The Boat

One day, while reading your favorite book on the beach, you notice a boat slowly drifting to shore. It eventually lands near your spot. A person, draped in pirate clothes, yells to you from the boat, “I have a treasure map and I need help. Are you in?”

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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103 thoughts on “The Boat

  1. kathleenmagner

    A shouted hail interrupted the pair dueling in Brother Fray’s book. Slamming the splayed covers shut, I smothered the leather binding in the folds of my skirts.

    The similarly ragged sailor who’d bellowed “Hello?” and now wobbled upon a listing dinghy, however, didn’t seem to notice. He clung to a broken mast where the tatters of a sail hung limp and waved.

    “Please, I need your help!”

    I peeked over my shoulder and the driftwood lining my hiding spot. Crab grasses gave way to wind-battered shrubs but the rest of the dull gray beach and the wharf beyond remained empty. Amber rays of dusk warmed the boot prints left on the hard trodden crimp of earth coiling from the wooden planks to Reyvi’s guarded gate. The sound of merchants’ hawking, wagon wheels thumping, and craftsmen closing up their shops tumbled over the town’s stubby parapets, each telling of the end to a busy market day. Above the noises and dank walls, evergreens coated the cove’s steep hillsides, their tips soaring higher than the monastery’s squared towers and dwarfing the tiny windows overlooking every soul.

    The young sailor aboard the dinghy, though, had no one to speak to but me.

    Standing, I tucked the book into my belt’s pouch and neared the lapping waves. “The docks are that way.”

    A weak grin crept onto his lips and his squint shifted from open air to where I pointed at the wharf. “They may be, Miss, but I have a treasure to find, and if you help me, I share it with you.”

    I put my hands on what amounted to my hips and dug my bare toes into the waterline’s damp sand. “You’ve come to the wrong place for treasure.”

    He leaned forward, hand grasp tight onto the mast. “Isn’t this Montange?”

    “Yes,” I said, “but you’re on the edge of the kingdom, at the port of Reyvi.”

    His jaw firmed and he skimmed the town behind me, searching it seemed for whatever it was he wanted. Something in his wiry frame stiffened and my heart quickened with the possibility he might be more than a drifter on a wayward quest.

    “You really think there’s treasure here?”

    “There has to be.” Using the mast as a brace, the young man collected a line of rope and flung the end in my direction. “Pull me in and I’ll explain.”

    The line landed at my toes, the braid thicker than my ankles. Hauling in a stranger seemed better than dumping chamber pots or scrubbing the monastery’s floors, so with a rub of my hands, I hefted the end and tugged as best I could.

    The current drew the young man into the shallows more than I did. He hopped out, sinking to the hem of a stained shirt, and with his shoulder added to my effort, we had the dinghy beached. Breathless, he fumbled along the pitted rail, perched on the port side, and hung his head. The winds brought his salty tang into my nose and I backed out of arms reach.

    “What about this treasure?”

    He snickered. “You’re a single-minded young lady.”

    “I’m no lady.”

    “No, I suppose not. You start with questions rather than introductions.” He wiped his hand on the thigh of his wet slacks and offered it to me. “Lionel Redvale.”

    “Redvale?”

    He cocked his head, his brown eyes streaked with red swimming around where I stood. “You know your history?”

    “I hear a lot of stories.” I inched closer and lowered my voice. “Are you really one of the Redvales?”

    “Would you believe my tale any more than the others you’ve heard?”

    “I suppose not.”

    He smiled. I imagined the bunch in his cheeks and stubbly frame to white teeth surpassed those of the towns’ eligible noblemen, the ones the merchants’ daughters tittered over after services. Lionel’s smell, however, kept me well clear of swooning over that kind of romantic twaddle.

    “If you had proof I might reconsider.” Spreading my stance, I held out my palm.

    Lionel clucked his tongue. “First I need a name.”

    The monks called me Child, the townsfolk a nuisance, the girls and older boys a handful of slurs still rattling in my skull. I settled on the name I could hear cooing in the nicer of my dreams even when sea swells slopped cold, briny water onto the deck and white froth drowned everyone I remembered. “Eva.”

    Catching my hand, Lionel shook as if we’d finished trading in the market square. “A pleasure to meet you, Eva.”

    I squirreled free from his callous grip and stepped back out of arms reach. “Your proof?”

    “A moment.”

    Tipping off the dinghy, Lionel rolled his shoulders. His back popped when he twisted at the waist, and with a grunt, he reached into the boat and slung a weather-beaten satchel across his chest. Flipping the top flap open, he rummaged and withdrew a silver amulet the size of my hand. He cupped the edge, dirty fingers surrounding the dome of crystal set at the center. Dusky light shattered in the stone’s facets, creating shards of topaz and peach.

    The rays drew me closer. “Is that part of the treasure?”

    His sigh carried more annoyance than fatigue. “No.”

    Lionel brought the amulet close to his face. His breath fogged the crystal, and after wiping, squinting, and tilting his hand, he snarled and slumped onto the dinghy’s edge, the amulet hidden by white knuckles. He scrubbed at his eyes, grinding so deep I worried he might pop them from his head.

    I settled at the dinghy’s rounded bow. “What’s wrong?”

    “I need to find someone who can read.”

    “Can’t you?”

    “If I could see straight.” He sought me out again, his brown eyes veined with scarlet webs, then gazed at the shore, the town, the trees. “I took a blow to the head a few nights back. Since then, everything’s been blurry. Doubled.” He peered at the amulet and stroked his thumb across the crystal. The squeaking stopped and he returned to the town. “Reyvi’s Monastery has a library, doesn’t it?”

    The book in my pouch felt suddenly heavy. I bit my lip and nodded before I remembered his troubled vision. “I think so.”

    “You think so?”

