#52 of the 100 Story Challenge
The hold sloshed with knee-deep saltwater. Harfnor perched on the ladder and scanned the bits and bobs floating on the surface of the frigid blackness. A rat swam by, its eye reflecting his lantern.
He climbed back up to the deck and shouted over the wind, “Likely all lost, sir.”
A burly, bearded man in the stern motioned for Harfnor to approach. “Can you fix it?” he asked.
Harfnor had trained with a ship’s carpenter when he was a boy. He surveyed the wreckage of the rudder and felt confident he could do something about it. That is, if he had tools and wood.
“With the right supplies, sir, I could do it,” he told the first mate.
“And those are…?”
“Underwater in the hold.”
“Get to it, then.”
“Sir, what about the captain?”
“Still with us.”
Harfnor nodded. He tightened his grip on the lantern and prepared to go swimming.
He and the first mate were the only crewmembers that were well enough to take care of the ship. There were fewer than half left now. It seemed that every day they sewed up yet another hammock and tossed a poor soul overboard.
Among the coughs and moans in the crew quarters, a voice begged for water. Harfnor paused to hold the dipper for the ship’s carpenter.
“Dicey, I’m going to fix the rudder. Any words of advice?”
Dicey’s feverish eyes sprang open. “Watch out for the pink lady!” He gripped Harfnor’s arm, spilling the rest of the water on himself. Harfnor half expected steam to rise from Dicey’s hot skin.
“Pink lady, pink lady,” he muttered and closed his eyes.
Harfnor pried his wrist loose and tucked the blanket around his crewmate. The rattle in his chest meant there would be another burial soon.
At least Dicey had done his best to save the crew by plugging the hole in the hull before he collapsed. Now it was Harfnor’s turn to try.