X Marks the Spot

You’re a pirate on a small pirate ship, that consists of only you, one other pirate and a captain. Recently you ransacked another ship and found a treasure map. After weeks of following it, you’ve finally found the island where “X” marks the spot. Write a scene where you find the buried treasure, only it’s not exactly the treasure you expected to find.

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451 thoughts on “X Marks the Spot

  1. Cameronsdgva

    My name Is Jerry my crew the Dragon of Flames Just found some another pirate ship that had a x mark for treasure. My Captain Tom John just told to set sail for the Island of Treasure when we got there he said lts time to have show so he had his 1st commander Johnny Night Watcher spar against me.

    “Lets give them a bloody show.” Said Night Watcher
    ” Alright but you know this time I’m going to when and make sure your inactive for a good while” I said
    As the fight started tension started to build in the room and gave me a few doubts but before the first hit was about to be thrown one of our men came running to us out of breath and told us that they found they found the chest of George Abraham treasure chest was just found.
    ” Nice job men open the chest so we can rich.” Tom John
    But when the chest was open all there was is a note that said you just got fooled after that we went back to the boat to again find treasure.

  2. Cameronsdgva

    “Men dig it up, I want you to get me Gold Rogers treasure immediately those of you on break can help settling the ship to shore.” Said Captain Luffy
    “Sir, their is a problem the boat is a little damaged and we lost some our supplies so a few of our men will have to use their hands.” Said 1st Commander Ace. “Alright use your hands and you get to eat some our delicious stakes.” Said Luffy.
    In the hours of digging around gold rogers X mark they finally found it Gold Rogers money trail. But there was one problem I was left at a different ocean and the chest only had fresh delicious CHICKEN.
    At the end of the day the captains crew had delicious food and slept good.

  3. aurorasdgva

    “Leslie, do you see anything out there yet?” I ask. I has been three months since we had ransaced the boat where we found this peculiar map. Leslie would not come down from the balcony, even after The captain as well as I asked her to.


    “Island ahoy!” She yelled after three more hours. I reached out for my scope and looked ahead. An island, it was, but barely an island. Id say if I were to estimate, it was about 50 feet in diameter.

    “Not a very big lass is she?” Captain said. “Not near the size of me old ship.”

    “Are you sure it’s the one, Leslie?” I ask, not convinced.

    “Well, it is the only one in a 300 mile radius, so I bet me eye patch it is.” She slides down the long rope from the balcony to the deck. We bring down the sails, and get the anchor ready. As we get closer to the island, a petrifyingly sweet smell reaches our nostrils. It was so sharp it stung. We pulled closer, and tossed the anchor overboard.

    “Unload the lifeboat, will you?” Captain said, sounding annoyed. “I don’t want to wait for me treasure any longer.”

    I unlocked the ropes and got in, with the other two. Then I slowly let us down.

    We rowed a few yards, keeping the pace quick and steady. When we go to the island, Captain practically ran to the top, nearly tripping on his torn slippers.

    “And a X marks the spot!” He shouted. “Quick, me lass, hand me the shovel.”


    He dug and dug and dug for what seemed like a lifetime, when we finally heard a hard, hallow clunk.

    Leslie and I each got on one side and carefully lifted the chest. All the while, the sweet smell kept growing stronger.

    “Aye, my nose is burning,” Leslie whimpered.

    We pried open the box to see what was inside.

    Inside was

    a

    giant

    golden

    trophy. On the plaque it said,” Congratulations you just won $500! Thanks for being on our show! Sincerely, the Pranksters”

  4. adriannelaray

    “Stop! We hit something,” Smith said, “Look here, there’s a chest, a big one. Red, help me get it open.”

    I dropped my shovel and went over to Smith’s side of the hole. Sure enough there was a chest. I helped him brush the dirt off the top of it. Smith cracked it open and immediately we were assaulted by a smell so horrendous it caused us both to cough and gag. Smith looked up at Captain Greyson who nodded for us to continue. It was a big chest and it took both of us to lift the lid all the way open. We let the lid fall back as we looked into hell itself. We now knew what the smell was. There were four bodies, all beheaded with their limbs bound together and their heads at their feet.

    “Who would mark this place on a map?” I asked.

    Captain Greyson climbed into the hole. He reached into the chest, picked up one of the heads, and looked at it intently. It was a man’s head and unless I am quite mistaken, it seemed to resemble the captain. He dropped it back into the chest before pulling out his flask of whiskey.

    “You’re going to burn them?” Smith asked as the captain opened the flask and flung the contents over each body in the chest.

    I looked at them again. The bodies had been stabbed many times, seemingly after they had been put in the chest. All of their blood mixed at the bottom of the chest adding to the stench caused by their rotting flesh. They couldn’t have been there long, which didn’t make sense considering the age of the paper on which the map was drawn. They were also all men… perhaps we weren’t the only crew to come upon this site.

    “Could someone have replaced the treasure with these men” I asked as the captain lit a match and pressed it to the end of a cigar.

    “I have no doubt that is what happened. These men all bear the same mark,” Captain Greyson replied.

    “They were from another crew?” Smith asked.

    “Yes. It was my son’s crew. Someone left this for me to see it.”

    “But how could they know we would get that map?” Smith again, staring at the bodies and then at the heads. He picked one up… “George!”

    “That’s your son?” I asked.

    “No, this is a friend of his. And George was the only one I showed the map to.”

    “Why would your son kill mine, Smith?” Captain Grey son asked in a voice much too calm for the situation.

    “I don’t know, Captain. I don’t know that he did.”

    “Well you can ask him when you see him in the afterlife,” the captain said and kicked Smith into the chest and dropped his cigar in after.

    Smith screamed as the captain drive his cutlass into his heart and the fire began to catch on the first body. The captain took my own flask and emptied it into the chest before climbing out of the hole.

    “Get some wood. Stoke the fire. When they’re nothing but ashes, bury them.”

    “Aye, aye captain,” I said as I climbed out of the hole. I knew in my heart Smith’s son would suffer a worse death than this.

  5. Augie

    I promise a treasure at the end………………

    Daaaaaady, the nanny say’s your leaving again… How long daaaaady???

    Looking down at the precious bundle on his lap, he replies…

    ‘Sunshine’, aren’t you excited about tomorrow? It’s your first day of school!”

    Barnes looks at the laminated photo of his ‘Sunshine’ taped inside his K-pot once again.

    Scorp snaps him out of his vision….

    “PUT that brain bucket on dammit! We have no idea if this is a trap or not!”

    Barnes takes one last look at his daughters photo, then puts his combat helmet back on.

    The Captain shouts out coordinates as Scorp maneuvers the Humvee through war wasteland.

    “ Were getting close. You two stop the jibber-jabbing and focus! We don’t know if this map is leading us to their ammo site or ambush. They might have intentionally planted it our prisoner.”

    As always, being a ‘talker’, Barnes broke the silence,

    “You know guys, we must seem like modern day pirates to these people. I mean, we come to their land, pillage their cities and establish a new government.

    Scorp gives Barnes ‘the stare’.

    Barns, being insecure, wishes he could take back what he said and felt the need to explain.

    “Scorp, I know that your Native American and I didn’t mean anything by that! I mean, I have great respect for our natives, Like, Uhh, whats his name?. OHH, yes! Ira Hayes! He helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima! ….All for the land of the free!”

    Scorp gives the ‘stare’ again, “Barnes, stop trying to explain everything! I just want you to shut the hell up! And put that damn chin strap on!

    At that very moment…………….

    ……. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!……..

    Shrapnel and sand blast in the air as an IED explodes near the Humvee……….The nearly Six thousand pound vehicle sails as though it weighed five pounds,

    Barnes lay sideways, fading… .. His helmet inches away in the twisted metal. He squints trying to focus…. He sees her…. a small droplet of blood on her photo.. as though she was crying….

    Six days later…………….Some where in Germany………

    A very angry Native American is stopped at the nursing station…

    “Sorry sir, you cant go in there.’

    Scorp rips off his special warfare insignia from his chest and slams it on the counter.

    “This is my mark”

    “This is my stand!”

    You can call the police, their going to need a lot of back up! Not to mention, that your emergency room is going to fill up quick!

    Scorp walks past her, searching for the room his brother lay dieing in.

    Little did the nurse know, twenty more warfare pins were on the way.

    Scorp walked in the room…

    “ I brought you something Marine. Had to clean it up a bit,”

    Barnes gave a slight reaction, feeling the weight on his chest.

    One final breath…struggling…Barnes opened his eyes, seeing Sunshine for the last time.

    BllllllEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP “A chorus of ‘good by brother’, filled the room”

    Doctor and nurses rush in, as the team of brothers leave.

    One mission down, One to go..

    Fourteen years later……………

    All twenty one on sat in the stands… This is graduation day!

    Semper Fidelis plays loudly, as the graduates march. The same song Barnes marched to over twenty years ago when he graduated boot camp.

    Scorp asked Augila, “ What do you think he would say right now?

    Augila looked out, seeing Sunshine (Barnes), march in cadence.

    “ Probably, ‘good job’ raising her, although I don’t think she needed twenty one fathers!”

    …….Laughter filled their stand……

    “Do you think she’ll wear his helmet?”

    Scorp responds, “Naaaa, shes talked to it for years, time to wear her own.”

  6. Apollo

    After ten weeks of searching we had finally found it. The island of the buried treasure, we had run aground in all the excitement which left us stranded for the time being. The captain didn’t seem to mind; in fact he was rather happy. Most men would have called him insane, but Jeramiah and me call him savage happy.
    When we finally landed on the island and found that our ship would not be going anywhere, the captain ordered us the start walking in search of the buried treasure. Three days went by and Jeramiah was starting to go stir crazy and we had nothing to show for it.
    “Did you hear that?” He shouted pulling the flintlock out of his worn leather belt. He turned around multiple times searching the trees for an invisible enemy. I laid a hand on his should and looked him in the eyes.
    “Jeramiah, peace brother there is nothing there but the wind.” He looked into my eyes as if trying to look for my soul. After a moment his face softened and he said
    “I am sorry brother, I am… tired. For we have been here three days and have not anything, not a jewel nor gold to please my troubled heart.” I smiled
    “Brother it is alright for I too am getting tired of this search…” out of the corner of my eye I spotted something. “Look there!” I pointed above the palm trees and there was a bell tower
    “Is that not the one from the map?” Jeramiah asked. We took the parchment map out and scanned the figures until we found the same bell tower right where the “X” was. “Then we have found it!” he shouted with joy.
    We started running as fast as we could not caring for anything that might be lurking in the palm tree jungle. As we neared the bell tower we found that it was still attached to what was left of a cathedral
    “It’s at least one hundred years of age.” I said staring is awe. We stopped in front of the old dilapidated wooden door. I looked at my brother who nodded at me and we entered. We were greeted with a dust cloud that plumed outward and the fluttering of pigeons. When the dust cleared we saw that there was nothing left in side except for a few broken pews and cold grey candles.
    “What does the map say brother?” Jeramiah asked. I unfolded it and looked around the page
    “Ah here is it.” I said flipping the page over “Over there” I pointed to the front. We walked to the alter that had fallen and pushed it to the side. We found that the ground was hollowed out and a strong box. We slowly opened the box when I heard the sound of a flint lock cocking behind my head.
    “Don’t turn around boy.” The gruff voice said
    “C-captain?” Then the shot of a flintlock hung deadly in the air.

  7. Bilbo Baggins

    JACK’S LAST DANCE

    Under the faint glow of a silvery sliver of moon we arrived, our minds buoyant on wild expectations and whiskey distilled so poorly a skull would vomit it up. I crouched low to the sanded slab of wood we called the forecastle and examined the small harbor. A sagging pier was thrust underneath a shadowy guard house I bet hadn’t boasted a single musket in years. The birds had abandoned this place, and even the palms didn’t dare to sway.

    “Here we are, crew,” Captain Indigo whispered, adding to the conspiratorial aura of the night. The crickets nearly drowned him out as we coasted towards the dock. “You got the shovels?”

    “Yessir, cap,” Dancing Jack whispers back, a black bandana tied round his small head. He was a twelve-year-old skeleton from the port district who’d joined us to make ends meet and tried to grow up too fast in the process. We’d found him spinning on a tabletop for cackling sailors at the Blue Cod. I had a feeling this was all a game to him, a treasure hunt. And it was.

    “Alright, I’m gonna pull in, and it’ll be short and sweet. No gawkin’ allowed.”

    A small smile whipped across Jack’s face. I knew that’s exactly what he would do. He would allow the glittering coins to slide through his thin fingers, the most money he’d held in his life. Once we loaded the chest into our two-by-two “hold” he would probably want to sit on top of it. I would reluctantly oblige, us being friends and all. I kept him safe from the captain’s ungainly side, which mostly showed itself on Saturday port nights when he’d stagger back from devouring our loot at brothels.

    The bow hit the small sand spit, and our mission had begun. Captain unfurled his sandy map, each of us clasping a shovel, his pistol in his belt as a welcome precaution.

    “This map states our treasure’s under the left side of this rock.” He gesticulated towards a rock, which I could barely see. It must be marked somehow, but the burning mist in my eyes doesn’t see a thing. Except for the stars, which are innumerable and speckled like flashes on a sunny wave.

    “I see it, Cap!” but Jack restrained himself from running over to it. We reached the tree line and I could see the faint red cross now, guarding the way into the dense forest beyond. It scared me somewhat. I could battle three Redcoats at once in the daylight but shivered when a shadow crossed my path.

    “Let’s not waste any time now,” he muttered, shoving aside the first dirt load.

    In silence I toil to move away more earth, a small abyss forming in-between our feet. We should’ve uncovered it by three feet down, but I let a calm sweat carry me on. I cast a subtle look behind me to the crumbling tower, the vined windows, and wonder if we are really alone.

    “Get down!” and I shove Jack to the ground, just in time for a stray bullet to rattle off a shovel. Raw thoughts tumble after. I should’ve known it was an ambush. Too easy, too abandoned. Too many enemies. Hot breath on sand almost covers up small shouts from the pier.

    “Let’s take ‘em, boys, and all they have with ‘em!” A heavy accent I know to be Captain Millish, a brusque character who prefers his sword bloody and his eggs heavily salted. His name spoken in a tavern results in an odd collection of gasps, tears, and stunning hatred.

    “Back to the boat!” Captain nearly stumbles over his feet, raises his pistol, and aims for the nearest coconut, and not on purpose. We haven’t sustained any major attacks in our years together, but it had to happen somehow. Just not when all his flasks were empty.

    Now it’s a race to see whether our boots can make it to our sloop before the bullets can. Seven dark trees jump off the pier, and I just now notice the long boat, twice the breadth of ours, its masts down, sequestered underneath a stray fallen beam. So stupid were we.

    A firecracker jumps around my shoulder, but Cap’s at the boat, his hat askew, and his white ring clinging desperately to his chin wrinkled in desperation. He tosses the rope to me, and I jump in, not caring if I fall hard against the poop.

    “Come on, Jack!” I glance wildly over to our pursuers, who are running along the sand, even some in the trees, muskets clumsily raised for the final showdown.

    Indigo’s more to the point. “Get in the boat, ya filthy vagabond!”

    That’s when I realize, in a split second, that he’s gone to retrieve his bandana, which had fallen near our shovels. I whip my head back, a forgotten cry rising through my throat, when I see the cruel flash of red from behind a trunk. Jack’s chest is thrust backwards from the blow, his arms collapsing inward.

    Indigo pushes us out from the beach, the rugged oars slicing into the night. A half of my body is over the edge, my arms grappling for a hope that doesn’t exist. With one molded shoe he shoves me in. Somewhere inside his wasted cheeks is the same thing that erupts violently as soon as my elbow comes over my eyes.

    “Nothing’s fair,” he finally breaks the silence when we’re a mile out. That’s all he says for the night.

    The undulating salt sea slowly turns our boat around to face the island. A slight rustle leads the palms in a wave. I can imagine Jack’s light soul sailing up to heaven on top of them.

    Or maybe it’s just the wind.

    GH

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Pulled me into your story with….”Under a faint glow of a silvery sliver of moon we arrived..” And immediately I was thrust in the small boat. Joined your crew on the quest, even dodged the bullets. ‘Tis a colorful tale you’ve woven, so descriptive, terrifying and fruitless. Really enjoyed it for an early dark morning read. Good job, Bilbo!

    2. lionetravail

      [Somewhere inside his wasted cheeks...."Nothing's fair," he finally breaks the silence... That's all he says for the night.]

      Gorgeous writing. Even the balls-tough, bad guys can feel deeply: loss, disillusionment, and that life just isn’t the party no matter how hard you try. The story’s great, but you breathed so much life into the characters, it’s frankly amazing.

  8. Augie

    “They left me!”

    I ran around checking every door and window.

    “I’m trapped!”

    Panic overcomes me. They have left me before, just never here!

    “Where is here?” What strange things live here?”

    The captain said, “we have a new ship!” He then tied a bandanna around my head and said, “check it out!”

    The instant I went below deck, he sealed the door above me. That’s what I get for trusting him!

    I run from cabin to cabin, my feet slipping on the wooden floor.

    “Yes!” I found one small window I could reach and peered out, “I can see them!”

    Steam from my breath clouds the window as I watch the captain and his first mate walk down the pier.

    “Abandoned!”

    I continue to circle from room to room. Memories of our adventures at sea together flood my mind. Now, I am alone.

    “Or am I?”

    My mind scatters and I start shaking looking towards the dark corners of this strange place.

    “Could there be rats here?”

    “They know I am terrified of rats!”

    I can see them laughing at me right now! They probably filled this place full of rats!

    Hearing voices outside, I cautiously peek out the window.

    Normally I would yell out in rage at strangers, only to be reprimanded by the captain.

    Little did he know, I only felt comfortable showing aggression when he was by my side. I am his best pirate and wanted him to see me as fearless.

    “Rats?”

    I lower my body and crawl through the cabin. My jaw shuttered as I attempted to contain myself.

    One thing about rats, you can smell them wherever they have been.

    “Treasure!” “That’s right!”

    The last thing the first mate said was, “ We left you a little treasure, but you have to find it!”

    Maybe that is what this is about! I am a master of finding buried treasure. But not once has the captain said, “good job!” He just laughs and takes it away from me!

    Maybe this is a test? If I find the treasure they will come back?

    “Hell with the rats!”

    I stood tall, and started the search.

    “Nope, not in here”

    “Nope, not in here”

    “Not in here either!”

    Then I saw it! Over in the dark corner was two old ragged socks forming an X. I move the socks out of the way and saw the small chest. The lid was already open revealing hundreds of tiny golden nuggets.

    “What a treasure!”

    Just as I was rejoicing, the door opened and I heard the Captain whistle and call me.

    “ Black beard, come here boy!” “He’s a good boy!”

    The captain fed me a hand full of golden nuggets and scratched my belly.

    I wagged my tail like never before.

  9. yaxomoxay

    Taken,
    from me.
    She was
    Carried away by a Moonlight Shadow.

    Jolly Rogers
    Wa-
    ves
    now over my
    existence.

    We are at the
    eks .
    Thousands of years since,
    Mark the spot the Lord said.
    What for – someone asked.
    The treasure the Lord said.
    What treasure – someone asked.
    Life indeed! the Lord said.

    We are at the spot.
    We are at Life.
    I found,
    De
    ca
    de
    nce.

    I found myself.
    Others found themselves.

    But,
    No trace of Her.
    Who that night was
    Carried away by a Moonlight

    Precious Gold,
    I looked for wealth,
    I found it.

    Important Science,
    I looked for knowledge,
    I found it.

    Mythical Fountain of Youth,
    I looked for immortality.
    I found it.

    Beloved Her,
    I looked for You,
    But, forever Carried away

    I Sailed the seas
    Traveled the galaxies
    Visited the numerous universes.
    No trace.

    Yesterday, Tomorrow and Now,
    Whenever
    And Everywhere.
    Searching.

    At least I found THIS,
    the punishing,
    the wicked,
    the thief.

    The vessel, the last ever she saw me, is now staring at me.
    I found you! Cursed
    Moonlight Shadow.

    1. jmcody

      I agree with Kerry that this is remarkable. I read it several times, and each time came up with a different interpretation. Here’s what I think — Let me know if I am even close: I think you are writing about something lost, or something that is missing, but it is not necessarily a woman. It’s something higher, something sacred, like truth, love, meaning, God. The yearning for this missing thing is part of the human condition. We search for it in the things this life has to offer — wealth, knowledge, beauty — but it is these very things, and the nature of this life that keeps us from it. And the more we look for it in the things of this world, the more elusive it becomes.

      Or maybe it is just about a girl and I need to get some sleep. :)

      I have just one question: What is “eks?” I didn’t understand that.

      Thank you for writing and sharing this. I loved it.

      1. yaxomoxay

        Thank you! Well, I am the author so I should be the last person to suggest an interpretation. If you want I can give you my personal reading.
        The only thing I will tell you is that “eks” was supposed to be “X” spelled out… I decided to go this way as to suggest that things mutate, even letters as the MC is in a far away future. I guess it didn’t work out! :)
        And yes… GO TO SLEEP! ;)

        1. jmcody

          That was going to be my next guess. ;) Oh well, I still loved it, even if I was dead wrong. And yes, I really would like to hear your take on it. I am intrigued.

          1. jmcody

            Just mentally slapped myself in the head. I bow to your mental acuity Mr Charlton. I do need more sleep.

        2. yaxomoxay

          Kerry, yes.
          She is dead, and She will never be back. I can’t tell you if Moonlight Shadow is Death herself, but it is a symbolical reference to it. The MC searched for Her, the one that gave him the meaning of his life, forever. He found eternal youth and whatever he wished for. Except the one he loves. Now, after millennia of “pirating” through any single point in the universes, he realizes – or accepts – that She died a long time ago. But the only thing he can do now is stand in front of Moonlight Shadow (or Death, or whatever has taken Her away from him) who is staring at him. Being immortal – remember, the Fountain of Youth – he can’t join her, as death/MS will just stare at him without ever taking him away, to her. His desire to extend his own life to search until he found her made him renounce to the only possibility he had to actually join her.
          And to give full credits, “Moonlight Shadow” is the title of an amazing song by Mike Oldfield. Check it on youtube if you don’t know it, it’s beautiful.

          1. jmcody

            So much better than what I said! I will definitely check out the Youtube video (when I am not at work.).

            See you on the new prompt!

  10. jmcody

    Hey, it’s two-fer Tuesday…
    ________________________________________________________________

    “Arrgh, cabin boy, be ye ever comin’ above board?”

    “I don’t wanna,” came the response from below.

    “We be plunderin’ for treasure today, matey.”

    “Seriously, Mom?”

    “Ethan, put down the iPad and come up here. NOW.”

    Ethan’s face appeared in the open hatch, squinting into the glare.

    “It’s a beautiful day and I don’t want you spending it playing video games. When I was fourteen I would have given my eyeteeth to go exploring on a deserted island.”

    Ethan gave an exaggerated eye roll. “Ugh, that’s so lame.”

    “Can you see your brain when you do that?” teased Paul, Ethan’s Dad.

    “Real funny, Dad…”

    Lisa sighed. This day was supposed to be about making family memories… memories that would outlast this perfect June day and sustain them through whatever lay ahead.

    The previous night they had docked in Orient on their way to Block Island. A tale overheard in town was all it took for Lisa to promptly announce a detour.

    Peregrine Island was little more than a spit of sand off the east end of Long Island, too small to show up on most maps. According to local legend, when Captain Kidd buried his famous treasure on nearby Gardiner’s Island in 1699, he also stopped at the tiny, uninhabited Peregrine Island. Too obscure for tourists and too corny for the locals, Peregrine Island attracted mostly eccentrics and history buffs bearing metal detectors and shovels. Lisa, Paul and Ethan would sail there armed with only a camera and a picnic lunch.

    “If I’m going to look like a Pirate, I might as well act like one,” Lisa had joked. She even picked up an eye patch and yet another new bandana in a local souvenir shop, much to Ethan’s terminal embarrassment.

    It was a perfect sailing day; a “rails in the water” kind of day. The wind carried them along at an exhilarating seven knots, and even Ethan had to smile as the boat keeled dramatically and he and Lisa clung to the starboard rail.

    “Ready about!” yelled Paul as the sails began to luff. “Ethan, grab the wheel,” he yelled as he bounded to port and began to wind the sheet.

    Lisa ducked under the boom to the opposite rail. It was good to see her two men working as a team. Lately there had been tension between them, and Ethan seemed angry so much of the time.

    The wind was blowing harder now and the water turned choppy. The forecast had seemed perfect, but the weather on the sound could be unpredictable in early June.

    “Look” Paul pointed to a line of black clouds on the horizon that was advancing at an alarming rate. The sails began to snap loudly in the wind.

    “We’re going to have to turn back.” Even Ethan seemed disappointed at this. “Ethan, man the wheel while I wind the sails. We’ll have to motor in.” No sooner had he said it, than an enormous gust sent the boat spinning. Ethan yanked the wheel hard, and a loud clank issued from somewhere under the cockpit.

    “Dad! The wheel!” yelled Ethan. “I think it’s stuck.”

    “Crap,” blurted Paul. “Ethan, you know better than to oversteer. Now the rudder’s stuck.”

    Ethan looked crushed as what had been a moment of family harmony turned suddenly dark. Paul grabbed the wheel from Ethan. The stuck rudder was causing the boat to turn in circles like a puppy chasing its tail. In the distance, forked lightning slashed at the ocean’s surface.

    Lisa struggled to wind the sails on the pitching and spinning deck. She had always been an able first mate, but now, weakened from the chemotherapy, she wasn’t fit for much more than ballast. She was grateful when Ethan took the sheet from her hand and finished cranking the winch. Spray drenched them both as a gust of wind stole the bandana from Lisa’s head. Ethan stared in horror for a moment. Lisa’s baldness was something none of them had quite gotten used to.

    The moment passed quickly, as an idea flashed through Ethan’s mind.

    “The manual tiller!”

    The Sirenuse was old boat, a thirty foot C&C from the 1970s that had been upgraded with modern steering sometime in the nineties. The original tiller was displayed on a wall in the galley. Ethan apparently had been listening to his Dad more than either of them realized.

    Ethan bounded down the steps and returned in an instant with the tiller. Jamming it in the notch in the cockpit floor, Ethan leaned on it with all his might, his slight frame fighting against the wind and waves. Paul watched in admiration as his son slowly succeeded in righting the boat.

    As they motored into Orient Harbor with the wall of black still behind them, Ethan said “Sorry about your treasure, Mom.” But Lisa had not left empty handed. She looked at her husband and son and she knew: They would be allright. Both of them. No matter what happened.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        One of your very best, JM. Heartwarming and true to the heart. Obviously, you’ve sailed a lot. Theres nothing like the quiet, the slapping of the waves at the bow and the silent rolls of the sea. Brings back a lot of memories from earlier days.

        Days and months at Avalon, a barrier island on the Jersey coast, while growing up every summer.

    1. jhowe

      This was really good. I started to suspect the cancer when Lisa had picked up yet another bandana. I could see this story gracing the pages of a magazine.

    2. Critique

      Jmcody you can tell a story! This was a poignant heart wrenching slice of life portrayed realistically with your writing skill. Amazing.

    3. snuzcook

      Touching tale, JM! Like so many of your stories, this was not only well-conceived and well-written, but a story worth telling. And worth reading. Thank you!

  11. yaminoanil

    I couldn’t believe it. We had finally arrived at the “X” that had clouded my thoughts and haunted my dreams for weeks. As I grabbed the shovel my mate held out, we shared a look. Nate had a dopey grin on his lips, eyes wild and glassy in excitement. A giddy giggle slipped out of my mouth, quite unbecoming for a sea dog, but when treasure lay so close, pride went by the wayside.

    We were gonna be filthy rich.

