|Photo by Elise VanCise. One of the original Hart Line Steamers.|
Hamilton signed deeply and stretched as he sunned on top of the crates. It was a quiet morning on their journey. That thought triggered something, it was too quiet. He sat up and looked at the old steamer’s top pipe, not a single puff of smoke.
At least the water was calm as glass. “Jacob, didn’t you notice the engine’s kaput?”
Jacob sits up from his nap on the bow and cocks his head to listen. “Damn, when did she fail?” He points his finger. “And don’t go sayin I let’er down you didn’t notice either.”
The other man sighs and hops off the crates and opens the engine doors to have a look. “Just grab the tools and let’s have a look. At least the water is calm today and not trying to tinker about in here with rolling waves.”
Jacob opens a hatch on the deck and pulls out the tool box. As the hatch falls back into place he heard a hard knock against the bottom. He opens the hatch to see what tipped over, but nothing was amiss. He’s been at this job too long, now he’s hearing things.
He set the box next to Hamilton who was checking valves. “You know Ham, this tub has given us one issue or another every time we’ve been out. I’m beginning to think that old tale is true.”
Hamilton paused to raise his brow and look at his partner. “What old tale?”
“You know, the name Amelia. You never give a vessel a name ending in the letter a. It’s bad luck.” He pulls out a ratchet to tighten one of the valves that seem loose.
Hamiton scoffs. “I never pegged you for a superstitious nit.” He adds a bit of grease to the piston. There’s another large knock on the bottom of the boat.
Jacob looks at the other man. “Did you hear that?”
Ham shook his head. “Hear what? The only thing I’m interested in is the sound of this old girl belching to life. Turn her over will ya.”
Jacob goes back to the helm and pressed the button. After a couple of tries, the engine gives a sputter and puff of smoke as it comes back to life. Jacob let go a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. He put his hand in his pocket and gave the rabbit’s foot a pet for their fortune.
The steamer rocked side to side as if it caught a rough wave. The men grabbed hold to keep their footing.
looked around. The engine couldn’t have caused that. “Let’s get her moving.”
Jacob pulled the leaver to slow ahead. The steamer groaned a bit like she’s stuck on something then moved forward. Once they’re underway, he added a bit more speed. His heart pumped with a faster pace as well. “What in hell is going on Ham?”
The other man shook his head. “It’s nothing probably just one of those great whites. You know they love the coastlines.”
Jacob nodded, but his gut knotted and twisted all the same. The deck lurched under his feet again as the bow tipped upward then down. There were more knocks now against the sides of the hull now. Like something wanted aboard and were pounding the sides to come in. Or push its way in.
Hamilton slid from one side to the other as the steamer rocked again. He gripped the railing to keep from falling over the side. His mind froze in shock with what his eyes took in as they fell over the edge.
He crossed himself with a trembling hand. “Dear God in heaven.”
Tentacles writhed against the hull of the steamer. The vessel lurched again. One of the large tentacles slung over the bow and began to wrap around.
Jacob cried out in fear and ran to the back of the steamer to jump into the water for a possible escape. When he had climbed the top of the rail a large mass rose out of the sea.
Smaller tentacles writhed in the air; they dripped water and ooze on Jacob and the deck. The mass shifted and an eye as large as the man before it opened.
Hamilton yelled. “Look out, get back Jacob.”
Jacob tried to rush backwards but slipped in the muck dripped from the beast onto his back. It wouldn’t have mattered, it was too late. One of the smaller arms whipped down, wrapped around the man’s leg and dragged him into the air.
The beast shifted again, this time it opened a large beaked mouth. The beak was razored with sharp teeth and a serpent-like tongue flicked out to sample its find. Jacob struggled in its grip.
Hamilton made his way to the helm. He pulled a revolver he’d fastened there in case of pirates. He wished this were pirates. aimed and held his breath as he fired into the mass of the beast.
The beast only twisted now angry. Tentacles launched out of the water and latched onto the steamer and began to rip into the deck and hull. The smaller arm that held Jacob hovered above the great beak. The beak snapped shut then opened wide for its morsel.
Hamilton cried out as his shipmate was devoured. There was no escape the beast had the steamer tight in its grip and it was too large to attempt to abandon ship. He knelt and began to say his final prayer.
Three weeks later….
Old man Gimley sighed as he lit his pipe holding the weathered chunk of wood. He walked down to inspect a new steamer for the Hart Line.
The foreman stepped off the steamer to greet his supervisor. “Afternoon, Mr. Gimley. What do you have there?”
Gimley looked at the wood and sighed. “Confirmation of what happened to our missing ship. They found a bit of wreckage, no survivors.”
The foreman shook his head. They’ve had a run of bad luck lately. “The Amelia? That makes four in the last eight months. The Nina, Susana, and the Mina all lost. Mr. Hart is not going to be pleased.”
Gimley nodded as he handed the chunk of wood to the foreman and stepped aboard to begin his inspection.
The foreman turned to the boy in the sling painting the name. “Change that name Tucker.”
“To what sir?”
“Whatever you like just make sure there is no a on the end!” The foreman looked at the wood in his hands and the battered letters on it. Maybe some superstitions have a bit of truth to them. “Poor girl, you and the others were cursed from the start.”
Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter A. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April.