A/N: Gingerhead's adventures continue and the rating goes higher.
Many thanks to everyone who has reviewed.
CHAPTER 2: All paws on deck.
I hate water. And behold, I was supposed to spend the rest of my life on a wooden vessel that moved in the most unsettling way by the slightest wind. The beams and the boards would screech and creak day and night and I wondered in horror when that "ship" would crack open and we'd all meet our deaths in the water below. After a while, I got used to it and accepted the fact that perhaps it was stronger than I had thought at first. And slowly I begun to study the humans I would share this life with.
My base of operations was, of course, the ship's kitchen. I liked the cook and fortunately the feelings were mutual. He was a huge black man by the name of Samuel. He always had a treat for me; a piece of lard, scraps of smoked fish or ham served with a bright smile and a pat on the head. And I would always return the favor, bringing him a fat rat freshly killed from the brig bellow. The ship's first officer, a skinny man named Masters, would always toss my prey overboard. But I suspect that some of the rats I gave Samuel became part of his infamous stew.
Along with Samuel, my best friend was a thin boy with red hair and freckles. This was Jim. I was not sure of his duties on board. But everything that went wrong was, according to Masters, the boy's fault. Jim would scrub the deck, clean the dishes, tend to the captain's meal and do the work of two grown men. But I never heard him complain. He was always quiet and when he would retreat to his corner in the hold below, he would always share his meal and his bed with me.
As I was told later, both Jim and Samuel had been brought to the ship the same way I had. Someone had paid for them. I was told that by human law, I, like them, was now a part of the shipowner's property. Well, I have no idea about the human laws. But anyone who thinks that he owns a cat is greatly deluded.
I didn't like Masters and he obviously didn't like me. He was skinny and pale and reminded me a lot of the screaming spirits that came in my old home's basement. He smelled bad, as if he had wetted his pants. And one day I saw the darkness in his chest. This was not like the one that made my dear Bridget sick. This was different, as it appeared to ooze from his heart. It didn't take me long to figure it out; this what humans call evil.
I was letting the ship rock me to sleep as I was lying on a pile of sails on the middle deck under a glorious full moon. The Night was warm, the wind was calm and I drifted away.
I found myself in a strange land, with white stone buildings and vast gardens. Darkness was falling over the city. It was the hour between light and dark; the witching hour. I trotted through the empty streets, sniffing every corner for a familiar scent. But there was none.
My path brought me before a large building, decorated with stone images of humans. I heard voices inside and followed the sound. But nothing in this or any of my past lives had prepared me for the sight that lay before my eyes.
The ground was littered by the bodily remains of humans. The air was filled with the stench of blood, sweat and urine; and fear. Across the room, I saw a figure of what appeared to be a human female. And several people were kneeling before her, chanting in a strange language. But she had her back turned at them.
I approached carefully, trying to keep my paws and fur clean from the fetid fluids that covered the floor. My head told me to run away as fast as possible, but my innate curiosity took the best of me. And when I raised my eyes to that female figure again, I cursed the urge that made me to go closer instead of fleeing for my life.
One of the people kneeling before the throne grew desperate trying to make the female notice him. He stood up, walked the few steps and knelt before her, bending over to kiss the long dress that covered her. And then he took out a blade and sliced his gut open. In horror, I watched him as he pulled out his innards and placed them on her feet as an offering. And his face was twisted with pain and joy alike.
His torture appeared to have the desired effect. The female turned and looked at the bleeding man before her, caressing his face with long, pale fingers. Her features were covered by her ebony hair as she leaned forward to kiss him. Just a moment before doing so, she seemed to feel my intrusion. She raised her head to my direction and I fled.
Something inside me told me that if I saw her eyes, I would die.
I woke up hissing and spitting and clawing through the sails I was sleeping on. Masters, who was a few feet away, cursed loudly and tried to kick me. I ran below, knowing that poor Jim would have to bleed his fingers to mend the clawed sails.
But the terror from the dream still lingered on and I took it out to the rats.
Samuel made his stew the next day.
No ship is without her ghosts. Neither was mine. There were many specters I saw vaguely, but most of them kept to themselves. Apart from Tom and Old Mat, that is. Tom was a black boy like Samuel. He was born, like him, in a far away land where the sun always shines. I asked him if he knew Ol' Ma, but he didn't. He knew many other things, though. He told me of his homeland, of the vast forests under a scorching sun and of the proud feline cousins of mine that roam the open fields. When he whispered to me his stories of his village, I felt as if I was there, a great cat with a golden mane stalking my prey among the bushes.
Tom had died during a storm, when he had fallen overboard trying to lower the sails. His head hit the mast and he was dead before the sea claimed him. But Old Mat had a different story. He too was a sailor, but his death was not an accident. One of his shipmates had killed him during a brawl over the charms of a tavern maid. Mat had no memory of the woman he died for, but he knew many tales of the High Seas. When I told him of my dream, he puffed his pipe, looked at me with his narrow, crusted ghostly eyes and whispered with his eerie voice.
"This means nothing good, kitty. If I were you, I'd run for my life next time we dock. But again, you cats can spare a couple of lives, right?" His chuckle made my skin crawl and my fur to stand up in horror.
Despite my best efforts, Mat refused to tell me anything more about my dream, claiming that some thing are better left in the bottom of the ocean.
Unfortunately, some of them find their way back up, among the living.