Awake for the Midwatch

Daily writing prompt
What time do you go to bed and wake up currently?

So I bet you have never heard of Mr. Wakey Wakey, have you? It was a Naval boogyman; a story told you young sailors on their first deployment. 
You were in a vast, cavernous ship built during the Second World War. Just full of dark or half-lit corners, the usual hazing was going on with the newbies, “Get me a left-handed wind-shifter” or other impossible gear from the farthest compartment in the ship.

Then there were the stories you got told by senior enlisted that meant as cautionary tales. Onboard my ship; there was one that stood out. 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 ( midnight till four AM), waking people from sleep. He lays his corpse cold hands on you and says, “Wakey Wakey, beautiful dreamer, you have the mid-watch!” The time is always exactly the time he was jettisoned overboard. So you ask, what the hell’s so scary about that? Well, you get told with a straight face; 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 people going around waking watchstanders for the mid-watch find them that way. Of course, being worldly and wise, sophisticated 18 and nineteen-year-olds, you believe none of this.

Then that night, some sadistic jerk starts walking around with a bucket of ice water. He gets to a newbie’s bunk, makes sure his hands are cold and wet, grabs the newb by some bare part of the body, and whispers, “Wakey Wakey, beautiful dreamer. You have the midwatch!” The new shipmate had been laughing at the story just two hours before, and now he was screaming in terror.
Then one night, some kid from New York, barely free of the umbilical cord to his family, woke up, grabbed a bosun mate by the neck, and pounded him into the deck. The investigation by the Masters at Arms found that the bosun had assaulted the kid, and the kid waking from a deep sleep, merely defended himself. The bosun had gotten his own medicine back in a bad way; he spent months in sickbay recovering. After that, the Wakey Wakey tale was told, but the ice buckets and cold wet hands were forbidden.

Well, you see now that waking and sleeping are a bit sensitive issue for me. My wife never touches me on the neck or arm, always from the foot of the bed, and never says, “Wakey Wakey.” As to what time I get up. Anytime I please, but never for the mid-watch.

3 Replies to “Awake for the Midwatch”

  1. This had me thinking of those TV commercials where James Corden is hawking coffee and goes around saying, “Wakey, wakey.” Not quite the same as your ‘wakey, wakey.’

  2. No. the idea actually came from a professor of mine who had served in the Royal Navy. A particularly sadistic bosun would go around singing a lullaby to wake watchstanders up. If they didn’t wake he took a knife to the cord holding their hammock up – in this days see ships still berthed seamen in hammocks, not pipe rack beds or actual bunks.

  3. oh man… I nearly had coffee coming out of my nose on this one… then only to see Mr Bean down here… I am dying… thank you so much for this… I absolutely loved it… never heard this story

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