I was once again thrown into the brig. This time, I tried to sneak another piece of bread into my bunk. My bunk was small and my feet dangled off of the edge. It was just a mattress that was very worn down. The blanket I had was torn and stained in multiple places. Only the Captain and the first mate had an actual chamber. The rest of us all slept in identical bunks that were sprawled out on the floor in one big room. The brig, however, was much worse. It was a dark hole built in the lower deck of the ship. The walls around the inside were covered in moss and scum. The smell of scum, mold, and rotting flesh created a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had to fight the urge to vomit. The lid that covered the hole had spikes sticking out, so that it prevented crew members from escaping. If your head just barely brushed one of them, it would pierce your scalp.
Unfortunately for me, I had to stand in this miserable place for five hours. As I angled my thin, pale body so my head avoided the spikes, I tried to close my eyes. I hoped I’d fall asleep, but it was no use. No one could sleep in this hell hole, literally. Instead, I started to daydream of the home I once knew.
I was twelve years old, and my mother had asked me to pick some Balas for soup. My land’s national flower was the Bala (which also happened to be my name), and they were the best flowers in the Mediterranean. They only grew in the soil that covered my island. Not only were they a beautiful shade of lavender, but they also made a delicious soup. There was a patch of them growing in the fields behind my house, which made it easy for me to get them. As I was picking the flowers, I saw a figure in the distance. I thought it was just an animal, so I disregarded it. However, it kept coming closer and closer towards me. I started to panic and cautiously walk home. Suddenly, the figure was right behind me. Before I could react, it wrapped its arms around me and carried me away. I screamed for help, but the figure covered my mouth. When I looked up, I saw that the figure was a man. His body was heavily built and his arms were covered in tattoos. He had a long, black beard and a damaged eye. He had olive skin and his eye was as black as his soul. He carried me to the port, where a huge ship was docked. The parasails were tan and had pictures of bones embedded in them. The man took me to the ship and put me down. I tried to jump off, but two teenagers grabbed my arms. One of them even grabbed a hold of my brown hair. Both of them wore plain white shirts and pants that were covered in dirt. I looked around and saw that everyone was wearing the same thing.
They brought me in front of the man who kidnapped me and held me still.
“I am Captain Maloro and you are now a crew member of my ship,” the man stated.
“LET ME GO!!,” I screamed.
He chuckled, “Save your breathe little girl. You’re stuck here, forever.”
Then, the two boys forced me to start sweeping the deck.
I opened my eyes as soon as the dream ended, then sighed. I should’ve known the only memory I’d think of would be the day I got kidnapped. It was hard to believe that I had worked for Captain Maloro with no complaint for four years. Then again, complaints only brought you pain. If Maloro heard you complain about anything, you would either get thrown into the brig, or beaten. However, some things came with worse punishments.
Two years ago, a boy named Zafiro tried to escape. We were docked at Hawaii for re-supplying when Maloro caught him running towards the town. He quickly snatched Zafiro and dragged him onto the ship. As punishment, Maloro had the first mate beat him mercilessly. When he just was about to pass out, Maloro told Keo to stop. Then, he drew out his dagger and cut out Zafiro’s tongue. Afterwards, he threw Zafiro overboard and left him on the beach to die. He was only twelve years old.
I wondered how Maloro became so cruel, until I heard his story.
He grew up in the South with two very strict parents. They did everything in their power to control his every move and form him into an upstanding member of the community. Ever since he could talk, his heart was cold and his mind was full of violence and anger. His parents tried disciplining him, but nothing was effective. When he was thirteen years old, he slaughtered them both and joined the legendary Captain Korko’s ship. This captain was famous for his cruelty and his ability to get what he wanted. He was able to steal every piece of jewel in the Mediterranean without ever losing a battle. He once cut out the heart of a rivaling captain and ate it in front of the man’s crew members. Maloro vowed that he would be even better than Korko as soon as he joined.
Korko took him under his wing and taught him everything he knew. By the time Maloro reached the age of twenty-one, he wanted to take over. So, he got Korko alone and slaughtered him. However, Korko’s crew members refused to work for Maloro.
Instead of forcing them to do so, he let them go and searched for a new crew. It was not long before he decided to kidnap children and force them to work. The kids he kidnapped were between the ages of ten to eighteen. He chose kids because he knew that he could inflict enough fear in them to destroy their ability to fight back. The only exception was Keo.