    I watched my fingernail carve into the dinghy’s rail. “I know it does.”

    “Would you take me there?”

    “Why?”

    “One of the monks could read for me.”

    “But I could.” My fingertip caught on a splinter. I stuffed the bleeding slice into my mouth and wished I could stem my blurt as easily.

    Lionel squinted at me. “You can read?”

    “Well enough.”

    Even if he couldn’t see right, doubt flickered on Lionel’s face. A hot flush washed through me and I tugged out Brother Fray’s book. Opening to the first page, the one with the calligraphic title, I held the small tome up to Lionel’s nose.

    “The Odyssey of Heline and the Knights of Asteria.”

    He reached for the pages, but I yanked the book away before he could take it from me. Flipping to chapter three, I started reading where I’d left off.

    “Roland ducked beneath Sir Purent’s strike and tumbled over the cobblestones. The slash on his arm burned as he snatched his fallen dirk and sprang to his feet. Purent sneered. “Can’t even keep your sword, can you boy?” Even from the tip, Roland recognized his father’s blade bursting through the gap between Sir Purent’s breastplate and palette. The knight’s blood sprayed, marring his white surcoat. Purent dropped to his knees, mouth gaping, eyes dulling. He fell forward, revealing Heline, the bloodied sword steady in her hands. Roland towered over the dead knight. “No one needs a sword—”

    “When one has friends.” Lionel chuckled, but his laugh seemed sad.

    I closed the book and even the waves quieted as his gaze drifted into the wet sand. When he spoke again, he whispered.

    “We used to pretend, my brothers and I. They always made me be Uri.”

    He didn’t seem much like a squire, too scrawny for all the heavy lifting and too confident to be bullied. His redden gaze wandered back to me.

    “I bet you’d like to be Heline?”

    “No,” I ran my stung finger around the leather cover, “I’d be Yucille.”

    “Roland’s thieving little friend?” He waggled a finger at the book. “I suppose that might be more in character if that’s any indication of your skills.”

    I tucked Brother Fray’s book into my pouch. “I always bring them back.”

    “I’m sure you do, but never mind all that.” Pivoting from the dinghy, Lionel knelt before me and held out the amulet. The crystal snared the sunlight, the rays drawing me in again. “Inside the stone there should be an arrow, then a letter or short word, sometimes a picture.”

    “The arrow’s going that way.” Without taking my eye off the gold shard with the diamond tip, I pointed into town. Beneath the arrow, copper flecks swirled. “It says circle, and there’s a mortar and pestle.”

    Lionel tipped the amulet to himself, then grunted with understanding. “An apothecary.”

    “Will they be able to fix your eyes?”

    “My eyes will fix themselves,” he gazed the way I had pointed, “this will fix my heart.”

    I scanned his face then his chest. “What’s wrong with your heart?”

    “Nothing a little treasure hunting can’t fix.” He swiveled back to me, the sad smile back on his lips. “There can’t be more than one apothecary in Reyvi?”

    “Just the Old Rake’s place.”

    “Do you know the way?”

    “Sure I do, but there’s no treasure at his shop.”

    Lionel bounced the amulet in his hand. “This has guided me so far, I’ll trust it a little further.”

    “You could just go to the wharf, through the gates. Whoever’s on guard could show you.”

    “I’d rather keep this between us for right now.”

    I shrugged and when he rose, took Lionel’s hand. We walked side by side along the beach, and then single file up the side trail my bare feet and foxes looking to fish had made. I veered off before we reached the path linking gate and wharf, and followed a tributary around the walls. Feather-topped reeds brushed against my arms and mud squelched through my toes.

    Lionel touched my shoulder. “You’re not going to the gate?”

    “I know a better way.”

    He pat the top of my head, his fingertips lingering on the part of my braids like Brother Fray‘s hand on his cane. “Lead on, Yucille.”

    I grinned at him, but I didn’t think he saw by the concentration on his face. Taking his hand off my head, I kept my pace slow and mouth shut, sensing the need for quiet so the fellows guarding the walls didn’t spy where we skulked.

    I smelled the sewer before it came into view, and Lionel sniffed with distaste. “I should have guessed.”

    “Don’t worry, there’s a ledge.”

    We reached the opening and I stepped down. “Careful,” I said, guiding him onto the strip of brick lining the gulley, “and keep your head low.” Starting inward, I pinched my nose. “It’s not a long walk if you want to hold your breath.”

    “I’ll manage.”

    “As you like.”

    I pretended I didn’t hear Lionel’s gag when we entered the sewer. Shadows and stench surrounded us. Brick chipped beneath his heavier tread and plunked into the sludge, but fortunately for him, the opening for the first set of drainpipes came before he retched.

    A shove at the stone I’d pried loose months earlier allowed fresh air into the sewer. Lionel made my climb up the shaft easier with a boost. I hugged the outer wall of the Mead’s tailoring shop while he wiggled himself through the hole before leading to the alley’s entrance.

    Lionel scooted behind me as the bells at the monastery tolled, and peered over my head although I didn’t think he could make much of the few carts passing through the back square. “Evening services?”

    “More like dinner.” My stomach gurgled and I scrubbed my belly. “The Rakes should be out of their shop at least.”

    Taking his hand again, I pulled Lionel through the cobbled lanes. I kept us in the shadows and away from homes where candlelight would wink on plates and cups, and roasts or pots would be warmed at hearths. Decorated signs of shops closed up for the evening swung in the growing onshore breezes, making hinges groan.

    The sign for Rake’s apothecary appeared at the corner of Fountain Square, the mortar and pestle in need of a fresh coat. Like the other shops and stores, lights flickered and voices murmured in the second story but darkness filled the front windows.

    Lionel bent to my ear and whispered, “Take me around back.”

