The Ghost Ship

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

Sometimes you come across such strange news items it makes the imagination run wild. The ghost ships being washed up on the coast of Japan tell a tragic tale of ill equipped fishermen coming to grief or maybe even people trying to leave their country to start a new life, But the sea holds many mysteries and secrets and every culture has a tale of demons and spirits that inhabit the deep dark waters.



Chester O'Rourke was seasoned sea captain. For over twenty years he had been making his money fishing in the unpredictable waters of the North Pacific. He had fished for crab and salmon and Alaskan pollock depending on what would bring him a decent price at the end of a trip and what he and his crews could find while out in the unforgiving ocean. He joked his blood was sea water and life on land made him restless. The rewards, like the risks involved, were great. Some of his crew had sailed with him for a large part of those twenty years too. In all that time he had never lost a crew man to the sea. His record was nothing short of remarkable. The loyalty of the men he sailed with was unshakeable.

The current trip had taken them a long way out into the Pacific in search of pollock. The fishing had been hard and the weather terrible, but now with a full hold and a calm sea they were all looking forward to heading for home and the safety of their home port of Vancouver. The deep sea trawler they were on the Vancouver Princess was short on home comforts despite having a regal name. As much as they were all at home on the water, twelve days out on an angry Pacific ocean had made them all miss dry land. Now as they sailed east the prevailing current was in their favour and they were making good time to get the catch back to port. Chester stood on the bridge with his navigator and they were both smoking over size cigars. They always had one on the way back home, partly as a homage to the many old movies they had watched where the cigar between comrades was a recurring motif. The navigator, Peter Drummond, was one of the longest serving on the ship and this was his final trip. He had married for the second time and was moving to Quebec with his new wife.

“Are you sure you aren't going to die of boredom Peter?” the Captain asked.

“No. I'm ready for a change Chester. The weather on this trip made me want it more than ever. Dry land for me from now on and a new life with Susan. I've been lucky to meet her at this point in life. We have to make the most of it.”

“I suppose so. I will miss you Peter. You're the best navigator in the business. How the hell will I find my way home without you?”

“Just stay in sight of land. You can't go wrong like that.”

Chester smiled and was about to answer his colleague when something caught his eye up ahead. He raised his binoculars.

“What's that on the starboard side Peter?” he asked.

Peter raised his binoculars too. It was hard to see as the sun was catching their eyes but as the trawler forged forward in the water it became clear they were looking at a wooden vessel becalmed in the water. It looked shabby, the sails shredded , the woodwork bleached by the sun and salt. A ragged flag hung limply from the flag pole on the stern.

“Do you suppose there is anyone on board?” asked Peter.

“We had better take a look.” Chester decided.

He turned the ship towards the shabby looking vessel and announced to the crew that the detour would only be short to see if there were any crew to rescue. If it was an empty wreck they would be back on course within a very short time. The crew did not complain. If they were clinging to life on a wrecked ship they would want to be rescued themselves. When they reached the vessel Chester took two of his crew to board it. Peter was left in charge of the trawler and manoeuvred it alongside.

“Hello!” Chester called through a megaphone. There was no response. He handed the crewmen a pistol each that he had liberated from the locked cupboard on the bridge. It was all quiet but you couldn't be too careful. Through the window of the cabin he could see the shapes of five men sitting around a table, all upright, looking for all the world as though they were engaged in a game of cards. However there was no movement. They were frozen in a moment. He banged on the door, and nothing disturbed the figures. He was getting edgy as he opened the door. He thought that the men may suddenly turn round, perhaps with violent intent. Instead a vile smell met him and his crewmen. As they looked closer it was obvious that all these men were dead and had been for quite some time. He shut the door quickly to stop the rotten stench from assailing them. A quick inspection showed that the wooden ship, although basic was in good order and seaworthy. The flag they had seen from their vantage point on their own bridge turned out to be the red and blue flag of North Korea, faded and ragged, but the white circle with a red star was still clearly visible.

“What are we going to do with them Captain?” asked the youngest of the crewmen. “It's not right to just leave them out here surely? They should be buried, decent like.”

“Well, I don't think we should touch anything. It's a strange way to find a crew , all sat up like that. I think something very odd has happened to these men. I think we should radio ahead and tow them in. Let the authorities deal with them. If they can identify them then at least they can be sent back home for their families to grieve.”

Chester was becoming more and more uneasy the longer he stood on the wooden ship. He wanted to get a line tied to it, start the tow and get in to Vancouver as fast as possible. He didn't believe in any of the old sea folklore and tales but this was the strangest thing he had ever seen.

