This short story is one I submitted about 8 years ago to a podcast that was doing a contest during halloween. It didn’t even make it to the top 16, & I’m not sure they even read it. At the very least I hope you enjoy it. I apologize for the grammar and punctuation. I just copied a pasted from the original.
*These Short stories are a few that I have written on my own, or as a part of a private group. I’ve decided to share them now in an attempt to free them from my computer.
The Lady Marina
Captain Charlie Mason could see the Ship’s overwhelming masts and rigging from the street. As he walked towards that general direction a crowd of people were swarming the dock like ants to sugar.
He had been anticipating this day since he was commissioned by the new owner of the Lady Marina two years ago to oversee the restoration before it set sail—or motor rather, since a propeller had since been installed.
This had been his dream since he was sixteen. He worked a lot of positions on a lot of boats and as much as he enjoyed being outside on deck, gaining the satisfaction of a freshly varnished cap-rail, or an acid-washed deck: bringing the proper color of teak back, his real passion was to be at the helm; in charge, just like his father, his father’s father and his great grandfather.
Now, at thirty-two years old, he would finally take the helm of this tall ship along with a skeleton crew including only his wife: Anita, engineer: Jack and green deckhand: Junior. Charlie would have liked to have had at least two more people to do the delivery with him, however many of the experienced, local shipmen had old hearts and were very superstitious: it was not just the hauntings that stopped them, but with Anita—a woman—on board, they did not want to take the job.
He looked at his watch: four thirty five. Three hours and they would be at least three miles off shore with nothing to see but the curve of the Earth and the moon taking it’s watch above their heads; the same view as one hundred years ago when the Lady Marina was first alive. Three more days and the new owner would finally have his baby at his private dock in Florida.
Charlie got to the dock-ramp and waited for Anita and the provisions. He looked towards a small stage set in front of the ship, where a stout man with a dark beard, dressed in a period seaman’s costume pitched the over-told story of the Lady Marina and it’s assumed hauntings. Charlie wasn’t a believer in the ghosts, which is why he was the only one out of 6, highly qualified captains to accept this job.
“Hey you.” Anita snuck up behind Charlie, her long dark hair blowing in her face. She tried to push it away with her shoulder, but her hands were full of grocery bags and the wind kept pushing it back.
It took two years of convincing to get Anita to do this delivery and three years since the accident on the last boat: that incident pushed her to become land-based for good. But she trusted Charlie’s skills and had a secret desire to cruise on this ship in which so many women—especially Spanish women—were not allowed on when it was used for pepper and spice trading in the Caribbean long ago.
Charlie spun around, “hey. Here, let me help you.” He grabbed all of the bags out of her left hand and the full dock-cart out of her right.
“Thanks.” She faced the wind to force her hair off her face and smiled fiercely with her brown eyes into his green Irish eyes. “Well, shall we? The dockhands will be here in fifteen minutes to help us untie. Jack and Junior are already on board getting her fired up and trying to hide from the crowd no doubt.”
“OK,” Charlie could tell Anita was nervous to be boarding another boat. “Don’t worry. I would never let you fall overboard again.” Charlie stood up straight and puffed his chest out, “In fact, as your Captain, I order you to stay away from the railing. Period. and anytime you go past the mid-ship, you must don your life vest. If you go towards the bow, you must have your sea-survival gear on.”
This made her laugh and relax a little, picturing herself waddling around in the full red life-suit. Still, she would never forget what the ice-cold water of the north Atlantic felt like when she was swept over the port-side rail on a deep roll. One minute she was walking along the rail doing rounds for her watch and the next minute, the ice-cold water was forcing her to pull more air in to her already full lungs; the panic sinking in as the yacht motored on and Charlie’s face became more alarmed as it shrunk smaller. But, she owed her life to Charlie for being so quick to throw the life-ring and alert the other crew. She knew she could trust him with her life now just as much as then.
As they neared the boat with the cart, Charlie was thankful he had on his epaulettes. The enormous crowd parted to let him pass, whispering: “The Captain” amongst themselves.
No matter how many times he saw the Lady Marina, every time his breath was taken from him. The size was overwhelming and the wood hull was still in perfect condition; nothing had to be restored; only painted or technologies added. The masts were original and seemed to reach the clouds, every piece of metal sparkled in the sun. It was as if she was made by the gods and taken care of by the universe.
Charlie and Anita walked up the gangplank with full arms of provisions. Jack and Junior were already on deck and made their way towards them. The Storyteller finished his last ghost tale and shouted: “It’s time folks. Stay near ye to see the magnificent Lady Marina leave Boston at last and set away into the sun on her voyage towards Florida.“
Jack grabbed Anita’s handful of grocery bags with one hand and hoisted her effortlessly onto the deck with his other hand. She was thankful of Jack’s strength, but something about the way he looked at her and the scar, like a U, crossing from his left temple, across his eyelid and back up his forehead, made her feel uneasy around him. His long, dark, slicked-back hair and days-old stench did not help either.
