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Ghost Ship 2 – Return the Illopogas
by L. V. Gaudet
(C) February 2009

 

     The waves licked wetly at the dock, muted and dull.  The pale moon tried to illuminate the world below with little success.  Dark clouds looming on the horizon drifted in, the first tattered fingers splaying across the moon like skeletal limbs.  Wind drifted across the sandy edge of the water where the tide lapped the sand like a thirsty beast, drawing up specters of dancing sandy ghosts cavorting across the narrow ribbon of beach.  Beyond the reach of the sandy ground tall dry grass whisked and danced stiffly, whispering secrets as the slender stalks rubbed together.

            The incessant buzzing and chirping of insects stopped suddenly as a new duller tone joined the symphony of the waves licking against each other, the dock, and the water’s edge.  It was a duller sound, of water gently lapping at rotting waterlogged wood.

            Somewhere a dog whined, cowering and shivering with fear.

            In the houses the people slept, unaware.

            The dull shadow of an ancient ship silently crossed the surface of the waves, followed by the blackened rotting timber of its bulk.  Tattered shreds of what had once been sails hung limply from the masts, discolored and rotting.  Cracked and pealed, the weatherworn paint of the ship’s name was barely readable, “Illopogas”.  The very air around the derelict ship seemed to darken and grow heavier, stiller, as it slipped silently through the water toward land.

            A homeless old man sleeping in his makeshift shelter at the edge of the beach groaned woefully in his sleep, his face twisting into a grimace of fear.  He was an old salt of the sea, having spent his years from a teen until he grew too old and feeble to tow a line working on various ships.  He had seen many seas, many places, and many strange things.  Only once had he laid eyes upon the ill-fated ancient lost ship that forever sailed the seas empty of crew and cargo except for ghosts and memories, the ghostly Illopogas.  Unfortunately, he lived to tell the tale.

            Of course, none believed him.  Since that fateful day Jebediah, Jeb to his long lost friends and crewmates, had been lost to the ravages of the whiskey bottle, withering in body, mind, and soul.  Jeb had been the sole survivor of his ship, remnants of which later washed up on many beaches, the lumber strangely rotted and darkened.  He had been pulled from the murky waters by a fishing vessel, babbling unintelligibly and lost in a waking nightmare that only the soothing burn of a bottle of whiskey seemed able to quiet.

            He had tried to tell them what happened, had tried to warn them all.  However, they just shook their heads sadly at him, an old sailor who had apparently sailed a few seas too many.  He babbled to anyone he thought, hoped, might listen.  Jeb had become a common sight in the sailor’s watering holes, sitting in a darkened corner, withered and marinated in a brine of stale whiskey, muttering unintelligibly to himself and occasionally entertaining the other drunken sailors with his inebriated ramblings of ghostly ships and monsters of the seas.  He had tried stopping people in the streets to warn them, but invariably they wrinkled their noses with a look of distaste and hurried on their way, trying to avoid the pathetic drunken old man stumbling about in a cloud of delirium and fetid odor.

            A low moan drifted across the surface of the waves, sorrowful and lost, rolling up the narrow strip of sandy beach.

            Jeb woke with a start and stumbled out of his makeshift shelter, staggering to the water’s edge.  His rheumy eyes stared out, empty and haunted, at the expanse of water.

            Tonight the Illopogas returned for him.

            Tomorrow an empty husk of a man would be found on the beach, lost forever within the tormented depths of his mind, a victim of a ghostly apparition.

           

  

Published:

Feb 15/09 online at Patchwork
http://www.patchworkproject.com/lvgaudet.html

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Ghost Ship (The Illopogas)

by L. V. Gaudet

(C) January 2009

 

 

  

     A pall hung over the moon, misty clouds stringing across the sky like the tattered remnants of a ghostly sail.  The endless sound of the ocean forever in motion whispered ceaselessly like the incomprehensible roar of a far away stadium crowd.  Pale light from the moon reflected weakly off the constant gently rolling water, illuminating the upward motion while casting faint shadows on the downward movements of the water’s ceaselessly flowing surface.

