A Tall Ship Tale # 6: Dead Rite

This is the next chapter in the excellent series by Paul de Anguera. This chapter was inspired by Percy Perch’s (a.k.a. John Barnstead’s) contribution to the Trial of Humanity on alt.callahans.

Almo Sather held a lantern over the ship’s rail and gazed down at the dreary land passing below. A sign caught his eye:


The First Mate shook his head. “You don’t want to go there, Almo. That place sucks!”

The horror of the night deepened as the ear-piercing squeals of the ship’s ghostly rats were answered by howls and ululations from the ground below. For as it flew deeper into Transylvania, the H.M.S. Legume was passing over grisly graveyards and dreadful dungeons and awful oubliettes, not to mention haunted houses by the township. And the cloud-torn light of the full moon revealed them to be seething with spooks, spocks, ghouls, gawks, goblins, hobgoblins, gobblers, gabblers, gibberers, goblets, giblets, skeletons, skeleton keys, Sarah Lees, ghosts, ghost-writers, ghost images, great orcs, grep awks, war hawks, warlocks and argyle socks, all of them cackling and calling and crying out frenzied fulminations and unwholesome welcomes as they leaped and tore at the ship’s hull with claws and paws and skeletal hands.

“Clear for action! All hands to the port guns!” The First Mate cried.

The men rushed to the port side of the gun deck and struggled to ready the cannons. But they were obstructed by the heavy casks of red wine which were stored on that side of the ship.

“Then use the starboard guns!” the First Mate urged.

They turned and rushed to the starboard side. Somebody flung the star board out of the way. The gun crews formed up and sent runners for cartridges of gunpowder. But a long delay followed. “What’s wrong?” the Captain asked anxiously.

“It’s the powder room,” the First Mate groaned. “You should see the line for it!” The guns were finally loaded with powder, then with red, green and black grapeshot. They opened the gunports in unison and thrust out their muzzles. “Looks like the spooks ‘re still out here,” they observed. Hastily they pulled their heads back in and pushed the cannons up to the gunports.

“Broadside!” the First Mate shouted. A sailor stepped back from his weapon, carefully detached a paper sign from the wall and took it up to the First Mate. He glanced at it, then yelled “Fire!”

“Fire?” they gasped. “This is a wooden ship. Let’s get out of here!”

“Just shoot the cannons, you fools!” he screamed. The crewmen at the nearest cannon took off their hats mournfully, and one of them pulled a pistol from his belt.

Controlling himself with difficulty, the First Mate walked up to the cannon. “Do this!” he told them, and yanked the firing rope. As it turned out, the flint was locked, but they got the idea anyway and soon volley after volley of explosions shook the valley. But, strange to tell, the cries of the spirits took on a terrible new tone of strength and triumph. And the crew saw that it was no use firing at this enemy. The spirits were already dead, and all the ship’s flashing guns were only making them more so!

Then the First Mate had an idea. He went back to the port side, broke open a case of wine glasses, and issued them to the crew. “Listen up, men! They’re spirits, see? And you know what to do with spirits, right?”

After the victory, the First Mate advised Captain Quid:

“The spirit is swilling, but the flash is weak!”

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