    I did as he asked, warning of dumps from chamber pots and rotting piles left in the alley separating the Rakes from the neighboring butcher’s pen. The apothecary’s garden pressed against the town’s outer wall, the rows of fenced greens tingeing the evening with the smell of grass, mint, and wet earth. A lift of gate’s latch let us inside, our footsteps on the flagstone path as quiet as the mice I left crumbs for in the monastery’s kitchen.

    The back door, however, proved locked when I tried the knob.

    After a second jiggle, Lionel nudged me aside. “Leave this to me.”

    He retrieved a thin spike the length of my forearm from his satchel. A poke in the lock, thrust, and turn made something inside snap. We stilled when the voices upstairs died, but they bantered on again after a round of nervous laughter and a jibe about jumping at ghosts.

    “You should stay here, Eva.”

    “So you can stumble in the dark?”

    With a stern look I doubted he could make out, I shoved past Lionel and into the apothecary. He followed me, closed the door behind him, and towered at my shoulder. I squinted at the gloomy shelves with their labeled bottles and tins.

    “What are we looking for?”

    “An oak leaf and boar.”

    “The Redvale crest?”

    “Precisely.”

    He seemed serious and I dutifully searched the shelves I could reach, investigated the selling counter, the table where the sick could be examined, the brewing station with its signature mortars, and the hearth with its rack of cast iron pots.

    Lionel wandered among the tables and chairs, guiding himself with a hand on the rounded wood, woven backrests, or the rim of stools. He seemed drawn, perhaps like the arrow in his amulet, and I traipsed after him when he made his way into the storage closets.

    Stopped by a door with a barred window, he did the same trick on the lock. Creaks came again from upstairs but Lionel didn’t wait this time. He didn’t even close the door when he padded inside.

    I scrunched against the doorjamb, but the stairs leading up to the second story remained empty. Behind me, Lionel grunted and shoved at crates or barrels, and I nearly leapt from my skin when he whispered my name.

    “What?”

    “Help me move these.”

    He’d already spun an echoing barrel out of one corner. At his beckoning, I tugged the burlap bags of rye aside and cleared smaller canisters from the nook while he managed another tapped cask. He swept his foot across the exposed stone, then knelt and ran his fingers around the edges. Squatting beside him, I brushed the dust and grime away.

    “What do you see, Eva?”

    “A leaf,” I twisted my head, then my body about, allowing in the hallway’s dim light and putting the carving right side up, “and a boar!”

    Lionel grinned and with his spike, began carving into the mortar. Like my entryway to the sewers, this stone had been meant to be removed. After a few stabs and chips, Lionel abandoned his spike for his fingers. With a hiss, he lifted the stone free and slithered into the hole.

    “What are you doing in here?”

    I bolted upright and hoped Lionel would have the good sense to stay in the hole he’d uncovered. When the tip of a rusted spear neared my nose, though, I wanted to hop down into the dark with him. The spear trembled in the younger Rake’s hands and he appeared far less cocky without his friends or any of the merchants’ daughters to impress.

    I lifted both hands to show my empty palms. “I was just looking around.”

    His father filled the doorway, a dagger drawn and at his side. “Who is it, boy?”

    Young Rake set the butt of his spear onto the ground and snorted. “That orphan from the monastery.”

    Old Rake jerked his son back, his fatted face flush with anger, his cheeks puffed like Brother Fray when he’d discovered a book I hadn’t returned in time. “I hear you’re a thieving little thing.”

    My hands felt stained by the loaves and hot pies I’d snatched when I’d first been left behind. My rear heated with memories of being caught by matrons and servants. I lifted my chin though, knowing this time I’d done nothing wrong, and hadn’t, really, for months now.

    “Maybe once, sir. But that was before the monks took me in. I don’t do that anymore.”

    Old Rake huffed. “Then why are you breaking into my storage closet?”

    “She’s helping me.”

    I glanced at Lionel who rose out of the hole, and stood among the ring of barrels and crates. He managed to stare straight enough I didn’t think the Rakes would notice the lack of focus in his eyes.

    Old Rake snorted, a gruffer mimic of his son. “And who the hell are you?”

    Lionel raised his left hand. A ruby glinted on the ring now encircling his middle finger. The white coating of dust made the carved oak leaf and boar seal shine.

    Old Rake blanched, then dropped to a knee and sputtered. “It can’t be.”

    After a querulous glance at his father, Young Rake bowed as well.

    Lionel stepped free of the clutter and I gaped at him anew. “You really are a Redvale?”

    He grinned in close enough to my direction before turning to the two whose eyes clung to the floor. “Rise, please.”

    “But sire.” Old Rake’s fat lips stuttered while his son helped him to his feet. Sweat dribbled down the sides of his face and he braced himself on a barrel. “What are you doing here? In my storage room.” His eyes grew wide. “Not that you’re not welcome. You can have whatever you like. If you don’t find what you need—”

    Lionel held up his ringed hand, the Ruby of Redvale ceasing Old Rake’s flustered rambling. “I found what I need but I could use your help in another way.”

    “Certainly sire, anything I can do. I can get the town—”

    “No!” Lionel neared. “I must keep my presence here quiet. No one can know.”

    “Of course, sire.” Old Rake’s nod infected his son, their assents blurring into one another as their heads bobbed.

    “Good.” Lionel drew a steadier breath and lowered his voice. “Do you know something that can clear vision? Stop someone from seeing double?”

    Old Rake’s face wrinkled in thought. He began murmuring while Young Rake dithered and turned the spear in his hands as if to wring water from a bit of cloth.

    I kept quiet, hoping Lionel or the Rakes would forget to send me off to pots, to scrubbing floors, to the quiet consistency of the monks.

    After drumming fingers on his lips, Old Rake brightened. “Yes, Yes, YES! This way.” He spun and darted from the closet, spewing orders his son dashed to fulfill.