Soon the Vancouver Princess was once again making good progress back to port. The wooden ship on the end of the tow line was so light it hadn't slowed them down noticeably. They were only twelve hours from home and the authorities would impound the foreign vessel on their arrival. Chester was glad of this. The uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach persisted and he didn't think it was all a reaction to the disgusting smell that had emanated from the cabin. The bridge was handed over to his number two helmsman and he went below to try and get some sleep. He was soon consumed by terrible dreams however. He was back on the wooden ship, in the cabin, but the men were alive around the table. They were drinking whisky in copious amounts and playing Russian roulette with an ancient revolver. One by one he watched in horror as they put a bullet through their own skulls. The last one surviving finished a huge glass of whisky and despatched himself with deadly efficiency. Chester woke with a start. Why? Was his immediate thought. Was it a case of doing that or starving to death slowly and painfully? Did they lack the skills to get themselves to land? Could they not survive on catching fish until they reached some kind of civilisation? It occurred to him after a few moments that the awful dream could not be relied upon to be a true narrative. It had been vivid, as though he was witnessing the events. He could see the men sweating as they pulled the trigger. They jumped as the gun went off each time with the exception of the captain, or the man Chester presumed held this title. He seemed to be in charge of the proceedings and had in fact been the last to die. Chester got out of his bunk and saw it was almost time to take his watch up on the bridge. He still felt uneasy as he made his way onto the deck and took over on the bridge. They were six hours from home. They would be docking just after dawn. It would all be fine he told himself. Just stay on course.

An hour into his watch and the feeling of unease still wouldn't go away. He heard the door open and close behind him but never took his eyes from the instrument panel.

“If that's you Peter, go and get some sleep. I can manage to get this tub back without you.”

“No, not Peter.” a voice came from just behind his left shoulder.

Chester froze as the voice he heard was not one of his Canadian crew. He hardly dared to turn round.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“ Just call me Kwang. It will be simpler. I am the man in your dream who lead the crew to their deaths.”

Chester turned finally, half afraid he would see just animated remains of a human being, but Kwang was restored to the form of a recognisable person.

“What happened?” Chester growled and made sure this creature in front of him could see he was holding a gun

“You cannot kill a man twice Captain. I will tell you our story.”

Kwang sat himself down in the navigators chair and swung round to face his Canadian counterpart. He told a story that started reasonably enough. The crew had left port on the west coast of North Korea to fish. They had managed to procure a decent engine and enough fuel to venture further out than normal but ran into trouble when the engine failed off the southern coast of Kyushu. The prevailing wind and currents had swept their vessel out into the northern Pacific and ever eastwards towards the coast of Canada. At first they felt sure that they would survive the crossing . They had plenty of food and the ability to catch fish. At one point they even got the engine running again. They weathered a couple of storms and were feeling confident until the arrival of the Funayurei.

“What?” asked Chester.

“The water spirits. They come to take the living. They sink your boat. They are the spirits of the drowned. They attacked us day and night until we couldn't take any more. Our food supplies were ruined. The engine and the sails were destroyed and our navigation and fishing equipment thrown overboard. We became too weak to resist them. So we elected to take our own lives rather than drown or starve. We had no way back. So Captain, I come to warn you. The Funayurei will come for you and your crew this night.”

“I have never heard such rubbish in my whole life!” he yelled.

“If rubbish Captain, what is that at the stern of your boat? And why am I here talking to you when I put a shot through my head eight weeks ago?”

As Chester looked behind him he could see a wave bearing down on the back of the trawler. It twisted and churned and howled twenty feet up into the air threatening to destroy whatever it came into contact with.

“Holy shit!” he exclaimed.

“We can save your crew. It is still after my ship. We are unfinished business for it but it has to take a life. It does not want a dead crew.”

“And a Captain goes down with his ship.”

“Quite so. A rule of the sea.”

Chester looked around the bridge of his ship for one last time. To save his crew, his trawler and his precious cargo he knew what he had to do. Putting the trawler onto auto pilot he left with the spectre of captain Kwang, launched the small rib that served as one of the lifeboats and boarded the the ship they were towing. He cut the tow line and watched as the trawler pulled away and the swirling mass of water crashed across the wooden deck he was standing on. The wood splintered and cracked under the strain . He held himself upright by clinging to the mast. The last thing he saw was the crew standing alongside Captain Kwang all saluting him as the ship went down.

The tremendous noise and commotion woke the crew of the Vancouver Princess. There was no trace of the wooden vessel or of Captain Chester O'Rourke. Despite extensive searching by the Canadian coastguard no trace of either was ever found.

Two years later out in the north Pacific a Japanese trawler came across a ghost ship. It was drifting eastwards and on investigation they found the remains of six crewmen sitting around a table in the cabin. They decided not to tow it in but reported it to the Japanese coastguard, giving a pinpoint position for the wooden ship. They never found it despite a prolonged search. Perhaps it is still out there somewhere.



Submitted: December 30, 2019

© Copyright 2021 Petula Mitchell . All rights reserved.

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Vance Currie

An excellent nautical ghost story, Petula, and very well written.

Tue, December 31st, 2019 8:11pm

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