Washout – Mike Santiago

As a grizzled and broad shouldered captain sat at the plank of his own sinking ship, he muttered to himself, “I am no longer needed in this world, for now I must acquiesce my fate.”

Without notice, a second round of whistles pierced the air. And suddenly, a volley of cannon fire collided with the hull of that very same ship. It rocked back and forth as absolute decimation was the only outcome. The now battered ship began to quickly take in water. The captain stood up from the plank and walked towards the bow. With his head held low, he saw the corpses of the men who first embarked on this suicide mission littering the deck and making every step an obstacle.

Arriving at the bow, he focused his attention to the horizon as he reached down towards his holster. He pulled out his flintlock and placed it firmly against his temple. And for a few brief seconds, he hesitated.

“Words can not acquit me from my men, my country, or my family. My very darkness not only consumed me, but everyone and everything I’ve touched thus far. May everyone’s mind now remain at ease that this scourge is now over,” he stated with a solemn stare.

Squeezing the trigger slowly, he released not only the cast iron bullet, but his ravaged mind as well. His body plummeted to the ground as the now lifeless ship descended into the watery abyss below. For now, Davy Jones Locker would be the final resting place of the man who sold the world.

However, the captain’s fate was sealed only weeks prior to this disastrous skirmish that left little vestige behind.

“Elizabeth… Elizabeth… Damn it woman, WHERE ARE YOU!?”

As Captain Avery raced feverishly through every vestibule of the dilapidated barrack, he could hear the passionate moans coming from a dimly lit room at the end. He ran towards the space and kicked in the door to find his wife, Elizabeth, copulating with one of the king’s lord commanders. Without hesitation, Avery unsheathed a hidden dagger and planted it into the back of the lord commander. Over and over again, the dagger found itself piercing the now lifeless corpse with Avery’s wife screaming underneath. His calloused and wavering grip released the dagger, and as it fell to floor, he began to scream. The blood on his face washed away as tears began to shed. For not only did he find his wife in bed with another man, but he swiftly came to the realization that he would now be labeled an enemy to the throne he once swore allegiance to.

“Elizabeth, do you not realize what you’ve done? What I’ve done? I have brought about the demise of our very lives through your treacherous acts!”

The faint voices of the admirals guards drew closer as their foot steps rattled the dank halls of the barracks. With each thud drawing closer to that very room, Avery told his wife to hide inside of a nearby chest.

The guards burst into the room and saw the dagger clenched in his hands as blood dripped from the tip. As the guards began to unsheathe their swords, Avery whipped out a pair of flintlock pistols and dropped the guards in their place. Without a second thought, he called for Elizabeth, grabbed her hand and ran through the dank corridors.

Outside the barracks, Avery’s steed awaited as he mounted the stallion and pulled his wife atop the rear of it. They set off to their residence to fetch their two young children, Ezra and Noah. As they drew closer to their manor, Avery began to formulate a plan that could grant his family safe passage. He planned to retrieve every loyalist he had left to help him and his family set sail to the Nassau, better known as the paradise for pirates, but he anticipated that the king’s fleet would soon pursue an unprecedented manhunt for them.

 

“Ezra… Noah… boys… come to father and make haste!”

Tugging at the reigns of his horse, he came to a full stop to see his two boys hanging by a noose on the porch of their estate, which was now engulfed in flames. He screamed with agony as his only two children swayed back and forth from a supporting beam. Ezra, their first born, had a dagger plunged into his heart with a letter on the other end of it.

Avery stumbled and staggered as he made his way to their now lifeless bodies. Pulling out his moist dagger, he cut down both of his boys and laid them side by side. He then removed the dagger that was planted firmly into Ezra’s chest and began to read the letter.

“By order of the King,

Captain Avery and his family shall be laid to rest for his crimes against the throne. All assets are to be seized immediately.

Every loyalist found aiding the fugitive will find their fate sealed and executed.”

The letter boiled his blood and rattled his bones as he crumpled it up and tossed it into one of the nearby flames that now consumed the home that he had created for him and his family. Elizabeth ran over to Avery to provide solace, but his temper was brewing and with every ounce of energy he could muster – he raised his arm and pulled the trigger. She collapsed as an expertly placed shot found its way into her abdomen.

“AVERY, how… how could you?” Elizabeth muttered.

“Woman, you have taken everything away from this family. As I return from a skirmish, I find you… you whore… fornicating with another man. Now look! Our two boys have suffered dearly, and everything I’ve worked so hard for has been wasted away by your inability to stay faithful. You bloody wretch! You tore our life asunder,” Avery proclaimed as his wife was bleeding out only a few meters away.

He stood up, adjusted his posture, and made his way over to a nearby shed to fetch a spade so that he could put his children to rest.

“Avery, I wish I could retract my actions, for I love you dearly. If I knew what travesty would occur, I would have forgone my heinous actions. I thought you were lost at sea my beloved. The lord commander had said as much, and that your ship was now nestled in the depths of Davy Jones Locker. You see, my love, I thought you had perished,” Elizabeth explained as her last breathe was drawing near.