    “Ar’right you two!” The captain grunted, his eyes scanning the map while he figured the precise location of the treasure. After a moment, he seemed satisfied with the positioning and motioned us closer. “De booty be right ‘ere. Get ta work!” he snarled, the trace of a grin on his bearded face.

    We dug for hours. The sun, which had been high above, was now beginning to slide into the sea, the sky turning red and purple. My hands were red and sore from the work and blisters were already forming. I drew my hand back to wipe my forehead, wishing I were hidden away on the ship like the captain, who had taken care to hide it near the cliffside. I knew he would be eating supper by now and I felt a flash of hot envy for a moment.

    But only a moment, for a soon as I dug my shovel into the earth once more, I felt something hard and unyielding, unlike the soft sand around it. I hit it again harder and looked up at Nate to see his gaze trained on mine, a stupid grin eating his face. We share a laugh and dig anew, uncaring of the blisters and blood slipping between the creases of our hands.

    It did not take long for us to unearth it and took us little effort to haul it out of the hole, powered as we were by greed. Nate inspects the lock and find it rusted and old. He quickly smashes the sharp end of the shovel to it and the lock falls away easily. Nate stares up at me and I stare at him. Then we are rushing for the lid, our greedy fingers ripping it open, our eyes blinded for a moment with glee.

    The glee is quickly replaced by shock and I feel my jaw drop. No. This can’t be it.

    My hands push away the top layer of worthless junk, seeking the bottom of the trunk, where surely the treasure lay. It takes only a second to realize that there was nothing else there. I fall to my knees and hear Nate let out a choked whimper.

    No.

    At sundown the captain came, the light of his torch finding us before his eyes did. He paused, unsure of what he was seeing. “What de hell dere, lads?” He rumbles, face twisted in angered confusion.

    Nate lets out a titter and flutters his lashes. “Don’t you just love it, cap’n? Ain’t we the prettiest girls ye ever did see?” he simpers. His hand comes up to adjust his powdered wig and the captain’s face displays a mix of horror and revulsion.

    I laugh and laugh and dance around the captain, surely scaring him when my shrieks of laughter turn to sobs. “Only dese wigs cap’n! Only dese wigs!” I repeat over and over.

    1. jmcody

      I thought this one was going to turn tragic, but it was actually kind of funny, in a tragic way. :). I loved the reveal with the wigs, and couldn’t help hoping there were some lovely gowns in that trunk too. You shifted from past to present tense about halfway through, but other than that it flowed well and was engagingly written. Thanks, I enjoyed it!

      1. yaminoanil

        Yeah I realized I changed tense after I posted it. It was weird, because as I was writing, I felt a bit confused. But there is no edit button as far as I know, hahaha. Thank you very much for your comment. :)

  12. jatin

    ‘hey look.. island’ sam shouted.. I rubbed my eyes and woke up.
    ‘Captain .. captain wake up, look whats rite there’.
    Captain too found it difficult to open the eyes. Actually if we recollect last night, we all had agreed we will be going back as its been weeks we were following these bullshit map and found nothing. We were all set to move back the other direction leaving this plan.
    We all agreed that this map was not going to find us any treasure.
    Captain opened his eyes wide and saw island what sam found. We started towards the island.
    An excitement ran through our minds as we got closer.
    ‘ hope we find the treasure’ sam said.
    We all got down and started looking for X mark . we divided ourselves in three different direction and started searching.
    Half a day passed away and we found nothing, we still kept searching..
    Its sun setting now and we all were hungry and had nothing much to eat also. We survived drinking the water we had.
    After hour we heard the call from captain ‘hey look.. here’ i ran towards the call. I saw captains face gone numb, and he pointed his finger up towards the tree branch.
    Dead bodies of 3 pirates were hung.
    We were clueless and within few seconds we heard a call from sam
    ‘Guys..come fast look what I found’ , we left from there and ran towards the direction sam had gone.
    We got to see a pond where around 100 dead bodies were lying.
    ‘Isn’t it interesting’ sam asked..
    ‘Interesting are you out of your mind? Captain questioned sam.
    ‘No I think you dint notice these dead bodies’ sam replied
    Look all these bodies has ‘X’- mark on there face in red blood.
    Looking at the dead bodies it felt they all have been killed recently.
    ‘Hey do u remember all three bodies hung up there also had this distinctive feature of X- mark on their face’ Captain said
    ‘tree? Bodies? What the hell are you talking’ sam asked.
    ‘I think this is the killer over here who makes this mark on the face once he kills them’ I said
    ‘or may be he must be making x mark and then killing them’ sam intervened.
    ‘Whatever sam’ captain said.
    ‘Hey the x mark is the same what we have on this map.. look’ sam showed us.
    We were scared like hell and we found shadow of someone falling off behind the tree.
    We all hided ourselves behind trees. An old lady of around 60-65 with scary face came and took one body out of that mini pool of bodies and returned. Her face was covered with blood, seemed she took away the body for her lunch.
    We relaxed for a while and stepped back, as soon as we turned back.. we saw 20 odd guys in blood stained clothes with same X mark.
    and they all shouted in chorus “April Fool.”

  13. Licius Cashmere

    Once upon a time there were three pirates, they called themselves the pirates of the east coast. They loved finding stuff. some of them even hide stuff just so that they could find it in a couple days. One day Captain BLue belt found a map. The scudder thought that it was cool, and he asked him if he could help in the treasure hunt. All the pirates were bored, because they were too good at finding stuff, that all the treasure buried in the sand was gone, they have found it all. The captain asked me if I wanted to join him, and find the map. The map told us that we had to go west. Captain Blue belt was a little worry about that, because there was a reason that they were called the east coast pirates, and that reason was that they were abandoned from the west coast., The only way to get into the west coast was to pass the ocean cops.During this millennium most of the people lived in the ocean, they only go to land for food. For the pirates to pass the cop, they had to dress up as something that is not a pirate.

    I figured out that there was only one way to get into the west coast, and that was to act like boating traveler, the boating travelers were like pirate, but they were cleaner, and they were well organized. For the plan to work, the boat had to cleaned up. The crew thought that it was a bad idea and bolted out of the ship. The crew we’re not into the whole cleaning thing, so that left us too me, the captain, and old scudder. The scudder thought that it would be his chance to finally help with a treasure map, and maybe he’ll move up from making food too the captains left hand man.

    After we cleaned up the ship, we went off for the west coast. We finally entered the west coast, and not a minute later the cops showed up, and asked all this crazy questions. We got in, which was a big deal for the captain, because he was not going without a fight. We find the island. it was beautiful, it wa the first time that I have seen the west islands.

    we settled in for a day, and the next day, we went of to find the treasure. we have battled a lot of things in our life, traps, and more, but I have never seen this stuff. there were glue trap, leave traps, alligator traps and more. I was scared, but when the day came for us to find the treasure I was worth it. we followed the instructions very well, and we finally find the X mark. When we dug up the whole, we found a chest, and in that chest was dozens of eggs, and they were not broken.

  14. Observer Tim

    The crew of the Bloody Shrike trudged ashore on the oversized sandspit between the islands of Wyntle and Yanzibar. As the map indicated, the island was home to a small rock outcropping, three palm trees and the world’s ugliest tortoise.

    Captain Jack Bastord (you could tell he was Captain because of his hat) laughed and started singing.

    “Fifteen men on a dead…”

    Mad Steven interrupted him with a snarl. “But Cap’n, there’s not fifteen of us!”

    “I count for ten, you lazy scupper. And with you and Oily Bill that’s…”

    All of them struggled with the math. Oily Bill finally chimed in. “Twelve, I think.”

    “What about Smilin’ Pete?”

    “Thirteen then, Cap’n.”

    That settled, the Cap’n started again. “Thirteen men on a dead man’s chest; yo-ho-ho an’ a bottle’a rum!”

    “This in’t rum! It’s barely grog!” Mad Steven knew his alcohol. They’d come all the way to this godforsaken island in search of treasure and hard liquor, and so far neither had been produced.

    “Yer can have some o’ my special stock when we get back to the ship, then.”

    The pirate was placated somewhat. “Awl right then, but not the stuff Oily Bill pissed in.”

    “I never! An’ I ain’t diggin’ neither.”

    “You’ll dig, Bill, or it’s the plank!”

    “Ha! Who walks the plank on land?”

    “Who said anythin’ about walkin’? I’ll smack ye in the head with it!”

    “Why can’t Smilin’ Pete dig?”

    “Cause e’s got no arms. Pete, get up on that rock and watch fer inter-lopers.”

    Mad Steven reached into his sack and took out Smilin’ Pete, the best-polished skull on the Spanish Main. He put him on top of the rock where he’d have a good view of the sea. Meanwhile Oily Bill took out the shovels. When Steven retuned he got one.

    “Why ain’t you diggin’?” asked Mad Steven to the Cap’n.

    “I ain’t too agile with this hook hand.” Jack used his good hand to brush his eyepatch. He’d had two good eyes until the day he got an itch.

    Soon Bill and Steven were digging with gusto (and shovels). All three wondered what they would find: Dubloons? Sovereigns? Florins?

    It didn’t take long to strike wood. All three helped hoist the trunk out of its sandy pit. It had everything a pirate could want in a treasure chest. It was large and it was heavy. The Cap’n hit the lock with his hook hand then pulled the chest open.

    “Thanks immensely, lads! It was getting stuffy in there.” The man was thin and effete, smartly dressed in an officer’s uniform.

    “Who be you, Fancy Pants?” The Cap’n wanted no truck with this.

    “Captain David Jones, Esquire. Here to bring proper civilization to the age of sail.”

    Mad Steven’s shovel struck him in back of his head. Cap’n Jack stuffed the reeling man back into the trunk, which Oily Bill then nailed shut.

    “Now,” said the Cap’n, “We dump this in the deepest part o’ the sea!”
    __

    And that, young’uns, is why we call it “Davy Jones’ Locker.” The Old Storyteller stood up and headed for his room as the kids ran off to bed.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Three stooges meet Observer Tim and all chaos erupts. I loved smilin’ Pete also. A fine lookout he is! Favorite line: ” Awl right then, but not the stuff that Oily Pete pissed in”. Are you sure this group isn’t in charge of Obama Care?

    1. Critique

      This was wonderful Observer Tim. I love it when a story has me laughing. Made my day.
      The difficulties counting, the plank and the eye patch mishap… it was all great. :) Thank you.

    2. Observer Tim

      And here’s a sequel that came to me while supervising a room full of people taking a test…
      ____

      The Contest

      It was the greatest gathering of bloodthirsty cutthroats that Tortuga had ever seen. Everybody who would kill anybody was there, for a challenge had been issued. Smilin’ Pete had thrown down the gauntlet before the one and only Jolly Roger.

      There was a hush of the type found whenever freebooters gathered, which is to say a noisy and rambunctious hush. Beer was flowing and curses were passed around freely. Everyone was in a fine old mood.

      Captain Redbeard set Roger down on a table and his supporters cheered. Roger had been polished to an immaculate lustre; he was truly the exemplar of skull-kind. All his parts were there save for one chipped tooth, which had been capped with a brilliant diamond.

      Captain Jack Bastord set his first mate Smilin’ Pete down next. Perhaps not as many cheered Pete, but pirates love an underdog. He had been polished to such a gleaming shine that many present couldn’t look directly at him for the glare, even if their eyes could focus properly. Unlike Roger, Pete didn’t need any special dental work.

      The two skulls faced each other silently. It was a stare down: the first to blink or look away would be lose. The winner would have his picture on the pirate flag for the next decade. While Pete and Roger focused their glowers on each other, the pirates cheered them on with toasts of beer, grog, and rum.

      The skulls had been staring each other down for over an hour when Vicious Sid turned to Ponce de Shiv-in-yer-Liver and made a comment about his mother. Ponce, despite his name, couldn’t let that sort of insult stand unanswered. He swung his hook at Sid, who promptly pulled off his own wooden leg and swung it at Ponce like a baseball bat (or maybe a cricket bat; sources are unclear).
      The brawl was on. Pirates bit and kicked each other, and several ended up being poked in the eye patch. Hooks clawed at air and flesh, and parrots and monkeys retreated to the relative safety of the rafters. And so the brawl continued until Bluebeard shouted it to a halt.

      “AHRRR! It’s over lads!” He bellowed. “Smilin’ Pete has forfeited and Jolly Roger wins!”

      Jolly Roger smiled smugly, still safely perched on the table. Calico Jack had fallen on Smilin’ Pete’s table, flipping the table and sending poor Pete flying in a perfect parabolic arc which dropped him into the barkeep’s half-full rum barrel.

      Jolly Roger’s face stayed on all the flags, but it was generally acknowledged among those present that Smilin’ Pete was the real winner that day.

        1. Critique

          I didn’t notice the repeat word I was so engrossed in the story. Very entertaining :)
          I know what you mean though – I hit post and then boom, I realize I’ve used the same word when another might have lent more color to the story. No worries though, onwards and upwards in the writing stream :)

          1. Kerry Charlton

            This is no small work of art. This is your best I’ve read in a long time. All the time I was reading it, my mind went back to when I was in college. We had Sigma Chi parties very similiar to your story. The Sigma Nu house was across the street and we’d battle just for the hell of it.

            You can imagine what kind of education, my poor brain received at the greatest party school on the East coast, The University Of Miami. Oh, for the good old day laddie!

      1. jmcody

        This be yar loony, Tim. I enjoyed every minute of it, from the Pirate math to the skull stare down. A keel haul of fun be your brain. Or something like that.

    3. lionetravail

      I saw the comments, but have had little time in the last day or two, Observer Tim, and wanted to save this for when I did. It certainly does not disappoint- very funny and well written! The difficulty with math, the 2 eyes until he got an itch, and Smilin’ Pete’s reveal were all pretty much perfectly impish nods at the pirate mystique- nice job with this little piece of folklore as to how the locker got its name :)

  15. Critique

    The morning sun dazzled the glassy sea as Maren wiped the spyglass on her shirt before scanning the horizon. Her body jolted with excitement causing the jib boom to bounce ominously.

    “Land ahoy!” Holding the spyglass with her teeth she slithered down from her perch.

    “Cap’n Sully! Inger! I’ve seen land.” She shouted as her bare feet hit the deck.

    Inger clambered half awake out of her hammock when she heard the commotion.

    “Gimme that.” Captain Sully’s large hand snatched the eye piece from Maren.

    Three sets of feet pounded across the deck in frenzied drumming as they raced for the prow of the ship.

    The captain arrived first. Lowering the spyglass he smacked the ship’s rail with his hand. “Avast me hearties. There be treasure waiting.”

    Inger scrutinized the crumpled map she dug from the pocket of her breeches. She held it out.“Take a look.”

    Maren sang a Norwegian ditty and linked arms with Inger to dance a jig – their too big breeches billowing like mini sails.

    The anchored ship was far behind them when they hauled the rowboat up on the rocky shoreline of the island.

    “Take care me hearties.” Captain Sully’s protective attitude towards his female Norwegian swashbucklers was comical as they were more skilled at sword fighting and had killed more men than he had.

    Nevertheless the comradely charade was comforting in light of their dire circumstances. They were sick and starving when Maren spotted the listing ship.

    Quietly boarding they found two fat cats, hordes of rats and the skeletal remains of crew members. Before fleeing the cursed ship, they ransacked it. Inger discovered the treasure map in a trunk full of clothes.

    Now, with visions of wealth and easy living cluttering their senses, they grabbed their adzes and rope and set off across the hot sand. The map led them to the base of a cliff. They started digging.

    Inger found the box. On their hands and knees they lifted a small wooden container out of the hole.

    “Vell mateys.” Maren broke the stunned silence. “You vant me to open dis ting?”

    With the tip of her cutlass she easily pried the lid off.

    Sully and Inger collapsed disillusioned onto the sand.

    Inside was a pouch that contained a letter, a Bible and small sack of gold coins. Maren the only literate one smoothed the paper with dirty fingers.

    “In March of 1789 the RS Soleil sank near this island. I, Poirot Puget the sole survivor, being of sound mind do hereby bequeath my vast estate and vineyard to the person that finds this. I too am dying of scurvy and soon to meet my maker.”

    Maren studied herself and her emaciated shipmates lying in their filthy rags on the sand.

    “You vant a life fighting over rats and rations of vatered down rum?” She thrust the letter out to them. “Or a fine life vit enough vine to sink a fleet of ships?”

    1. margi33

      Great writing Critique. This was easy to read and was entertaining. The dialogue was good & accents well written. I especially liked the line, “their too big breeches billowing like mini sails.” — nice visual. I’d like to find a note bequeathing me a vineyard :)

        1. Kerry Charlton

          So did I, Critique, a jolly good show. The dialogue was dead on,the comradely was fun to read about. Inept stories are always the best and this one of them.

          1. Critique

            Thank you Kerry. Glad you liked the jolly show. And I always appreciate suggestions on what’s good and what’s not working in my writing :)

    2. Marc Ellis

      I liked your different approach to the treasure. I am wondering if you are foreshadowing a similar fate for this crew encountered by the landowner? Are they doomed to inherit the land and die just like the previous owner? A crew of Norwegian females was an interesting take as well.

    3. jmcody

      If there’s anything wrong with this, I can’t find it. It was crisp and lively, and completely original. It bounced along like a rubber raft in the surf (in a good way!). I loved your Norwegian pirate girls and their perfectly imagined accents. This is some excellent writing, Critique.

  16. Augie

    I could smell the sweat rolling off the captains head as he walked in front of me. It wasn’t the smell of a man exerting himself over the rectangle mountain, it was the smell of fear. After losing our entire crew last week, I play the memory over and over again in my head. I cant make sense out of it! The last thing I wanted to do was find this island and look for a treasure. What if there are more of them? My grip tightens on my musket as I recall the morning that we first saw the ship.

    We had a full crew, and needed every hand to navigate and operate our 24 pounder long guns and sails. With every nation rushing to colonize and claim territory around the globe, business was good for a pirate. I got a bad feeling the minute I saw the strange ship over the horizon. The entire ship was a dull red with a few brown blotches. A faded “ EEN EA E.” was all that identified the ship. It had no flag nor sails.

    The captain ordered full sail, “SHOW THEM OUR TEETH!” With the wind speeding us closer, the deck filled with my comrades ready to commandeer. Then a loud booming voice came from the merchant ship. “ I sail in peace, and am on a mission! This is your warning!”

    The deck filled with laughter at the silly threat, there wasn’t a single cannon his ship! Our captain ordered a full broadside and our ship leaned in response to the blasting cannons. The gun crews immediately began the re-load process in the blinding smoke.

    Loud snaps and cracks came from the merchant ship, like a thousand muskets firing! I could hear men on deck scream in agony through the thick smoke. Once the smoke cleared, I saw the damage. The mizzen mast was shredded with tiny holes and every man on deck was shredded as well. Our once white sails, were now painted in blood.

    Then the booming voice came again, “ I sail in peace!”

    I aimed the bow chaser towards the voice and fired.

    The captain and I went aboard the ship expecting to find hundreds of men with muskets. Neither of us mentioned the lack of damage from our cannons. There was no damage, and no men. Just the remains of one body hit by the 24 pound canon ball. His wrist was chained to a small leather box. Inside the box was a set of keys and a diagram with ‘BLUESTEEL SITE’ written on it and multiple maps. That could only mean precious metal! We tried to access the strange ship, but the iron doors were all locked.

    The island looked like a man made mountain had collapsed. The rocks and stones were not a natural shape. Then we found the X, painted on a large iron door in the ground. Well, it looked like the X on our map. To me, it looked more like three red triangles around a circle. The captain used the key and with all our effort we raised the door.

    Surprisingly, it was light inside with small orbs of light equally spaced down the twisting tunnels. Eventually the tunnels led to a very large room. The walls were illuminated with green rotating screens and tiny red flashing flashing. We looked at each other in confusion when I saw two more strange X’s. We inserted and turned our keys at the same time and the entire room lit up. In the distance sirens were blasting. Large red letters appeared between us on the wall.

    ACTIVATION KEYS AUTHENTUICATED

    LAST ACTIVATION 11/22/2025 at 16:45

    400 SILOS IN STANDBY

    I looked at the captain, “That cant be a date! 2025 was hundreds of years ago!”

    At that moment, a green button with, ‘Disarm’ and a red button with, ‘launch’ rose from the table.

    Well, a pirate never disarms!

    1. lionetravail

      Hey Augie! Nice job with this… was a little confusing at first, as it seemed to be set back in the age of piracy as history knew it, but your reveal suggested that the age of piracy had returned in some distant future long after the bunkers were forgotten. It’s a great reveal, actually, and the “Pirate never disarms” (I mentally put a “yar!” in at the end of that) is a fantastic end…. we can all too well imagine what happens next.

      If I had any request, it would be for a tiny hint in the beginning that it was the far future, one that teases without giving away too much so that it gives the reveal it’s own “OH! THAT’S what that was!” moment at the end. Otherwise, great work!

      1. Augie

        Thank you very much! This is my first time posting and I had a 30 minute lunch break to get it done. I attempted to give hints of an iron ship covered in rust without sails and that only the remains of EEN EAE (green peace) could be seen. And the fact that a automatic weapon was used. But your right, after posting I saw many ways to make it better and also a few typos, ‘red flashing lights, not red flashing, flashing. I really enjoyed the challenge and look forward to next week.

        1. Augie

          BTW, I laugh now because I thought all post had to be on Monday! The most rewarding thing about this experience is reading everyone’s post. Amazing talent! I wish I would have known about this along time ago.

  17. lionetravail

    (A little over the limit, but wanted to try a second response)

    “Bring us in slow, Derek,” the Captain said. “Park us right alongside and match rotation just at the local coordinates.”

    A woman of few words, she’d just said more than she had in the past week. Since our third, Wraith, was a mute, it was a good thing I didn’t mind long stretches of quiet. It gave me lots of time to think.

    I didn’t need the Captain’s direction, being wired directly into the Pat Hand and its sensors. The asteroid was rotating in all three dimensions and with sharp mountainous jags, and could shred our hull like it was made of puff pastry if I screwed up.

    I didn’t screw up.

    I heard the Captain exhale softly. She touched a button on her command console, and spoke into the intercom. “Wraith.”

    I heard Wraith enter the bridge. He was a brilliant engineer, and mute due to severe vocal cord injury during a decompression about 10 years ago. I still wasn’t sure which characteristic the Captain prized more.

    “We’re here, Wraith,” she said, pointing at the map we’d taken as salvage from the derelict ‘Errant Thought’, which she’d put up on the monitor.

    Something indistinct from the engineer, but damned if the Captain didn’t somehow understand.

    “I know,” she said.

    I didn’t, so I said: “What?”

    She looked annoyed at having to speak. “He doesn’t like the fact that there were only corpses on the ‘Errant’, and the last place they’d recorded visiting was here.”

    I saw Wraith nod vehemently. “But, their log said they found a lode of platinum in that spot below us, and we found them a hundred thousand kilometers away,” I said. “Plenty of space for something to happen.”

    The Captain said nothing for a moment, just looked at Wraith, then back at me.

    Wraith made an unhappy noise.

    “Scan?” she said to me.

    I turned my attention to the external sensors, taking, in turn, visual readings throughout the spectrum the ship could process, and experiencing electromagnetic probes back as a sensation of touch. “No radiation,” I said. “There’s something dense underneath the carbonaceous surface, about 10 meters deep and measuring roughly 20 by 40 meters. Best match in reference log is platinum.”

    Nobody said anything for a few minutes, and the Captain heaved a sigh. “Wraith, please go EVA.”

    He made an unhappy sound, but nodded and went out. A few minutes later, cameras showed him suited in the airlock, carrying a compact device with multiple . He cycled it, and went out, tethered to the ship.

    With tiny jets of compressed air, he moved to the asteroid, settled, and activated the drill he’d brought with him. I watched as it began to eat into the surface with ultrasonic fragmentation, suctioning up and sorting the chemicals it took.

    I saw the composition stream changed to show platinum”Treasure ahoy,” I said with a laugh.

    The Captain only grunted something indistinct.

    Hours passed as Wraith and his drill proceeded to work a healthy chunk of the platinum out of the asteroid. When he’d amassed the capacity of the drill, a solid 5 kilograms, he deactivated it and made the trip back to us, re-entering.

    I watched the airlock cycle, and whistled. “At current prices, we’re talking 1.3 million credits just for what we took, and there’s tons more waiting! In fact…”

    She shook her head. “No, we’ve got enough.”

    “Enough? We could each be richer than …”

    “It’s enough,” she replied, her mouth a thin line.
    *************

    I brought the ship close enough for the sensors to give me a visual feed. “It’s a small skip-miner called the Pat Hand”, I said.

    “Bring us in alongside, Tracy,” Captain Mitchum said. “And she’s not answering hails?”

    I shook my head. “And nothing on scan.”

    “Salvage!” he said, excitedly.

    I had a sudden bad feeling about this….

    1. lionetravail

      Wow, I should have edited much more. *faceplant* I was trying like hell to cut words down from the nearly 900 I started with, and missed places where I chopped and didn’t patch. Mea culpa, friends.

      Right after EVA, the next sentence should conclude… “with multiple containers.”

      Also, fix sentence: “I saw the composition stream changed…” to “I saw when the composition stream changed over to primarily platinum.”
      (sighs)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You packed a lot in this story including back story, I’m surprised you got it down to the level you did. A very entertaining Sci-fi piece. Kind of a ghost story with it. It also is a very visual piece of writing

        1. lionetravail

          Thanks for the kind words, Kerry… I actually loved the earliest version I had, in which I indulged a bit in richness of language. This story though… the ‘ghost story’ feel articulates perfectly what I wanted to say, but wasn’t sure what to call. On the plus side, I think I want to expand this one out, well beyond the word count- I wrote it with an idea as to why things were happening to the crew, but left it out as a sort of tantalizing McGuffin.

          I may need a volunteer reader or two once I get the expanded version done :)

          1. lionetravail

            Kerry, I sent a private message through the forum console to establish contact :) And thanks, in advance.

      2. Marc Ellis

        Intriguing story. I like the futuristic twist to a ghost-ship horror story. Did the captain know something when she said it was enough? Did she have other motivations? Did she suspect a curse and thought she could avoid it by limiting their greed?

    2. jmcody

      I agree this was intriguing. This was great sci fi, and I love that you added an element of the paranormal. The mute character was a fitting touch that helped ratchet up the tension. The switch in POV at the end jarred me for a moment, but I got over it — it’s nothing that couldn’t be smoothed over with a less restrictive word count. Excellent writing!

    3. lionetravail

      Marc! You mean you couldn’t guess what I saw in my head? Heh, I’m totally kidding, of course- I had to leave the answers to your questions in the words I cut to get down somewhere in the reasonable-transgression-of-the-word-count range :) With this version, I think it’s best to leave it a mystery, but let’s just say that the Captain’s spidey sense was tingling, and the expanded version has the platinum collected at 99% pure… and she asks “What the heck is the 1% that’s not platinum??”

      And thank you, jmcody, for the kind comments as well. I admit the POV switch caused me some angst, but I probably should have titled that section “Epilogue” to make it more clear. Have done that in the expanded version already.

      Thanks everyone, really! You’ve totally inspired me to chuck the word count to hell and expand this story off site :)

    4. k.spicer

      Wow, this was nicely done. I like the futuristic story line, although you couldn’t quite fit it into this format, but I would have read the whole thing given the chance. I liked it! I could see you turning this one into a short story. Good luck.

    5. Critique

      Vivid pictures developed in my mind’s eye when I read this story. My imagination is piqued… what happens to Pat Hand? The mute Wraith added a colorful element to the story. Superb.

      1. lionetravail

        Thanks guys! Well, the Pat Hand is found as a derelict, so something bad happened to its crew. I imagine that the new ship’s crew will find a map to a certain asteroid still in the Hand’s computers… muahahahahahah.

