Chapter 14: THE GHOST'S BONES
Jimmy wished that he had his friend Brynn with him right now. He forgot what it was like to not be heard, and had to remind himself that he wasn’t actually being ignored by the two guards. The one with longer hair, named Aidan, seemed like a typical Springborough guard. One with soft skin and a soft heart, and hardly prepared for anything resembling battle. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but who knows how Springborough would fare should anything happen. The other guard, Ethan, was even younger, even softer, even more unprepared for anything more threatening than a handshake.
Jimmy had been dispatched from the castle with the two guards who couldn’t see him or hear him. Last night at the castle, he had relayed as much information as he knew about where his bones were to Brynn, and she had taken a quill, an ink, some parchment, and wrote down all the directions, and given them to the young Princess, Kyrstin, and the royal girl had passed on the details to these guards. The young Pirate Captain, JJ, had contributed to the cause as well, detailing where he believed his ship had crashed onto the rocks, and where he had stumbled to find Jimmy’s bone which brought the dead guard’s ghost along for the ride to the castle, taking him from a solitary spirit on the cliffside back to the kingdom he used to live in. The sadness he felt was extremely unsettling, for he had not known death where he used to live, he had only known it on the cliffs where he was vaguely aware. The return to Springborough shook him, and he was glad to escape once again back to Quakenfalls.
So, before the sun fully rose, Jimmy went with the guards, who held his finger bone, his right index finger bone to be more specific. How weird, he believed, to know that the guard with the floppy long hair under his helmet held his finger bone, and Jimmy could still see his finger, albeit transparent, yet clear as day, still there on his hand. His finger was in two places at once. His whole being was in two places at once..
He was there, standing.
He was there, decaying amongst the rocks.
When Quakenfalls came into view, Jimmy’s excitement vibrated through him. To see the cliffs of Quakenfalls again, even though it had only been a day, reminded him of all the relaxing times he had spent with Brynn, just staring at the waters, and talking of life and death. It seemed he was back on vacation.
To get down to the rocks, they had to bypass the top edge of the cliffs, go down to the docks, and then cross along the side of the cliff. It wasn’t until they began to see the ship, The Hampton Chase, Jage’s boat, that they knew they were on the right track. Jage said that they had crashed on the rocks, and the crew had climbed down, and he had stumbled, and there were the bones- or, at least, the finger bone, just beyond the surface of the water, pretty close to the top as it was dark, and the water was rough, and he had picked the gray bone up, and placed it in his pocket.
The boat, miraculously, was still there. The sails were barely sails anymore, ripped and torn from the squall the day before. The fabric barely clung onto the mast- more so hanging in tatters about the poles, and the ropes, like jungle vines, dangled down to the deck. The hull had a couple of ruptures in it, the wood pock-marked as if in a battle with cannons, but that wasn’t the case. What caused these holes, the spirit didn’t know. Jimmy believed he saw the hole that Jage referenced when he said he talked to his men through an opening in the ship big enough to see into, but not big enough for any of the grown men to fit out of. Another rope still hung from the side of the ship, and Jimmy assumed that is where the sailors had climbed down. Well, five of them, at least…
Away from the royals, Captain Jonathon James confided in Jimmy’s friend Brynn that two of the men under his watch had gone missing when they came upon the outcrop. The men remembered that the sailors were with them in the hull, but when everybody’s feet hit land, two pairs of feet were gone. A Larry and a Donny, lost somewhere in the area where Jimmy currently was. He didn’t know why the young, blonde Captain didn’t want the royal family to know. Maybe he was embarrassed that he couldn’t deliver all of his men safely to the shore, but either way, Jimmy thought he had an advantage of weightlessness, and with the close proximity of his bones, he was able to explore the ship a little bit more. Perhaps having more time would benefit his search, as he was sure the sailors were feeling like they had to run for their lives, that the ship could sink any moment, that the storm could render them only memories if they didn’t safely reach land in a hurry. Jimmy had no such fear, of any of that, and so he ventured to do some investigative work.
