It was a hell of a way to start the month.
I’ve never appreciated pranks, and I’m certain that someone – somewhere – thought this was funny.
When word came into town that there was a strange ship adrift at the mouth of the Cross River, I voiced my opinion. Despite my youthful appearance, most of the men tended to heed my warnings.
Today they did not.
I watched them hitch up their buckboards and saddle their horses, and with a shake of my head, I went along with them. A few of the wilder young men raced off, but I kept my pace steady. There was no need to race. Unless I was wrong, she wouldn’t be going anywhere.
I wasn’t wrong.
When the rest of us arrived, those fools who had raced ahead were already in the surf, swimming out to the ship which had foundered only a hundred or so yards off the shore. Within minutes, the men were clambering aboard and setting out lines in order to pull her up close.
The lines of the ship were odd, and it took me a moment of recollection to realize I was looking at a Japanese sampan. How in the hell she had arrived at the mouth of the river, in the Atlantic no less, I did know, and that lack of knowledge caused a knot to form in my stomach.
I wanted to tell the fools to stop, but I could see by the gleam in the men’s eyes that they weren’t going to relinquish their prize.
All I could do was wait.
It wasn’t long before the lines from the ship had been brought back to the shore, and they were secured to the buckboards. The horses strained in their traces as they dragged the ship all the way to the beach, and there she was grounded.
The young men called out to one another, and one of them stumbled onto the deck carrying a large, lacquered chest.
There was no lock on it and no sense in the man carrying it. He set it on the deck and opened the damned chest.
A howling wind exploded forth, tearing the sails from their spars and throwing the men from the ship, killing two of them. In the wind, I could hear laughter and raised voices.
A second later, and it was silent.
Whatever had been the chest had been loosed upon Cross.