The ship creaked under the weight of its departure. It lurched
forward, moving slowly like an enraged creature, the small
splashes of water forming an awkward and angry snarl. Minutes
passed as the vessel began to pick up speed, carving a violent
v-shaped path of destruction through the water until in it burst
forth from the harbour in a final violent spray of force. It was
swiftly followed by cheers.
The ship itself was monolithic. Heavy wood had been used to
comprise an invincible hull of magnificent proportions. The
various holds and compartments which littered the inside of the
ship were flawlessly crafted, each aspect of their construction
perfect in both its beauty and it's practicality. Gigantic sails
billowed outwards with a heavy magnificence and the mast they
were attached to seemed to scrape the heavens with an elegance of
movement that seemed to be ethereal.
By contrast, the crew were earth-bound. A motley assortment of
weathered and beaten sailors, urchins barely old enough to be
called men and freelancers found in slums comprised the potent
mixture of ragged professionalism, inexperience and desperation
which was tasked with the protection of the ship. Smith belonged
to this mixture.
By all accounts he was a lanky man, his spindly and starved
complexion brought to light by the torn and watered shirt that
clung to his chest. His face was a tired and ghastly affair.
Although technically comprised of the same muscle tissue and warm
blood that makes up any human face due to his bone structure it
seemed to be set in a permanent frown and his starved complexion
had drawn away any warmth which could be found in his cheeks.
Aged 19, he had very little experience of life and even less of
sailing. His frail structure appeared barely able to support his
own weight for the length of a day, let alone hoist a sail or
carry a weight. He moved around the ship awkwardly, often
appearing unsure of what he was being ordered to do. Ropes felt
awkward in his hands, falling either painfully taut or ashamedly
limp, weights fell beyond his grasp, crushing or bruising his
hands in the process and sails became ragged knots under even his
most careful supervision.
Despite his potent inadequacy as a sailor Smith calmly held his
poise as the ship pulled away from the calm and amiable waters
which surrounded the harbour and drifted outwards onto an almost
picturesque horizon. He had no idea where the ship was headed,
nor had he any desire to know and as a cool breeze ran through
his hair, caressing his pores and delighting his skin, he felt as
he imagined a gallant hero of myth might.
The first few days of the voyage passed in a haze. Each day Smith
would rise with the wind, perform the tasks he was commanded to
by his superiors as they desperately attempted to tame the,
admittedly favourable, gusts of air which buffeted the ship, and
then slump to the deck in a flourish of satisfied exhaustion.
Through careful observation and patient application he began to
learn how to perform some of the menial tasks that plagued his
existence on the ship. He quickly learnt how to hold a rope
correctly, balance weights and perform a variety of manoeuvres
with the heavy sail cloth.
In the few moments he had free to eat Smith would observe the
crew. By and large they were thoroughly unremarkable and exactly
what one would expect: mutually assured in their unshaven and
motley arrangement. However, there were two who caught Smith's
The first was the captain. A giant of a man he stood high above
the rest of the crew, his muscle bound body casting a fierce
shadow of intimidation over the deck with a reach that far
exceeded the captain's own. His face was a medley of scars, each
radiating with a tale of lost passion or despair which culminated
in and burst forth from the captain's eyes in a heavy set green.
He was a man of power and alluring mystery. Each part of his
body, every sinew of his face told one thousand stories, each
more staggeringly impossible than the last.
The second was a mariner. To look at he was thin, tall and
thoroughly unremarkable, as unshaven and unkempt in his normality
as the rest of the crew. To observe he was fascinating. Unlike
the rest of the crew he seemed to provide no purpose, simply
wandering from one end of the deck to the other, occasionally
stopping to whisper something in the captain's ear. Smith seldom
saw him eat or drink and never saw him sleep.
On occasion the mariner would stop walking, carefully draw a thin
vile of powder from the inside pocket of his jacket and snort
loudly sending a ripple of murmurs throughout the crew before
walking to the prow of the ship and staring at the ocean silently
for hours on end.
It happened suddenly and without warning. The waters surrounding
the ship fell still and silent, the wind picked up and the rope
in Smith's hands went taut. Then the STORM-BLAST hit.