As Aidan and Ethan treaded carefully, making sure not to slip where they stepped, thus falling into the water, and maybe being taken out to sea by a rip-roarious undertow, only to be drowned and crashed back onto the rocks to join Jimmy in eternal rest, the spirit effortlessly floated amongst the rocks, toward the The Hampton Chase. Jimmy looked up at the rope, and climbed it, not really needing to. Not having an earthly shape, he could have easily slipped right into the boat through that small hole, not minding the jagged edges on his nonexistent skin. The dead guard felt like he could probably just go right through the wall, too, but that was a trick he hadn’t yet figured out. After all, he was a ghost, wasn’t he?. He wasn’t solid. But, every time he stepped to a wall to go through it, to peer past it, to maybe just duck his head in and check things out, he couldn’t. Perhaps it was all mental, and all he had to do was figure a way to believe he could go through walls to do so, but he had not yet figured out how to. He must have been still holding on to the belief that he was alive. He was still believing too much that he was solid, and that was one of the many things holding him back from continuing his assent to the after life. Or, so he believed. He had yet to find an expert on the subject of death, a “spirit mentor.”
So, he climbed up the rope which was as easy as swinging in a hammock. Weightlessness was simply guiding your body where he wanted it to go. He grabbed the rope with one hand, and with a gentle tug was suddenly three feet higher up in the air, almost flying. He pulled at the rope with his other hand, and shot farther up into the air on the side of the boat. He wondered what would happen if he pulled really hard at the top of the rope? Would he shoot off into space? Or would he just go so far and stop because of his ethereal tether to his remains? How would he get down from the sky, as he would be stuck to an invisible ceiling? Would he have to follow his bones around from this great height like a spiritual kite?
Once he was on the deck, he immediately observed that the boat was roomy. He could see how comfortable it would be for the crew of seven men plus the captain. He heard Jage had offered a dock woman the family fortune for the rental, and it was obvious the little bit of coin went a long way for him.
The storm had done its damage, and Jimmy doubted The Hampton Chase would ever see the high seas again, but before the tempest, it was apparent that the ship was made well, and keep in fine shape. The wooden planks that made up the deck were not exorbitantly weathered from the salt and the weather and aging in generally. The colors of a paint job years ago were still evident, but chipping away. The ropes could probably be salvaged, as well as the steel. If a scavenger was ambitious enough to brave the rocks, a lot of pieces and parts of the ship could be broken up and sold. The anchor was quality, the helm, two life boats, Jimmy took note of it all as if he could salvage it himself, or maybe tell Brynn’s brother to tell his debtor.
Jimmy never fashioned himself a sailor. The King’s guardsmen were usually landlocked, so he never had to consider it, but he could see the appeal in it as he stood on this ship. The men must have believed the world could be conquered, that if you rode the waters, you could go anywhere. Do anything. Having access to the waters meant having access to adventure. Jimmy had not felt that kind of freedom for a while.
He explored the ship. In the sleeping quarters for the men, the room was filled with clothes and mementos left behind. Sketches of women and family members adorned the walls, a wind chime hung in the middle, and reading material was scattered on the floor. The sleeping quarters for the Captain, which was filled with moldy, soggy bread crusts, held little of much else. JJ carried little with him onto the ship, relying more on his vision of the future than his past. The first mate’s tiny but private room held a chess board, journals, and a doll that looked like a woman with large, blonde hair.
Jimmy walked through the first mate’s room where there was another door leading deeper into the ship. Through the door was the bowels of The Hampton Chase, the place in a ship where items were stored for the journey: food in salt, barrels of drink, the rest of the bread, bait for fishing, replacement sails, ropes, etc. This is the part of the ship sailors called “the hold” which is kept in the hull of the ship, underneath the main deck. Seemed silly to keep everything that one would rely on for survival underneath the water level, but what did Jimmy know? Here were all the things needed for a long journey. It was the last place the missing sailors, Larry and Donny, could be.
