Friday 31 December 2010

Friday Flash - New Year's Dance

A full moon hung low in a clear night sky. The Dead Calm drifted through calm waters, the sea lapping at the hull of the ship. The crew gathered on the deck, their raucous songs of celebration filling the air. Captain Scarlight tottered between them, refilling their mugs with rum.

"Happy New Year, lads! Let's toast our health, and hope next year is a good 'un!" he cried.

The crew cheered, raising their mugs to the skies. Dark droplets of rum spattered the deck. Methuselah fluttered across the ship to perch on the wheel. The telepathic parrot nodded his agreement with the Captain's sentiment.

"Gaaarrrr, ye shouldn't toast on New Year! Not during a full moon," said Flintlock Francis. The grizzled bosun lounged on the rigging, a mug of rum in his hand.

"Why not?" asked Captain Scarlight.

"Gaarrr, yer but a young pup, ye won't know....The Legend," said Flintlock Francis.

"What legend?" asked the Captain.

"THE legend," replied Flintlock Francis.

I do believe he is employing stalling tactics to increase the tension associated with what is no doubt a popular slice of local folklore. In the name of peace, I believe it would be best to allow him to tell the tale.

Captain Scarlight looked at Methuselah and nodded in agreement. Flintlock Francis flicked his bloodshot eyes between the Captain and the parrot.

"Do ye want to hear the legend or not?"

"Aye, we do, we do!" cried the crew.

"It's a legend few know, but ye should! It's said that if ye toast to health under a full moon on the eve of New Year, then ye can expect a visit from the Reaper 'imself," said Flintlock Francis. He looked at each of the crew in turn, fixing them with an ominous look.

"Is that it?" asked the Captain.

Flintlock Francis nodded, taking a swig of rum.

"That's rubbish! I never had ye pegged as being the sort to believe in fairytales!" cried the Captain.

He spun round to face the crew. His boot slid across the spilt rum, depositing the Captain on his back. His head connected with the deck with a dull thud.

* * *

Pain throbbed in the back of the Captain's skull. He opened his eyes, and stars exploded across his vision. He expected to see the crew huddled around him, but he gazed up at the sky. Silence drifted across the deck.

"Bloody hell, what happened?" he moaned.

"I believe that would be called 'taking a fall'. You slipped on a patch of rum."

Captain Scarlight wriggled up onto his elbows. He expected to see Methuselah perched somewhere, the familiar disapproving look on his avian face. Instead, he saw a young woman standing near the ship's wheel. Raven hair tumbled around her shoulders, and her eyes formed dark pools in the stark white of her face. She smiled, her purple lips parting to reveal black gums and grey teeth.

"Who are you?" exclaimed the Captain.

"I am someone who has not had a dance these forty years together. Would you do me the honours?" asked the woman. Her cold voice rasped with decay.

"I don't think I'm up to dancing," replied the Captain.

"Of course you are. You need only try," said the woman.

Captain Scarlight rolled onto his stomach and pushed himself onto his knees. His jaw dropped open at the sudden lack of pain in his head. Somewhere in front of him, fabric caught on wood and ripped. He looked up to find the woman standing over him. A slender white arm snaked out of her midnight cloak. The woman held out her hand. The Captain shuddered at her icy touch.

"Music, Maestro!" cried the woman.

A violin creaked into life, singing its eerie melody to the full moon. The woman pulled the Captain to his feet and they set off around the deck. Captain Scarlight knew he didn't know how to dance, yet his feet possessed a mind of their own as he led the woman in the dance.

They spun around the deck, carried along on the haunting violin music. Captain Scarlight tried to avoid eye contact with the woman. Confusion and fear competed for his attention.

"Why do you fear my gaze, mortal captain?" asked the woman. The laughter of flies buzzed at the edges of her voice.

"I'm a bit bewildered, if I'm honest," said the Captain.

Before he could stop himself, the Captain looked the woman square in the face. Vertigo seized him as he gazed into the velvet depths of her black eyes. Stars glittered beyond his gaze, clouding his vision. The music grew faint as the world closed in around him.

* * *

"Cap'n? Cap'n, are yer awake?"

Captain Scarlight opened his eyes. A spike of pain drove itself into the back of his skull. He groaned, suppressing a wave of nausea.

That was quite a fall you took, Captain. Are you alright?

Methuselah sat on the Captain's chest, peering into his face.

“I’ve got the headache from hell,” replied the Captain.

You were humming.

“I was?”

Yes. A doleful yet infectious melody.

“I could have sworn I was dancing,” said the Captain. He sat up, raising tentative fingers to his head. He winced when he found a bump.

Dancing? With a woman?

“Well it wasn’t with you, Thusie,” replied the Captain.

Captain Scarlight struggled to sit up. Methuselah fluttered across the deck. He watched the Captain stumble away to his cabin.

“The Cap’n was dancin’, alright,” said Flintlock Francis.

He leaned in close to Methuselah. He gestured to the deck with his mug, slopping rum across the wood. Methuselah followed Flintlock’s gaze.

A patch of midnight glistened below the ship’s wheel.