The world quickly became a chaotic whirlpool of destruction. It
started with the rain, which beat down on his face cutting
through his skin with an almost deadly poise. The wind followed,
battering the ship and knocking it astray with a violent
explosion of force. Finally the sea, once an amiable and pleasant
force, now spat, growled and snarled at the crew. Control of the
ship had been lost. It was all Smith could do to hang limply from
He spun, clinging to the rope with his cold, clammy and
fear-ridden hands for what seemed to be an eternity. His head
shook from side to side, caught in the momentum of the storm and
Smith's vision became blurred, the whirlwind surrounding him was
an obscure haze of blue, brown and black. He couldn't hear
anything save the inharmonious screeching of the wind as it tore
rainwater down from the sky and slammed it to deck. Smith began
to lose his grip on the rope, which was now laden with rainwater
and turgid. He slammed to the deck and knew nothing more.
Smith woke up with a jolt, a thin layer of ice covering his face.
Smith began to pull himself upright. At first he carefully moved
with a skilful elegance, all the while acutely aware of the
deterioration that had occurred in his muscles. He used the
splintered remains of the ship's decking to hoist himself upright
and pushed the heels of his boots in between the, now cracked,
wooden planks which comprised the floor to prevent himself from
Once he was upright Smith began to look around what remained of
the ship. The invincible hull was starting to crack, a thin seam
running from the tip right down to the curved fixture which
seemed to resemble a floor on the outside of the heavy wood which
built up this structure, the once flawless holds and compartments
were now a brutally un-organised mess of cracked wood and
scattered cargo, and the sails which had once blown in the winds
with the magnificence of the Gods were now soaked and torn far
beyond their former glory.
The crew had fared no better. The pithy mixture of experience and
inadequacy which had been tasked with the protection of the ship
was now united in its failure. They lay strewn about the ship in
varying states of consciousness, as wretched and helpless as
corpses. Besides Smith, only the mariner stood upright.
The man was stood with his back to the rest of the crew as if he
could not bear to look upon them. He appeared not to have
suffered from the storm at all, his posture holding the same
hunched and angry disposition as it always did. The vial that had
previously held a thin white powder lay cracked and empty at his
Smith now turned his attention to the terrain surrounding the
ship. He recoiled in shock almost immediately.
He could see nothing but ice.
The horizon to which he had become accustomed was gone and had
been replaced with a maze constructed out of broken blocks of ice
which stretched out far beyond what the naked eye could
comprehend. The birds which often glided above the ship in
favourable weather had vanished and were replaced with an eerie
stillness which could drown even the noblest man's heart in a
current of despair.
A windless chill swept over the ship and caressed each pore of
Smith's body with a sudden shiver of fear, forcing him to expel
"What happened?" in a meek, almost muted voice.
The question seemed to stir the mariner from whatever state of
mind he had been residing as he began to slowly turn his head to
face Smith. His beard flitted slightly back and forth as he moved
his mouth to parrot the motion of speaking.
His voice was cracked and dirty. A monotonous and vague sound
devoid of emotion, his words seemed to seep out of his mouth and
into the air with the poise and authority of a demon.
"We got hit by a storm, it blew us south. Far south."
With this the man was done and he quickly returned to ignoring
the ship and its crew. As there was no wind to catch, Smith lay
back down upon the cold hard decking and fell asleep.
Days passed and one by one the crew pulled themselves upright and
asked the mariner the same question that Smith had. He always
replied with the same answer, in exactly the same cold, cracked
and emotionless voice he had used when addressing Smith, then the
crew member would lie back down and sleep until he needed to eat.
Even the captain was at a loss and as he tried to rally his crew
out of the slumbers of apathy and uncaring the mariner would
simply stare at him. His gaze saying more about the frivolity of
action without reason than his words ever could. Then the captain
lay down and that was that.
Occasionally the ice would creak or roar like an animal and the
crew would feel fear for a few seconds. Then the ice would stop
and return to silence as if it had never even spoken at all and
the crew would forget about it until it happened again.
This was all there was.