Junior nodded to Charlie and grabbed all of his bags to put them in the galley while the Captain prepared to leave. Even though Junior was young and new, he was keen and that’s why Charlie hired him.
An hour after pulling away from the dock, Charlie called everyone up on deck. Very quickly he became aware of how small they were in comparison to the 170-ft Lady Marina.
“I am going to do the first watch tonight starting at seven pm, you guys get some sleep whenever you can. Because there’s only four of us, we’re going to have to do eight hours on, eight off. Anita will be with me and you two will be together. I can’t risk having only one person on at a time. Jack, I’m sorry, you’re going to have to be on call during your eight off too; I don’t know enough about the engines if something goes wrong.
Anita will cook and clean, but try and help keep this place tidy. Just like any private yacht: everywhere but the mess, galley, day-head and your bunk is off limits. For no reason should you have to go anywhere else. God forbid the boss finds a fingerprint out of place. You guys know what a stuck-up, rich guy he is.” Jack snorted through his nose and rolled his eyes, which settled on Anita. She instinctively moved closer to Charlie. “Here,” Charlie passed out a radio to each crewmember and tucked one in his foul-weather jacket. “Keep these on and with you at all times. I don’t care if you’re in the ‘head; it’s on and strapped somewhere on your persons.”
“Just hang out, play cards, do what they would have done a hundred years ago with no TV or electronics. Anita, you’ll have dinner ready by about six?” She nodded.
Anita plated Charlie’s food to take up to him. Through the corner of her eye, she saw a shadow pass by the galley door and heard a small scream in the distance, it sounded like a small girl. I can hear the others talking way over in the mess, she thought, puzzled. She waited a minute to see if she could hear anything else, then climbed the steep stairs outside the galley, up to the helm to see if Charlie was playing a trick. As she reached the opening on to the deck, something wrapped around her ankle. She squawked. Jack laughed and winked at her with his bad eye, “gotcha”.
Anita didn’t say anything and continued to the helm. “Sorry ma’am”, Jack said, “just thought I ‘eard you scream: came to check on ya.”
Charlie was sitting in the chair with the binoculars. “What do you suppose that is? He pointed straight ahead “It looks like fog, but it’s been in the same position the whole time and it’s not on the radar”
“Maybe we’re just following it at the same speed and it’s not thick enough to be picked up?” It was getting close to November and the light was fading early and quick.
“Maybe.” Charlie said, unsure. He took the plate of pasta from Anita. “Thanks.” She sat next to him and curled into his jacket.
“What are the stories of the ship?”
“Don’t worry about that nonsense, “ Charlie replied with a mouthful of pasta, the red sauce filling the corners of his mouth.
Charlie swallowed and looked at her curiously. “You heard the guy on the stage: the boat was found adrift in 1902: 3 years after the captain’s last log entry. It was in perfect condition, but all 23 crew gone with no sign of struggle; defying the elements, currents and winds, headed south to what may have been the end of the Earth. It was supposed to be on its way to Boston.” He paused, “Then there’s the women: they don’t talk about that. ”
“I thought there weren’t any.”
“Not any that worked on board. The crew collected women from the islands they visited; promised them a better life in America. Often the men would get tired of feeding the extra mouths, or the women would get sick and someone would be voted to toss them overboard in the middle of the night. They suspect some would be tortured first though; there was a collection of teeth found in one of the bunks. They were from at least three different women.” Anita took a deep breath. “I didn’t want to tell you that.”
“It’s Ok, I wasn’t tossed overboard: I fell. Did no one stop them?”
“No, they would never want to stand up to the captain for fear of being humiliated, lashed, or worse: having the same done to them as the women.” He continued, “By the time they were near Florida, there were no more women on board. By the time the boat was found, near Cape Hatteras, there was no one on board. Except the ghosts.” Anita rested her head on Charlie’s shoulder. “After that, they brought it to Boston and it’s been there ever since. No one wanted to sail it, so it had been used as a tourist attraction–”
“Until now,” Anita finished “I know that the National History Preservation Group couldn’t afford to pay the docking fees and employees anymore, but I wonder why the owner bought it.”
Charlie shrugged and resumed eating his pasta.
As the sun went down and the moon came up, they finally approached the fog. It was so thick; entering it was like pushing the 300-ton vessel through cotton candy. Weird, Thought Charlie, this should have definitely shown up on the radar. He told Anita to keep an eye out and ran below deck to make sure everything was turned on. The radar was now showing a large yellow smudge above them. Satisfied, he started back up the stairs.