  18. Sarah Pancakes

    “Arrg mattes! Off to the tresurer!” yelled captain Freddy. He was always a good leader of the group; he was strong and good willed bit kind and caring as well. We all shuffled through the hot sand to get to the hidden burial spot.

    “Yes sir!” his mattes shout out after, running ahead. The sand was hot and crunchy between their toes. There were 4 of them all together; there was Freddy, the oldest and boldest. Mark, the second eldest, he was quiet but more clever then the rest. Amanda, the tomboy she could kick anyone of those boys butts. And Chloe, she was the princess and always had a sassy attitude. The trudged forward to the end of the sandbox, it was blocked with a large, red, wooden barrier that was hot to the touch because it had been out in the sun all day.

    “We are stuck!” Chloe shouted at Freddy. “We can’t get passed!” Freddy came over and looked at what was in their way. He slightly touched the top and jerked it back after the pain of the heat hit his fingertips, he thought while sucking in his finger.

    “I know! Get sand and cover it!” He instated, and they all did, making a big hill over the wooden trap and off to the treasure. There feet went from hot to cool as they stepped off from sand and into cool grass.

    “Watch out!” Mark yelled while pointing to a figure in the distance. A dark shadow was in the distance, taller then they and was skinny. Shiny like metal and a large green tongue that spit out water.

    “It’s a spitty lizard!” shouted Amanda, “Don’t worry! I will get him!” she said while pushing up her half sleeve to her shoulder. She quickly jumped onto the end of the tongue and began to twist and turn as if she were hurting it. Soon after the whole show she preformed the tongue stopped spitting, the was kicking and rolling around so much that in the commotion she had accidentally kicked the green tongue and put a dent in it, stopping it from spitting at the. “Yeah! That what I am talking bout!” She screamed with joy. Everyone joined in her celebration for saving them. There next challenge was to clime the great wall.

    They all just stood there, looking at the top at aw. Until Freddy broke the silence, “Ok lets go!”

    “I don’t know Fred,” said mark “It looks kinda high, and my daddy said no to.” He never liked to cross his dad.

    “Fine, Come on babies! To the tresurer”

    “To the treasurer!” they all repeated. And all began to climb; it wasn’t until about half way up when Chloe looked down. “I didn’t think it would be so high!” she said as she began to cry, the cry that was heard from all the way in though, causing the parents to come outside.

    “Freddy! What did I say about climbing the wall? Your not old enough yet!”

    1. Cindy_The_Great

      I enjoyed the fact that the woman was so heroic, and she saved them all, very cool! A few grammatical errors, but your plot is wonderful!

    2. jmcody

      The image of Amanda rolling up her sleeve to take on the lizard was amusing. I liked how yo unkept this convincingly in the POV of children. Cute story.

  19. The Kcirps

    Dear Elizabeth,

    We have finally found the island were the treasure was at. I tell you my love today was a rough day. It started with a shout from the captain saying
    “Gods be praised we have found it boys; we have found the lost island!” I run up to the bow to see the island that is near to impossible to find and like Cap said there she was a beautiful island. We come to the shore line where it was unlanded, except for the people who buried their treasure here once before. “We must move on and find the king of all treasure” said Cap. I have to say my love I have near see the Captain so happy or so joyfull on finding treasure. For the years I have known him he was sad and distasteful, But today he was so energized. Cap pulled out the map we took from the ship weeks ago and started to read it. The clues were hard to figure out and it never help that it is written in german. We went through the clues like an ant in molasse. The first clue I didn’t even understand what to do Cap just told me what to do. We spent hours climbing rock and walking through river and turning around because we went the wrong way. I truly thought that we would never find the king of all treasure that this map we stole was a loop map which lead us in circles.

    I do not write you because we didn’t find the treasure. I am writing you because we did and for all the hour we spent looking for it. I say this it was not worth it! We made it to the last marker on the map(so I hoped) witch was at were the base of the volcano meet with the start of the waterfall it was the best view I have ever since other than you face when I wake in the morning. The Cap said that we needed to go down the waterfall about 20 feet or so and there would be a hole where we must enter. So we do and the cave leads to a lava pond and on the other side you can see a chest. My love we walked around the pond to the chest and we open it you would never believe what it was it was some type of a blue print. Were a man can sit down and poop in a hole and when the man was done he could just pull a lever and the poop would go down this a pipe and come out somewhere else. The man would never have to leave his home. Cap was so mad he through it into the lava pond and he said we never talk about this again. Now we are moving to nassau to sell some animal skins we got on the island.

    Sincerely,
    Your Lover

    1. lionetravail

      Heya The Kcirps! Thanks for writing- just a few suggestions for smoothness. There are some tense changes, present to past, which disrupt your letter’s tone and message. Example: it’s a letter to Elizabeth, and “We found the island…” starts it as a recollection in the past tense, but then he says “I run up to the bow” which is present.

      Also, you have some sentences which repeat words, and so could be a smoother read. “Gods be praised we have found it boys; we have found the lost island!” I run up to the bow to see the island that is near to impossible to find and like Cap said there she was a beautiful island…. repeating ‘island’ 3 times in the same sentence/sentences will detract from your writing.

      It was an entertaining reveal about finding the plans for a modern toilet, however!

  20. CrAzy 8thz

    There was once a farmer who had lazy sons. On his deathbed he told them that there was a treasure buried in the vineyard. He encouraged them to search for it after he had passed away.
    The sons thought that there must be a box of gold and jewels buried in the ground and so they dug up every inch of the vineyard trying to find the treasure spot! After many years of searching, they never found the spot where any treasure was hidden. However, all of their digging effectively cultivated the ground in the vineyard. Soon the grapevines produced such abundant fruit that the three lazy sons grew wealthy, unwittingly, from their own hard work!

    1. jmcody

      I’m just repeating what everyone else said, but it really does sound like a classic fable, and it should be one! Now I am trying to figure out how I can apply this logic to get my kids to do some housework…

      Short but sweet, Crazy 8thz!

  21. gamefreak17

    As we were walking to the X, we all started to get ideas on what we were going to find inside or what we were going to do with it with the riches lying inside the chest.Patchy the pirate was getting ideas of replacing his leg with a golden peg leg. Our captain One Eye Willie was talking about buying the whole ocean so he can rule the seven seas.

    “Argh here lyes the X,now start digging men.I wants to see me gold.” One eye Willie said.

    Patchy threw me a shovel to dig with.We started to dig deep into the sand.Just waiting to hit the buried treasure. The whole time we were digging the Captain was just staring and yelling. It just made me want to find the chest, shoot the captain in the head and run away with the treasure, but I know that he has men that will back him up. Already 5 minutes into digging we finally hit something hard. We dug even more and found the chest.

    “Alright men bring the chest up to me.” The captain said.

    The chest was really heavy, so I knew right away that we were going to be rich. Patchy gives the key to the captain and Patchy and I just sat back and waited. The captain opened up the lid and found another chest, Patchy and I looked at each other confused. The captain opened up the next chest and found a smaller chest inside. The captain opened up the next chest and found an envelope inside.The captain opened it up and found another treasure map.

    1. Jeannie Rosemont

      I love how this was a bit shorter than the others, but it got the point across. It couldn’t be done another way in my opinion. I also loved the twist at the end. Very engaging. Nice job!

  22. Lilly Wheatfield

    Treasure. That’s why we are here. I left my country… my family for treasure. Actually I left for money, the treasure was just a bonus. A bonus we found when we ransacked and looted another ship. Usually one would feel guilty for looting a ship, but what can I say? Hard times make people desperate. My family was desperate. We lived -all five of us- in a small shack, with barely enough money to get by. That’s why I left, so I can get money to support my family. It took us forever to find this island. The island where our treasure is buried. I have to say, this is a nice place. Clear blue water, white sandy beaches, bright green jungle, and a nice warm sun. This seems like paradise. So much better than that rainy, cold country I came from.

    “Oy! Davy! Over ‘ere mate!” Captain William shouted at me. I looked up to see the Captain and his brother Finn far ahead of me. I rush over to them.

    “Aye, Captain.” I say as I approach them.

    “I said we stick together, mate.” Captain said, glaring down at me.

    “Yes Captain,” I say looking down “Sorry, sir.” They both just ignored me and walked ahead. I followed close behind. I looked around, trying to take in the new surrounding. This place is truly gorgeous. If I had brought my family with me, I would love to make this place our home. If only we knew how to survive out here.

    “Ahem.” Finn cleared his throat, bringing me out of my daydream. I looked up at him, with a questioning gaze.

    “Yes, Finn?” I ask looking at him, annoyed.

    “Davy, we aren’t paying you to daydream.” Finn sneered at me. I don’t know why, but Finn has something against me. He has been teasing me, and pushing me around this whole time. We continue to walk, for what seems like hours. Until we finally find what we’re look’in for.

    “Aye, mates. X marks the spot.” The Captain says. We excitedly grab our shovels and start to dig. It took a while, but we finally hit it. It was huge! We used a shovel, to pry the lock off. We open the lid and inside was the most gold we have ever seen. There was so much more gold than we ever expected to find. The Captain and Finn grabbed some of the gold coins, just looking and feeling them all. Nothing but pure joy on everyone’s face. But suddenly, those looks of pure joy turned into something so different. First it was a look of confusion, then panic, then terror. The Captain and his brother seemed to turn as pale as the white sand, and they were gasping like a fish out of water. Thats when it hit me. The treasure had been poisoned.

  23. k.spicer

    It’s happening again. As we finally reach the summit of the island, I glance down at the map that we had taken from the old merchant ship those many days ago. The map was limp and soaked as much from my sweaty hands as from the humidity. It happens the same every time, I look up at the palm trees that span upward in opposite directions and form a near perfect cross on the cliff’s edge. “This is the spot” I say with a slight bit of excitement in my voice. It’s as much enthusiasm as I can muster after the steep climb to the peak.
    “Ah, what’s that smell?” The First Mate says holding his hand over his nose and mouth. “It smells like the gates of death.”
    The Captain looks around with a sudden jerk. “It’s the Devil.” He says narrowing his eyes. “It’s the Devil himself…I’d know his smell anywhere.”
    “Over there.” I say pointing toward a huge stone. “The map says our reward will be behind that stone.”
    We walk the short distance toward the stone. “The only way to get behind this rock is to climb up to the top.” The First Mate says. “It looks easy enough to climb, but…” He glances toward the Captain as if to question the wisdom of climbing up to the top.
    “We’ve come too far to turn back now.” The Captain says motioning toward the stones face. “After you, mates.”
    Reaching the top we are nearly overwhelmed by the odor as we stand to our feet and look down into an open ditch behind the huge stone. Wiping the sweat from my brow I look around at the Captain who stands motionless; his mouth agape. “Is that who I think it is?” I ask.
    “Aye,” The Captain says with a worried look on his face. “It’s my old friend Black Beard, and by the looks of him, he hasn’t fared well.”
    “What does it mean?” The First Mate says realizing the danger we are in.
    “What indeed.” The Captain says. “It looks as if his whole crew has met with the same fate.”
    As the sound of air whooshes by my ear the First Mate gives a gasp as he looks down at the arrow protruding from his chest. Several more whooshes go by my ears as the captain grunts and falls into the open pit joining his old friend with the black beard. The last thing I remember is the pressure in my chest as I fall to the ground. All I can see is the figure hovering above me looking down at me with cold black eyes. Paralyzed by pain and fear I watch as the tall figurer places a boot against my chest and heaves roughly sending me falling into the pit. “Enjoy your eternal reward.” Those are the last words I hear as I fall the short distance; only to find myself arriving at the island summit… where it all starts over again… again.

    1. Cindy_The_Great

      Wow, this was very creative. Well written, i really enjoyed this. So i’m guessing the characters were trapped in hell or a limbo of some sort? Great story.

  24. Marc Ellis

    Happy Monday morning to you all.

    Tiggles, Binney, and Captain Bonerazor were arguably the three most pathetic pirates in the Caribbean. Did they terrorize small coastal villages? No. They were chased away by housewives with pots, pans, and rolling pins. Did they strike fear in the hearts of men of other seafaring vessels? Not a chance. Their most recent attempt at ransacking a small fishing boat resulted in severe beatings and being left at sea in a small dingy stripped to their skivvies.

    Tiggles was the only one of the three with any redeemable pirating talents. He had sticky fingers. And this is how they found themselves stranded at sea, practically naked and sunburnt, and in the possession of the fish boat captain’s spare wooded peg leg.

    After several weeks of floating to nowhere, Binney said, “Of all the things to steal…a peg leg?”

    “Aye, and a mighty fine one it is my boy,” said Captain Bonerazor. The captain was entirely blind and wore a black silk patch over each eye. Beside his boxers, he was allowed to keep his patches and a large purple hat with a long plumage that now hung in front of his face. “A daring deed like this will live in pirating annals for generations. Binney, you would do well to learn from a man like Mr. Tiggles.”

    Binney grunted in response. He was contemplating his exposed navel which was several inches in front of where it should be. “What good is that leg to us now?” he snapped.

    Tiggles rolled and flipped the peg leg like a toy. Though a frequent activity to pass the time, today he noticed a phrase engraved on the brass tip. It said, “When all else fails….” He tried to pull the tip off, but it wouldn’t budge. He discovered that he could twist the tip, and it started to screw off like a cap.

    Eventually, the brass cap came loose revealing an unusual compass and a cavity inside the leg. The compass had no lettering or marking and had a single metallic red arrow that perpetually spun in circles. Inside the leg, Tiggles found a small parchment with a rough sketch of an island with six palm trees crudely draw in its center. At the base of the palm trees an “X” was drawn.

    “Thar ye go Mr. Tiggles. You have yerself a treasure map!” said Captain Bonerazor. “We must begin our journey in the morning!” The captain turned around as if he was staring out to sea and didn’t say another word until the next morning.

    The three men eventually drifted off to sleep like they had the last 20 or so nights rocked by the waves under the stars. However, the next morning they woke moored on the shore of a tiny island. The island was uninhabited and completely barren other than six palm trees standing in its center.

    “We’ve arrived,” said the Captain. “Have ye’ the map, Mr. Tiggles?”

    Tiggles jumped to his feet. “Aye, Aye Sir.”

    “Well let’s go then lad,” said Captain Bonerazor.

    Tiggles led the band of three toward the trees. The map wasn’t really necessary at this point; however, he did notice that the spinning of compass needle started to slow as they approached the trees.

    When the three were within a few paces of the trees, Captain Bonerazor bellowed, “Best start yer digg’n here me fellows.”

    With only their bare hands to dig through the sand, Tiggles and Binney pursued the treasure. It wasn’t long until their fingers scraped to top of a black wooden chest. The chest was not locked, and the lid easily flipped open. The chest was empty other than a large rubber plug at the bottom with a metal ring to pull it free. Attached to the ring was a ribbon embroidered with golden letters than spelled, “When all else fails…pull the plug.”

    Suddenly, a loud low voice from the sky said, “There is nothing else we can do for him. It’s time to let him go.” The voice was followed with the sound of a woman weeping.

    “What the hell is going on?” screamed Binney. “Pull the plug. Pull the plug. Pull…that…damn …plug!”

    Captain Bonerazor sat in the sand with a snarled grin nodding in approval. “Pull it Mr. Tiggles. It’s been an honor to sail with you.”

    Tiggles slowly crawled to the chest and firmly grasped the metal ring at the top of the plug. He closed his eyes and started to pull. A hissing sound emerged as it began to come free. There was a pop, and Tiggles fell back into the sand. Water rose from inside the chest and began to swallow the men.

    Tiggles looked toward Captain Bonerazor who was now looking at him with uncovered, healthy, blue eyes. “Be seeing you on the other side laddie,” said the captain.

    1. Cindy_The_Great

      As i was reading it, i found the captain suspicious because it seemed like he could actually see things. Well done, and the beginning made me laugh. I really enjoyed the bit about the peg leg, very funny!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’m with Cindy, funny and in a spell at the same time. Loved the description of the captain. He materialized with your writing, oh what a sorry sight he was. Bunglers, all and all.

    2. margi33

      I loved the images created in the first few paragraphs — especially the ones of the three of them sitting in their undies and that purple feathered hat. Priceless. This was really comical. Nice creativity on the peg leg having a treasure map inside and the lead up to that. Nice flow and nice writing. Though, I have to admit, I am a little unclear as to what happened at the end. I am a little slow on the uptake sometimes, so maybe it’s just me ;)

      1. Marc Ellis

        Thank you margi33. Yes, I left a lot of the story untold. I was already long on words, so I was hoping the main ideas would come across with what was left. I guess I made it too confusing. The main premise is Tiggles is the fantasy character of a man’s dream who is on life support. As he is dreaming he is the pirate Tiggles, the voices are the doctors and family discussing his imminent demise. Captain Bonerazor is a Grim-reaper-like character waiting to take the man to “the other side.” The plug in the island is then the proverbial life support “plug.” I’ll try better next time.

        1. margi33

          Very cool idea, and certainly would be hard to convey in so many words without an info dump. I enjoyed it none-the-less. Thanks for the extra explanation!

    3. Critique

      Your descriptions of the bungling trio were very funny – had me laughing then feeling a little with confused. I’m thinking that the not-so-blind Captain planned the whole thing to rid himself of his mateys?

    4. jmcody

      Happy Tuesday to you! I definitely got the idea that someone was in the throes of death and probably hallucinating when the plug was pulled, but I thought maybe they were all dying on the boat. The beginning was funny, as the others have said. For some reason the captain with two eye patches struck was as being so absurdly funny and illustrating what a failure of a pirate he was. Nice, crisp writing and very entertaining.

      1. Marc Ellis

        Thanks for the comments jmcody. I’m glad you noticed the “crossing over” idea. I thought about naming Bonerazor Charon and naming their dingy or the island Acheron from Dante’s Inferno, but I wanted this story to be lighter/less serious than the Divine Comedy.

  25. pinkbamboo

    I decided just to wing it. Note : no knowledge on pirates

    **********

    I glanced over across the deck where Captain Manuel stood and looked down at the map in my hand. X marked the spot. What could possibly be under the X?

    Captain Manuel just came back from a voyage not long ago. Neptune and I went on board with him and no one else. Sometimes I wonder if he was going to throw us overboard in the middle of the sea but he shoved the map in my hand, pointed to the X and then at us three. Man of few words but that clearly indicated the treasure was to be split between us.

    I tried asking the Captain but all he gave me was a grunt followed by some mumblings which I couldn’t catch but not willing to ask again, fearing that I might anger him. Then I won’t get my share of the buried treasure. I glanced at him again and the sparkle from his ring caught my eye. His hat was crooked and he had that smirk on his face. Maybe cause he knew too that we were near the X.

    I walked over to Neptune, the other only pirate on the ship and asked him the same question.

    Did Captain Manuel tell you about the X? He shook his head and I frowned. Neptune was always the smiling one but today, he had a stern expression with his face looking forward as he steered the ship. Captain Manuel barked at us that he need a rest before he disappeared under.

    Neptune took a cautionary glance before lowering his voice. He told me how much more we can get if we leave the Captain out of the share. A mutiny. As I considered that option, I became more convinced that me and Neptune were able to take down the old captain. The treasure would be ours, divided half. I nodded and Neptune pointed to the shovel.

    Once we got out of the ship, Captain Manuel led us to the X spot. He seemed to knew his directions pretty well. He was chuckling the whole way and pointed to the ground from one end to the other. Neptune and I glanced at each other with a smile, delighted that the chest was so huge and knowing we were minutes away from being filthy rich.

    We started digging for a whole good thirty minutes before we hit something. This was it. As I kept shoveling the dirt, I had a feeling we were being tricked, that this was not the right X spot but Captain Manuel kept barking at us. When we were done, I stepped back with disgust.

    This was not treasure. Laying in dirt was a skeleton with bits of shredded cloth on it. I turned to Neptune and he threw his shovel angrily on the ground. In that moment, I saw his face turned from rage to confusion and pure fear. Then, I felt goosebumps when I heard the chuckle and saw the ring sparkling on the skeletal finger.

    1. Reaper

      If you had not mentioned not knowing anything about pirates I would have just assumed you were focusing on the ghost story aspect of this. Nicely done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You did a good job here, pinkbamboo. A chilling ending. What happens next? Is the ring the key to the treasure and how will the secret be told? You need a follow up story so the ghost can rest. They always want to rest. If I were a spirit I’d run around peekin’ and scarin’ the hell out of every one, with one exception, ‘the dazzlin’ maidens.’

  26. Bilbo Baggins

    PHOENIX

    The maroon sun fell slowly, crammed with purple majesty, and spreading a weathered shadow on Captain’s metal cheek. We were 500 miles from Wellington and a semiautomatic was leveled in my bulky arms.

    “What’s HQ gotta say about the map?”

    First Mate Quinxton raised a cigarette to his frame and puffed. Every night I’d hear him below-decks, coughing for hours, adjusting his lubricants.

    “Just to follow it to the source.”
    “Source? Seems like a diversion to me. We’re straying from our duties.”

    To be honest, I’d prefer scouring empty ocean to gunning down refugees, but that was just me. Captain Dix shot a look at me.

    “Did you see the look that humanoid had? He was guarding that map with his life.”

    “Whatever you say, Cap.” I noticed his eastward glance and tightened my grip on the rail in time for the acceleration. Our foils cut hard to port, slicing though the cyan bubbles.

    I saw Quinxton mimicking me near the cabin door and ignored him. Ever since we left New Pacifica he’d been this way. The thought came of reporting him, but I let it go. We would work things out.

    I leaned against the gunwale and stared into the breeze. With no land blocking it for hundreds of miles, the winds were extremely powerful out here. Around five minutes after, in complete silence except for the flag, I spotted it—a pale brown dot, sticking almost reluctantly out of the ocean.

    “Land ho!” I bellowed. Quinxton resurfaced. Dix slowed the boat to 20 knots and began to watch out for reefs, as he always did. He didn’t want a repeat of when we hit a stray turtle near Kathmandu and our foils nearly slid off.

    “Quinxton, I want you to sweep the island.”

    He nodded, grabbed a rope and tossed it to me. I was hoping we hadn’t come this far for nothing. The three of us needed any loot we found, to buy our way out of the Pacific district and onto more exciting ventures. I’d heard that thousands of revolutionaries still remained in Brazilian forests. That remained a distant dream.

    As we neared the shore, I hopped out, the tide washing around my whirring leg. A lone crab scattered for shelter as I sank into the fine sand, tying the rope around a tree. Captain shut the engine off and clambered out.

    “This map says our treasure lies under a palm tree…” he trailed, gazing around. A bird swooped down to gather a twig.

    “Must be this one here!”
    “It has a red X on it!”

    Scrambling over rocks, our search of the island was abandoned. Quinxton began digging. Captain took over, until the hole was five feet deep, and then he hit something hard and large.

    “Help me get it out,” he grunted, scraping of dust.

    “I suggest you don’t,” another voice said behind us, coupled by the familiar cock of a pistol.
    Captain spoke up, hand on his rifle. “Who are you?!”

    “The name’s Abner,” he stated gruffly, with about as much sympathy as a storm cloud. His scruffy beard accentuated his high, sunburned forehead, with narrowed brown pupils. “Now, I’ll allow you ten seconds to get your pitiful tin carcasses off my island.”

    Cap and I raised our guns and Abner barely stiffened. I had a feeling this man could be chased by an army and crack a rum bottle.

    “Correction,” Cap said. “You have ten seconds before we blow you to pieces. This island rightfully belongs to the Empire. You have no business here.”

    “Oh, yes, I do,” regaining his cocky demeanor. “I was given the duty of watching over this treasure by Morgan himself, and I intend to do so until my dying day.”

    We exchanged glances. “Morgan’s dead—killed in a nuclear explosion outside Chesma. We’ve been cleaning up refugees for years. The humanoids are losing.”

    “What of McHaill?”
    “McHaill was found in a barn a few hours outside Tousaint– and tortured to death.”

    Finally, his shoulders drooped. “Then there is no hope.” His eyes moved beyond the horizon. “I should’ve known the ties of tyranny were too strong.”

    “So, can we take the treasure? We won’t harm you.”
    “Yeah, you can take it. It’s worth nothing now.”

    He waved his hand, beginning for a small cave.

    “Can you stay the night with us?” I knew Cap had an ulterior motive, but I kept silent.

    “Might as well sleep with my enemies as well as talk to them.”
    He moseyed off to gather some firewood for warmth.

    “What are you getting at here, Cap?” I harshly whispered over his arm.

    “This guy knew Morgan personally. If he can give us some more puzzle pieces—we’ve got it made.”

    “I don’t think this guy’s too keen of being played.”
    “We’ll take care of that when it comes up. Don’t worry.”

    And so we did. He returned with an armload of tinder and a murky disposition. Over the crackle of warm embers we peered over the box’s contents, items he called “relics from the past”, including a ‘television’ and ‘radio’. We even coaxed him into telling his story to us, about when Project Union was just in its beginning stages, before the District War, and freedom was still alive and well, in the form of a wounded factory worker and two lone army deserters.

    (You don’t want to know how long this is. Sorry I let it slide, but my next one will be in the limit.) GH

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I really liked this Bilbo. It is well written and appears as a tale told late at night around a crackling camp fire. I hope there’s more to come in part two.

      1. Bilbo Baggins

        Thanks, Kerry! This is actually a follow up to my ‘Union’ series and my other story, ‘The Unfortunates’, which was two prompts ago. All four of them are combined in one story, so hopefully it’s not too confusing. This one takes place six years after the other stories do, so I’m going to go back next prompt and fill you in. It turns out that Project Union is more nefarious than anyone thinks…

    2. Reaper

      I didn’t initially realize this was a follow up, but then when I saw you say it was it made perfect sense. This is wonderful Bilbo. I love that keep managing to tell more of this story within the prompts themselves. You have the skills. Definitely looking forward to more on this.

    3. jmcody

      I really love these dystopian stories that seem to take place in the past, present and future all at once, as if the human race has advanced so far yet regressed due to its own foolishness. The clues as to the humanoids’ non-human identity were clever, like the captain’s metal cheek. Keep it comng, Bilbo!

  27. Doug Langille

    THE LAST DAYS OF THE MARCY BELL
    ================================

    Officially, the Marcy Bell was a salvage rig, licensed for Canadian and international waters but not American. Since 9/11, it was only through a sea of red tape that non-government ships could comb the shoals. For independents, it was impossible. MacKenzie was an honest man– Hell they all were, but, as captain, he had to keep the bank happy. He’d missed last payroll and it was just me and Sam left for the last trip out before the storm season hit. Marcy was a fine tub, but a little long in the tooth for winter work, especially in the middle of the North Atlantic.

    As acting ship’s engineer and damn near everything else, it fell to me to spark up the navigation box we pilfered from the Caribou yesterday. We’d come across our competitor’s abandoned boat just inside the border. Aside from the Coast Guard beacon, it was lifeless and taking on water. Feeling a brazen and little desperate, we came abreast and boarded. Sam noted severe hull damage; it’d be under water in an hour. There was no bounty aboard so Mac and I disconnected the bridge gear and we pointed Marcy towards Sable.

    Mac and Sam were on the bridge drinking homemade hooch while I worked on cracking the Caribou’s last testament. IA didn’t get much: a set of GPS coordinates and a garbled message. The bow heaved as I climbed the ladder and my stomach lurched as it sank deep in to a trough. Hopefully, we’d pass the stormfront on the east. Skirt around to Saint John’s for fuel, then back out to complete the loop to Chester. That was the plan anyway. I looked at the scrap of paper in my hand. Nope.

    “Mac,” I said. “Where’s Sam?” I looked at his bleary eyes and sweaty face. “You okay, Cap?”

    “I’m fine. Lousy hooch.” Mac nodded afore. “He’s on the deck. Prayer hour.”

