The Ship of Dreams

“I will arrive by week’s end, my love. Wait for me at the White Star Dock and together we will have the someday I have promised you for so long.”
Those had been the words Harry had written Clara in the last letter before he took to sea. Now, she held that letter before her as she stitched shirt sleeves with the other young women chatting around her.
“News from home, Clarrie?”
She smiled up at the older woman. Erin was a kindly grandmother of a woman with curly hair that had once been as red as Clara’s was blonde.
“From my fiancé. Harry’s coming over on a ship this very week.”
There was a chorus of excitement all about the factory, one which was quickly silenced as they heard the door from the offices opening. It wouldn’t do to be seen lazing. Even if they were doing no such thing. Clara’s sewing needle darted in and out of the cloth she was stitching as she imagined seeing Harry again for the first time in nearly a year. They could finally marry, finally start a family and finally have the life they’d been dreaming about for so long.
As Clara tidied up her station, Erin waited patiently. It was a custom of theirs for Clara to walk the older woman to her lodgings before headed home herself.
“So, tell me, Miss Clara. Is he coming on that fine ship of dreams everyone’s been talking about in the papers?”
Clara absolutely beamed, her smile threatening to split her cheeks.
“He is! I’m just so excited, Erin.”
Placing her hat on her head, Clara turned that smile on Erin.
“Any day now.”
Erin offered her young friend a smile of her own, then concern flickered onto her face.
“Will you be leaving us?”
As they walked to the door, Clara waved that concern off.
“Not right away. Someday, certainly, when we’ve a mind to start a family. But we’ll need the money I make until Harry’s all settled in.”

The sound that woke Harry O’Dell was like nothing he’d ever heard before. It was metal shearing metal, like the very walls of the ship were being rent by some giant with a knife. He leapt out of his narrow cot and was in the hallway in naught but trousers in a moment. There were others there as well, women holding crying children, even some of the ship’s crew looking just as lost as the rest of them.
“What’s going on?” He grabbed one of the crewmen as he passed. “What happened?”
The man looked at Harry, taking in his red hair and freckled face before shaking him off.
“Nothing. It was nothing. Go back to bed.”
The man continued on down the corridor, moving briskly and leaving Harry in his dust. Resigned, Harry turned back to his room to help the young mother bunked in with him calm her two young children.
When the water began to enter the compartment, Harry knew they had been lied to. Whatever had happened was far from nothing.

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Titanic sinks! Massive loss of life!”
Clara stopped dead in her tracks, slowly turning to look at the young newsie standing on the side of the road.
“Wh-what did you just say?”
“The ship, Ma’am, it sunk. Hit a big old iceberg, it did.”
She was shaking as she held her hand out.
“How much for the paper?”
“A penny, Ma’am.”
He held out his hand and she gave him one of her precious pennies, taking the paper. Slumped against a nearby building, she began to read. In the dark hours long before dawn. A great loss of life. Mainly women and children among the survivors. Harry, oh Harry.

Hot, silent tears streamed from her eyes and Clara’s grip on the too fragile newsprint tightening until it tore. She stared for a long moment at the shredded yellow paper in her hands. It didn’t matter now. It didn’t matter how much they had both saved and scrimped and scanted. There was no future for Clara and Harry, no future in which she was Mrs. O’Dell. All the happy dreams of a home together and a little crop of children under foot were as sunk as the vessel that had called itself the Ship of Dreams.

The paper fell from Clara’s fingers as she walked towards Pier 54 where the ship would have come in. There was already a crowd when she arrived, but she paid them no attention. She stood nearby, as close as she could get, and stared out at the water. It wasn’t the ocean, not here, not really. But she wondered, as she stared into the water, if God would bring her to Harry if she jumped in anyway. The thought nearly slapped her in the face when she realized why she had come here, what she was contemplating. Then she thought of the life ahead of her, so far from the land of her birth and her family and now without her Harry O’Dell. There were tears in her eyes as she stepped off into the air.

