Collector of Souls - 13 - Dreamlands - 3

This is a rough draft of a novel in progress published in participation with Tuesday Serial. If you would like to follow along, pelase see the side bar with linked chapters.

Dreamlands - 3

Tad was brought aboard The Puddle Jumper by a crew of grizzled looking men the smelled heavily of pipe tobacco and rotten fish. Their beards and hair were crusted with sea salt and the skins of their hands were as pounded leather. Their eyes were narrow against the sun’s light. They spoke a language that Tad did not know, so they made do with grunts and gestures.

It seems that they were pushed this direction by a big wind and strong waves. Due to the storm, they had to cut the motor and drift where the ocean took them. When the storm was over, they spotted Tad on the rock and though it a sign. What kind of sign Tad was unable to make out from their crude gestures, but they came for him, so it must have been a good omen they were responding to.

Muttering Tad said, “Magic. Food if I can find it and then magic, so I can understand what they are saying.”

Food did not present itself. The crew seemed hungry, but they did not seek food or water. They went about routine tasks that the ship required of them and left Tad to bake in the sun on the deck.

Tad walked from one end of the ship to the other. It was short fishing boat with large crates secured on deck. The longer he watched the men move about the boat the more he thought that he knew about what they were fishing out of the sea. Just last week, he had been flipping channels and happened upon a show about crabbing in Alaska – people died so that others could eat crab. It was an amazing show. Tad had ordered yet another pizza and watched the entire marathon.

What was odd was that this ship and the section of ocean that Tad seemed to be adrift in was warm, tropical. Tad wondered if there were tropical crabs in the ocean. He would just have to wait and see what they hauled in if anything. Meanwhile, he found his way bellow deck to look for food. He was starving.

What he found bellow were several small rooms for sleeping. They were all filled with more stern looking men. Tad left them be in favor of the food locker. The locker had bread, cheese, sliced meats, and bourbon. Helping himself, he layered a sandwich with three slices of bread stacking layers of meat and cheese between each slice of bread. And not bothering to find a table, he sat with his back to he locker while he ate.

He felt better after eating. He also felt his connection to the core of his magic return. It was time to do something about his language barrier with the ships crew. So, he found a room with only one sleeping man. He was blonde with short tight curls. He wore what everyone onboard wore, yellow rain slicks over white long underwear. The rain slicks were hung on a post near the bunk where he slept.

Tad crept up next the man and places a long cold finger on the man’s head. Tad closed his eyes and focused. A spark of purple fire leapt from his finger and into the man’s head. Like a fishing line, the purple tread dangled from Tad’s finger into the pool of the man’s mind. Then the line’s slack tightened as if a big fish had just taken the bate and turned to run.

Tad pulled up slowly on the line. At the end of the purple line was a blue snake that wiggled and hissed. Tad took hold of the snake and put it’s mouth to his own ear. The snake hissed and disappeared into Tad’s head through his ear. Tad’s body shook as if he had just been dunked in cold water. Then, Tad caught hold of himself enough to make his way back to the food locker to make a second sandwich.

As he ate again, the voices all around him started to crystallize into speech that Tad could understand. It seemed that he was incorrect in his assumption that they were adrift. Instead, they were conserving fuel while the traps they had set attracted their quarry. And they were not crabbing, as he had thought, they were squidding.

Tad wondered if what type of squid they were catching. By the stories he was now able to understand, he thought they were after big ones. If he had heard correctly, one of the sailors boasted the biggest he had caught had been the size of a full-grown cow. A cow! This was something that Tad had to see for himself, so he left the safety of the food locker and made his way back up on deck.

Continuing to play dumb, he looked out over the ocean, no land in sight in any direction. The sun was now fully up, but the crew continued to move slowly through their chores. For the most part it was a if Tad were invisible to the crew. Crewmembers would walk by him and not even glance in his direction, god forbid make eye contact. They continued to brag about squid they had pulled in over the years aboard The Puddle Jumper, a ship that he discovered had been stolen from American’s about ten years ago.

The story of the ship’s capture was being told to one of the younger crewmembers as they bated traps for a second run later his evening. Supposedly, the captain had come aboard as a local guide and when the ship was far enough out to sea, he had killed them in their sleep. Tad looked up where the captain sat at the helm in a small cabin toward the front of the ship.

The captain looked like he was very capable of murder. He was a coffee skinned giant with black and gray tattoos covering much of his shaved head and face. Unlike the rest of crew, when Tad looked at the captain, the captain looked back. The look that the captain gave Tad was one the spoke of death and hate. It was a look that Tad had seen before, and because of his current circumstances, Tad took longer in recognizing the daemon for what it was.

Tad nodded and tried to give off the same level of malevolence, but he ended up looking like he was constipated rather than tough. So, Tad went back to listening to the old-timer tell stories to the new recruit. However, he now had the captain’s attention. Each time Tad looked up, the captain was looking down on him, literal smoke escaped the daemon’s eyes.

Then a man ran up on deck from bellow. He was screaming that he had been visited by evil that had taken his hearing. Tad suppressed a grin. The man was not wrong. Tad had taken the man’s ability to hear, the price of Tad’s new ability to understand what was being said. Tad thought that the man should feel luck that he could still speak, because Tad had thought about taking that from him too. It was a shame, but tad was still weak and magic was costly.

The man’s appearance caused quite the ruckus. The crew gathered around and attempted to hear what the man was saying, but the more the man spoke the more the crew shook their heads. At first, the man had spoken clearly, but as the man’s mind woke up, the more difficult it became for him to speak. It is really a wonder how the ear and the mouth and the brain work together to create speech. When one is damaged, speech is damaged. Thus, the longer the man spoke, the more garbled the man’s diction became.

Tad watched as the captain sent the crew to work and inspected the now deaf man. The captain sniffed the man’s ears. Tad’s eyes popped wide open with the realization that the daemon would be able to track the magic back to him by scent. As long as the spell was active and the man was alive, there would be a trail that a skilled daemon could follow.

Choosing quickly, Tad let go of the spell. The small blue snake shot out of Tad’s mouth, shot across the ship, and snapped back into the man’s head.

The man could hear again. He looked around as sounds overwhelmed his brain. The man passed out in the arms of the captain. The captain dropped the man to the ground, the scent of magic gone, and ordered the man be taken down to rest. The captain looked over to Tad pointed knowingly.

Then everything changed. It was time to pull in the squid.

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