    “In this toss?”

    “Yeah, well, he has his God. We have ours. We’re pointed his way.” have looked at my note. “Any luck?”

    “Just these coordinates.” I handed him the note. “The Caribou’s last heading before she floundered.”

    “That’s in the center of the fucking gyre, Andy.”

    “Yeah, no shit, Cap.”

    I don’t know why I didn’t give him the other note. It didn’t make sense. The message fragment had scraps about both a claims bouy and a warning one. I needed a score like everyone else.

    “We have enough fuel, Andy.”

    “Yessir, the port stop was for some better grub and to replace some safety gear. We can head to the garbage patch and back to Chester. We’ll be dodging the storm but should be okay. The models are stable.”

    Mac nodded. “Do it. I’m going to sleep this shit off.”

    “Good idea, Mac. You look sick.”

    He started down the ladder but stopped, hands still on the door’s bulkhead. “Andy?”

    “Yes?”

    “Don’t tell Sam about the coordinates. Not yet.”

    “Why not?”

    “Not sure. There’s something off about him since we left the wreck.”

    “What do I tell him then? His sister–”

    He waved me off with his fingers. “I know. Blame it on the weather,” he said as he disappeared to his quarters.

    The weather, I thought. Right.

    TO BE CONTINUED…

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Welcome back Doug. Where have you been? I loved chapter one. Can you post chapter two this week or do we have to keep reading one and wonderin’?

        1. Doug Langille

          Thanks, Kerry and switchgoose. I usually finish these up on my blog so as to not clutter this page with my word droppings.

          It’s been an busy month or so. I plan on doubling-back and doing the prompts I missed.

  28. Cindy_The_Great

    “Do you idiots want to just sit there and complain all day, or do you want to be like that cool guy in Pirates of the Caribbean”?

    “Cool guy in Pirates of the Caribbean”, we both said in unison.

    Jason was playing the captain this time around as we went venturing through the woods looking for things others left behind. I could tell he was pissed at me because I brought my younger sister along, but I couldn’t just leave her in the house. We had just moved here, and Jason was the only friend I had so far. We were both freshmen and had most of the same classes. My sister attended the junior high not too far from our high school. Our grandmother had owned this land, which my mother inherited and had lived in before she married dad. When our mother died of a heart attack 3 months ago, our father moved us here, I think in an attempt to keep us close to a piece of her. As Leila, Jason, and I ran through my family’s woods, I wondered how many times my mother had years ago when she was our age.

    Jason’s sudden stop broke through my thoughts as he knelt down and started poking at the dirt with a long stick he liked to call ‘the plank’. He took the pirate thing a little too seriously, in my opinion, especially for someone our age. I never made a habit on commenting on his immaturity because I was desperate for a friend, even if he had the mental capacity of a rock. My sister shot me a side glance, knowing what I was thinking. I shrugged and mouthed “just go with it”.

    “It’s nothing, more crap as usual. Just some tarnished rings and… hey look at this” Jason said, swiping the dirt away revealing a small wooden box buried near the foot of a huge white ash tree.

    I looked up at the tree remembering my mother telling me about it years ago when I was younger. She told me there was a huge one where she had lived as a child, and that she would always sit underneath it and write in her diary. She had even had a small tattoo of the tree on her wrist, much to the dismay of her mother at the time. She had told me it was there she felt the most freedom. I knew instantly this was the tree she had spoken of. Leila and I knelt beside Jason as he began to open the wooden box, revealing jewelry, a few photos and some CDs.

    “It’s pictures of some little girl. Looks like they were taken like 30 years ago. Nevermind, more junk.” Jason tossed the photos aside in frustration. Leila looked at me again knowing who the little girl was in the photos. It was our mom. The box had belonged to her it seemed, along with the jewelry and CDs.

    “I’ll take it” Leila said. “I mean, I like the jewelry and stuff”. She was trying to cover for me, knowing it would look weird if I had been the one between the two of us wanting to keep a box full of a woman’s things. We both didn’t want Jason to know it belonged to our mother, it wasn’t his business, and she didn’t deserve someone besides us going through her stuff.

    “Go ahead, there’s not a damn thing of value in there I can guarantee that. This whole thing has become boring, we’ve been searching for hours. No… I’ve been searching while princess Leia and Luke over here just follow me around. I’m going home. I’ll catch you later David”.

    “It’s LEILA, not Leia!” snapped Leila as Jason turned his back to us, walking in the opposite direction to his house.

    “It’s a Star Wars reference idiot” he yelled, his back still turned.

    I shook my head at the two of them and walked home with my sister, holding the wooden box beneath my arm, noticing it had begun to rain.

    When we got home Leila took the jewelry out of the box and started to wear it, while staring at the photos of mom. I looked at the photos for some time myself, but found that it made me too sad to watch images of her at any age. I quickly turned my attention to the CDs. My mother and I had loved to dance when I was younger, so I knew the CDs were probably a mix of her favorite songs as a child. Our father wouldn’t be home from work till after 9, and it was only 6:15, so I could play the music as loud as I wanted in my room without disturbing him. When he would come home from his shifts at the hospital, he was often too tired to hold a conversation with us, and the noise would bother him easily. I eagerly put the CD into the stereo, waiting for it to play but it wouldn’t. I even flipped it on the other side, as it had no markings to indicate which the correct side for playing the disc was. Neither side worked in the CD player. I took a chance, and put it into our DVD player, thinking it may not even be a cd after all. I realized I was right as the DVD player read the disc and began loading for it to play.

    I sat back looking at the screen for about 15 straight minutes seeing nothing but pitch darkness until it started to flicker and I saw my mother’s face. She seemed like she was positioning something in front of her; the camera. She was startled by something, someone coming near the door. I recognized it was my parent’s old bedroom in our previous house. She shifted the camera towards the bed and laid down quickly pretending to sleep. Her eyes had looked puffy with bags underneath them. This had to have been a few months before she died, when her health had started to deteriorate. At no surprise my father walked in, calling her name softly to see if she was awake. The camera must have been hidden, because at no point did he look directly at it, however it was on him the whole time. I continued to watch the screen as he brought her a soup that he had made along with some orange juice. I began to wonder why she filmed this, and then my heart sank.

    My father stood beside my mother’s nightstand pouring three different liquids into her soup and orange juice. He then gave her a shot of the same concoction in her arm, and as she struggled he threatened another shot of whatever deadly mixture he gave her.

    I quickly shut off the TV, tears running down my face. Why hadn’t she told anyone, why did he do this?

    My first thought was to run as fast as I could to Leila’s room, and call the police. As I was about to get up, I saw something shift in the dark reflection of the television. My eyes inched upward, knowing the tall dark figure standing behind me was not Leila. The hair stood up on the back of my neck, seeing my father standing behind me, his face full of hatred, and his shirt stained with blood. I yelled out for Leila, but no answer. I inched backwards as he walked towards me ….

    By: Cindy Morren

    1. Reaper

      There are just no words to do this justice. All I’m going to say is this reads like Clive Barker doing a modern adaption of a Poe story.

    2. jhowe

      Wow, this was good. Your style is fabulous, so precise and easy to read. I did wonder though, how the DVDs go into the buried box. Did the father put them there?

    3. Marc Ellis

      The was fabulously terrifying. You had emotions going all over the place. It had such a strong, sentimental tone throughout and then you ended it with absolute horror. Fantastic post.

  29. snuzcook

    I’m thinking someone has to say it:

    Happy Day to all you Mothers out there, real and metaphorical (you know who you are).

    We, your gifted, quirky, rebellious, creative children salute you!

  30. jmcody

    THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE

    We must be fools, I thought as we dove into the shadowy mouth of the grotto. The truth was we could not help following Leucosia any more than the tides could resist the pull of the moon.

    They called us Pirates, but we were rebels – exiles from the tyranny of the new world order, forced to scavenge the seas for our sustenance. We had expected to find only crumbs left by the soldiers on the abandoned ship. Instead we found the beautiful Leucosia keening for her lost treasure behind the curtain of her long black hair. The soldiers, she told us, had gone mad from the sound of her grief and hurled themselves into the sea.

    Leucosia. The name itself was rebellion, awash in the mythology and history that was so threatening to the government. Only English names were allowed now— vacuous ones like Twig and Placid. Differences were shunned so that we might better serve the Common Good. No longer were there Saints or heroes, or even monsters. Children studied computer repair and riot control, as literature, art, history and religion could only lead to unrest.

    Lucosia promised us a share in her treasure if we would help retrieve it, but we would have done her bidding with no reward. Something in her blue-green eyes, some long-lost secret as deep and ancient as the sea itself compelled us to follow her.

    From the start, it was clear she preferred Gill, our captain, but Canyon grew impatient for his share in Leucosia’s treasure. He approached her cabin one night, and upon being turned away, dove headlong into the sea. We never saw Canyon again, and we learned the fearsome power of Leucosia’s emotions.

    Now, on this rocky, uninhabited Mediterranean outpost, Leucosia and I followed Gill as he dove down into the grotto. Inside, scattered rays of sunlight split the turquoise water, illuminating the cave with an otherworldly, phosphorescent glow. Something shimmered on a rock ledge.

    “There!” said Leucosia. She swam over and retrieved a shell that held a single pearl on a silver chain. She fastened it around her neck.

    “I am the last of Le Sirenuse,” she confessed, “The Sirens.”

    An ancient memory floated to my consciousness, from a time before I was called Wade. The Sirens were mythical creatures whose irresistible singing lured sailors to their deaths. No mere mortal could hear the Siren’s song and survive. If any man did, the Siren would die.

    “Men’s hearts have turned so cold that my singing no longer affects them. When the soldiers came for me, I dared not use my voice. I emptied my power into this pearl instead, and hid it here.”

    Fear surged like ice water through my veins at the thought of Leucosia regaining her singing voice.

    “You must understand,” she said. “The Sirens’ singing did not kill sailors. It guided them into the next world, sweetly and without pain.

    She turned to Gill. “It is a better world than this one. Come there with me now.”

    “But how?”

    “If even one man resists my singing, I will be released from this world.” She turned her gaze on me. “Salvatore,” she used my outlawed name, “You are the strong one, the fierce one, and yet your heart is not hardened. But you will resist because you have a mission to fulfill.”

    “And you,” she smiled at Gill, “Your heart is full of magic and poetry. Abandon yourself completely to my song and you will live with me in paradise.”

    Gill looked into Leucosia’s iridescent eyes and nodded, and as she began to sing, the water began to rise. The sound of beauty filled the grotto, echoing off rock walls and wrapping its tendrils around me, pulling me down into sweet, welcoming oblivion.

    Salvatore. I heard my name — my real name – whispered in some long-forgotten tongue, and I understood: I am not Wade. I am Salvatore, and my name means Savior.

    I swam with all my strength, and did not stop until I surfaced outside the grotto. In the silence, I headed for the loneliness of my ship, certain at last of my name and my destiny.

        1. Marc Ellis

          This was a magical and mystical story. I really enjoyed the read. It was like reading a Greek mythology with a modern twist. I would like to read more and see where you might continue to develop some of the symbolism you seem to have started.

    1. kj6hvc

      I loved this so much. There’s a history and back-story here that could easily frame a narrative for a series of novels. Magic & technology, an oppressive government, a rebel/pirate with a mission & a destiny. The style & voice here are fantastic. The piece is well-written.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I drifted into your spell you wove, jm.It is a magical, mystical song of the sirens. I’ve been fascinated by the lore for so many years, I jumped right into your story and bacame part of it from one sentence to the next.

        It is the most romantic thing I have ever read from you. To write a story as you have, takes a very special gift. You couldn’t learn to write this way without it.
        I’m on my knees with this.

        1. jmcody

          Wow, I’m so glad you liked it because I was worried that it was a little too ponderous and exposition-heavy.

          You’re right Kerry — this is the closest thing to romance that I’ve written so far. I actually toned down the romance a bit… some of what I had written was making me blush. Gotta have a talk with my inner Catholic school marm. :)

      2. jmcody

        Thank you kj! I was a little taken with these themes myself, but found it difficult to do within the word limit. I’m so glad you liked it!

    2. snuzcook

      Wonderful! And frankly, the italics worked for me (like words seen through water).
      The style was beautifully romantic and drew from so many iconic concepts. The use of name, of voice, of reclaiming identity–all very powerful devices. Brava!

    3. margi33

      Your exposition is so poetical and visual I enjoy reading it. Most people’s back-story and world-building in a short piece would bore me, but yours does not. I also liked the emphasis on their names, past and present to indicate the changes they had been through and that were to come. A very interesting touch. And as a huge fan of fantasy, this piece interested me overall and would make a good full story. Nice job.

      1. jmcody

        I almost trashed this several times because I couldn’t figure out how to convey the backstory in 500 words (or even 700 :) ) without boring everyone to death. I think I ended up overreaching a little with this, but it kind of grabbed me so I went with it Maybe next time I’ll focus on limiting it to a “scene” like the prompt directions say! Thanks for the thoughtful and encouraging feedback.

    4. Bilbo Baggins

      Coming back into the forum after a few days of rest, I almost leaped for joy when I saw you’d posted. This is quite close to romance, as Kerry mentioned, but it was so much more. You really tied together an oppressive dystopia and that mythology well. It seemed like it was part of one of those old storybooks with gold lettering and a dusty spine. He is finally fulfilling his real identity. Revolutionaries unite!

      1. rle

        JMC, you’ve painted another vivid picture in my mind. If this had been a weaker story line, the italics might have distracted me a bit, but quite frankly, I hardly noticed. Lately it seems you can do no wrong! Nice work…again!

        Regarding our nearly simeltaneous posts…well…humm…kinda strange, but also sort of fun at the same time. Let’s see what happens next week!

        1. jmcody

          Are you my doppelganger?

          You are too kind. I do lots of stuff wrong. Every time I hit post I know that as soon as it is irretrievable I will notice everything that’s wrong with it. The Post button is the great teacher here. :)

        1. switchgoose

          I’m not sure what else to say that hasn’t been said except that was so pretty. The imagery was amazing throughout. As I read your story, I could picture the characters and the setting so clearly that I felt I was aboard the ship and in the water with them. The ending, though beautiful, is haunting me. And it shouldn’t be any other way. Well done!

    5. Reaper

      My eyes are tilted slightly to the right now! Since you brought it up I had to make fun of the italics. Likely it is a missing slash / in the italics off part of it. But I’m not html wiz which is the reason I never used them, at least you were brave enough to try.

      This is amazing. I too liked the romance aspect to it. I also loved the end for Wade. The world you painted was scary and reminiscent of so many great stories (Orwell, episodes of the twilight zone, Bradbury) and yet so distinct from them. The slight twist on the Sirens and turning this one into a guardian of men, and lonely one at that was beautiful. This is a story I would love to read more of.

    6. Critique

      The italics didn’t deter the reading enjoyment for me at all jmcody. I liked snuzcook’s comment it was like writing under water. A mystical tale you told very well.

  31. rle

    I haven’t had a lot of time this week, too busy with real life. I’m not sure I even like this all that much. Oh well, here goes…
    __________________________________________________________________________

    I didn’t have any idea why Henry thought he had to lead the way. Sure, he was almost seventeen and me and Sammy were only thirteen, but any one of us could have read that stupid old map his older brother had scribbled on a sheet of notebook paper. This whole expedition had been Henry’s idea and although neither me or Sammy had been thrilled with the plan, neither one of us had been on a treasure hunt either, so we just decided to follow along and do what we were told.

    The day has started with a twenty five minute float down the river on Henry’s dad’s johnboat. Sammy and me pretended to be pirates. We both tied bandanas around our heads and Sammy even made a eye patch out of a rubber band and an old M&M’s wrapper. Henry yelled at us and said we were acting like kids. He threatened to throw us overboard if we didn’t stop, so we did, but we left our bandanas on.

    We landed on a sandbar that jutted out into the river next to a corn field. Henry made me an Sammy pull the boat safely up on to the sand. He reached in and pulled out two canteens and handed one to me and one to Sammy. I put the strap around my neck and let the bottle rest against my left hip. Sammy put his around his neck like a gigantic necklace with the canteen coming to rest near his belly button. He looked ridiculous but Sammy always looked ridiculous so everything was just as it should be.

    Henry studied the map. “Let’s go,” he ordered as he motioned for us and headed for a thick patch of woods a hundred yards beyond the corn field.

    After a short journey through the dense woods, we came to a clearing and a mosquito infested swamp. We crossed in the shallowest spot but still all ended up with slimey black muck amost all the way to our knees. Sammy was complaining about mosquito bites, but Sammy was always complaining about something, so Henry and me just pretended not to hear him.

    Now we climbed a rocky slope covered with brush and brambles. Henry broke wind at least a dozen times during the ascent and it seemed to me like something had crawled up inside of him and died. I just wished whatevr it was would crawl back out and come back to life. Sammy didn’t seem to notice. He was too busy whining about the briars.

    When we came to the top, a small cabin came into view. Henry stopped abruptly. “There it is,” he said as he wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, “come on!”

    Inside, the small two room structure was cool and musty. We all sat down at a small wooden table. I took a long drink of lukewarm water from the canteen I was carrying.

    “So where’s the treasure anyway?” Sammy squeaked in his mousey voice.

    Henry smiled, “We’re standing right on top of it,” he said as he looked at the sweat stained map.

    Henry knelt down and pryed a loose floor board and removed it from the floor. He reached in shoulder deep and pulled out a small stack of magazines,Playboy magazines, and smacked them down hard on the little table. Before I knew it, Sammy had dove in head first to and issue with a busty brunette on the cover. His eyes were as big as dinner plates. I don’t think Sammy had ever seen boobs before.

    I looked at Henry and smiled. This was going to be a really good afternoon.

    1. jmcody

      Ok, this is getting kind of weird. I just posted my response, and took too long doing it, fiddling with italics and such, and then — BAM — there you were. Very strange, rle.

      I loved your story! It was a classic boy adventure. The characters were well drawn and the dialogue and internal monologue were authentic. Of course, the mother in me has a big issue with the seventeen year old (since I have a thirteen year old son who I hope does not know any seventeen year olds like this), but former kid in me totally gets it. Nice job!

    2. Cindy_The_Great

      I loved loved loved this. It actually made me laugh out loud. Your characters were very believable and i liked what the treasure was at the end. That was extremely clever, especially since its teenage boys, it makes perfect sense! Favorite part — “Henry broke wind at least a dozen times during the ascent and it seemed to me like something had crawled up inside of him and died. I just wished whatevr it was would crawl back out and come back to life. Sammy didn’t seem to notice. He was too busy whining about the briars.” —- too funny. Keep it up :)

    3. lionetravail

      Fantastic- nostalgic, entertaining, and the same great feeling to it as the narrated scenes from Stand By Me. Nicely done take on the prompt.

    4. Artemis4421

      “I took a long drink of lukewarm water from the canteen I was carrying.” Someone said this exact thing to me today…hmm…

      Very nice job! Even if you weren’t too pleased with this piece, there are obviously many here (including me) that did indeed enjoy it. I applaud how realistic this piece is. Again, great work rle.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I remember thirteen, when I walked by a bookstore and in the window were pinup calendars. By the time a month went, I had studied every one of those girls. It wasn’t till later that I realized Gil Everen had created them. Oh, how I remenber!

        Thanks for the time travel,rle.

    5. Reaper

      This is good rle. I also had flashes of nostalgia for “Stand by Me”, and really “The Body, Fall From Innocence” even more, though they are very close. This was just very real and made me long for more innocent days.

    6. Jeannie Rosemont

      Very great story. Reminded me of the adventures my brother and I would go on before we grew up. Nothing like this though, but it made me very nostalgic. Good job!

  32. kj6hvc

    “Has he moved?”
    Wyatt’s words stirred me out of the near trance I’d been in as I’d climbed the stairs onto the deck. “Hm? The Captain? No, he hasn’t moved. He’s barely even talking anymore.” After the battle, the Captain had slipped into madness. We’d won, but it was Pyrrhic. The victory had come at the cost of our own crew. Now, as our small ship gently rose and fell, only myself, Wyatt, and the Captain were there to appreciate the complete lack of wind. Or of an island.
    “I’ve checked your reckoning,” Wyatt said, “And you’re right, we’re where the island should be,” his voice cracking towards the end.
    After we’d sacked the other ship, the only thing of value we’d found was a map. Notes on the back told of a modest treasure on an island. We weren’t unreasonably far, and we were wanted back home in the Caribbean. If we went back, we’d be hanged. I’m fairly certain the shame of it would kill my father. Lacking enough supplies to make it to England, we plotted a course for the spot indicated on the map, and prayed. Wyatt and me handled our ship surprisingly well for a crew of two. The Captain cloistered himself in the galley, of all places, refusing to move or eat or drink. He just rambled.
    Wyatt and I were both experienced navigators, and we guided our boat to the island–only it wasn’t there. The island was supposed to save us. We were low on potable fluids, meaning grog, since our fresh water had long since turned slimy. On the island, we could find food and water, collect the treasure, and sail to the continent to buy new lives.
    “I think I’ll go join the Captain,” Wyatt said quietly. I caught his eyes as he descended below deck, and we both knew he wasn’t coming back up.
    The wind wasn’t going to come back up either, at least not before the last of our grog ran out. And even if it did, we surely didn’t have the supplies to make it back to land. If there had been an island, then we could have had a decent chance. But there was nothing. We were marooned on our own boat.
    And it was then, staring out at the ocean, that I accepted the truth. Here, out where the ocean stretched out into the fog like eternity, we were going to die. Once I accepted that, I was at peace. There would be no hanging. Father would feel no shame. This spot, in the middle of the ocean, empty of ships and wind and birds and land, was what we had come looking for.
    There was no island. There was nothing. I headed down to the galley. This was what the Captain had known all along, and what Wyatt had just realized: The treasure was death.

    1. jmcody

      I felt the desolation and hopelessness of your MC, as well as his strange sense of victory over his predicament. This was well imagined and written.

    2. lionetravail

      What a great take on the prompt! The end leaves me wanting more- more backstory. I think you could spin this into a much longer story, and insert colorful recollections in short batches within the structure of this writing in the present time. That would also give you a chance to play up how these pirates were duped into following a fake map to their doom.

      Very cool.

    3. Artemis4421

      Beautiful; it left me with goosebumps. For some reason I always seem drawn to stories such as this one, so it’s no wonder that it left me wanting more!

    4. Reaper

      My kind of story. Hopeless, bleak, dark, but not without a nugget of salvation. The triumph found in the last two paragraphs is tangible. I felt sorrow and joy for your MC in equal measure along with a healthy dose of you got what was coming to you. Just wonderful.

      The only constructive criticism I have is that your writing is strong, and you have a very high brow voice, and because of that you seem to spoon feed the reader certain things that aren’t necessary to do. I am sure that you know how strong your writing is, so let us feel it without the dilution. There are a few minor places where this occurs so I’m only going to point out the two that were most jarring to me.

      “We’d won, but it was Pyrrhic. The victory had come at the cost of our own crew.” These two sentences combine to make me believe you know that most of your readers are going to have to look up Pyrrhic, but the second sentence feels like you’re trying to allow me not to. I still had to anyway. That’s great, I learned a new word. I would suggest something that combines them like We’d won but at a Pyrrhic cost to our own crew. Same thing but it makes me feel like I’m in on the smart kid side when I look it up.

      The second being the last line. You wrote a powerful story for an audience that would get it. You left no doubt that the treasure was death. So why say it? I felt the story was stronger without that because it jarred me out of your tale and into a feeling that I was expected to be not bright enough to get it.

      With that said this is strong without any changes, and I loved it as it was. It just felt like you hedged when you didn’t need to.

      1. kj6hvc

        Thanks for the feedback … Re-reading this with that in mind, I can totally see what you mean. In retrospect, I should have left “Pyrrhic” out entirely. I argued with myself about that one, but not for the reason you noticed. It wasn’t really a word an old-world pirate would have used. The second sentence there was for emphasis, but on re-reading again I guess I didn’t need it, so knowing both of those factors, I could have left out “Pyrrhic” altogether. I just love the word & don’t get much chance to use it.

        I’m still kinda iffy on the last line. I literally wrote the story around that line. I started writing & then the line popped into my head & I knew I that’s how I wanted to end it. Then I found myself working backwards to get to the MC’s realization of that line & writing mostly from the bottom up, which was new for me. I think maybe you’re right … the story may have been stronger if I’d left off the last two sentences & left it at him walking down to the galley.

        I’ve got to learn not to hold on to first ideas so much. Edit!

        Thanks for the feedback, it is truly appreciated. Please keep it coming.

        Cheers.

  33. George

    A pirate’s log: Day 34 of pursuit
    April 25 1783

    This day seemed no different than the other ones…myself, Igg the Drunk and Pete, our Captain, woke up, some of us at least, analyzed the map and set up our coordinates for the day. We were planning on heading West, towards Samana Cay. The treasure map that we found on that damned ship was so vague that we cannot comprehend anything from it. I’m sure the man that drew it was dead drunk when he did it. We had a lot of difficulties with it, but we kept on going.
    By mid-day we arrived on Samana Cay Island. We threw the anchor when we reached the bay and we gathered our stuff, planning to go on land to search for the X. During the day, our Captain, using his vast knowledge of stars and orientation…and the compass…said this is THE Island. We’d find the X here. We got so excited that even Igg sobered up for a second. But then he got drunk again soon after…
    We set our camp in the south-east of the island. Me and the Captain starting looking around for familiar landmarks that would match the ones from the map and that would help in finding the treasure…Igg stayed in the camp to prepare dinner…probably fish…I swear if I’ll eat fish again I’m going to become one…
    Till evening we searched and marked our map with useful information. The captain said that the X should be after the hill, in the south-west of the island. We should retreat in the camp, eat, drink, rest and then, fresh, in the morning, we should go for it…The fish that Igg prepared was awful.

    A pirate’s log: Day 35

    I couldn’t sleep all night thinking about the damned treasure. So I waited until the Captain was asleep and I snuck out of the camp. Igg was of no concern, he got drunk right after dinner and fell into a deep sleep. He might still be sleeping as I’m writing these pages…
    I ran towards the place indicated by the Captain. Luckily I memorized the map and I knew that I had to find a big rock, a coconut tree and a small pond. If I’d find these, then the X-spot should be right between them.
    I found the spot with great ease. I dug up the sand with my bare hands for more than half an hour…and there it was…a big chest, a small lock…piece of cake…I broke the lock and…Gold? Silver? Pearls & weapons? Fame and glory? None of that…the ‘treasure’ consisted in no more than a chest filled with god damned books…in a language that I couldn’t even understand…
    Great disappointment for me…I betrayed my crew…and for what? For a pile of books that I can’t even read…I’ll have to go back and explain everything…

    A pirate’s log: Day 36

    I ran away…I’ll search for a new crew…I didn’t even like this one…

    1. jmcody

      I liked the Pirate’s log format, and your colorful characters. Just work on your tenses — “We cannot comprehend” should be “we could not comprehend,” and a few other little things like that. Overall this was entertaining and enjoyable.

    2. lionetravail

      I agree with jmcody- it’s a good format you chose, and some tense-work would smooth it out. I thought you did great with the color of the characters, but with how much effort you put into that, you could have gone even more ‘overboard’ (pun intended!) in some places… like “The fish Igg prepared was awful”- you’re already over the top on Igg’s character, you could mirror that with something more colorful than awful: “The fish Igg prepared tasted like he’d actually cooked one of his boots instead.”

      Also, your reveal, that the treasure was a pile of books the MC couldn’t even read was great irony… as the reveal, it could have ended the story right there, or else if you go to the next day, you should consider making your last entry as or more exciting… or tragic… to really ‘finish’ this one strong. You tell a great story, and your last lines should be as powerful as your reveal, I think.