“Captain?” Charlie turned around to see whom the raspy voice was coming from. Jack was walking out of the guest accommodations in his boxer shorts.
“Don’ be angry: I hear’ someone. A lady. I saw ‘er too. She was headed towards the master cabin so I followed ‘er.”
“Go back to bed Jack.” Charlie assumed Jack was sleepwalking. “I’ll go check it out and we’ll worry about it in the morning.” Without any confrontation, Jack walked back towards his cabin. Charlie headed backup to the helm, ignoring Jacks vision.
It was now past midnight and the moon was the only source of light struggling it’s way through the fog. The sea was getting increasingly worse. The ship was pitching and rolling. Every other wave caused the bow to shoot towards the sky and slide down the back of the wave, burying it’s bow the next. The tip of the wave would break over the bow and crawl towards the mid-ship before slinking out the scuppers on the next roll. They had been in it for hours now and Charlie was sure it would break soon but Every time he checked the radar, the yellow smudge was still above them and not dissipating.
Anita wished she had taken a nap earlier; her eyelids started fluttering as she watched Charlie pace back and forth. The rocking and groaning of the ship didn’t help her seasickness or her strength to stay awake. It was as if the Lady Marina was rocking her to sleep. Charlie spun around as both of them heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He looked at his watch, “It’s too early for Jack and Junior’s watch.” Anita sat up a little straighter and looked towards the stairs. The footsteps seized. They exchanged glances before Charlie headed towards the opening in the deck. Anita watched the top of Charlie’s head disappear.
Below deck Junior was awoken in his bunk by the sound of his cabin door shutting. He rubbed his shaved head and then his eyes. He squinted his eyes and tried to focus, a figure was stood by the door. “Anita? What time is it? Did I miss my watch?” The girl stepped forward revealing her Caribbean dress and head-wrap. She was holding a long nail. Oh no, one of the actors got stuck on board in Boston. Charlie’s going to kill me for not doing a proper walk-through. Junior thought. “I’m sorr—“ he blinked and the girl was now sitting on his chest. He tried to scream out but nothing came. She squeezed her legs against his torso and pressed on his chest with her hands. He could feel her nails digging in. He tried to move: to push this small Caribbean woman off his chest. He was paralyzed. The girl leaned in towards his face and revealed oozing sores and deep gashes on her face. Tears of blood were rolling down her cheeks, filling the fleshy gashes and dripping into her mouth. One tear rolled off her cheek and hit the side of Junior’s face. He tried to scream, but she squeezed him tighter. He could feel himself passing out. She stopped crying and looked at the long nail in her hand. She dug it in to his chest and scratched it along his flesh in a horseshoe-shape. She smiled wide revealing blood-soaked teeth, which started to fall out, one by one, rolling off his face into his pillow. He faded to black just as he heard her whisper “at last”.
Charlie went below deck and looked in the crew’s mess and in the Galley: No one. He headed back to check the radar one more time. He could see Jack sitting in the engine room watching the radars and fuel levels.
“Everything OK?” Charlie asked.
“Oh, yeah. Jus’ couldn’t sleep. I think them tales of the ghosts and women are gettin’ to me. I saw one in my cabin this time. Lucky I had my flashlight to scare ‘er away.” Jack was clenching his radio with shaking hands, his knuckled trying to break through the skin.
Charlie was disturbed by the way this large man was trembling. “Oh, I see. Well—“
A woman’s voice came through the radio: “Jaaaaaaackie,” then whispered “Oh, Jackie boy, where are you?”
Jack stared at the radio in his hand. As Charlie reached for his, the radios started squealing a high-pitched wail. They both covered their ears. Suddenly the engines stopped, leaving no sound other than the creaking of the boat and the water slapping against the hull. The lights flickered over to the emergency lights.
“What the?” Jack fumbled with some knobs and switches. He grabbed the flashlight and got up to check the engines.
Charlie looked at the blank radar screen. “Jack, I’m gonna go back up.” He shone the flashlight to where jack was. Jack waved back as his head was buried in the parts.
Charlie headed up the steps. He couldn’t see Anita. I hope she hasn’t fallen asleep. He checked the captain’s bench and there was no sign of her. He headed back to the steps to check below but dry footprints amongst the water-soaked deck caught his eye. He followed them. They went around the helm, heading down towards the mid-ship and over to the portside. He finally saw who they belonged to: Anita. Her hair was blowing in her face, twirling in the air like a black waterspout. It took a minute to register what she was doing. “NO,” he yelled and ran towards the port-rail. Anita was throwing her right leg over the side. “ANITA!” He grabbed hold of her waist just as her left leg lifted from the deck.
