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Three men and a boy stranded on a narrow raft,
Soaked, scared, unknowing.
The sea was an endless void growing
Into the darkness, deeper and deeper yet, and the Devil laughed.
He crept, in the dead of the night, clutching the haft
Of his knife, unwittingly the boy lay — towards him the Devil was inching.
Carving his knife into the boy’s eye, the Devil was grinning;
Crueler than the night was the blood on the shaft.
Lost, they were.
Drifting amid the black mass, driven out of their minds.
Lost, they were.
From unextinguished evil, they rose, born with eyes, they could not see;
Devouring the flesh and bone of the sick and the needy,
Cursed by God, who had drawn the blinds.
* * *
December 17th, 1889
“Heave to! Heave to, lads!” Captain Dudley commanded, standing on the bow.
His face showed a usual calmness, and not a hint of fear. We were amid a horrid storm, and it was apparent to all that the boat would not survive. Panicking, I glanced at Stevens and Parker, but they simply stood staring at the raging, suffocating dark mass. Their eyes told of nothing but a blind vacancy.
“Jesus Christ…” Dudley spat out, “Abandon ship! Lower the life boat!” In an instant, his calmness was gone, and his features conveyed a sense of utter defeat.
* * *
I am Irish by birth. My family was one of the most renowned in that public, until the Great Famine compelled our migration to England, where my father started a prosperous shipping business across the Atlantic to the West Indies. As protective as he may be, my father had encouraged me to be a sailor. Indeed, I have always had a passion for the ocean, and have sailed numerous times to Morocco with Captain Dudley. This Captain Dudley was a trusted man with sharp reflexes and pompous courage, and of course, it was he who was consulted when the strangest request came upon my father’s company.
An Australian solicitor of considerable worth had demanded his newly purchased yacht to be in Sydney by the termination of 3 weeks. The task seemed impossible, for our next shipment was months away. Captain Dudley, however, made the insane proposition of sailing the yacht itself to Sydney. The yacht was an inshore boat, and wasn't made for long voyages. Its keel and mast were enhanced with the most extraordinarily robust materials, but to sail the open seas was dangerously beyond the yacht’s capabilities.
I had originally opposed this idea, seeing its impracticality, but the solicitor had promised the company a small fortune, and all those willing to accompany the Captain were guaranteed a substantial part of the gold. Four men, including myself, departed from Southampton on May 4th, 1884. As we sailed unto the clear horizon, adventurous excitement seized my companions. Richard Parker was the only uneasy one among us. Being an inexperienced sailor of only seventeen, he was naturally uncertain about our voyage ahead. He sat quietly on the deck, depressed and isolated, his sunken face showing a pale hint of sickness.
* * *
The wind was driving north, and the sun painted the horizon with a hint of orange pigment as we drifted amongst a sea of flames. We watched the sun slowly drown, sinking to the very bottom, consumed by the cruel liquor that surrounded us. Then, dusk approached, and the waves performed their grand finale. All of a sudden, the crimson sky was gone, and the flaming ocean below us was extinguished. We were, once again, left with naught but desperation. The dark had returned, and with it, every bit of wickedness in our hearts.
“Lads, if we are to survive… we’ll need a noble sacrifice.” Dudley mumbled.
“Nonsense!” I cried with all that was left in me. “For great God above, we will not descend into this barbarous absurdness! Even in this despairing situation.”
“Tell me a better solution then? Show me another way!” We were silent.
Having abandoned the yacht, we had managed to board a single life boat, but had been deprived of food and water for two weeks, and were on the verge of death. Parker was unconscious, his health had worsened due a constant consumption of seawater, and was in an inhospitable state. Dudley and Stevens agreed that a lottery be drawn at noon of the following day, the result of which would determine our pitiful victim. I retired to the tail of the boat and slept, desperately trying to quell the empty feeling that haunted my stomach and the pain that plagued my mind. Oh, why did I volunteer for this cursed voyage? I thought to myself behind clenched teeth. I was so utterly blinded by the seduction of money that I had failed to judge the various insecurities that surrounded this expedition. We were doomed to die from the very beginning. As these thoughts sprouted in my mind, I started to panic, and, taking into consideration the emptiness of my stomach, I had reached the conclusion that if I remained in this vulnerable state, my death would be inescapable. But if I were to savagely consume my companion’s flesh, what good would be the rest of my days? Since our wreck, never once did the thought of cannibalism cross my mind. It was clear to me that committing such a crime would leave my morality forever betrayed, and my conscience inexorably ruined. Silently, I swore to abide by my own principles, and decided that I would rather lose my life than to sell my soul to the devil. Suddenly, a sound met my ears. Startled, I sat up.
“Our Father, Who art in heaven…”
Horrified, I saw Richard Parker, lying at the front of the boat, feebly struggling. Dudley knelt at his head, muttering a prayer, as Stephens crouched at Parker’s feet, restraining them.
“Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come…”
Under the pale moonlight I caught a glimpse of Dudley’s face. I had expected to see his sinister complexion glowing with malicious passion, but instead saw tears streaming down his cheeks.
“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses—” Dudley’s voice trembled with remorse and guilt.
“Why, me?” Parker begged with his last breath.
“Thy will be done.”
Dudley stopped. He closed his eyes. At the next instant, his penknife sunk into the side of Parker’s neck. I watched in silence. Second nature seized control of my wretched torso. As I trembled with horror, I saw Dudley’s hideous silhouette tearing away at Parker, devouring his flesh. Stevens was also eating, though of a lesser quantity. Parker was still alive, gurgling. A dark liquor was dripping from his neck down to the middle of the boat where it gathered in a thick, nauseous pool.
I began to slowly crawl towards Parker. My body no longer listened to my mind, and had abandoned my soul. Strings were attached to my limbs and my heart, and the puppeteer on the other end was none other but the devil himself. Oh Lord, take me, let me die! Shutting my eyes, I repeated the phrase to myself. But as I approached the half-eaten corpse of Richard Parker, my thoughts froze, and my mouth felt a hopeful accumulation of saliva.