The stark realization began to settle in that maybe Avery had taken extreme measures without resolve through proper discourse. Clenching the spade in his right hand, he looked back at his wife as a tear trickled down his cheek. He now knew that he alone was responsible for his family’s demise, but he also knew that now there was no turning back, for his fate was sealed. His only responsibility in that moment was to put his family to rest in front of his home set ablaze.

He began pounding the spade against the earth and dug with all his might; chucking the dirt to his side. For nearly an hour, he worked his way digging three plots. First was Ezra, his oldest and wisest child, was laid in the first plot. Then it was Noah, and lastly his wife Elizabeth in the third.

“God, why have you forsaken me to lose my children, for they were too young to depart this blasphemous world so soon. And my wife, why couldn’t I have used rationale versus barbaric instinct. What do I do now? All I have left are my men. But only if they choose to remain loyal to me and not the throne. But should I reveal the truth to them? For I am now a fugitive with no will to move forward. Grant me the strength my lord,” he said hopelessly as his hands began to tremble frantically.

 

Mounting his steed, he rode off to a nearby encampment, which was hopefully where many of his crewmen could be found. However, he was unsure who would swear allegiance to his plight now that he’s been marked an enemy by the king. Regardless, he knew he had no other options left.

After a five hour journey south of his estate, he came to the camp and shouted out for his men. “Boys, your captain has returned. Come now, I must ask you something of the utmost urgency. BOYS!” Avery shouted with a baffled look on his face. His gaze fixated in every direction, yet not a single soul was in sight. Walking through the camp ever so cautiously, he heard the loud wisp of incoming cannon fire from a docked vessel nearby. Narrowly dodging the blast radius, he made haste back to his horse and rode off. Not knowing where he was going to go next or where his crewmen were, he decided – as a last ditch effort – to visit the local tavern to search for his men.

Avery’s crew wasn’t comprised of the most noble and upstanding men the fleet had to offer, however, they were fiercely loyal and absolute experts at seafaring. Drawing close to the tavern, he dismounted and ran inside to find many of his men pissed drunk.

As he barged through the door, he shouted, “Boys, I need you all to come with me as we have now been marked enemies by the king, and he requires our very lives now to satiate his lust for revenge.”

“Captain, we’ve just returned not only a fortnight ago. What are our crimes? We’ve not committed any treachery against the throne,” a bewildered and drunk crew member said.

‘The details shall come later, for now we must set sail to Nassau. Will you all stand with me one last time? Where is the Euphrates?” he confidently stated.

“Aye Captain, we shall face this scourge together and make way to that dastardly island! The Euphrates is docked nearby in Gold Bay” another crew member said sternly.

In the dark recesses of Avery’s mind, he knew he had convoluted the truth and manipulated his own crew to abed him in his escape, but he knew that the time would soon come where he would have to reveal the exact details of what had transpired. He just hoped that he could set sail without any interference. After all, the king already seemed to be ten paces ahead at every turn as the encampment was now under siege, too.

Now, Avery was 135 men strong, and determined to alter the trajectory of his shattered destiny. They mounted their horses and rode off to Gold Bay to retrieve they’re esteemed vessel, the Euphrates. Although retrieving the Euphrates may not prove to be an easy mission, it was the only course they could now take.

As they arrived at Gold Bay, which was only a few kilometers south of the tavern, Avery was in a state of shock that the king had yet to send a battalion to the bay. Despite being in a perpetual state of suspense and expecting an ambush that did not come, he screamed with all his might, “Men, leave the horses behind and board the Euphrates. We must set sail immediately, and embark to Nassau.”

His men dismounted and began running to the vessel to prepare it for voyage. With in a relatively short space of time, the sails were released, freely billowing in the wind. Next, the anchor was withdrawn from the sea floor and the cannon doors were opened. With Avery at the helm of the Euphrates, he was now confident that the crew could set sail, but he was unaware of what was awaiting just beyond the horizon.

At the kings behest, a fleet of thirty ships awaited 150 clicks away from Avery’s position. The fleets sole intent was to reduce the Euphrates to a catatonic state. The unwavering captain was absolutely unaware of their fate and what was awaiting them in the distance.

The Euphrates was now at the mercy of not only the unrelenting waves of the sea, but to the insurmountable feat that now faced them. And with a howling crack, a cannon hit the hull of the Euphrates. It rocked the ship from port to starboard without any remorse. Water gushed in and began to fill the bowls of the ship.

 

Avery realized that his defeat was imminent as his ship was now taking on water. He made his way to the plank of his now sinking vessel, and he contemplated the very choices that disintegrated his very life in a flash. His mind raced with somber thoughts of his wife and children. Nassau would not come, for it was time to accept what he now had left and that he had become a complete washout.

“I am no longer needed in this world, for now I must acquiesce my fate,” he muttered.

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