Return to Port

She knew she wasn't supposed to go to the docks. They were a rough and vulgar place, or so her grandmother said. But Sarah Alcott was not content to wait at home when sail had been sighted on the horizon. Not when it could be her father coming home. Her brother, Garret, was as bad but despite being five years her junior, the nine year old was considered fit to venture to the socks on his own. All that meant in reality was that Sarah had long since mastered the cleverer routes to the harbor.
"Back again, Missy?"
Sarah climbed down from the low roof to stand on a barrel beside the start of the wharf.
"I heard there were sails, Jimmy. Help me down?"
The old shoreman gave her his hand and Sarah jumped down, landing on the wood of the dock with a flutter of skirt.
"Your Grandmama is going to be one pleased about this."
"I know, but I promised Papa I'd be waiting for him."
A few of the hands nearby heard and shook their heads sadly. Poor girl. Not a one of them had the heart to remind her that her father, the good Captain Alcott, was more than a year overdue now. The odds of the man returning to his family went down with each day that passed. Jimmy just smiled sadly. He was used to Miss Sarah and her ways.
"Well, come have a seat and practice your knots until the ship comes in."
She climbed up onto a crate and fished two lengths of cord out of the small bag she carried.

The sound of a bell ringing was what broke her concentration. She nearly had the marlinspike hitch mastered. Just a bit more practice and she'd have it for sure.
"They've made port, Miss Sarah, and the gangplank's down."
Scrambling, she slid down in a manner she was quite certain didn't befit a girl of her age and station and she didn't care. Her eyes were only for the ship. It was a smaller vessel than her father's and she sailed under the Union Jack. The Catherine Ann, named for Sarah's mother, was a three masted vessel and this girl was a two. Nevertheless, she waited to see if perhaps the captain had news of a Captain Alcott who sailed under the Stars and Stripes.
The crew began to unload cargo and Sarah could hear the officers organizing the effort. She would have to wait until they disembarked. She watched the crates being brought up out of the hold and wondered what they carried. Maybe spices and dyes like her father so often carried. Or the fancy fabrics her mother liked to buy. Then her gaze settled on something that made her blood run cold and her spirits sink. She remembered when her father had had the figurehead installed on the ship with the same bright gold hair and green eyes her mother had, saying this way his Catherine would always keep watch over him. That way, he would always come home to their children. So why did this strange ship have her Papa's figurehead? Protocol and politeness demanded that she wait and speak to the captain when he'd stepped onto the dock. Protocol be damned, she wanted answers. Hiking up her skirts, she ran up the gangplank before anyone could stop her. When she found the captain, he was on the deck yelling down to someone in the hold.
"Be careful! Dammit, man, we got you this far. Don't die on the steps."
"Excuse me, Captain?"
If the captain was surprised to see a young woman standing on his ship, he hid it well.
"Yes, Miss?"
She took a breath, drawing courage as best she could.
"Captain, I was wondering if you could explain why you have my father's figurehead among your cargo."
She did her best to sound calm and to ignore the wood on wood thumping noise coming up from the hold behind her.
"Your father's, you say? Are you Miss Sarah Alcott, then?"
Her eyes widened as the man smiled.
"He's told me quite a bit about you and your brother."
The thumping came faster now and Sarah whirled around to see the source. Her father, leaning on a crutch and making his way to her as quickly as he could.
She threw her arms around his waist and he held her tightly.
"I told you I'd be back, little one. It just took me a bit."
"Papa, what happened?"
He shook his head a little.
"We went down in a storm. Luckily for me, I grabbed the figurehead when she broke off and we floated to shore. I think your Mama was watching out for me from Heaven. I broke my leg, but I'm home now."

Jolly Roger

She flew the Jolly Roger high above her deck. The old wave-rider cut through the storm, her keel a fine steel blade in her captain’s hand. And that redoubtable old captain stood at the helm with her face pointed into the storm as she made for the eye. The Jolly Roger flapped and twisted in the gale, wrapping itself soaked around the mast. Then they burst into the silence. The eye of the storm loomed heavily, more fearsome even than the storm itself in its deathly silence. The captain let her gaze fall now to her ship, exploring every timber and beam and patch of canvas. Then she let out a sigh. A hatch opened and a small boy stepped out, his red hair bright against the blackened tar timbers and storm tossed sky.


