory? I circled around and kneeled down before her. A name tag stared me in the face and an involuntary chill ran down my spine.
She stretched her hand outwards, her sight still drifting somewhere on the wall behind me. I gulped heavily, clasped her wrinkled palm and closed my eyes.