Ah, October, readers, and writers spend time separating the cryptid from the cryptic and the insuperable from the insufferable. Vampires, mummies, witches, and ghouls cavort. Bah humbug!
Not to be splitting hairs, but there are much more frightening things than the undead – my apologies Vlad, but bear with me on this. We have some scary shit at sea that beats your banshee, raises your zombie and calls your Cthulu.
One October evening, the Capn’ and I had some hard cider with Willis. We sat around the woodstove, sipping quietly; the only sounds were the quiet drawing on their pipes. Outside, the wind was rattling around a pile of lobster pots and leaves. Willis made lobster pots, traps to you.
His yard was littered with oak staves, boards, and debris from the process. The yard looked like a hurricane had done for a small boat and left the remains in his yard. In the fading light, it did look like a wreck.
So around the stove, we sat, and soon the stories started. Willis sighed and related in ’33, he’d been on board a trawler that snagged its nets on a wreck. The winches pulled and pulled, and eventually, up came the wreck. It was the Lucy W. lost a year previous and crewed by brothers and neighbors in his small coastal town. The axes couldn’t cut the gear fast enough as they all stood there wondering if their loved ones were still onboard.
The Capn’ looked into the flames and said, “Well, they all talk about the Mary Celeste or the Flying Dutchman; Bridge officers on the midwatch see things all the time. After the last war, my ship spotted flares to port and picked up a weak radio signal that sounded like a distress call. So we altered course, but all we found was an abandoned life raft. That was 1946. A liberty ship with the name on the raft had been torpedoed at those coordinates in 1943. Lost with all hands.
The silence and the looks told me that it was my turn to share something. “Mister Wakey-Wakey.” they looked at me skeptically. ” Onboard my ship, a particularly sadistic bosun’s mate had been given Jonah’s Lift one night ( tossed overboard). His ghost came back looking for revenge. He walks the ship just before the mid-watch waking people from sleep. He lays his corpse cold hands on you and says, “Wakey Wakey, beautiful dreamer, you have the mid-watch!” The Capn’ looked at me, “what’s so bloody scary about that?” I replied, ” some of those he lays his hand on don’t wake; ever. They’re found in their bunks with horrible looks on their faces. The watchstanders going around waking for the mid-watch find them that way.”
We sat around watching the flames and sipping for a few hours. Then, finally, the Capn’ drifted off to sleep while Willis and I continued to talk. Just before midnight, I decided that we better head up the hill to the house. Cora was bound to be worried about what the Capn’ might be getting into.
Perhaps it was the storytelling or just a bit of a desire to tease the Capn,’ but I laid my cold hand on the back of his neck, leaned close to his ear, and in a hoarse voice whispered, ” Wakey Wakey skipper- you have the mid-watch!” He shivered, jumped up like he’d been shot, and was out of Willis’ shop in a shot, only to stumble and fall in a puddle. He was not amused that Willis and I stood in the doorway laughing at his fright.
“Tomorrow, I want that chain locker cleaned up, Mister Wakey Wakey. Is that clear?” “Aye, Aye, sir,” I responded while I laughed. It’s hard to give orders smeared in mud, lying in a puddle.