    Lionel rested against the doorjamb. “Thank you, Eva.”

    I peered at my dirtied toes. “I guess you don’t need me anymore.”

    “Nonsense.” He set a hand on my shoulder, the golden band cold even through the fabric of my dress. “Where would Roland have ended up without the resourceful Yucille?”

    I eyed the carved ruby. “But you found your treasure.”

    Lionel nudged my chin, tipping my gaze away from the telltale jewel. “The hunt, little Eva, has only just begun.”

    … Click here to read the rest. Any comments are welcome.

  2. lookingforcamelot

    Here’s my slightly-longer-than-500-words story. I am a beginner and am not a native English speaker so, if there any mistakes, please feel free to pint them out. Indeed, I’d be grateful for it.
    Hope you enjoy.

    *

    It was your fault. All of this was your fault. A balanced adult would know there are times in which one must say ‘no’. Even to one’s parents. Especially to one’s parents. Particularly when one is still economically dependent from said parents.

    You have never felt so ill because of the weather. Everyone knew how warm southern Italy is, still you managed to pack only long skirts and jeans. No shorts of any kind, God forbid someone’s sees your legs. How does a woman get sinfully smooth legs anyway? This is perhaps the number one reason why you avoid beaches like the plague. Because people will avoid you like the plague if they saw your little scars. Maybe, you’d might find some compassion if there were a tragic story of pain and sufferance behind them but no, nothing tragic about ugly skin and very little time to scrub, hydrate, and such. Nothing tragic about not looking good enough.

    No, mum. No, dad. Thank you but I don’t want to come with you on holiday.

    There. Would that have killed you?

    I don’t know that, do I? Maybe It would have.

    No. No, you will not start arguing with yourself again. There was no winning with you.

    It’s barely dawn and sun is already high and merciless. You reach the deserted beach with your copy of Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, ready to enjoy a solitary reading in a breath-taking scenery. You find the perfect spot just behind a rock that creates a cone of shadow that will protect you from the incessant heat of the Italian sun. You sit, open the book, and let a sense of peace wash all over you, that incredible feeling you can only find the moment black words find their way to your head and create stunning new colours.

    After a while- never expect a reader to tell you how much time has passed since he buried his nose in a beloved volume- the shadow that shields you from the sun intensifies but instead of a sense of relief you feel slightly chilled and a shiver runs through your spine. You raise your head and an imposing figure blocks your view. Your first instinct is to scream, yet you just try to shield your eyes from the sun to better study the man in front of you. His cheek is scarred, his clothes are unusual to say the least, and he’s looking at you with a mix of surprise and… disgust?

    “Excuse me, would you mind taking a step back? My neck will surely snap if you don’t.”

    The man complies but his stance suggests he didn’t appreciate the flippant way in which you asked.

    Now that he stands further away from you, you notice his short unruly black hair, his blue eyes, his lips shut in a tight line, the white linen shirt, a leather belt, his sword-

    His WHAT?

    You jump from where you were sitting and stare at him, your eyes as big as golf balls. Who are you? The words die in your throat. In any other moment you might have thought him a random guy returning from a costume party. Not this time. There’s something putting you off, and it’s not just his clothes. Nor is the big ship on the horizon.

    More of a vessel, now that you shift your focus from him to the… ‘Andromache’.

    “War of men,” you whisper. You have studied ancient Greek and are familiar with the history of the woman behind the name- Hector’s wife from the Iliad- and its etymology.

    He’s still looking at you but now he seems more relaxed somehow. Although, relaxed is probably the last adjective anyone would use to describe such a man.

    “So, there still are people with the decorum of treasuring human knowledge. My heart rejoices. Even if it comes from a woman.”

    “What a touching speech. I liked the part about decorum. Even if it comes from a man.”

    You have never been good at staring contests but you’ll be damned before you relent.

    A sly smile touches his lips.

    “Touché,” he says, and bows to you.

    You can’t even recover from the surprise of your small victory that he speaks again.

    “I think I’ll spare you the details of our coming. God knows, I am still uncertain myself. Yet, a strange turn of events brought us here while we were looking for something. A treasure, ye might say. My men and I have been chasing the seven seas trying to find it. We’ve followed every step religiously, relentlessly. But this map.”

    He averts his gaze just a moment but you can see the man is struggling to make sense of things even to himself.

    “The map keeps changing. And the closer we got to your lands, the more difficult if was for any of us to read it. I speculate the bloody map is… adapting itself. I need someone to read it for me.”

    You are petrified and, strangely enough, you believe him. You believe every single word while all this time you’ve been doubting even the labels on products in grocery stores.

    “I suppose that what I am saying is… ” Slowly he walks towards you until he stands so close you fear for your neck again.

    “I have a treasure map and I need you’re help. Are you in, lass?”

    He’s staring straight into your eyes until you feel the urgency of this man’s mission, its importance, his restlessness. At the barest of your nods he puts a sack on your head and pulls you on his shoulder as if you weighted nothing.

    Oh, dear.

  3. lookingforcamelot

    Here’s my slightly-longer-than-500-words story. I am a beginner and am not a native English-speaker so, if you find some mistakes, don’t feel bad to point them out. Indeed, I would be grateful.
    *

    It was your fault. All of this was your fault. A balanced adult would know there are times in which one must say ‘no’. Even to one’s parents. Especially to one’s parents. Particularly when one is still economically dependent from said parents.

    You have never felt so ill because of the weather. Everyone knew how warm southern Italy is, still you managed to pack only long skirts and jeans. No shorts of any kind, God forbid someone’s sees your legs. How does a woman get sinfully smooth legs anyway? This is perhaps the number one reason why you avoid beaches like the plague. Because people will avoid you like the plague if they saw your little scars. Maybe, you’d might find some compassion if there were a tragic story of pain and sufferance behind them but no, nothing tragic about ugly skin and very little time to scrub, hydrate, and such. Nothing tragic about not looking good enough.

