The wooden walls trembled with the raging raves and clashes of thunder that shook the ship to the core. Shouts of the sailors above deck were lost on in the wind, as if the Goddess of the Sea hungered for their voices, for their souls.
Deep below deck Annabelle sat drenched in her cell surrounded by cargo that probably wouldn’t last the journey. Annabelle was starting to realize she wouldn’t last this journey either. In her arms was a screaming baby wrapped in burlap sacks. She held him close. She would die with him. They would see their family in the River of Death. They would all be together again.
Lightning flashed. It was the only moments of light that gave Annabelle any bearing in the roaring darkness. Her son’s crying face, his eyes closed, his small button nose scrunched up, his chubby cheeks red. Puffs of blonde wisps curled around his large ears. She held him even closer to her chest, humming a lullaby, not that he could hear her. She could barely hear herself. The light was gone. Darkness swallowed them up again.
Two men stood by her cell door. One was the scrawny doctor with shave bumps and round spectacles that were much too large to his face. In the violent thrashing of the ship, the glasses struggled to stay on the bridge of his nose. Next to him was a tall, gruff man who towered over the doctor. His rough beard was decorated with ribbons and beads, his hat told everyone exactly who he was: the captain.
The doctor struggled with the ring of keys. The doctor said something. Annabelle stood up, saltwater weighted her ruined gown. As darkness swallowed them up again she knew what he had said.
“It’s a boy.”
They were going to take her son away. They were going to take him. They were going to kill him. There is no way Robert would want him alive. Annabelle was so stupid. Of course he wouldn’t let her keep a son. A possible rival later down the road. She had nothing to fight them off. Not even magic laced her blood. Tears burned her eyes, she fought them back, not yet. Not yet.
The door was open. They stepped towards her. She screamed. As if the rage and grief would turn them away, change their minds, change their allegiances.
“We have our orders.” The doctor said as loudly as he could, “You understand, don’t you? Orders?”
As if she were a stupid child, a toddler screaming about a toy being taken away.
“He’s my son!” she yelled over the roar of the storm and the groans and creaks of the wood fighting to stay together. “He’s my son! My child! Lie! Lie! Tell him I had a girl! You’ll never hear from us again! Please!”
The doctor froze. He looked at the captain, hoping that this was a good enough argument to let the young mother keep her child.
“I have nothing left.” Annabelle’s voice cracked.
“We have our orders, Doctor.” The captain snapped as he reached towards Annabelle, dirty fingers aimed at her son, she tucked him away, turning her back to the men,
“No! No I won’t let you!” she screeched, but the captain just laughed. It was a laugh she had heard her entire life. No one took her seriously, she was a little girl who didn’t know what she wanted, didn’t know anything at all.
The laugh echoed in her mind as her shoulder was yanked back, throwing her into the doctor’s arms, the back of her head colliding with his glasses. The captain ripped the baby from her arms and out of her reach.
She threw her hands out in the darkness, shadows of the men moving with the ship. Her body felt hot despite the saltwater that had soaked into her bones, into her soul.. Her burning hands touched a face, a clean shaven face. The doctor’s face. She squeezed him as he screamed. It was an agonizing scream of pure pain. She was not that strong.
The doctor’s face was blistered, boils surrounding his ears and neck. His eyes were bloodshot. His hair fell out in patches. His arms festered into an oozing rash. The only clean part of his face was the shape of her hand. She fell backward with a scream. Fear. Shock.
The doctor fell to his knees, whimpering as he finally collapsed into the water at her feet.
Annabelle’s heart raced. Her chest burned, her face flushed. Was she going to die that way? What sickness was on this boat? It was so quick, so painful, so terrifying.
The captain was against the wall, close to the stairs, he was crouched. The ship’s violent thrashing was no longer sustainable. The boards ripped, water slipped in like rats into an unattended kitchen. In his arms was her son. His large hand over her son’s small face.
She clambered over the dead body of the doctor and slammed into the cell door. It swung open with her weight. She clung to the bars, riding the force until it slammed against the wall. She turned to face the man as lightning struck. The light framed him so perfectly murdering her son. She lunged as darkness swallowed everything back up.
Her hands landed on his legs as he howled in pain. She pulled herself up and grabbed the man’s throat.
His face was pale, slowly sinking in. Lips chapped, dry, bleeding. Hair falling with patches of skin. Boils and rashes spreading fast across his body as he let go of the baby to try to keep his body together. She fell back into the water, quickly scooping up her son into her arms.
“We’ll die together, Sam.” she rocked his small lifeless body as tears fell down her face in sheets, her ugly sobs barely quieted by the roar of the world around her. This was it. This was it.
She was going to die.
She closed her eyes and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And waited until the ship was no longer strong enough to fight off the waves and the boat was knocked to it’s side, throwing Annabelle into a wall. The blunt pain on her head and then there was nothing.
When Annabelle awoke, the storm was gone. Boxes and other cargo were strewn about the ship, the floor was flooded. Her son’s body was still in her arms, she wailed. The nightmarish bodies of the captain and the doctor were sprawled about, staring into the void of death. She looked away. Trembling, tired, hungry, and thirsty, she struggled to stand. She hobbled to the staircase to the upper deck.
The sun’s light blinded her, and she faltered. One arm still holding her son, she used the other to cover her face so that she could see.
Bodies littered the deck. Rashes. Boils. Sunken faces and bloodshot eyes all staring into the void. She swooned under the blistering heat and fainted, son to her chest.
Maybe this time she would die.