A follow up to Type M for Murder by Alexa Lash – a writer, editor, and on-the-spot poet. Former Floridian and resident Bostonian, she has written for the Seminole Chronicle, Momslikeme, and the Central Florida Future, and is currently working in the Journalism Department of Emerson College.
As a child I had gazed out windows to watch the sea tumble, laying water fingers on the shore as if the sand were a keyboard. I savored these moments, zipped the files of the ocean in my memory with each wave. Even at the age of 5.1 I felt unwelcome in my setting—my life in beta, my eyes plugged on tales of hidden treasure, of adventure on the version 7 seas. But little girls cannot be pirates, my father told me.
“My little mouse, you’re too small. You’ll have other options.”
I could still hear his voice, but the waves, cascading like style sheets, called to me in an inaudible yelp. Bit by bit I grew older. Byte by byte the desire to sail maximized until I was sneaking away to the docks, my hair wrapped under a cap and my face dirtied to look near-boyish. I was 18.3, but I had grown tall for my age, hardwired for the sea despite my gender. I went by Ron, then—short for Veronica—my shirts loose and billowing, my face wild with affection for the ships.
The pirates attacked on my 19th birthday, cannons launched into the cloud like metal fireworks. The docs shattered, associated wood chips spread across the water and I stood still, both shocked and compressed with unfathomable joy. I sited the opportunity and ran toward the dreaded ship Scroll, holding my cap to my head like a lifeboat. If someone spotted me, I’d be blue-screened, swung from the motherboard to drown in the vastness of the deep.
“No prey, no pay, me hearties. We got what we came for.” I could hear the dimmed command from my post beneath the main deck, the pop-ups of casks, the metallic clank of mugs. I filed my fear away, microprocessing the hold of which I was now a prisoner. Ropes lain on the floor like wires; nets hung from walls. After almost an hour my eyes seemed to fully adjust to the darkness, only the light from the sun peeked through cracks in the hatch. I searched and found a large container, cage-like but shrouded. I powered down in exhaustion, falling asleep in a network of spoiled sails.
The boot in my chest woke me. I curled in pain, gripping wildly in the darkness until dragged up and out.
“Well me hearties, seems we’ve made an error in our last…exchange. What’s your name, lad?”
I prayed my mouth would function through the terror. “Arr—Ron. Ron. Ron Longtail.”
“Longtail, Longtail.” He repeated the words, the sand of an hourglass running down its invisible neck. “I knew a Longtail long ago. He left the trade for a lass. Used to be me captain. Every flame war he ever fought, he won, leaving ships in ash to dance with Davy Jones.” I watched him remember, his face contorted to a softer format. “Captain Fox Longtail, that’s it.”
It couldn’t be. My dad?
“Well, sink me! I didn’t know Captain Longtail had a son.”
I didn’t realize I’d mouthed “dad.” A button clicked and I could remember: the dagger in the glass case, the old maps, his compass, all lined neatly on the shelf of his office. It was all ones and zeroes; the language of the situation, basic: piracy was in my blood.
“Well, not exact—”
A system of waves crashed against the side of The Scroll, torrents of water flooding the deck. The captain sniffed at the air, caching the smells of the sea.
“The Trojan Seahorse,” he whispered at first, then yelled it, jamming his sword into the air like a fist.
The crew exchanged emoticons of fear, their faces uploading the palest of complexions. Some readied the cannons, hoping to vanquish the legendary monster in a wall of fire.
The virus of the sea attacked; hit after hit the ship started to break apart in the rush of water, men thrown overboard, some hanging off lines of rope. I heard the screams but did not process them, running blindly after the captain. I could barely see the beast through the waves, just the body—a screenshot of a much larger creature, all deep gold-yellow and brown mixed with the deep, bright blue of the ocean at dusk.
“Jump!” the captain bellowed. So I jumped, diving from the side of the quarterdeck into a portal of water.
I remember swimming. I remember The Scroll, the sea swallowing her without mercy. I remember my cap flying off, my hair painting the wind. I remember the red, tinting the sea into a darker shade, almost black. But I can’t remember much else. I lived, though, now marooned on an island with the captain, I his only crew; the Trojan Seahorse gone into the depths as if permanently deleted; the false layers removed to expose Veronica Longtail, the pirate.
header image via Danapra
Wanna read more captivating stories for geeks from Alexa’s series? Check out Type M for Murder: A Mystery Short in Graphic Design Terms, Pub and Marriage: A Noir Short Story in Publishing Terms & Kern, Baby, Kern: A Relationship in Typographical Terms.