    No, mum. No, dad. Thank you but I don’t want to come with you on holiday.

    There. Would that have killed you?

    I don’t know that, do I? Maybe It would have.

    No. No, you will not start arguing with yourself again. There was no winning with you.

    It’s barely dawn and sun is already high and merciless. You reach the deserted beach with your copy of Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, ready to enjoy a solitary reading in a breath-taking scenery. You find the perfect spot just behind a rock that creates a cone of shadow that will protect you from the incessant heat of the Italian sun. You sit, open the book, and let a sense of peace wash all over you, that incredible feeling you can only find the moment black words find their way to your head and create stunning new colours.

    After a while- never expect a reader to tell you how much time has passed since he buried his nose in a beloved volume- the shadow that shields you from the sun intensifies but instead of a sense of relief you feel slightly chilled and a shiver runs through your spine. You raise your head and an imposing figure blocks your view. Your first instinct is to scream, yet you just try to shield your eyes from the sun to better study the man in front of you. His cheek is scarred, his clothes are unusual to say the least, and he’s looking at you with a mix of surprise and… disgust?

    <>

    The man complies but his stance suggests he didn’t appreciate the flippant way in which you asked.

    Now that he stands further away from you, you notice his short unruly black hair, his blue eyes, his lips shut in a tight line, the white linen shirt, a leather belt, his sword-

    His WHAT?

    You jump from where you were sitting and stare at him, your eyes as big as golf balls. Who are you? The words die in your throat. In any other moment you might have thought him a random guy returning from a costume party. Not this time. There’s something putting you off, and it’s not just his clothes. Nor is the big ship on the horizon.

    More of a vessel, now that you shift your focus from him to the… ‘Andromache’.

    “War of men,” you whisper. You have studied ancient Greek and are familiar with the history of the woman behind the name- Hector’s wife from the Iliad- and its etymology.

    He’s still looking at you but now he seems more relaxed somehow. Although, relaxed is probably the last adjective anyone would use to describe such a man.

    “So, there still are people with the decorum of treasuring human knowledge. My heart rejoices. Even if it comes from a woman.”

    “What a touching speech. I liked the part about decorum. Even if it comes from a man.”

    You have never been good at staring contests but you’ll be damned before you relent.

    A sly smile touches his lips.

    “Touché,” he says, and bows to you.

    You can’t even recover from the surprise of your small victory that he speaks again.

    “I think I’ll spare you the details of our coming. God knows, I am still uncertain myself. Yet, a strange turn of events brought us here while we were looking for something. A treasure, ye might say. My men and I have been chasing the seven seas trying to find it. We’ve followed every step religiously, relentlessly. But this map.”

    He averts his gaze just a moment but you can see the man is struggling to make sense of things even to himself.

    “The map, it keeps changing. And the closer we got to your lands, the more difficult if was for any of us to read it. I speculate the bloody map is… adapting itself. I need someone to read it for me.”

    You are petrified and, strangely enough, you believe him. You believe every single word while all this time you’ve been doubting even the labels on products in grocery stores.

    “I suppose that what I am saying is… ” Slowly he walks towards you until he stands so close you fear for your neck again.

    “I have a treasure map and I need you’re help. Are you in, lass?”

    He’s staring straight into your eyes until you feel the urgency of this man’s mission, its importance, his restlessness. At the barest of your nods he puts a sack on your head and pulls you on his shoulder as if you weighted nothing.

    Oh, dear.

  4. matlam17

    I stared at the man for a moment. It took several seconds for me to register that this was actually happening and even longer to decide if I should actually join him. With opportunities like this being so rare, my decision was made. I made my way over to his vessel which upon closer inspection, appeared to be far from being in great condition.
    “Captain, seeing as I have a few hours of time to kill, it would be my honor to aid you in your hunt,” I shouted up to him.
    “Happy to hear it lad!” the pirate responded “climb aboard.”
    The pirate threw down a rope ladder for me to climb. The floorboards creaked as I stepped onto the deck of the ship. As I looked around I began to notice how small the ship actually was. From a distance, a pirate ship is already quite a sight but after boarding it, I noticed that the ship was less than impressive.
    “Alright lad, let’s have a look at this map,” he said as he fumbled through his coat and then pulled out a sizeable piece of yellowish paper. Captain held the map out for me to see and I was taken aback by how genuine the map seemed. The map wasn’t covered in decorative sea monsters or anything of the sort but rather looked as if it was drawn very carefully and precisely. There was a red line that began at our approximate location and traveled about a mile or so down the beach. Hardly the elaborate route I was expecting.
    “Well, now we must continue on foot,” Captain said as he looked up from the map.
    “But I just got on. We can’t just sail there?” I replied.
    “I’m actually amazed the boat made it this far,” Captain chuckled. We proceeded to start walking down the beach while receiving strange looks and laughs from the people who saw us. It dawned on me just what I was doing. A complete stranger dressed as a pirate asks me to join him on a treasure hunt that takes us in a straight line as he arrives in his oversized canoe. I had agreed to it. The captain began to tell me of all his great adventures on the seas and about his crew. These tales were difficult to believe mostly due to the fact that I saw no one else on the ship and one of the stories involved the kraken. Captain stopped in his tracks.
    “We’re here!” he shouted.
    “Great! What about shovels?” I asked. Captain froze then began to look around before running as fast as he could away from the beach. I sighed and reflected upon what I had done with my day so far while I walked back to my spot. I woke up, ate, and walked around with an insane man dressed in pirate clothes listening to him tell stories about his voyages before he ran off into the distance. Honestly, it wasn’t terribly disappointing. I never saw nor heard from Captain ever again and perhaps it’s best that way.