            A sound moaned softly somewhere in the darkness.  It was the creak and groan of ancient lumber flexing and bending with the pressure of the waves pressing upon it, trying to bend the wood to its will.  With it came the soft lapping of the waves licking against the slowly rotting timber, carrying it on an endless voyage across the sea.

            Within the dark confines of the ancient ship’s hull, the air hung heavy and stale.  Dead.  Throughout the empty cargo hold was the rotten wood remnants of long ago stalls and pens for the transporting of livestock.  The spaces between these broken lumber remnants were filled to capacity with tightly packed rows and rows of shelves from ceiling to floor.  Littered among these shelves were shackles.  Some were red-brown with the rust of ages, some seemed black as a new cast iron pan and freshly oiled.  Many lay within the ranges in between.  There were shackles on the shelves and lying discarded on the floor like dead metal vipers.  Still more hung down from the low ceiling, swinging casually with the gentle rolling of the ship on the sea, swinging silently except for the occasional light ching when two touched briefly in their never-ending dance.  A thick gritty and greasy dust clung to everything.

            “Is the cargo secured?” a voice called out.  The captain was feeling nervous about the dark clouds looming on the horizon.

            “All secure,” called back the first mate.

            “Secure the masts,” the captain called out, “bring in the sails.”

            The sounds of men scurrying about the deck, voices indefinable and vague, echoed down to the hull below.

            On the vacant deck above, the pale light of the moon caressed across the ship from bow to stern.  The sails hung limply, tattered and shredded, stained and rotting.  The planks of the deck lay clean and dry, repeatedly washed by the waves as though by invisible deck hands.  Endless days under the sun had left the timber bleached.

            The moans and groans of ill and discontented souls oozed up from the bowels of the ship with the creaking and groaning of the timber, the only sound other than the waves and shifting of what remained of the rotting tack that touched the deserted deck.  Sometimes a terrible scream would be carried on the wind, fleeing the terrors locked within the weeping timber of the ship’s hull.

            This is the Illopogas, a cargo ship that was once used for transporting many different types of cargos over the years, the last of which was livestock that was not of the four-legged variety.  Stories of the Illopogas migrate like some of the denizens of the waves, travelling from port to port, whispered in the darkened corners of inns and pubs by sailors who have drunk too much.  Even in the telling of these tales, these drunken louts eye the room suspiciously through narrow slitted eyes, making protective gestures behind their backs, wary of jinxing themselves and bringing the Illopogas across their path when next they sail.

            Few sailors have crossed paths with the legendary ghost ship, The Illopogas, and lived to tell the tale.  None has been able to hold on to their shredded sanity.  Some say that the ship is haunted by vengeful ghosts, others that the ship itself seeks revenge.

            There is something about ghost ships, forever sailing the seas manned by an invisible crew, which strikes fear into the hearts of men.  None as much as the Illopogas.

            Beware the ghost ship.

            Beware the Illopogas.

 

 

Published:

Jan 19/09 online at MicroHorror

http://www.microhorror.com/microhorror/category/author/l-v-gaudet/


Feb 23/09 online at Patchwork
http://www.patchworkproject.com/lvgaudet.html

 

 

 

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Blood

By L. V. Gaudet

© January 2009

 

 

                He dipped a finger into the pool of blood.  It was a casual gesture, dabbing at it lazily like paint in a paint cup.  Careful not to drip the crimson wetness from his fingertip, he brought it to the canvas.  Gently and with great care, he spread the blood about the canvas, creating a brightly splashed picture.

                He didn’t know who’s blood it was, nor even if it were human, animal, or something else.  Where the blood came from did not matter.  It was the magic, the life that once throbbed through the veins of something living and feeling; that is what mattered.  The odor of the blood filled his nostrils.  It was a little sharp, kind of salty.  If he tasted it, he knew it would taste salty, red, and a little bit like smelted iron.  It smelled good, fresh.  It had to be fresh or the magic would have faded away.

                The canvas he painted always changed.  Sometimes it was large, an entire field of battle.  Sometimes it was smaller, a group of marauders falling upon a caravan, or an attack in the dark dirty recesses of a city’s worst areas.  Sometimes it was tiny, the sweet breath of an infant drifting through tiny pouty lips.

