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The Silver Sun (One)
On the night I have waited a century and a quarter for, it rains. Hard. It is not the type of rain associated with a quick downpour. The clouds cry for hours. The wind whistles along shrilly and causes people and barrels to slide across the deck. The water is swinging back and forth against the rocking ship as rain and ocean come at us from all directions. I hold on to the ropes loosely, humming a lullaby my mother used to sing to get me to sleep.
I hear the sounds of men working to shield the ship from the heavy rain. They grunt and complain about wetness and cold. I personally enjoy this type of weather. It reminds me of rainy days in London as a boy, darting in and out of shops to avoid getting drenched. I used to pull Maria along with me as we ran along the cobblestone streets. Her laugh was the sweetest candy, always bubbly and loud. Her eyes would crinkle and mouth open wide, grinning crazily. She had quite the smile, my Maria.
As this wave of nostalgia hits me, the rain turns cold. I shiver involuntarily. My shirt has been soaked through and you can see flashes of tan arms through the thin white material. I feel myself being watched and when I look up from examining my sleeve, I notice that three men are just staring at me. I raise an eyebrow and they get back to work. While it has never been officially discussed, I run this ship. My leadership has never been questioned, despite my boyish looks. Through the dirt and grime, you can still see traces of my lineage. Even pirates understand social order.
I turn when I hear a voice behind me. “Aye, Sebastian, you twit, let go of the bloody ropes and ride the storm like a bloody man!” It’s Fitch, my best mate. He’s a wild one, completely enthralled with danger. He breathes adrenaline like I breathe saltwater.
I let out a laugh and obey. My legs climb easily down the ropes. Years and years of practice. When I’m on sturdy boards, I head over to Fitch, who is now standing on the main deck—sans shirt I am appalled to see—with his mouth open, collecting rainwater on his tongue. Occasionally, he’ll close his mouth and shout a little “Wahoo!” and do a sort of jig, in which he runs around in a circle and jumps up and bumps his heels together. Then he’ll open his mouth again and catch rain. The man is mad, but he is brilliant in the same respect. Never have I met a guy with as keen a sense of direction.
“No way mate,” he says as I come closer. “Tis a no-shirts only sorta thing, I’m afraid.” I roll my eyes, but the next thing I know, my naked torso is being covered in cool droplets of rainwater. Fitch flashes a smile full of rotting teeth and blackened gums. But it’s bursting with warmth and craziness and I let myself be influenced by his personality.
And so we dance. We sing. We laugh. A few shipmates join in on the spontaneous festivities. Someone finds a bottle and we pass the drink around. When the drink runs down my throat, I feel warmth in my stomach and I laugh a little louder. The waves are crashing against the ship, adding more noise and raucous.
“You vociferous fool,” I yell at Fitch who is now reaching for the bottle.
“Aye, don’t use no fancy words ‘ere. Our smarts be in our hands, not our tongues.” Fitch is always taunting me for my vocabulary. Though I’ve been aboard longer than any of these men, I still talk as respectably as possible for a man who hasn’t seen the likes of a bathtub in a century and a quarter.
The storm dies starts to die away then, taking its slow time. The pounding rain begins to give until it is just a drizzle. The waves die down until they become only background noise. And then there is no sound, only us. I hear the heavy breathing of the men as they begin to put shirts over hairy chests and make their way to the sleeping quarters or to their posts. Everyone still has smiles on their faces. Some wobble, though there wasn’t enough rum to get dunk with.
The sky is still a swirl of lighter and darker greys as I make my way to Fitch, who is at the wheel. His shirt is back on, but even from behind I can see his wildness. It’s in his long, wiry hair that has probably never come in contact with a brush. It’s there in his clothes, which are battered and hang around him without taking in his round shape. Fitch tends to stay aboard whenever we dock. I don’t think he likes civilized people. When he came to me as a young man, his arms and face were blotchy purple hues and he had cuts all along his body.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see something moving slowly across the waters. I turn my head to look but my vision is poor and I can’t make much out in the dark. I see no sails, but it looks too big to be driftwood. We haven’t come in contact with another ship in three days and then men are itching for fighting. But I am so very tired of bloodshed, of stolen and stolen-again treasure.
Fitch notices my gaze and follows it to the object in the dark. “Ya reckon shipwreck?”
“It must be,” I say. “I see no sails.”
“Wonder who dun it. Haven’t come ‘cross any folks who got more than a bot’l o’ rum ta steal.”