Nearly there, my buck. Nearly there.”


The water was calm and still as the ship steamed through the night. One figure stood on the deck, leaning against the rails. He was watching the lights that flickered and played not in the sky, but under the waves. Most nights, he watched them, wondering. Tonight, tonight though, he was going to try something new. He took the sealed bottle out of his hand and dropped it off the back rail, watching it sink. After a minute or so, he couldn’t see it anymore and so he returned to watching the lights.

The next night, he went back to the rail and watched the lights. They were just reflections. That’s what the other men in the crew said. He wasn’t so sure. There had to be something more to this. That was when something thunked onto the deck near his foot with a little splash. The bottle. He picked it up and realized it was open and there was something new inside. The letter he’d written was gone, replaced with a picture drawn in ink of a woman. Well, her top half was a woman. The bottom half was tentacled, almost like an octopus. He laughed aloud and ran to grab his old polaroid to send her a picture of himself and the simple note. “Want to meet?”

Recovered Scientific Log

October 15
We have arrived in the observation region and begun taking exploratory samples of water chemistry. Results will be included. We have also begun the preparations to deploy the deep-sea rover.

October 18
Have located a swarm of sea jellies. This swarm will serve as the first data point for our study. The swarm contains hundreds of individual sea jellies and we have set an undergrad to counting them.

October 19
I send the undergrad down to medical. I think she’s hallucinating. She swears one of the jellies exited the water. I’m going to check the tapes tomorrow and see what happened.

October 20
She was right. I don’t know what I’m seeing, but she was right. Worse, they did it more than once. I’m setting up more cameras. I need to send this data home and hope someone else can make something from it.

October 21
Vessel is being swarmed by jellies now. They’re in the air. Have barricaded ourselves below decks. Two of the crew were stung and they’re down in medical. It looks bad.

October 22
They may be flying, but at least the damn things haven’t learned to open doors yet. I radioed for help but I don’t think they believe me. All I can hope is that someone finds our footage and figures out what to do before these things swarm the mainland.

Eternal Patrol

It wasn’t until the Second World War that it became obvious, not until the blood of thousands was poured into the sea in the Pacific theater, not until atoms were ripped apart. That was when man first discovered that something else lived on their planet, something older and far more terrifying than the newly discovered weapons they waged war with, something that slept far beneath the waves and was threatening to wake.

Submarines are never declared missing. They were just on eternal patrol. It didn’t matter how long they were out of port, how many decades gone. They were on patrol and that was that. There was one department, though, one group of Naval officers and a radio operator who knew precisely what was going on out in the pacific.

“Sir, we’re being hailed. U-122 is transmitting deep breach coordinates.”
The radio officer turned to look at the officer of the deck and the man nodded, his uniform still as crisp as it was the day they left their port of call in ‘68.
“Set a heading for those coordinates and tell them we’re en-route. Battle stations, boys, it’s show time.”
All around the vessel, men were in motion, busily loading torpedos and monitoring sonar stations. They knew what was out there.
“Should I hail topside, Sir? Let’em know playtime is starting?”
The skipper chuckled quietly.
“Sure, give’em a call. Asahi and Goliath should both be in range if they stuck to their patrol patterns.”
With a quick salute, the radio officer was back to work. Outside, the deep sea was deathly silent and dark as submarines began to gather and head towards the same location.
“U-338, U-122, and K-8 have joined us, Sir. The Commies say they’ll maintain a wide sweep while we clear this junk so we don’t get nailed from behind, Sir.”
Something surged out of the darkness before them, something that bore a passing resemblance to the flailing tentacles of a squid. But no squid had ever been so large, so vicious, or gave off such a feeling of wrongness.
“Air-breathers are in place, Sir. Anything hits the surface and they’ll jump on it.”
Torpedoes were launched from both U-boats with a burst of sound and trailing bubbles behind them.
“Let’s hope nothing makes it past us.”