      (my mind wants something like: Day 36…. tell me what happened after he tried to explain his betrayal!!!!) :)

  34. Artemis4421

    [I realize that this is very long, and may sound a bit rushed, but please keep in mind that the first draft was 1700 words...]

    “Kyle!” The Captain bellows in an exaggerated, drawling tone. Kyle’s head whips up beside me; he had been nodding off a bit, but who would blame him? We’ve been steadily following this ‘treasure map’ for weeks, so when we finally sighted land a few hours ago, the excitement gave way to exhaustion.

    Cap (as I call the Captain, though not to his face) is a cruel man, and it’s a long story of how Kyle and I came to be with him. Long story short, Cap and three old men raided the ship that we were on, took us hostage, told us we were his new crew, and then threw the previous men overboard. Oh yeah, there used to be three of us, but one decided she would rather take a dip into the Atlantic than stay with a man like him. Poor Amy.

    Kyle had been average size for a boy of fifteen, and I was small for being nearly seventeen. With the small food portions that we get from Cap, we haven’t grown much, if any. We were already experienced when we were captured; toughened by the unpredictable, unforgiving sea. We know enough to follow orders, say little, and stay out of Cap’s way. I guess we’re doing alright, having lasted ten months so far.

    About a month ago, after a raid, Cap had brought up a map from below deck, and ordered Kyle to follow it. Of course he had obeyed and so here we are, gliding up to a sandy island. “Anchor,” Cap yells. I dutifully obey, running over to drop the heavy anchor.

    Cap disappears below deck and I shoot Kyle the familiar ’where are we?’ look. He shrugs nonchalantly, but his eyes hold a story laced with the smallest bit of confusion. I furrow my brow before shrugging back in response. Cap soon comes back up, shouting a few orders that we follow. Before I know it, we’re out of the lifeboat and onto the beige colored sand. Typical island layout; beach around the outside edges, dense island on the inside.

    “Alright, look for it. Spread out and holler if ya find the treasure,” Cap orders before lying down on the sand and closing his eyes. Kyle and I exchange quick exasperated glances before heading down opposite sides of the beach. After walking about ten yards, I spot something maybe fifty yards ahead. I break into a jog, wondering if there might really be a treasure after all.

    I come up on a circle of boulders, the highest ones up to my stomach, and the smallest up to my knees. I climb into the circle and shake my head when I see that there really is a wooden chest sitting in the middle. Deciding that it’s safe to take a peek inside, I crouch down and open it up just a crack. The first thing my eyes land on is a letter…with my name on it.

    I quickly read it, wondering how this could have happened, though I won’t complain. I flip it over, pressing the small button that’s somehow adhered to the back of the letter. After that, I toss the letter into the ocean, only sparing a second or two to watch the waves carry it out to sea.

    “Captain, I found it!” I call loudly. Cap’s head immediately pops up. He jumps off of the sand, moving toward me at the fastest pace I’ve ever seen him use. Kyle is jogging after him as well. I lift open the box again before he reaches me and what I see now makes me lose it. Before I know it, I’m laughing so hard that there are tears streaming down my face and my stomach hurts. I hear something off in the distance and the tears come even harder, because I know that it’s going to be alright. Cap reaches me finally, picking up the box. When he sees what’s inside, he screams in a fit of rage. He picks up the chest and throws it as hard as he can…right into Kyle’s head. There’s a sickening thud as Kyle cries out loudly and blood starts trickling down his face.

    My laughter stops immediately. Kyle looks blankly ahead, slowly moving his hand up to the side of his face before his legs give out from under him and he hits the sand with a soft thud. It’s silent for a few moments. Well other than the increasingly loud sound of helicopter blades slicing through the air.

    Cap looks up to the sky as the helicopter gets lower. A ladder comes down and three men climb down from it. Two go over to Kyle, who is lying on the sand with his eyes closed, his blood turning the sand a sickening red. The third man goes over to Cap, loudly saying something that I can’t quite make out, but Cap slumps down in defeat, letting the man lead him into the helicopter. One man comes from Kyle over to me.

    “Hello Janna, I’m Sam Fouler from the FBI. I would like to first of all thank you for helping us catch this man. Second of all, we’re going to take you home.”

    The sweetest words I’ve ever heard. I can’t help it as I start crying again. The last thing I see from behind damp eyes is the chest on the sand, its contents in front of it. A toy parrot, construction paper eye patch, and plastic hook. I manage a weak smile as I walk past and climb up the helicopter ladder. Everything is going to be okay, and more importantly, I’m finally going home.

    1. jmcody

      This was a very entertaining story, with a satisfying ending! It’s hard to imagine what you could have possibly cut from it, as there didn’t seem to be anything missing. I especially liked how you conveyed the subtle communication between Janna and Kyle. Great job!

    2. lionetravail

      I’m with jmcody on this one too- nicely done! Whatever you did to cut and tweak, this is nice, dense writing without anything that felt missing, and with a neat reveal. The early part was deftly done, leaving me unsure what era we were in until “the letter with a small button on the back” suggested a modern era… it all contributed to the cool of the reveal when the FBI arrives :)

  35. DMelde

    Mate, Crossmate, and the Captain stood on the sandy beach with pistols aimed at one another. The Captain looked from Mate over to Crossmate with pistols raised in both hands.

    “Aar ye two done tryun taw cross me?” the Captain snarled.

    Mate and Crossmate lowered their weapons. Together they looked at the treasure map, and the three of them strode off over the island in search of the buried treasure.

    The stand-off had been a ritual of sorts for the three Crossbones pirates. Other, more successful pirates followed the code of the Skull, but the Captain was a firm believer in the code of the Crossbones. They crossed anything and everything, including themselves. They had sailed for weeks, cross current, sometimes doubling back to do so, in order to get to the treasure island.

    “Thaar won’t be no skull used in our thinkun.” the Captain was fond of saying.

    They looked at their map. On it, two crossed lines marked where the treasure was buried.

    “Tis a sign!” the Captain said for the umpteenth time.

    Mate and Crossmate, with shovels in hand, started digging. Mate’s shovel hit something hard and they hauled up the treasure chest. With his face beaming from more than just sunlight the Captain opened the chest. It was filled with thousands of crossword puzzles.

    “Aar boys, we’re rich!” the Captain bellowed.

    Wait, what’s happening? A pistol just came through my computer monitor!! (I’m going to record what’s going on so I can sort through it later.)

    I had to stand for a minute. The pistol was being held by Crossmate, who came through the monitor also.

    “This can’t be happening!” DMelde, er, I mean I said. “You aren’t real!”

    “An’ who might you be?” Crossmate asked.

    “I’m DMelde, international man of intrigue. I’m the author who made you up!”

    “Innernational man of intrigue eh?” Crossmate looked me up and down. “Aar ye sure it’s not you who arnt real?”

    “Now see here!” I said. “You’re trying to cross me up. It won’t work!”

    “If I wernt real, could I do this?” Crossmate lifted his leg.

    “Pppppffffffftttttttttt”

    “Oh God! Oh God!” I gagged. Fictional farts are the worst.

    My eyes watered.

    “All right! All right!” I said, “what are you doing here?”

    “I’s come to stop you. Tis not right to write such dribble and force others to read it.”

    “I think the word you’re looking for is drivel? Besides, millions of people love my writing.”

    “Now I knows for sure who’s not real.”

    “If you kill me you’ll die too. I’m the one who created you!”

    “Aye, then we die together.”

    oh my god he shot me! red blood my blood everywhere light fadinggggggggggggggggg

    scurvy dog
    writes I
    he thought I wood die when he did

    1. margi33

      Ha! I like this DMelde. It was a creative and entertaining take on the prompt. I, too, think pirate posts need some degree of ridiculousness included.

    2. don potter

      Funny stuff and a most creative post. “Fictional Farts are the worst,” had me laughing until I finished. In fact, I’m laughing as I write this.

    3. snuzcook

      I knew this was going to be a hoot when the first line read like the set up for a joke.
      You took this story places so silly that I found myself watching in disbelief.
      Among the great one-liners you gave us, I think my favorite was: ‘ “Thaar won’t be no skull used in our thinkun.” the Captain was fond of saying.’

      Now, wrest control of the keyboard back from the silly pirate captain. It’s not healthy to live in his head too long.

    4. lionetravail

      Cute, DMelde! Loved the ‘cross, cross, cross’ take on these pirates and their codes… but you shouldn’t have let them cross you by crossing them out afore they crossed over.

      [coughs gently]

        1. Kerry Charlton

          DMelde, When you characters hopped through the screen , I knew I was in for a ride through fun land. I had no idea It would be this good. I loved the concept, the ficitious Pppppfffffff! And the dying scene,faddinggggggggggg. Tell the truth now, your eyes were wartering while your wrote, you laughed outloud and your family warned, “One more time and it’s the farm for you.” How close did I come?

    5. Reaper

      Oh this is just priceless. I loved, millions of people love my writing, now I knows for sure who’s not real. Oh wow, I am still tearing up at that one. There were shades of Vonnegut and King crossed with Carlin or Robin Williams in this and it was just perfect because of it. Thank you.

  36. Kerry Charlton

    NORTH KEELING ISLAND

    David Harrington Thompson and his business partner Rebecca Firestone Post were known as the world’s most feared corporate pirate raiders. Both in their early forties, their holding company, Ventures Unlimited LLC controlled corporations worth thirteen trillion dollars. Was it enough? Apparently not.

    Indian Ocean
    North Keeling Island
    November 14th, 2031

    Benito Bonito VII, directly descended from his famous ancestor, captained the largest private yacht ever built, The Flying Dutchman. Owned by David and Rebecca, the ship carried atomic fuel, water purifiers and enough supplies to sail seven seas for six years without refuel. Benito, David and Rebecca were the only ones on board that day.

    Mission: Find the lost treasure of the early nineteenth century buccaneer Benito Bonito. Ventures Unlimited had purchased the island earlier that year and relocated the three hundred and fifty inhabitants elsewhere. What was the fortune worth? Rumored three hundred million. Why the quest? Only David and Rebecca knew.

    That morning, the thirty foot launch had been loaded with a land rover, minature trencher and camping equipment. Benito’s treasure map, discovered in an old family trunk a year ago, rested in his pocket as he turned the key.

    ‘The day is finally here,’ David thought. ‘Maybe this quest will bring Rebecca back where we used to be. Sure it was her six hundred million that started everything but it was my genius that made it work.’

    He studied Benito’s face as the launch cut through the aqua sea toward the beach. He seemed edgy that morning. It was his fanily’s history that was the focal point of the project. It didn’t matter if the fortune was found or not. A world resort like none other, called Treasure Island’, would bring him into the society level he had only dreamed about.

    ‘Think about the fame’, he mused. ‘World leaders, kings and queens and the pirates of corporate greed, will lay at my feet’.

    The launch landed on the norhern side of the isolated island where the map with the blood X had been marked. An equipment trailer attached to the rear of the rover, slugged through the soft sand until it finally reached the spot the X indicated.

    Benito started the mini trencher and began to dig.

    “Are you sure it’s the right area?” Rebecca asked.

    “We’ll find out in a few minutes,” Benito said.

    The trencher continued. At eight feet, a clunk sounded. The digger stopped. David unfolded a ladder and descended to the bottom.

    “What is it?” Benito asked.

    “I think it’s just a rock.”

    Benito stepped to the edge of the pit. Four explosions followed. He turned to Rebecca,

    “I never thought I had the guts to do it. Now it’s all ours.”

    “Check and see if he’s still breathing. I don’t want to bury him alive.”

    Benito went down the ladder and checked for a pulse as six more thundering sounds split the sea air.

    Rebecca stood by the edge, a smoking pistol gripped in her hand.

    ‘You fools, you blind ass idiots,” she ranted. “Correction, the company’s all mine.”

    1. Amyithist

      At first, the ending was tied up so quickly that I wasn’t quite sure what happened. But then my hamster refueled and my brain restarted and I had the epiphany. Sheer genius, Kerry! You are such a magnificent writer. Your flow is flawless and effortlessly executed. I loved it. Thank you for an exciting read!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you very much for such kind words, Amyithist. I’m so happy both you and the hamster liked the tale. Does he read while he’s running the wheel or does he stop? There was so much more I wanted to say in this story but decided to stay in the 500 and let the reader’s imagination fill in the rest. Obviously, you got there. Thanks for the read.

    2. margi33

      Nice story telling, Kerry. I enjoyed it. At first it sounded almost like a Mission Impossible sort of scenario… didn’t see the twist at the end coming.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you margi. Funny thing I have to admit. I didn’t see the ending myself until I wrote it. Happens quite often now. My fingers become the writer. I need to take better care of them.

    3. don potter

      The thought of corporate pirates never crossed my mind until I read your post. Great out-of-the-box thinking. Oh, I almost forgot to mention how much I enjoyed your tale. Nicely done.

      1. switchgoose

        Nice storytelling. The imagery and dialogue at the beginning was perfect. I was thinking how easy this would flow on the big screen. Loved the twist at the end too!

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Thank you, switchgoose. By the way that’s a neat name you’re using. I had some of the same thoughts myself about a movie script and wanted to put a lot more in the tale, but the 500 monster, might have carried me off.

      2. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Don. I wanted something a little different from The Spanish Main. I love the stories from that time in history, but I figured there were enough writers that would post that. I almost went that way myself and then I figured, as you say, ‘out of the box’.

    4. jmcody

      This was some high drama and excitement! You did a fantastic job of setting the scene and building up these three larger-than-life characters, only to swiftly knock them all down. Everything from the puffed-up three moniker corporate raiders, to “Benito Bonito VII, directly descended from his famous ancestor” was original and entertaining. This was a slam dunk, Kerry!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you jm. I’ve never written anything that was called a ‘slam dunk”. I consider it the ultimate compliment. “The Rest Of The Story”‘ is under lionetravail’s response. Word count wouldn’t allow it.

    5. snuzcook

      I can just see Rebecca’s face as she gloats. I love the rapid fire style of the storytelling, Kerry, quick and unapologetic as the characters you describe. A real guilty pleasure to cheer with the bad girl as she offs the bad guys.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I knew you’d love a mad girl win, snuz, I did. Not my typical, but when I wrote about corporate pirates, it reminded of a great philosopher I know. His favorite saying:

        “Peope are just no damn good.” I loved your comments. On to the next one.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks for the great comments, lionetravail. I had so much fun painting bad charracters on this. The moral is nobody wins and I’ll tell you why.

        When David bought the island, he wanted to protect his assets. He hired a security company to scan the island by satellite 24/7, only he didn’t tell Rebecca. We don’t have a triple, double cross, we have a quadruple, triple, double cross,

        I was going to end the story with this kicker, they filmed the whole thing, but I didn’t have the words, so I’ll do it now.

    6. Bilbo Baggins

      For some odd reason I kept picturing Benito Mussolini in my head. Shows I study too much WW2… but, anyways, great tale of intrigue and ultimately betrayal. Nothing like an old partner being blown to bits.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Bilbo. Please see “The Rest Of THe Story”, posted above under liontravail. That completes the story. Greed done ‘em all in.”

    7. Reaper

      You shattered my perception of your boundaries. This is dark and ruthless with no characters that I like at all. The writing and wording were great. I find myself wishing a plane would crash into Rebecca then and there and can only comfort myself with the hope that David was right about his genius so she ends up broke and alone. This is one where I would love some of the hinted at back story but not in a way that anything feels lacking, I just want more.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reaper. Don’t worry, see my response above to lionetravail. Nobody won. I love doing bad stuff as much as anything. I’m trying to learn how to do it. I always look forward to your comments on my stories.

    8. Critique

      Yikes. When you’re a blackguard and your peers are blackguards, you never turn your back on them. This was well written with a shocking but fitting ending.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks, Critique. Yikes is a good description. When you’re on the 500, you shoot to kill and ask questions later. Thank you for the kind comments.

  37. Xevirus

    Portentous shards of gray ocean breaking from the watery pylons that crash fore and aft, port and starboard slide across the deck, accumulating in piles of puddles that slip back into the ocean where they are forever lost. Perhaps. Holden, Naomie and Nickelby huddle behind the glass — Holden struggling to keep the boat upright — in black bodysuits searching the fickle horizon for signs of the vessel the previous four months of intel promised would be passing these coordinates at this hour. Lightning rises from the waves and splashes the clouds with a sudden daylight that reveals: nothing.

    Nickelby’s faith flounders, and he turns to Holden, prepared to spray the balding dreamer with a hot jet of curses and promises that, this time, he’s out for good. And he means it. But Naomie’s fist bumps his shoulder and he turns to her wide grin and he turns to a shaft of light piercing the mist and the waves and the growing darkness.

    Whatever his faults as a leader, Holden remains second-to-none as a navigator, and the silent boat is quickly and secretly beside the larger vessel, rising and falling and rolling in unison without making direct contact. Naomie works effortlessly, or so it always seems to the men, casting her line, scaling the now sideways, now vertical side of the ship, and securing a path for her mates to climb aboard. The three of them move as one, stopping at every corner, issuing orders to one another with glances seen briefly in the dim light ejected from a porthole, removing threats as they see them until they reach the innermost cabin. Nickelby enters, gas mask on so as not to succumb to the canister while Holden and Naomie keep watch outside. He sees the room as only he can, seeking items and signs of use outside of the norm, comparing what he has seen of the vessel and its crew to what he sees here, and he knows that what they seek is beneath the brass cuspidor anchored to the floor beneath the bedside table. He breaks the code and opens the safe, carefully placing the mobile into a waterproof bag and into his body suit. Cracking whatever encryption the Hexes use will be no small feat, but he is confident, now, and the others smirk when they see him exit the room, sharing in that confidence.

    Fifty-six hours later. Data has been lost, but they secured enough to lead them to the small island outside, of all places, Corpus Christi, United States. “Small is an overstatement,” Nickelby remarks when they see it: seven meters by twenty, a single patch of plantlife, or what was plantlife, directly in the center.

    They arrive on the beach with shovels — more advanced technology too risky for a mission of this importance — and they take another look at the laminated satellite printout before determining where to start digging. After four hours of digging they hit the metal entryway. Inside is darkness.

    1. jmcody

      Your writing style is very intense, and loaded with cinematic details. The story was suspenseful, and the characters intriguing. The only part that tripped me up a bit was the first sentence. I appreciated your intent to paint a picture of an ominous mood, a roiling sea and pitching boat, foul weather and tempers to match, but the sentence got a little convoluted and hard to follow. You ended it well, because I really want to know what was inside the metal entryway. Overall, this was some impressive writing.

      1. Xevirus

        Thank you, but, yes, I should have put more time into the opening sentence. As can be seen by my absence, I have been busy, and that busyness showed in the end result here. Thank you, though, for the comments. I wanted this to be better, but it was okay.

    2. snuzcook

      Xerius, I love your prose. I can imagine you pausing over a simple phrase, considering and discarding obvious choices and coming up with a line like: “glances seen briefly in the dim light ejected from a porthole.” It invites me not just to read but also to observe your phrasing.

      I agree with JM that beginning the story with the particularly complex sentence that you did was setting a gateway not everyone would pass through without some *pause,* but the story was definitely a good read.

      1. Xevirus

        Thank you for the kind words. I do not feel bad about the occasional complexity, though I do agree with the above comment that more work could have gone into it. I feel like the opening sentence was about 75%-80% what I wanted it to be. I’m glad the brief world building did not go to waste and that there was some enjoyment gleaned.

    3. lionetravail

      The writing was rich, and in this setting worked nicely. This is a well-told story, which hooked me and makes me want to know a lot more. (Are the MC’s good guys? Bad guys? Hard-to-tell guys? Are they on a mission for a higher purpose, or nicely base purposes? Who are the ‘Hexes”?) Boy, I hope you choose to run with this story! :)

      For me, the present tense works nicely to keep this immediate and moving forward. The lack of verbal dialogue helps the picture of such a tight team that words were just so unnecessary. Nicely done.

      1. Xevirus

        Thank you. In truth I’m pretty terrible at writing dialogue, and consequently, tend to avoid it. It helps, though, if I can make the lack work; I appreciate the sentiment that, to a certain extent, I did.

  38. moscoboy

    Sea Dogs
    We were a small group of Somali’s on a 50-foot cigarette boat we had plundered from weak sea dogs that were new to the pirate trade and were too sick to man their guns and put up a proper fight. We made off with the fast boat and their supplies. The first mate, Hago found a map among the sea charts. The paper was worn and yellow and it had an X scratched in blood pointing to on an unknown island.
    We spent two weeks sacking tourists and finally found a proper sea captain on holiday that gave us the identity of the island in lieu of saving the life of his wife and child. Captain Chicpak was quick to offer assurances. When he was satisfied he had an exact location, Hago and I dispatched the family, took their supplies and scuttled their small sailboat.
    The island’s location was true. It was a windswept barrier island with little vegetation. We found two dead mangrove trees laid out in the form of an X on the leeward side of the island. By the deterioration of the trees we knew we had hit the jackpot. It had to be gold, coins, pearls, drugs, or maybe a cache of American dollars.
    Hago and I dug like rabid dogs using our hands. We cut our fingers digging down one meter to find a soaked leather chest with a handsome gold lock. Captain Chicpak’s 9mm blew the lock off. He grinned and shot Hago in the chest. I kicked his bleeding carcass away from the hole we had dug. “What about you, Sindu, do you want to go the way of Hago?”
    I threw up my hands in a supine gesture, “My life belongs to you Captain. Any treasure we find will belong to you. All I want to do is learn to be a good pirate and maybe get my own boat.”
    Chicpak’s smiled and showed off his black and green stubbed teeth and said, “I believe you.”
    
 The brass hinges squealed in protest as Chicpak slowly opened the lid and found a sealed plastic bag and said, “Sindu do you know how to read American.”
    “Yes, I attended the missionary schools for three years and they taught us how to read the bible.”
    “Good for you,” said Chicpak. “Look at this shiny paper.”
    I looked at the sheets of paper and the shiny square emblems that changed colors as I moved my hand against the sun. I didn’t know how to break the bad news to Chicpak and end up like my dead counterpart. “They are Beet-coin. It has replaced the old paper monopoly money.”
    Chicpak reached for his 9mm pistol. “So this is the funny money for games?”
    “Yes, that captain was making sport by us.”
    “This beet-coin, can you eat it, use it to shoot your enemies, use it for petrol? No, this is monkey shit. Leave it, we need to find gold or American dollars.”

    1. jmcody

      Why do the Somalian pirates always come off as equal parts despicable and pitiable? (Reference Captain Phillips).

      I was well done and a good read.

    2. snuzcook

      I am glad you went the direction of the Somali pirates, moscoboy. It was a great take on the prompt. I had to look up what a beet-coin refers to (confess ignorance); your ironic ending was perfect.

    3. lionetravail

      Nice take on the prompt, and a cute dig at the phenomenon of the ‘beet’coin! Truly, one man’s trash is another’s treasure, and vice-versa. I loved Sindu’s casual kicking of Hago’s corpse and easy submission to Chicpac- clearly, self-preservation at the heart of the Pirate’s Code.

      Only suggestion- the murder of Hago kind of comes out of the blue, like it was random that the Captain picked him to kill rather than Sindu. Was it meant to be that life-and-death-is-really-that-random, or was there a reason that Hago was killed? If so, some advance indication, like an earlier sign of rebellion in Hago, plus Sindu’s tendency towards self-preservation, might make that section even more powerful than it is. If random was what you were going for, of course, you might indicate in other ways how the captain was a random-acting pyscho who was just that unpredictable.

      A great read! Such hopelessness in Sindu and the modern pirate tale.

  39. margi33

    The Whippoorwill bumped through the waves, tossing its three occupants like pebbles in an accordion.

    As the waves calmed and they neared land, Captain Goldilocks yelled, “Heave to.” His two mates bumped into each other as they scrambled to heave the jib sails windward to slow the ship. The captain shook his head in annoyance, sending his golden-curled beard into flight.

    Two days prior, the posse of three had attacked and successfully ransacked another ship — a miracle thought Goldilocks. A map had been procured and visions of gold and jewels now clouded their heads.

    “This must be the island,” said the captain, “The map says there is none other for ten miles. Time to start taking in the sail, lads.”

    First mate Willey spit a wad of tobacco over the deck in response, revealing his yellow-green teeth as he smiled. He was the most competent mate on the ship, but that was not saying much. Mate Scurvy looked just like his name sounded. His skinny body bounced as he scampered around the ship adjusting the rigging. Goldilocks had regretted hiring them as soon as they had stepped aboard his ship, but it was too late now.

    The captain coaxed the ship inside the bay with his rudder. Anchors were dispatched, and he bellowed, “Well, lads, this is the day that boys become men. You boys get going with the map, and I’ll stay here with the ship.”

    “But, Captain, we don’t know how to read,” said Scurvy. Willey nodded his tangled-red scruff in agreement.

    “There’s nothing to read — it’s a picture map.”

    “Captain, but — ”

    “Fine, I’ll come with you. Seeing as how this is our first adventure together, I wouldn’t mind looking at the treasure with my own eyes. Plus, it will keep your filthy paws off my gold.”

    The three stepped aboard the ship’s dingy and paddled to the shore. “Map says just two-hundred yards this way,” Goldilocks pointed, “where the palm trees lay in a circle.” Willey and Scurvy tagged along at the captain’s heels until they neared a patch of leaves and straw in the middle of the palm trees.

    Goldilocks paused, thinking the ground looked awfully strange, like the sand had been covered and disturbed, but maybe that was a good sign. “Let’s go see,” he said, and they moved forward as one.

    Suddenly, the ground gave way and the three tumbled down into a massive hole.

    “What the?” said Scurvy rubbing the back of his head.

    “Yeah, idiot, it’s a trap,” replied Goldilocks as he brushed the sand from his bottom.

    “Ow!” Willey reached down and retrieved a broken glass bottle from under his foot. “Look, a piece of paper’s inside.”

    “Give it here,” Goldilocks said as he ripped it out of Willey’s hand. “Let’s see. It says:”

    An eye for an eye
    A nose for a nose
    Aye, this note is one of those

    If you killed us, dead you’ll be
    For all of this, you can surely see

    If you left us alive, with ship and sail
    We will be on our way, swift as a whale

    Men for our ship we have great need
    Slaves you’ll become to sew our seed

    Have a nice day, and Godspeed

    “Damn,” said Goldilocks, “I told you idiots I needed to stay with the ship.”

    1. jmcody

      This was so clever and entertaining, and the poem at the end was inspired. I am impressed not only by your wit and your writing ability, but also by your obvious knowledge of sailing! Excellent job.

      1. margi33

        Thanks jmcody. The poem came to me immediately as I read the prompt — I just wrote around that, though I felt it was not my most inspired writing, really ;). And, no, I don’t know a thing about sailing. I looked up some terms so I wouldn’t sound like an idiot!

    2. snuzcook

      I love the names you gave this crew: Goldilocks, Scurvy and Willey. Of course they had to fall in a hole! This story was a lot of fun, Margi!

    3. carlyumz

      There are so many excellent responses to the prompt, but your story immediately caught my eye with a brilliantly engaging first sentence. The phrase ‘…like pebbles in an accordion’ especially made me smile.

      I really enjoyed your take on the prompt and reiterate jmcody’s comment that the poem at the ending was inspired!

  40. Jay

    “After an arduous journey full of murder, betrayal, and emotional dissonance we finally came upon the treasure.” I softly read aloud. “The captain ordered one of the men to open the chest, and inside was nothing more than jewels, gold, and a few items I didn’t recognize.”

    I sat back and closed the book over my index finger to hold my place. I took in a deep breath expecting to smell the fresh salty air of a distant island, but instead endured the stale stench of the dinner I burned earlier that evening.

    It wasn’t often that I stopped reading so close to the end of a book, but I couldn’t help myself. From one chapter to the next, the pirates murdered so many innocent people. They betrayed each other’s loyalty without regard to how it affected one another. The hunger they had for just a few precious metals seemed to turn all of them into monsters.

