|John Atkinson Grimshaw Paintings, Salthouse Docks, Liverpool 02|
William made his way through the docks asking those he met along the way where he could find Captain Thomas. He was directed along the docks to an old, rickety ship that seemed content to deny the laws of gravity and buoyancy as it bobbed along. Boards stuck out everywhere and it was so covered in barnacles and seaweed that it looked as though the sea were trying to claim it here and now.
Captain Thomas? William called out. Captain Thomas, I’m William Krutch, son of Arthur Krutch. He said you had something for me? No answer came. Captain Thomas? Are you there?
The only answer came from the gulls circling overhead as they seemingly mocked him with their songs. I don’t know why I’m surprised, he thought, ever since Dad started going downhill it seems like he’s living more and more in his dreams and it’s getting harder for him to tell them from reality.
“Your father,” boomed a voice that sounded like gravel being ground, “and I went on one hell of a trip in that old boat.”
William slowly turned about and stared in amazement at the gigantic man in front of him. He was every bit seven feet tall and nearly as broad. He wore a black turtleneck, navy blue pants, and a smoldering blue peacoat. Yet what held William’s eye was the unruly red beard that seemed to writhe with the giant’s every word.
“I was in a bar in Laconia when I met your father. He had two of the prettiest Greek girls you’d ever seen wrapped about him and he just saunters in like none of the locals would give a damn about some foreigner screwing their women. I see a pair of sailors, bad men, start nudging each other and thumbing towards your pop. I’m thinking that I’m about to see this little guy get his ass handed to him when he looks right at me and says, ‘There you are! I told the girls that you’d be waiting for them here!’ And then the three of them sat down at my table!
“Next thing I know we’re fighting the whole damned bar and your father is taking them by fives while I’m doing my best with the four who are after me!” He let loose a laugh that sounded like cannon fire, “Bless me, your father was a hell of a man!”
Dad’s not dead, William said with a stutter. I talked to him last night.
The big man gave a small little smile and said, “Son, your father’s gone. I’ve got his ashes in the boat.” The color drained from Williams face and he felt his breath race from him. Dad’s, was all he managed to get out before everything went dark.
He was dreaming, William could always tell when he was dreaming. His mother was there in her classroom putting grades into the grade book and humming a little tune. It was chorus to Dusty, Old Dust. She was always humming it because she couldn’t remember the words. Only this time his father was there leaning on the edge of her desk writing in one of those little notebooks he always kept handy.
Dad, is it you?
His father didn’t seem to notice him at first, but then his mother said, “William’s talking to you Arthur.”
“I know Zelph,” he said with a gentle smile, “I guess you’ve heard then?”
Dad, Captain Thomas said you’re dead.
“I am son, I am,” he said with a smile, “but don’t you worry about that right now.”
How can I not?
“Because there are big things coming to you,” he said as he rose and walked towards William. “It’s going to get really difficult very soon, but I have faith that you’ll pull it out in the end.”
“Arthur,” William’s mother admonished, “you know He said that we’re not allowed to give too much away. If you do He won’t let you visit again.”
“I know, Zelph,” he said, “but the boy needs to know that we have faith in him.”
This isn’t real, William whispered, I‘m going to wake up right now and call the nursing home. They’ll tell me you’re still alive and that everything’s alright. It’s all going to be alright just as soon as I wake up.
Everything will be right as rain. You’ll see.
“It won’t, William,” his mother gently said, “Your father and I have both passed from the world of man and you need to accept this now or the next part is going to be even more difficult.”
“Now who’s telling too much?”
“Quite dear,” she said with a cross look, “call it a mother’s prerogative.”
I’m going to be sick.
“You might be,” she said as she walked over to him, “but before you are you need to listen carefully, Will. I want you to think hard for me.”
William looked up at her. She can’t be here, he thought. This can’t be real.
“Will, I want you to remember the old rhymes and songs we used to sing when you were little. Can you do that for me?”
I, I think so.
“Good,” she smiled again.
It’s her, he thought, I know it’s her but this can’t be real. It just can’t be.
“Keep those in mind for what comes next. You have to remember them and remember the superstitions. They’ll serve you well if you hold to them.”
“No time for that,” his father said as hugged him, “Time to wake up.”
William blinked and felt the world roll underneath him. He was inside the ship. The Captain must have put him in the boat when he passed out. Nice of him, William thought, but there must be one hell of a storm come into the bay for us to be rolling like this.
Captain Thomas, he called in the empty hold as he fell out of the hammock. Captain? I need to use your phone if you don’t mind. I want to call the nursing home and find out what’s going on with Dad. The waves crashed against the side of the ship as William lurched towards the stairs that lead up.
When he threw open the bay doors a cacophony of thunder and Captain Thomas screaming obscenities nearly drove him back inside. Waves as high as the crow’s nest rolled into view and monstrous shapes swam in them. His legs trembled and he froze watching tentacles as thick as bridge wire snake out of the water and slap the deck, seeking out a tasty morsel.
“Test me you overgrown pizza topping,” boomed Captain Thomas. “I’ll cut off your thrice damned limbs and fry you in butter!”
The boat shook as one of the massive tentacles slammed hard against the side. “You think that scares me? You dumb, fucking cuttlefish! I’ve taken cannon balls to the side of this heap that had more impact!”
William tried to get his legs to move but they were frozen in place as he watched the ocean roll and the tentacles come snaking out of the depths. The side of the boat creaked with the impact of yet another tentacle and water began to flood the hold. Brave little rabbit, William screamed, hiding in your hole, waiting for the farmer to smoke you out. Leap to freedom now or perish!
He ran on deck.