                The canvas he worked today with such care was the rocky crags of a mountain.  As he painted, the canvas vibrated with a dull rumble as of a thousand distant hooves stampeding.  This was no stampede, however; at least, not one of living creatures rushing across the ground in a frenzy of fear.  A few pebbles clattered across the rocky terrain, kicking up tiny puffs of dust as they went.

                The group travelling low on the side of the mountain paused, looking around with startled eyes.  They felt the faint vibration of the ground, their ears barely picking up the distant rumble.  A child stared curiously at a small rock that rolled and clattered past.

                With a deliberate and practiced hand, he painted the mountainside, coloring bright red trails down the rock face.  The rumbling grew louder, the ground shaking with increasing fury.  The pebbles and rocks already lightly clattering down the mountainside were chased by larger rocks, boulders, and clouds of billowing un-breathable dust.

                The small group, related families forced to relocate, began to scramble in a frightened panic.  They grabbed at children, dropping some belongings, keeping only that which was essential for survival.  They ran this way and that, growing confused with fear, running for their lives.  One woman tripped and fell, her infant clutched protectively in her arms, scraping her arm and leg on one side on the sharp rocks.  A little stunned, she lay there breathing hard, staring at her husband who had been hurriedly picking through their meager belongings, discarding anything they could not eat.

                He gently dabbed a spot of red upon the head of the man.

                Looking almost bewildered, the man stared at his fallen wife, pleading with his eyes for her to hurry to her feet and run.  A boulder flew by them as if hurled from the mountain by a giant invisible hand, flying past between the two with unstoppable momentum.  After it had passed by, the man’s headless body stood there, wavering slightly, his head now a small red smear being painted down the mountain by the rolling boulder.

                So intent were the terrified people on fleeing the rockslide that most of them did not even notice the dark and terrible winged creature that swooped down silently from the sky, its tattered cloak flapping like the rotting sheet wrapped about a corpse.  The creature seemed somehow indistinct, as though only a shadow of it could touch this world.

                The man’s wife watched in horror, a terrible scream tearing from her throat as she watched the monster swoop down and grab her husband’s headless shoulder with the long fingers of one taloned hand.  It turned its faceless head towards her as it reached down with the other hand into the new orifice that used to be his neck, and tore away the shadowy shade of the man writhing and fighting to remain sheltered inside the dead body.  The creature’s blood red eyes remained motionless and locked on her as it stole her husband’s soul.  With incredible speed, it lifted off, swooping away into the sky with its still struggling cargo.  The man tried to scream as he fought the powerful monster that spirited him away, but could not.  He was but a shadow, without form or a body.  On the ground his body still stood there, wavering slightly, then slumped slowly to the ground, its heartbeat slowing, slower, stuttering to a stop.  Perhaps half a minute had passed.

                He continued to paint his canvas of rock and lives.  Very few would survive.

                The mountain shook violently, those who missed being crushed by the falling rocks found themselves gasping and choking on air that had been replaced by dust, unable to breathe, suffocating.

                The black creature swooped down from the sky again and again, stealing souls from the broken bodies as their life ebbed away.  Always it moved swiftly and silently, with deadly precision.

                When the violent shaking of the ground stopped at last, the rumbling faded away into the past, and the dust began to clear on the soft breath of the air, the aftermath became apparent.  An ugly gash scraped down the mountainside, a trail of broken debris showing the path the rockslide had taken.  Red smears of blood marred the scene, a gruesome testimony to the death and destruction, matching exactly the red smears of blood he lovingly painted on his canvas.

                A child wailed.  A woman’s hand poked feebly from the ground, waving weakly, smeared with blood and dust.

                He had a name once.  It has been so long since he has heard the name uttered that he could no longer remember it.  Most called him by another name.  Death.

                His dark cloaked shoulders shook, the rotting fabric shreds moving as though its tattered remains were made of delicate gauze.  He wept for the newly collected souls.

 

 

 

 

Published:  

Jan 23/09 online at Patchwork

      http://www.patchworkproject.com/lvgaudet.html

Jan 30/09 online at Flashes in the Dark

      http://flashesinthedark.com/category/l-v-gaudet/

 

 

 

 

 

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