    The realization concerned me because I began to wonder if I was no different. I had a great job and lived very comfortably, but what cost did I pay to get there?

    I could think of a dozen or more bridges I’d burned so thoroughly that rebuilding wasn’t an option and starting fresh was impossible. For years, I ignored the family and friends that I supposedly loved. Friends often called or messaged me to spend time with them, but I’d ignored every one of them. Hell, I wasn’t even around when my father fell ill and died. And what did I feel? Guilty? No. I felt like I had made the right decisions. I believed that I had to do what was right for me because no one else would give a damn more than I did.

    Yet, there I was, sitting alone in a palace born from blood, sweat, and tears, but none of it was my own. It was the blood of my blood and the tears of those I hurt or betrayed just to get what I wanted most, which suddenly seemed like nothing at all.

    I looked around at all the treasures I’d collected. The big screen T.V. was dark and silent upon the wall, the quiet 200 square-foot living room with expensively threaded furniture, and even though I couldn’t exactly see it, I thought about the Italian sports car parked in my garage. The house, which overlooked the ocean, cost a monthly mortgage worth what most people made in an entire year.

    I gave up priceless treasures for things that suddenly weren’t even worth their weight in pennies. Now I truly was the only person who gave a damn more than anyone did, and that sad reality proved I became a pirate of sorts. A pirate who found a treasure that wasn’t at all what I expected to find at the end of my adventure.

  41. Shell

    Hornswaggled
    By Shell Ochsner

    Smiling for the first time in a long while, Captain Nicolosia Musini gloated about her victory. “It’s been weeks since we’ve first laid eyes on that ship and now finally she’s ours for the taken. That stow-a-way boy had better be right in his claim a treasure map be aboard.”

    First mate, Greggor, indulged the captain but had little tolerance for the boy. He often would say, “For the love of Pete Cap’n, the clumsy swab has not o sea legs.”

    A sudden loud crash came across the deck as Pada, the stow-a-way, knocked over a stack of rum barrels with something in his grasp.”Cap’n! Cap’n! Lookey what I be gotten.”

    Visions of the glorious motherload danced in her head as Nicolosia took the cloth. She would be known as the richest and most feared pirate in history. “Arr! Shiver me timbers chap! Ye be right on target. Give no quarter says I!”

    Pada eyes widen and fear began to take hold. He’s never killed a man before.

    With a sword in one hand, a gun in other Captain Nicolosia took only a moments notice to weigh the boys odds. “Ah, not to hang the jib with the likes o me swab! I’ve no titty for ye.”

    Even though most of the crew on board the captured ship where either dead or dying from spoilage, it was a slaughter non-the-less. Greggor enjoyed this part the most. Murder is his passion and he usually took his time to slowly torture his victims. He’d delight in immense pleasure out of their blood soaked screams. But this time he took none for granted as the captain would surely run him through and sail right away.

    The map lead Nicolosia and her small two person crew to an island off the coast of Lisbon. The beauty of it almost haunted her. “After we collect the booty, splice the main brace says I!”

    Two voices agreed unanimously, “Aye!”

    Finding the buried treasure posed no issue whatsoever. Both the captain and Greggor have been on many quests. The problem they encountered was in their predicament. They fell into a camouflaged hole in the path almost four meters down. They’d been set up.

    Finding themselves surrounded by bamboo spears, no doubt tipped with poison, neither dared to make any sudden movements knowing the trigger is likely hidden in the sand below their feet. “Cap’n, I swear I’ll blow the man down if me gets out alive.”

    “Aye, no one hornswaggles the likes o me! Now handsomely slither left.”

    “Ahoy mates!”

    Looking up, both Nicolosia and Greggor couldn’t believe what they saw. Pada smiling down at them like rats in a cage. “Ye both be worth me weight in gold. That there’s a gibbet cage for two, courtesy of the Royal Navy. Ye be hold the motherload of all bounties; the most wanted pirate’s in all land and sea.”

    Captain Nicolosia Musini and first mate, Greggor; captured, convicted, and sentenced to death by order of Queen Anne herself.

  42. switchgoose

    Tis expectations, not cannons, that drown men of the sea, me wise mother phropheted some two score and four years ago when me set down to the water in search of a piratin’ job. For forty-four years, I held those words close to me breastbone and kept me expectations low. Twas likely those low expectations that caused me to be aboard a rickety ship one morning raisin’ me hand to go ashore. For inevitably the time arrives in a man’s life, and certainly a pirate man’s life, when ye is forced upon a decision: swim toward something or start sinking. Ye see, me mother, may she slumber in peace, was wrong. Ye can’t stand in one place too long ‘fore eventually, ye find ye standin’ in quicksand.

    Twas all these years of obeyin’ the captain, layin’ low, partakin’ but not leadin’ the plunders that kept me stuck to this rancid cog for so long- a dinghy really, big enough for only one other pirate, a captain, and the predictable parrot. Over the years, me noticed even the bilge rats expected better for theeselves, takin’ departure of this miserable yawl for the bigger ships, the ones that promised deep waters and vast riches. Ye take yer lessons where they come, I s’pose. Aye, twas watchin’ them bilge rats depart how I come to be with me hand in the air that day offerin’ to step ashore whilst me mateys remained at the bow. Other pirates twas in the area and the captain did not liken to leave his vessel unmanned. For word was known- our wee crew had taken possession of the most coveted map on the seven seas. The four oceans too, but that didn’t sound nearly as poetic.

    With the map tucked in me pocket, I waded to shore. On me shoulders were the dreams of me captain and me mate- a bigger boat, a larger crew, more money for grog and the pretty lasses at port. Me dreams were present too, but they were different than me mates. I had a yearnin’ to captain me own ship, sail me own seas. For once, I had me own expectations, and they were risin’ like a strong spring tide. The moon was on me side.

    Twas not a difficult map to follow, and soon me feet stood where X marked the spot. Me pockets felt weighty, as if they were already overflowed with the riches below. Sweat profused out me glands as I dug towards me golden future in the sand.

    Aye, in retrospect, if pirates had retrospect, the writing was on the wall, twasn’t it?

    Me fortune never came. Nor me boat nor me seven seas. Me captain, in his despair, threw himself to the sea. Me matey and I spent the remainder of our days drowning our sorrow in drink and the occasional wench. Rumor has it the parrot took to the streets and spent the last days of his life begging for crackers. For beneath the X on the map twas no treasure, twas nothing fortuitous- twas nothing but a picture already fadin’ in color.

    Twas nothing but what thieves today know as the Mona Lisa.

    1. Reaper

      This is awesome. The wording is beautiful, the lessons from start to finish are amazing. I realized a bit in that I wasn’t sure I was listening to a pirate. Halfway through I realized this sounded like one of the stories my crazy great uncle used to tell me. You know the ones about walking to school in the snow uphill both ways. That made this even better for me.

      1. switchgoose

        Thanks for taking the time to check out my story, Reaper. Your response got me thinking (which is always helpful!)- did you feel I fell out of character when you were no longer sure you were listening to a pirate? I’m curious! Thanks.

        1. Reaper

          Mostly it was what jmcody said below. I do not feel you fell out of character. The voice was larger than life, sounding like someone who is lying in a way they just expect to be believed. Which looking back on it fits a pirate as well. One of those stories that is told over drinks in port. The seeing my great uncle actually enhanced the read for me. I should have been more clear about that I think.

          1. switchgoose

            Thanks, Reaper. You’ve got a great line in your second response: “The voice was larger than life, sounding like someone who is lying in a way they just expect to be believed.” You should think about tucking that away for future use on a prompt or just something you’re working on. It’d be a great way to describe a character.

    2. jmcody

      Oh, I was so rooting for this plucky underdog pirate, and you crushed my — and his — dreams, switchgoose! I guess he just couldn’t overcome the deprivation of his early life.

      This was a treat to read. I thoroughly enjoyed the evolution of the pirate’s thought process, and I thought the voice was convincing. To your question above, there were a couple of places where his voice became a little tongue-in-cheek (the “predictable parrot” comes to mind), but to me that only added to my enjoyment of the story.

      You are a wonderful storyteller, and in my opinion, a standout on this site. I’m looking forward to reading more of your writing.

      1. switchgoose

        jmcody, thanks for responding to my question about the character’s voice and for all the kind words. I’m glad you liked the story. I had to laugh at the beginning of your post. Truth be told, it was kind of fun crushing his dreams. Sorry about yours though. ;-)

    3. carlyumz

      I’m really impressed by how you were able to create such a natural and engaging tone of voice throughout this piece. I often find it difficult to write in a dialect without making the MC sound silly or forced, but you managed it wonderfully. Hats off to you switchgoose! Looking forward to reading more from you.

      1. switchgoose

        Thanks, carlyumz! I’m glad you didn’t find the MC to sound silly or forced, and appreciate you taking the time to tell me. You never know when writing these kinds of things. Like you said, dialects are tricky, and I really wasn’t sure how my pirate came across. Glad you liked it!

    4. Critique

      I visualize a dimly lit tavern – filled with a motley crowd of buccaneers – rum mugs in hand, all listening avidly to this pirate spin his treasure tale :) The surprise ending was awesome. I liked this very much switchgoose.

  43. PeterW

    Arrrggghh! We were pirates! Me, Mate and Cap. Arrrghhh. We had a good time of it; tearing across the Sargasso, plundering, fighting, fishing the depths for sailfish and sharks that we cooked and eat up on the deck of the good ol’ “Valencia”. We were tossed upon the waves and driven down the surfs, Cap at the tiller, Mate at the sails, and we riding the nest in the high gusts tasting all the salt and seaweed in the tropical. Oh, it was a time.

    Once, we happened upon a great canvas map. Cap ripped it from the hands of a dead Spaniard half-breed and we spread it out on the wood floor still awash with his blood. There were Xs a plenty on that map. It was the most wonderful sight. The oil lamp burning; the Spaniard’s ship creaking and swaying; the Spaniard’s ghost shaking the rigging, brushing along the sails.

    There were 24 Xs stitched into the blood-splattered map. And we criss-crossed the Caribe and all the way down to South America locating them all. Aye, there was mud and rain and hurricanes and snakes and natives and dark nights on the beach, but at each X we pulled a small chest from the earth, and broke each chest open upon a stone and let the gold medallions tumble out and sparkle. They even in the rain, even on the darkest nights, those medallions shone like glory and truth and perfection. They were shimmering justifications for the seafaring life. So ten years we stayed on the sea locating the Spaniard’s gold, growing lonesome for our wives and families on the Texas coast; grower older, our skin and eyes beaten by both weather and sun. The last and biggest X was just south of Texas near the heathen and dry coast of north Mexico and we saved it for last, then we would ditch the “Valencia” and come home… pirates no more. `

    That winter we reached Mexico, the Valencia’s sails in tatters, the hull nearly breached, and the barnacles climbing up over the ship’s sides. Mate stayed with the ship on a dry, rocky beach and Cap and I made our way inland over the sand dunes and brown plateaus. For three days we hiked, then for three more we circled amongst shrubs and sparse trees searching for the metal cross that had always marked Spaniard’s treasure. We found it in a gulch, bent half-way under a boulder, near sun-down. And before the light was gone we had heaved the boulder aside and began digging. When the sun had again risen we came upon a huge black chest. It was among the skeletons of at least six men. Cap and I stood among the bones. The sun upon the horizon was blood red. He looked me in the eye and said, “I came out here planning to kill you. Then as we came upon the Texan coast, I was going to throw Mate into the deep. But I can see now that I would be able to move this chest on my own.”

    Then we threw his sword and gun and flint into the dirt. “I see now that I’m a greedy, despicable man,” he said. “Kill me if you wish.”

    I drew my sword. I raised it. But he was my captain. He would be forever linked with the sea and salt and the days of high adventure; the good times of an ordinary pirate. So I threw my sword into the pile of bones.
    For five days we struggled back to the coast. The chest was so huge and heavy that we had dragged it along. We saw the smoke first. It was rising and mixing with the clouds on the shore. We ran to the top dune and saw the Valencia aflame and a sleek Spanish vessel sailing out to sea. Mate’s burnt body was rolling in the surf.

    We could’ve went home: Cap and I. But we were pirates. Aye, so we buried the chest, stitched another X onto the map, and threw Mate’s body in with it. Then we walked south along the shore in search of a harbor, some Spaniards with our gold, a new ship, and another man who could work the sails.

    1. DMelde

      Fun. Cadence was good, like a ship rolling on the sea. Structure was excellent. I didn’t like Texas. I would have preferred a name like the Golden Coast, or some such name, because Texas dated it. I wish the captain had tried to kill the mate. For him to surrender his arms seemed too out of character for a ship’s captain, much less a pirate. Mate, like all good pirates, should have some ambition and should have killed the captain, driving the story with more conflict as the mate now tries to get the treasure out by himself. (I may be a little blood-thirsty.) These thoughts, and more, you probably already thought of for yourself, but due to the word limit constraint, you went the way you did. Nothing but praise for your story, these are just my humble thoughts. Great, the cat is throwing up, gotta go. :)

    2. snuzcook

      This was a Tale, PeterW, a Journey. You communicated not just the ambition and drive to amass wealth, but the ‘slog’ element of being a pirate as well as . You also brought in the ever elusive goal to finally have enough and go home, and really made these guys sympathetic characters. Well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You are without doubt one of the most intelligent writer’s I have ever read and that includes the masters. You have illuminated the one secret most people never consider and therefore, never hit their mark in life.

        It’s not the prize that counts. It’s not the motive or the passion on the hunt that counts. It’s only the quest that’s important, nothing else. For spoils once gained, crumble into worthless nothings. And that my intelligent friend, is what makes the Maltise Falcon, the greatest movie ever made.

  44. RuthieShev

    The Hungry Pirates

    You’re a pirate on a small pirate ship, that consists of only you, one other pirate and a captain. Recently you ransacked another ship and found a treasure map. After weeks of following it, you’ve finally found the island where “X” marks the spot. Write a scene where you find the buried treasure, only it’s not exactly the treasure you expected to find. (500 words or less)
    My husband officially thinks I am crazy. Since I know little or nothing about Pirates, I am sitting here with a scarf on my head and a homemade patch on my eye trying to get a pirate scene in my head.

    “Yikes Bella! This patch is starting to feel scratchy over my eye. Why do I have to wear it anyway? And my headband is giving me a headache. I bet it’s at least 90 degrees here on this island. If we don’t find something soon, we may as well forget the whole thing and go back home. I’m hungry,” Complained Izzy. My friend, George was the captain since he was the elder of the three of us by almost six months. Besides, it was his father’s boat. He looked at Izzy with a scowl on his face and ordered him to quit complaining. I was thinking that at least we are off the ship and he was not complaining about the sea sickness the waves were giving him. No way was Izzy cut out to be a pirate. But he’s my brother and I felt like I needed to give him this adventure along with George and myself. My Uncle was the seafaring person in the family. Everyone said I take after him and my twin brother takes after our Dad, who was a bookkeeper. Why do parents think they have to give twins rhyming names like Isadore and Isabella? I was dressed in a white off the shoulder blouse, short shorts with a sash around the waste. The large scarf in my long curly red hair tied and hanging down the left side was exactly as I perceived a pirate wench should look. Captain George wore a Captain hat and an old navy uniform that used to belong to his great, great uncle or something like that. I am thinking we are a good looking pirate crew.
    Brought out of my musings by Captain George, my eyes followed down the beach where his finger was pointing. He was motioning to a funny looking rock on which someone had painted crossbones. We all ran over and knew immediately, we had to enter the woods right here where the trees parted as if to call us. We followed the narrow path sometimes scratching ourselves on the brush along the way for a while before we came to an opening with a picnic table. We wondered where the treasure could possibly be. I studied the map again. It showed everything we had passed, even the picnic table. The “x” on the map was off to the NW side of the opening. Our eyes noticed an American Flag sticking up out of some newly dug ground.
    “This is it”, I exclaimed. All three pirates started digging in unison. They just couldn’t wait to see what they would find. There it was. But it sure was a funny looking treasure chest. It looked more like a picnic basket. Opening it up slowly, the trio looked inside. They found a note sitting on top of a steel lunchbox covered with plastic. Bella read the note out loud. “Enjoy your lunch my little pirates. You two have a great day of exploring and adventure with your friend,” Love, Momma.

    1. DMelde

      Cute story. Here are my suggestions… Make it even more silly. Go overboard and walk the plank. These are kids. Anything goes with kids. My other suggestion is with structure. Don’t make it a long paragraph. Give my eyes a rest by breaking your big paragraph into smaller ones. Find the natural page breaks where the action changes, or someone starts musing, or someone starts talking. This helps me find the rhythm of your story, and when this happens, I’m anticipating your next morsel. Excellent idea to tell the story through the eyes of a child.

    2. Reaper

      Ruthie Shev, you amaze me. I couldn’t help but laugh at your opening. I applaud your dedication to your craft and your ability to think around corners on this one. This was wonderful. With that said, three little things.

      In the last paragraph you switched to third person. As the rest was told from we switching to they was a little jarring.

      Second is a small homophone issue. You have the MC with a sash around her waste when you meant waist. Yes I’m nitpicking because you’re very good and I can’t find much to suggest.

      The last one may just be me. You have a few places where the language changes for me. Such as where you describe the uncle as the seafaring person in the family. That wording struck me as odd and my mind wanted to read it as member of the family. At first I could not figure out why it didn’t seem to fit. Then I realized what it was. In this prompt and the last one you have a very comfortable, inviting, down home tone to your language. Occasionally in this one there are lines like that one, where it feels like you were struggling with the story and lost the language that is so unique to you. Now I could be completely wrong and this is as natural to you as the rest and my overtired brain is just being too critical. If I am please ignore. If I’m not though, please never lose that voice that makes you so unique and wonderful to read.

      1. RuthieShev

        Thank you for your comments. I actually appreciate all the help everyone gives me. I do have problems and have in the past had problems keeping the characters in the same tense. I have been trying to work on that and will continue. Sorry about the “waste” as opposed to “waist”. Please don’t tell my Enlish teacher from back in the 1960’s about that one. lol. In the future I will try to take the time to proofread my work better. I actually did this really fast because the first one I wrote had a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball glove, hat and bat in it but then I read the cute one (much better than mine) about the Phillies fan so I scrapped it and started again. I live outside Pittsburgh so that was my natural first instinct for a Pirate story. Thank you for all your suggestions and really nice comments.

    3. jmcody

      The others all gave you excellent advice, so I will just say that I really enjoyed your story. It was sweet and nostalgic for another time. The name Isadore for a boy especially put me in mind of an earlier time, maybe sometime in the early part of the 20th century. It made me think of old family photos from that era where everyone would dress up in costumes and ham it up for the camera. A lovely, sepia-toned portrait of fun and innocence.

    4. snuzcook

      This was such a fun story, RuthieShev! I love the images you drew for me, and the way I could overlay my own childhood adventures onto these characters to enjoy the moment.

    5. Observer Tim

      This is an enchanting story of childhood, RuthieShev. It seems like the sort of things kids would do in play, and it’s touching to see their mother going along with it. I can see Norman Rockwell painting a cover for the book this is in (well, if he wasn’t dead).

      I noticed you switched person for the last paragraph. That’s something to keep an eye on unless your goal is to break the mood.

  45. Ahsuniv

    Tert wiped the back of his neck as the blazing sun beat down on his head. A green island towered on top of high rocks to the side, providing some relief from the endless ocean.

    ‘Tert. Get down there, now!’ bellowed he captain.

    It had been hours since Crab dived down into the sea in an attempt to retrieve the lost treasure. The captain was getting restless as they waited for him to return.

    ‘Naw Captain. I couldn’t go in there. You will be all alone.’

    ‘You insolence, how dare you! We are on the right spot,’ he said shoving the treasure map in Tert’s face. ‘I say, jump in. Right now.’

    Tert raked his mind as he thought of a way out of the situation. If Crab, an excellent diver, couldn’t come back up, surely there must be something dreadful down there. The captain now nudged him with his hooked hand.

    ‘Aye Captain, I am going,’ he said making up his mind and jumped into the water, holding onto his meager diving gear.

    As the sea water splashed around him, a load of salt washed into his mouth making him spit out in revulsion. He put on the diving gear and went under the water. Instead of going in the direction that Crab had taken earlier, Tert went in the opposite direction and reached for the ship’s anchor. He held onto the anchor’s chain and stayed put.

    He would lie to the captain and tell him that he didn’t find the treasure or Crab anywhere. He looked around through his goggles for a clue of Crab’s whereabouts and saw a dark form floating towards him. Tert squinted and saw a glint of yellow. As it grew closer, Tert panicked and prepared to rush back to the surface. But, just as he started to move up, the figure came into sight and Tert screamed silently at what he saw.

    It was Crab’s body floating motionlessly. Tert swam closer to the body. Crab’s face was twisted in agony and a giant gold necklace dangled around his neck. Tert gently picked the necklace to see if it was real gold. The instant his skin touched the metal, the necklace unwound itself from Crab’s neck and slithered around Tert’s hand.

    He screamed wordlessly as the metal tightened on his wrist. He tried make his way up to the surface, but instead, he felt himself getting sucked deeper and deeper into the cold black sea.

    1. jhowe

      I liked this a lot. Tert had a good idea to pass a little time on the anchor line and then come back up. The necklace got him though. Great story telling.

      1. switchgoose

        I was hooked from the start, wondering where this story would lead. The necklace was the perfect twist- clever, yet a little horrifying, which is exactly how I like my pirate tales.

    2. jmcody

      The reading was effortless. I found myself slipping into that frame of mind where you forget that you are reading and get absorbed into the story. I wanted it to go on. I am going to have to study this one to see how that did that!

      1. Ahsuniv

        Thanks jmcody! Sometimes the story flows for me, but sometimes I get stuck badly and either way, it becomes apparent in my writing. I’m happy that you felt the way you did reading my story.

      1. Ahsuniv

        I totally understand where you are going Observer Tim. When I re-read my story, I know exactly what you mean. The beginning para was pretty shoddy work. I’m really happy to have received your feedback.

        I really do have a long way to go as an author. I find myself improving with each passing week and I hope to continue doing so. I am a completely different writer from who I was in the beginning. That is why I make it a point to participate every week :)

  46. snuzcook

    JOHNNY

    It is almost dawn now. I can see the palm trees down by the beach against a brightening sky. I haven’t really noticed how pretty the sky is at dawn since I was a kid back on the farm. That was a world away in a different life.

    “Johnny? Johnny Boy!” I can hear Ma’s voice. But it can’t be Ma. It’s just the gulls overhead. Gulls and something else–the black birds, carrion angels of death, waiting.

    I wish I had a drink. Rum would be good right now, something to sear my pipes and clear the haze from my eyes. Even water would be better than this hot thirst–cool, sweet water. But there’s nothing to fill my cup. Ha! There’s not even a cup. I wish it would rain. I could just lie here and open my mouth and let the rain wash the crusts from my eyes and wet the cracks on my lips. Good, gentle rain to quench the fire on my skin and soothe the pox covering my body like the pricks of a thousand pygmy arrows.

    I wonder where the Scarlet Lady is now, left adrift with a dying crew. Such bully boys they were, every one of them quick to the knife, quicker yet to the scent of gold. On their knees or cursing heaven, each of them, when I last saw them, as I plunged over the side for a desperate chance at life.

    It was the hint of gold that killed them, and me too, right enough. But it was Kent and Wilkens and me brought it to them. Kent and Wilkens and me they’ll curse down to Davey’s own council.

    We violated a ghost ship, the three of us. We came upon her in the fog on the way to rendezvous. Fat she was with the promise of treasure and not a coin or a living soul on board. She was a Portugee privateer, and none of us could read the notice stuck to the mast with a bloody dagger. But the map we found with the captain’s charts was plain in any language.

    The voyage would take a ship, so we reported to the Captain at rendezvous. He hove to right enough and in just three days we found the island. Six burly men went ashore, and brought back the treasure: Five chests, all told, and full of gold and jewels and silks and plate. Every man touched and kissed the treasure, arms plunged elbow deep in it, sweating bodies draped and festooned with it. Finally the Captain called us all to heel and put it under lock and key.

    We stayed at anchor to take on supplies. That night the first man sickened. By dawn we knew Old Scratch had infected our treasure with our doom. I had no pact with the Devil to stay aboard. I jumped ship and hoped my Ma’s praying all those years ago might do me some good. I nearly drowned and washed ashore at last, emptying my guts of seawater into the sand. But the deed was done.

    “Johnny? Johnny Boy!” I hear Ma calling again. I close my eyes and I can feel her close to me. I hear the rustle of her dress like an angel’s wing, and feel her touch as I drift off to sleep.

    1. Reaper

      Snuzcook, this is beautiful. The language drew me in right away. Sear my pipes and clear the haze from my eyes was just amazing. The metaphorical treasure at the end was key for me. This is inspired and inspiring.

      1. snuzcook

        Thanks, Reaper!
        Like a lot of my stories, this one has a dual ending: a soft and melancholy one in honor of Mothers Day, and a Hitchcockian twist between the lines because it’s pirates. ;0)

    2. Amyithist

      The story, the vocabulary, the flow… all of it was spot on. Wonderfully done. Perhaps you should consider this one of your best genres! Thank you for the wonderful story.

      1. snuzcook

        Thank’ee, Amyithist! (Don’t know if I can stay with pirates too long. I’d have to get a parrot, and I just hate people watching over my shoulder as I write!)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’m on board with the comments. This a beutiful writing style I haven’t seen from you. To say it was haunting doesn’t give the prose proper respect. It’s hard to top the other comments. I do want to say one thing I’ve been meaning to for a long time.

        I consider it a rare privilege to read your wonderful stories each week. Even when you’re famous, please don’t go anywhere.

        1. snuzcook

          High praise, indeed, Kerry, from such a talented artist as yourself ** ‘o’ **
          Never fear; so far my writing isn’t going anywhere but here (sigh), and neither am I.

    3. jmcody

      This was wonderful, Snuzcook. Your voice was spot-on and your words conveyed the perfect combination of adventure and regret. I especially loved the last line. A masterfully written piece, as always.

    4. Bilbo Baggins

      Well, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? This was a beautiful story of inner thought and imagery. My favorite line: “Such bully boys they were, every one of them quick to the knife, quicker yet to the scent of gold.” Keep up the awesome work!

      1. snuzcook

        Thanks, JM, Bilbo and Marc.
        I was afraid the significance of the reference to feathers in the last line had been missed under the sentimentality.

    5. Critique

      This was superb snuzcook. Was Old Scratch the pox?
      It was too late for Johnny but with Mother’s Day only yesterday I’m reminded that few people impact the human race as much as Mothers – and Johnny’s last thoughts were focused on his Mother.

      1. snuzcook

        Thanks for your comments, Critique!
        As to your question: Old Scratch was just one of many pseudonyms for The Devil. Here he is again, as in the story of the Devil and Dan’l Webster, granting a greedy wish for fame and fortune with a fatal, hidden twist.

  47. carlyumz

    This is my very first post here. Be kind and thanks for reading!

    “Land ahead!” came The Captain’s call. “Azure Cove is in sight!”

    It was more of a strained whimper, rather than the triumphant bellow we had all first wished for. But the days had stretched into weeks and then into months, until time had ceased to make sense to any of us. Food had abandoned us first, then our bodies as they each succumbed to dehydration and fierce hunger. Our minds were next.

    I had tried feebly to combat this and to keep mine sharp by scraping together as many stories from The Captain and Lambert as I could, but conversation was thirsty-work. I knew that they secretly despised me, for plotting the trip in the first place and for my ambition, which had pushed us on relentlessly towards the brink of death. Their hunger and hopelessness slowly began to mount and took on a sinister quality, so much so that I had taken to hiding in my cabin, attempting to write down my cloud of thoughts into a tale worth telling. But even in my sleep I felt Lambert’s eyes devouring me.

