Singing

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Awash on a foreign land, surrounded by oddities, consumed by hunger and fear.



Unfinished story, computer crashed and I lost a few thousand words. Never had the heart to return.

Submitted: January 21, 2020

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Submitted: January 21, 2020

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Singing

The boat pitches and rocks, waves lazily playing with the ship as it floats along. How did it get to be this bad? The stars stretching wide and bright above me as I lay on the deck. This was meant to bring us honour, glory. A cool breeze brushes across my skin, sending shivers through my body. They trusted me, I was the one who held the power, who called the shots. The slow flapping of the sail stands as my only company, the only diversion from the silence. Months had passed, the journey wasn’t meant to take more than a few weeks, how had we strayed so off course? Exhaustion was catching me fast, pulling at my mind like an anchor. We left the coast as champions, how infuriating that we would never return. Allowing the weariness to take me, I let my eyes sink, I’ll soon join my crew. I had been their captain, and now they lay dead around me.

My eyes slowly open. The glimmer of the night’s stars replaced by the dull glow of the early sun hued grey through thick fog. Am I not dead? The familiar gnaw of hunger fills my body; I am definitely not dead. I can still hear the rush of the waves lapping against the boat but I don’t feel movement. My arms reach out from under me, I raise shakily and peer over the edge of my vessel. An island. I never thought I would see the sweet embrace of Earth again. Fog sits like a heavy veil across the beaches, it hides the topography well. I can just see trees fighting for space at the edge of the sand, beyond that the land remains a mystery. My options run through my head quickly; I either stay on this boat and wait for death or I search the island in hopes of sustenance. The thought of eating something invigorates my body, I rise up and lower the rope ladder to the beach and descend, my limbs feel stiff. How long was I laying on that deck, waiting for the end? I feel a sense of relief when my feet hit the ground, the weight of the ship leaves my bones behind.

Water surrounds my feet, the sand sinks under my weight as I trudge towards land. Despite the fog the day is warm and the beach invites my weary body. Barely out of the water I collapse to my knees, I never believed I would feel solid land below me again, I can’t help myself as tears begin to well up in my eyes, slow and misty at first but quickly turning into heavy sobs. All those lives, gone. So much human potential lost to the terrifying grasp of the sea. Why am I the one to survive? What plans do the gods have for me? Leaving me as quickly as it had come the emotion is gone. Ravenous hunger fills my body once again and snaps me back into attention; the trees call to me with the sounds of birds, the sounds of a meal. The process is slow and painful but I make it to the trees, half walking and half dragging myself, but I made it. The foliage cuts streaks of shadow through the haze, visibility is almost non-existent here. I turn to look back towards my boat, even at this distance of a few meters the details become blurred to the grey wisps.

Entering the forest, I realize I would not be able to see much more had the day been clear and sunny; trees stand in rapid succession, tall and heavy like guards to some long-forgotten kingdom. Shrubs and branches sprout through what little space there is between the wooden titans. Manoeuvering through the thicket is no easy task but I am constantly taunted by the chirps of birds or the snap of a twig near by. I am no stranger to hunting but starvation clouds my mind and weakens my muscles. I crash through the bramble making no end of noise. Too hungry to hunt well yet unable to eat to soothe myself, am I doomed to perish here rather than the boat, like the others? In the distance, is that…? Do I hear singing? My body tenses and my ears strain to hear anything clearly, the noise comes low yet sweet. The haunting melody of a woman’s voice calls me like a siren, guiding my body towards an unknown destination; I follow. My foot lands in something soft and slimy. The trance of the song ends, I hear the voice no longer. I feel both joy and concern when I see what lies below me. Four rabbits, three of which have been torn apart, my foot has landed in the sludge of remaining meat. The last of the four rabbits, amazingly, remains completely untouched. Picking it up and examining it I see no punctures, cuts or broken bones. What was it that caused these animals their demise? The surrounding trees have deep gouges as if some great beast had swiped at the tiny creatures. Hunger overrides all thought as I quickly dismiss the carnage, claiming the rabbit as my own I walk until my feet touch the sand of the beach. My father taught me as a child long ago how to create a fire using just the elements around me. With enough dedication, a fire soon crackles in its makeshift home made of a circle of large stones on the beach.

The fire burns, the rabbit lies limp next to it. How am I going to prepare the rodent? The skin needs to be removed so I can gain access to its tender flesh below. There are knives on the boat, I am sure of that. My heart rate increases, I inhale sharply. The boat: a symbol of my failure, a monument to the death of my crew. No other choices present themselves, not even a sharp rock can be found, the stones being worn smooth by the unrelenting sea.