  5. E.K Krawforde

    The sand tickled my toes as I wandered the long beach when I saw the shadowing figure.
    Wow.
    Who knew boats were still made like that? Big, old, it appeared to be wooden, well damn, it was set up like a pirate ship. Maybe someone made if for the novelty. Then I saw him. I blinked as he invited me into an adventure. I wanted to say know, I knew I should have said no, but my lips parted and said a perfect “yes” and I felt like fainting. The seemed-to-be pirate grinned and grabbed me by the shoulders, his breath was foul, it smelt just like the roadkill I found three summers ago, that rotting. His teeth were black too. Holy shit, was this man the real deal? I shook my head.
    “Aye matey!! C’mon!!” He grabbed my arm and yanked me along and I fell. I yelped and he just looked at me and started laughing, then I heard more laughing, and more, and more and more till my head was filled with the cynical laughs of thousands. I wanted to cry and then I felt the hot liquid on my face. Shit I was. I blinked a few more times and the atmosphere changed, I was in school, I was on the floor, crying, people were laughing.
    Everyone was laughing.
    Everyone.

  6. JaRosie

    First Time! Feedback is appreciated!
    Lets see if I can figure out this HTML thing…Try 1

    Really? I was being hit on by a man dressed as a pirate?
    “That has to be the worst pick-up line I’ve ever heard.” I responded to the dreadlocked man with the giant overcoat looked. Who did he think he was, floating on a pool toy in the middle of the river? And how on earth had he stayed afloat?
    “Could you at least give me a hand?” I rolled my eyes but stood. The water was seeping into his little boat. I jogged down the grassy slope and hit the dirt that passed for sand in the Midwest. “I’m pretty sure you could wade over here yourself, you’re close enough.” I wasn’t wandering into the river, soaking myself for some drugged-out creeper when he could wade to shore. After a moment of hesitation, he leaned over and flopped into the river, his floaty spinning away. Triumph swelled in my veins as he stood, the water only to his chest. He waddled to shore, as if holding his arms out from his body would make the water suddenly disappear. Realizing he was coming towards me, I backed all the way up the hill to the picnic area where I’d left my books.
    So much for studying. I hated that class anyway.
    Keeping an eye on him, I shoved my hair up in a ponytail, trying to get it out of the way. Putting the stone picnic table between the two of us, I began to pack my belongings one book at a time. I couldn’t wait to Dad’s and my apartment, he would think this was hilarious. The pirate dropped to the picnic table and threw his face into his hands. Poor guy. He was in his early thirties and his dreadlocks had slipped a little, revealing a sprig of red hair. In one ear, he had a gold hoop through a puffy red lobe.
    I zipped my backpack and took a step back, he could find help if he needed. “Ok Redbeard, best of luck to you, but I gotta-”
    “Stella MacIntyre?”
    Ok. Definitely a creeper.
    He squinted at me.
    “The same Stella MacIntyre who works at the corner gas station?”
    I wondered how fast a water-logged pirate could run.
    He let out a little moan, and continued. “Stella MacIntyre, I have a treasure map and I need your help.”
    The pick-up line suddenly sounded much less like a pick-up line.
    He pulled a soggy paper from his overcoat and handed it to me. I unfolded it and the world stopped. Silence invaded. All I could see was the picture of my dad wearing a jester’s hat sitting, tied to a chair next to three people I didn’t recognize. All were in some sort of costume, and then I saw the rhyme.
    A game you sought a game I bring.
    Join the Pirate, find the King.
    His blood’s already in the sand,
    But save the Jester if you can.

    The world rushed back at me. My stomach churned, I felt like my insides were being twisted into knots. Climbing into the picnic table, I hissed at the pirate, “What is this?”
    He softly touched the picture and pointed at the woman dressed as a fairy. “That’s my wife.” He choked.
    He locked his gaze with mine.
    “Are you in?”

  7. Bianchi Cat

    It’s always interested me how the mind will store memories or even displace events, people or information. I’m reminded of this when I remember one late morning in August, spending time on a Florida beach and having too much to drink under a hot sun.
    It began with me nursing a severe hangover from the night before and even by 11:00 a.m. I still felt drunk. I noticed out on the water, far beyond the sand bar, a small brown and pointy boat that seemed to float more on the horizon than on water. Time for me seemed to stand still which is why it seemed like in an instant the small pointy boat just so happened to be a large sailing ship and was just off the bay’s sound. One of its small landing boats coming ashore near me was being rowed steadily by one person.
    The noon day sun had likely cooked the alcohol in my brain. I saw a woman get out of the dingy, that she herself navigated to shore, and walk right up to me and said, “Ahoy thar. What be yor…” and with a few harsh coughs and clearing of the throat, her deeply gruff accented voice became a mild and soothing American voice. “What’s your name?” she asked.
    “Sam.” I replied. She walked over the sand and from the waters edge easily in her mid-calf leather boots. She stepped out of the sun and walked close to where I sat and put her fisted hands on her hips to seemingly strike a heroic pose. A scant amount of her bronze skin over her muscular thighs was exposed beneath her torn and frayed leather skirt. Her over-sized “pirate” shirt sat loosely over her shoulders and covered to her waist. A corset kept her torso secure and, I’m sure, slightly uncomfortable.
    “Well Sam.” She said as she leaned in closer to my face. Her black hair was not completely hidden beneath a brown laced bandana. Her dark eyes locking mine sent an instant soberness to my head. “Are you up for an adventure?” she asked while offering a crooked smile from one corner of her mouth.
    “Possibly?” I answered hearing the crack in pitch of my voice. It wasn’t just that my voice sounded like a pubescent teenager again, my voice was more noticeable because I realized the wind had suddenly stopped blowing. She and I were the only two people on the beach. Even the waves coming into shore had almost become silently still. At that moment I found myself to be as clear-headed as I ever had been. She stood up straight frowning and eyes sharpened in anger.
    “’Possibly’ gets you nothing.” She then smiled slightly and said, “You see Sam, I have a treasure map.” As she pulled from behind her back at her waist a leather wrapped journal and handed it to me. “I need help finding the treasure, Sam. Are you in?”
    My treasures became my memories of those adventures.