    They had asked and then demanded that we return home at once, but returning without finding the promised treasure was not an option. To continue, I had been forced to promise The Captain much more than fame and a leading role in my epic, but it would all be worth it. His price rose a little every few days. I didn’t lose sleep over this though, if the treasure was as grand as legend, there would be plenty to share.

    The small ship lurched forward and groaned from the sudden change of pace. We had been moving onwards for so long and suddenly we were about to stop. I licked my baked lips and gathered parchment and two pieces of lead before I joined them.

    The Cove did little to stir my senses. I had dreamt of a lush emerald paradise, with bountiful trees towering above and flecks of golden sand dipping into the ocean. In reality it was a barren, almost featureless length of sand. I glanced nervously at my shipmates, expecting outrage, but they both seemed resilient. Clearly my disappointment was not shared.

    “There,” The Captain said gruffly, pointing to the rock face that curved across the island. “Where the rocks meet the ground.”

    With some help I was able to make out a crack that had cut through the rock. An X. My legs screamed in protest of the solid ground, but we moved forward across the island regardless. This was it, finally, the adventure I had always hoped for lay ahead.

    “Do you have the spades?” I asked Lambert, and then looked to The Captain for an answer.

    Silence. I searched The Captain’s ravaged face for recognition and found something I thought he had lost long ago: Hope.

    He held a rock in his hand and tilted it towards the sun, looking from myself to Lambert and then back again. They both grinned hungrily.

    1. DMelde

      Hi carlyumz. What a great idea to go looking for treasure and find betrayal instead. My one suggestion, for now, is to strengthen your sentences by getting rid of the word “had”. For example, in your second paragraph, how much stronger would the sentence read if you had structured it this way… The days stretched into weeks and then into months, until time ceased to make sense to any of us. Wow, what a great sentence, and it’s there, in what you wrote. Keep writing and posting. Welcome to the forum! :)

    2. Reaper

      Welcome carlyumz. Don’t worry about people here being kind, most of the time the commentators are even gentle, especially when you are new.

      You have a nice intense story with a wonderful flourish of a twist at the end. I will agree with DMelde in some different words. There are words in here which could be cut out to strengthen sentences. It is not absolutely necessary to do so. However tightening up those sentences would increase the strength of the structure to match that of the idea.

      I note that I’m of the same tribe. Almost every week I have to go back and remove about 20 “that”s from my prompt.

      1. carlyumz

        Thanks DMelde and Reaper for the welcome and the spot-on advice! I’ve read back through and can see how more select editing could make a big difference.

        I’m excited to keep taking part and to be inspired by other writers. At the moment the only feedback I get from friends and family is of the same ‘We like it, well done’ variety (which is supportive but not too constructive), so a place like this is going to be extremely helpful. Thanks again!

    3. jmcody

      Welcome Carlyumz. Glad you found us! Congrats on your first entry, and overall you did a very nice job. I agree with the comments about tightening up the language a bit. I struggle with that myself, but I think this forum has helped me tremendously. The 500 word limit alone (which I rarely achieve) forces you to rethink word choices. The writers here are incredibly supportive and kind, and tend to focus on what worked well, with gentle suggestions for improvement.

      I enjoyed the mood you created in this story, as well as the subtle twist at the end.

  48. Jay

    “After an arduous journey full of murder, betrayal, and emotional dissonance we finally came upon the treasure.” I softly read aloud. “The captain ordered one of the men to open the chest, and inside was nothing more than jewels, gold, and a few items I didn’t recognize.”

    I sat back and closed the book over my index finger to hold my place. I took in a deep breath expecting to smell the fresh salty air of a distant island, but instead endured the stale stench of the dinner I burned earlier that evening.

    It wasn’t often that I stopped reading so close to the end of a book, but I couldn’t help myself. From one chapter to the next, the pirates murdered so many innocent people. They betrayed each other’s loyalty without regard to how it affected one another. The hunger they had for just a few precious metals seemed to turn all of them into monsters.

    The realization concerned me because I began to wonder if I was no different. I had a great job and lived very comfortably, but what cost did I pay to get there?

    I could think of a dozen or more bridges I’d burned so thoroughly that rebuilding wasn’t an option and starting fresh was impossible. For years, I ignored the family and friends that I supposedly loved. Friends that often called or messaged me to spend time with them, but I’d ignored. Hell, I wasn’t even around when my father fell ill and died. And what did I feel? Guilty? No. I felt like I had made the right decisions. I believed that I had to do what was right for me because no one else would give a damn more than I did.

    Yet, there I was, sitting alone in a palace born from blood, sweat, and tears, but none of it was my own. It was the blood of my blood and the tears of those I hurt or betrayed just to get what I wanted most, which suddenly seemed like nothing at all.

    I looked around at all the treasures I’d collected. The big screen T.V. was dark and silent upon the wall, the 200 square-foot living room with expensively threaded furniture, and even though I couldn’t exactly see it, I thought about the Italian sports car parked in my garage. The house, which overlooked the ocean, cost a monthly mortgage worth what most people made in an entire year.

    I gave up priceless treasures for things that suddenly weren’t even worth their weight in pennies. Now I truly was the only person who gave a damn more than anyone did, and that sad reality proved I became a pirate of sorts. A pirate who found a treasure that wasn’t at all what I expected to find at the end of my adventure.

  49. jhowe

    The first mate scanned the northern coast of St. Croix from the fly bridge atop the Cruzan Gold. The captain had one hand on the wheel and studied the map they had commandeered from two fishermen the night before 25 miles south of Puerto Rico.

    Steve Mannes took one more glance at the shapely ass of the first mate clad in a turquoise bikini bottom and turned his attention to the approaching seaport of Christiansted. The captain slowed the twin 200 horsepower outboards and called to the first mate. “Anything unusual Sheila?”

    “No John. It looks normal to me.”

    “You still pissed about those fishermen Steve?” John said. “Sheila, you better put your top back on. Steve here is getting all hot and bothered.”

    “They didn’t need to be killed,” Steve said.

    Sheila climbed down from the fly bridge fastening her bikini top. “No sign of the authorities. I don’t think the Ricans had time to radio anyone.”

    “Then let’s head to Buck Island.” Captain John said, folding the map. He veered eastward and slowly increased power. “Steve’s having a problem with his conscious Sheila.”

    Sheila tenderly put her hands on Steve’s shoulders. “We didn’t have a choice baby. One of them had the radio mike in his hand.”

    “You could have knocked them out or something.”

    “This isn’t the movies Steve. The Coast Guard would be all over us right now if we hadn’t of shot them.” An uncomfortable silence ensued and rolled with the rising and falling surf punctuated with the occasional call of a passing seabird barely heard over the din of the outboards.

    “Land ho,” John called out. Buck Island was just off the northeast coast of St. Croix. It was a tourist hotspot with great snorkeling and a pristine white sand beach. Many boats were anchored along the southern shore. John maneuvered the Cruzan Gold around the small island to the reef strewn northern coast.

    A small sloop was anchored about 400 feet off shore. John pulled up beside it and picked up his assault rifle. Sheila followed suit. “Ahoy there boat people,” John said. “We’re here for the shipment.”

    A young black man stared blankly. “I don’t read you mon.”

    “Don’t fuck with me Bucko. Your partners are dead and so be will you if you don’t hand it over.” John fired one shot into the hull of the sloop.

    “Hey, that’s my boat!” said the black man.

    “The next one goes in your chest. Toss up the fucking shipment.”

    The black man’s eyes darted and he nodded to another man who picked up a large parcel wrapped in brown paper. John moved the power boat closer and Sheila took possession of the package. John fired one more round into the radio on the sloop’s council. “Jump,” he said.

    The men hesitated and jumped when the captain gestured with the rifle. “Swim.” John said. The men swam. John waited until they had gone a couple of hundred feet and he turned his boat out to sea. Sheila stowed the rifles and joined the captain on the bridge.

    As they rounded a point they saw two Coast Guard Cruisers waiting with deck guns aimed. “Power down and keep your hands up,” said a voice over the loudspeaker.

    John looked at Sheila and then at Steve. His eyes hardened and he said, “What the hell did you do?”

    Steve feigned innocence. “You better do as they say captain.”

    John pulled the throttles to neutral and turned off the motors. As two officers boarded the Cruzan Gold one of them said, “Which of you is Steve Mannes?”

    “I am,” said Steve. I’m the one who texted you.”

    “Good work son. We’ve been after these two for quite a while now.”

    1. snuzcook

      Well-written story and nice take on the prompt, jhowe. I was completely drawn into your story, and the idea of the beautiful and dangerous antagonists roaming paradise was very compelling.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        The bikini babe was more than a nice touch. It brought the whole story extrememly visual and real. The wording of your story is very crisp in it’s reality.
        I wish I had been there so after they had captured the bad asses, we could have taken a week’s cruise in the area and hit the hot spots, jhowe. What do you think?

    2. jmcody

      A pirate with a conscience — what a novel idea. The whole piece was very visual and flowed well. I was picturing one of those really loud, annoying cigarette boats that are usually operated by people who look like drug dealing pirates and have scantily clad bikini babes on board. I also enjoyed the Caribbean locale, and your portrayal of the smug captain. Nice work.

    3. Observer Tim

      This is a great story, jhowe. It reads like a short-short version of a full thriller. You’ve done an excellent job packing more action and story in than one might have thought there was room for.

  50. Reaper

    The Francisco Conspiracy

    August, 2016 – The Atlantic

    Peter Francisco reflected on the wonders of being a pirate in the modern age. One of those wonders was that a crew of three could raid a full cruise ship. It was all about speed and high powered weapons. Their recent haul proved that.

    Captain Bethany was a dreamer. Francisco had a crush on her so he was willing to follow her into hell. The ship was full of plunder, but the captain ignored it. She boarded, had a brief conversation with a scientist on board and they exited with a small leather bound book.

    The Bermuda Triangle had fallen out of favor in the yellow press. It still existed however. As did the doorways to other times inside it. The one they were destined for was a one way trip. They would bury their treasure in the past and start new lives.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    September, 1690 – The Spanish Main

    Pedro Francisco loved being a pirate. Captain Bradley steered them true. Being part of a three man crew was difficult but the plunder split better. Even Stanish, the other crewman could not ruin his mood that day. They had plundered Captain Kidd and gained a map to the fabled treasure buried by Pedro’s father.

    When they made landfall things got difficult. Stanish was a greedy man, and he had drawn his pistol. All the crew on the Eternal Peace were well armed. Three men against boatloads was dangerous business after all. Stanish informed them he had had enough of them and would be taking the treasure and abandoning them on the island.

    Bradley tried to reason with him. Insisting that Pedro and the captain both had young sons at home that needed them. The plea had earned him the one bullet Stanish had. At swordpoint Pedro had trekked through the undergrowth and did all of the digging.

    When the treasure was uncovered Stanish exclaimed how useless it was. Not willing to hear his father’s work mocked Pedro had drawn his sword and a battle ensued. With Stanish dead and Pedro’s innards hanging outward the young pirate had reburied the treasure. Draining his rum Pedro used the bottle to toss the map into the ocean.

    Perhaps the next crew would understand.
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————

    July, 2342 – Neutral Space Near Earth

    Petra Francisco contemplated the wonders of being a pirate in the space fairing age. A crew of three with the right weapons could take anything. Unfortunately this meant that most, if not all of the people in the opposing ship were cold, floating corpses. Such was the way with their recent conquest.

    Captain Bradson insisted it was worth it. The captain was a bit of a dreamer. Francisco was forced to admit he had a point when she saw the one item inside the chest the map had led them to. It was a time worn, leather bound book. On the cover, in flaking gold leaf were the word “A Simple Path to Peace”. Maybe they could do it right this time.

    1. Gurney Halleck

      I liked the journal format. It fit and allowed for the jumps in time better than other options such as flashbacks. I also liked the looping concept. Good piece.

    2. snuzcook

      Brilliant concept, Reaper. Trying to pin down specifics of exactly what was happening re time travel or history simply repeating and altering over time was unclear for me, but that did not take away from the overall impressions and messages of the story. Good stuff!

    3. margi33

      Great concept Reaper. And deep — left a lot open to ones perceptions and imagination. I liked that the Bermuda Triangle was used as a time travel portal and that the leather bound journal was ultimately about the path to peace. Interesting :)

    4. Amyithist

      This is where the unlimited word count would do us some good. LOL I love the concept; very well done. I just wish there was more detail here. It leaves me yearning, stretching to the other side of the bed, only to find that the sheets are cold. That kind of feeling. Very nice, Reaper! :)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I have to agree with Amyithist, I loved the style, the journal, and damned the 500 rule we need to go by. This is such a rich , well planned story and with more back ground in your style you do so well, it could melt the computer screen. The idea about the Bermuda triangle being a time tunnel was extremely clever idea and gave your story a special punch. Great job here.

        I grew up in Miami and while in college I took my boat to sea into the gulfstream. It was too far from land because I didn’t have enough free board for the waves. Idiot thinking on my part. I worried about a fog bank rolling in and swallowing the boat and myself, even though I was hundreds of miles from the triangle.

    5. jmcody

      Your writing on this prompt, and on so many others, reminds me of one of those incredibly detailed etchings on a grain of rice. Within the confines of the word limit you managed to convey three separate realities, three versions of the same crew, three completely different experiences of the pirate life, and one high-minded and overarching lesson about the Path to Peace.

      I agree with snuzcook that it wouldn’t pay to try to analyze the specifics of exactly how the three crews and stories related to one another, but the overall effect of the piece was one of a seamlessly knit garment. Marvelous, Reaper.

    6. Critique

      This was an intriguing time travel trilogy. The Bermuda Triangle was an interesting addition. All those slow moving defenseless cruise ships in 2016 – beware!

    7. Marc Ellis

      I liked the idea of this story. Using the leather book to tie “jumps” together was a good idea. I think this could be further expanded to show how all the people, their adventures, families, are tied together all searching for a similar purpose and leaving lessons behind in versions of this journal.

      Sadly, mankind has millenia of history and still can’t seem to learn from their mistakes. The human condition must continue to be pervasive in the future.

  51. Erynn

    The humid air pressed around us as we climbed through the jungle. I held the map, it’s brittle edges swaying in the stifling breeze. Crystal blue ocean surrounded us, and the sails of our ship could barely be seen over the horizon, black flag flying proudly. Captain Brody, the leader of our band, took out his spyglass and scrutinized the terrain. “How much farther?” I studied the map. “It says fourteen paces to the Pillar of Stone. Northwest.” I pointed the direction, and Brody trained his spyglass in that area. Kip, our weapons expert, was hastily carving an X into a tree, marking our trail back to the beach. The three of us made up the entire crew of the Midnight Sun, a pirate ship that was the stuff of legends, and it was only right that we found a map leading to the greatest treasure in the world.
    Brody led us through the jungle, his cutlass slicing through the undergrowth with ease. I was in the middle counting out our paces, and Kip took the rear, marking random trees as we went.We stopped at the Pillar of Stone, noticing the clearing before us. This is where the treasure would be, and Kip produced a shovel and went to work. After a few minutes, the shovel struck wood, and the thee of us pulled out a large trunk. It was wooden and rotting away, having been buried for centuries. Brody easily broke the lock, and with bated breath we opened the trunk.

    It was empty, save for a blue bottle.

    Expecting jewels and gold, we were vastly disappointed. Brody turned to me. “Are you sure you read it right?” I looked the map over again. “I’m sure! ‘Follow the paths of the gods to the greatest treasure in the world.’ That’s what it says!” We all looked down at the bottle. It looked like a wine bottle, and Brody lifted it up and smelled the contents. “Well, it smells like alcohol. We may as well take what we came for.” Saluting us, he took a drink. Kip took it next, gulping it down like it was his last drink on earth. I took it then, tasting it’s sweetness. When nothing immediately happened, We went back to the ship and sailed off in hopes for a more profitable adventure.

    We never really knew what was in that bottle, but as time wore on, I began to notice changes in us. We rarely slept anymore, and none of us ever got sick. I began thinking about the bottle, wondering why it was the greatest treasure in the world. I realized what it was twenty years after we had drank from it. I was looking into a mirror, and it dawned on me that I looked exactly the same. I wasn’t aging, and that’s what I realized why the bottle of rum was the greatest treasure in the world.

    That rum was immortality.

    1. snuzcook

      This is a great set up for an intriguing story, Erynn. Three greedy and oblivious men come across the single greatest treasure and squander it. Or not? I’m eager to find out what happens.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a fascinating story, Erynn, and well told. I wonder what will happen to the MC and his friends as the years, and then the centuries, go by.

      My pencil is nagging me about repetition this week, and I spotted one instance here. It would read just a tiny bit better if one of the two “woods” was replaced (… struck wood … wooden and rotting …). I suggest the first one since it is a homophone of the “would” in the preceding sentence.

    3. jmcody

      Captivating premise and well written. I feel like there’s a lot more to this story. And I wonder what the cost of immortality is. You should run with this!

  52. Amyithist

    Captain Peters appeared in the doorway of his quarters, the supposed treasure map in his hand. I closed my mouth around the gag and wriggled slightly against the bindings around my wrists. He grinned at me as he plodded down the steps. The dim lantern light splashed across his ruddy face, illuminating the evil glinting behind his eyes. I shivered deeply.
    “Miss Elizabeth Monroe. Pleasure to meet your acquaintance,” he said, sitting at the edge of his cluttered desk. I could smell years of travel wafting up from his filthy body and I turned slightly, begging myself not to show the disgust roiling in my throat.
    “Unfortunately, my dear, your father wasn’t nearly as complacent as I find you to be now, so…” he smirked, “I had to kill him. My apologies.”
    He bowed slightly, keeping his eyes turned up to mine. I didn’t let the pain show; I knew the minute my father’s ship was taken over that he was dead. This was no surprise to me; however, the question now was: What did they want with me?
    “I’m assuming that your father divulged all of the details about this little gem here, did he not?” He held up the map father had been obsessing over for months. A mixture of emotions bit into my stomach at the sight of it. Father had torn me away from my home to pursue this…fantasy. And I almost hated him for it.
    I shook my head at the question. “He didn’t tell me very much about it,” I lied.
    Captain Peters snickered at me. “You’re lying to me, Miss Monroe. I don’t like it when people lie to me.”
    The desk groaned as he stood and approached me. He brought his face down; inches from mine. It was then that I realized I was still in my pajamas.
    “I know that you know what this map is about,” he said lowly. He ran his finger down the side of my face, sniffing my hair. “Whether you like it or you don’t, you’re going to help me find what it is I’m looking for.”
    “Captain,” a voice came from the top of the stairs. Captain Peters turned to see his first mate looming in the threshold.
    “What is it?”
    “Do you want that I should shut the door,” he asked, grinning down at me.
    I felt another chill race over my spine. I hadn’t even contemplated… Before I could finish my horrible thought, Captain Peters chuckled and shook his head. “That won’t be necessary,” he murmured. “Get the crew ready. We’re leaving now.” He turned and looked at me; his eyes raking over my thin gown. “And get Miss Monroe her clothing. A lady shouldn’t be expected to remain so scantily clad.”
    I watched in relief as the captain grinned, tipped his hat to me, and walked out of the chambers. I sighed and took a deep breath. Captain Peters wasn’t going to let me go… I was his until I found him his treasure.
    ———————————————————————–

    A few weeks later, we landed at an island. Captain Peters ordered his first mate to tie me up before we rowed out to the sandy shore. I relished in the warm sunshine beating down on me. After spending most of my time in the stuffy captain’s chambers, this felt amazing.
    Captain Peters shoved the map in front of my face. “Where do we go from here,” he seethed.
    Wincing, I nodded toward a deep grove of trees. “There,” I said. “About a hundred paces.”
    “How could you know that,” he spat.
    “I don’t for sure,” I replied. “I just have a hunch.”
    Captain Peters smiled. He cut the bindings from my wrist and yanked me up to my feet. “You’re coming with me, my dear. I need to have my best girl by my side when I find this.”
    He smiled at me and pulled me into the grove of trees. I grunted and stumbled slightly. How long had it been since I’d walked? I tried not to think about it as Captain Peters carted me off.
    Within a few minutes, we were where my father had said the treasure would be buried. “Here it is,” I said.
    Captain Peters threw me to the ground and pulled the shovel from behind his back. “You better be right about this,” he said.
    I looked up toward the sky, saying a silent prayer that father had been right…about everything.
    He dug for nearly half an hour before pulling back, his brows knit with confusion. He looked up at me, his yellow teeth bared. “What…is this,” he spat.
    I shrugged, rubbing the raw spot on my wrist. “Father didn’t tell me what was buried out here,” I replied.
    Captain Peters stood back, scratching at his head. Any minute now… I looked up toward the hillside, just as a flash of movement tore through the trees. Thank God! Father had been right all along…
    Suddenly, the earth began to tremble. “What is going on,” Captain Peters cried. For the first time since being kidnapped, I saw a glimpse of a man flash in his eyes. I scrambled away from the clearing, taking refuge within the shadows of the trees. Captain Peters stepped forward to give chase, but stopped, suddenly aware of the men surrounding him.
    The natives of the island quickly surrounded him, the sharp ends of their spears pointing dangerously close to his neck. I saw this once before when I was a child; when my father and I and a crew of six had accidentally stumbled on the island before. Captain Peters was a dead man.
    He looked at me, his eyes lit with the flames of sheer anger. He pointed at me, screaming that he’d trade me for his life. I smiled slightly and stepped into the sunlit clearing. Chief Tuntak recognized me immediately and grinned at me.
    “You honor us with this sacrifice,” he exclaimed in his native tongue.
    I nodded, bowed deeply. “For you, my Lord,” I replied.
    Chief Tuntak grinned deeper. Captain Peters attempted to draw on him, but nearly fifteen spears pierced through him. His screams died away as he fell into the pit; among the other “treasures” Chief Tuntak had gathered over the years.
    “It’s good to see you, Blue eyed Bird,” Chief Tuntak said, embracing me. “Are you going to stay this time?”
    I nodded, smiling. “But first, I have other treasures for you waiting at the shore.”

    1. snuzcook

      Nice one, Amyithist! You kept me guessing right to the end.
      I really liked the line: “For the first time since being kidnapped, I saw a glimpse of a man flash in his eyes.”
      There was a minor inconsistency that made me stumble–your MC was still gagged when she started talking in the first scene.

      1. Amyithist

        :( In my meager attempt to stick to the word count (failed miserably, by the way), I overlooked some details. My apologies. Makes me seem a little more amateurish than I’d like. Thank you for the feedback! :)

    2. jhowe

      Another good one Amyithist. I enjoyed this from start to finish. Chalk up one for the good guys… or at least better than the real bad guys.

    3. Reaper

      Nice Amyithist. I was going to mention the gag thing but it was already done and I figured it was a word count glitch. This was just chilling all around and your wordplay was gorgeous.

      1. Amyithist

        Thank you, Reaper! Yes, it was me attempting to omit the “obvious” and keep it as close to 500 as possible. We all know that our stories here are just glimpses and if given an unlimited word count, our details would be saturated and as vivid as the day is bright! :)

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Goose bumps, Amyithist! Boy it was good. The bad guys got what was coming to them and the beautiful narrator got part of her revenge and the rest would come with the other sacrifices. Good old fashioned story telling here. Since I am olf fashioned, I loved it. Cheers to you.

    4. Marc Ellis

      Nice story and imagery. I was picturing a Captain Hook and Wendy adventure until the arrival of the natives on the island. That was an exciting twist. So…what was in the hole? Bones? I also like the “other treasures” line at the end.

    5. Critique

      I was intrigued from the beginning. Well written and suspenseful right to the end.
      One very minor critique: I don’t think it’s possible to talk when you have a gag in your mouth.

    6. Observer Tim

      This was a wonderful tale of turnabout, Amyithist. Going back to reread after reaching the end puts everything in a new light. Excellently crafted.

      My red pencil notes that the natives surrounded Captain Peters twice. It would read better if the second one were “… quickly penned him in …” or something similar. Just to break the repetition.

    7. jmcody

      Terrific as always. Your stories always turn into movies in my head, with all their rich detail. This was very clever. The suspense played out perfectly and the ending was a triumph. I tell you this almost every week, so sorry for repeating myself — You are an extraordinary storyteller

  53. tz2328

    Nothing. I can do nothing. Is this pirate hell? I might be dead, because I haven’t taken a breath for a long while now.

    What have I done? Murdered me captain and best friend, that’s what I’ve done. And for what, this so-called treasure?

    All my remembered days I’ve been a pirate. Sailed the seven seas. If there was a pirate of the year award, I’d have won it every time. If there was a sexiest pirate alive, that’d be me. If you looked up pirate in the dictionary, you’d see my sexy, pirate puss looking back at ya. I’m king of the plunderers, that’s what.

    Then I found the map. The map of maps. The map with the big X marking the booty of a lifetime. So me, me best mate, and me captain set sail.

    Somewhere along the way he showed up. The bad pirate. He wouldn’t let me be. No sir, bothered me night and day til I gave in to his plotting and scheming. Kept saying ‘you deserve the treasure all for yourself, Jimmy boy. What’ve they done for you but clung to your bootstraps?’ It wasn’t til after the deeds were done that I finally got him out of my head.

    And now this – dare I say – treasure? If I could breathe I might cry. In my hands is what must be the cruelest joke ever played on a man of the seas. One bloody piece of paper with these words:

    “Dear Pirate friend. Congratulations. You have found the greatest treasure on earth. This is your chance to redeem yourself from your pirate sins. Whatever you’ve done to bring you here, all is not lost. Your eternal life is in your hands. Make 10 copies of the map that brought you here. Take the copies to the 10 worst pirates you know. Your reward is sharing this treasure with the worst sinners on earth. May God have mercy on your soul.”

    Blimey.

  54. Nicole

    It took us three weeks to find Crest Island, the place of the buried treasure. We came upon the map when we plundered a ship berthed in the town of Port Sandy. We were a three-man pirate crew of a tiny vessel, The Loose Tooth. Our leader, Captain Silver, was a hardy man with one eye and dreadfully skilled with sword, dagger, and musket. The first mate, Drooley, had a leathery, sun-baked appearance and was equally skilled with weapons. I had musket-firing and stone-slinging abilities to my credit. Jingle, the ship dog, could bite a hole in almost anything.
    Though we were outnumbered, we managed to escape Port Sandy and man our ship before the troops of the fort could catch us.
    “Hoist the main sail and cast off, ye lads! Ye have your heading. To Crest Island we go!”
    We did. And we were met by a storm at sea. I thought about Jesus walking on water and swallowed off the last bottle of rum we had. The captain tried to cheer me. He dropped the map into my lap.
    “Tis the thing dreams are made of, says I. Aye, and we shall have our wealth yet!”
    The map was drawn upon with red, black, and blue inks and pictured an island with trees, waterways, and dunes. In the center of the drawing was a large, distinct ‘X’, next to which was drawn a small, shiny chest. But we were caught in the middle of a fierce storm and I couldn’t get excited. We needed to survive before we went on a treasure hunt.
    We didn’t eat or sleep since our last berth. After two days of pulling we were out of the storm and the black clouds gave way to blessed golden sunshine.
    “Land, ho!” came the enthusiastic cry of Drooley. I looked over the side at a shoreline in the near distance.
    “Drop anchor,” Captain Silver commanded. “Man ye the boat and haul us in!”
    We set out rowing toward Crest Island. We beached our rowboat and set off into the tangle of palm trees, searching for the X. It couldn’t be found anywhere on the small island. The sun was setting and it would be dark soon. As we walked back toward the beach where we left the rowboat, I glanced toward a stand of trees and noticed that two of them were bent toward each other, forming a giant X against the backdrop of the sky. The setting sun caused the bent trees to cast a shadow of an X on the sand. We found our mark.
    The treasure chest was exhumed when we had dug nearly to the center of the earth. We pried the chest open, eyes wide with anticipation. The chest was empty, save a small glass sphere that looked like an eye. We stared at it forever before the captain snatched it up and poked it into his empty eye socket.
    “Aye, Mateys! I have me eye back! Let’s go home.”