I force myself towards the beached vessel, the stench of death hangs heavy over the area; something I’ve grown unsettlingly comfortable with during the course of the expedition, or lack there of. The wooden skeleton of the ship slowly forms through the grey. The water greets me once again as I approach the rope ladder I had thrown down. Looking up, the walls seem to stretch on forever and the simple climb I made down appears massive now. Reluctantly, I place my hands on the first steps and tentatively carry myself back up to the deck.

It's a large vessel, at one point boasting a crew of twenty men, including myself. The horrors of my actions revisit me as my feet stand planted on the wooden hull; shaking, hungry, and fearful. I try my very hardest to avert my gaze from the corpses, but the occasional glimpse of bone and rotting meat fill my eyes. I gag, twice. Food was one of the first issues to arise; we had stored a fair amount, enough to make the trip twice over. We did not, however, plan on becoming lost in the swirling hands of the water. A small cabin sits at the back of the deck, built right into the wood. My hand rests on the door handle, refusing to open it. Closing my eyes I inhale sharply, mentally preparing myself for the other side of the door. I stare at my hand still holding the rusted metal latch, the skin is tight, the fingers bony. A wind of breath leaves my chest in one big huff, I push down on the latch and feel the heavy click of the simple bolt and feel the slow creak of the hinges. Light flitters inside, illuminating the specs of floating dust. The smell is heavy and damp and hits me like a wall. Inside the cabin is simple, really no more than a shack; there are no windows, the sole light would come from the singular hanging lantern. A small bed on one side, a desk in the other. On the desk lies the iron knife I so desperately need, next to it lay a severed arm from one of my oarsmen.

 “They were already gone, you had to.” I repeat the thought in my head over and over again in a forlorn attempt to drown out the moans of the dead that have haunted me for weeks. They were my crew, and I had eaten their deceased bodies, of this I could never escape.

The fire still roars when I finally sit down near its warm embrace, the knife in hand. Piercing into the stomach of the rabbit, I cut down the length of its body. A cry is stifled in my throat as worms and some type of thick black liquid spills out over my hands. Yet, in an instance, the breadth of a blink, it is back to the pink guts I expected. My heart pounds heavily in my chest, my hands sweat and tremble; what was it that I just witnessed? No logical explanation fills my mind, is this some omen sent to me by the gods?

Reluctance fills me as I consider eating this strange creature, how can I be sure I won’t fall ill? Hunger pervades my entirety and any complaints that my mind throws at me are ignored by the most basic of survival instincts.

As the meat cooks the song returns to my mind. There is no doubt that I heard a voice, a woman’s voice, singing. Were there other people on this island? Questions keep arising, there is something amiss with the island; or is it simply me who is losing sanity?

The meat disappears rapidly and fills my stomach, the first meal I’ve had in far too long. Once again I find myself on the verge of tears. The lives of my crew float through my mind, the cost of each and every one of them lying heavy on my body. It was I who made the decision to steer away from the mainland, despite the warnings from the sailors. The faster the trade route across the Aegean could be forged the faster I would be paid. A fair percentage of the profits would have flowed through my hands as a sort of finder’s fee, that was the arrangement I had made. I should be rolling in riches right now, not stranded on an island, likely to die. And what about the beast that had killed the rabbits? Would I be the next one to satisfy its cravings?

It is still early in the day, yet little light manages to pierce through the fog. There is a perpetual dusk to this forsaken island, not entirely day yet not quite dim enough to be night; it breeds uneasiness deep within. Food slows my thought, I drift into a tense sleep curled up on the beach next to the fire. Dreams of flames and the screams of men fill my sleeping mind. I awaken with a start, my eyes bolting open as the unmistakable smell of burning wood fills my nostrils. The fire next to me has long since died, the forest behind me remains unscathed which leaves… My stomach sinks as I notice an orange tinge to the fog down the beach. I rise up from the ground and force each foot in the direction of the glow. The smell of fire grows stronger and stronger as I approach. Gradually the form of the ship comes into view; flames lick the wood as the entirety of my vessel is engulfed in fire, creating ghostly wisps of orange and red through the thick fog. Any hope of survival burns as fast as the timber before my eyes.

Footstep after footstep control me, bringing me towards the inferno. I can feel the heat of the ship, the singeing of my flesh, yet I do not stop. Abruptly my mind fills with clarity, a single thought enters my mind: you. The pain radiating out of the ship consumes me, I feel its blaze and stumble away. Landing a few meters away the fire fills my eyes. I felt as though I had been in a trance, the same as when I heard the woman’s voice, calling me towards the flame. The thought I experienced had not been my own, rather like some far-off force calling to me; but what was it meaning? “You” what?