“They’re calling me Charlie.” She said calmly.
Charlie looked towards the churning ocean below them; just below the surface were hundreds of faces of women peering back at him. Their dark eyes, like obsidian marbles were a contrast in comparison to their pale, bloodless skin. Blood was creating a pool of red around them from the gashes all over their body. Their long brown and blond hair was floating like sea kelp on the surface, tangling together; others had short, cropped black hair, which made it easier to make out their sad faces. They all looked at him angrily, stirring the water as they started to swim in circles. Anita struggled against Charlie’s torso “they’re going to save me Charlie,” her Spanish accent was stronger than he’d ever heard it. He pulled her back over the railing and fell on to the deck. As the boat rolled from port to starboard, so did Anita. Charlie glanced over the side again: the women smiled at him and sunk below the surface, swimming under the ship to the Starboard side. Charlie grabbed the now disoriented Anita and pulled her towards the helm and stairs leading below deck.
“JACK…JUNIOR. ALL HANDS!” He screamed. He grabbed the radio from his jacket, engaged the talk button and yelled: “ALL HANDS”. He could hear the click of a cabin door and saw Junior wide eyed and with blood on his face stumble towards the stairs. “What the…?” Charlie looked him over and noticed ten puncture wounds and a U shape scratch in his chest. “What happened to you?” He shouted, still holding Anita. The ship was now groaning with every pitch and roll, growing longer and deeper.
“I had a dream, man, I couldn’t breathe, there was a woman,” He met Charlies eyes. Charlie could barely hear him through the wind whipping around them, but he could see Junior’s eyes were blood-shot with broken blood vessels sprinkling his eyelids.
“Good god. Please, take her, take Anita below.” He shuffled Anita feet first down the opening. As Junior reached for her the boat pitched and the wave dropped them just before the next one broke over the bow.
Junior fell back and Anita landed on him. “What’s wrong with her?”
“No time; put her in the crew’s mess and find Jack.”
“I’m here.” Jack shouted. He came up the steps to the deck. As he struggled to stand, he was overcome with shock; “Oh, my…”
Charlie spun around and noticed the fog had parted but was fighting to get at them, as if they were in a bubble. Charlie noticed Jack was not shocked by the fog, but by the enormous ship heading straight for them. From the books Charlie read, he knew it was a warship from the 1800’s. He ran to the helm and grabbed the radio, without any time to check the radar or knowing the name of the vessel, he yelled: “Three masted warship, approximately two hundred feet long, please alter course to starboard; we are directly in front of you, we will do the same. Charlie swung the helm to the right but the Lady Marina didn’t turn. And neither did the warship. They were only .2 miles away from the bow now. Charlie could even make out the Captain at the helm, he seemed to be staring straight at them with one eye in the telescope and the other behind a patch. There was a Boatswain standing directly to his side, in the same position Charlie was in.
“Brace for impact.” Charlie shouted. He and Jack dropped to fetal position. After a few seconds, the impact didn’t come. He got up and took a minute to look around. He noticed the large, square sails pushing his boat by the way of the wind, There is no wind, Charlie thought. As he looked past the stern of his ship, the stern of Lady Marina was motoring away from them. He looked towards the bow again and counted fifteen men mewing around on board. I’m on the warship. As he stood up, he noticed Jack getting off his knees too. He ran to the farthest point aft and peered over, where he saw lights coming through the stained glass of the master’s cabin. He also noticed that the water was smooth as glass with no wake coming off the stern.
“Jack? What’s going on?” He looked over to see Jack brushing himself off, a boy ran up to him to help dust him off: “Are you alright sir?”
“Fine boy, carry on with your duties.”
Charlie now noticed he was wearing a dark uniform with epaulettes and gold ribbing. When Jack looked over at him, his bad eye was covered in a patch with the U-shaped scar neatly stitched up.
“Charlie? Are you there? Charlie?” It took a moment for Charlie to realize the voice was coming from his jacket. Anita. He reached for the zipper of his jacket when he felt the round engraved buttons weaved through eyes made of gold rope. As he looked down, he was startled to see he was in full-blue uniform; the same as Jack. He looked back up at the Stern of the Lady Marina getting farther away, now barely making out the silhouettes of Anita and Junior. He worked the radio out from underneath his jacket. “Anita, I’m coming for you. I love you!”
A hand grabbed his shoulder, sending an electric pulse through his body. He felt powerless as the hand alone had enough force to cripple him before he would know it.
“Well, Charlie boy,” Jack said “as my new boatswain, it’s time to give the orders, Great-great grandson.” Jack turned him back towards the waiting crew.
Charlie didn’t know what he was going to say until the words came out of his mouth “Turn the ship around men, it’s time to sink the Lady Marina once and for all.”