The Birchwood Part 1
A cold wind snapped shut it's bite at the fur coats of three men as they stood on deck, while the others kept on mopping the wood to reflect the boundless sky with a smattering of white clouds roaming hither and tither. There were some who dangled from the top mast, and tried to peer ahead with their looking glass. Whereas a few were just inside the engine room, charting the next course. The overgrown hubbub of life mingled with nature's respite provided an assuaging comfort to the surroundings.
The North Atlantic had its share of Bergs, but that was not what bothered Captain Jake Bainbridge of the HMS Birchwood. In fact, it was two days since the ship set sail and they were yet to land into trouble.
"Maybe veering right isn't our issue captain, as it will take us around Africa. Even if we are likely to experience a skirmish down there, we have the fire power to sink any.....",expressed first mate Dick Wood.
"And what if they have allies? You want me to unnecessarily risk the lives of my men?..........When our job is simply to petrol these waters and no more!",pointed the Captain grumpily and marched to his cabinet, for pulling out the bottle of Sherry.
"I believe sir has made a fair point......With a meagre crew, it will be pointless to risk such a journey simply to bag a scalp.",supported bosun Hamish Clifford.
The room was well furnished, with respect to the oakwood table, an imported Chinese lamp, and a few drab paintings of former Admirals and Captains.It had still failed to make a warm impression on the three men, as they kept a pensive look on each other. The dribble from the Sherry, broke the silence that had suddenly creeped in.
"We must go back, as we departed with limited rations and more mouths to feed for 7 days. The Admiral was quite strict in that regard. That we will look for Slavers, but if we do not encounter any, return like our arse was set alight",said the Captain.
"Chart a course back to England, and I don't want to hear about it anymore".
Both provided their stern approval, and left the captain's quarters. While he slouched on his chair and put the glass on the table, ready to be inebriated.
He took a swig, and opened the second drawer on his right to bring out a package covered in a brown paper bag. Parted it away to reveal a rope doll. That looked quite archaic in detail, with respect to the firm rings it formed and slits for eyes. He rubbed his fingers around it, almost feeling a pang of longing.
Briggs stared at the black foaming ooze below, as the hull carved a space to swiftly maneuver its way ahead.
It reminded him of his current position, and how life had played a terrible joke.
"Enjoying the evening?",called out Stephens.
He was a pleasant company to keep, especially when the rest minded their own company.
"Was taking a stroll, and thought I can wedge myself between life and death",replied Briggs
It brought a frown on Stephens, as he stared at Briggs with questioning look.
"I mean all this watch, has made me loose almost three days of sleep for nothing. Another day, and I might topple standing",giggled Briggs.
"Oh, guess we all might!....I also think you should get a shut eye as my watch has begun", explained Stephens.
Inspite of the relief, Briggs was a little annoyed he had to leave the spot. He acknowledged the claim, and was off to his cabin in brisk walk.
As darkness swallowed the sea, and among it the Birchwood trundled on like a slow heaving chest.
Briggs couldn't sleep, and this resulted in him getting off the hammock and passing the other sailors back into deck.
The cold had grown much wilder, with the nippy breeze and washed up foam that sprinkled around the edges of the guardrail.
Briggs stood frozen, and unmoved when he saw the slumping figure of Stephens on the same.
He edged close with every step getting stuck in the dropping temperature. It still did not blind him of the blood that covered around his legs. With Stephen's diagonally severed head in an irregular bite.
Briggs could see his tongue, that was visible and dried up in the wind.
He fell back, almost throwing up and then barely able to keep his composure.
He scampered back from where he came.