“How are things looking out there?”
The radio operator stood up straight, saluting as her commanding officer entered her domain. This small Pentagon radio room held equipment from across the decades. It even sported an enigma machine secured to a table in the corner. The whole room was operated by a single officer, a young woman with a no-nonsense expression and her hair tied up in a tight bun.
“The number of deep breaches is rising, Admiral, but they’re keeping up well. The plan to use the wolf packs as scout vessels is more than successful.”
The admiral nodded, drumming his fingers against his uniform hat held in one hand.
“But the number of breaches is rising? That’s worrying.”
The radio officer glanced at the situational map on the wall.
“I’ve been tracking that, Sir, and it looks as though it surges after each nuclear disaster, for a period of about 10 years. We just haven’t had a break.”
“Keep an eye on things then and alert me the moment something changes. And don’t forget the Broadcast is in a week.”
She saluted.
“Yes, Sir. I’ve got it marked on my calendar, Sir.”

“Only friendlies left on sonar, Sir.”
The entire vessel let out a collective sigh of relief. Another breach contained.
“Then we resume patrol, boys. Any casualties in the fleet?”
There was a brief moment of silence as the comms officer listened, then he shook his head.
“U-338 took a bad graze off one of those things, but they’re going to take a near-surface patrol until it patches. No other damage to report.”
“Let them know we’ll cover their normal patrol until they’re good to go again.”
The officer on deck scrubbed at his face and looked at the map, carefully adjusting the patrol patterns to account for the damaged u-boat. There was no way they had enough vessels to cover this whole area. He didn’t have time to think about that, though. It didn’t matter if they had the manpower. He had work to do.
“Shift course 15 degrees starboard.”

The deepest parts of the sea are madness, darkness, and sorrow. They’re twisted places where space bends and time seems to stop. Even now, the depths of the sea are dark, dangerous, unknown. The further into the depths humanity explores, the less humanity understands. Only madness dwells at the bottom of the sea.

Søren and Solveig

Solveig loved her brother. She loved him as the sun loves the moon, as the sea loves the shore, as the night loves the day. Even as she and Søren grew older, she loved him. Søren was tall and bold, easy with a laugh or a smile. Women chased him for his beauty as much as his skill on the sea. But Søren son of Valter loved no woman so much as he loved the sea, except perhaps Solveig.

He spent his days alone on the water, with a wool cap pull down over his ears and the open sky above him, until the day the small faering arrived bearing only a young woman and her hound. She was Torill, daughter of Amend who held land to the south, and she was as cunning as she was beautiful, as brave as she was strong, and she knew the sea and stars as old friends. It was there on the shore that Søren met Torill. No more was the sea’s own son distant, for he had found a companion of his soul in this daughter of Amend.

Together they took to the seas, adventures sought and new lands seen. And all the while, Solveig waited and wept. Her brother would take Torill to wed, of that she was sure. So Solveig made a plan.

When the sailors two returned from their voyages, Solveig waited on the shore. Jealous Søren’s sister held a basket and offered them a feast. Drawing them both, brother and foe, to her home, she gave them drink fit to slake the thirst of the greatest of mead halls. Only then did she act. While Søren slept the sleep of drink, fair Solveig told Torill that her hound bayed in the night. Bright Amend’s daughter went out, stumbling with the drink, a knife in her hand to face any who would dare venture near her ship in the dark.

Then did Solveig rouse her brother. She wove him words with her silver tongue, laced with feigned fear, of how she had seen the shadow of a man near to his ship and was sure it would be gone by dawning. Søren took up his bow and went into the night.

Torill alone was on the shore, but Søren did not see her bright gold hair or playful eyes. He did not hear her song-filled voice. He only saw a shadow bent over a ship on the shore. The arrow was loosed and it flew straight and true, finding its home buried in Torill’s breast.

Only when the sea’s lost son heard the cry did he know what Solveig’s games had wrought.