* * *

If you enjoyed this tale, you can find more of Captain Scarlight and Methuselah's adventures on the Parrots & Piracy section of my website. The Macabre Mademoiselle first made her debut in my Christmas story for Jodi Cleghorn's Deck the Halls project, Fast Away The Old Year Passes.


Jason Coggins said...

With the convergence of these 2 worlds are we beginning to see the mapping of the Icy-verse? Happy New Year yerself, arhhh x

John Wiswell said...

My favorite part: "I do believe he is employing stalling tactics to increase the tension associated with what is no doubt a popular slice of local folklore. In the name of peace, I believe it would be best to allow him to tell the tale."

I like that Thusy took so long to say he was stalling. If I was being poisoned, I'd be dead thanks to both of you!

Steve Green said...

They're an enjoyable bunch these lot Icy, I laughed at incredulity I could imagine in the in the Captains voice when told the legend, and he asked "Is that it?"

Icy Sedgwick said...

Jason - It'll take a loooooong time to fully map the Icy-verse!! Happy New Year to ye, laddie!

John - Thusie does love his irony!

Steve - Yeah, I think the Captain was expecting a little more!

Matt Merritt said...

Love the picture of the raven-haired woman. Dance scene was great!

Anonymous said...

Icy, this is such Fun! You have a knack for dialect, among other aspects of writing. Well done!

Tony Noland said...

The image of the Captain coming around in a puddle of rum was great.

Unknown said...

I always enjoy the Captain stories. Puddles of rum all around.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Matt - The Captain is normally rubbish at dancing!

Deanna - Thank you! Pirate speak is really fun to write.

Tony - I think that image sums him up nicely!

David - I'm glad you enjoy them!

KjM said...

I like your vision of the Reaper - and I love her style of speech. "...I believe that would be called 'taking a fall'. You slipped on a patch of rum..."

I'll check for a full moon next time I toast the New Year.

Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

These characters have such a life of their own. Another great tale of the Cap'n and Thusie. I agree with John's assessment of Thusie's commentary and Flintlock Francis is such a cool pirate name.
May your chests be filled with Spanish gold this new year.
Adam B @revhappiness

~Tim said...

“I could have sworn I was dancing.” I know exactly how that feels.

Another great tale.

Carrie Clevenger said...

I love it when a universe reaches out across stories. Delightful Icy. :)

Larry Kollar said...

That was a fun one — a telepathic parrot sounds pretty cool, too.

julito77 said...

I knew something would happen once you added this: Dark droplets of rum spattered the deck.

As always, you are one of my favorites here on Flash. Keep em coming. Great voice here with Captain.

AidanF said...

I always enjoy your pirate stories; liked the mix of dancing with the Macabre Mademoiselle. As Julito noted, I liked the tightness of the patch of rum playing into things later. I did find myself a little dense and didn't quite understand the patch of midnight at the end. Probably just me, I still enjoyed this piece.

Stephen said...

A dance with death to last him a lifetime. I'm betting he listens a little more closely to the shipmate from here on out. Good stuff, Icy.

Icy Sedgwick said...

KjM - She's quite a precise lady.

Adam - Aaaarrrrr!

Tim - Thanks!

Carrie - God knows how many more stories she'll pop up in.

FARfetched - Methuselah is a lot of fun to write.

Julio - There will be a whole ebook of stories later this year!

Aidan - The patch of midnight relates to the tearing fabric when the Lady moves - I was going for her leaving a little something behind. Probably didn't explain it properly.

Donald Conrad said...

'"Is that it?" asked the Captain.' after Flintlock's tale had me laughing. And the idea of a telepathic parrot is way cool. Thanks.

AidanF said...

@Icy, wow, I like the idea that it is part of the torn fabric left behind. Intriguing.

Eric J. Krause said...

Good one! These stories never disappoint. The dance scene was magnificent. Creepy and cool and funny all at once.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all this! Thusie has a great voice and the Captain's "Is that it?" is a hoot. This is a laugh and a half Icy.


Nice job. It may be part of a series but it stands well on its own.

Rachel Blackbirdsong said...

Really great story Icy. Patch of rum, I like that image. The characters are great as well. Your imagination is a wonderful thing. Love the dance scene.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Donald - And it all came from a single writing prompt!

Eric - Glad you liked it!

Flyingscribbler - I need to let Thusie use Twitter more often.

Al - I want them to work as independent adventures, as well as being about the same characters, so no matter when you read them, you can still follow what's going on.

Rachel - Thank you *blushes*

Sam said...

Parrots, Piracy and Lady Death...wonderful! Sorry I'm late to this one. May the winds always fill your sails this year. Aaarrrr!

Joz Varlo said...

Sorry I'm late getting around to reading this. And school doesn't even start until next week!! I'm glad I ended up here, though. This tale of the Cap'n and Methuselah was wonderful. I loved the imagery of the drunken pirates and Cap'n slipping on the rum. The description of lady Death was stunning. I could see her in my mind. Great job!

Laurita said...

I love these pirate tales. That little detail about the droplets of rum splattering the deck really stood out. Nice story telling.

Anonymous said...

Your attention to detail and scene creation is amazing. I feel like I'm there watching and listening.

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