  8. Ross

    < The lazily setting sun began to obscure Oscar Wilde’s words and the sand, ever diving its fingers beneath the ocean’s waves, itched my back and legs. I stood to brush the granules away and was struck by the seemingly sudden appearance of a ship. Surly it had been making its way towards me for hours, but only now, as it neared the shore, did I see it.
    The ship rocked in the water a good distance from me and my abandoned beach. A small boat began to lower from the ship; a single figure perched inside. I began to feel conscious of my agape jaw and furrowed brow though I did not know what else to do but to stand and wait.
    A hat, a draping shirt, a sword, boots and the lagging shuffle-walk of a man too tired for pleasantries. “I have a treasure map” he shoved a scribbled-on paper in my face, “Help me?” There was still sand stuck to me, I brushed it off, the sun glaring in my eyes. “I need help. Are you in?” “Okay.” He grinned beneath several months worth of facial hair and beckoned me to his boat.
    We sat in silence on our way to the ship. I asked to see the map but there was no response. The small boat clashed agains the ship as several men pulled us to deck. It struck me as odd that the man came to shore only for me and a string of unsettling questions popped into my head. Did he know who I was? Why would he be satisfied in finding me to help him? What makes him think I could help? Had we met before? Where did he find a treasure map in the twenty-first century and who were these men, not enough to find treasure, but enough to man a pirate ship?
    Pirate. The word seemed archaic. Evocative and exciting, but disconcerting. A firm hand clutched my arm, disrupting my panic, and dragged me to what I assume was the Captain’s quarters, and the man attached to the unapologetic hand; the Captain. “What do you know of treasure maps?” “Nothing.” I answered honestly. Apart from a certain classic ’80’s movie my treasure map know-how was lacking.
    “Look.” He shone a candle over the map spread across his desk. I saw ink-marked mountains and rivers and islands and wondered what he saw that I didn’t. I stared at him blankly. “Look.” He insisted, shoving the wrinkled map in my face. “I don’t see anything. Where is the treasure meant to be?” He scoffed, and threw the paper to the floor. It felt strange for a man who just met me to express to me frustration usually reserved for my family. Wanting to ease the tension I picked up the paper and examined it closer. Front, back, side to side. “Well, let’s start here, Captain. I don’t much care for ‘X’s’ why don’t we try the ‘O’?”

  9. clittle

    Oh dear God, not here. I tipped my head forward and looked over the top of my sunglasses to see the pirate coming ashore and make his way towards me with that theatrically drunk swagger. I glance at the frosty glass with the chunk of pineapple sitting to my right. He must have seen my pina colada. Stopping at the foot of my beach towel, he leans forward and says, “I have a treasure map and I need help. Are you in?”.

    “No thanks, I don’t drink that brand.”

    “Oh, buy my lady this is a fine score! We are offering 50% off on the first bottle and an additional 10% off on each additional bottle.”

    I’d had enough. I spent an additional $5,000 on the ad free vacation package and here stood this idiot. “Look Black Beard, or Captain Kidd or whoever the hell you’re supposed to be, I told you already I’m not interested in your crappy rum! Now leave me alone!”

    My tormentor got the message, took his brass buckled boots off the bottom of my towel and headed back to his boat. I should have called the resort police and had him arrested. What he was doing was highly illegal, but increasingly common. I watched as he boarded his boat and sailed for the mainland across the harbor.

    The mainland. I looked across to see the banner planes, blimps, flashing signs, branded buildings and boats in the foreground and branded mountains in the background. It had become one giant billboard. Everything was fair game after The Marketers seized control of our bankrupt government and collapsed economy. Their rules were simple: 1) meet your daily sales quota or face execution, and 2) meet your daily purchase quota or face execution. Those who exceeded their quotas would get bonuses and be allowed to take vacations in designated “ad free” zones.

    And here was this pirate, not only disturbing my ad free vacation, but in one of those ironic twists of life, cutting into my own rum sales. I called harbor security.

    “The pirate boat heading back to the mainland? See it? Yes? The owner is in violation. Thank you.”

    I took a sip of my drink and watched with satisfaction the cannon on the harbor police cutter sink my competitor’s boat.

    “X marks the spot my friend, X marks the spot”

