Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Ghost Ship

In August, this year, I published the sequel to my Fantasy Novel, Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog.  The second book also stars Duffy, a young, stubborn boy who uses crutches and hates to be told "No."   Duffy Barkley: Seek Well also has some of the same characters and another adventure in Uhrlin.  I was delighted to take Duffy on another journey as well, and have him explore one of my favorite places, the Lake Atitlan area of Guatemala.

This Month, I have reduced the kindle price of the original book to 99 cents

 and priced the new kindle book at merely $2.99 in the hope that more people will be willing to test out their own interest in these adventure stories.

One of the parts of the sequel that was the most fun for me to imagine and write was a scene I have shivered at in other books and movies.  I find the idea of the abandoned, untouched home or ship to be a chilling mystery, and so Duffy Barkley: Seek Well, begins with the mystery of a Ghost Ship.

Prologue:  Ghost Ship

     On the colorless day that the ghost ship was discovered, the sea was calm and milk white.  The air was thick with fog and Captain Edward could not see from the port side of his “Morning Breeze” to the starboard railing.  Two years had passed since this area of the sea had been violated with the mining and upheaval of Smelter’s attempted wall building.  The ocean’s surface was forgiving, but the captain found himself wondering what the sea bed looked like now.
     His musings were interrupted by the voice from the Crow’s Nest.  “Ship off port bow!”  As the faintest grey silhouette of masts and sails became visible, the Captain ordered a full stop and squinted through the murky light.  “Ahoy, The Ship,” he called out and then echoed his call once and again, but the other ship did not respond.
     His men gathered along the railing, curiosity turned to un-ease as the larger ship remained silent and no sight of movement could be detected upon the decks which rose high above their own.  As they neared, they slowly began to fear that some calamity had befallen the larger vessel.
     The “Morning Breeze” had been coming from a cargo delivery from the Bobbing Islands to the Bison near the Geyser area on the mainland.  Their return cargo was bison wool, and under no urgent timeline.  There was obviously something wrong with the larger ship, that they had found dead in the water, and the captain did not hesitate to order a lifeboat lowered so that he and a few men could row over to investigate the . . ., he peered up at the name as it revealed itself from the mist, where it was painted in black letters, the “Soaring Schoomer.”

     Captain Edward pulled himself up the last rung of the ladder and hesitated.  The silence of the large sailing vessel was un-settling and complete. Yet even though there was no indication of life on board, there was a certain sense of violation involved in going, without permission, onto someone else’s ship.
    He stepped onto the wooden deck and the training of a life at sea forced him to call out, “Permission to come aboard?”  Even though he spoke softly, the words seemed to echo loudly – calling to ghosts or sea-monsters for unwanted attention.  The hesitation in his voice and the nerves that he didn’t want to be showing, forced him to raise his voice and repeat the greeting in the normal booming voice that he used to be heard on deck.  His men called it his, “command voice.”
     His footsteps were firm on the boards in spite of the unsettling nerves he felt from his toes, to the pit of his stomach, to the hair follicles on his head.  His men, following close upon his heels, were alert, but waited for his signal before moving to investigate the ship.  He had brought seven sailors with him, and ordered those who remained behind to stay on watch for any sign of trouble.
     The discoveries were as unsettling as the un-natural silence, and the men spoke in little more than whispers – in the respectful quiet of voices at a funeral.  The Soaring Schoomer was clearly built more for passengers than for cargo, but where were the passengers and crew?
     “None of the lifeboats are missing,” spoke a man who looked at the hooks and ties along the railing on both sides of the ship.  He dug into the stores in the small rowboat and noticed that it seemed to be a fairly typical supply, such as what they always kept stored in their lifeboats.  There were fishing hooks and lines, small solar water distillers for removing salt, warm, waterproof skins, and some small store of first aid materials and preserved food.  Nothing indicated that the stores had been accessed in any recent times.
     “The life vests do not appear to have been touched, sir.  I don’t know how many they had but this box is full,” another sailor said, and the thud as he let the wooden lid drop back into place made the silence ring briefly.
    Moving beyond the open space and into the dining room, the feeling of strangeness intensified.  Most of the tables were set as if expecting the passengers to file in momentarily.  There were platters of food, sitting waiting to be served along a counter between the galley and the dining area.  While the cooking area was clean and well kept, a few large, dirty pans, soaked in water that still retained some suds.  The large grill bore scouring powder and rags, as it waited to be scrubbed clean.
     Captain Edward gathered his men around him here in the little kitchen,  the smell of cooking still fresh around them.  “I am thinking that the next part of this investigation could turn ugly.”  He told them, “with no sign that anyone has left the ship, I am afraid of what we will find when we go below deck and begin to search the cabins.  Stay in pairs and if you find anyone who is obviously dead, DO NOT TOUCH THE BODY!  If this is a plague ship, we don’t want to catch any disease.  Of course, if you find someone who is alive, contact me.  I will be going to search the Captain’s cabin and to look for a ship’s log.  Just be very alert.  We have no idea what we are dealing with here.”

