THERE BE DRAGONS!

Reads: 152  | Likes: 2  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 2

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


During the European trade wars for India the most terrifying chapter was yet to be discovered.

Submitted: March 06, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 06, 2018

A A A

A A A


In the year of our Lord 1765 my father’s estate, after a long and wearisome battle with the bailiffs, the advocates, and the beadle of our parish, passed through those blackened and grasping hands into those of his only surviving son. That my father’s father was a member of the VOC – oft referred to now as the ‘Dutch East India Company’ – I had some small idea, but that he had undergone such apparent hardships as those found in his diaries, I could have not conceived from observing the puffy red cheeks of my father, or the soft pink hands of my own.

I scarce believe the narrations laid down by my ancestor and, were it not for the wanting of a single liar in my family history, would have dismissed these works as fiction. As it is, there is only one man who truly knows what became of the crew of the VOC Hollandia, and my grandfather’s version of events is what I hereby present.

These words, laid down for you here, are those as written by my grandfather Michiel de Munnick, except for where I have made some small alterations to the text for the purposes of readability, or to protect the dignity of those whose descendants I still must face in the coffee houses of Rotterdam. I must ask that you do not judge me by the actions or words of my forebear, and remember that the existence of dragons has been speculated for many hundreds of years but never proved, beyond certainty, either way.

 

28th October 1701 – onboard VOC Ship Hollandia

Our sail is tattered with grape, and our hull cracked and leaking from chain-shot. I would like to record that we gave as good as we got, but the French ship bled out of the mist and rain, and opened up on us before we could even bring ourselves about. A volley – fire flashing grey in the mist and the hollow booms muted and sullen – punched holes in men and wood alike. We are carrying seven wounded men and the corpses of another fifteen. I’d wager the former will fall and the latter will rise before the night is out. We limp on slowly but our hull sinks closer to the waves and our sails billow less and less as the holes tear and the canvas soaks heavy with rain. Blood and salt rime the deck and Captain Loode has lashed the cabin boy, a slip of a lad with a name taller than he is - Robbert-Jan van Zandbergen – to the mast to keep an eye peeled for a sliver of land or the flutter of our sister ship, the Prinsengus. In this mist and rain, he will be lucky to see the fist of the bosun Caspars that will do doubt keep him awake this long night.

As for me, I will confine myself to my cabin. The skills required for a scientific exhibition are not those required for piloting a crippled ship in a storm. If this night is my last, then I pray this diary reaches the hands of my wife Viktoria, as unlikely as I know this to be.


29th October 1701 – Hollandia

I was awoken in the black hours of the early morning by the bellows of men and the hellish vibrations of our keel tearing itself apart on the rocks of this unknown island. Maps of the region show nothing here, if our location is accurate. So this island is a ghost, or we are miles off course. Caspars beat Robbert bloody when the ship stopped lurching around and settled down on the rocks – presumably for eternity now, so cracked and full of holes is the hull. Loode had to haul him off the boy. My earlier prediction was correct. The death toll from the French ship – or perhaps from the rain and the wreck – now lies at twenty five souls. All the wounded and two more men. We hold no slaves aboard the Hollandia so the count of survivors now stands at a mere five. Myself, Loode, Robbert, Caspars, and a dour one-eyed soak named Karlsson – a Swede. Not the ideal company to live out the last days of one’s life. Loode, still clinging to power, has declared that he and Caspars will explore the island to find what supplies and food they can. Robbert, Karlsson and I will remain aboard the ship. For now.


29th October 1701 – Night – Hollandia

Caspars came back an hour ago. Of Loode there is no sign. Caspars has barely said a word. He slumped down in the corner as soon as he got back. Karlsson and I tried to question him, but he stared off into the distance and just shook his head at our questions. He hasn’t brought any food. When we asked him about Loode his eyes opened wide and he scooted back against the wall, his arms gabbing his own knees. He only said one word. It would have been comical, the burly bosun as scared as an infant, if it didn’t mean that there was something else on this island. Something other than us stranded souls. The word Caspars said was: ‘Dragons’.


30th October 1701 – Before Dawn – Hollandia

We heard them in the night. Caspars had forced himself into the corner and whimpered as the first shuffling scrapes reached our ears. Karlsson and I peered out into the darkness, but we could see nothing. The ship is still sat upon the rocks, a good five foot drop down to the ground, and we could hear something moving down there. It sounded, to me, like nothing more than a herd of pigs. I wanted to grab a spear and catch us some breakfast but Karlsson held my arm fast. He whispered we should wait for morning. I took his meaning. We should see what we’re hunting. I settled back against the wood of the ship, listening to the creatures below dragging their bodies over the rocks, until sunlight bled into the grey sky.