As I sit there my mind seems to fill with the same fog that inhabits the island, thoughts come with difficulty and great obscurity. Through the mental cloud a figure begins to establish itself, one wreathed in shadow but with a great flame above its head. The word repeats again: you. I close my eyes in an attempt to shut out the burning vessel before me. Slowly the figure emerges from the obscurity, the flame above it growing in strength. That is… that is my own frail form standing below the fire. Once more the word forces itself into my head: you. Leaving with the same rapidity with which it had arrived, the vision leaves. I am left on the beach alone. Raising my hands in front of me I notice, for the first time, the dark charcoal coating of my hands and the severity of the burns on my inner palms. Was it I who set the flame?

I am uncertain how long I sat on that beach, just staring as the remains of the wood slowly succumb to the inferno. Piece by piece it fell, and piece by piece I felt it in my very being. At least the seafarers received their funeral pyre, the bittersweet words dance through my mind. I sat in the sand until the boat was nothing more than embers and ash floating through the breeze, coating the land in a fine layer of anguish.

Hunger pulls at me, insisting that I feast lest I face the same fate as those come before me. Despite the barbed vacancy within me, I feel no desire to eat. Would I not be foolishly delaying the inevitable clutch of death? I believe I have been here a little over a day, though the longer I spend on the island the harder I find it to keep track of the time. The perpetual state of dim light and the ever-present weight of the fog blurs the hours. Birds chatter in the trees behind me. My mind is a bit sharper now, having the small nutrients that the rabbit provided for me. Would I be more successful in hunting? Retrieving a thick branch from the edge of the trees, I carve a crude spear and head into the thicket. Despite my thoughts, I am no more agile now than I was before. While I can hear the calls of the birds around me, I can see none of them; I see no fluttering of wings, or the hopping of branches, or even scared animals flying away from my loud intrusion. Yet, the same continual avian song plays through the forest. I blink, when my eyes open I can see clearly; the fog has lifted, the sky is blue and deep. Light fills the forest, fauna slowly make their way through the underbrush and birds flitter through the sky. A small fox brushes past my legs. The animals pay me no heed, like I don’t even exist. Looking towards the tops of trees, I can see the peak of a large mountain deeper into the island. When my eyes settle on the peak the woman’s voice returns to me, faint and delicate, singing the same melodic tune. In an instant, the whole thing is gone. Fog fills the trees, the animals are gone, the brief joy of the sun is replaced by the weight of the island.

I must make it to the peak of that mountain. From far within I feel the draw of the hill, calling to me in the same way that I was pulled towards the rabbits and the burning boat. My body pains for the need of nourishment, though the feelings become blind to me as I stumble through the forest, unsure of where I am but certain of where I must be. As I travel further into the woods, the massive trees begin to creak and moan, greeting me as if an old friend. Step after step lead me away from shore, into the heart of the island and towards the woman. I can still hear the birds’ call, yet it seems distant and hollow, as if nothing more than an echo of times past. Seemingly alive, the trees continue their chorus. The slow creaking of the wooden entities becomes deafening; so slow, yet so desperate, almost as if trying to communicate something to me. The noise of thousands of trees becomes so intense that I am forced to stop for a moment. Having been focused so heavily on the ground in front of me, I failed to notice the rapidly thickening fog in the forest. Lifting my hand, the shape becomes obscured in the grey wisps at simply an arm’s length away. Placing my hand on the log nearest me, the noise of the floral giants stops immediately. I stare at my improvised spear for a long duration, I push the tip of my finger into the point until a singular drop of blood rolls down the shaft. Why should I not end it right now? Be free of this nightmare. Two possibilities exist, either I am a poor victim of some god’s game, or I have completely lost my sanity. The fog envelops me like a blanket, soon I am lost to its embrace. Me, the grey, and my spear.

Once again my mind fills with sudden clarity, while simultaneously the air around clears slightly. I drop the spear in disgust. I refuse to have made it this far simply to take my own life. Casting my head towards the sky in hopes of a glimpse of blue leaves me dejected, the fog has yet to cease and with every continuing hour I feel a building sense of dread and despair. However, while I do not see the skies that I hope for, I do notice something odd about the trees: they are all bent near the top in the same direction, as if pointing at something. The draw of the mountain and the woman’s song have left once again, but now the intrigue of the bent forest called me forwards. Travelling deeper into the thicket the mystery only grows, the trees bending at larger angles until they bend at nearly ninety degrees. Abruptly coming to an end, a small, circular clearing emerges in the midst of the woods, no bigger than a few meters in diameter. Large trees surrounded the clearing, all bent near the top and pointing towards the center. I take a few tentative steps towards the middle, there is something black embedded in the grass. Approaching it slowly, I soon realize it’s a piece of wood, a burnt piece of wood. Picking it up to examine, I see the charred insignia of my ship embossed onto the side. This is a piece of my boat, the very same that I watched burn to the ground mere hours ago. How in the world is this intact piece here? Turning the wood around I see some words carved into the back, the damage from the fire is heavy and only a few words remain “…we… always knew you’d end like this…”.


© Copyright 2020 Kacy Komers. All rights reserved.

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