  10. AndyJadeStar

    “I have a treasure map and need help.” The pirate called from the disabled rowboat. “Are you in?”
    Laura looked up from her book and raised an eyebrow. She had parked her beach chair sitting in the waves to get the full experience of the beach while she read. This crazy man had interrupted her perfect afternoon.
    “Hey!” The Pirate yelled, “You! Are you going to help me?” His tiny excuse for a dingy was floating about 15 feet off shore.
    “What’s in it for me?” Laura called.
    “Well, I won’t kill you for one…”
    Laura shook her head. “That’s not good enough.”
    “Not good enough?” The pirate was flabbergasted. “This is going to be the adventure of a lifetime! What could you possibly want that’s worth more than that?”
    “How about twenty bucks.”
    “Money!” The pirate jumped to his feet, nearly tipping the rowboat and throwing himself into the water.
    “I take cash in advance.”
    “I don’t have any cash! I’m going after treasure!”
    Laura just shrugged. “Then I guess you don’t really need my help.”
    The pirate was flabbergasted. “Fine, I’ll give you money. How about we make it forty dollars, and I pay you after I’ve captured the treasure!”
    Laura thought for a moment. “Fifty and you have a deal.”
    “Fine, fine, fifty it is. Now come help me pull this boat in. I’ve lost my oars, and at this rate I’ll never make land.”
    Laura got up, tossing her book back onto the chair. She waded out into the water.
    “Hurry Hurry!” the pirate urged her. “I have much to do today.
    “Do you have a rope?” Laura asked thinking of how she would get the boat to shore.
    “Do I have a rope? What self-respecting pirate doesn’t have rope?”
    “What self-respecting pirate doesn’t have oars?”
    Laura trudged along towards the boat. When the water was about chest high, she was able to grab the rope the pirate offered her. She threw the loop at the end over her shoulder and began pulling back towards shore.
    “You could have done this yourself you know.” She grumbled. The boat was heavier than she had initially thought.
    “I should think not, that is beneath me. Besides what if I were to drown?”
    Laura stopped pulling. “Are you seriously afraid of drowning in water that is waist deep?”
    “Get back to work!” The pirated yelled, insulted. “We have much ground to cover before nightfall.”
    “No.”
    “Yes, now mush!”
    “Mush this!” Laura yelled as she ducked down into the water and flipped the boat.
    The pirate splashed around causing a commotion, before finally standing up. Water poured off his hat, and left him looking rather pathetic.
    “What kind of lady tries to drown someone in distress?”
    Laura just turned around and headed back to shore. “What kind of pirate can’t swim?”

  11. ShawnJohnson78

    Never follow the crazy, kids. It can be everywhere or everyone and it usually looks for you, if not always dressed like a goddamn pirate. Amongst the waves you are meant to feel at one with the world; to behold the infinite in your finite view. You are not, on the other hand, meant to sit out in 99 degree heat baking in the sun like a rotisserie chicken. And still we slather on oil to come as close to the baked culinary delight as god intended.
    One hour into my impromptu nap, I awoke to the feeling of warm water slapping against my feet and my favorite book (and by favorite I mean the only one I had in my car, and by book I clearly mean old comic book) protectively shielding a small portion of my chest, just enough so I look ridiculous with my shirt off for at least three weeks.
    I blinked awake and was for some reason surprised that the sun was bright (I’m also told it’s hot, but that’s just conjecture at this point). The water near my brain bled out through my eyes to the astonishingly bright sun (hot too); an involuntary reaction, I’m told, to the change from light to slightly more light. They in no way were tears of pain from the burn surrounding my rectangular reflective chest mark; I’m a man goddamn it. Just when the light became too much and my mommy’s name was on my lips to shelter me, what I thought was a cloud began to cover me; rudely as I was getting a tan! I wiped my man tears away and from my eyes and cheeks…and chin (it’s a heavy flow issue…don’t judge!) I looked upon the grandest sight a child of 30 could ever hope to see; a floating something or other as big as a pirate ship. It had a flagpole much like the one in front of my elementary school but I don’t think it floated from this tiny salt water bath to teach me numbers or the value of detention, no this flag had the symbol of what I knew to be the universal insignia of the mortician’s guild. I gazed upon my sun savior with awe. Looking down upon me was the most beautiful woman, topless and I think part fish. What she was doing on the front of the boat I will never know but her calm demeanor never wavered, in fact, she didn’t move a muscle, just posed…women! I heard the sound of wood on wood clanking louder with ever beat. It was terrifying, and I’m not ashamed to say I wet myself…with perspiration. Two hands grasped the rail and like a creepy jack-in-the-box, he popped his head over the rail and thrust a piece of paper in the air and yelled through a set of missing teeth “I have a treasure map and I need help. Are you in?” And then the white light got brighter

  12. russellvicente

    It was sometime between the afternoon and sunset and I was just kicking back in Newport reading some self-help book. It seems that these days I’m always reading self-help. It’s not even that I want really want to, it’s more that I have to you, you know? I wish I didn’t have to read that kind of crap so much, but my life always feels like it is in some earnest disarray that I can never really get going. In reality, I wish I had the peace of mind to sit down and read fiction. It’s way cooler than self-help and it gives you the opportunity to enjoy your imagination. I guess because I want to read for pleasure as opposed to always be trying to fix myself. Anyway, so I’m chilling and am just starting to get my mind right, when in the distance, I see this old looking pirate ship in the distance. It get’s a little bit closer and I see a bunch of sketchy individuals on the deck wearing pirate outfits. “What the hell?” I think to myself; what are these people trying to do? After about half an hour I see a small boat paddling for the shore. It was tough to really see it through the distance and the fog, but after closer inspection I realized I realized it was a pale looking, beautiful girl. Her hair was a light chestnut brown that glimmered with the sun ray’s and her clothes were dingy and old. She yelled out; “Hey you! What are you doing over there?” I looked around and then pointed to myself. “Me,” I thought to myself, and then yelled back, “me?” . “Yes, you! Who else would I be talking to!” I was utterly amazed. What were the chances of a beautiful woman coming out of a pirate ship so mysteriously? The boat came ashore and we began to talk. “Who are you?” I asked; “I am Enchantra, Queen of the nether regions and the Great Ocean Deep, I have come looking for a young man of age and a pure heart to ask him if would like to go on an adventure.” “An adventure? I can’t go on an adventure. I have to work. You know, bills need to be paid.” She replied, “Yes, the bills must always need to be paid, but if you seek out your personal adventure, the bills have a magical way of taking care of themselves. Do not be a coward.” “Well, then, what kind of adventure is it?” “It is the best kind, the kind you that will take you to your deepest self where your truth resides. If you make it, you will find your true self underneath all the dirt and grime that the world provides. And then, and only then, will the world work with you and you will find your true calling and find true love!” She explained. “It sounds fantastic!” I said. “What do we do next?”

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