30th October 1701 – Dawn – Hollandia

The creatures are not crocodiles. Or, if they are, then they are some breed of crocodilian with the jaws of a tiger and the soul of a devil. It was not only the bodies of the creatures we heard dragging on the rocks. The morning light showed us the corpse of Captain Loode, his blue coat torn and stained but still stark against the grey rock. His limbs had been torn from his trunk, his torso slashed with claws sharp enough to peel through flesh and bone and bowel. The skin of his face was torn from his skull, the bone crushed and pried open. Caspars has not moved since he saw the body. He stares into the distance and mutters to himself. Robbert was sick over the side of the ship. Karlsson took him off to clean him up. I have sat here and watched the rocks. About fifty yards from the ship, the rocks give way to dense forest. It is there that the creatures live, I am sure of it, and I have seen shadows flicker across the boughs of trees.

“Why would they bring the body back?” Karlsson asked me.

I do not know. I may be a man of science but this is beyond me.

 

30th October 1701 – Noon – Hollandia

Karlsson and I went down to the body. Loode’s organs had been removed, so what was returned to us was merely a shell of bone and skin. We buried him under some rocks. All the time I could feel eyes on us, peering unseen from the trees.
Karlsson took a spear and went up the beach. I wanted to go with him, but he made me stay. Someone must tend to Caspars and the boy, after all.


30th October 1701 – Dusk – Hollandia

Karlsson has not come back. Robbert is terrified. I wanted to look for Karlsson but the boy would not allow me to leave him.


30th October 1701 – Night – Hollandia

I hear them out there. Dragging and shuffling. Robbert is crying in the corner. Caspars is not moving. Dawn will bring us a new corpse, I just know it. Lord, what is this place?


30th October 1701 – Night? – Hollandia

I awoke to find Caspars gone. Robbert is lying in the space the bosun once filled. I can hear dragging. I can’t hear shouting, I can’t hear screams. It can’t be long now until the sun rises. Will we see three bodies where only yesterday there was one?


31st October 1701 – Pre-Dawn – Hollandia

At dawn’s first grey light, Karlsson vaulted back up into the ship. He was in a bad way. His arm was lacerated, bloody and leaking a black ichor that mixed with the gore and dripped to the wooden slats of the ship. He stank – a foul rotting smell that rose from his wound, even though it could only be hours old. His eyes were wide and rolled around his head as he staggered this way and that. “Dragons”, he yelled, waving the torn limb and splashing blood about, “Here be dragons!" He collapsed to the ground, his mouth emitting a thin keening that could have been laughter or sobbing, or something in between. Robbert stared at him, at me. But what could I do for either of them?

 

31st October 1701 - Dawn – Hollandia

I am saddened to say that I was right. Dawn brought the corpse of Caspars into view. He had been torn to shreds, killed by whatever these creatures are. Next to him was the freshly exhumed body of Captain Loode. At the sight of them, Karlsson let out a bellow and charged out of the ship. I know not what madness took him, for he did not jump or vault out – merely running into thin air. He fell the ten feet to the rocks and was dashed upon them. As he lay feebly moaning, Robbert and I got our first view of the creatures.

They ambled out of the forest, heads low and swinging side to side. Their long, black bodies were covered in shiny scales, their eyes black lumps of coal, their forked tongues licking the air as they shuffled over the rocks towards Karlsson. I reached out to the Swede, begging him to take my hand, but it was no use. Once they were close enough to taste blood on the air, they pounced on him with cat-like agility and speed, ripping flesh from his bones and cracking them to get at the marrow. Dragons – the Swede spoke true. Robbert turned away, but I felt I owed it to the man to watch his end.

Only one thing is certain. We cannot stay here.


31st October 1701 - Late Morning – Hollandia

The beasts, sated, ambled off back to the trees an hour or so ago. I told Robbert my plan – to launch the lifeboat from the rocks to the stern of the wreck. To row away as hard as we can. He would not listen. He would not leave the ship. I tried – but I could not subdue the boy and carry him against his will – he may even have slowed me enough for the monsters to catch us.

I write this now from the life-boat – afloat back on the sea. Of Robbert I have seen or heard no sign.

I have pointed the bow away from the wreck and aim to row back the way we came. Perhaps the next French ship I encounter will be kinder than the last.


25th December 1701 – Louis XIII
Captain Jean Bouchard of the Louis XIII French East India Trading Vessel:

This diary was recovered from a lifeboat found floating several miles from any known island. There was no inhabitant of the boat save for a small amount of gold and several sacks of spices. Attempts have been made to locate the wreck of the Dutch ship Hollandia but so far these have been unsuccessful. I will return this diary to Viktoria de Munnick of Rotterdam, as is my duty.

May God have mercy upon the souls of the dead.

 


© Copyright 2018 Thom Goddard. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

More Horror Short Stories