I nod and lean against the side of the ship. The ocean laps gently against the wood and I feel a wave of tiredness hit me. I rub my face, trying to stay awake longer. I peer out at the dark sea as the object comes closer. We were right in our assumption of a shipwreck. The vessel has been mutilated. Charred wood sticks out halfway in the ocean. I can still smell the fire’s residue. I search the water for any survivors, but everyone has either swum far away or is floating the seas forevermore.
Sadness creeps through my bones. I wonder who the men were. I do not mourn them, but flame is not an honorable way to die. Flame and water will forever be at war. It is cruel and mocking to kill a seaman by his element’s foe.
My shoulders slump as I turn to head toward my chamber. But I feel a hand tug on my sleeve and I look to see Fitch’s anxious eyes. The emotion passes between us silently. He takes a shaky finger and points to a square piece of fabric. It’s black and barely visible in the mush of night and burned wood. In the center of the flag is a silver sun.
My chest tightens. “Not a word to the others,” I tell Fitch. He nods warily. I give a last glance to the flag and go to my chamber. I keep my mind blank as I close the door, peel of my clothes, and sink into bed. I count to ten and shut my eyes. I let the gentle rocking of the ship lull me to sleep.
I dream in images tonight. My toes, covered almost completely in warm sand. Of cobblestone streets and shops lining them. Of Maria, in a white nightdress, humming softly as she reads a book that surpasses her age level. Each of these dreams has a fairytale-like quality. I can see the flimsiness of them, how they shimmer with teasing uncertainty.
Too soon the Sea Witch enters and the dream becomes solid and life-like. Her nose is long and crooked. Her eyes are vacant and cold. Her skin is an ashy grey and her hair is dull silver. She is a monotone. Her mouth is slightly parted to reveal a set of chipped, stained teeth. Her simple black dress is torn on her left shoulder and her arms are thin and emaciated.
She lets out a lifeless howl. At first it is quiet, but then it begins to build, shaking with passion. And as she lets out this wretched sound, her eyes are staring straight ahead, unseeing, never blinking. She is a seaman’s nightmare and she plagues my dreams with her monstrous face nearly every night. Most men think her only a story to spook newcomers with every night. But I know that is only ignorance.
The Sea Witch is real. I met her once.
I am jolted awake by a splash of lukewarm liquid to my right cheek. It slowly runs down the concaves of my face and pools by my chest. I know the smell before I am fully conscious. Rum.
I open my eyes to eight fearful stares. I smell sweat and notice how quiet they are. I am disoriented, but I groggily get out of my bed and reach for my sword. I feel fear settle in me too, though I don’t know the reason why. It takes a lot to scare my men.
“Invasion?” I ask. It seems like the only logical explanation. But I am still confused. Most of them would be excited for the possibility of slaying some slug-brained men with buried virtues.
“Yes,” one says. I cannot make out faces, but the voice sounds vaguely like Peter. He is only fifteen, here to avenge his father’s death.
“Well?” I ask. “What are you standing ‘round here for? You know your positions. Don’t hover over me like a bunch of lost pups!”
I begin to make my way though the bodies when sounds-like-Peter cries out, “But Sebastian, this isn’t—“
“It’s not just anyone Sebby,” Fitch interrupts. I recognize his smell before his voice.
“It’s... it’s… it’s…” another voice, definitely Will’s, stammers.
And then I remember what happened before I fell asleep and dreamed of the Sea Witch. I look at Fitch and moves his head up and down in small increments. “Have they come aboard?” I whisper.
“Not yet,” Fitch says. “They want to speak with you first.”
“’Course they do!” I say with a shaky laugh. “Arrogant fools. Think the entire sea bends to their tricks. Come now, everyone out. I must speak with them in private. Don’t stare, don’t move too much and don’t talk. They won’t hurt us.” The men nod uneasily and hesitantly make their way to the deck. Their moves are quiet and cautious. Most have never met one before.
I breathe in and out a few times. I keep my right hand on my sword as I try to figure out how I could possibly do what I need to do. I still haven’t come up with anything when they are in front of me. I didn’t expect a knock or warning, but their sudden presence makes my heart beat erratically. I’m sure they can hear.
I remember Will’s unfinished sentence. No one wants to say their name. Unlike the Sea Witch, no one doubts their existence. They are the most feared humans on the water. The ninjas, an ancient race who destroy sea-goes and land-dwellers alike. Deadly, hidden, and rare, it’s almost certain death if you ever see their black robes up close.
I am not scared. I have met them many times before. But tonight, something will be different. I will not let them win. Tonight I will do what I have needed to do for one hundred and seventeen years. I will capture a ninja and undo all that I have done.