Smith would never recall what time it was when the ALBATROSS
brought the ship some wind to catch. He would never be able to
know if the sun was rising or setting or even how time suddenly
snapped back into place and emotions re-aligned themselves to
represent the situation. Most importantly, Smith would not
remember the mariner's grimace, not until it was far too late. He
would only remember seeing the giant bird fly in, dragging the
wind with it, all the while silhouetted against the burning
liquid fire of redemption and the loud barked orders issued by
The urgency and immediacy of sailing returned to the crew and the
ship was quickly made sea-worthy once more. A week passed in this
way and things seemed to return to normal. Often the ALBATROSS
would land upon the ship and nestle with the crew, on occasion
attempting to steal their foods. It didn't matter, the bird had
brought the wind which was keeping the crew alive; no-one seemed
to care about a few pieces of food. Except the mariner.
It was on one of the few occasions that the bird landed on the
ship that the mariner's crossbow would be loaded, carefully aimed
at the ALBATROSS and fired. In response, the ALBATROSS would
simply slump to the ground. Dead. The wind kept blowing.
The mariner never offered any apology. The bird was dead and the
wind still blew, to him he had done nothing wrong. To the crew he
had committed an act of heresy. Over the next few days and weeks
Smith and his fellow ship mates became increasingly violent
towards the mariner. They all knew that his life depended upon
the wind holding.
The bird's corpse was kept on board the ship; no-one could bear
to part with it.
Days still progressed in the same manner. The crew still rose
with the wind and did their utmost to keep the ship on track, the
mariner still paced back and forth along the deck, only pausing
to whisper in the captain's ear and Smith was once more a
potently inadequate sailor, whatever knowledge he had gained lost
during his time in the south.
Day's got hotter, supplies began to run low and the crew,
including Smith, grew more and more irritable. Smith began the
resent the mariner along with his fellow crew-members, never
fully understanding why the man never engaged in any physical
labour or what purpose he served. Then it happened.
The wind stopped.
The molten sun burnt down upon Smith's back, burning his skin and
bringing his mind ever closer to cracking. His throat was parched
and he was helpless to do anything about it, the last of the
water had gone. For a fleeting moment he considered it odd that
he could not drink when surrounded by water. Then he fell
temporarily unconscious. Three days had passed since the wind
The first day had passed in a collection of heated and angry
cluster of debates between the mariner and the rest of the crew.
The crew cursed his name, lamenting him to the Gods themselves,
some of them even attempting to physically harm him. No
conclusion about the mariner's fate had been reached on this day.
The second day passed in much the same way the first. Again the
mariner was cursed and condemned and again no conclusion was
reached regarding the mariner's fate. The only difference posed
upon on the second day was the use of most of the water to quench
the cracked throats of those arguing.
The third day was by far the most memorable. One of the crew had
noticed the dead and rotting ALBATROSS lying in the corner of one
of the ship's holds and a decision was made. The mariner would
not be put to death; he would however bare his sin for the rest
of his life. The ALBATROSS was hung around his neck.
Smith woke up again. Not much had changed since he had last been
conscious. The crew still lay strewn about the boat, either
unconscious and dying, or conscious and dying, there was still no
water and the mariner still hung limply to the mast, the mangled,
rotting and putrid corpse of the ALBATROSS slung around his neck
like a cross. Occasionally he would curse and scream, gibbering
about spirits cloaked in black and spectral ships.
Smith tried to pull himself upright using every sinew of his body
in the same way as he had in the south. It was no use, he just
collapsed of exhaustion. Then the mist came.
Smith lost track of everything. The mist seeped over every pore
of his being, clouding his mind and antagonising his senses. With
the last of his will he tried to scream, nothing but a low croak
passed his lips. Then he heard him.
The low broken thud of the mariner's boot next to his head.
Smith pulled his eyes open and stared upwards at the man. The
mariner's eyes were a blaze, as if all the fury of hell was
spilling forth from them, his hair was matted and seemed to form
horns around his scalp and the ALBATROSS was nothing but a
skeleton, an inverse rib-cage to the mariner's own frail, starved
"I've won! I've won!" and Smith tried to move away from him but
it was already too late. The knife in the mariner's hands had
already plunged deep into Smith's neck.
As Smith flitted past the mariner's head and into the unknown, he
looked down and saw the accumulated blood of the crew spill onto
the deck as the mariner walked his patrol, this time whispering
in everyone's ear.