Pirates were an interesting lot. They had loyalty to their own ships, not neccesarily to each other, there was the rumor of how the Captain became the owner of the Deceit, simply because he had murdered every officer including the former captain. He killed everyone who had tried to stop him. By the time he was done, the crew of the Deceit was down by half, and those that remained were too afraid of him to mutiny. I of course learned all this from Everly who seemed to be a treasure trove of information. The more I talked to him to the older he seemed to me, but he honestly didn’t look much older than myself of my own thirty years.
The first thing we dealt with was escaping the Sky Kraken, once again when we couldn’t hear the bellows did we release held breaths. The second thing to deal with was the new stow-away. He reminded me a lot of Orford, could’ve even been brothers. The young man was Remington Gee, and from his clothing looked like he was probably a tradesman’s son Probably fantasized about seeking fortune and glory on the clouds. He was probably sixteen or seventeen, he still had the uneven growth of a boy barely a man. A mop of light brown hair sat on his head and he occasionally tossed the locks from his eyes. The major difference between Orford and Remington, was Remington seemed eager, over eager to do anything to stay on board the Deceit because the first action of the pirates was to toss him over the rail. Some of the men had even grabbed him by his arms and were dragging him to the port side of the cloud vessel. He was shouting about everything he could do, he had never sailed before, but he was practically begging.
“Captain,” I stated loudly, which was something I did not often do. My voice, deep for a woman’s, could carry. Silence fell across the ship and the Captain turned hid attention from Sam to me, “We still need a cabin boy.” I stated. I was not cabin boy material. I had my place on this ship already carved out. I had a cannon named Gertie who needed my attention. I had proven my wortth with my skill wiht the cannon and my fork. The Captain gave a curt nod and motioned with his head that the men should let Remington go. Remington straightened his clothes and seemed to sidle closer to me. I ignored him and went to see Everly. Remington followed.
“G’Day,” Everly greeted. Out of the all the pirates he was the most polite. He handed me a carrot and a knife. He was once again carving some fish I had never seen before. Most of our conversations had revolved around preparing food. I gave the carrot and knife to Remington.
“Everly, our new Cabin Boy, Remy,” I introdoced. Remy cooly inspected the carrot and knife. I turned to Remy, “You’ll look after the Captain’s cabin, feed the men, and help Everly.” Everly insepcted the boy, and Remington began to clumsily slice the carrot.
“What do you know about Draco Island?” I asked. I wasn’t sure what Remy knew of it, and though I was honestly a trusting sort, who was Remy going to run to tell?
“Only what I’ve heard. Tis a fabled place, a pirate’s unicorn,” Everly began looking at Remy, took the knife and carrot from him, showed him how to properly hold the knife, and cut the carrot with infinite patience that even I did not possess.
“Does it exist?” I asked and Everly seemed to contemplate the answer.
“Yes, it exists. There is an island out there that moves. It is said that it is mountains of gold, streams of sapphires and trees of emeralds. The precious stones are so common that they’re swept out of the street like errant pebbles. Everyone is fat, healthy, and happy. If there was a paradise, is it Draco Island,” Everly explained. I thought about Sam.
“Why would anyone ever want to leave?” I asked him. I was under the impression that Sam was from the island and if it was Heaven, why leave? Why want to see a drab and deadly world when you’re surrounded by beauty? Everly gave a shrug.
“Someone might have their reasons, maybe you should talk to him,” Everly pointed behind me with his knife and I turned to see Sam in the doorway. I wasn’t sure if he was eavesdropping o r had just innocently walked in. Remington had remained silent through this conversaiton as if the carrot was the most interesting thing in the world to him. I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach Sam. Since he awakening in the Captain’s bed, the Captain had hardly let the young man out of his sight. I nodded to Everly but didn’t take Sam by the arm and try to lead him to a quiet part of the Deceit. We would have to make landfall again, this was twice we’d been prematurely departed. I didn’t think our fresh water supplies were going to last much longer.
Not every island had a name, and not every island was inhabited. We rowed dinghys from the Deceit across the clouds to the small island. Water poured down from smaller islands that orbited it. A small forest had sprouted populated by birds. In the dinghys were empty water barrels. The hands rolled the barrels to the waterfalls and filled them with water. Everly had come with us and was throwing nets into the clouds to see what he could catch. Normally we trawled nets behind us to catch fish, but Everly explained that the best shellfish lived near the edges of the of the islands and if he could catch anything it would be a feast for us tonight.
