Pirate's Cove

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

The old barnacle-encrusted sea chest waits for you in silence....

Submitted: January 27, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 27, 2018



Pirate’s Cove is a shunned harbor of danger and fear.  Though curious tourists find it a place of mystery and intrigue, boats no longer anchor at that ill-omened port.  The ribs of the wrecked hull of a derelict salmon schooner jut out of the murky water at low tide like an angry talon viciously clawing at the cold midnight sky. As a scudding rack stretched bony skeletal fingers across a sliver of waxing crescent moon, a foreboding scene played itself out on the decrepit wharf below. Slack tide at night brings unusual smells up from the unseen fathoms of the cryptic deep.

Oyster shells exposed by the ebb of deadly salty currents project outward from leaning dock piling in jagged totems that can slice human flesh to bleeding at the slightest touch. The shadowy figure of a lone gull soared in silence on the nocturnal thermals of the humid onshore flow listening knowingly as the undulating sea whispered ancient secrets.

“Don’t open that trunk.”

“Why? What’s in it?”

The old man didn’t answer. He simply sat in vexing contemplation beneath the dull glow of the maritime lamp that hung gloomily over the sagging open door of the bait shack. Inside the dimly lit hut, the monotonous whir of aerators bubbling in anchovy tanks and the tranquilizing hum of electric motors that keep squid, shrimp, ballyhoo, and cigar minnows frozen in a large cooler orchestrated a soothing sonata that invited laziness, drowsiness, and sleep.

The young punk was a tourist. He had been razzing the old man everyday since he arrived. His name was Pauli Stalin. His parents had spoiled him rotten. They owned two units at the posh high-rise Sunset Gulf condominium. He was sporting every fashionable luxury money could buy from his Costa del Mar shades to his Top-Sider deck shoes.

The old man had seen his type before. He’d seen them show up at the beginning of summer, just like this narcissistic punk, hang around the beach surfing or trying their luck with every chick in a bikini. The old man had also seen the young city-slickers puke their guts up when they had slammed one too many brewskis or margaritas. With watery gray eyes that twinkled with prophetic vision, the old man had waited as one by one the unwelcome interlopers disappeared never to be seen or heard from again.

The affluent mothers and fathers always reacted the same. They’d dump tons of cash on local authorities or threaten lawsuits, but all in vain. When those arrogant young punks vanish, that’s it. They should listen when the old man tells them not to look in the trunk, but there’s something about that rotting old sea chest that the annoying punks just can’t resist.

“I bet there’s nothing in it, you old geezer,” the punk had his hands in his obnoxiously bright Bermuda shorts and was swaying back and forth under the false courage of inebriation. It was always just a matter of time, the old man knew, and this one didn’t have long left. Tonight was this haughty punk’s last night. The old man could tell.

The haunting call of the antique sea chest was ringing irresistibly in this staggering punk’s elephantine ears. The old man tapped the ash out of his meerschaum, dipped it into his ‘bakky pouch for a refill, then scraped a strike-anywhere match against the door frame of the bait shack. Holding the match to the tightly packed bowl, the old man drew air through the mouthpiece in poetically measured puffs until the cherry-flavored crimp-cut began to glow. He shook out the match and tossed the stub into the dark briny water below.

The young punk was staring with carnal lust at the silent trunk. The old man couldn’t understand it. No matter how many times or with what fearsome vehemence he cautioned, the brash young punks just didn’t get the message.

The salty tang of the sea breeze was particularly strong this evening. A fateful evening it was, for tonight the rotting old trunk would claim another victim. No longer would this irritating punk contaminate the white sandy beach with his ungainly macho belligerence. No longer would the sunbathing beauties be offended by his vulgar come-ons.

The uncouth punk reached for the heavy lid of the badly weathered sea chest.

“I wouldn’t do that, if I was you.”

“Well, you ain’t me, old man, so stuff it where the sun don’t shine!”

The old man shrugged his stooped shoulders. The deck chair upon which he sat was most comfortable and the night air coming in off the Gulf was spiritually soothing. The sliver of waxing crescent hung ominously amid the jagged looming clouds, the gaps of which revealed stars that sparkled without end.

“Suit yourself, my young friend, but remember, I warned you.”