A couple of years later, Maloro decided that he needed an heir. So, he started to look for a child to take. When he found Keo, he knew that Keo would be the perfect fit. Even though he was only six years old, he came from a powerful family. His father was a seventh-generation mayor and a war hero. So, Maloro killed his parents and took him to his ship. Twelve years later, Keo was a perfect protege. He never argued with him and always followed orders. Although Maloro raised him, Keo only referred to him as “master”.
For the rest of us, our jobs were based on our talents. The strong ones were soldiers, the culinary gifted ones were cooks, the smart ones were strategists, and the rest were left to clean. There was one job, on the other hand, that only two girls had. They were about twenty to twenty-two years old and were obligated to entertain the captain. They were not allowed to ever leave his chambers, and they could never refuse.
Suddenly, the lid of the brig lifted. “Times up Bala”, Garo said.
I managed to smile slightly and say, “Thanks.”
He helped me out of the hole and asked me if I was okay. I said I was fine and started walking back to my bunk. When I was about to reach my bed, a hand grabbed my arm and pulled me into a dark room. The person pinned me up against the wall and kept me there.
I tried to wiggle out of their grasp when I heard them say, “You can not escape the captain’s grasp that easily.”
I rolled my eyes. “I hate it when you refer to yourself as captain.”
“But it’s fun,” he laughed. He raised the flame in his lantern and loosened his grip.
“Next time, will you give more of a warning Keo?”
“I’m sorry Bala. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He looked into my eyes and pouted.
“I forgive you.” I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips.
“Yay!” He picked me up and kissed me back.
I knew that having a secret relationship with the first mate was wrong, but I couldn’t help that we were in love.
A year ago, Keo helped Maloro defeat another captain who was trying to steal his gold. As a reward, Maloro assigned me to entertain Keo for two weeks. Just like Maloro’s girls, I was not able to leave Keo’s chamber until the two weeks were up. At first, the only thing Keo had me do was chores. Either it was cleaning the room up, or cleaning clothes, or polishing his sword. He never said anything to me that was not a command. Until one night, while I was sitting in my usual corner, he was having troubles sleeping. He turned his head towards me and said that he wanted to talk. At first he caught me off guard since it was an unusual command, but I slowly nodded. Then, we spent a couple of hours just getting to know each other.
Over time, I came to realize that he was nothing like he seemed. For instance, he didn’t like hurting people; unless they pissed him off. Also, he was actually very caring and intelligent. He knew everything about the sea, and respected the feelings of others. Although he couldn’t show it, every mark he made on the innocent pained him. The only thing he could do was mentally apologize to them and pray for forgiveness. His dream was to get rid of Maloro and amend all the harm he had caused.
After that night, we made a habit of talking to each other. We got to know the other’s hopes, dreams, and fears. The more we knew, the stronger the connection. It was not long before we realized that we were destined for each other. Fearing the consequences of this, however, we tried to deny it. We did the best we could to avoid each other. Being on a ship in the middle of the sea made that plan nearly impossible. Denying our love ended up becoming unbearable for us. Keo couldn’t take it anymore, so he suggested that as long as we were careful, we should be together. I was skeptical at first, but eventually agreed. Ever since then, we would meet up in private every chance we got.
“So how was the brig this time?” Keo asked.
“The usual; dark and depressing,” I sighed.
“I should’ve talked Maloro out of it; have you do something else instead.” He frowned and looked away.
I put my hand on his cheek and forced him to look at me. “You know that there was nothing you could’ve said to change his mind.”
With pain in his eyes, he said, “I know.”
“Hey,” He returned his gaze towards me, “I love you.”
He smiled, “I love you too.”
Before I knew it, he placed his hands on my hips and pulled me into a kiss. First it was a small kiss, but then he deepened it. He opened my mouth wider with his lips and slipped his tongue into my mouth. I wrapped my arms tightly around his neck and kissed him back with the same intensity. After a while, I parted our lips to catch my breathe.
“You alright?” he asked.
“Of course, why?”
He shrugged. “Just making sure I guess. I never want you to feel like you have to do something you don’t want to do.”
I pulled him closer to me so that our foreheads were touching and said, “Don’t worry. If I don’t want to do something, I will let you know ahead of time.”
Eventually we said goodnight to each other and went our separate ways. He offered to have me sleep in his bed until sunrise, then he would carry me back to my bunk, but I declined. It was too risky. Anyone could catch us in the act and report it to Maloro. Then, both our lives would be in grave danger