Jimmy walked down the steps into the hold, not really touching a single step with his feet, but descending all the same. There were no candles in the area, not that they would be lit, or that Jimmy had the physical ability to light them. The only light for Jimmy to see with came in through the few punctures in the wood of the hull, and the sunlight cut rays of white through the dark, illuminating floating particles of dust, flies so small no one studied, and dead skin cells. The hold was kept neat by ropes attached to the walls, attempting to hold in and keep organized all of the ship’s contents. But, there were items knocked loose by the storm and laying across the ground, ropes that had broken and were torn from the walls, or barrels that had slipped past their restraints, rolling into what used to be aisle ways. The hold was in shambles, but wasn’t so much of a mess where the figures of bones couldn’t be seen.
Jimmy stood there, his floating mass of nothingness, his solid eyes, but transparent flesh and bone. He looked across the hold at where it seemed almost a dozen skeletons had collected. They didn’t seem to be searching for anything, but more as if a child were to collect bugs in a glass jar. They walked about, climbing over the burlap bags of flour, they bumped into the barrels of rum, one’s leg bones had become wrapped in a rope, and it clawed at itself with its sharp, skinless finger bones. The skeletal figures hissed, not getting much sound out of their clenched jaws and exposed teeth, but they did hiss, and seethe, and gargle.
It was a heinous sight, even for a man like Jimmy who had watched his own body rot away on the rocks. In the hold of this ship was a collection of viciousness, a gaggle of gargles, a crowd of death that didn’t appear to have any other purpose other than malice. Jimmy hoped the high tide would come in, and carry the ship, and it’s hellish cargo with it. Perhaps it would all sink to the bottom of the sea, and nobody would have to worry about running into these skeletons that clamored about. Perhaps this was just one of the benefits that came with death, to see things people alive normally did not see.
Jimmy wondered if two of these creatures could be Jage’s missing sailors.
Just then, a guard below, Ethan, if Jimmy wasn’t mistaken, not the one with the long-hair, but the one with squeaky-voice, squeaked up that he had found Jimmy’s bones.
“Over here!” he shouted, Jimmy heard through the boat. “Jimmy, wherever you are, I got them! I found your bones!”
“Where are you?” shouted Aidan and Jimmy’s stomach dropped. It was concerning to him to see these figures without ears seemingly hear the guards outside. The skulls turned on the necks, bones grinding on bones, and they listened for the guard’s voices. They turned, “looking” without eyes, just empty sockets, toward the stairs, and while Jimmy knew that the skulls were void of anything resembling brains, as a unit, it seemed they were all thinking of the next action to take. They were thinking of the stairs to climb, the world to emerge into, and the guards to attack, if they were right in thinking there was someone outside of the boat currently shouting.
They didn’t have to wait long.
“What?” Ethan shouted. “Aidan?”
“Yeah. Here! Where are you?” Aidan asked, and the skeletons began to start stepping in unison. The one whose leg was stuck, simply removed it from the hip bone, and decided to crawl.
“On the other side of the boat!”
Jimmy had begun to not listen to the guards, as he was transfixed on what was happening before him. The collection of skeletal remains, stopping their free roaming as individuals, and combining into one large group that was waddling toward the door, stepping left and right foot, like a large collection of skeletons leaving a performance, like a stage. They wobbled toward the stairs, up the stairs, making sure to not trip over each other, and the legless one crawled behind, not letting it’s more recent handicap sideline him for the attack on the two unsuspecting guards.
Ethan and Aidan were now shouting so loud, and so frequently that it was easy to pinpoint exactly where they were on the rocks, which is exactly where the horde of skeletons had started gravitating towards. Jimmy watched helplessly as he had absolutely no way of warning the guards that of their impending deaths. He looked at what he believed was a dozen or so of the evil bodies, which now seemed to be closer to twenty as they were in one large group that had purpose. The group began to emerge into the sunlight, the darkness of the hold never being removed from their bones. Even in the sun, they were black as night. As the swarm of bones turned toward the sailors, all Jimmy could do was watch.