I knelt next to the edge of the island, looking down into the clouds that swirled around it. It wasn’t like looking into water, there was no reflection of my face, only a moving multilayer of gray and white. I slowly reached out to touch the clouds, my hand passed through as if nothing was there, no resistance, but the air in the clouds was much colder and when I withdrew my hand it was covered in tiny little droplets. In the gray depths I could almost make out a shape moving. It could’ve been a figment of my imagination, people were always seeing things in the clouds. I gasped and reached out. I had seen a face in the clouds, but my fingers touched nothing. I had seen him. Now was the time to question my sanity. I was either seeing ghosts or halluncinating.
Suddenly something dig grab my wrist and I gave a very unpiratelike scream. I was slowly being dragged into the clouds. It was Webb who reached me first, and Everly who’d dropped his nets to run over. As Webb and Everly pulled on my legs and body, whatever had ahold of my wrist was pulling all three of us towards the clouds. I felt like my arm was going to be ripped from my shoulder. Finally for whatever reason the thing that had gripped me, let go and the three of us fell backwards onto the beach. My wrist was coated in slime and what looked like… a sucker mark? Had the Sky Kraken just had me by the wrist and let me go? I just seen it only half a day ago pull an island much larger than the one we stood on under the clouds. The Sky Kraken would’ve not let me go so easily. It was possibly a octopus or squid that that grabbed me. I kept rubbing my wrist… What if? What if the Sky Kraken was following us? We had run into it twice in a week and usually vessels go years without seeing it. Why would it follow us? Did it want something on the Deceit? Some person? I immediately thought of Sam but he wasn’t on the Deceit when we had thrown Orford off of it. Perhaps this really was just chance meetings with the Sky Kraken.
I dusted myself off, and wiped the slime from my wrist, the sucker mark hurt liked a bruise. Sam and the Captain emerged from deeper in the forest, and surprisingly both looked freshly bathed. I raised a brow at them, but said nothing. I still needed to talk to Sam in private to ask him about Draco Island. To ask him if he’d seen him. Had my husband even found it?
We packed up the barrels, now full of water, and so much shellfish we’d be sick of lobster and crab after the next two days, and went back to the boat.
The clouds vessels floated on the clouds. We knew there was something below them, but none had ventured back to say what it was. Sometimes holes would part in the clouds and one could look down, but most of the time all that was seen was darkness. Hitting one of the holes was nearly as as bad as hitting the mountains that peaks made it up above the clouds. Years ago, stories were told of sailors who had tried to sail past the clouds. The clouds did not go on forever, they had a border, and the captains of those doomed vessels had wondered what was beyond those borders, but once past the clouds the ships fell like they’d gone over a waterfall, never to be heard from again. History books explained that life had began and would end in the clouds, below the clouds was a void, an abyss, and abyss that had spawned the Sky Kraken, and no good was below them.
The Captain gave us a heading. I consulted the maps, I was rather lackadaisacal about returning the key to the Captain’s cabin back to him. The heading would take us dangerously close to the edge of the clouds. Towards the edge more and more holes would appear and as the vessel passed over them or tried to navigate around them it would clunk heavily as if being dropped. Occasionally you could see pinpricks of light through the holes in the clouds, it was as if the stars were above and below us. Maybe that was all there was. A world of clouds, surrounded by stars. It had a romantic feel to it, certainly was a better though that we just floated over an evil abyss and your fate was to be killed or fed to the Sky Kraken or both.
The ship wove in an out of the holes, the going was more treacherous at night and though I scanned the horizon with a spyglass I saw no signs of a floating island made of gold. I saw no signs of any floating islands. The islands floated on the clouds as well and the skies were barren towards the edge of the clouds cover. I still had not gotten a chance to talk to Sam, he hovered around the Captain and I did not need the Captain to know that I wanted to speak privately with what entirely appeared as his new toy. The Captain smiled more lately, maybe it was Sam’s presence or the feeling that we would finally catching Draco Island, but I’d never really seen him not just happy, but at peace. I remembered that peace, the peace of having someone, having two arms to hold you, a voice to comfort your fears, lips to kiss away your tears. I seethed with a jealousy I don’t ever recall having. Most of the pirates were solitary creatures but here was the Captain of all people, with someone who looked upon him as if the sun shone from his eyes. I tried not to think of his kind brown eyes, or the crinkles at the corners of them when he smiled. I tried not to think of the feel of his hands on my bare skin.