The Captain’s cabin was only a few steps from the helm.  Its heavy wooden door swung open with just a feather light push.  The room was empty but appeared lived in, as if the occupant had walked out, expecting to return momentarily. 
    There were articles of clothing and a shaving kit.  Many of the items that a person would grab before abandoning ship were out in plain sight, a photograph of a woman, some small treasured keepsakes. A leather bound ship’s log lay closed upon the desk next to a weighted down, unrolled chart.  The regular desk chair was pulled up by the chart, as was a much sturdier, larger, wooden bench.  At least two people had been studying the chart not long ago.
    Captain Edward stepped up to the desk to see what had caught their attention.  As the simple chart began to make sense to him, he blinked in surprise.  The Bobbing Islands, with their random movements, which kept them safe from many dangers, were shown, graphed and moving, along a seasonal, multi-year cycle.  Instantly the captain grasped the threat that this chart posed to the Islands and their security, but the words that he saw, inked up along the right hand margin of the chart made the hair on his arms rise and the blood in his veins turn icy.  “P. SB in Oohline.”
     Briefly he forgot the mystery of the empty ship and was blind to the cabin around him.  His mind’s eye focused on his memory of a laughing, snow white face and the green mane of the young lady who was Princess of the Bobbing Islands.  He saw her swimming with Orca, as sleek and beautiful as they when she leaped from the dark water in a cascade of diamond bright drops.
     The drumming of boot steps approaching the cabin across the wooden deck, then the deep voice of one of his men interrupted his fearful musings.  “Captain, Sir.  The cabins are empty.  There appears to be no one on board.  No sign of violence or struggle, no obviously missing trunks or personal belongings.  The ship does not appear to have been completely full, but there would seem to have been several passengers, including families with children.”
     Another sailor added his opinion as he approached, “If the ship was in a harbor, you’d swear they’d all walked onto the dock with every intention of being back in time for supper.”
     Captain Edward acknowledged the information with a nod and then glanced at the man again – looking questioningly at the cloth monkey in the crook of the sailor’s left arm.
     “Oh, right.  This?   This was tucked under a blanket with its head on a pillow and it just struck me. . . well,  . . . the child who tucked it in like that would not have just walked away and forgotten it.
     Again the captain nodded, and turned back to roll up the chart.  He tied it with a string and took it with him as he pulled the door closed behind him, then he stopped, turned back, and went inside once more to retrieve the leather bound ship’s log.  With the rolled chart, and heavy book safely secured, he closed the door again and directed his boarding party to make their way down the ladder for the return to their own ship.
     Now the decisions must be made.  If he left a skeleton crew on the abandoned vessel, they could limp it in to the nearest port.  But if the chart was the threat that he feared it was, and if that threat was focused upon the only child of the King and Queen, then speed in getting a message to . . .where? . . .The Bobbing Islands?   . . . Oohline?  Speed became his first, indeed his only priority.  He waved his men back off the ghostly ship.  They came at once, one of them still clutching the soft monkey and holding it to his shoulder as he might comfort his own babe.

     Captain Edward ran his hand along the sleek, rich, chocolate brown, wooden railing as he stepped once more onto his own “Morning Breeze.”  Through the caress on the wood, he felt an energy, which re-charged him and welcomed him home to a world that made sense.  The larger ship, looming above them, was well maintained and ship shape – but his little lady was loved and pampered and it showed in every gleaming inch.  He felt it in the way she gave her heart to leaping across the water at the merest thought from him.  “Make for the Bobbing Islands, full speed wherever possible.” He ordered
     Captain Edward’s mind was ever busy.  He considered where they were located and the fact that the Soaring Schoomer seemed to be mainly a passenger ship.  Thinking that they were a bit to the South and West of Uhrlin made the Captain consider possible enemies who might want to attack the Bobbing Islands.  None were immediately obvious, but the more that he considered the options, the more one country stayed in the forefront of his mind.  He didn’t really know much about them.  There had not been a lot of contact between the countries, but in the long distant past there had been war ships, which made instant raids against the shore towns and the islands.  The raiders took what they could, treasure or living being, and vanished over the ocean once more to somewhere to the west of the known sea.
     Glancing back at the ship he had ordered left to the sea’s mercy, he looked up into the rigging once more.  From the crow’s nest, a small strip of blue cloth fluttering in the light breeze was all that moved on all that large and eerie ship.


  1. Sounds great.

    I'm a new follower from the FNF hop. Hope you can stop by

  2. New follower from Finding New Friends blog hop! Hoping you follow back!! =0)

    My Crazy Life

  3. Thanks so much for leaving that wonderful comment. I try not to be stuffy or too robot like. I like emotion! I read too much I guess and I like that in my authors as well, which is why I read your blog. Again, thanks!