  55. thetelleroftales

    I’m not sure if this is good or terrible. Thanks for reading!

    The wind died, yet again. From books, I had gathered that there’s supposed to be something you do in these situations, but I hadn’t read enough to figure out what. I’m a movie kind of guy, not a bookworm. We should have brought an actual sailor. But the thought of the treasure had made me incautious.
    “Cap’n, maybe we could go in the jollyboat. The island’s only a few miles away.”
    The third mate was an annoying fellow. I should have ordered him to tend shop at home. “You imagine you could row that far? Argh, I should feed you to the sharks.”
    He shrugged and subsided.
    Pirating is a good life. Doesn’t make scads of money, but it’s a living. We’re a smaller organization, and don’t do so well against the competition. But now we have a chance. Ever since the second mate had found the treasure map to what appeared to be a veritable gold mine, our luck had changed.

    The next day, we finally reached the island. X was scrawled under a small coconut tree some distance from the shore. I paused.
    “You were supposed to bring a shovel, dunderhead.”
    The third mate shrugged. “I’m a pirate, not a treasure-hunter.”
    When we’re back on board, I vowed, He’s walking the plank.
    So we attacked the soft earth with our hands. The sun beat down, but though we were soaked in our own sweat, licking our cracked lips in thirst, we persevered. Ever before us the hope of gain danced before our eyes, and after half-an-hour of frantic digging, we unearthed a box. It was locked, but in the coconut matting we found the key. I opened it eagerly. To my relief, inside were a collection of flat discs. I passed them out, gleefully, then looked at the titles. I groaned, dropped the box on the sand, and clutched my hair. These discs were ancient. We already HAD these movies, for crying out loud, which I began to do, and they weren’t selling.
    Of course, I realized then, it had been the third mate who had suggested the hunt. I couldn’t wait to get back to the ship.

    1. snuzcook

      I’m slow, Teller of Tales. It took me a while to catch on to what kind of pirates these guys were. Then the story was even funnier. Nice take on the prompt.

    2. jhowe

      This was great. When it comes to movie piracy, humor is the best method to present it. Loved it when he said, “We should have braought an actual sailor.” And the third mate reference was great. That might be below ‘swab’ even.

      1. thetelleroftales

        Thanks, guys. I live in Brasil, where this type of thing is all over the place, so this was the natural next step to take (or ship to sail). I was also happy to write a scene under the word count! I think this is a record for me. : )

    3. Critique

      I enjoyed this fun story. You have the ability to write humor in subtle ways. Loved the ending – ‘for crying out loud, which I began to do’ :)

  56. don potter

    A pirate’s life ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. The looting and plundering is done by the big ships. They have all the fun. My lot is that of the third mate on a three-man boat, too small to be called a ship.

    Basically we try to beat the big bands of buccaneers to the booty, take what we can, and sail on before getting caught in the crossfire. We never get much, but as the captain likes to say, “It’s a living.”

    Recently we met a small craft coming out of Tortuga. After boarding her at night, we left with a few bobbles and trinkets, barely worth enough to buy a night of rum for three thirsty sailors. We were taking our grog at a waterfront tavern when I discovered a false bottom in the small suitcase we commandeered to transport the goods we took. And there was a map sitting there as pretty as a picture.

    “Give ‘er here,” the captain ordered.

    “Tis a map,” the first mate said.

    “Aye, a treasure map if I ever saw one,” the captain said.

    I stroked my beard as he unfolded the parchment.

    “What’s it say, Cap’n?”

    “It shows an island not far from here with a big “X” marking the spot where some treasure might be awaiting for us.”

    “Blackie,” the captain always called me that, “gather up our stores and be ready to shove off with the tide. We’ll be along after a couple more mugs. Now get a move on, lad.”

    They staggered to the wharf just in time to catch a favorable wind. Soon both men were passed out and I set sail for the treasured island.

    We arrived in a secluded bay as shown on the map. They rest of the crew was in no condition to go ashore. Without asking them, I volunteered to be a reconnaissance party of one.

    Map in hand, with only a parrot to keep me company, I headed inland to find the spot. I followed a fast-moving stream, which lead to the foot of a waterfall. Here is where the “X” is, but what about the treasure? Could it be below the falls? I waded around and discovered a cave.

    Inside was a treasure trove fit for a king. On second thought, it was fit for me. Imagine if the treasure was mine, and mine alone, I could buy a fine ship, assemble a strong crew and sail the seas as a real pirate – one to be reckoned with, me bucko.

    I left the parrot to stand guard and went back to the ship, determined to be in charge of my destiny.

    Both the captain and the first mate were coming out of their drunken stupor. I quickly strangled the mate. He hardly struggled. Armed with the captain’s pistol, I pulled back on the hammer and asked, “Got anything to say before I blow your head off?”

    “Why are you doing this?” the captain asked.

    “I want to be a proper pirate.”

    “Damn you, Blackbeard.”

    1. snuzcook

      This is really funny as I watch it in my internal viewer. Leaving the parrot to stand guard over the treasure was priceless. I especially chuckled at the last exchange with the future notorious Blackbeard wingeing that he wants to be a ‘proper pirate’ before blowing his former captain into oblivion.

    2. jhowe

      So that’s how it all started. Thanks for the enlightenment. That was a brilliant comedy piece Don. I think I may have mentioned before that I enjoy your writing.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A really fun, imaginative tale you’ve woven here. Rewrite the history books. Blackbeard reigns. One small suggestion. Better watch the parrrot. He may spill the beans. Better to be safe and have roasted parrot for supper.

  57. peetaweet

    It was the gypsy who got us there after the drought. Our journey had been long and meandering, full of bad decisions and hampered by misguided management who’d refused to properly finance our ventures. As free agents, we were only as good as our contracts. And at this rate we’d never find our way to that pennant.

    The wild card was a step in the right direction. The old gypsy had granted our midnight request, meeting us at the crossing of the three rivers. I’d shuttered at the sight of her, the jagged teeth and pointy nose, the beady eyes mirroring the flapping lames as she chanted nonsense at the moon.

    But we were in no position to haggle or snicker. We’d come to her in desperation, after injuries and setbacks had plagued our hopes year after year.

    Captain Hurdle selected only two of us to accompany him for the final leg of our journey. I stepped forward, swelling with pride when he named me his most valuable pirate.

    We set off the next morning. On the way, the captain regaled us with tales of the legends from the past. Clemente, Stargell, Wagner. Now it was our turn, he said, if we could see it through the storm. We’d been attacked by Reds and Cubs, brewers of potions and concoctions, all in an effort to get ahead in the chase. But we stuck to the game plan, and we came out on the other side we knew we were close.

    I looked to my shipmate Volquez. His eyes matched my own. We’d only heard whispers about the pennant. The golden gloves and fancy rings. Yet we were still alive, far away from home and ready for a playoff in a most hostile environment. We’d battled teams and squadrons, stolen bases, and had yet to balk or blink.

    This could be the year.

    For all of her gibberish, the gypsy had been right. We arrived at the great Mahogany tree and recognized the triangle emblem, which from childhood, every pirate knew by heart although none had seen with their eyes. We began digging. With only three of us, we took turns, careful with our rotation. We were exhausted, but we weren’t about to get sloppy.

    And then it happened. After seven days we found the chest. Ecstasy washed over me. My thoughts ran blurry with images of gold and rubies, diamonds. Captain Hurdle opened the special bottle of champagne he’d slogged along and began showering it over our heads in celebration.

    Our wait was over.

    I licked my lips and opened the lid, wiping my eyes free of tears and suds. Three large straw bound books lay across the bottom of the coffer. My heart dropped. Volquez gasped and the captain let out a groan. The wind lifted his few sprouts of hair, carrying with it the howl of a gypsy.

    There was no gold, no diamonds, nothing but the books. Captain Hurdle took a swig from the bottle. I snatched the the book with my name on it in disgust. After scanning the legal terms: arbitrary agreement, compensatory, tender, I knew from experience that it was a contract. I dropped the book. The captain and Volquez looked on, waiting for me to speak.

    “I think the gypsy was a Phillies fan.”

    “Why do you say?”

    “We’ve been shipped to the minor leagues.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Terribly funny story. How imaginative to put a baseball team and then have them find contracts for the minors. How demoralizing can it get? The descriptive line on the Captain, “Volquez gasped and the captain let out a groan. The wind lifted his few sprouts of hair, carrying with it the howl of a gypsy,” was masterful. You had to know that when you wrote it. Great response.

    2. lionetravail

      Totally fun- the free agents in the first paragraph telegraphed for me, and the wild card continued it, but elegantly done with injuries and setbacks, year after year, stolen bases, the rotation, (baseball) diamonds, and Pittsburgh Pirates greats including Willie Stargell :)

      Nice take!

  58. rainiemills

    Staring at the expanse of sand that stretched for miles, I knew this was it. The rhythmic pounding of surf hypnotizing. The map on the brittle piece of parchment mimicked the scene in front of me. This has got to be it. “Cap’n, I think we’ve found it.”

    “Aye, matey. That we have.” His beady eyes sparkled, the closest thing resembling a smile Captain Redd ever allowed. “What’s it say again, scallywag?”

    I glare at Sam, the poor bastard looked like an abused dog trailing behind the Captain. He’s completely useless. He damn near got us killed as we plundered the Black Beauty last month. Captain says he only keeps him around because he’s ‘educated’, for whatever that’s worth. Sam glanced nervously at both of us, as he deciphered the riddle “Treasures that are untold, can be found in sand the color of gold, Stretching as far as the eye can see, find the end and you’ll find me, Where the waves clash together at the end of the shore, There and only there will you find the reward.”

    Sweat drenched my body as we trudged along the beach in silence. The afternoon sun highlighted the path where the golden sand fades and black rocky crags appear. Waves pummel the rock, tinting the air with a misty salt spray.

    “T’ waves be clashin.’” Captain Redd stroked the braid that framed his chin. “It be near.” He said pointing to a cave hidden between thrashing waves.

    My body pulsed with excitement as we navigated the treacherous rock. Sweaty palms causing my grip to falter. One wrong move and my body will lay at the bottom of this abyss pounding incessantly on the rocks below. A sweet melody arose as we drew closer to the opening. Music? I looked quizzically at my fellow buccaneeer’s. My eyes locked on the Captain. Was that a smile on the Captain’s face? An actual smile. I swear I saw his lips turned upward, a gleam in his eyes I’ve never seen before. He slipped into the cave ahead of me.

    Adjusting to the darkness of the cave, I follow the sound of shuffling feet ahead of me. The music only a faint whisper. I reach the opening where the Captain stood, his face buried in his hands. My eyes roam searching for gold and jewels. The dimly lit alcove instead only housed a blanket and a small radio. “I don’t understand?”

    “They took her mate.” Captain Redd growled, his face red and tear streaked. “She was posed t’be here waitin’ for me.”

    Realization sunk in as I read the passage scrawled on the wall: stop searchin’ for what you’ll never find, you’ll forever have her heart, but I shall have her mind.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Oh, what a tragedy! Someone kidnapped Veronica Lake. No wonder the Captain had his face buried in his hands. Marvelous descriptive writing on the trip to the cave. We need a second chapter for the rescue of Veronica. I enjoyed the hell out this story.

    2. Critique

      I liked the poetry leading to the ‘treasure’. This is a sad tale – I don’t know who Veronica Lake is? Captain Redd – a tough old buccaneer – had his heart broken :(

  59. snuzcook

    TREASURED (555 wds)

    “Boyd! Come home right now! I mean it!”

    The captain of the other ship jumped down from the seat of the rusted out ’44 Ford chassis that had been his fo’c’sle and walked off, dragging the tip of his long plywood sword in the dirt. His crew, consisting of the two Meyer brothers, Bud and The Shrimp, suddenly without their leader in the middle of a pitched battle with our ship– that they were losing since they had just about run out of pine cones and The Shrimp had snapped the elastic on his slingshot five minutes ago and couldn’t hit the side of a barn throwing overhand–abandoned ship and took off through the vacant lot toward home.

    Our crew cheered and ran over to take possession of the enemy ship. Mad Molly took our flag–which was a pretty good skull and crossed bones drawn on a stained old white cotton napkin her mother was using for a dust rag, nailed to a long stick—and planted it in a hole the middle of the dash board. Hugh, our fearless leader, jumped up on the hood. “I claim this ship as rightful spoils according to the Pirates’ Code!”

    I was rummaging around the car looking for any spoils they might have left behind. “Hey, I found something! It looks like a map!” Hugh took it and spread it out on the hood of the car where we could all see. It was drawn in crayon, but clearly showed a part of the Jenkins’ Park, with the slide and swing sets, and the caretaker’s shed, and the big maple tree at the back corner. By the big maple tree someone had drawn an ‘X’.

    We didn’t waste any time hightailing it to the park. We found the dirt was soft and recently disturbed under the maple tree, so we set to digging with our hands. We whooped and danced around when Hugh finally pulled an old pillow case full of something out of the hole.

    “Oh, man!” Hugh had untied the pillowcase and looked inside. He made a face, and showed it to me.
    “It’s just Old One-Ear.” The stray tomcat was a legend around the neighborhood. He had survived catastrophic injuries from set-to’s with cars and dogs and fights with other cats that would have killed a lesser creature. A lot of the neighbors fed him scraps but no one would adopt him; my mother said he was too much a free spirit. He was getting pretty old, and when he disappeared last week we figured he had just died.

    “Why do you suppose they made a map?”

    “Probably to fool us.”

    “I think it’s sad.”

    “He needs a grave marker.”

    “He’s a cat.”

    “Yeah, but he was a grand old rascal.”

    “He was as good a pirate as any of us. He was a real scrapper.”

    “Yeah. He deserves a grave marker, you know, a pile of stones like they used to do in the old days.”

    That was the first and only pirate’s funeral I have ever attended. And I have to say, there was something about the send off we gave Old One-Ear that was unique and very special. Part of me hopes that some of that pile of stones still remains to mark the spot under that old maple tree.

    1. snuzcook

      I know I could have knocked off the extra 55 words or so by deleting the run-on dashed phrases, but they were a stylistic embellishment I wanted to try out, and my writer’s ego insisted on leaving them in. Did they work?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I wouldn’t touch your story, it’s beautifully written. It took me back to the forties, when we played outside every minute we could. We played war games and pirate games, took prisoners, tied the helpless one to trees and had a grand time.

        You hit a nostalgic memory for me and your dialogue was perfect. You hit a second nerve, for when our fourteen year old Winston died, we had him cremated and placed in a box. I buried him by the fence in our back yard, placed a large rock to mark his grave and attached a wrought iron cross to the fence. We put a small concrete bench to sit by him.

        That was fourteen years ago and I still sit there. Thank you for the beautiful memories.

        1. snuzcook

          Thank you, Kerry, for sharing your fond memory.
          I have to go out on a limb here, tho, and ask a tactless question–because I have a painfully literal bent sometimes and others may have the same misconstrux.
          When I read your comments, I immediately was concerned about eliciting the memories of your 14-year-old child whose ashes you had chosen to keep nearby in the picturesque family plot out back. Then it struck me that a word may be missing. Now I am convinced I am an idiot and Winston was your 14-year-old four-legged family member. Please confirm so I can properly appreciate your comments.** ‘o’ **

      1. margi33

        Sorry, my phone cut off the rest! I said: I thought it was great. Very creative take on the prompt, well written and nostalgic.Good job.

    2. don potter

      Your descriptive tale had me seeing the entire scene in my mind’s eye. Nicely done. One tiny, detail, there were no ’44 Fords or any other cars built in America. WWII knocked out the model years of 1943 through 1945.

      1. snuzcook

        Wow, thanks Don! My dad had an old hulk that I (in my child’s memory) thought he always called the ’44 Ford. But it must have been ’40 ford, and I misheard him. Who’d a thunk this prompt would lead me to correct decades of mistaken memory!

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Don hit the nail snuz. Car production stopped at the end od ’41. Cars came out in September/October each year. Dad had a ’42 Chevy but there weren’t many made.

    3. Reaper

      I am with the don’t change anything, except maybe the year of the car, crowd here. I spent a few minutes trying to figure out what the abbreviated word was before giving up and then having to go back after I was done to realize it was a forecastle. This is beautiful in both a happy and sad way. I tend to like the less literal takes on the prompts so yours hit the spot for me. While I might normally agree with you on words you could have removed I think your writer’s ego served you well here. I believe any word removed would diminish this story.

    4. Marc Ellis

      This was a lot of fun–a Little Rascals’ pirate adventure. I was hoping the cat was alive when I first read what was in the case, but the pirate funeral was a nice touch. Maybe the spirit of Old One-Ear will come back to haunt the other pirates!

    5. Critique

      This is a delightful story that moved smoothly to the finish. I enjoyed it very much! Sweet that they had a funeral for Old One-Ear. Pirates have hearts.

    6. Observer Tim

      This was a fun and engaging story, snuzcook. If Old One-Ear was real I would say it’s a fitting memorial and a reminder that life is forever renewed. But I have a soft spot for animals, especially those that have learned to be their wild selves in the human environment.

  60. Kerry Charlton

    The Copper Scroll
    Chapter Three

    ‘So they have Rachael,’ Richard thought. ‘They have no idea who they’re dealing with.’

    He walked to the study wall behind his ship’s desk and pressed his hand on a Monet print on the wall. A panel section rolled right, revealing three secure phones. Red phone, direct line to President Dan McCarthy, the blue phone to Joseph Harbinger, Secretary Of Defense and the white to The Society Of Knights For Progress, his non-profit charity organization.

    He lifted the white phone. A screen appeared on the wall,

    “Good morning Commander. The code for this week please.”

    Chi, Gamma, Beta, Delta, Delta.”

    “Thank you Commander, recognition please.”

    “In Hoc Signo Vinces.”

    “Eye scan please.”

    Richard placed his face close to the screen.

    “Thank you, your order please, Commander.”

    “I want ten operatives, disquised of course, inside the lobby of the Penn building precisely at 11:50 this morning.”

    “Anything else sir?”

    “A container vehicle and a medical unit standing by.”

    “Yes sir. I have you on direct video and audio. Please activate…………. I have it.”

    Another call followed,

    “Morning, Commander, how’s the weather in Philly?”

    “The usual Dan, lousy like Washington. I need a favor.”

    “Of course, what is it?”

    “Can you ask Joe to look around for an anti-Israeli cell, operating here?”

    “What’s the problem?”

    “Dr. Bennington’s been kidnapped.”

    “Your old flame? That is serious. Do you want our help?”

    “Not yet, the Knights can handle it.”

    “Be careful, Richard.”

    “Certainly Mr. President.”

    “I’ll get back to you.”

    “Thanks Dan.”

    Glancing at his watch, nine forty the dial said. ‘I have an extra hour to figure this out,’ Richard thought. ‘They won’t expect me twice.’

    Leaving the ornate city hall at 10:45, Richard contacted his command center.

    “I know it’s you Commander, but I still need an eye scan from your phone.”

    “Listen carefully Frank, change of plans. Are operatives ready?”

    “Yes Commander.”

    “We’ll do it this way……………………..”

    Twelve chimes echoed through the historic building as Richard entered city hall. one 38 special rested easy in his shoulder holster, another had slipped in the small of his back. A dapper forty year old, looking ivy league, approached Richard.

    “Mr. Barrington?”

    Richard side-stepped him and stuck his 38 in the small of the man’s back.

    “Walk with me or I blow your guts out. Look quietly around the rotunda.”

    The man took a measured glance.

    “Notice anything unusual?” Richard asked.

    “Not really.”

    “Your five goons have been taken in capture. You think I’m kidding about killing you?”

    Richard pressed the barrell tighter and the two walked quietly out the door to a waiting panel truck. Once inside, Rixhard addressed the six captives,

    “You will be driven to a secure place and interrogated one on one. Do you understand?”

    Silence greeted Richard.

    “Your instructions Commander.” the squad leader said.

    “Interrogate until you find where Dr. Denning is being held.”

    “What level interrogation, Commander?”

    “Level twelve.”

    “There is no level twelve Sir.”

    “I just approved level twelve.”

    “Sir?”

    “You have my permission to kill all of them if no one breaks. Contact command as soon as you know. If you don;t have the information by four, dispose of them.”

    “Yes Sir, I have it.”

    Richard stepped from the van and it drove away quietly through the narrow streets of Philadelphia.

    1. snuzcook

      This is all shaping up very nicely, Kerry! Good energy level, perfect arrogance and sense of urgency for the MC. Looking forward to upcoming installments!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you snuzcook, I’m posting the cliff-hanger on the next prompt. I’m wondering if I should leave it that way and let each of you, finish the first part of my story as you see fit? Opinions anyone?

        XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????????????

    2. lionetravail

      I like it Kerry- great pacing, the only jarring moment for me was the transition from “We’ll handle it this way…” after leaving “the ornate city hall” at 10:45, only to enter the city hall at 12 (from the chimes). I’m wondering if you might consider a tiny lead in where the meeting was going to be, and exactly how the MC knew Rachael had been kidnapped (was it a note? Phone call? email? Dead letter drop?) since he was in the office and ready to push things into motion. It might help clarify how he knew to set up the team in the meet location.

      I love the “level twelve interrogation”/ “there is no level twelve sir”, interaction… a small dollop of humor in an otherwise tense and dramatic action piece.

      Richly written and dense/concise, which totally goes along with the MC’s self-confidence and clear experience with the whole situation. I’m excited to imagine what you can do with another 500 words, or 2500 :)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks lionel. Go back two prompts to ‘The Discovery’ and read chapter one. Chapter two is in ‘Back In Time’. Chapter three above is the continuation. I appreciate your wonderful comments. Sorry for the confusion.

        Chapter four will be posted next prompt if I’m not boring everyone to death.

        1. lionetravail

          Not boring at all- please, it’s very compelling! I’ll go back and read the prior ones as well.

          And apologies… I was off the prompts for a few weeks in April, so didn’t appreciate that you’re carrying the story through. Awesome!

    3. don potter

      I like your serial tale, but at my age I have trouble remembering the first two chapters — although I enjoyed them as I did the current effort.

    4. Reaper

      Kerry, you are not boring me at the very least. I look forward to these weekly installments.

      You are keeping me on the edge of my seat with fast paced turns that I am not expecting. You did mention to wait until you got into Richard. I thought last week amped up the bad ass level, this is… well it might be level twelve.

      The only suggestion I would put forth is you might consider removing the word charity and leaving it as his non profit organization, as they don’t seem very charitable.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reaper. Good point on the “Charity” bit. You’re absolutely right. One thing though, the love is true. And that’s how they’re going to survive, both of them.

  61. lionetravail

    “Dig, ye lubbers! Ye’re movin’ ’bout as fast as that fat waitress back on Tortuga!”

    “Well, whyn’t you dig, Cap’n I’m-so-much-better-than-you-cause-I-stole-me-a-set-o’-wooden-teeth?!”

    “Do not speak that way to the Captain, Mon- it’s disrespectful.”

    “Up yers, ye voodoo freak!”

    “Erickson, ye’re more an arse pain than that innkeep with the piles in Port Royal, ye know, the one who keeps scratching his arse while he’s takin’ yer order!”

    “Cap’n, he started up with me…!”

    “Quiet, ye lubber! If we wasn’t on an island, I’d make ye walk the plank… with me boot in yer arse!”

    ***thunk***

    “Wait mon! Me hear something…”

    ***thunk thunk***

    “Yar! It’s here, it’s here! I told ye lubbers we’d find it! By Davy Jones, the map was true!”

    “Aye, Cap’n, worth every penny ye paid for it.”

    “Quiet, ye lubber! Ye know perfectly well I took it from that gutless Frenchie they called ‘Crazy Parrot’ on Tortuga fer nuthin’!”

    “Well, him was only gutless after him belly sliced open by Erickson here, mon.”

    ***snickers and laughs all around***

    “Well, don’t just stand there ye lubbers, clear off the trunk and get it out of the sand, yar!”

    ***grumbles all around, plus scrabbling, grunting, and various and sundry heaving sounds***

    “Yar! There she sits!”

    ***’ayes’ all around***

    “Well, open it lubbers, damn yer eyes!”

    “With what, Captain mon- it be locked.”

    “Well, crack it open with yer shovels mayhap!”

    ***thunk thunk thunk crack***

    “Well, Cap’n, they don’t appearin’ ta be makin’ shovels like they used ta.”

    “Damn yer eyes, Erickson, use t’other shovel!”

    ***thunk thunk crack***

    “Yar, ye got it! Now open it up and come ta pappy!”

    ***creeeeeak***

    ***silence***

    “Yar, now what in the name o’ Davey Jones be that shite??”

    “It… it look like it be some kind of…”

    “Aye, and thank ye ta hell and back, Cap’n, for stealin’ a map what led us straight ta a chest full of bleedin’ CRACKERS!”

    ***crunch***

    “And him be stale crackers, mon. Guess we know why him being called ‘Crazy Parrot’.”

    “Yar! Damn all Frenchies, and damn ye both! Back ta the ship, and we dinnae mention this tae anyone, damn yer eyes!”

    “Mon, me be telling you the pirate’s life sucks the piles on the arse of that innkeep.”

    “Quiet ye scurvious cur! Back ta the ship, says I!”

    ***grumbles all around***

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Oh crap! The Three Stooges on a treasure hunt. The dialogue is priceless. I’ve sand between my toes, standing there, watching this. It doesn’t get any funnier than this. Tears from laughing internally. I’m sitting in my office, trying to contain myself and don’t want anyone to bring the straight jacket and carry me away. in a white panel truck.

      1. lionetravail

        Bingo! My first thought was “OMG, I wanna do the ‘Abbot and Costello Meet Bluebeard’ movie”, but I couldn’t figure out how to make a ‘who’s on first’ routine out of ’16 men on a dead man’s chest’… so I went with exactly what you picked up on, 3 stooges. (“Hey Moe, hey Moe! No wonder this guy beat me at Cribbage… he’s got an extra peg-leg up his pant-sleeve! Nyuk nyuk!”)

        Glad you and Snuz enjoyed it- I was, frankly, cracking myself up as I was writing it :)

    2. snuzcook

      What a fun way to start the day, lionetravail! You had me smirking and grinning right through. Shades of the cursed crew in Pirates of the Carribean! Well done!

      1. k.spicer

        I tried to copy and paste a story in the comment box 2 times without either one posting. I also tried to leave a comment and nothing posted. Am I doing something wrong? Or am I trying to post in the wrong place?

        1. Brian A. Klems Post author

          When you’re new to posting to the site, your posts go into a folder and need to be approved before they get posted–and I’m the one that has to approve them to confirm the posts aren’t spam (we get a TON of spam). Once I approve the first couple, you won’t have problems anymore and the posts will show up automatically and immediately. Often, if the first posts by a new user are on Friday afternoon or over the weekend or on a day I’m not in the office, I won’t be able to go through the folder until I return.

          Anyway, you are now approved and can post away! Welcome to the Writer’s Digest community.
          Brian
          Online Editor

      1. lionetravail

        I’d have to say that I’ve been around for a while, so I’ve seen a lot of the movies, old and new (Yay for Captain Blood, and yay for Mutiny of the various mutinous stripes- Caine, Bounty, etc)…

        I’ve also been a role play gamer, for tabletop and live action, for a long time too, and pirates have always been entertaining fodder for games. I guess this thing was an amalgam of all the pirate stuff, and it all came out totally funny in my head, so I just ran with it :)

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