The punk’s hand had almost reached the lid of the trunk, then hesitated. Had something moved inside? Had he heard a thumping sound? Nah! That old man was trying to psyche him out! Well, he wasn’t gonna be bluffed by some pipe-smoking old fool.

“If I want to open that trunk I will and there’s nothing you can do to stop me, you old bum!”

“I wouldn’t think of attempting to stop you, my young friend.”

“Stop calling me friend! I’m not your friend! I wouldn’t be your friend if you were the last senile loser on the planet!”

The old man puffed merrily at his pipe, “You go ahead do whatever you like, young feller. All I’m saying is, that if I were you, I wouldn’t open that old sea chest. It hasn’t always been here on the wharf by the door of the bait shack, you know.”

“It’s been here all summer!”

“That may be, but in times past, that rotten trunk has sailed aboard some of the wickedest pirate ships ever to terrorize the briny. The thing is cursed. It brings bad luck wherever it goes. Grim stories hover like a morbid miasma around that chest. One legend tells of how the crew of a fishing sloop had anchored just off Dead Man’s Point close to the channel entrance to Pirate’s Cove. They failed to hoist a light before falling exhausted into their bunks. It was a dark night. A big windjammer heavily laden with cargo from the Spice Islands didn’t see the small boat until the last minute. The first mate spun the wheel hard to port, but the larger craft with its displacement of 300 tons cut the little sloop in half. With the lateen on the mizzen mast luffing, the polacca-rigged brig came about and searched the area for survivors. None were found. Yet, the horrified crew of the windjammer did find something.”

The old man motioned with his head toward the silent trunk, “That old chest was floating like a lifeless corpse on the rolling sea. The cargo brig was overdue at port. After a week, a search party was sent out. The captain of the big tall ship was found hanging from the yardarm. Everyone else had vanished, never to be seen or heard from again….a ghost ship.”

The old man was silent.

“You’re just a fat rummy spinning idiot yarns!” the young punk sneered.

“Am I? Rumor has it, Captain Morgan traded a beautiful Caribbean slave girl to a staggeringly wealthy sugarcane plantation owner for what’s inside this haunted sea chest. According to diabolical lore whispered in dark corners of shady taverns, the Devil himself brokered the deal.”

“That’s a load of bull!”

“Whatever you say, young feller. I’m only offering the advice of my many years of experience. I’ve lived by the sea all my life. I’ve seen things. I’ve heard sounds in the surf. There are things in the water,” the old man shuddered, “things that landlubbers don’t understand. Sinister hungry things that even those with the stoutest sea-legs wouldn’t dare tempt by casual disregard for the shanties sung by the tavern-maids late at night when they’re lamenting their salty lovers who sailed over the heaving horizon never to return. If you want to open that barnacle-encrusted trunk, you go right ahead. Just remember, I warned you.”

The punk could no longer stand it. His fragile overinflated ego was threatened by the old man’s calm reserve. He would show the fat old smart-mouth that he wasn’t afraid of any bedtime tales meant to scare children into being afraid to get out of their beds while their parents make out on the sofa downstairs!

In a flurry of angry motion, the young punk grabbed for the lid, but it’s dead weight required the use of both hands. With a perspiring grunt, the punk slowly brought the large lid up from whatever it hid inside which was space, vast and dark, that had never known light nor ever would. It was hypnotizing. The darkness was infinite, unstoppable.

Something of primeval origin, from the mysterious deeps where mermaids are conceived, reached out of that rotten old sea-chest. The huge writhing tentacle of a leviathan monstrous beast shot forward in a blinding snap and coiled tightly around the punk’s throat. Powerful suction cups drew blood blisters on the arrogant punk’s tender young skin. His arms wildly flailing, he cried out, screaming to the old man for help.

His desperate fearful hollering was heard for only a brief moment, then cut fatally short. He was yanked violently into the abyssal darkness that presses down to smother the soul of a mortal as hope turns and runs away in cowardly terror, abandoning those that in shame would cling to it. The heavy lid of the trunk slammed shut.

The old man puffed at his meerschaum in blissful satisfaction. The tourist season was over now. He would have all autumn and all winter free of the nuisance of narcissistic young punks. The old man smiled at the reflection of starlight on the dark water of the calm harbor. The shadow of the solitary gull dipped to perch on a piling. The current under the wharf shifted. The tide was coming in.

© Copyright 2020 Sean Terrence Best. All rights reserved.

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